The Messenger of Sts. Theodore Orthodox Church
A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
96 Los Robles St., Williamsville NY 14221 (716) 634-6712
Vol. XIV, No. 4
Saturday Vigil 5:00pm
Sunday Divine Liturgy 9:30am
Lenten and Holy Week services: See the calendar below.
Name Days This Month
Why the Jacksons will be moving to Guatemala
Matushka and I thank everyone for their prayers during our recent trip to Guatemala. We went in order to see firsthand what the Guatemalan Orthodox Church is like and what part we might play in helping this newborn Church get on its feet. The Church mostly consists of indigenous Maya people who are poor, peasant farmers. They felt like the Roman Catholic hierarchy was neglecting them, so they left that confession and asked Fr. Andres Giron to be their leader. Fr. Andres is a remarkable figure and a household name in Guatemala. Though not Maya himself, he spent his career as a Roman Catholic priest struggling to help them. He led peaceful marches and struggled to get the people title to their lands. Eventually he became a senator and even ambassador to the UN. When the Roman Catholics threw him out, he joined a non-canonical Orthodox jurisdiction and was made a "bishop". Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to him, and the Guatemalan Orthodox Catholic Church was formed. Eventually Fr. Andres realized that his group had to be received into canonical Orthodoxy. It was received into the Greek Archdiocese of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean in 2010. The clergy were reordained, and "Bishop" Andres is now a canonical Orthodox priest. The Church is under Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico, but Fr. Andres is still the de facto leader.
The Church has about 200,000 faithful, over 330 parishes, but only eight priests. One priest we met is in charge of overseeing 120 parishes. Most of the parishes are served by the Church’s five hundred lay ministers. These are men and women who are well-versed in the Scriptures and have leadership roles, though they are not clergy per se. They gather at the Church’s "apostolic center" in Huehuetenango every few months for workshops on different topics. It is a great sacrifice of their time and money to make these trips. The center has no housing, so they sleep on the floor of the rustic meeting hall or even outside in the cold.
So there is an urgent need to train new clergy. Even the current clergy need to be formed in the Orthodox mindset. When these folks left the Roman Catholics, they continued with their same practices, so they need to learn how Orthodoxy is different and why. Matushka and I knew that we would encounter some irregular practices. For example, we were not surprised to see images of the "Virgin of Guadalupe" in their temples. But we did not expect to find that they are still following the Western calendar, still practicing "first communion" (meaning that infants do not receive Holy Communion), and that most of the parishes serve Communion in the form of unleavened wafers.
Clearly there is much work to be done. The current clergy need to be educated. Some are very willing; others less so. At the same time, new clergy need to be trained from scratch. To meet these needs, the center in Huehuetenango is being turned into a seminary. While we were there we saw the first dormitory being built and land being bulldozed to build more housing. A well will soon be dug, Lord willing. (Currently water is being brought in by truck since the property lies outside of town.) We were also blessed to serve at the first Divine Liturgy to open the new seminary, which has been named "Saints Peter and Paul". The Lord gave us a steady stream of confirmations that He wants us to serve Him there, and learning that my patron saint will also be one of the seminary’s heavenly intercessors was just one more reassurance that this is where God wants us to be.
Two priests and their wives from the US have already committed to working at the seminary. However, they will be dividing their time between Guatemala and the States. Matushka and I are the only ones who will be there fulltime. Before our trip we thought that we might be able to contribute to the work by making two or three visits a year. Now that we have seen the magnitude of the needs we accept that we will have to relocate there permanently. This will be the only Spanish-language seminary in the world. It is already attracting candidates from Mexico and Colombia. So it has the potential to influence Orthodoxy throughout Latin America. It is crucial to be on the ground floor of this project.
"When will you go?"
We are currently applying to the Orthodox Christian Missionary Center to be accepted as missionaries. OCMC is the official missionary agency for all Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. Once we are accepted, we will have to raise support, that is, find individuals and parishes who will pledge money on a monthly basis for our living expenses. We cannot know how long that will take, but Lord willing, this will be accomplished by the end of the year.
"Who will be the new rector?"
I have been discussing this with Metropolitan Hilarion. He agrees with me that the next pastor of Sts. Theodore should be a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary. He already has a candidate in mind with this qualification.
I want to make it clear that this is not a question of wanting to leave Sts. Theodore. We have always been very happy here. It is simply a question of having to follow God’s will.
Fr. Peter Jackson
The True Resurrection of Man
(Metropolitan Hierotheos of Naupaktos, The Science of Spiritual Medicine, pp. 395-6.)
St. Maximos the Confessor says that Pascha is the advent of the Word in the human nous [the eye of the heart], which enables it to participate in the good things that are His. "The true Passover is the passing over of the Word into the human nous." This teaching of St. Maximos the Confessor is fundamental, because it shows how we can avoid celebrating Pascha in an external and formal way.
Many of our contemporaries, influenced by a secular way of life, have replaced the true celebration of Pascha with worldly celebrations that are a poor imitation of the real thing. For most people, Pascha means the procession with the Epitaphios [Plaschanitsa] on Good Friday, the carrying of lighted candles, the food, the outings, perhaps even formal attendance at Church services. But these things are the outward celebration. The true Feast of Pascha is the purification of the nous and the entry into it of the Word.
St. Maximos the Confessor speaks about the true resurrection of man elsewhere in his writings. The person who has been found worthy of experiencing the "eighth day" has been raised from the dead; he has risen above everything perceptible to the senses and the nous, all words and concepts. This resurrection, which is a participation in the "eighth age", in life after the Second Coming of the Word, is the one blessed life of God. But if he is found worthy of the eighth day he has risen form the dead – that is, from everything that comes after God, whether sensible or intelligible, expressible or conceivable. He experiences the blessed life of God, Who is the only true life, and himself becomes god by deification."
Pascha is the life of God within us, participation in the Holy Spirit, our resurrection from the deadness that afflicts us due to the passions. Praxis and theoria lead to this true Pascha. Then man becomes god by grace and celebrates the great eternal Pascha. He lives the "Mystical Pascha, venerable Pascha". He tastes the one living Paschal Lamb, Who is Christ, and he himself becomes Pascha for other people.
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 midnight", which refers to 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 custom about fasting on Holy Friday?
The Typikon (the book which explains liturgical practices) 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 midnight 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 any time after the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (St. Mary of Egypt). You may then receive Holy Communion at any of the Divine Liturgies between then 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. 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 any day of the year, 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 a few minutes to sing or read.
Fr. Peter Jackson