A PILGRIMAGE to the HOLY LAND: April 26-May 12, 2017, led by Archpriest Peter Perekrestov

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Sunday of All Saints of Russia PDF Print E-mail

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This Sunday, the second Sunday after the Pentecost, is dedicated to the memory of all Russian Saints. The Gospel reading for this day talks about how the Savior called His first apostles to follow Him. And our Russian saints give us a most-perfect example of what it means to "follow the Savior".

MATTHEW 4: 18-23
18. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
21. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
22. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
23. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

This was not the first time that these four men met and talked to Jesus. They met Jesus when He first began His mission after He came out of the wilderness. He had just completed His prayer vigil of 40 days following His baptism by St. John the Baptist. They then heard about His mission and traveled with Him, during which time they witnessed His first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. In fact, as St John reveals in his gospel account of this miracle, one of the reasons that Jesus performed this miracle was to build the apostles' faith in Him. Later however, they returned back to their homes and their regular life. Now when Jesus comes to them to call them for full-time service as apostles, they leave everything behind to answer His call. From this point on, they are with the Savior, never leaving Him during the entire length of His mission on earth.

The Savior's word's to the apostles to follow Him are meant not only to the apostles but also to every Orthodox Christian. Therefore, it is important for us to think about what that Savior expects from us when He is calling out to us to "follow Him". Obviously, we are not called to the same kind of service as the apostles. But we do need to "follow the Savior" if we are to earn salvation, and our Russian saints show us the way. They took to heart the Savior's words when He said: if you love Me, keep my commandments, and, overcoming all worldly temptations and difficulties, they remained faithful to Him. Jesus always prayed, and they strove to grow in prayer. The Savior loved the Temple; the saints considered the church to be their second home. The Messiah being sinless, nevertheless, fasted, and they faithfully fasted. Jesus, despite being not only man but also God, was an example of true humility, and the saints were humble. The Savior was merciful, compassionate, forgiving, always denying Himself for the sake of others. The saints did the same. They can lead us up the road to salvation, clearing out of the way all roadblocks. If we walk this road with them emulating them as much as possible, they will lead us without fail to the very gates of the Heavenly Kingdom. By following them, we are following our Lord.

My dear brothers and sisters, yes, the Christian road is very narrow and difficult. The Kingdom of God is a reward to us for our effort against a very formidable enemy. Yes, it is impossible for us to walk it by ourselves. But that is why Jesus sent down to earth the Holy Spirit. For God, nothing is impossible. With the Grace of the Holy Spirit as our strength, we can do it. Our saints, who were just as human and weak as we are, did it. Let their memory help and inspire us to do the same. And what better time to begin than on the day that we celebrate their memory.

With Love in Christ,
Archpriest Serge Kotar

 
Sunday of All Saints PDF Print E-mail

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Last Sunday, we had the great joy of witnessing the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles through which the Church of Christ was established on earth. This Sunday, the Church is revealing the great moral and spiritual power that was brought into the world by the Holy Spirit by celebrating the memory of all saints, who through the Holy Spirit, were able to ascend to great spiritual heights. It was the power of the Grace of the Holy Spirit which transformed the apostles, simple, timid, and uneducated men, into spiritual giants. The martyrs, supported by Grace, were able to survive unspeakable tortures in their desire to remain faithful to the Lord . The monastic ascetics through Grace overcame all human limitations and achieved incredible, humanly impossible feats in their desire to grow in love to God. In fact, anything, big or small, that we attempt to do to get closer to our Savior is only possible when the Holy Spirit strengthens us. (continue)

 
Pentecost PDF Print E-mail

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
 
This Sunday, June 8, is a major Church Holiday, the Pentecost. It is the day when we will witness the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles gathered in Jerusalem. This will mark the completion of God's plan to save people from sin and death and reconcile them with God. By the Holy Spirit's entry into our world, Christ's Church is founded on earth and empowered with Grace. In our pursuit of Salvation, we receive this Grace through the mysteries (sacraments) of the Church. Grace empowers us to be able to resist the devil and overcome our sinfulness. It also enables us to live a righteous and pious life according to the commandments given to us by our Savior.

God created man in His image and likeness for a blessed eternal life because He wanted to share His divine love. But, God knew that people could only be truly blessed if they had the ability to freely choose whether or not they desire to be in communion with Him. Therefore, He gave people a wonderful gift, a free will. This is a great gift but also one that has great consequences. Freely accepting God's love enables a person to live with God in his heart which makes a person experience great blessedness. However, each person is free to reject God's love and separate himself from God. This separation, though, brings great misery.

Our forefather, Adam, rejected God's love and became separated from Him. Since we are his children, we are born in this state of separation. And being damaged by sin, we are unable by our own efforts to reestablish communion with God. This is why our Savior had to die and resurrect. He became a human being, and through His dying and resurrecting, He destroyed the power that the devil and sin have over people.

As our Savior, Jesus offers to give us the power to also free ourselves from the control of the devil. After ascending to Heaven, He is sending down to earth the Holy Spirit who is the source of God's power, called Grace.  We can freely receive His Grace through the mysteries of the Church. We can then use the Grace to resist evil and live in a holy way. If we do this, we show God our love for Him. And He responds by entering into our hearts to live with us. In this way, communion with God is reestablished and we enter into a blessed life with Him for eternity.

What an incredibly loving God we have! And what a glorious holiday are we celebrating this Sunday! Let us all gather in Church to greet and welcome the Holy Spirit into our world and into our hearts. Please remember that the services schedule on Sunday has been adjusted. The early liturgy will begin at 7:00 AM and the late liturgy will begin at 9:00 Am. After the late liturgy, a vesper service will begin with special beautiful prayers to the Holy Spirit which we listen to on bent knees. And let us freely accept the Grace offered to us by our Savior through the Holy Spirit and live from that day forward truly holy lives that will open to us the doors to Paradise.

With Love in Christ,
Archpriest Serge Kotar

 
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman PDF Print E-mail

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We have passed the midpoint of our celebratory period of the Resurrection of our Lord and are now approaching the Pentecost, when our Savior, after leaving our world, will send down to us the Holy Spirit. In this Sunday's Gospel reading, our Savior reveals to us the great gift that we will receive through the coming of the Holy Spirit. (continue)

 
Thomas Sunday PDF Print E-mail

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕСЕ!

I greet you with the completion of the first week in our celebration of Pascha. I pray that this week and especially the Pascha night services were a time of spiritual joy and and celebration for you. Since Pascha is a celebration of victory over death, the Church dedicates the second Tuesday of Pascha, called Radonitsa, as a day that we go to the cemetery to greet our deceased relatives with the holiday. However, since many of us cannot take the time off from work to do this, the church allows us to do this this coming Sunday. Nonetheless, since on Sunday there is an overwhelming amount of people at the cemetery, if you are able to go on Tuesday instead of Sunday, you will have a much easier time getting a priest to do the service at the grave-sites of your loved ones. (continue)

 
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