(Lenten and Holy Week services: See the calendar below.)
ØOn the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Triumph of Orthodoxy, our dear Vladyka, Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America and New York, peacefully reposed in the Lord. His Eminence, Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, is Deputy First Hierarch and will lead the Russian Church Abroad until our bishops elect a new first hierarch on May 12 (n.s.). The enthronement will be on Sunday, May 18 (n.s.) His Grace, Bishop Gabriel, is temporary administrator of the Eastern American and Eastern Canadian dioceses.
ØMany thanks to everyone who helped out with our Russian Bazaar last month!
ØFr. Gregory Momongan, a priest of our Russian Church Abroad in Indonesia, was tragically killed in a traffic accident, leaving behind his wife, Maria, and baby daughter, Paskhalita. Our parish has collected $563.00 to help them.
ØThe Women’s Philoptochos Society of the HellenicChurch of the Annunciation is sponsoring a Lenten Retreat on Saturday, April 5 from . Fr. Mark Sietsema from Lansing, Mich., will speak on “How the Christian is to be fed”. $12 includes continental breakfast and lunch. Please call Mary Danakas at 912-8300 to register.
ØThe Parish Council will meet on Sunday, April 13, after Divine Liturgy.
ØApril 13 is the last day to bring food items for Orthodox Action to distribute to the needy. There is a box by the front door. Thank you!
ØOn Saturday, June 1, the Council of Orthodox Churches is sponsoring its annual Walk for Missions. This year St. George Antiochian parish in Lewiston will be hosting the Walk, and we will be walking along the Niagara Gorge!
ØHis Grace, Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan, will be making an archpastoral visit to our parish the weekend of June 28-29.
Name Days This Month
vMarch 22/April 4: Basil Korbut (Hieromartyr Basil of Ancyra)
It is appropriate today that we should hear the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. It is appropriate, because today we, in the Russian Church outside of Russia, mourn the loss of our own good shepherd and are orphaned until one should be raised up to take his place. But who can take the place of our Metropolitan Laurus? Certainly, in our own minds, there is no one who can replace the loss of such a saintly man, such a kind and loving pastor, such an example of the Christian life.
Metropolitan Laurus embodied the qualities of a true and loving pastor – not just for his monks at Holy Trinity Monastery, where he was abbot; nor just for the Eastern American diocese of which he was ruling hierarch; but for the whole Church Abroad, and even in many ways for those in the Russian homeland. Vladyka Metropolitan was a quiet man, not given to epistles and speeches and the writing of books, but a man who lived the Christian life and by living it showed us how to do so as well. Metropolitan Laurus will be remembered most as the man responsible for bringing to an end the rift between the RussianChurch inside Russia and the RussianChurch outside Russia. This, however, is only the outer example of way that he led the Church in compassion and humility. First and foremost, the Metropolitan loved God – so much so that from the age of 5 he lived and worked within the monastic brotherhood of St Job of Pochaev – first in Ladimirovo and finally in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville NY. He was a monk, that is one who has dedicated his whole life to Christ, forsaking even the world. Because of his burning love of our Lord Jesus Christ, Metropolitan Laurus grew in the spiritual graces and concurrently advanced in the grace of ordination. He lived through many stormy years in the life of the Church and yet he remained a strong and solid rock in the midst of that storm. He was able to do this because he had a deep and solid trust in God – and he also had a vision, a deep conviction of where God would lead His flock. Throughout his years as abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, Vladyka Laurus worked to mitigate the extremes that had found their way into Church life. One always knew that Holy Trinity was a place were love and compassion ruled, not extremism and judgment. In this role he shaped generations of clergy who passed through the seminary there and who today fill the Church as pastors, some even as his fellow bishops. When Metropolitan Vitaly retired, Vladyka Laurus, although the senior of the bishops, sought to avoid being selected as First Hierarch, even suggesting that one of his juniors take that role – but that was not to be. All his life, Metropolitan Laurus had been prepared by God to be in that place at that time. Thus it was that he became First Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia.
Just as, in the past, Metropolitan Laurus had been an anchor in times of turmoil within the Church so now he found himself in the midst of one of the greatest conflicts in the life of the modern Church. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Church in Russia became free of her former overlords and could again freely function. This was the time foreseen by the founders of the Russian Church Outside Russia when the RussianChurch would reunite. The Church in Russia had grown strong and active and influential – but was the Church faithful to Christ? This is the question that plagued the relations between the two groups. Metropolitan Laurus knew that to lead the Church wisely he would have to know himself for certain whether this newly freed Moscow Patriarchate was really the true and faithful progeny of the Russian Orthodox Church – or was all the piety and pageantry nothing more than an empty show. He took the step that no other first hierarch had taken, he visited Russia. But he did not go as the First Hierarch, he did not even go as a bishop, but went in appearance as a simple monk priest giving his companions strict orders not to use his Episcopal titles during their travels. In this way he was able to see the heart of the RussianChurch and saw that it was still sound and whole and that the resurgence of the Church in Russia was no sham or mockery, but was the true rebirth of the Church in Russia.
With this knowledge, Vladyka knew what he had to do. He knew that the time had come to bring the two parts of the Church together. He knew that he was in this place at this time by the hand of God for this purpose, to bring about the healing of the RussianChurch. He launched into this task with fervor, but also with caution. Although he was certain in his heart that this was the path of God, he knew that there were many others in the Church who would resist. Because he was a man of great love and compassion for his flock, it was his desire that no one be left behind and so he moved slowly and deliberately, but always forward, headed towards the goal. This is the kind of leadership that he exhibited – that of iron clad trust in God and perseverance in following that path but that iron was clothed in the velvet of compassion and love desiring, as does our Lord, that no one be left behind, that no man be lost, but that all might come together into the Kingdom of Heaven.
His love for his flock was evident – not only to those within the Church outside Russia, but to all those in the Church. His love was returned by those whom he loved and when those in Russia saw that his love was not limited to his flock but to the whole of the Orthodox Christian people – indeed to the whole of mankind – they responded with their own love for him.
The life of Metropolitan Laurus became a testament of that of the good shepherd who gave his life for his flock. Vladyka Laurus did not save himself, but exhausted every last ounce of his energy in working for the welfare of the Church. He refused no one, he gave to all alike and when finally he had expended the very last of his strength, he lay down to sleep and gave his soul and his flock into the hands of the Great Shepherd who led him throughout his earthly life.
Who will replace our beloved shepherd? Who can fill his place? This we do not know, but what we do know is that the Great Shepherd – our Lord Jesus Christ – has not and will not abandon us and that He will give us a shepherd who has been raised up to take the burden of the care of this flock and lead us with that same love and compassion as our own dear departed Vladyka Laurus. -- Archpriest David Moser St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
Let us not lose what we have gained!
It is a joy to pass through the Lenten season as our Tradition instructs us: with prayer, fasting, almsgiving, the poignant services. And it is a blessing to see so many of our brothers and sisters making great strides in their spiritual life. Some share that they have begun to pray the Jesus Prayer for the first time. Others have found a greater appreciation for St. Andrew’s Canon of Repentance. Still others have rediscovered the Old Testament in the daily Lenten readings. And not a few have been coming to Confession and Communion as never before. Glory to God!
Now what? Now we have to be on our guard so that we do not lose in a single moment what it took weeks to build up. Western New York’s neighborhoods boast such beautiful trees, and it took many years for them to grow. But that one storm last October devastated them overnight. As spring arrives we are able to walk in the sun and really appreciate the loss. We all know it will take years for these trees to recover.
In the same way, we need to be mindful of how easily and quickly we can lose the spiritual fruit that we so painstakingly nurtured this past Lent. We need to go easy on the meat and eggs… and cheese Paskha! But we also need to be careful not to go back to the habits we worked so hard to reform, such as our television viewing habits and other ways we spend our time.
We no longer recite the Prayer of St. Ephraim, but this does not mean that these words no longer apply. We still need to struggle against idleness, despondency, love of power and idle talking. God forbid that we go back to these ugly vices! We still need to cooperate with God to bear the fruit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience and love. And who of can say that we no longer struggle with condemning our brothers and sisters?
May God grant that we hold fast to what gains we have made during Lent, whether ten talents or five or just one. Let us take what we have gained and multiply it more still, so that when we meet our Lord He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord!”
Frequently asked questions about Holy Week and Pascha
Why are the Matins services on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday called the “Bridegroom” services?
At these services we sing the hymn “Behold the Bridegroom cometh at ”, which is based on the Lord’s parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25. The bridegroom is Christ and the ten virgins symbolize us. The five wise virgins had oil in their lamps, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, but the ten foolish virgins had no oil. This teaches us that we are to spend Holy Week in vigilant expectation of the Lord’s Resurrection.
When exactly do we stop making prostrations?
Beginning with Matins on Thursday evening (the “Twelve Passion Gospels”), we make no prostrations until after Pentecost. The exception is that we do make prostrations before the Holy Shroud (Plaschanitsa) on Holy Friday and Holy Saturday.
What is the rule about fasting on Holy Friday?
The Typikon (the book which regulates liturgical matters) says that we are not to eat or drink anything on Holy Friday. Of course, this is modified for the elderly and infirm. In the early Church no one ate anything from Holy Friday until Pascha, and some would even go without food for all of Holy Week. The custom today is to fast from Thursday until the Holy Shroud is brought out at Vespers on Friday. Our parish now has the practice of permitting a light Lenten snack (bread, fruit, juice) downstairs between Vespers and Matins.
When should we make our confession for Pascha?
You may make your confession for Pascha anytime after the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (St. Mary of Egypt). You may then receive Holy Communion at any of the Divine Liturgies between your confession and Pascha, as long as you attend the services preceding the Liturgy and read your rule of preparatory prayers. Of course, you should still make your confession if you feel the need. You may also receive Communion on Bright Saturday, because we will be serving a Liturgy then this year. If it has been several months since your last confession, you are especially urged to come earlier, because it may take longer for you than usual. If you leave it to the last moment, there may not be time to properly devote to your confession, you might not be absolved, and then you would not be able to receive Holy Communion on Pascha. We do not want this to happen!
Why don’t we serve the Sacrament of Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday?
Many parishes have this custom, but the Typikon says nothing about it. Perhaps this custom began because there is a bit of “lull” at that point of Holy Week. It may be better to focus on the services already appointed for the week, rather than pile on one that has no bearing on the season. Holy Unction may be performed at any time, and anyone may request it.
What is the Rule of Preparation for Communion at Pascha and Bright Week?
You just read the Paschal Hours, which can be found in the Jordanville Prayer Book. They are to be sung, but if there is a part whose melody you do not know, you can just read it. The Paschal Hours also replace morning and evening prayers throughout Bright Week. It only takes about four minutes to sing or read.
Archbishop Averky of Syracuse
"A life of fasting, properly understood as general self-limitation and abstinence, to the annual practice of which the Church always calls us with the Great Lent, is really that bearing of the cross and self-crucifixion which is required of us by our calling as Christians. And anyone who stubbornly resists this, wanting to live a carefree, happy, and free life, is concerned for sensual pleasures and avoids sorrow and suffering that person is not a Christian. Bearing one's cross is the natural way of every true Christian, without which there is no Christianity."