Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
We all love a white Christmas, but when it is expected to exceed 25 cm it can be a bit to much. So I thought it best that we cancel the service tomorrow (Dec. 26th).
The Henderson Hwy, can be a little touch and go at times, not to mention any snow fall can make a normal half hour trip feel like a journey to Steinbach.
Have a blessed feast of the Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, shovel well tomorrow, and enjoy your families.
See you on Saturday evening for Vespers and prayers for the new year.
Although the roads are drivable with all the snow falling, their is low visibility, and the going is really slow. So in the best interest and safety of everyone, we are cancelling the Divine Liturgy.
Keep safe today, and go slow.
On Saturday night I usually pack my pipe and go for a walk to fine-tune and shape my sermon, in an attempt to avoid rambling on and on (as I am prone to do). That morning I had been informed about the sudden repose of Archimandrite Alexander (Dennis Pihach), and it had weighed heavily on my heart throughout the day. I was working on my sermon about St. Tikhon (whose feast day of glorification it was this past Sunday), yet every time I would go over my sermon, I would get lost in thoughts of Fr. Alexander. I would re-focus and get back to my sermon only to slip back into thoughts about Fr. Alexander.
This went on for a bit (well, two hours) as I considered the many humble works St. Tikhon did in this country and province: serving immigrants from Ukraine, preaching the Good News, building churches, babysitting children while their families were in the fields, or helping push wagons out of the mud – all for the Glory a God. then it dawned on me that Fr. Alexander not only continued this work, but also was transition between the world of St. Tikhon and our 21st century Canadian culture; between a culture steeped in a millennium of Christianity, and a world thirsting for meaning; between a cultural Orthodox tradition, and the convert experience.
He always gave honour to the blessed gift of Orthodoxy, the inheritance of those saints and pioneers who brought with them the “Faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Whether it was taking young converts with him to bless homes in rural Manitoba for Old Calendar Theophany, immersing them in the festive life of the Church as lived out in the homes of the faithful, or giving a feast for the servers of the Cathedral in Ottawa on the occasion of his Namesday, and serving at the OCA representation Church in Moscow (a Bukovinian boy from the prairies in Moscow, -how is that for irony); or whether it was his willingness to be “all things to all men that some might be saved” (1 Cor. 9:22 ) applying the fluidity of the Gospel that witnessed the saving love of Christ, and not simply moral piety: he worked to help others find a their way as Orthodox Christians within a culture that gave no room for either tradition, or conversion.
This was truly his witness and his suffering. To some he was a traitor, and to others a one-track- minded traditionalist, but to myself and to many in the Archdiocese of Canada, he was a voice of reason and clarity.
It was not that Fr. Alexander re-invented Orthodoxy, or that he made it a new, purer expression of Christianity, or that he crystalized the life of the Church into some relic of distant lands and ages. What he did was continually to bear witness to the living Faith: the love of God the Father, in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, made real in the Church, regardless if it was expressed in Slavonic, Ukrainian, English or French, served on the old or new Calendar, or in full or abbreviated services.
His legacy will not simply be the men, women and families that he brought closer to Christ, or the men he inspired to serve at Christ’s Altar (myself included); or the churches he built, and the parishes he healed. Rather, like St. Tikhon’s legacy, the seal of his legacy is that he cultivated the hearts of the faithful that they might hear the voice of the Shepherd, Christ our God, calling each of us to peace, mercy and grace in a very turbulent and trying time.
The question now for us is what do we do? how do we serve? What do we proclaim? Do we cultivate the world around us to hear our own voices, or the voice of the one Shepherd who calls us by name? Is it our own word that we bear witness to, or the divine Word, who breathed the Holy Spirit upon all creation?
If we are true to the work of St. Tikhon and holy men and women who have served the Lord in Canada (like our beloved Archbishop Arseny); and if we are true to the memory of Fr. Alexander, our proclamation will be of the Lord’s saving mercy poured out onto a new land, a proclamation that cutting through the noise of sin so that the hear voice of God calling us to life eternal.
May His memory be eternal.
No one comes into this world as blank slate, or is born into a vacuum. Who we are, our stories, where we live, our families, friends and works, are the fruit of history, whether good or bad.
We are given an inheritance, the witness of those men and women whose stories, homes, families, friends and works were also inherited from generations past, marking our days with anniversaries of the mundane, and the profound. Some of these stand out like mountains in our collective consciousness, and others are like the dust that settles in the corners of our homes, but all of them become part of our stories.
It is what we do with those anniversaries that shape us, and influence the stories of our children and their children for generations to come. They are the foundations that we continue to build upon, or tragically destroy. Our history and anniversaries are those intersections that we either look forward or retreat.
This is something to consider as this month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our diocese as the first ecclesiastical presence in all of Canada.
Although there had been Orthodox Christians from Ukraine in Canada since 1879, and Churches were established across the country (including ours in 1911), the establishment of a vicar diocese for Canada in 1916 marked the continuation of the Church’s mission of witnessing to the saving love of God, as encountered in the Church, His Body. But more profoundly, it marked the continuation of the work of the Apostles who in those early years of the Church would establish communities, and bishops (overseers) to serve them.
Now it might seem strange (even lofty) to consider the continuation of this Apostolic ministry in Winnipeg, and Canada of all places, especially considering the weighty challenges and hardships that debilitated the effectiveness of the diocese throughout its 100 years. Yet throughout it all there still remains a diocese, and communities that carry on the work of the Church, and that live its mission, proclaiming the Good News.
The witness of those immigrants who came from Galicia and Bukovina 125 years ago, who brought with them a Faith brought to them by St Vladimir, and the saints who manifested the life of Jesus Christ in Kyivan Rus, has been an inheritance that is our story. The work of the Apostles, whose “proclamation has gone out to the ends of the universe” (Ps.18:5 ) is our proclamation, and the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3 ) is what we now deliver as an inheritance to the world around us.
This is the challenge we consider as we give thanks to God for the past 100 years of our diocese: that we look toward to the future, building upon what has been given to us. In the same way that an astronaut, as he/she rockets upwards, doesn’t look back at the distant earth, marveling on what he/she has accomplished or where they started, but rather looks in wonder towards the heavens and magnificent, splendor; we in the Church now look to the world around us, to our families, friends, and even strangers, considering not simply where we started but rather humanitie’s vocation to be in communion with Him, the Lord God.
Regardless if we are Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Greek, Syrian, or converts or the children of converts, this anniversary is our story, a precious one that should inspire us to continue the work offered by the Apostles, by those great missionaries, who preached the Word in foreign lands, by St. Tikhon who ministered in North America, by the blessed Archbishop Arseny whose words brought consolation and peace to his flock in Canada, and all the saints known and unknown who offered thanksgiving and praise to God for His mercy and love.
May we, like those blessed founders of this diocese, continue to look towards the heavens, as we live out our service of witnessing to the Faith within the Church the Body of Christ.
Given how precious and short our Manitoba summers are, it is not unusual that people take advantage of season and get away on holiday, or to a cottage. Understandably Church attendance suffers, in particular attendance at Saturday evening Vespers.
Although it serving Vespers with two or three people isn’t the end of the world, it makes no sense that other parishes are hobbling along serving the same service with the same kind of numbers at the same time. Some parishes justifiably cancel Vespers, but thankfully we are in a situation where we can provide an alternative.
Given the relationship we have with the Theotokos of the Life Giving Springs Mission, we decided to combine our efforts for the Summer Vespers services, alternating each week between our parishes.
Sat. July 16th – Theotokos of the Life giving Springs, 240 Tache.
Sat. July 23rd – St. Nicholas, Narol.
Sat. July 30th – Theotokos of the Life giving Springs, 240 Tache.
Aug. 6th – St. Nicholas, Narol.
Aug. 13th – Theotokos of the Life giving Springs, 240 Tache.
Aug. 20th – St. Nicholas, Narol.
Aug. 27th – Theotokos of the Life giving Springs, 240 Tache.
All services are at 5:00 pm
Enjoy the beautiful weather, and time with family and friends. See you at some Vespers services.
This morning at 6:30 am Sophie quietly reposed in the Lord.
Arrangements for Prayers and the funeral will be forthcoming.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
May her memory be eternal!
Maybe one of the most misunderstood aspects of Christian life is repentance. In our day and age, repentance has been understood as shame and embarrassment, and the promise of reconciliation has been replaced with the fear of disappointing God, and being judged and rejected by Him.
This, in part, might have something to do with the situation in which the sacrament of confession is something that is either never done, or the person in confession declares no sins were ever committed (I have had people say to me “really I not that bad of a person”). Regardless of whether anyone is really a “bad person” or not, or whether they never take advantage of the blessing that confession offers, the Orthodox Church has never seen the act of repentance as being shameful, something that is repulsive to God and His mercy, (in the same way that a doctor would never reject a sick person for coming to be healed).
For the Orthodox Church, repentance implies a “change of mind or heart” μετάνοια (metanoia). It is the return to God from the selfish desires that separate us from Him. And far from being something that is a stench to God, true repentance is like the sweet smelling oil poured over the Lord by the sinful woman at the Pharisee’s house (Lk 7:36-50), and profoundly, it is like the myrrh brought to the tomb of Christ by the Myrrh-bearing women on that blessed third day (Mk. 15:43-16:8).
We can only imagine the shame of the sinful woman at the Pharisee’s house, surrounded by the pious and noble priests and scribes, and the humiliation that weighed heavy on Joseph of Arimathea when he went and asked for the body of Christ. We can barely conceive the fear and disappointment of the Myrrh-bearing women, who with heavy hearts, having lost everything in the death of Christ, went at the break of dawn to anoint the body of their Lord and teacher. But instead of meeting the broken and dead body of a man, they were met with the angelic proclamation that He had Risen!
When we offer our repentance, however great or small, to our family and friends, and profoundly to God, we follow those brave women, and Joseph and Nicodemus, who despite shame and fear, came to Him. And like them we do not encounter the horrible reality of death and decay, but the Risen Christ who calls out to us by name (Jn. 20:16).
And this is the miracle: that our repentance, that change of mind and heart, is the movement from the darkness of a life without God to the light in Christ that is a radiant as any city on a hill (Mt 5:14). Our offering of sin and failure to our loving God, is sweeter, more profound and redemptive than building Churches, attending services, preaching, and serving the world around us.
“For You (Lord) do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 50 :16-17)
May we have the courage of those Myrrh-bearing women, of Joseph and Nicodemus, and come to Christ with the myrrh and sweet smelling spices of our repentance. May we desire to be forgiven and healed, and by that proclaim like those first witnesses of the Resurrection that Christ is Risen!