Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Time of Our Lives

Photo by Ekik Witsoe on Unsplash

Time has moved slowly for so many of us lately. We have waited and wait still for some form of normalcy to return. If there is one thing which we all have in common during this period it is time. We wear it on our wrists. It follows us through the day on signs outside a bank to the screen of our cell phone. We are all aware of time. 

There was once a member of a parish who tightly regulated his life. If there was one thing one could be sure it was he constantly clocked events around him according to his wristwatch. Each Saturday he would show up for 6pm Vespers at precisely 5:50. He would constantly look at his watch and look up at the iconostasis as if he could will the royal doors to open at precisely 6 pm. One Saturday Vespers was late. Not only was it late but seemed to get later the more he looked at his watch. It wasn't until 6:07 that Vespers began that day. Afterwards he approached the priest while looking at his watch and reminded him of his tardiness. The priest smiled and said, "We're on Sacred time, not clock time. When I saw you looking at your watch I delayed Vespers until you gave up. Perhaps if you don't look at your watch so much next week, Vespers may be more fulfilling."

All was well the next week and the weeks that followed. 

Sacred time has real meaning, One of the books in print at St. Tikhons Press is, "Time and Man" by professor Georgios Mantzaridis of Thessaloniki. In it he examines the relation of clock time and mental time in the light of Christ and Eternity. He reminds us that as members of Christ's Church we have "Eternity interwoven" into the very fabric of our lives. In practical terms, with Christ's help, we can separate ourselves from those fearsome future possibilities constantly presented to us and find peace and comfort in Christ now and forever. 

The Morning Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow comes to mind:

O Lord, grant me to meet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealing with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me how to pray, pray Thou Thyself in me. Amen.

In the Risen Christ,

Fr. David

Monday, April 20, 2020

Holy Pascha!

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Christ is Risen!

Христосъ воскресе!  Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!  Hristos a înviat!  al-Masīḥ qām! 

Indeed He is Risen!

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
(St. John Chrysostom 4th c.)

The Divine Liturgy of Pascha was live-streamed from our church this Sunday. Following the guidelines the Liturgy was celebrated by the clergy only and live-streamed. This didn't mean that we couldn't express the joy of Pascha at the church property. At 11:00 and again at noon, members of our parish community brought their Easter baskets to be blessed in the parking lot by His Grace, Bishop Daniel. Though everyone kept their separation and stayed near their cars, all were united in the joy of Pascha 

Here are photos of some happy people (taken with the help of a camera with a zoom lens).


In Christ's enduring love,
Fr. David

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Celebrating Holy Week

Photo Credit: FrDavid.wordpress.com

Most of us, unlike the iconographer Vladimir Grygorenko, have trouble being fully immersed in the celebration of Christ’s passion and resurrection. Christ literally surrounds him every day at work. This year it's a little more difficult for each of us. We are not able to stand in our beautiful church building, in the presence of icons, incense and each other. Fortunately, we live our lives under a much larger roof. We live under the dome of the heavens. Christ, the Pantocrator (ruler of the heavens) is above us all day and every day and we are members of His Church.

it’s a privilege to live as Christians all day and every day knowing that we are always in HIS presence. The reward is the joy of Christ today and forever. Archbishop Dmitri, of blessed memory, used to point out that without Christ’s resurrection the world has no meaning. Holy Pascha is almost upon us. Here are some things you can do during Holy Week-

. In a spirit of repentance, actively pursue your prayer life at home including praying for others.
. Watch, not as a spectator but as a participant, the services on the internet.
. Contact your fellow Orthodox parishioners and wish them a blessed Pascha.
. Contact your non-Orthodox relatives and friends and wish them a blessed Easter.
. If you are blessed to have relatives who are children, you can reach out to them with the story of Pascha.


The service schedule for our parish is posted on our website: https://sspeterpaulaz.org
In order to view the live-stream services at Sts. Peter and Paul:
1) go to our parish Facebook page (Saints Peter and Paul Eastern Orthodox Church – OCA) and look for the link; or 2) visit our parish website (above) and click the Facebook icon located at the top right and bottom right of the home page.

You are also encouraged to follow the additional services live-streamed from Holy Trinity Cathedral, San Francisco). The schedule can be found on the Cathedral website: https://holy-trinity.org  
Live-stream. Click the Facebook icon located at the top right of the home page to be connected. His Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN, the Bishop of our Diocese, will serve assisted by Archpriest Kirill Sokolov, Cathedral Dean.

Quoting from His Grace, Bishop DANIEL in this morning's email:
“We will remain in our homes behind closed doors, believing that hope is on the horizon.  Then, after a while, when it’s safe for all people, when it is the most loving choice, we will come out, gathering together, shouting and singing the good news that God brings life even out of death, that love has the final say.  This year, we might have the closest taste we have had yet of what that first Pascha was really like.”

In Christ’s enduring love,
Father David

Friday, April 3, 2020

Fifth Week of Great Lent

Image: Wikimedia Commons
 Glory to God for All Things!

These were the words spoken by Saint John Chrysostom before his death. They were transformed into a beautiful Akathist by Metropolitan Tryphon (Turkestanov) in 1929 during the time of brutal Soviet repression of the Church. Every word of this Akathist is food for the soul. Here's a selection from Ikos 9.

Glory to Thee, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love.
Glory to Thee, making wonderfully Sweet the keeping of Thy commandments.
Glory to Thee, making Thyself known where man shows mercy on his neighbour.
Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others.
Glory to Thee, rewarding us so well for the good we do.
Glory to Thee, welcoming the impulse of our heart's love.
Glory to Thee, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky.
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.

You are invited to the web page for this Akathist;
and the biography of Metropolitan Tryphon. It's in Russian but the Google Chrome browser can translate it into very readable English.

His Grace on Sunday March 29, 2020

This the fifth week of Great Lent was celebrated by our Bishop Daniel and
recorded. The Divine Liturgy at our parish church can now be viewed online while we are physically separated from one another. Links to the Liturgy and His sermons are posted on the Church website:

Friday, April 3 is also the day in which we commemorate the icon of the "Theotokos of the Unfading Bloom" (shown above). The roses represent the purity of the Theotokos and Christ's Church. A nice start of the day.  

Glory to God for all things!

Fr. David 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Optina Morning Prayer

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Optina Monastery
Optina Monastery (Optina Pustyn), located about eighty miles from Moscow, has been at the spiritual heart of Russia for centuries. Founded in the sixteenth century, it cycled through growth and decline several times due to several drastic changes in the political climate. It’s known for marvelous spiritual monastic elders who resided there. We are fortunate to be able to pray their morning prayer, which reflects both their chaotic times and ours. 

Morning Prayer of the Optina Elders
Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will. For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will. Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee. Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none. Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events. Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love. Amen

Here are some links if you wish to explore the monastery and their Most Holy Elders:
https://www.optina.ru    (the Google Chrome browser can translate the Russian text)
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/74512.html    (sayings of the Optina Elders)

Two additional prayer petitions:  
Save, O Lord and have mercy on the Holy Orthodox Patriarchs, our Lord, the Most Blessed Metropolitan Tikhon, Our Lord the Most Reverend Archbishop Benjamin and our Lord, the Right Reverend Daniel, priests, deacons and all the clergy whom Thou has installed to tend to Thy reason endowed flock. Through their prayers save me also, a sinner, and have mercy on me. 

Save O Lord and have mercy on all our brothers and sisters who serve our Holy Church and Temple of Saints Peter and Paul. Bless the parish council, its choir, its committee members, its teachers, parish supporters and all Orthodox Christians. 

In Christ’s enduring love,

Friday, March 20, 2020

Prayer Corner

This week ending March 21

This week’s events are not a tale of sadness but rather a tale of love and togetherness overcoming darkness and a strong affirmation that Christ’s Church shall prevail against the gates of hell (Mat. 16:18)  In texts, emails and websites the subject of prayer has drawn particular interest. The Crisis has apparently brought out so much outpouring of the need for prayer. While we all have known that we need to pray more it’s wonderful so many people are now willing to do so.

With this in mind, Matushka Mary and I took a look at our icon corner and decided now was a good time to upgrade it with a small table. A dusty computer desk was nearby and shouted to be re-purposed. So, the computer was moved to a better place where it would be of more use and the desk readied. Matushka dug through her fabric collection, found the right cloth and fired-up her sewing machine. A short time later she finished the tablecloth and the top was ready for  our prayer books, bible, cross, incense burner, icons with stands plus a St.Tikhon’s candle. Time to pray together.

Here’s some reflections on really using your icon corner:

Daily Prayer 
Find some time each day to pray in your corner. Praying just a few minutes is fine, especially if you are able to develop a schedule and stick with it. It is not necessary to try to pray long and hard like our nuns and monks. There is a good reason they are called “spiritual athletes”.

When beginning your prayers, it is always useful to ask Christ’s help in being able to meaningfully pray. Using your prayer book, find prayers you can ‘stick with” without your mind wandering elsewhere. You can do no wrong in praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Keep a list of the living, departed, and those people you have trouble forgiving. Ask HIS help in forgiving them and ask HIM to forgive you.

Pray for relief from the Crisis
Here's a prayer/petition from our Holy Synod of Bishops:

O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in thine ineffable goodness, look down upon us, thy people gathered in thy Holy Name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. Thou knowest our weakness. Thou hearest our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. O Lord who lovest mankind, deliver us from the impending threat of the Corona Virus. Send thine angel to watch over us and protect us. Grant health and recovery to those suffering from this virus. Guide the hands of physicians and preserve those who are healthy. Enable us to continue to serve our suffering brothers and sisters in peace that together we may glorify thy most honorable and majestic name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

Services at home 
Until we can celebrate the Divine Liturgy together in our temple there is a Typica service and a Readers Service for Protection from the Corona virus posted on our parish website: https://sspeterpaulaz.org.

Confession As our Bishop Daniel mentioned, now is the time to book a confession before PASCHA. Due to the current situation, confessions are by appointment only with either His Grace or myself. If you would like me to hear your confession either text or call me at:

480-213-7631 or email at frdavidbalmer@gmail.com

In Christ's enduring love, 
Fr d