“Thank you for your patience; we will be with you as soon as possible”. We hear this countless times when we are trying to call a business or talk to someone in customer service. We have become accustomed to expect results immediately! With smartphones in hand, we are constantly seeking instant communication, instant answers and instant gratification. Time is precious, but unfortunately we have become a society that is not at peace with waiting. When we obtain peace in our mind, we learn to practice patience, and when we learn to be patient then we are at peace.
We misuse time when it comes to our faith as well, and expect immediate results on our terms. God wants us to ask Him for what we want but at the same time we must be patient and wait for His time and His will to be done. Prayer is a means of transforming us to allow God to be in control of our lives, which reflects spiritual growth and maturity.
Just as child is not born the day after conception, not all prayers are answered the next day either. The nine months that a child is in the womb gives the mother and father time to adjust, transform and prepare for this new chapter in their lives. Those nine months are transformative through both its challenges and joys.
Even God waited to become flesh and become man and grow as a child. He waited to be crucified not so that our sins are forgiven, as Saint Isaac the Syrian wrote, but to show us how much He loves us. He waited and became incarnate for humanity and its salvation by making the ultimate sacrifice for us – giving Himself up on the Cross.
We all encounter people who frustrate us, but it is important to remember that God is patient. You are His child and so is the person you might strongly dislike. Jesus was patient with His disciples for three years! He was patient with Judas, giving him many opportunities to change his ways. We cannot change others; we only hope to inspire them by our actions as Christ did. We must not expect others to change for they will create their own consequences. We must be patient for our anger to transform into compassion, and for our hate to transform into love.
It took Moses 40 years to lead the people of Israel out of slavery and out of the desert. His patience was tested by the people he was trying to help. It took the Greeks over 400 years to be freed from the Ottoman Occupation. History gives us many examples where patience brought forth positive results and progress. Being patient should not be interchanged with being careless or procrastinating. Faith and works are important ingredients. Having patience is having the wisdom to know what we can and cannot control.
The Saints in the church endured and prayed for patience. Saint Nectarios was cast out of Egypt out of envy and rumors. Time revealed the truth. Time healed his heart and dried his tears. Time transformed the Saint and those around him. This why we look to the Saints for inspiration, for guidance, for patience. While we pray to the Saints to intercede for us, ultimately we pray to Christ. We are not to fear Him with terror, but to approach Him with a grateful heart, with awe and love. He wants us to come to Him. When we look to the Saints to pray for us, we are looking at people who have also endured struggles just like us, but because their lives centered on Christ, they can inspire us and fortify us in our faith.
Having patience is a challenge for all of us. Waiting is frustrating. Not knowing results can be agonizing. We must pray for peace and patience to endure what we are confronted with, and in time, we will be transformed. God has led us this far and He will continue to lead us on our journey through life and on the road to salvation with patience and faith.
~ Rev. Father Christos Kanakis, Proistamenos
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church
Long Beach, California
"Go quickly and tell his disciples
that he has risen from the dead."
In the Gospel of the Resurrection we hear on Holy Saturday morning, the angel tells the women who have come to the tomb, "Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead."When the same women encounter the Risen Christ, Jesus repeats the instructions,"Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." (Matthew 28:10). This repetition in the text is meant for all of us. Our Paschal celebration finds us at the tomb of the Lord. Like the women so many centuries ago, we are meant to be astonished. And, we are also being instructed to proclaim that the Lord has risen to everyone.
The news of the empty tomb was unbelievable then and still difficult for us to grasp today. Christ had suffered a degrading, painful death at the hands of the Romans; crucifixion was reserved for the lowest of the low. The worst criminals received this kind of punishment as a deterrent to anyone who would challenge the power of Rome. Christ's death upon the cross seemingly ended the hopes of His followers. As we read in the Gospel of Luke, they "had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel."(Luke 24:21)
But the tomb is empty. Angels tell the women, "He is Risen!" And Christ appears to His followers, showing the marks of His Passion, and is very much alive. Resurrection becomes even more meaningful and significant in light of the Passion. The two go together. As Saint Gregory the Theologian writes, "He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life He restores us...He dies, but He gives life, and by His death, He destroys death." (Theological Oration 3, On the Son).
The message of Pascha fills us with joy and hope because we have seen the power of death destroyed. As we hear in one of the seasonal hymns
"Receive from us the joyous good news of Christ's Resurrection. Delight, dance, be glad, Jerusalem, as you behold Christ the king emerging from the grave like a bridegroom." So tonight we will celebrate with lit candles in our hands. Our Churches will ring their bells and decorate every icon and space with flowers. We will break the fast and prepare the sumptuous feast. We will be dressed in our finest, and sing and dance.
Our first celebration takes place in the Liturgy, where we will chant the victory hymn, "Christ is risen..."; all the hymns will be chanted in a crescendo of joy and hope. Attend to them and absorb their message. Participate in the Liturgy, and partake of the Resurrected Lord's banquet; receive Him in Holy Communion. Greet one another with Christian love because tonight, of all nights, our parishes are filled with the Good News of our Heavenly Father's love for us, of the Resurrection of His Son that gives life to the whole world.
This message is not to be contained or hidden, but to be proclaimed to all. Just as you will carry the light from your Paschal candle home, carry the Good News with you and share it. As the Lord says, "No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel, but on a stand, that those who enter may see the light." (Luke 11:33). Dear brothers and sisters, the angel's instructions to the women have become our instructions: Go and tell the world that Christ has risen from the dead!
I wish those who celebrate their Feast Day blessed and healthy years ahead, and pray that the Risen Christ grant all of you and your families His Blessings.
Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen! Alithos Anesti! Truly He is Risen!
With Paternal Love in the Resurrection,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco
On March 25 we celebrate the event that inaugurates our salvation. The Virgin Mary learns from the Archangel that she will give birth to a son, one that will deliver us from the bondage of sin and death.
This year, because this Great Feast of our Church occurs on a Sunday during Great Lent, we briefly interrupt our Lenten rhythm to commemorate the "crown of our salvation." The meaning of the Annunciation should not be lost on us even as we pause from our Lenten disposition because in two weeks, we will celebrate the saving event of Christ's Passion and Resurrection. This blessed connection of the calendar should remind us that the Incarnation and the Passion are connected. For Christ came into the world "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45) by giving Himself up to the Cross "for the life of the world."
The Good News of the Annunciation was a message of hope to the oppressed people of Israel. God's promise of a Messiah, the one who would restore Israel, was soon to be fulfilled. Mary sings joyfully in her Magnificat, "He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree" (Luke 1:52). This hopeful song was familiar to the Greek people who suffered under an oppressor for four hundred years. They too sought to be delivered. They heard the words of Mary in the Feast of the Annunciation year after year. And so, appropriately, the Feast of the Annunciation became the day when they initiated their hopeful quest for freedom.
Their quest also included songs of hope and liberation. We will hear our children sing many of these songs in the programs celebrating March 25 in our parishes. And of them all the song of freedom that all of us will sing will be "To the Champion" (Ti Ipermacho) to the Virgin Mary, "the defender and commander." This triumphant and rousing hymn continues to be our anthem, as we place our hope for a better future in the hands of God.
We live at a time where a message of hope is needed. The daily stories from near and far leave many of us shaking our heads at the state of our world. The Gospel message is the hope we need today. The Good News of Jesus Christ the Savior, whose birth was announced to Mary on March 25 and the coming day of His Resurrection, offers that hope to the world and to each of us. When we celebrate the Annunciation this year, we celebrate the joy that Mary experienced when she received the glad tidings from Gabriel that the Savior of God's people was conceived in her. And so, with Archangel Gabriel, we cry out "Rejoice, O Bride unwedded!"
Wishing to all those that are named after this glorious Feast all the blessings from God, I remain
With Love in Christ,
@ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco
Read the Encyclical online
Beloved in the Lord,
"Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Once again we are grappling with the news of another tragic school shooting, claiming the lives of 17 innocent victims in Florida, and leaving a community shocked and in mourning. Parents are struggling to explain the ongoing violence to their children, many of whom are now expressing a fear of going to school. These are difficult and frightening times no matter what your age. We must, however, not let fear control our lives, but rather live in faith and walk by faith.
The lives of the high school students who witnessed this horror are changed forever. All of our lives should be changed forever! We should not tolerate this rampant violence which has spread to elementary and high schools, churches, businesses, movie theaters, colleges and more. We need to protect our children and provide for them the future they deserve!
Where can one turn for safety? God. He is with us at every moment, seeing us through every joy and every struggle. His mercy sustains us in our weakness. His compassion comforts us in our sadness. His peace calms our hearts.
We have the strongest weapon of all in our faith. The Church is here as our fortress. The depth of God's love is beyond our comprehension, but it is real, it is tangible, and it is unconditional. Let love guide our lives and guide our actions with others.
Please keep in prayer the souls of all those who perished in this tragic shooting that God may grant them everlasting rest. Remember also the families who are grieving, the teachers who have lost students, and the teens who have lost friends, that the Lord may carry them through these sad and dark days, leading them ultimately to His Light and Love.
With Love in Christ,
Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco
February 16, 2018
Pamphilus the Martyr
"Where shall I begin the work of my salvation?" cries out a hymn of Clean Monday.
The Lenten Season, now upon us, calls us into a time of reflection on the state of our lives and our souls. We are invited by the Church to observe the Great Fast, to devote more time to prayer and worship, to engage in study, and to offer charity and serve the world around us. The hymns of the next forty days will instruct us in the fast, will encourage us in philanthropy, and will call us to renew our souls and lives through repentance. Your parish will offer many opportunities for you to participate in worship, in opportunities for study, and in philanthropic acts, and many other activities with your fellow parishioners and to carry the lessons into your homes and families.
These Lenten practices are not ends unto themselves. Rather, these disciplines serve as potent correctives to the way the world tells us we are to live all the days of our lives and not just for the next forty days. They are meant to focus our energies on improving the condition of our souls. The world says to be happy we must follow paths that lead to the accumulation of wealth, power, and status. And when we achieve all these, we are not satisfied. We become anxious, desiring to keep them, and then acquire even more.
Our Lenten disciplines remind us that we do not need all these "things" and, in fact, we can live quite well without them. The Lord says, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions"(Luke 12:15). Our Lenten disciplines challenge us to break the cycle of acquisition and anxiety and to be free of "things" that instead burden us and our souls. The Great Fast teaches us that we can live simply and with less. Our time in prayer and worship of God teaches that power belongs to Him. Our charity and study teaches us that status is fleeting.
The work of our Lenten journey is an accumulation of the fruits of the Spirit. For the next forty days we will be challenged to put aside what the world values and acquire something greater. What we are to accumulate during Great Lent is a spirit of "love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control" (Galatians 5:22). These next weeks are a time for cultivating these virtues in our lives and souls so, as a hymn states, "may be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His Holy Pascha."
Beloved brothers and sisters, the work of salvation begins very soon. Do not despair at the task at hand. Rather, as the hymn of Clean Monday states, "Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the Holy Commandments of Christ our God".
May this spirit of the anticipated joy of Holy Pascha at the end of our Lenten journey, be your guide during this most Holy Season of the Great Fast.
With Love in Christ,
@ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco
We all know that we are called to love one another with all of our minds, souls, bodies and hearts (cf. Luke 10:27). We also know that when we are in relationships love is the binding force that brings us closer and closer together.
In Christ, we find that this love takes on a new character, and a new effect. Saint Maximos the Confessor explains these two aspects in this way: “The Lord says, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you” (Saint Maximos the Confessor, 400 chapters on love, Chapter 61 of 400).
This simple exhortation from Saint Maximos is so striking because it cuts to the core of spiritual difficulties, the most daunting being loving those whom we hate, or who are our enemies, or those who persecute us. It is when we purposefully turn our love towards the most difficult people or situations that a whole new level of growth happens in our spiritual lives. The effect of this type of love is “so that he might [be] free…from hate, sadness, anger, and grudges.” (Ibid)
A perfect love, a love that extends to those whom we have the most difficult time relating to, is a love that leads to freedom. When faced with difficult relationships, we are called by Christ to turn to love, through doing good and praying for those who we may be in adversity to.
Interestingly, when love is approached this way, by extending it to those who bother us, we gain the “greatest possession of all, perfect love” (Ibid). To possess a perfect love would be the greatest possession of our lives. To be able to extend love through good deeds and prayer to those with whom we are in confrontation would be the greatest display of Christ-like love. It would be akin to what Christ did on the Cross, extending His hands to take on the sins of the world.
As we face difficulties, trials, and tribulations, we have love in our corner. A love that is beyond describing. A perfect love that faces the tumult of this world and embraces it with perfect self-denial…rather, an other-accepting. Through accepting the other, embracing the other, we find ourselves in true freedom. A freedom full of love, where no evil or negativity can penetrate. A realization of heaven, of the embrace of God, the bosom of Abraham.
May He who loved His enemies so much so as to give up His Body for their salvation, Christ our True God, enlighten our hearts and minds to show love to all of those that we encounter, and thereby find the purest of loves, and the purest of freedoms from the travails of life. Glory to Your Forbearance O Lord! Glory to You!
~ Rev. Father Nebojsa Pantic, Proistamenos
Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church - Vallejo, California
You can check out the Metropolis Monthly Meditations HERE
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you...For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. ” (John 6:53, 55).
All of us have been invited to some friend house for dinner. Imagine going, sitting down at the table, and not eating anything—just watching everyone else eat. Surely it would be strange, even an insult to the ones who invited you. Do I do the same at the Divine Liturgy of the Lord?
In the history of Orthodoxy, there have been differing answers to the question, “How often should I receive Communion?” But this question would have ben foreign to the early Church.
Today, answers range from once a year, to every week, to as frequently as possible. St. Basil the Great took Communion at least four days every week. At the end of the first millennium, St. Symeon the New Theologian communed every day with tears in his eyes.
With regard to frequency of Communion, there is little argument that Christians received It more frequently in the early centuries of Christianity than in recent years. Weekly reception was the common practice of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles and beyond. This practice changed during subsequent years due to various theological arguments and interpretations, one of which was an extreme emphasis on the evil of human sin versus the holiness of the Eucharist.
Man, it was thought, was just too unworthy to receive! On the basis of this extreme position, reception was sadly reduced to once a year. In fact, the Holy Fathers taught that the reception of Communion can and does heal sin.
In the 5th century, St. John Cassian attempted to correct the practice of infrequent Communion when he wrote, “We must not avoid Communion because we think that we are sinful. We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit. It is much better if, in humility of heart, knowing that we are never worthy of the Holy Mysteries, we would receive them every Sunday for the healing of our diseases, rather than, blinded by pride, think that after one year we become worthy of them.”
St. Theophan the Recluse in the 19th century taught,
“There is no salvation without Communion, and no progress in life without frequent Communion.”
The Celebration of Preparation
Today, the Church fervently urges frequent reception of Holy Communion—one eats at the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus said “Take, eat, this is my body” He meant it. Take and eat. The Bread of Angels becomes the pilgrim’s food, and that food can make whole our frail and aching hearts and souls. All that the Divine Host asks is that we come to His Supper prepared to receive the Cup of Life and the Bread of Eternal Salvation. How do we do this?
1. Make ready. On Saturday evening, do we stop to reflect on what it is we will do Sunday morning, presuming that we are going to Divine Liturgy(!)? Our attention, our focus needs to turn to the Divine Liturgy on Saturday evening— what it is, the miracle given to us, how it fits into our human behavior and our spiritual life.
Reading Sunday’s Scripture passages and Gospel reflection in the Bulletin that is sent to us weekly helps us make ready, pauses our hectic life, and sets a new and different tone for “The Lord’s Day.” Just before we receive, the Priest chants: “In the fear of God, with faith and love, draw near!”
On Saturday evening we can begin that process. On Saturday evening, really? Yes—it’s another one of those “costs of discipleship”!
2. Fast and pray. Go to the hermitage of your heart. Spend time alone with God. Talk to Him and lay it all bare before Him. There are also many prayers of preparation for Holy Communion online or in the Orthodox Prayer Books. Find one for yourself and use it every week. The Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion is a popular one.
In addition, keep the fast that is appointed before Communion. It creates in the body a sense of the hunger of the soul for Christ. Remember, you are preparing your whole person and every facet of you to receive your Lord!
3. Come home. This will require some soul- searching. “Whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of
St. Paul’s point was that we need to approach the Holy Mysteries with a clean and pure conscience—not a perfect one. We need to name our failings and sins, own them, and ask forgiveness. They are breaches of love. Confession is the chance to set things right with the Lord. We ought to go to Confession regularly to literally hear the words of Christ’s mercy and compassion. When is the last time you heard those words? Never be afraid! We need also to be reconciled with any in our life against whom we are angry, holding a grudge, resentful, or harbor evil thoughts—or who bear the same against us. (Matthew 5:23-24)
Another “cost” of discipleship! Adopting this new approach to receiving the Divine Mysteries requires askesis, a spiritual struggle. We are re-orienting our life—no easy task! It brings with it, however, untold rewards deep down in the soul of us.
Go in Peace
I leave you with the encouragement of St. John of Kronstadt: “If your heart is right in your bosom; if, by God’s mercy, it is ready to meet the Bridegroom, then, thank God, it is well with your soul, even though you may not have succeeded in reading all the appointed prayers (before Communion). For the kingdom of God does not come in words, but in power....”
May God give each of you that mighty power! Please pray for me.
+ Rev. Fr. Dimitrios J. Antokas Source: myocn.net
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and his name shall be called Emmanuel"
(which means ,God with us).
Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14
Amid the flurry of shopping, decorating, and parties, each of us can lose focus on the significance of the Nativity of Jesus Christ season for our life of faith. We can become overly sentimental about Christmas. We can forget the meaning of what happened in Bethlehem over two millennia ago.
The passage above from the Book of Isaiah repeated in the Gospel of Matthew, should jolt us to a new understanding: God is with us. God Himself has broken into the world and into our lives. We have seen the glorious light of God because "God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5). Jesus Christ is this light. Jesus Christ is one with the Father. And today, we celebrate His Nativity in the Flesh as we call the Feast in the Church calendar.
The Nativity of Christ - the Incarnation - was necessary to rescue us from ourselves. As Saint Athanasios the Great taught, humanity had turned away from the true God and became less than what God created us to be. We had forgotten that each man and each woman is created in the image and likeness of the true God. This condition still exists in our world today, when we see the dehumanizing actions of our world towards one another, from trafficking and slavery, violence and abuse, to war and persecution, and the list could go on.
So, what was Our Creator to do? How could He renew the image of God in us? He became human Himself, in His Son, Jesus Christ. Saint Athanasios writes, "The Word of God came in His own person, because it was He alone, the image of the Father, who could recreate man after the image." In other words, God took on human flesh, because we needed God to do for us what we could not or would not do for ourselves. We did not turn to God, so God comes to us as the child born of Mary in Bethlehem this day.
In the Nativity, God "Became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14). By taking human flesh and living in the world, Christ has shown us how we are to treat ourselves, our neighbor, the world around us, and how to be in communion with our Heavenly Father. That fellowship does not occur by downloading a podcast or reading a few nice books, as instructional as they might be for us. Christ has taught us that communion with God requires that we immerse ourselves in our Church community, amid other disciples of Christ. God is with us in our parishes. God is with us in the Liturgy, in Sacred Scripture, in our prayer and worship, and in Holy Communion. There we experience the glory of the light of Christ.
Once we have seen the true Light of Christ, we can carry that light into the world. We actually are commanded to do so. Just as the angels - the messengers of God - shared the Good News that God is with us to the shepherds, we can share that same Good News with others. God is with us when we are with our families and friends. God is with us in our workplaces and in every action of our day, no matter how small it may seem. God is with us in our acts of charity and service that restore the dignity of those who suffer from the ills and injustices of the world, as Christ's presence renewed the image of God in us all.
May the light of the Nativity shine in your hearts, in your homes, and in all your days in this Holy Season of Light and in the coming New Year.
With Love in Our Newborn King,
@ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco
Metropolitan Gerasimos Shares Message of Pastoral Love from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9
It is with great esteem and respect that I share with you this letter from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. This poignant message to our faithful who have been suffering from the devastation of the fires is truly a message of love and compassion from our Spiritual Father and Shepherd.
Even though Constantinople is thousands of miles away from the west coast, the pastoral care and concern of His All-Holiness is deeply appreciated and reflects His love for us as well as His ongoing concern and commitment to preserving and protecting the environment. Our Mother Church serves a guide and beacon for our Archdiocese and Metropolis, carrying the torch of our faith and preserving and promoting Orthodox Christianity throughout the world.
May God, in His infinite wisdom, love and mercy, grant peace to all those who have been affected by these fires and throughout the world during this Christmas season and the New Year!
With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco