Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We recently had the blessing and joy of celebrating the Altar Feast of our parish
church. With gratitude to Almighty God for all His blessings, on June 28 & 29, we
gathered in prayer to commemorate the lives of the Holy Apostle Peter and Paul, our
heavenly patrons. For this year’s feast, we had the special honor of being joined
by several clergy (seven priests and one deacon) from throughout the Valley, as well
as by Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of Saint Vladimir Orthodox Theological
Seminary and Deacon Gregory Hatrak, SVS Press and Bookstore Manager. Additionally,
many of our faithful brothers and sisters from other Orthodox parishes here in the
Valley also came to join us in celebrating this annual feastday. The Divine Liturgy
of the feast was followed by yet another wonderful festal meal, the likes for which
our parish is well known. In reflecting upon our recent celebration, it is good
to recall that June 29 is not simply another holyday on the liturgical calendar;
rather, for us at Saints Peter and Paul Church, it becomes like another Pascha, another
God-given opportunity for us to rejoice in the many blessings we have received- especially
through the lives, teachings, example, and intercession of our heavenly patrons.
It is my hope and prayer that this annual celebration will continue to be a highpoint
on our calendar and that many more of our own parishioners will also be present for
and participate in next year’s celebration.
We are well into the month of July and well into the heat of another Arizona summer.
For some, these long hot months provide an opportunity to break from the routine
schedule of our daily lives, to get away to cooler climates, to travel to visit family
and friends across the country and abroad, and maybe even to simply slow down a bit.
Unfortunately, sometimes this natural desire to slow down or “get away” affects
our spiritual lives and we become spiritually lethargic. We might even use the long
hot days as an excuse to lessen our daily prayer routine, to ease up or to stop participating
in the fasting discipline of the Church or even, God forbid, to use the heat as an
excuse to refrain from participating in the Divine services and not attend the Saturday
evening Vespers or the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. A simple second look at our summer
routines should help prevent such lethargy from developing. Our spiritual life,
another way of speaking of our relationship with the Lord, never slows down, does
not lighten up and never “takes a vacation.” Please be mindful of this in the weeks
These days, we are presently overwhelmed by the amount of violence that has entered
into our daily life in this country and, indeed, throughout the world. With the
recent police shootings here in the United States and the all-too regular reports
of Christians in the Middle East facing daily martyrdom, we can easily see that the
world is still far from receiving the Gospel of Christ, which is the Gospel of love,
peace, and unity among all peoples. It is so easy to become bogged down and overburdened
by the sadness of this already very sad reality. However, as Christians who believe
that Christ has already overcome sin and darkness, we are called, even in the midst
of this sadness, to bear witness to the goodness of a humanity that has been redeemed
by Christ. Let us entrust ourselves and the whole world to the Lord, the Giver of
Life, and ask the Most Pure Mother of God to spread her protecting veil over all
As I write these few lines, I am very aware that I have now been blessed to serve
as Rector of Saints Peter and Paul Church for ten years. My assignment as Rector
officially took effect on July 1, 2006. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that
so many years have passed so quickly. Please know that I am deeply grateful to God
for His Providence and for my assignment to serve you throughout these past ten years.
Your lives have touched mine in so many ways and have, I pray, helped me grow in
my own relationship with Christ as a servant of the Church and minister of the Holy
Gospel. I thank you for your support throughout these years and ask your continued
prayers, as I assure you of mine.
With love in the Lord,
Righteous Eudocimus of Cappadocia
Saint Eudocimus, a native of Cappadocia (Asia Minor), lived during the ninth century
during the reign of Emperor Theophilus (829-842). He was the son of the pious Christians
Basil and Eudokia, an illustrious family known to the emperor. They raised their
son “in discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6: 4), planting in his soul
a sincere faith and holy virtues.
The righteous life of St Eudocimus was devoted to pleasing God and serving his neighbor.
Having given a vow to remain unmarried and chaste, he avoided conversation with women
and did not look at them. He would speak only with his own mother, whom he greatly
respected. The emperor valued his virtue and talents, so he appointed St Eudocimus
as governor of Chorziane, Armenia. Fulfilling his duty as a servant of God, St Eudocimus
governed the people justly and with kindness. He concerned himself with the unfortunate,
and with orphans and widows, and he was a defender of the common people. His personal
Christian exploits which he did in secret, were known only to God.
Eudocimus pleased God by his blameless life, and the Lord called him at age 33. Lying
on his deathbed, St Eudocimus gave final instructions to place him in the grave in
those clothes in which he would meet death. Then he sent everyone out of the room
and entreated the Lord that no one would see his end, just as no one saw his secret
efforts during life. His attendants buried him as he had instructed them. Right after
the death of St Eudocimus miracles took place at his grave. Many sick people were
healed, and the news of the miraculous healings spread.
After 18 months, the mother of St Eudocimus came from Constantinople to venerate
his relics. She gave orders to remove the stone, dig up the ground, and open the
grave. Everyone beheld the face of the saint, bright as if alive, altogether untouched
by decay. A great fragrance came from him. They took up the coffin with the relics
from the earth, and they dressed the saint in new clothes. His mother wanted to take
the relics of her son to Constantinople, but the Kharsian people would not clear
a path for their holy one. After a certain time the hieromonk Joseph, having lived
and served at the grave of the saint, transported the relics of St Eudocimus to Constantinople.
There they were placed in a silver reliquary in the church of the Most Holy Theotokos,
built by the parents of the saint.
St Eudocimus is considered by the Russian Church to be one of the special protectors
and intercessors before God of the family hearth. He was, as his name implies, truly
successful in every virtue.
Hieromartyr Benjamin the Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdovsk
The New Hieromartyr Benjamin (Kazansky) was appointed Metropolitan of Petrograd in
the summer of 1917. During those tumultuous times, he was one of the few people in
Russia with no interest in politics. He was more concerned with caring for his diocese
and his flock.
In 1922, the Communists began confiscating Church treasures. They professed that
they wanted to sell them in order to buy food for the starving population. When the
people protested, there were bloody reprisals. Metropolitan Benjamin did not resist
turning over the Church’s valuables, for he believed it was his duty to help save
people’s lives. He wanted this sacrifice to be voluntary, however, and not a plundering
of church property by the government.
On March 6, 1922 Metropolitan Benjamin met with a commission which had been formed
to help the starving. They agreed to his request that the dispersal of funds from
voluntary contributions should be controlled by the parishes. Newspapers of that
time praised the Metropolitan and his clergy for their charitable spirit.
Party leaders in Moscow did not approve of the decision made by the Communists of
Petrograd allowing voluntary contributions to be administered by the parishes, and
declared that the confiscation of Church property would continue. Protesters gathered
in Petrograd, shouting and throwing stones at those who were stealing from the churches.
On March 24, 1922 “Pravda” printed a letter from twelve priests who broke ranks with
the other clergy, referring to them as “counter-revolutionaries” and blaming them
for the famine. Most of these twelve would later be active in the “Living Church.”
They called for unconditional surrender of all Church valuables to the Soviets.
The clergy of Petrograd were outraged by the letter from the twelve. Metropolitan
Benjamin, hoping to avoid confrontations between the people and the Communists, tried
to calm his priests. He also asked for a meeting with the authorities. Vvedensky
and Boyarsky, two of the twelve, were delegated to talk with Soviet leaders, and
came to an agreement. Parishes would be permitted to keep their sacred vessels if
they substituted other property of equal value. This program seemed to work well
for a time.
Vvedensky, Boyarsky, and others tried to wrest control of the Church from Patriarch
Tikhon and the bishops. They informed Metropolitan Benjamin of the new state of affairs,
declaring that Vvedensky had been appointed as the Petrograd representative of the
new Church administration.
The Metropolitan could not accept this threat to Church order, so he proclaimed that
Vvedensky would be regarded as being outside the Church until he repented of his
error. This decree was published in the newspapers, and served to enrage the Soviets.
Vvedensky and the Petrograd commandant Bakaev went to see the Metropolitan and ordered
him to rescind his decree. If he did not, they told him, he and others close to him
would be placed on trial. They warned Metropolitan Benjamin that he and others would
be put to death if he made the wrong choice. He refused to submit.
The courageous archpastor began meeting with his friends in order to say farewell.
He also gave instructions for the administration of the diocese. A few days later,
the Metropolitan was placed under house arrest. Not long after that, he was taken
As his trial began, the Metropolitan entered the courtroom with Bishop Benedict and
other clergy. When everyone stood up for him, Metropolitan Benjamin blessed them.
The judges tried to get the Metropolitan to renounce the idea of the parishes voluntarily
contributing church valuables in order to feed the hungry, or to provide the names
of those who had conceived this idea. It would suit their purposes very well if he
could be made to “repent” or back away from his previous statements and submit to
The other clergy and civilians on trial with Metropolitan Benjamin did not try to
ingratiate themselves with the court, and did not accuse others in order to win leniency
for themselves. The trial lasted for two weeks, and the prosecutors presented witnesses
who had been hired to bring false accusations against the defendants.
Many witnesses were called, and their testimony seemed to support Metropolitan Benjamin
and to weaken the government’s case against him. A certain professor of the Technological
Institute named Egorov angered the court by his testimony. He was accused of being
a follower of the Metropolitan, so he was arrested on the spot.
In spite of all the evidence, the defendants were found guilty. Government supporters
and members of the Red Army in the court broke into applause. The defense attorney
addressed the court, saying that he knew that any pleas he might offer would be useless.
“Political considerations come first with you, and all verdicts must favor your policy,”
he declared. Even though everyone understood that the trial was a farce, the Soviet
government could not afford to make a martyr out of Metropolitan Benjamin. The example
of history, he pointed out, should warn them against such a course.
When the defense attorney had finished, there was loud clapping. The judges tried
to restore order, but found that many Communists in the audience had also joined
in the applause.
The defendants were given a chance to speak, and the Metropolitan stood to address
the court. He said it grieved him to be called an enemy of the people, for he had
always loved the people and dedicated his life to them. The rest of his comments
were a defense of the others on trial with him. When the presiding judge asked him
to say something about himself, he said that no matter what sentence the court decreed
he would thank God by saying, “Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee for all things.”
At 9:00 P.M. on July 5, the chairman of the tribunal announced that ten defendants,
including the Metropolitan, were to be shot.
St Benjamin and those with him (Archimandrite Sergius, George and John of Petrograd)
were executed on July 31, 1922. They had been shaved and dressed in rags so that
the firing squad would not know that they were shooting members of the clergy.