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Paschal Encyclical from Metropolitan Gerasimos

Beloved in the Lord,
 
“Come all you faithful, let us worship Christ’s Holy Resurrection;
for lo, through the Cross, joy has come to the world.”
We will hear these powerful words in our Resurrection Matins during the Paschal Vigil Saturday night, just as we do in every Sunday Matins. But on Saturday night, the words will resonate more powerfully. Our Lenten journey, the days of fasting, prayer, and retreat, have culminated in this glorious celebration. Saturday night, when we hear the Gospel of the Resurrection, holding our lighted candles and singing “Christ Is Risen”, it will be as if it is the first time. The Tomb is empty. Christ has vanquished death and is risen. Our response to the Good News can only be one of worship and praise of the Almighty God.

Everything we will hear and sing that evening is about the victory of the Cross over death. “For we know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”(Romans 6:9). The pain and tragedy of the Cross has been overcome. As we will hear in the Praises of Matins, “O Christ, Who destroyed Hades and raised up mankind by Your Resurrection, make us worthy with purity of heart to praise and glorify You.”Over and over again, we will be invited to enter into that joy, by “singing the triumphal hymn”, “drinking a new drink” and “offering a hymn to the Master.”

While we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we also celebrate the Resurrection of humanity for we, too, are given the gift of new life. As the opening hymn of the Canon of Pascha states, “For Christ our God has transported us who sing the triumphal hymn, from death to life, and from earth to heaven.” Christ’s victory over death is a victory for all. Saint Paul writes that death came into the world through the act of one (Romans 5:12) and has held us captive. Christ’s death and resurrection have broken the chains of death and instead bound death in chains. In the icon of the Resurrection, Christ pulls Adam and Eve out of their tombs. They are “raised up” and through them, all humanity. As Saint Paul writes, “as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)

In the Liturgy of Saint Basil we hear, “Rising on the third day, He prepared the way for the resurrection of all flesh from the dead, because it was not possible for the Author of life to be held by it. He thus became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the first-born of the dead, that He might be Himself the first in all things.”

Dearly beloved, the Resurrection of Christ is the center and heart of our faith. As Saint Paul also wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”(I Corinthians 15:14). Thus, even as we will be celebrating on Saturday night, let us reflect on the significance of the Good News for our life. Let us consider how God’s love overpowered hatred, an emotion that permeates our current culture here and abroad. Let us consider how the event of the Resurrection will bring hope to our world. Share the story of the Resurrection of Christ with your children and family. Tell them that this is why we prepared over the days of Great Lent. As you crack your red eggs at the dinner table and for the weeks ahead, share the story of the Resurrection among all members of your family and beyond. Greet everyone you can with the good news, “Christ Is Risen!”
The message of the Resurrection cannot be contained only among us; it has no boundaries. At the Agape Vespers, you will hear the message of the Gospel in many languages, reminding us that the Resurrection is not just news for us, but for all people and for the entire world. Carry
the message of God’s love for the world with you, and share it whenever you can and wherever you go.
To all that celebrate their Feast Day, I wish devotedly many blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
With Love in the Risen Lord,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco

This time is that time… Holy Week thoughts from Fr Stephen Freeman

At the very heart of traditional Christian worship is an understanding of time. “This time is that time.” When the Jews gathered for Passover and recited the words given to them, they said, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.” Passover was not (and is not) a historical re-enactment, nor a simple memorial in which things done long ago are remembered. The key word is “we.” The events in Egypt and at the Red Sea are described as happening to us. “This time is that time.”

This same understanding runs throughout the liturgies of the Church. The Eucharist is not a memorial meal that remembers something Jesus did “back then.” Everything is present tense – this meal is that meal – that sacrifice is this sacrifice – everything is for us.

Orthodox Christians complete their Lenten Fast this weekend and enter the days of Holy Week. Very specific events are recalled: the raising of Lazarus; the entrance into Jerusalem; the tears of the harlot; the betrayal by Judas; the arrest and trial; the mocking, scourging and crucifixion of Christ; the harrowing of Hell; the resurrection from the dead. All of these are marked in the present tense. This time is that time.

The sacraments and liturgies of the Church are not meant to be exceptional. Rather, they reveal the true nature of our lives and the true nature of creation itself. Our contemporary world is dominated by an extreme historical consciousness in which time stretches out in a linear fashion. That which has passed no longer exists, except as we think about it. It has the unintended consequence of declaring that we ourselves are the only people who exist. Others are either dead and gone or do not yet exist. We are the center of all things. The inherent arrogance of such a worldview creates a cultural amnesia as well as an imaginary notion of our own power. We can create our world however we wish for there is only us.

As Christians, we affirm that it is God “in whom we live and move and have our being.” That which has existence does so only because God sustains it in existence. Only God is self-existing. For God, all times are present. And if, in Him, all times are present, then all times exist as present. That this time and that time should coincide is nothing strange. Indeed, the “fullness” of time can only be known in that manner.

Learning to listen and pray in this manner is a threshold to noetic perception – that means by which we see the truth of things and God’s work in the world. When we choose to see the world in a non-sacramental manner, with a linearity that immediately destroys everything we see, we become spiritually blind. We neither see nor hear what God is doing. Noetic perception sees things as a whole, rather than analyzing the world in separate pieces (a function of reason). The modern linear imagining of time represents a championing of reason at the expense of the fullness of human experience.

The liturgical life of the Church is not a rationalizing activity. It is a sacramental presentation of the whole universe in the presence of God. All things are there as are all times. The actions of Holy Week are not required as an exercise in historical memory. They allow us to be present to the fullness of time. We do not merely think about the events of that week – we walk in their midst and take a share in their reality. All of those things are “for our sake.” St. Paul can say, “I am crucified with Christ,” because he is utterly present to that day, just as that day is utterly present to and in him.

St. Gregory the Theologian’s First Paschal Oration is filled with this understanding:

Yesterday the Lamb was slain and the door-posts were anointed, and Egypt bewailed her Firstborn, and the Destroyer passed us over, and the Seal was dreadful and reverend, and we were walled in with the Precious Blood. Today we have clean escaped from Egypt and from Pharaoh; and there is none to hinder us from keeping a Feast to the Lord our God — the Feast of our Departure; or from celebrating that Feast, not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, carrying with us nothing of ungodly and Egyptian leaven.

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorifiedwith Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us — you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honorour Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

This is the Day of days.

Encyclical for Pascha 2019 from Archbishop Demetrios

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Χριστός Ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen! 

On this glorious Feast of Feasts, we hear in the Gospel of those who came to see the tomb of our Lord.  The myrrh-bearing woman came early in the morning of this day to anoint His body, to show their commitment to Christ through an act of love and care.  They expressed concern regarding the large stone covering the door of the tomb, but as they approached there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone…. (Matthew 28:2)

The angel said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen as He said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:7)  These are the words that filled their hearts with joy.  These are the words they took to the disciples with rejoicing.  These are the words, He is risen, that we proclaim today in our joyful celebration of Holy Pascha and the Resurrection of Christ.

We sing with abundant gladness in our hearts, He is risen!  We sing these words because through His glorious Resurrection, He has revealed God’s power to bestow abundant and eternal life.  Christ has defeated death.  He has broken the bonds of Hades.  He has shown to those in the graves the life that awaits them.  Our Risen Lord has won the ultimate victory so that we can be free to enter the everlasting light and life of His glory.

Today, we proclaim He is risen! because the power revealed in His Resurrection is not a temporal power.  It is eternal.  The power of the Resurrection is not confined to one day or one event.  It is an ever-present power that fills our celebration.  It fills our hearts and our minds.  In the presence of the One who holds and offers this power, the power of grace and life, we are both comforted and challenged.  In our worship, we experience awe.  In our joy we have an eagerness to go out rejoicing so that all the world may know, He is risen!

As the women who came to the tomb that morning heard the words of the angel, He is risen, we must also hear these words.  We must hear them deeply.  We must experience the transforming power through our faith in what He has done.  We must believe that He is risen and our Risen Lord is in our midst, filling our hearts with an everlasting joy.  But as we hear these words, we must also affirm that they should be shared.  Today, our exclamation is universal.  On this day our hearts are united in the joy of Pascha, and together with voices loud and clear we proclaim to all, He is risen! Go and tell your family and friends.  Go and share the good news in your communities.  Go into all the world and proclaim, “It is the day of Resurrection! He is risen!”

Christ is risen! He truly is risen!

With paternal love in the Risen Lord,

 †  D E M E T R I O S

Archbishop of America

Service Schedule for Holy Week & Pascha (Easter)

You are most welcome to join us for our worship services during Holy Week and Pascha (Easter), here at St George Greek Orthodox Church!

Eastern (or Greek) Easter falls on Sunday, April 28th, this year, one week after Western Easter. The difference is based on the use of an older calendar, and depending on the year, the difference could be greater or smaller. We invite you to come and see!

Palm Sunday: Sunday, April 21st, Divine Liturgy beginning at 10 am

Bridegroom Services: Sunday, April 21st at 6 pm; Monday, April 22nd at 7 pm; Tuesday, April 23rd at 7 pm

Holy Wednesday Service: Wednesday, April 24th at 7 pm Holy Unction & Anointing

Holy Thursday Service: Thursday, April 25th at 7 pm Passion of Christ

Holy Friday Service: Friday, April 26th at 7 pm  Lamentations

Holy Saturday Service: Saturday, April 27th at 11:30 pm  Paschal Vigil

Holy Pascha (Easter) Services: Sunday, April 28th at 12:01 am, Resurrection of Christ, followed by Matins & Divine Liturgy; Agape Vespers at 11:30 am, followed by Egg Hunt and our Pascha Picnic

All are welcome!

Evening in Greece

Please join us for our annual “Evening in Greece” event which will take place on Saturday, May 11, 2019. Reservations are required so please make them early. Looking forward to you spending an evening in Greece with us! Please click on the link to see the flyer: 2019 Greek flyer #5

Encyclical for Great Lent from Metropolitan Gerasimos

Dearly Beloved,
“The Great Commission” was the theme of our recent Clergy-Laity Assembly: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
As we begin the Great Fast, these words of the Lord can enlighten our Lenten journey. We call this passage “The Great Commission” because with these words, our Lord and Savior, shortly after His Resurrection, sent forth His disciples into the world. They went from “disciples” or followers of Jesus, to “apostles” sent out by Christ to continue His mission to the world.
Our Lenten journey that will culminate in the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ will also prepare us for the apostolic work of going into the world to share the good news first proclaimed by Jesus. The Lenten practices of the Church will prepare us when we observe them: prayer, fasting, study, philanthropy and charity. Jesus Himself becomes our example. Jesus prayed to His father, so we must pray regularly during this season. The New Testament recounts many occasions when the Lord “went off to pray”. The Church, in the parish, offers us many opportunities for prayer and worship.
Jesus fasted, especially during the forty days in the wilderness, before He began His public Ministry. The Church continued to observe a fast, especially before beginning significant work (Acts of the Apostles 13). The Church has taught us to fast for forty days in imitation of Christ, which also prepares us for the work of the Church.
Jesus knew the scriptures. We remember how He used the words of the Scripture to respond to those who would challenge Him or merely ask a question, whether it was the Scribes, Pharisees, lawyers, even Satan himself. We should devote time to studying the Scriptures and the Teaching of our Holy Orthodox Faith during Great Lent so that we may edify and equip ourselves for the mission ahead.
Jesus’ philanthropic acts were seen in His many miracles of healing the sick and feeding the multitudes. His ultimate philanthropic act was His death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day. Great Lent is our time to increase our philanthropic and charitable acts to support reconciliation, healing, and care for those around us. Our parishes offer many opportunities for service and giving during these days.
We typically think of Great Lent in individualistic and pietistic terms. It is a time of turning inward personally. And indeed, it has these strong elements. Yet, when we consider the goal of our Lenten journey, we can see how the inward dimension is preparing us for the outward work of sharing the Gospel with all. The first people we must share the Gospel with is our children, both at home and in your parishes. Witnessing our example, our children will see the significance of Great Lent in our lives. We should also instruct our children in the ways of the Church, connecting Lenten discipline and practices with our faith in Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, “The Great Commission” has been given to each of us, just as it was given to those first followers of Christ. The Church, during Great Lent, shows us the way to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and for our apostolic work in the world.
May our Lord grant you and your families a Holy Season of Great Lent filled with soul saving experiences as we proceed to witness His Glorious Resurrection.
With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco

Archbishop Demetrios’s Encyclical for Great Lent

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we begin this blessed time of Holy and Great Lent, we are invited to enter into a period of intense prayer, fasting and service, so that we may draw closer to God, commune with Him, and experience His grace as we reflect on our lives, our relationship with Him, and our journey to salvation.  In doing this we are challenged—challenged to face what separates us from God and His will; but we are also shown the way to overcome this separation both now and for eternity.

Great Lent is most certainly a challenge as we have experienced in the weeks of preparation for this season.  We have reflected on the parables of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee and the Prodigal Son.  We have considered the true nature and impact of repentance and humility.  We have heard the words of our Lord concerning the Last Judgment and the manner of life and service that leads to eternal life.  As we enter into this holy season, we will continue to be challenged as the truth of the Gospel and the presence of God lead us to examine our lives.  We are challenged to address anything that separates us from Him and that prevents us from revealing His grace to others through our lives.

We know that as we enter this solemn season we will be equipped to meet these challenges. It is a time that provides us with more opportunities to worship, more times during the ebb and flow of our daily lives to gather together to commune with God.  We are called to more frequent prayer, to dedicate time each day to speak to God and to listen, and to live each moment prayerfully, affirming that He is present and guiding us.  We are guided by the Church in fasting, abstaining from excess and from certain foods, as a means of living measured and discerning lives that place holiness and the will of God above all things.

These disciplines of our faith equip us to reveal God’s grace in all that we do.  Through our repentance, we are prepared to offer forgiveness to others.  Through our contrition of the heart, we show the power of complete surrender to God.  Through our dedication of our time to prayer and worship, we affirm the true purpose and goal of life.  Through our obedience to His will, we are led in service to those in need.  Through our commitment to Him, Great Lent prepares us to overcome anything that separates us and others from the love of God.

This holy season is also a guide, leading us on a spiritual journey.  It is a journey that leads us to joy and light; and at its inception we sing, “Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His holy Pascha!” (Hymn of Vespers). It is also the journey of our lives into the blessedness of eternal life and communion with God.  As we enter this solemn and sacred season, my prayer is that you will be filled with strength and grace for the Lenten journey.  May this journey continue to equip you with all that you need to complete this journey in our celebration of Pascha, and ultimately, unto the blessed condition to be eternally united to God.

With paternal love in Christ,

  † DEMETRIOS

Archbishop of America

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