Snowstorm cancelation

I was hoping that this storm might skip us, especially as there was no snow flying around midnight; but when I woke up this morning and looked out the window, the decision to cancel was obvious.
This is to say, there will be no service at St. Nicholas this evening. There are a number of people that had scheduled confessions this evening, and I will be reaching out to them today, to reschedule.

May the Lord give us patience to work through yet another snowstorm and distraction.

Silence. The beginning of true theology.

Something to consider as we commemorate the three Holy Hierarchs (Saints Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom), and the source of their profound teachings and witness…silence. 

“…It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” (1 Cor. 4:20). Men “believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth,” the one “unto righteousness,” the other “unto salvation.”(Rm. 10:10). It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. For he who shall both “do and teach, the same shall be great in the kingdom (Mt. 5:19)…”

St. Ignatius of Antioch letter to the Ephisians chp. 15.

The Blessing of the Red River.

In the same way that we bless the homes of our faith full in this time of joy at Theophany, we also bless the waters and rivers of wherever we might be, manifesting the saving work of the Lord in creation.

As the Lord has has come to save our broken and mortal nature by humbling Himself becoming like us in every way (except sin), and submitting Himself to the hand of a servant to “fulfill all righteousness” He also redeems His creation. The wonderful tradition of blessing rivers and lakes is truly a proclamation of the saving love of the Lord, and with thanksgiving to God, we are able to continue this tradition by blessing the Red River. 

With considerations to pandemic restrictions, busy schedules and the weather (never to be underestimated)  both Fr. Matthew Beynon from Holy Trinity Sobor and Fr. Gregory, and some of the faithful St. Nicholas and the Sobor, from were able to find time to serve together for this wonderful service during a balmy break in the weather.

Circumcision of our Lord, Baptism, and a new Covenant. Dr. Daryl Schantz.

Christ is Born – Let us Glorify Him

In her Wisdom the Church has condensed into two weeks Christ’s Nativity and his Baptism, by
St. John the Baptist, in the Jordan river. In the midst of this we have been given another feast of
the church, “the Circumcision of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”

In her Wisdom the Church has condensed into two weeks Christ’s Nativity and his Baptism, by
St. John the Baptist, in the Jordan river. In the midst of this we have been given another feast of
the church, “the Circumcision of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”

A feast around Christ’s circumcision seems out of place to our modern ears. We live in a world
where a person’s medical history is protected in privacy by law and we sometimes feel
awkward asking or talking about a routine medical issue, much less someone’s circumcision. So
we may have a hard time appreciating the value of this feast of the “the Circumcision of our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”.

We must remind ourselves that all of our feasts, even our feast of feasts celebrates another
idea that is, on the surface, repulsive. That is, Christ’s death! Another “medical” procedure. In
some way, all of the feasts of Christ must be incarnational and because of this, most can also be
considered medical! His conception, nativity, baptism, entrance into the temple, death and
resurrection, and even His Ascension involve the body! And maybe another interesting idea is
that Christ turns each of these human activities on its head! From conception to death to
ascension, in each one, he shows us how the human person, united with God can see the
fulfillment of these human activities and actions.

All of this is interesting to think about, but I would like to take the time to point out today how
this feast of “the Circumcision of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” might be seen to belong
right where it is.

We are in the middle of a feast where we celebrate the three events of Christ’s incarnation, his
circumcision, and his baptism. The feast of the circumcision demonstrates Christ fulfilling the
Old Covenant. For circumcision was established by God with Abraham as a way for him, and for
those that came after him, to enter into a covenant relationship with God. This is also one of
the ways that we understand baptism; as entering into the new covenant relationship with
Christ’s own body, the church.

It is important to note that circumcision in the old covenant was not important for what it was
accomplishing in the human body, it was important for what it symbolized; what it pointed to.
While circumcision was a way for people (in this case men) to enter into the Old Covenant, it
pointed to something far greater. It pointed to a cutting off those things which stand in our
way; that which keeps us from fullness in our relationship with God. Even in the Old Testament
(in Jeremiah 9), the prophet Jeremiah condemns the Israelites because they were circumcised
in the flesh, but were uncircumcised in the hearts. Why did He say this? It was because they
spoke lies and they didn’t keep the God’s law or listen to his voice, but instead pursued idols
(Jer 9:7,12-13).

In a similar way, baptism is an even more extreme version of cutting off those things which hold
us back. More extreme because in baptism, we die. We die to that which stands in our way (our
old man). St Paul makes this same comparison between circumcision and baptism in Colossians

2:11-12 ( 11  In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,
by putting off the body  [h] of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  12  buried
with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working
of God, who raised Him from the dead. )

In these feast that we are given, Christ fulfills the law (Matt 5:17) and his circumcision was part
of this fulfillment, but he also demonstrates for us a new way.
As one of the hymns for today says:

You, the Lawgiver, didst place Yourself under the Law.
Others didst Thou enjoin by imposition – Yourself, voluntarily.
That is why, on the eighth day, You were circumcised in the flesh.
In fulfilling the Law, You did replace it with a new one:
Circumcision of the flesh was replaced with a spiritual one,
That we cut of from ourselves impure passions
And gaze upon You with a pure spirit;


That, with the spirit, we cut off and constrict the will of the body
So today we look forward to the feast of Theophany where Christ sanctifies the waters of
baptism and opens for us the New Covenant. We as Orthodox Christians enter into this
covenant, but as we celebrate these feasts, we should not forget that just as the act of
circumcision without circumcision of the heart was not pleasing to God, so baptism without a
life of continually dying to ourselves is also missing the point of holy baptism. We must be
reminded to regularly enter the waters with Christ and immerse ourselves in the act of putting
to death our old man.

May God give us strength by the prayers of our beloved father among the saints, St Basil the
Great to die and come alive again with Christ in holy baptism.

Another feast, another restriction.

In many respects, we have come to terms with some kinds of restrictions over the last two years or so. We have changed the way we work, shop, meet, and entertain ourselves, as variations of the COVID-19 virus have put our healthcare system on the brink of total collapse. Indeed many of these changes have become second nature and habit for us, regardless of whether we like it or not. Yet there is a feeling that no matter what we do, it doesn’t feel like we can get ahead of this virus and the restrictions put in place to curb its effects. This is so painfully evident as we prepare for one of the great feasts of the Church; Christmas

We still can’t come together the way we had hoped to at this time, when  we instinctively are drawn to be with our families. We still can’t come together as brothers and sisters in Christ and to bring our sacrifice of “mercy and peace” to our Saviour as he lies in a manger. It all feels so unfair and unjustified, especially as many of us are vaccinated,  and/or  take to heart the protocols and procedures that have safeguarded our communities. Yet here we are, having to juggle our schedules, and find ways to accommodate various family events, let alone our attendance at Church. But in it all, we have to remember that as unfair and unjustified as this might be, or feel like, this all falls short of the world that the Lord entered into as a newborn child.

What is more unfair than the blessed Theotokos, a young woman in labor having to travel to a strange town in the dead and darkness of winter? Or unjust than being relegated to give birth in a stable? What is more dismissive than the Lord of Glory, our Saviour Jesus Christ, having to enter into humanity as a defenseless child surrounded by livestock? Well nothing! We tend to sanitize the whole Nativity in the flesh of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ with bright lights, and a comfy rustic environment that is warm and inviting. Yet the reality is quite different  if we see it, as it is described in scripture.

The King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, enters this world as a human in the darkness, that we might see the “Light of the world” and that we might not “walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”(Jn. 8:12). He enters the world in the cold of winter, He might baptize us “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:16). He enters the world as a stranger that we might be called “friends” (Jn. 15:14) He enters the world amid mute beasts so that we might “speak to the people all the words of this life.” (Act. 5:20). He enters into the muck and filth of our broken and mortal nature, that we might “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”(Heb. 10:22)

Truly He sees our frustration, our loneliness, our relegation, and isolation at this time, and acts as he has done for every generation; by entering into it. This should not be a surprise for us who are Christians, rather the circumstances of this pandemic should reveal with all the more spendor and wonder the love that God has for us. Unfair, and unjust as it all might be, we live in a world that turned itself away from God, Yet God has not turned Himself away from us. On the contrary he goes so far as to enter its broken fray, that we might be saved eternally.

May we strive all the more to see this miracle especially now.

Important Services Update for this week due to Public Health Order Changes.

On behalf of the Parish Council and Father Gregory, I am contacting you once again with a disappointing update as it relates to our upcoming services.  We had hoped to be able to all join together to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity later this week.  Unfortunately, the recent surge of COVID cases and pressures in the hospitals have led to changes to the Public Health Orders and increased restrictions on public gatherings including those affecting churches.  This impacts us, as we are no longer able to hold a service at St. Demetrios on Christmas morning.  We have had to adjust our slate of services for the upcoming week and we now intend to hold the following services all at St. Nicholas of Narol:

Dec. 24 Christmas Eve Vesperal Liturgy at 6pm

Dec. 25 Christmas Morning Festal Liturgy at 10am

Dec 26 Sunday Liturgy at 9:30am

Dec 27 Feast for St. Stephen the First Martyr at 10am.

The recent changes do put additional pressures on attendance, and to facilitate the coordination to optimize everyone’s ability to attend at least one service over this Christmas season, we have decided to move back to the email registration process for this week.  Even if you have already registered via the Jotform App, we ask that you send an email to register for these services (Jotform registrations will be canceled for this slate of services).  If everyone can email their registration preferences to stnicholasofnarol@gmail.com as soon as possible that would be greatly appreciated.  Including 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices (if more than one option would work for you) will assist us as we schedule people in.  If you would like to attend multiple services, you can identify that as well but please, be clear in your preferences.  This way, if there is any space remaining in additional services we can be sure to add you. 

When sending these in please identify all the names of those who would be in your cohort for that service as we will need to consider both the number of people and number of cohorts at this time.  We will aim to have confirmation emails out by the 23rd at the latest (will do so earlier if we receive enough emails to do so).

We will also be live-streaming all these services as well so even though everyone will not be able to attend all the services they would like, we will have the virtual option available.  Youtube Links will be sent out later this week.

If you have any questions or require additional clarification, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Thank you all for your understanding, and may each of you have a truly Blessed Christmas.

In Christ,

Dale Douma

Sunday of the Holy Forefathers.

Dearest all.
Something to consider as we are called to the wedding banquet of the Lord (Lk. 14:16-24).

“…Let us hearken to the voice of the bridegroom, that we may go in with Him into the bride-chamber. Let us prepare the marriage-gift for His bridal day, and let us go forth to meet Him with joy. Let us put on holy raiment, that we may recline in the chief place of the elect. Whosoever puts not on wedding raiment they cast him out into outer darkness. Whosoever excuses himself from the wedding shall not taste the feast. Whosoever loves fields and merchandise, shall be shut out of the city of Saints. Whosoever does not bear fruit in the vineyard, shall be uprooted and cast out to torment…Whosoever is invited to the Bridegroom, let him prepare himself. Whosoever has lighted his lamp, let him not suffer it to go out. Whosoever is expectant of the marriage-cry, let him take oil in his vessel. Whosoever is keeper of the door, let him be on the watch for his Master. Whosoever loves virginity, let him become like Elijah. Whosoever takes up the yoke of the Saints, let him sit and be silent. Whosoever loves peace, let him look for his Master as the hope of life.”

St. Gregory II of Rome (731)

+Archpriest Anastasy (Stacey) Richter

Fr. Stacey (as he was affectionately called) was a proud Manitoban, and his journey to Orthodoxy and the Priesthood was woven into various Orthodox Churches throughout Winnipeg, especially at St. George’s Romanian Orthodox Church where he was received into Orthodoxy, St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary, where he studied, and  our own St. Nicholas where he was ordained to the Priesthood on Aug. 4th 2001.  Fr. Stacey would go on to serve in Edmonton AB and Moose Jaw SK, before moving to the United States with his young family. 

Unfortunately I never got to know Fr. Stacey the way that many many people across this city, province, and continent did, being “late to the game” so to speak. I certainly knew about his energetic demeanor and  overwhelming enthusiasm for the Gospel, but never got to experience it first hand. There is something quite fitting that the first time I was able to meet him formally was where he began his life of service to the Body of Christ as a Priest, at St. Nicholas, while his family were visiting Winnipeg. Later on that week both Fr. Stacey and myself were able to steal away and grab a coffee. We talked about everything from family, to Church politics; but all our conversation would inevitably come back to the providential love of God for our families, our Church and the whole of the world. “It has to be about the Gospel and nothing else”  was a constant phrase he would say, regardless if it was about a difficult situation he was in, or about the blessings he had received. 

Those words that I’m sure many people across the continent have heard from him, have echoed in my head and heart ever since that day we had coffee. 

As we now know, this past Sunday morning Fr. Stacey Richter, collapsed in the altar during the Liturgy at the parish of St. Elizabeth where he was the rector. He was rushed to the hospital, and although he was in good health, was pronounced dead a short time later. I am not one who is superstitious, or one who sees omens in everything, but as I served Proskomide before the Liturgy (the preparation of the bread and wine), and made my way through my list of commemorations, his name (and that of his family) seemed to jump off page as I read them. I paused for a moment and remembered his words “it has to be about the Gospel and nothing else” and said “thank you God”, then kept on going thinking nothing of it, until after I heard the news of his repose. 

We remember many of the Saints of our Church because of the “big things” they did whether it was stopping invading enemies, performing miraculous healings, or mortifying their flesh through prayer and fasting. But all those “big things” are in many ways like the tip of  an Iceberg; what is seen might be a pristine chunk of ice floating in the ocean, but what is not seen is deceptively profound and massive. For every Saint, those “big things” of miracles were always built on the “little things” of grace and mercy and a life lived in the Gospel; unseen by the world, beneath the waves of life. I say this, because as I was considering all that had happened while I was serving Proskomide, and our blessed  conversation over coffee, there was the realization  that the only way to truly be a priest, a husband, a father, a friend, and  even a Christian, is to live out the “little things” of grace and mercy; and it is only  “Gospel and nothing else” that can do this. In the same way that the Saints throughout the ages manifested this, our beloved Fr. Stacey did; even to the end, while serving at the Altar of our Lord.

My heart goes out to Matushka Trudi and their daughters Anika, Sarah, Michal, and  to the community of St. Elizabeth, as well as the many people who were blessed to know Fr. Stacey better than I did. May the Lord grant consultation and peace to them all, and grant the Archpriest Anastasy the Kingdom of Heaven! 

May His memory be eternal!  

A Beautiful ending to a sad story.

A group of worshipers join the Peters family as they pray over Sophia’s casket at the Sts. Peter and  Paul Church, St. Paul Island, Alaska, in July. (Courtesy of St. Paul Island Productions)

 As we continue to reconcile our country’s tragic legacy with our indigenous peoples and the specter of Residential schools, we should always remember that the same fate that many indigenous children suffered here in Canada, was also shared by the indigenous people of the United States,  and Alaska (whose people were Orthodox Christians since the late 1700’s).  

Sophia Tetoff, was a 12-year-old girl. Orphaned in 1896, she was taken from the people and home she knew on St. Paul Island, Alaska, to live eventually, at the Carlisle boarding school (the American version of Residential schools)  in Pennsylvania, where she died of TB in 1906.  A time consuming process of locating and returning Sophia to her home was undertaken by Andrew and Lauren Peters (distant relatives) where she was greeted by the whole of the community of St Paul’s Island.

Her funeral was one she would have understood; sung in her own language, with traditional melodies, and with customs she would have known. There is much we can learn from the work to honour Sophia, as we strive to understand and deal with the tragic legacy of Residential schools in Canada.

Oh that we might bestow such dignity and respect for those who had any dignity and respect taken away from them! Indeed “every child matters”. Truly may we strive to honour the lives of the thousands of children who perished at Residential schools across North America, like Sophia Tetoff, and commit them to the mercy and love of our Lord, and the Kingdom of Heaven. 

A beautiful piece that documented this journey can be viewed at https://www.ucdavis.edu/curiosity/news/uc-davis-family-rematriates-their-ancestor-alaska-native-school