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Celebrating Holy Week and Pascha at Home

This year, for the first time in our history as a parish, we will be celebrating Holy Week and Pascha in our homes rather than here at St George. As difficult as that will be for all of us, we need to remember that whatever our circumstances, Christ is risen from the dead and that Holy Week and Pascha will be celebrated.
I want to remind you that in the not so distant past, Holy Week and Pascha were celebrated in Nazi concentration camps and Communist gulags. Our grandparents and great-grandparents have prayed under trees and in barracks, turning bed sheets into vestments and tin cups into chalices. They whispered memorized prayers and used their imaginations to re-create the experiences of Church they had hidden in their hearts during times of war and persecution. This year we must do what they did, bringing Holy Week and Pascha celebrations into the relative peace and safety of our homes. We have a bit of time to think ahead and prepare about how we’re going to do this.
I have included a number of excellent resources to help you celebrate at home and the revised schedule:
I encourage you to look over them today and put together a plan for your family. Some of the ideas might be too ambitious or impractical, but don’t let that deter you. Think about the things you normally do, like eat pancakes on Lazaros Saturday, and do them at home instead. Participate in the live-streaming of the services as if you were here.
We will be opening the Bookstore here on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 11-3, so you can purchase items you will need.
This will take great effort on your part. However, by now, we should be use to exerting greater effort during Holy Week and Pascha. It won’t be easy, but it can become the most memorable Holy Week and Pascha of our lifetime. I especially want to encourage the parents of school-aged children. I wish these resources were around when our kids were young. You can do this!
We are given an opportunity this year to bring Holy Week and Pascha into our homes – something we should do every year! May the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus guide us, guard us, keep us and protect us during this difficult time and may nothing ever rob us of the joy that comes from knowing that death has been conquered and that Christ is Risen!
With love in the Risen Lord Jesus,

Father Jerry

 

A Different Pascha (Easter)

This year, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Churches will be unable to gather in the usual manner for Pascha. This has happened before in a variety of places and circumstances. In the 1920’s, the Bolshevik’s were unleashing their persecutions. This wonderful account, from Butyrka Prison on Pascha of 1928, is a sober reminder that our “light momentary affliction” is a small thing. It also serves to remind us that the joy of Pascha cannot be quarantined or silenced. God give us patient endurance. Serge Schmemann, son of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in his wonderful little book, Echoes of a Native Land, records a letter written from one of his family members of an earlier generation, who spent several years in the prisons of the Soviets and died there. The letter, written on the night of Pascha in 1928 is to a family member, “Uncle Grishanchik” (This was Grigory Trubetskoi who had managed to emigrate to Paris). This letter should become a classic of Orthodox writing and witness to the faith that sustained so many and is today being resurrected in so many placesThe triumph of the Resurrection so transcends his prison cell it’s a wonder that the walls remained. The entire book is a wonderful read. I recommend it without reservation.

30 March/ 12 April 1928

Dear Uncle Grishanchik,

I greet you and Aunt Masha with the impending Holy Day, and I wish you all the very best. For a long, long time I have wanted to write to you, dear Uncle Grishanchik; you always showed such concern for me, you helped me so generously in a difficult moment of my life, and, mainly, your entire image is so inseparably linked for each of us, your nephews, with such wonderful memories; you always are, were, and will be our dearest, most beloved uncle.

I am approaching the fourth Easter that I will spend behind these walls, separated from my family, but the feelings for these holy days which were infused in me from earliest childhood do not fail me now; from the beginning of Holy Week I have felt the approach of the Feast, I follow the life of the Church, I repeat to myself the hymns of the Holy Week services, and in my soul there arise those feelings of tender reverence that I used to feel as a child going to confession or communion. At 35 those feelings are as strong and as deep as in those childhood years.

My dear Uncle Grishanchik, going over past Easters in my memory, I remember our last Easter at Sergiyevskoye, which we spent with you and Aunt Masha, and I felt the immediate need to write you. If you have not forgotten, Easter in 1918 was rather late, and spring was early and very warm, so when in the last weeks of Lent I had to take Aunt Masha to Ferzikovo, the roads were impassable. I remember that trip as now; it was a warm, heavy, and humid day, which consumed the last snow in the forests and gullies faster than the hottest sun; wherever you looked, water, water, and more water, and all the sounds seemed to rise from it, from the burbling and rushing of the streams on all sides to the ceaseless ring of countless larks. We had to go by sleigh – not on the road, which wound through the half-naked fields in a single muddy ridge, but alongside, carefully choosing the route. Each hoofprint, each track left by the runners, immediately turned into a small muddy stream, busily rushing off somewhere. We drove forever, exhausting the poor horse, and, finally, after successfully eluding the Polivanovo field, one of the most difficult places, I became too bold and got Aunt Masha so mired that I nearly drowned the horse and the sleigh; we had to unharness to pull it out and got wet to the eyebrows; in a word, total “local color.”

I remember the feeling I had that spring of growing strength, but that entire happy springtime din, for all the beauty and joy of awakening nature, could not muffle the sense of alarm that squeezed the heart in each of us. Either some hand rose in senseless fury to profane our Sergiyevskoye, or there was the troubling sense that our loving and closely welded family was being broken up: Sonia far off somewhere with a pile of kids, alone, separated from her husband; Seryozha, just married, we don’t know where or how, and you, my dear Uncle Grisha and Auht Masha, separated from your young ones, in constant worry over them. It was a hard and difficult time. But I believe that beyond these specific problems, this spiritual fog had a deeper common source: we all, old and young, stood then at a critical turning point: unaware of it, we were bidding farewell to a past filled with beloved memories, while ahead there loomed some hostile utterly unknown future.

And in the midst of all this came Holy Week. the spring was in that stage when nature, after a big shove to cast off winter’s shackles, suddenly grows quiet, as if resting from the first victory. But below this apparent calm there is always the sense of a complex, hidden process taking place somewhere deep in the earth, which is preparing to open up in all its force, in all the beauty  of growth and flowering. Plowing and seeding the earth raised rich scents, and, following the plow on the sweaty, softly turning furrow, you were enveloped in the marvelous smell of moist earth. I always became intoxicated by that smell, because in it one senses the limitless creative power of nature.

I don’t know how you all felt at the time, because I lived a totally separate life and worked from morning to night in the fields, not seeing, and, yes, not wanting to see, anything else. It was too painful to think, and only total physical exhaustion gave one a chance, if not to forget, then at least to forget oneself. But with Holy Week began the services in church and at home, I had to lead the choir in rehearsal and in church; on Holy Wednesday I finished the sowing of oats and, putting away the plow and harrow, gave myself entirely over to the tuning fork. And here began that which I will never forget!

Dear Uncle Grishanchik! Do you remember the service of the Twelve Gospels in our Sergiyevskoye church? Do you remember that marvelous, inimitable manner of our little parson? This spring will be nine years that he passed away during the midnight Easter service, but even now, when I hear certain litanies or certain Gospel readings, I can hear the exhilarated voice of our kind parson, his intonations piercing to the very soul. I remember that you were taken by this service, that it had a large impact on you. I see now the huge crucifix rising in the midst of the church, with figures of the Mother of God on one side and the Apostle John on the other, framed by multicolored votive lights, the waving flame of many candles, and, among the thoroughly familiar throng of Sergiyevskoye peasants, your figure by the right wall in front of the candle counter, with a contemplative expression on your face. If you only knew what was happening in my soul at that time! It was an entire turnover, some huge, healing revelation!

Don’t be surprised that I’m writing this way; I don’t think I’m exaggerating anything, it’s just that I feel great emotion remembering all these things, because I am continuously breaking off to go to the window and listen. A quiet, starry night hangs over Moscow, and I can hear first one, then another church mark the successive Gospels with slow, measured strikes of the bell. I think of my Lina and our Marinochka, of Papa, Mama, my sisters, brothers, of all of you, feeling the sadness of expatriation in these days, all so dear and close. However painful, especially at this time, the awareness of our separation, I firmly, unshakably believe all the same that the hour will come when we will all gather together, just as you are all gathered now in my thoughts.

1/14 April – They’ve allowed me to finish writing letters, and I deliberately sat down to finish it this night. Any minute now the Easter matins will start; in our cell everything is clean, and on our large common table stand kulichi and paskha, a huge “X.B.” [Christos Voskrese “Christ is risen”] from fresh watercress is beautifully arranged on a white table cloth with brightly colored eggs all around. It’s unusually quiet in the cell; in order not to arouse the guards, we all lay down on lowered cots (there are 24 of us) in anticipation of the bells, and I sat down to write to you again.

I remember I walked out of the Sergiyevskoye church at that time overwhelmed by a mass of feelings and sensations, and my earlier spiritual fog seemed a trifle, deserving of no attention. In the great images of the Holy Week services, the horror of man’s sin and the suffering of the Creator leading to the great triumph of the resurrection, I suddenly discovered that eternal, indestructible beginning, which was also in that temporarily quiet spring, hiding in itself the seed of a total renewal of all that lives. The services continued in their stern, rich order; images replaced images, and when, on Holy Saturday, after the singing of “Arise, O Lord,” the deacon, having changed into a white robe, walked into the center of the church to the burial cloth to read the gospel about the resurrection, it seemed to me that we are all equally shaken, that we all feel and pray as one.

In the meantime, spring went on the offensive. When we walked to the Easter matins, the night was humid, heavy clouds covered the sky, and walking through the dark alleys of the linden park, I imagined a motion in the ground, as if innumerable invisible plants were pushing through the earth toward air and light.

I don’t know if our midnight Easter matins made any impression on you then. For me there never was, and never will be, anything better than Easter at Seriyevskoye. We are all too organically tied to Sergiyevskoye for anything to transcend it, to evoke so much good. This is not blind patriotism, because for all of us Seriyevskoye was that spiritual cradle in which everything by which each of us lives and breathes was born and raised.

My dear Uncle Grishanchik, as I’ve been writing to you the scattered ringing around Moscow has become a mighty festive peal. Processions have begun, the sounds of firecrackers reach us, one church after another joins the growing din of bells. The wave of sound swells. There! Somewhere entirely nearby, a small church breaks brightly through the common chord with such a joyous, exultant little voice. Sometimes it seems that the tumult has begun to wane, and suddenly a new wave rushes in with unexpected strength, a grand hymn between heaven and earth.

I cannot write any more! That which I now hear is too overwhelming, too good, to try to convey in words. The incontrovertible sermon of the Resurrection seems to rise from this mighty peal of praise. My dear uncle Grishanchik, it is so good in my soul that the only way I can express my spirit is to say to you once again, Christ is Risen!

Georgy

Link to our YouTube Channel

Even though our church is “temporarily closed” to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the Divine Services continue to be done. We invite you to tune in to our YouTube Channel, and pray the services with us. The following link will get you there. May seeing a familiar space and a familiar face bring you some consolation at this time.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqreK0eVZWOqzYS1L9lDRIQ

Important Message from our Priest

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in obedience to the directives of our spiritual and civic leaders, all scheduled services at Saint George will take place “behind closed doors”, with only the clergy and assistants present. So while the calendar will show that there are services taking place, these services are not opened to anyone. We are working on setting up live streaming of these services so that they can be viewed from home. These are temporary measures and we hope to be “open” again soon.

The church will be open during normal office hours, Tuesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm, and other times by appointment. You are welcome to come and light a candle, pray, and by appointment, have Confession. Please contact the church first at 541-683-3519, to make sure the priest is in.

Postponement of March 15th Ordination

Dear Ones,

I regret to inform you that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Metropolitan has decided to postpone his visit and the ordination of Dcn. Stephanos. I want you to know that he and I have been communicating heavily over the last 24-hours, and that his heart was set on being with all of you.  He did assure me that he will do everything in his power to make the visit and ordination happen as soon as possible. Please be patient as we sort things out. As for now, our service schedule will return to normal. Our next scheduled services are: Salutations, Friday at 7 pm; Great Vespers, Saturday at 6 pm; and Orthros & Divine Liturgy, Sunday beginning at 9 am.

Lenten Reflection by Metropolitan Gerasimos

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
We begin our Lenten journey in troubling times. Forces of polarization and division seem to lurk everywhere, but especially in our civic life. At times, these same forces attempt to enter the life of our parishes and Church at large. If you don’t believe me, spend a little time online looking at topics about the Orthodox Church. There you will find individuals that hurl epithets and anger at almost anything and anyone; and it is usually done anonymously. Whether through a “Twitter war” or “trolling”, they seek to sow chaos and doubt, and tear us away from one another, from the Church, and from God Himself.
Our world is filled with forces that would take us away from one another. Lent is a time for us to wage combat against these divisive forces. It can start by fasting from negative on-line behavior ourselves and striving to behave civilly to one another in all our conversations, and especially in social media. But to be effective, we must combat division with our commitment to unity as a Church and as an Orthodox people. Our Lenten journey begins with this hymn, “Let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat.”
Our Lord Himself prayed for unity among His followers. Our Lord links unity and faith. When we are united, others will believe. Disunity and chaos are obstacles to faith. In the Gospel of John, our Lord prayed, “for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me. The glory which You have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” (John 17:20-22).
Great Lent is meant to be an event of the community, strengthening our unity, so that we may proclaim the Good News more effectively, strengthening ourselves, and bringing others to Christ. The hymn calls us to begin Great Lent as one people. While we may be observing Lent on our own, in our homes, etc., we are in this together. We are called to observe the fast together. The Church invites us to the many divine services of this season to pray together. We will study our faith together in the many lectures, retreats, and seminars our parishes offer. We will engage in philanthropic work as a community by supporting many good causes with acts of charity.
Forty days may not seem like a long time, but when we try to observe Great Lent well, when we seek to engage in spiritual combat, we need one another for support and encouragement. Our greatest weapon against the forces of division and polarization is our commitment to strengthening our relationship with Christ and to one another. We can accomplish great things when we choose unity and cooperation over chaos, division, and polarization.
The great task of Lent is to prepare ourselves for Pascha. The hymn that I quoted above continues: “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 Passover.” Together as one people when we support one another in the pursuit of the life in Christ, we can ready ourselves spiritually to experience the Resurrection.
With Love in Christ,
+Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco
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