Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church
Orthodox Church in America
Clifton, NJ
Tuesday of the 6th Week of Pascha May 26th 2020

TUESDAY OF THE 6TH WEEK OF PASCHA

GOSPEL: John 12:19-36   https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/26/2

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

In writing his Gospel, St. John would have known that this was an important story for the converts he was writing it for. Some Greeks wanted to see Jesus and when they did, they heard a thunder bolt. The Father spoke to Jesus and He told them that it was intended for them. While He was in the world, the light shone in the darkness. That would soon end, however, but in the process the “the ruler of this world will be cast out.”

John also uses these three famous sayings:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”

In using these sayings from Jesus, John continues with a familiar theme: that what seems the visible reality of this world is something passing but in contrast, the reality that will give us life and will be there for all eternity is the Kingdom of God. In the process, we must be prepared to die like a grain of wheat in order to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. If we cling on to our earthly lives, however, we will lose the life of our souls. In contrast, those who serve Christ will be honored by their Heavenly Father, just as Jesus was.

Once again, John is teaching his people that they must constantly choose Christ and may even be called to lose their earthly lives because of this choice. He is also teaching them that this choice will bring them to the mystery of the Kingdom of God and that our Heavenly Father will glorify them because they chose to follow Christ.

The Jews could not understand that the Son of Man must be lifted up. They knew that being lifted up meant being crucified, the very method of terror that the Romans used to maintain order in their empire. Those Jews of John’s era would also not have understood what Jesus was saying because they did not understand that this life is passing and not the true life that our Heavenly Father intends for us. The Jews knew that the Christ remains forever. What they did not comprehend was that Jesus was talking about the mystical life of the Kingdom of God. They were not prepared to give up their earthly lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

In contrast, John is teaching his people that if they do choose Christ, not only will they receive the life of the Kingdom of God but that they will also draw others to them. The souls of others will be drawn to the life and love they see in those who do choose Christ. John’s disciples would have been acutely aware of this because they themselves were drawn to that love.

These same principles hold true for us as well. As we go through the struggles of life, continually pray that we may always make the same fervent choice as John’s disciples did. We may not be confronted with the possibility of death every day like them but we can still make that choice. Tell Christ that you want to give your life to Him and in the daily tasks we need to do, we want to do them completely for Him and His Kingdom; that we want them to be holy so that we may bear fruit in our own small way.

Jesus would soon leave them by ascending into Heaven but He promised them to wait until the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, would descend upon them. We celebrate His Ascent this Thursday, Ascension Thursday. In choosing Christ as I have described above, ask that the Holy Spirit would descend upon us too.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

The 6th Sunday of Pascha: the Man Born Blind. May 24th 2020

SIXTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA: THE BLIND MAN

GOSPEL: John 9:1-38      https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/24/3

SUNDAY, MAY 24TH, 2020

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

In this Sunday’s beautiful story of the man who was born blind receiving his sight from Jesus, let us look at it from the point of view of the people that St. John was writing to.

  • Their souls were like the man who was born blind. They had been lost but now they see.
  • Jesus told the man after He spoke to him to go and wash at the pool of Siloam. The word means sent or to go out. John’s communities had been washed in baptism and are being told to go out to tell others of the sight they had been given in their souls.
  • It is not a question for John of sin, rather that the works of God were revealed through his blindness. For his people, God was revealing His works through them. They were blind to the Kingdom of God before but now they see.
  • Jesus would only be on this earth for a short time but while here, because He is the Light of the world, He must do the works of His Father. Jesus had left this earth when John wrote to his communities but He left His Holy Spirit to continue on His works in them.
  • The question then came up about how did this man begin to see? How did he change? The same questions would have come up for John’s followers from those that knew them before they were baptized. How do they claim now that they see where they did not before? How did they change?
  • The man born blind then explained what happened to him but the authorities refused to believe him. They even brought in his parents however they wanted to avoid any controversy and evaded the question. John’s disciples probably received the same hostility. In relaying the story, John portrays the man as standing up to the authorities, arguing with them and ultimately ridiculing them because of their blindness and stupid denial. John is teaching his people to stand up to those who would reject them as well.
  • The man born blind was eventually thrown out of the temple because the authorities could not admit to the profoundness of what had happened. All they were concerned about was the peripheral requirements of the Law. By the time John wrote his Gospel, anyone who chose to follow Christ would be thrown out of the temple as well.
  • Finally, when Jesus caught up with him again, he asked him: “Do you believe in the Son of God?” The man said “yes, Lord. Who is he that I may worship him?” Throughout his Gospel, John constantly quotes Jesus as asking this same question: “do you believe?” He is telling those whom have been baptized that they must continue to believe if they want to hear the words of eternal life and belong to the community of worshippers in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Friday of the 5th Week of Pascha May 22, 2020

FRIDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK OF PASCHA        May 22, 2020

GOSPEL: John 10:17-28   https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/22/2

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

In this passage today, the Jews are accusing him not only having a demon but of being mad. St. John is teaching his people that those who do not believe in Christ will speak of them in the same way. Even so, Jesus does not back away from reaffirming that His works testify He belongs to the Father. He also tells them that, because they do not believe in Him they therefore do not belong to Him and cannot hear His voice. John is teaching his people that because they believe, they do hear His voice in contrast to the Jews of their day who do not believe, just as with the Jews who were arguing with Jesus.

We too, as Christians, will be ridiculed and mocked. We have seen it in the past with the Communist manifesto in Russia. We see it today with atheists who say that there is no evidence that God exists and therefore we are blind because we do not think rationally like them. Like the Communists, atheists have also persecuted Christians. Look, for example at how many were slaughtered during the French revolution. Many young people today choose to ignore the Church, saying it is irrelevant to them. Thus, “religion is not for them.” For them, religion is a quaint system of belief that belongs to the past. What is called scientific determinism also has a strong influence upon them. This philosophy says that everything can be explained scientifically and rationally. It claims that God cannot be proven and so, has no place in their world view.

Although taking new forms, these criticisms of the Church are nothing new. Christ warned us that we would be ridiculed and His Body, the Church, has endured much persecution over the centuries. Please continue to pray for all these people. Do not judge them but instead, intercede for such thinkers and especially for the younger generation influenced by them. Never be afraid to reaffirm the Orthodox faith. As mentioned above, Jesus did not back away from reaffirming that He is from the Father. We should never be afraid to reaffirm our relationship with the Father either. Continue to pray also for those suffering from the virus at this time, those on the front line trying to make them well and protect them.

Those who do not believe ridicule us because they do not have such a relationship with our heavenly Father. They do not have the power of the Risen Christ in them. Always treasure your relationship with Him and reaffirm it each day, especially in the recital of the Our Father. Remember always that the Risen Christ is in our hearts and always will be.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Thursday of the 5th Week of Pascha May 21, 2020

THURSDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK OF PASCHA May 21, 2020

GOSPEL: John 9:39-10:9  https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/21/8

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

In today’s Gospel passage, St. John continues to teach his people about how to choose the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of death. In this passage, Jesus gives the image of Himself as the door or the gate through which the sheep, those who hear him, can go in and out of freely to find green pasture. In contrast, the Pharisees with whom He is arguing have no idea what He is talking about because they think they have the answers but are blind as a result. Nor is there an alternative choice! Thieves and robbers will try to climb in by some other way but for the Kingdom of God, that will not work.

The same holds for us. There is no alternative way to enter the Kingdom of God and its life. We have to realize that there is something deeper, beyond what we see around us in our earthly lives and we have to choose it. It is the life of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, minds and souls. Many things can distract us on our journey of life but in the end, we must embrace the Kingdom of God. There is nothing else for us. The pleasures of this world will end when our earthly bodies separate from our souls and we pass from this life to the next for all eternity.

Sometimes we realize this after we suffer a great loss or setback. Such moments help us to see what is important and what is not. Whatever the circumstances, Christ is there to support and love us. He invites us to give it back to Him to take it beyond time to sanctify it in eternity. He offers His peace to strengthen us as we continue on.

There are many other ways, of course, that we can recognize and embrace the Kingdom of God. We can see the life of the Kingdom of God in the many blessings we receive, acknowledging that they must have come from Christ. We can see it in the beauty of nature around us, which, if we take the time to enjoy it, can be refreshing and life giving for us. Yes, creation fell with us when Adam and Eve disobeyed God but creation was created by God and is still innately good. The Church also enables us to enter into the mystery of the Kingdom of God through the sacraments and its many other blessings. In reaching into the divine, it makes us part of the family of the Communion of Saints. By embracing the Church’s teachings we stay on the path of righteousness.

Like the Pharisees who rejected and hated Jesus for proclaiming the Kingdom of God and like the Romans who hated the love that the early Christians had for one another and the God whom they worshiped, those who reject our embrace of this same Christ and His Kingdom, may also try to destroy us. This is why embracing what is beyond this earthly life is so important. When we do, as Jesus said in this passage, those who are His sheep will hear His voice and listen to Him. Those who do will not succumb to the wolves who may try to lure us away from Christ.

So, always pray for the gift of being able to listen to Him through the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. This gives us the ability to see instead of being blind because we know that without Him we can do nothing. Be grateful and rejoice that we have been given this ability to see because Jesus suffered, died and rose again, in order that we may have it. Again, it is not something that happened in the past. It is something present in our hearts. The Risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit, dwells with us now and this is why we say:

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Leave Taking of the Mid Feast of Pascha Wednesday, May 20, 2020

LEAVETAKING OF THE MIDFEAST OF PASCHA

Wednesday May 20, 2020

GOSPEL: John 6:5-14      https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/20/2

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

In today’s story from St. John’s Gospel about the feeding of the 5,000 with five loves & two fish, he is teaching his people that the reality was not the feeding of their bellies (as Jesus says after this story) but instead, that the divine had entered into their presence to multiply the loaves and fish.

The story says that He simply “gave thanks and distributed them among the people.” Giving thanks was a regular practice for Jewish people when they sat down for a meal. The way John describes it, almost seems matter of fact. So, what was part of their daily lives has become divine in the simplest of ways. What was required of them by the Law, was now blessed by the very one who gave them the Law. What John is saying, is that the true reality at that moment is the presence of the divine, not the extraordinary event of a small number of loaves and fish being multiplied to feed many thousands.

For John, it is a sign that leads to the presence of the divine. The ritual of sitting for a meal and giving thanks becomes a mystery. How it happens, no one knows and John does not try to explain it. It is a mystery that is made present to those people. In the discussion that ensued afterwards, most of those people would not see this. They were fascinated with His teachings, marveled at His miracles and enjoyed the food given to them from nothing but when it was put to them that what mattered was the need to embrace the spiritual life of the Kingdom of God, they responded “this is a hard saying” and most of them walked away.

John is teaching the people to whom he writing, to embrace the mystery of the Kingdom of God and not be perturbed by those who will not. Once again, he is showing them how to choose the life of the Kingdom of God instead of death. Those who were present at the event were well fed but would become hungry again and eventually their bodies would die. John is teaching his people to embrace the Bread of Life, so that their souls would never hunger. We too, have to make the same choice. We have to embrace the Bread of Life from the Kingdom of God. It is easy to get caught up in the material necessities of our earthly life but ignore feeding the Bread of Life to our souls. The Orthodox Church calls such moments Mysteries because they do exactly this.

In this extraordinary time, we are not able to be physically present to attend the Divine Liturgy or take communion. If, however, we have the Kingdom of God within us, we will sorely miss our ability to be physically present. We will miss the presence of God that comes upon us during that moment when we become part of the Liturgy.

Sometimes, when things are taken from us, we realize not to take them for granted. Just as now, when we know it would be dangerous to visit some family members because they may contract the virus, we miss their presence. By pointing to the divine, St. John is also teaching us that we can still embrace the Kingdom of God in our hearts. Let us yearn for that time when we will be able to be physically present to receive the mystery of communion and be with the family of our parish. The parish is part of the Communion of Saints that will be our treasure for all eternity.

In this time of isolation, offer back to Christ those things that we once took for granted and now realize that we will not get back for a long time. Offer them to Him so that they would sanctified in the Kingdom of God. Ask that the Spirit of God will strengthen us and give us peace while we are on this journey.

Finally, we continue to rejoice in this season of Pascha because the Risen Christ has given us the ability to choose life rather than death.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Tuesday of the 5th Week of Pashca May 19 2020

TUESDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK OF PASCHA    May 19, 2020

John 8:51-59          https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/19/2

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

In this ongoing dispute that the Jewish leaders had with Jesus, they would have known that He performed amazing miracles but all they cared about was that He was breaking the Law because He healed on a Sabbath. Yet, when Jesus claimed His authority from the Father because of them, they said He was a demon. When He asserted His eternal relationship with His Father, they rejected it outright. When He told them that they were living a lie and were the ones possessed by demons because of it, they scoffed at Him. When they still refused to see His words in spiritual terms, He did not back down from the truth, He told them bluntly: “I AM!” For this, they hated Him and wanted to kill Him but He slipped from their midst.

This was the apocalyptic confrontation that St. John was unfolding in his gospel. In writing to his people, He was teaching them that what they were being confronted with, whether it was ridicule from those Jews who would not become Christian or the threat of torture and death from the Roman authorities, was not new. Their very savior went through the same confrontation. He would not back down from the truth, suffering a physical death as a result, and as was said by the other evangelists in their gospels, if the master would suffer this, then His followers could expect the same. John is telling his people to cling onto this truth and not back down from it.

The Orthodox Church has suffered many persecutions ever since, with many of the faithful being prepared to suffer the same fate as He did in martyrdom. We are fortunate to live in a society that will not persecute us for our beliefs, even if our ability to worship is restricted in this time of the pandemic. Even so, given all the choices we are offered, we must still treasure the gift of belonging to the Kingdom of God and be careful not to lose it. Always turn back when we find ourselves drifting away from Christ and His Kingdom. He will never refuse us. Always ask for His forgiveness and mercy. Always express our desire, despite our limitations and those of this world, to fully embrace His Kingdom. Always pray for the gift, that one day, when our souls separate from our bodies and we pass from this life to the next, we will be united with the Communion of Saints in His Kingdom. Never be afraid or intimidated by those who would ridicule us for seeking the Kingdom of God first and foremost in our lives. Always choose it even if it means being isolated or rejected by others because of this choice. Jesus did it before when confronted by the Jewish authorities. Let us follow His example.

Is this choice beyond our grasp? John is telling us in his gospel that we have the power of the Risen Christ in our hearts which is always stronger than any intimidation that may confront us.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Monday of the 5th Week of Pascha May 18, 2020

MONDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK OF PASCHA    May 18, 2020

John 8:42-51          https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/18/2

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

In today’s gospel, St. John defines Jesus’ relationship with the Father: that He comes from the Father, that He is doing the will of the Father, that He seeks not His own glory but wishes to obey His Father.

He also confronts the Jewish leaders about where they stand. Their father is the devil. The devil is the father of lies and has no truth in him. In the same way, they live a lie and cannot hear the truth. They reject the truth of Jesus’ words that come from His Heavenly Father. Thus, they disown their Heavenly Father.

John is using this confrontation to teach his people to keep Jesus’ words because, if they do, they will “never see death.” He is, of course, talking about the death of their souls and the life of the Kingdom of God in them. If they keep Jesus’ words, their souls will never see death.

Once again, therefore, it is important for us to remember that we too, through our own baptism, have the life of the Kingdom of God within us; that we too, have been given the words of truth that Jesus taught of when He was on earth. We also need to affirm it each day. That is why it is important to read the Creed each day. Knowing this, we have a great opportunity to pray for all our concerns and that the Kingdom of God will reach into each and every situation we pray about. Troubles will come but we know that the Kingdom of God will always abide with us if we reaffirm what we have learnt from today’s gospel. Do not be afraid of it. Do not shy away from it. Do not be ashamed of it. Do not curse about whatever our lot is but cling instead to the Kingdom of God that can never be taken from us unless allow it to.

Remember too, the words that Jesus taught us to pray with, the Our Father. Everything John teaches in his gospel to his communities is expressed in this prayer. Say the Our Father to yourself now and realize how much of John’s gospel gels with this familiar but profound prayer.

Finally, in this Paschal season, remember that Jesus’ rising from the dead is what enabled all that He said to become true: that the power of the devil, death, sin and lies have been destroyed:

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

The 5th Sunday of Pascha May 17 2020

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

John 4:5-42: https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/17/3

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

In this well known story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well, He talks about the seasons and timing.

Currently, while many of us are couped up in our homes, we find ourselves to be in a very different context from what St. John the Evangelist was writing about for his own people. He talked about the harvest, that those who have sown have prepared the way for those of his communities who may reap. While we, who in contrast to them, find ourselves neeeding to be careful about venturing outside because of the Coronavirus, are limited to prayer and intercession for others, rather than action. As such, at least for a short while, it is a time to help prepare for those who would go out to harvest when they are free to leave home.

I urge you therefore, to make the best use of this time as possible. God has His reasons for allowing this pandemic to take place. Many in society are complaining about the inconvenience of the restrictions. It is easy to complain but this will not help our relationship with Christ. Yes, definitely talk to Him about it, but offer back to Him our frustrations, fears and concerns for our loved ones in prayer.

At the heart of His conversation with the Samaritan woman is that He offers her living waters that will enable her to never thirst again. But he is not talking about physical water. He is talking about the living waters of the Spirit and the need to worship in spirit and truth. You notice in the conversation that Jesus reveals her fickle life, in which she already had five husbands besides the one she had at the time. He was saying to her to let go of this wayward life and embrace the true living waters of spirit and truth. She is startled and believes that He must be truly from God because she realizes that no one else could have told him about her life.

In our own context, it is a good practice to review our lives to see where we have clung on to things that are not of the spirit and truth. Then, give them to Christ. In this time before the Second Coming, He does not judge us but only wants us to embrace this living water. So, do not be afraid to take this step. Then we can pray for all the needs and difficulties of our daily lives, as well as for all our family, friends and indeed the whole world.

As John often does in this Gospel, he makes reference to Jesus’ relationship with His Heavenly Father. In this story, Jesus says that we too must have such a relationship with our Father: “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” Why is this so? Because our Heavenly Father loves us! He sent His son because He loves us. He wants us to share in His Heavenly Kingdom because He loves us. He wants us to have the true life because He loves us. Do not, therefore, be afraid to embrace this love! It will give us the true living waters.

Jesus challenged the Samaritan women about her wayward life because to have continued on in that way would only lead to death. Our Heavenly Father wants to free us from death. Notice too, that when asked about food, Jesus told His disciples that His food was to do the will of His Father. Not only should we not be afraid to reach out to our Father, it is the very reason why Jesus did all that He did! Jesus’ food is for us to come to the Father and thereby, through His living water, become our true selves. Our souls reach home when they lay in the living waters of the Kingdom of God.

The Orthodox Church uses this story in the middle of the Paschal Season because Christ, rising from the dead, enabled us to receive the life of the Kingdom of God. The story shows us that everyone is invited to receive this life no matter how far we may have strayed. He asks us to accept this invitation and embrace His Kingdom, in order to receive the waters of eternal life.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Typica Service for the 5th Sunday of Pascha May 17, 2020

For those who wish to upload the Typica Service for Sunday, May 17th., the 5th. Sunday of Pascha, please click onto the following link: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/TYPIKA-SERVICE-SUNDAY-MAY-17-2020-5th-Sunday-of-Pascha---Samaritan-Woman-3.pdf

Friday of the 4th Week of Pascha May 15th 2020

THURSDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK OF PASCHA MAY 15TH 2020

John 8:21-30          https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/15/2

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus throws out a warning: you will die in your sins if you do not believe Him! In the same address, He says: “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

St. John the Evangelist, is emphatic in his Gospel that we have to choose the Kingdom of God, because the only alternative is the kingdom of death. Once again, in teaching the converts of his community, he is saying that the world of appearances is not of the Kingdom of God. It is part of the fallen world. The Kingdom of God brings life, even when they are confronted with physical torture and death. The fallen world is something that will pass and our physical bodies will also pass away. All Jesus asked of people was that they believe in Him. Those who cling to this fallen world, such as the Pharisees, who refuse to believe Him, will die with it. John is telling his people not to fall into that trap.

Again, in this passage, John makes reference to Jesus’ relationship to His Heavenly Father and to the question of judgment, which the Pharisees try to throw in His face. Jesus leaves the judgment to His Father. In the same vein, John is telling his people to do the same: focus on the Kingdom of God & leave judgment to our Heavenly Father.

Then, the real confrontation occurs between Jesus and the Pharisees is spelled out: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” The Pharisees and John’s converts knew exactly what the phrase to be “lifted up” meant, because the Romans wanted this image impinged in everyone’s mind: it meant the agonizing & grizzly scene of a crucifixion. They ruled their empire with the threat of this fate for anyone opposed it. Jesus was talking about His death, not exaltation, as might be the current use of the term. Again, John is showing his converts that Jesus gave them the example of laying down His life out of love for everyone. John is portraying the drama of the confrontation between Jesus and those who reject Him. In this passage, it is played out in words, but will soon be played out with actions on the Pharisees’ part, with hatred and violence. They hated Him so much that they wanted to kill Him.

We too, in our own lives have to make these choices:

  • to seek the Kingdom of God first and foremost;
  • to reach out to our Heavenly Father and not to fall into the trap of judging others;
  • to cling onto our relationship with our Father with all our might, because the fallen world will also hate us.

We are fortunate to live in a country that allows us to worship in peace and it is unlikely that we will be faced with the violence that John’s converts were threatened with but we must not become complacent. We must realize that there is no third path. We have to choose between either the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of death.

We must therefore be vigilant. For those of us at home, we must make careful choices about what we watch on TV or online. Are the programs we use in our spare time ones that make us seek the fallen world? Do we put aside time for prayer to commune with the Father, Son & Holy Spirit? Do we say our morning & evening prayers to place the day into Christ’s hands? Do we pray for the whole world in this time of difficulty or, have we become political commentators, looking to lay blame where we can on others during this pandemic?

For those at work, are you offering back to your Father all your efforts, so that they will be sanctified? Are you praying for your fellow workers, especially the difficult ones or those who do not pull their weight or even cheat at work? Are you offering your fatigue back to Him?

These are some questions to consider, remembering always that the Risen Christ did this out of love for us so that we could be partakers of His Heavenly Kingdom.

Thursday of the 4th Week of Pascha, May 14, 2020

THURSDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK OF PASCHA MAY 14TH 2020

John 8:12-20          https://www.oca.org/readings

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

These words of Jesus commence today’s Gospel from St John. Once again, when the Pharisees object, He says that they judge by appearances. John continues to teach his communities not to be tempted to be lured into the appearances of the fallen world. John goes on to quote Jesus making reference to His Father in heaven: "I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me."

John’s people knew from their baptism that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit now dwelt in them. John is telling them that, as a human being, Jesus’ relationship with His Father was central to His earthly life. This is who He communed with. This is who He depended upon at every moment, even when He was faced with death. John tells them that Jesus knew where He came from because He knew His Father. John is teaching them that this is also how they will know who they are and where they come from. This is the foundation of their lives because this is who they depend upon. Baptism was not simply a ritual to join a group that they may have admired. It is the gate through which they are embracing a new life for eternity. As quoted above, they have now received the light of life!

For us, whether we sit in our homes or, are engaged in activity during this time of the Pandemic, try to realize that reaching out to our Father in heaven is what will enable us to know who we truly are! Whether we commune with Him in silence like Jesus did in the wilderness or whether, when we endure the pressure of work as an essential employee, place each and every activity into His hands. Offer them back to Him. When we do, we follow the example of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Notice that Jesus says that the Pharisees judge according to the flesh, which is by appearances. Jesus then says that He judges no one. Why? Because He would leave that to His Father, who will judge at the appropriate time. John is telling his people that they should not judge either. The Jews at that time were certainly judging John's new converts. John is telling his people not to. Even though the Pharisees hated Him, Jesus would ultimately sacrifice His life because He loved them. John is teaching his people to follow Jesus’ example. We too, must not be tempted to judge others. Instead, pray for them and love them! Christians throughout the centuries have found it within themselves to love and pray for others, rather than judge them, much less hate them.

It is no coincidence that the Orthodox Church uses St. John’s Gospel during the Paschal season. Those gifts described above are based upon a profound truth: that the power of the Risen Christ has enabled us to receive them. It is for this reason that the Church uses this Gospel and says throughout this season:

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Wednesday of the 4th Week of Pascha, the mid-feast May 13, 2020

WEDNESDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK OF PASCHA

MAY 13TH 2020   MIDFEAST OF PASCHA

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

GOSPEL: JOHN 7: 14-30

https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/13/5

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Just before this passage, Jesus told his apostles to go on their own without him to the Feast of Tabernacles being celebrated at that time. He stayed in Galilee but went to Jerusalem a little while afterwards on his own. As he often did, he started preaching in the temple, astounding the people with his knowledge of the scriptures. As soon as people realize who he is, controversy erupts. When some complain that he heals on the Sabbath, he says that they do not mind circumcising on the Sabbath to bring someone into God’s chosen people, why then, do they complain when he heals someone on the Sabbath?

The message being given by St. John in this gospel passage to his people, is not to judge by appearances but to judge in righteousness. Righteous judgment is a big theological theme that would take too long to go into here. Suffice it to say that the Orthodox Church says not to judge our brother or sister.

What matters for us is that, like those people to whom John writes, outward appearances are something that will pass. Our relationship with Christ is what we need to focus on and it is something that the fallen world cannot take away from us. Only we can let it go. John’s disciples faced grave danger in keeping their choice to remain in Christ but in this passage, John was teaching them that such dangers will pass. Many early Christians clung on to their relationship with Christ so strongly that it would be a joy for them to have to give up their earthly life in martyrdom, if faced with it.

Jesus concludes in this passage that He did not come of himself but of the Father who sent Him. As we go through this current time of hardship and uncertainty, ask Christ to send His Holy Spirit so that all our actions will reflect what our Father in heaven wants of us. It is not too much to ask that we would gain perfection, not for ourselves, but for our Father. Jesus told us that He calls us to be perfect. We all know that we are undeserving of this perfection because we find ourselves falling from His likeness constantly but this is when we must strive with all our hearts to return back to Him. The more we do, the more we will know Him, just as Jesus knew Him.

Despite the urgency of the many tasks we must carry out each day, what use will they be in the Kingdom of God if we do not strive to offer them back to Christ, who will sanctify them? Use this time to make the most of this striving. Do not waste it!

TUESDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK OF PASCHA, MAY 12, 2020
Gospel: John 7: 1-13

TUESDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK OF PASCHA        MAY 12, 2020

GOSPEL: JOHN 7: 1-13

https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/12/2

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes to Galilee to be alone. The time is close to the Feast of Tabernacles but Jesus tells his apostles that, because His time has not yet come, He will not go among the people. He tells them to go without Him.

The context of this story for St. John is that, like Jesus, his own people are being rejected by the fallen world because they are disciples of Christ. Just as the world hated Him, it will also hate them. For Jesus’ apostles at that point, the world did not hate them because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. He did tell them to go out and proclaim the power of the Kingdom of God to others. Afterwards, He went also but stayed unnoticed among the crowds.

The sense of being rejected by the world, like Jesus, was very acute for John’s communities. They faced persecution and even death. He was teaching them to stay focused on the Kingdom of God because the things of this fallen world are transitory. The true reality is Christ and the Kingdom of God.

We all face difficulty and uncertainty today but like John’s disciples, we too must stay focused on the Kingdom of God. If we do, we will receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc. but the world will also find a way to reject us. This is where we need to take up our cross and walk with Him. For many of us, now is a time for quiet, as we sit out this pandemic in our homes. For those who are still working, offer back to Christ every moment of hardship, fear of contamination, as well as satisfaction if you are giving help to those in need. Ask Christ to guide you, to act firmly and wisely without embarrassing or offending others. This, as you probably realize, is very much a gift of grace from the Holy Spirit. When you get those moments to pray, as the psalm says: offer those times up as if they are incense before God’s throne. They then become very treasured moments among the labor of work.

Tomorrow, I will post a link to the mid-Paschal season vespers and typical services. Try to upload them and use them as a framework for your daily prayers.

Please know that you continue to be in my prayers, that Christ will strengthen and bless every moment of your daily routine.

Monday of the 4th Week of Pascha, May 11th 2020
Gospel: John 6:56-69

TODAY’S GOSPEL: JOHN 6:56-69

Monday, May 11, 2020

https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/11/8

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” This is the profound proclamation that Jesus makes at the beginning of this passage.

Unfortunately, at this time when we are all afflicted by this virus, we are not able to receive the eucharist in the way that Jesus has called us to. What we can do is to continue to stay focused on the Kingdom of God by prayer, asking that the Holy Spirit will remain in our hearts and that we will resist any temptation that would urge us to stray away from this treasure.

With all that the world offers, it is easy to lose focus on this purpose of our lives. It is a time, therefore for us to look at how we may renew our efforts to return to this focus. If we do not know how, Jesus said “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find.” He is there for us! He invites us! He wants to save us from the jaws of Satan! It may not seem easy to hear Him but I urge each of you in this time of pain, uncertainty and precariousness to seek Him with all your heart, soul and mind! When the time does come to be able to receive the eucharist in Church again, our preparation in the way I have mentioned will enable our hearts to be much more open.

St. John is teaching the communities he is writing to choose Christ in the face of the possibility of great persecution. The only way to go beyond the perils of this fallen world is through Christ. This is why we must stay focused on Him in this current time of peril.

At the end of today’s passage, Jesus asks His apostles after many had rejected Him, whether or not they rejected Him as well. Peter spoke up “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Let us also make this same choice!

Archpriest Terence Baz

In Memory of Archpriest Paul Lazor

Archpriest John was a very significant person in the OCA archdiocese, especially at St. Vladimir's Seminary, where he taught. If you would like to read about his life as a priest, please click onto the following link: https://www.oca.org/in-memoriam/archpriest-paul-lazor

4th Sunday of Pascha the Paralytic Saturday, May 9th 2020 Vespers Service

To download the Vespers Service for the 4th Sunday of Pascha, which is celebrated Saturday evening May 9th., please download this link: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/READER-VESPERS-SATURDAY-MAY-9-2020-4th-Sunday-of-Pascha---Paralytic.pdf

4th Sunday of Pascha the Paralytic May 10th 2020 Typica Service

To download the Typica Service for the 4th Sunday of Pascha, Sunday morning May 10th., please download this link: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/TYPIKA-SUNDAY-MAY-10-2020-4th-Sunday-of-Holy-Pascha---Paralytic.pdf

4th Sunday of Pascha the Paralytic May 10th 2020

FOURTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA                       TONE 3
THE PARALYTIC

FATHER TERENCE BAZ

https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/10

Acts 9:32-42 (Epistle)            John 5:1-15 (Gospel)

Dearly Beloved Parishioners & Friends,

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Today we have the Gospel story of Jesus healing the paralytic who was sitting beside the pool near the Sheep’s Gate. He had sat there many years in the hope that he would be healed when an angel would touch the water. Jesus was as much concerned that the man would sin no more as he was for his paralyzed state. It was a Sabbath. The authorities noticed the man was unlawfully walking with his bed on the Sabbath.

This is one of seven signs that St. John describes in his Gospel. Why did he take this approach? In the first place, the stories of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection were well documented by then. Anyone who wanted to learn about them could go to a local church community & be taught. Secondly, he wrote his Gospel in about 90AD, twenty years after the destruction of Jerusalem & its temple and when the Jews & Palestinians had dispersed. By then, many non-Jews had become Christian. These people faced severe persecution because the Romans would not allow anyone to worship other gods besides the official ones. Thirdly, those who were Jewish & had become Christian were being pressured by other Jews to return to the old faith, not to mention possible persecution by the Romans. John used his Gospel to point the way to a mystical understanding of Jesus’ life in order to enable those whom he was writing to, to make the hard choice of staying faithful to Him in the face of torture & death.

In this context, St. John was showing his people that there is a reality beyond what we see in this world. With this story, the life giving healing that Jesus offered to the paralytic, was for St. John, something far more important than worldly security. For the paralytic, being physically strong meant everything to him. As important as that was, Jesus taught him that there was something much more important: the healing of his soul & the choice to keep it that way: “sin no more, lest something worse happens!” For the Jews, all that mattered to them was that he broke the Sabbath, not that he was healed, nor that the Kingdom of God entered into day to day history and touched somebody. St. John was teaching the people he was writing to that there is a reality that goes beyond what we face in this world: the mystery of the Kingdom of God. This is what we must choose. This is what we must seek. This is what we must immerse ourselves into. More than this, no matter what the fallen world may throw in our face, if we immerse ourselves in these realities, we will have the strength to refuse it if it threatens to take the Kingdom of God away from us.

In the Orthodox Church, we describe the sacraments as mysteries because, just as Jesus did simple gestures to bring the Kingdom of God to people in His earthly life, it too provides simple rituals or signs to bring us to the Kingdom of God. St. John points to the mystery behind his signs. This is why we also call these signs Mysteries. They point to a reality far more profound than what we see with the naked eye.

In the context of today, when we face isolation, hunger, sickness, even death & tragedy (even now with infants) among our families & loved ones, it is important to focus on what today’s Gospel is teaching us. St. John says in his next chapter: seek first the Kingdom of God and your heavenly Father will provide for you. It is very important to stay focused in His Kingdom. Many today are expressing a lot of opinions on what should or could have been done. Our day to day lives must go on as best as possible and hopefully, society will not forget the lessons we learn from the crisis. What I ask of you as parishioners is to stay focused on prayer for everyone & everything. Try to help where you can because many are going hungry & even though we celebrate Christ rising from the dead at this time, perhaps we can go without a little to help those in need. The important thing is to stay focused on the Kingdom of God, because our Heavenly Father, who sees all that we do in secret, will reward us. Do not forget the example of the Russian grandmothers who kept praying when faced with Communism!

The Church has faced plagues, persecution and hardship many times in the past. One of the practices it has learnt & taught others is good hygiene. The British learnt the methods of good hygiene from the Knights of St. John (of the Byzantine Empire) and used the Cross of St. John (the Maltese Cross) to form the Red Cross. Currently, our OCA archdiocese is using the Church’s experience to tread cautiously in its response to the Coronavirus. We must respect the laws of nature, created by God! It has recently put out a statement (https://www.oca.org/news/headline-news/holy-synod-issues-pastoral-letter-and-directives) from the Synod of Bishops concerning principles to be used by parishes to open up when the time is ready. You will also hear more about this for our parish in the future.

Once again, please know that you are in my prayers, especially the sick.

I urge you again to refer to the OCA website (https://www.oca.org/) our diocesan website (https://nynjoca.org/) and our parish website (http://holyassumptionclifton.org/) to read any updates, to download any services and keep in touch with your Church.

Finally, I wish to offer congratulations to all the mothers, grandmothers & great grandmothers a very blessed and happy Mother’s Day! I will be praying especially for those of you who will not be able to celebrate with your families because of the virus. As I said above, keep focused on the Kingdom of God, offering all the hardships, all of your families back to Christ. Your Heavenly Father, who sees all that is done in secret, will reward you!

A beautiful recital of the Oikos of Pascha concerning the Myrrhbearing Women

Listen to this beautiful recital of the Oikos of the Myrrhbearing Women by clicking onto this link: https://www.facebook.com/100009827944160/videos/1128252000845721/. Copy & paste if the link does not open up.

Message for the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women Sunday May 3, 2020

3rd SUNDAY OF PASCHA: THE MYRRHBEARING WOMEN

Mark 15:43-16:8 (Gospel) Acts 6:1-7 (Epistle)

https://www.oca.org/readings/daily/2020/05/03/8

Archpriest Terence Baz

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

We can see in hindsight that Christ’s rising from the dead is a triumphant moment in Salvation History. When we read today’s gospel story, however, we realize that for Joseph of Arimathea, it was a very sad time. The one whom he admired and respected had suffered a terrible death. In his sorrow, he must have thought to himself: what is the proper thing to do for his burial? He realized he had a burial tomb, his own, and decided to use it for this. The gospel says: he took courage and went to Pilot to ask for the body. He took the body and (out of respect for him) wrapped it in fine linen and placed him in the tomb.

This unsavory moment in which Joseph found himself, has comparisons to what many in our region, in fact, throughout the world currently find themselves. We hear a lot of very sad stories of people who have lost their loved ones to the Coronavirus and are then confronted with how to do the right thing for their burial, even though they are required to keep their distance. Those who have not been confronted with such a painful loss are still being required to maintain social isolation, with all the uncertainty & economic hardship that it entails.

So, we undergo our chores & work where possible. Even for those who work in essential jobs, the circumstances in which they continue are not easy. Take heart in the example of Joseph of Arimathea. His task was very straight forward: bury the body in a dignified way, even though the circumstances were very difficult. Prayer brings clarity and Joseph must have been praying constantly & earnestly to come to that decision. Take his example and try to do everything, no matter how routine, in a spirit of prayer, offering back your tasks to Christ so that he will sanctify them. As Jesus said, our Heavenly Father will see our efforts.

Neither Joseph nor the Myrrhbearing Women were aware that those common place tasks of placing a body in a tomb & anointing it afterwards, would be done at the very moment the most profound divine intervention in human history was happening! The women were alarmed & trembled with fear when they saw and heard the angel and they fled from the place!

The point is that we do not know how our Heavenly Father will use our tasks and prayers but we should always place them before Christ to be sanctified in the Kingdom of God. We believe that Christ’s rising from the dead has enabled everything that we do to be presented back to him to be sanctified. Even though we are still not able to come together in our church, we can join together by our prayers from our homes for our families, relatives, friends, the parish community, our cities & states, our country and, indeed, for the whole world!

This is why we say: Christ is Risen, because that event lives on in our hearts and, if we believe as he asked us, our daily routines can be completely transformed, even in today’s dangerous times.

The epistle also shows that the administration of Christ’s Body, the Church, needs to be done & carried out in a proper way. The matter came up for the early community that the widows needed to be fed at the Agape meal after praying the Eucharistic Prayers and distributing communion. They held a Council and decided to pick seven people to serve them. The word ‘diakonia’ means to serve. Thus, these young men were called Deacons. They were then ordained to do their work. We must also strive to do the work of our parish in a prayerful way, always offering it back to Christ as if it were ‘a sweet smelling fragrance.’ Even though much of the parish’s work may seem routine, never forget that the Kingdom of God is always present. Christ, by his resurrection, has enabled us to be part of the Communion of Saints and is ever present in our hearts.

You may recall in the Baptismal Service the prayers that paraphrase St. Paul who said that we must die to ourselves so that we may live in Christ. This time of isolation is, in many ways, a dying to ourselves. Make the best use of it in the way I have described above. For most of us, all it takes is simply sitting in our homes!

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Typica Service for Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women May 3, 2020

Please click onto the following link to use tomorrow's Typica Service for the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing, May 3rd, 2020: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/TYPIKA-SERVICE-SUNDAY-MAY-3-2020.pdf

Vespers for Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women, read on May 2, 2020

Please click onto this link to upload this evening's Vespers Service for the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women, the 3rd Sunday of Pascha: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/READER-VESPERS-SATURDAY-MAY-2-2020.pdf

Sunday of St. Thomas April 26 Typica Service & Scripture Readings

I urge everyone to use this morning's Typica Service to pray for Sunday. The link is: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/TYPIKA-SERVICE-SUNDAY-APRIL-26-2020-St-Thomas-Sunday.pdf

To be able to read today's Scripture readings please go to this link: https://www.oca.org/readings

St. Thomas Sunday Message

Antipascha: St Thomas Sunday

Dearly beloved parish members & friends,

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

The title of this Sunday, ‘Antipascha’ may sound odd but it means ‘in place of Pascha’ where, from now on, we celebrate the Resurrection every Sunday. The Russians call the day of Sunday, ‘Resurrection’ and the Greeks, ‘the Lord’s Day.’

One of the Church’s cycles is the Octoechos or, 8 Tones. It starts with Tone 1 on April 26th. You may have noticed these tones in the Sunday bulletins. We work through the tones week in & week out. Once we get to Tone 8, we revert back to Tone 1 and then the sequence repeats itself throughout the year. When one attends Saturday evening Vespers regularly, this cycle is plain to see. The choir works through these tones every weekend.

This Sunday is also called St. Thomas Sunday, when we hear the gospel story about Jesus appearing to the apostles a second time, when Thomas is present. He wants to see evidence! He proclaims: ‘My Lord & My God’ after seeing Jesus’ wounds.

Notice that, in the first part of the story, Jesus offers his peace. Despite the joy of seeing him again, these were very uncertain & dangerous times for the disciples. Jesus does not take away the dangers of this fallen world. In fact, as the months were to unfold, they were persecuted from many sides, with the Deacon Stephen becoming the Church’s first martyr. What Jesus does offer is his peace, a peace that the world cannot offer. This is the gift that would see them through their troubles and enable them to have the Kingdom of God continue to reign in their hearts. Later on, the apostles & disciples testify that the Holy Spirit would send many other gifts to them, especially at Pentecost. We read in today’s epistle that they boldly proclaimed Christ’s message right in front of the authorities despite being imprisoned.

The current unexpected onslaught of the Coronavirus has reminded us that, despite the world’s boastful claim that modern society is invincible, we are indeed still very vulnerable, that these too are dangerous times just like the past and that society is barely coping with the task of trying to responsibly put into place measures that would protect us.

Jesus offered the gifts of the Kingdom of God, the first being ‘a peace that the world cannot give.’ Christ offers that same gift today! We can either accept or reject it and only we can keep it or let it go. In this difficult time of self isolation, it might be easy to escape into thoughts or activities that allow us to drift away from this peace through the TV shows we watch or what we search on the internet.

The purpose of Christ’s Church and its priesthood is to pray on your behalf to cling onto this peace. You can also use some tools that it is offering. You can use:

  • the times of the day when we can pray, such as first thing in the morning or at night and praying before meals.
  • the Liturgical Calendar that you were given by the parish to read the scriptures listed for the day.
  • The online links that the diocese offers to watch the streamlined services or the Reader’s Services that are being sent by email

These steps will help us to not be led into temptation, as we pray in the Our Father.

Having said this, our Orthodox bishops have instructed us to prudently take the safety measures that society directs us to do, especially with social distancing. It is society’s job to keep its members safe and, despite the inconvenience, the Church is not opposed to temporary prudent measures. One has to remember that the laws of nature are part of God’s creation and so, we must respect them. We must handle them accordingly.

The Orthodox Church has gained much experience over the centuries to deal with plagues. Our modern knowledge of hygiene was developed from the Byzantine Empire. It was their navy of the Knights of St. John who taught the Maltese military the principles of good hygiene. When the Muslims tried to invade the islands, it was not military strength that withstood them. After a stalemate ensued, disease broke out in the invader’s camp & they eventually withdrew. After that, the Maltese people took on the emblem of the cross of St. John, which is known as the Maltese Cross. Later on, the British learnt of these methods and formed the Red Cross.

When we pray, we should not just pray for ourselves. In this time of great hardship, pain & loss for so many, we should be praying for all of those who are suffering because we know that we have Christ’s peace. We are also realizing that this planet is interconnected on many levels so, we need to continue to pray for the whole planet! Is it not ironic that pollution levels have dropped during this time of social isolation?

Finally, when St. Thomas entered the house and got the evidence he was seeking, Jesus responded: ‘blessed are those who do not see but believe!’ It may not be easy at a time like this to keep focused on the Kingdom of God or to believe that our prayers are important but Jesus emptied himself, dwelt among ordinary people and gave up his life for us. Remember he said that if we have the faith of the mustard seed, we can move mountains. Our prayers will be heard if we stay focused on Christ. Do not doubt that those prayers will be very powerful! We do not know in which way or when they will be answered but they will be.

These thoughts lead us back to the same truth that we celebrate at this time that:

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Earth Day Message

His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, has posted a message for Earth Day. Please click onto this link to read it: https://www.goarch.org/-/ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-earth-day-2020?fbclid=IwAR2pZH_NW86E2y6Y8joHekDh4ljSX0p_abE__HJZjWqDJWnv9m1pbaExfFs

Let God Arise & His Enemies will be Scattered!

To hear Let God Arise & His Enemies will be Scattered in English, click onto this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m079-WYfwko&fbclid=IwAR1pjbGA6nhDuhDEmKvwx7cU4lQH7waN5OFm09ZG0jkvvc9vLJnCfAFEQvM

Children Singing Christ is Risen!

To listen to these beautiful children singing Christ is Risen! please click onto this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu3R6LpUS44&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3RACCBkD1ODlq_iX-pgQQXrrp58aQyNM-1TBmUvyMh6-1_F5FNtSTcyKM

The Angel Cried Out by Orthodox Virtual Choir

To hear this beautiful virtual recital of "The Angel Cried Out" click onto this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGzDjfjjVpg&fbclid=IwAR23lTBCXk4IEZIJnQc0RK7omPv3q3WnoNeEnd9yW_aNGSwjumhDE3F7_eA

Paschal Message 2020

PASCHAL MESSAGE 2020

ARCHPRIEST TERENCE BAZ

Dearly Beloved,

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

During this difficult time when we are all impacted by the Coronavirus, causing our services to be done behind closed doors, forcing us to stay home instead of enjoying family during this joyous season, saddened to hear the news of many from all walks of life who have passed away from it, we may wonder how to make sense of it all during this Paschal season.

From our first parents, Adam & Eve, we have been afflicted by the many ravages of this fallen world. As if we do not have enough difficulties to deal with day to day, now we are afflicted with a pandemic!

As we read in our Eucharistic prayers during this season, our Heavenly Father has not ignored our plight. He sent His only Son to show us the way through these troubles. We have remembered throughout this Holy Week the sufferings that He endured: the rejection, torture, mocking, hatred, wish of death and the estrangement & isolation He experienced (something we can currently identify with), from those who refused to believe His teachings.

Please therefore, do not think that we are being ignored during this time of difficulty! Reach out to Him instead, asking for the patience & strength to endure our difficulties but more importantly, to pray & intercede for those who are being afflicted much more than us. Each time we see the terrible news, pray for them, give them back to Christ, just as we do in the Divine Liturgy when we say at the Consecration: “Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee!”

He taught while on earth that those who think they see, will not see. Instead, those who acknowledge that they cannot, will be the ones who see! Those who rejected Him became blind in their souls. Nor will those, who today refuse to believe His teaching, be able to see what He did for us. They will never understand that following His way of the Cross will bring us to eternal salvation. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians: to the Jews, it was a stumbling block and to the Greeks, foolishness.

We affirm in our profession of faith that, while He did suffer those things, died and went into hell, He also rose from the dead, destroying the power of death. We also believe that these troubles are passing, that our bodies will pass away with this world but that in putting on Christ, we will gain life eternal, sustained by the living waters that He offered us. Let us use our time on earth to concern ourselves with ways that will help us & others to reach the Kingdom of God by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The time for fasting in our Liturgical cycle has ended for now but there is plenty of opportunity to practice the other two.

Finally, we believe that Christ’s rising from the dead was not simply an ancient historical event but something that has profound impacts us for today. Nor is its impact only meant for the end of time when Christ will come again. We believe that the Kingdom of God is within us and that because we choose to put on Christ, we enable the Holy Spirit to reign in our hearts. It impacts us here & now! Thus, we do not say that He rose from the dead, we proclaim a truth that is incomparably more profound than what we may encounter in this current fallen world: Christ is Risen, truly He is Risen!

Archbishop Michael's Archpastoral Paschal Message 2020

Please click onto the following link to be able to read Archbishop Michael's Archpastoral message for Pascha: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/ap-letters/Archpastoral-Letter-Pascha-2020.pdf

Diocese of NY & NJ Livestream options

If you would like to see what services are being live streamed via the Diocese of New York & New Jersey, please click onto this link for more information: https://nynjoca.org/livestream

Live Streaming of Holy Week Services from OCA Archdiocese

The OCA website is offering live streaming for the Holy Week services if you would like to make use of them. Please click onto this link to see the details: https://www.oca.org/news/headline-news/the-media-office-of-the-orthodox-church-in-america-announces-live-stream-schedule-for-palm-sunday-holy-week-and-pascha

Tuesday of Holy Week Bridegroom Service

If you would like to download this evening's Bridegroom Service to pray at home, please click onto this link: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/READER-BRIDEGROOM-MATINS-FOR-HOLY-WEDNESDAY-Tuesday-Night-2020.pdf

April 11th 2020 Message

Dearly Beloved Parishioners & Friends,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

I hope you are all okay during this time of trial as we sit out the impact of the Coronavirus. Both Matushka & I are doing well.

After much thought, as well as discussion with Archbishop Michael and others, I have regrettably decided that, for the safety of the parish community, it is better that I stay away from the church building for this weekend and most of Holy Week. I will review the situation later next week to decide what services I may do at the end of the week. I do not want to endanger anyone, especially those who are able to assist me.

Today, I did a Typica and Memorial Service for everyone, including the names of those who asked me to pray for their deceased family members on this Lazarus Saturday. I also prayed for those who have died from the Coronavirus, especially those afflicted by it in nursing homes.

Again, I encourage you to refer to the archdiocesan website (https://www.oca.org) or the diocesan website (https://nynjoca.org/) or our parish website (http://holyassumptionclifton.org/) to read any updates from the archdiocese or diocese or, to use the prayer services at home while our church is closed. For instance, you can go to: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/praying-at-home/TYPIKA-SERVICE-Lazarus-Saturday-.pdf to do the Typica Service for today. Many services will be posted this week and next week.

If you want to watch a service from a neighboring parish, please look up their websites to see if they are streaming it. Our neighboring parishes are: Paramus, Wayne, Passaic and Saddle Brook. You can find their websites through the diocesan website.

Please know that I will be praying for all of you that Christ will protect you.

Yours, in Christ

Archpriest Terence Baz

Website Status

Dear Parishioners & Friends:

Glory be to Jesus Christ!

So you know, I had some trouble last week accessing the Site Manager of this website. For some reason, the password would not work. I think I have resolved the issue & so, will be able to give more up to date information. Please keep your social distancing during this precarious time of the Coronavirus. Please know that you are in my prayers.

Archpriest Terence Baz

Sunday March 29th Message
Dearly Beloved Parishioners & Friends of the Parish:

Christ is in our midst!

I want you to know that during this time of uncertainty & concern, as we are shocked each day by the numbers of those infected by Covid-19 and sadly, those who because of it have passed away, you are in my prayers. Please adhere to the directives being given out by State authorities in order to minimize the virus' impact. Remember, it does not move about, we move about. If we don't move, nor will the virus and it will eventually die.

In regard to Holy Assumption Church, unfortunately, we have to keep the doors locked. The virus numbers in NJ have not peaked yet. In regard to the Lenten services for April, Archbishop Michael will send instructions in the near future.

For those who have a key to the church doors, please do not go there until further notice. Exceptions are for those who are scheduled for cleaning and administrative purposes. Please note that the school from Passaic County is closed until further notice.

This Sunday, a 40 Day Memorial Service is scheduled for our dear late friend, Olga Grib, requested by her daughters. Kathy, Karen & Kristine and their families I ask all of you to pray for her and the family at this time.

Finally, please go to our parish (https://holyassumptionclifton.org/) , diocesan (https://nynjoca.org/) and archdiocesan (https://www.oca.org/) websites for updates and prayer services that you can use while the church doors are closed. There is a wealth of information on these sites.
 
Unfortunately, I am not able to live stream Sunday's Divine Liturgy yet but Craig Polk will use "Zoom" to open up his Sunday School class.

Yours, in Christ
Fr. Terence Baz
Updated Guidelines from Archbishop Michael re the Coronavirus
New Guidelines on Diocesan Website

Archbishop Michael has issued new guidelines regarding the diocese's response to the Coronavirus. Please click on the link: https://nynjoca.org/files/2020/covid-19/UPDATED-DIOCESAN-GUIDELINES-CORONAVIRUS-NYNJ-2020-03-21-FINAL.pdf to read them.

Yours in Christ,

Archpriest Terence Baz, parish priest

March 22 the 3rd Sunday of Lent Divine Liturgy
Dearly Beloved Parishioners:

Christ is in our midst!

As I have mentioned, tomorrow's Divine Liturgy will be said behind locked doors. It will not be said at the regular time. Please do not come to Church tomorrow.

I plan to set up a streaming service for the following Sunday, March 29th., to enable you to watch the Divine Liturgy online. Given the terrible unfolding of this virus, I may have to restrict who comes to the Church for that Sunday as well. I will let  you know.

Please know that I will be praying for you tomorrow.

Yours, in Christ,

Archpriest, Terence Baz

Doors Closed for Weekend Services
Doors Closed for the Weekend

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Christ is in our midst!

You have all been hearing about the perilous time we are currently in concerning the Coronavirus.

After consultation with the OCA Diocese of New York & New Jersey, I have decided to take the drastic step to close the doors of the church for the weekend. Further, given that it is being predicted by authorities that the crisis will worsen, they will remain closed until it eases.

This is being done to minimize the risk of contamination to our parish members, especially for the elderly and medically susceptible. There will also be NO Coffee Hour.

On Sunday morning, if I have someone to assist me, I will do the Divine Liturgy with that person, in order to pray for our parish members. If I have no one to assist me, I will do an Orthros Service instead, for the same purpose.

One further note: our parish family over the decades have worked very hard and given very generously to this parish in order to keep it in the beautiful state that we have it. Please keep up this spirit of giving by continuing your contributions either by the use of your envelopes or by PayPal.

Please know that you are in my prayers at this very difficult time.

Yours, in Christ,

Archpriest Terence Baz

Parish Priest.                                                                                            March 18, 2020

Encyclical from His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon on Creation for the Beginning of the New Liturgical Year

If you go to the Orthodox Church of America webpage, you will find that His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon has written an encylical about God's creation for the commencment of the New Liturgical Year. Or, click onto this link to read it: https://www.oca.org/news/headline-news/encyclical-metropolitan-tikhon-beginning-ecclesiastical-new-year-day-prayer-creation

Fr. Terence Baz

Commencement of the Liturgical Year & Creation 2019
Nativity of Christ Homily 2018

HOMILY for the NATIVITY of CHRIST 2018

There is much that the scriptures and liturgical prayers associated with the Nativity of Christ teach us.

Firstly, it is common for Christians to follow the example of the Three Wise Men by offering gifts to one another. Some, as an expression of charity, will offer to those who have no family or friends at this time, to share in their family meal or even serve at soup kitchens. It is our belief in the birth of Christ that prompts us to put our faith into action by doing such good works.

Secondly, the scriptures make it very clear that the king, whom the Wise Men seek out, does not belong to this world. Not only do we see this from the circumstances surrounding His birth: the cave or manger, the shepherds and animals, the rejection by the world for any suitable, much less a luxurious accommodation, for the birth. If we look at Jesus’ teachings, he warns against seeking any type of treasure that cannot be stored in His Father’s heavenly kingdom.

Thus, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the Spirit of God prompted her to proclaim in the Magnificat that God's “mercy is upon those that fear Him.” She says in contrast, He has “put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly.” When Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount, He made the message about the Kingdom of God very clear: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Again, in contrast, in His parable about the sewer in the field, He said that those who would become consumed by “the pleasures and cares of this world, would not bear fruit.

It was the cares of this world that caused King Herod to jealously guard his worldly power to the point of promptly slaughtering innocent babes in his quest to destroy Jesus. We, in response to the joy of this feast therefore, must be constantly on our guard not to allow our hearts to seek after the material pleasures that the world would have us chase, causing this feast to be reduced to an all absorbing consumerism. Further, we still have those with great worldly power who would willingly destroy anyone who would threaten it or, as it seems today, use society’s social structures to enhance their power at the expense of everyone else, causing great economic, environmental and social injustice. This is the complete opposite of what Jesus taught: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

Thirdly, we and all of creation can rejoice like the shepherds and the Wise Men in this wonderful event. There is a strong emphasis in Orthodox Christian liturgical prayers on linking the beauty of God’s creation, tangibly witnessed that night because of the earthy and discomforting cold they were experiencing, to the very creator Himself! More than that, from the Book of Genesis onwards, the scriptures make it clear that, though fallen because of the sin of Adam and Eve, the beauty of creation is fundamentally good and that the Spirit of God continues to sustain and re-create it to this day. Nor does God allow us to sit on the fence in regard to His creation. Either we align ourselves with God’s creation or, we align ourselves with the forces of chaos that war against it. In the same way, we either align with the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of this world.

Therefore, let us respect, love and pray for the beauty of all creation! The scriptures and the Church teach us much about how to do this well even in the face of the looming perils of a warming planet. Aside from the icon of the Nativity that is so beloved for Orthodox Christians, I leave you with another image that astronomers have been have been quick to point out this year. It is the 50th anniversary of that photo taken by the astronauts who first circled the moon, in which they saw the earth rise over the horizon of the moon. This stunning image put into perspective the beauty as well as the fragility of the earth together with all of creation and forever changed our perspective of the planet we live on. It was taken close to December 25th, the date on which we celebrate the mystery of Christ, the creator of the universe, being born as a simple babe in swaddling clothes in the humblest of circumstances but never compromising His closeness to this planet. How appropriate that those astronauts chose to read the creation story from the Book of Genesis to express their awe and wonder at what they were experiencing.

It is ironic, is it not, that astronomers are able to concur with astrologers (the Wise Men) about the significance of the timing of a birth and a former astronomical event concerning a star from the East? As we say in our Orthodox Divine Liturgy, Christ cannot be contained!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Very Reverend Archpriest Terence Baz, D. Min.                                     December 2018

Homily for the Nativity of Christ 2018
Nativity of Christ Homily 2018
Creation & the Feast of the Theophany
The Church Calendar for the OCA

Regarding the Liturgical Calendar in the Orthodox Church of America (oca.org) for the set feasts, including the Nativity of Christ (Christmas) we use the Gregorian Calendar. For the variable feasts including the Triodion (Great Lent-Pascha-Pentecost) it uses the Julian Calendar. Please remember this distinction when inquiring about our service schedule. I always have it updated on the Service Schedule Page that you can see right on the front page of this website.

Some people asked when we would be holding the "Russian Christmas." We held the feast of the Nativity of Christ on December 25th. using the above formula. Please keep this in mind.

Christ is Born! With the Shepherds, Glorify Him!

Given that the Nativity of Christ falls on a Monday this year, this week becomes an extended weekend for most people. Thus, the busy preparations to be with family & friends will soon begin to wind down.

As we get together, do not forget the reason we make these efforts: we celebrate that Christ our Savior was born as a babe, revealing to the world that His Kingdom would be established on earth. The Word of God became flesh & from this point on showed the world how to recieve the love of God our Father & be transformed by it. God's plan would unfold in time & Jesus would teach us in His public life the way, the truth & the life that would give us this love.

For this reason we have much to celebrate. As family & friends discuss daily life when they get together on this day, do not be afraid to point out this basic truth & why we celebrate. The world cannot provide the answers to the evil we see around us but we can reaffirm our commitment to & faith in Christ to follow His way. As we do, we should strive to become like Him so that we can become like God & be transformed by Him. Let's rejoice that He has given us this Light & that through Him, we can touch the Kingdom of God.

There is no better way than by using the Mysteries that Christ's Body, the Church offers us: the services, the singing & praises in them, the sacraments of Confession & the Eucharist, the anointings to heal us & the joy of being together in fellowship with like minded people who also want to celebrate this great feast. We are part of the Communion of Saints with Christ & as St. Peter said on Mount Tabor: it is good to be here.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

2017 Nativity Message from Metropolitan Tikhon

Please read Metropolitan Tikhon's Nativity message just published. It is very timely for the year past.

Preparing for the Nativity of Christ 2017
Reflection on the Jesus Prayer
A way to attain Unceasing Prayer

On Sunday, October 15th., Matushka Barbara presented a short reflection to about 20 people on a way to "pray without ceasing" in our daily lives by using the "Jesus Prayer."

After a couple of enjoyable "ice-breakers," she shared how she was introduced to it as a teenager & the impact it has had on her since. She talked about its simple format but the effort it requires to make it a way of life. She also talked about the scriptural background for this prayer, its uniqueness as a way to meditate, compared to non-Christian, non-biblical forms of meditation. She specified a couple of techniques, such as the use of prayer beads & the need to breathe correctly while saying it.

The reaction from the listeners seemed to be very positive & a lot of them shared about the importance of prayer in their own lives. In an age when one can be constantly shocked by simply listening to the daily news, the Jesus Prayer enables one to redirect all that comes our way back to Christ.

Thus, it was  enjoyable, informative & helpful at the same time! Thank you to Mat. Barbara.

The Musical Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Posted on our Diocesan Website

The muscial, Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, has been posted on our diocesan website! Please click onto: http://nynjoca.org/news_171007_1.html to see the report. We had a "cast party" yesterday afternoon at our church hall. About 30 of the cast & supporting adults turned up. We had a great time of fellowship. Look up our News & Events page to see photos of it. Thank you again to Matushka Barbara, all the supporting adults & cast for the great performances they put on at the end of September.

The Las Vegas Massacre
Please Continue to Pray

It is indeed with sadness that I have to post a message regarding the recent massacre in Las Vegas that has caused so much loss, pain & suffering. Please click onto the message given by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, calling us to pray everyone directly concerned & all of creation: https://oca.org/news/headline-news/metropolitan-tikhon-issues-statement-on-the-tragedy-in-las-vegas.

These are indeed troubling & dangerous times. As Orthodox Christians, we continue to proclaim Christ's message as clearly as possible but at the same time, judging no-one. We are called to follow Christ by loving everyone, including the killer, praying & interceding for all. Just last Sunday, we had the Gospel from St. Luke, Chapter 6, where Jesus said: love your enemies, do good. I urge everyone to have the faith that Jesus called everyone to have that our prayers will be answered in God's way & at God's time.

May the God of Peace continue to strengthen us all.

Fr. Terence Baz

Praying for Today's World at the Beginning of the Liturgical Year

When we turn on the news, we hear about a lot of threatening issues. This morning we woke up to hear that North Korea detonated a Hydrogen Bomb. Given the irrascibility of that country's president, such a prospect is  indeedscary. This is by no means the only threat. We are well aware of the threat posed by ISIS & Al Qaida. Anytime we travel, we are aware of the possibility of an attack on innocent victims. We have recently seen the upsurge of Nazism in this country. We saw the ravages of nature in the latest massive Hurricane in Texas.

Ominous threats are nothing new. The question for us as Orthodox Christians is: how do we respond? There has also been a long standing call from the Church as well: prayer, fasting & almsgiving.

On Friday, September 1st., we celebrated the Indiction Service for the beginning of the Liturgical Year for the Church. This prayer service recognizes the worldly context given above. Thus, its prayers encompass all such calamities. Further, the Orthodox Church tells us that our intercessory prayers are very important in offering back to Christ all that we see & hear about. It is so important that there is no better way to respond to these issues than by prayer! Jesus taught us that true peace can only come from His Living Waters because it is a peace that the world cannot give. In today's world, people are offered any dazzling number of choices but for true peace & stability, the only Way, Truth & Life is Christ.

This message cannot be over emphasized so, don't be afraid to express it to your family members & friends who may ignore this calling from the Church, the Body of Christ. Many of the above issues seem to be beyond our control but to choose to intercede before Christ through His Church is definitely something we can choose & encourage others to join in.

The liturgical cycle also enables us to partake in the other practices: fasting & almsgiving. There are seasons for fasting. For almsgiving, after seeing the horrors of Hurricane Harvey,  now is a very appropriate time to respond. Thus, I will be having a special collection next Sunday to give to this cause. The money will be channeled through the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a body that has a well deserved international reputation for helping effectively.

Given that the whole Orthodox Church prays for God's creation at this time, it is worth making a couple of points about what the Orthodox Church teaches about creation. It has always taught that God saw His creation as being good. Further, that this is an ongoing event that continues today & will continue until the Second Coming. Like us, it was affected because of the sin of Adam & Eve but it is still good. On this point, we differ strongly from Protestant Christians, especially Evangelical Christians, who view the world as being bad because of the sin of Adam & Eve & believe that is not deserving of respect. Such groups also view the call to Adam & Eve to have dominion over the earth as an entitlement to plunder it, extracting what ever resources one can for one's benefit & pleasure. The Orthodox Church, in contrast, teaches that in having dominion over creation we must care for it & treat it with great respect. Orthodox monks dedicate their whole lives to prayer & care for creation.

More still, if we do not adhere to God's command to care for His creation, creation will rebel against us, even unleashing its fury against us. For this reason, we must take heed of the warnings that scientists are giving us about pollution, the destruction of the ecosystems & man made global warming, especially from the coal industry. Harvey is the third massive storm to hit this country in the past 12 years & this will not be the end of it! Scientists are also very concerned about the collapse of the polar icecaps because of evidence of increased melting. If this were to occur, the catastrophic consequences would be far greater than the massive storms we are currently experiencing. Those who claim that this is all a hoax, using it as an excuse to wantanly plunder God's creation place us & future generations in grave peril.

Please continue the practices that the Orthodox Church calls us to carry out with your hearts minds & souls lifted up to The Father, Son & Holy Spirit so that God will provide for our needs.

Yours, in Christ

 

September 1st: the Beginning of the Liturgical Year
Using the Indiction Service to Reflect on the Past Year & Pray for the Year to Come

Today, September 1st., the Orthodox Church celebrates the beginning of the Liturgical Year.

A special service, the Indiction Service is used this day to reflect on the past year & to pray for the year to come. We all have much to pray for & it is good to call on the Church to intercede for all these needs. When we call upon the Church in this way, we do not just pray for ourselves but the prayer extends beyond to the whole cosmos, embracing every level in between. If we pray with heartfelt repentence & faith, loving all those whom we pray for, even our enemies, our prayers will rise up like incense to the Heavenly Kingdom, on behalf of God's fallen creation. Thus, it becomes a wonderful moment in which we can fulfil God's command to Adam & Eve to care for what he has given us.

The Ecumenical Patriarch, Patriarch Bartholemew, in Turkey, has called on the whole Orthodox Church to pray for God's creation on this day & the Orthodox Church has responded. The Roman Catholic Church has also responded, with the Pope Francis beckoning the Roman Church & the whole Christian world to follow suit. Many Protestants Churches have followed suit, making this a world day of prayer for creation.

In an another development, for the first time in many centuries, the Patriarch Bartholemew & Pope Francis, as heads of the Eastern & Western Churches, have put out a joint statement today reflecting on what this moment means in this turbulent world.

We are not only called to pray, but act in charity where we can to those in need. This is obvious to everyone in this country as we have watched the horrors of Hurricane Harvey in Houston & its surrounding districts. If you wish to respond, you can use our own International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to do so. Any money sent to them will be well directed.

It should also be obvious that such massive storms are not simply rare events these days. We have now had 3 massive storms in the past 12 years: this one as well as Katrina & Sandy. The great majority of the scientific community has been warning us that man made global warming is putting us in great peril not only because of more dangerous weather systems but the threat of the polar ice caps collapsing because of evidence of accelerating melting in recent years.

Time will tell but the Scriptures are very clear: God does not give us the luxury of sitting on the fence in regard to His Creation: either we align ourselves with the Holy Spirit's ongoing act of Creation, which is fundamentally good, albeit fallen from the sin of Adam & Eve or, we align ourselves with the forces of chaos that war against it. We must do all that we can to avoid falling prone to those forces.

We will pray part of the Indiction Service on Sunday. If we use this service to make a heartfelt intecession to Christ for all of His creation, we will do what He has called us to do.

Yours, in Christ

Back Home
Back Home!

After taking a vacation to see family in Australia, I am happy to say that I am back home.

Last week was certainly one for news! Even from across the other side of the world, everyone was talking about the Nazi car attack & the subsequent reactions to it. I knew that with an issue like this, I could not avoid saying something about it in my sermon. Sometimes, events encroach us so much that as a priest, I have to preach what the teachings of the Orthodox Church would say about it. I was relieved to see when I returned to the USA that two very clear statements were issued by the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the USA and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of America. It was also fitting that today's Gospel was the parable of the Servant who Owed Ten Thousand Talents & our need to forgive others. In contrast, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul was defending Barnabus & himself from the pettiness of the Corinthian community. Please click onto these links to read the responses and the scripture readings.

Check the Calendar!

Please keep an eye on upcoming events that can be found on the calendar page. It will be updated as soon as new information is obtained. Fr. Terry

The Orthodox Christian Day of Prayers for the Environment
Patriarchal Message for the New Ecclesiastical Year and the Day for the Protection of the Natural Environment

 

Aug 26, 2015

Prot. No. 851

 

+ BARTHOLOMEW

By God’s Mercy

Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome

and Ecumenical Patriarch

To the Plenitude of the Church Grace, Peace and Mercy

From the Creator, Sustainer and Governor of All Creation

Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

 

“All of creation is renewed by the Holy Spirit, returning to its original state.” (Anavathmoi, First Tone)

“Blessed are you, Lord, who alone daily renew the work of your hands.” (Basil the Great)

Brother concelebrants and blessed children in the Lord,

As everyone knows, September 1st of each year has been dedicated at the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – and recently also by the Roman Catholic Church – as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment. On this day, we especially beseech the supreme God to gladden His creation so that human life therein may be joyful and fruitful. This prayer includes of course the petition that the inevitable natural climate changes may occur and be permitted within tolerable levels both for human survival and for the planet’s sustainability.

Nonetheless, we humans – whether as individual groups or collectively – behave contrary to this very request. For we suppress nature in such a manner that unforeseeable and undesirable changes occur to the climate and environment, which are negatively affected in their normal functions with consequent implications for life itself. The cumulative result of actions by particular individuals as well as by corporate and state activities with a view to reforming the natural environment so that it might produce more resources for those who take advantage of it only leads to the destruction of creation, which was created good by God and thus functions in a balanced way.

Those of us who appreciate the danger of climate change that is only increasing by day for our planet as a result of human actions raise our voice to highlight this crisis and invite everyone to explore what could be done “so that life is not lost for the sake of greed.” (United Nations Declaration)

Therefore, as Ecumenical Patriarch, we have expended years of efforts to inform the faithful of our Church and all people of good will about the grave risks deriving from growing (ab-)use of energy resources, which threatens increasing global warming and threatens the sustainability of the natural environment.

Orthodox Christians have learned from the Church Fathers to restrict and reduce our needs as far as possible. In response to the ethos of consumerism we propose the ethos of asceticism, namely an ethos of self-sufficiency to what is needed. This does not mean deprivation but rational and restrained consumption as well as the moral condemnation of waste. “So if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6.8), as the Lord’s Apostle urges us. And after the multiplication of the five loaves and the satisfaction of five thousand people, excluding women and children, Christ Himself ordered His disciples to collect the remainder “so that nothing would be lost.” (John 6.12) Unfortunately, contemporary societies have abandoned the application of this commandment, surrendering to wastefulness and irrational abuse to satisfy vain desires of prosperity. However, such conduct can be transformed for the sake of creating resources and energy by more appropriate means.

Brothers and sisters, children in our common Lord and Creator,

Human beings have destroyed creation through greed by focusing exclusively on this earth and its earthly benefits, which we endeavor to increase constantly, like the “rich fool” in the Gospel parable. (Luke 12. 13-21) We ignore the Holy Spirit, in whom we live and move and have our being. This signifies that the response to the ecological crisis can only be successfully realized in the Holy Spirit, through whose grace our human efforts are blessed and all creation is renewed, returning to its original state, as it was created and intended by God – namely, “very good.” This is why the responsibility of humanity, as God’s co-creator endowed with free will, is immense for any proper response to the ecological crisis.

This earth resembles “an immense pile of filth.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 2015) And impurity implies more than simply material things; it primarily includes spiritual things. There are the impurities that essentially stem from the passionate thoughts of humanity. With firm faith in the Pantokrator and Creator of all creation, we Orthodox Christians are called to carry out the work of an evangelist and missionary with regard to the protection of creation. That is to say, we are called to rekindle the joyful gospel message to the modern troubled world and awaken the sleeping spiritual nature of a humanity diversely and multifariously distressed in order to convey a message of hope, peace and true joy – the peace and joy of Christ.

This is what we believe and proclaim from the most holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne. And we invite everyone to soberness of life, purification of passionate thoughts and selfish motivations, so that we may dwell in harmony with our neighbors and with God’s creation. Finally, we pray with Basil the Great, “who extolled the nature of things”: “Blessed are you, Lord, who alone daily renew the work of your hands. Blessed are you, Lord, who created light and darkness, distinguishing between them from each other. Blessed are you, Lord, who created all things and constructed the shadow of death by blackening the day into night. Blessed are you, Lord, who created humankind in your image and likeness, who made the day for the work of light and the night for human nature to rest . . .” (Psalter and Prayer Book, Pantokrator Monastery, Mt. Athos, 2004)

This is our message, conviction and exhortation to you all: Let us stand well; let us stand in awe before God’s creation.

May the grace and boundless mercy of our Lord, the Creator of all creation, both visible and invisible, be with you all and with the whole world, now and to the endless ages. Amen.

September 1, 2015

+Bartholomew of Constantinople

Fervent supplicant of all before God

 

 

 

 
 
 
ARCHPASTORAL MESSAGE OF HIS BEATITUDE
METROPOLITAN
TIKHON
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year &
The Day of Prayer for the Creation
September 1, 2015

  To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

On September 1, 1989, the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I issued the first message from the Ecumenical Throne on the environment.  With his proclamation and the establishment of September 1, the first day of the Ecclesiastical New Year, as the Day of Prayer for the Creation, the Church again seeks to remind us, as Mary reminded Martha, of the one needful thing - life and unity with Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In that statement Patriarch Demetrios I reminds us that the holy fathers of the Church teach that, "Man is the prince of creation, endowed with the privilege of freedom. Being partaker simultaneously of the material and the spiritual world, he was created in order to refer creation back to the Creator in order that the world may be saved from decay and death."

In St Ephrem the Syrian's work "Hymns on Paradise" we are given yet another guide to how we might come into that unity and life in Christ. St Ephrem tells us that God's two witnesses, or pointers, are, "Nature, through man's use of it, [and] Scripture, through his reading it."

As the summer draws to a close and children go back to, or away to school for the first time, and begin again a new academic year ecclesiastical year, let us, being reminded by the pointers to Christ as mentioned by St Ephrem, take a moment to turn to the one needful thing in praise, worship and thanksgiving for the creation and all the blessing bestowed upon us by our merciful Creator. 

It is my prayer that the parishes, Sunday Schools, Youth Groups and other organizations of the Orthodox Church in America will take up this time around September 1 to celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Creation. Our Department of Christian Education has prepared an excellent Study and Activity Guide for young people titled,
"The Earth is the Lord's", which can be found at www.oca.org.


With my archpastoral blessings and love
 

+Tikhon
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

The Holy Dormition of our Most Pure Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

The name of our Church is the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church and the link below outlines the description of this feast for your convenience.

 

http://pemptousia.com/2014/08/on-the-holy-dormition-of-our-most-pure-lady-the-mother-of-god-and-ever-virgin-mary/

Fr. Terence's Message for the Nativity of Christ 2015

Greetings in the name of Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

We come to that busy time of year, once again, when we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Christ.

As Orthodox Christians, we may be tempted to envy all the glamor of this season: the pretty lights & displays, the air waves filled with carols, one movie after another trying to tell us to be jolly & nice and even in the local streets, the visual impact cannot be ignored! I would never want to begrudge seeing the resulting smiles on children’s faces but we must realize that the Orthodox Christian understanding of the Nativity goes much deeper. Further, in comparison to many of the commercial messages forced upon us ours is the very opposite!

The story of the Nativity from the scriptures & our liturgical services is clear: the Virgin Mary, with the protection of her husband, Joseph, search for an inn & settle for a cave with the shepherds, the angels & the wise men to witness the birth of the child Jesus. The beauty of the story embraces heaven & earth as well as all people of “good will” with a promise of great hope & salvation. Even so, this story has another side. There was no time to wait around & celebrate, because the participants had to break apart as quickly as they came together, when they were told in dreams about the hateful intentions of King Herod. He ultimately vented his apprehension of the news on the innocent children of the local district by slaughtering them.

Beyond this story, God’s revelation has given us a background & context to it that the Orthodox liturgical services strongly bring out showing that the event has immense implications. To show how this is the case, let us examine the beginning of the scriptures.

The story of creation in the Book of Genesis compares the state of Adam & Eve before and after they fell from grace by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Before the fall, God saw that creation was very good (Gen. 1:4, 11, 13, 18, 21, 24 & 32). God created Adam & Eve in his image & likeness (Gen. 1:27), and they were created to be more spiritual than flesh, for the Lord God blew into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). Our fore-parents were on close talking terms with God (Gen. 1:26-28). They were given responsibilities such as tilling the earth & caring for it (Gen. 3:7), naming creation and reporting to God about their work (Gen. 2:19), being caring stewards of the cosmos and having dominion or being custodians over it (Gen. 1:28).

After their fall from grace however, they saw their nakedness (Gen. 3:7), their bodies became flesh-like or denser (Gen. 3:7), they became subject to the ravages of nature (Gen. 3:17) and they were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23-24). Thus, they lost their home and were separated from God. The Orthodox Church also believes that their very makeup was affected. In regard to their being in the image of God, they could still seek him and his goodness but it was much more difficult to be close to him. Worse still, their relationship to God as being in created in his likeness was damaged beyond repair. The effect of this change was that their appetites, such as eating and drinking, became insatiable passions, with greed often taking over (Gen. 4:1-16; Cain & Able). There was a tendency to seek created images instead of their Creator. Creation also fell because it was dependent on us (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20), and it rebelled and was no longer benign & fruitful. We have to work hard for it to be fruitful (Gen. 3:17-19).

When we look at the birth of Jesus, we note that it is with the smelly shepherds & animals, in a manger, in a cave. In his life, Jesus is often seen in the context of his creation: going to the hills to pray, out on a lake where he calms the waters, going to the desert with the wild animals and the plants. In his teachings & parables, he spoke of himself as a shepherd (Mt. 25:32; 26:31; Mk. 6:34; 14:27; Jn. 10:1-16); he talked about the mustard seed full of nesting birds (Mk.4:31-32); rescuing an animal on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:11); him loving Jerusalem like the love that a hen has for her chickens (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 12:34); the sparrows are remembered by God (Lk. 12:6). At the end of his life, he used a donkey to enter Jerusalem and the earth shook & the rocks split (Mt. 27: 51-53). Thus, he was never far from his creation! Thus, there is a great deal to celebrate, not just for us but for the whole of creation!

For St. Paul, this creation & our salvation become one in Christ. Christ is the new Adam (Rom. 5:12-31; 1 Cor. 15:45), a new creation (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:4) and a new man (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10) and this was planned since the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) as a mystery hidden for ages in God (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:10). Thus, the second creation is the culmination of salvation history, restoring creation and bringing it to a higher plain. Thus, not only is creation good (1 Cor. 7:31; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:11; cf. also 1 Jn. 2:17) but something in which we can faithfully partake (1 Cor. 10:26; 1 Tim. 4:4; cf. Tit. 1:15; Rom. 14:14 & 20; 1 Cor. 3:21f.) through our life in Christ (Jn. 5:26; 6:48; 14:6; 1 Jn. 1:2; 1 Jn. 5:11).

This will be fully accomplished at the second coming of Christ but his nativity not only heralds all of the above implications but we are called in our own lives in Christ to strive to live in the way that God intended for Adam & Eve: caring for creation and offering it back to Christ through our baptism and priesthood. It is part of the reason we pray, fast and give alms in preparation prior to the celebration. Nor can we ignore the backdrop of those “elemental forces of this world” (Gal. 4:3) that war against it. It manifested itself in Herod’s hatred towards those innocents he slaughtered and we see many instances of hatred and destruction in these current times.

The same holds for those who because of greed, want to abuse and pollute this earth, causing chemical contamination in our food produce, health & water management issues for many societies, the destruction of forests & species, as well as the threatening melting polar ice caps that could cause sea levels to rise. We are called to respond by praying, interceding and doing all we can to make society respect and protect all aspects of God’s creation just as he called Adam & Eve to from the very beginning.

Thus, this season is much more than an interesting story with nice cultural trimmings. It profoundly affects our lives, all those whom we pray for, our whole community & nation, in fact, the whole universe!

CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!

Address of Metropolitan Tikhon on the Beginning of the Church Year

http://oca.org/media/video/address-of-metropolitan-tikhon-on-the-beginning-of-the-church-year

Address of Metropolitan Tikhon on the Beginning of the Church Year

In a newly produced video, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, greets the faithful and offers much food for thought on the beginning of the Church Year on September 1, 2015.

View video on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=958578364180800

In related news, read the recently posted Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon on The Beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year & The Day of Prayer for the Creation:

http://oca.org/holy-synod/statements/his-beatitude-metropolitan-tikhon/the-beginning-of-the-ecclesiastical-year-the-day-of-prayer-for-the-creation