His Grace, Bishop DANIEL, offered the following reflection at the recent annual parish
meeting, Sunday, January 31, 2016.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Glory to Jesus Christ!
As we come together today for our annual parish meeting, I still have fresh in my
mind the beautiful festivities of just last Sunday as we celebrated the Divine Liturgy
and as you honored me on the occasion of the first anniversary of my consecration
to the Holy Episcopacy. I was deeply touched and am deeply grateful for the many
outpourings of love and appreciation that were expressed on that memorable occasion.
And I pray that the Lord will continue to make me worthy of such love, trust, and
Last Sunday marked the first year anniversary of the beginning of a new phase of
my service to Christ’s Holy Church. But it also marked the anniversary of a new
beginning for all of us here at Saints Peter and Paul as this parish was singled
out to be placed under the archpastoral care of a bishop of the Church. It also
marked a new way of doing things – those things which relate specifically to a bishop
– and, also, since it took place in January it marked the beginning of yet another
year of this parish’s long history of service to Christ and to Christ’s Holy Orthodox
Reflecting back on this past year we can easily observe that the Lord has continued
to bless us. We have continued to gather to observe the ebb and flow of the Church’s
liturgical cycle- the fasting and the feasting and all the days in between- those
days through which we are able to remember and to celebrate the history of our salvation
and “all those things that have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection
on the Third Day, the Ascension into Heaven, and the Second and Glorious Coming,”
as we pray in the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. Our gathering
for worship Sunday after Sunday, feastday after feastday, season after season, remains
the first and foremost responsibility (and privilege) of any Orthodox Christian community-
our liturgical gathering is the highest form of our praise and worship- and the first
and foremost blessing given to us as Orthodox Christians.
Throughout the past year, we have also been blessed by God through His gift to us
of many new members. We all know that our numbers here at Saints Peter and Paul
Church have increased. This is easily observable. In this we can see, right before
our very eyes, that the miracle of Pentecost continues in our own day. As we read
in the Second Chapter of the Acts of the Holy Apostles, following the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit upon the Church on the Day of Pentecost, the Church continues
to grow. Saint Luke writes words that reflect the Church in our own day and the
Church here in our own community: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity
of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to
the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47). We see this dynamic
in the earliest days of the Church being repeated in our own day, here in our own
This growth is easily measured even in the way we accomplish tasks and work on various
projects that arise in the course of the year. One example (although not the only,
for sure) is seen in our recent celebration of the Nativity Holidays. During the
Holy Season just past, people came together as never before to 1) decorate the Temple;
and 2) to reach out in love to our neighbors in the Christmas Outreach program. Not
to mention that added assistance the Myrrhbearers Altar Society has received in its
projects and the fine work being done through our parish Teen/Young Adult League
This is certainly a great blessing to us—a blessing which we should pause to reflect
upon. But why has the Lord found us worthy to welcome new members into this corner
of His Vineyard here at Saints Peter and Paul Church? Why have we been entrusted
with receiving into our midst new brothers and sisters who desire to walk with us
as faithful followers of Jesus Christ who profess the ancient and Orthodox Christian
faith? Why do people, even one-time visitors from other parishes around the country,
respond so enthusiastically and warmly when they’re with us even if only for a Sunday
visit? I think there may be many answers to those questions. And many reasons why
we have been so blessed, especially throughout this past year. But I remain firm
in believing that the reason the Lord has given us this increase is because we, in
our own simple way, have remained faithful to the call to be a hospitable, opening,
inviting, warm and loving Christian community who loves the Lord and His Church and
whose love is reflected in our prayer together and in all other aspects of our life.
Maybe more simply stated: We have remained faithful and steadfast in being who and
what we are called to be as an Orthodox Christian parish community- and we have been
blessed. And we admit this not with pride, but with gratitude for the many mercies
the Lord has shown us.
So today, as we gather again for another annual meeting, I ask that each and every
one of us re-commit ourselves to that clear and simple call we have received and
the clear and simple work which has been entrusted to us: 1) to grow in holiness
as individuals and to become ever-more faithful members of Christ’s Church; 2) to
grow in holiness as a parish community, to pray and celebrate together, and to welcome
with love and with open, inviting arms those whom the Lord brings to our doorstep;
3) to recognize the many ways in which we serve one another and to support one another
in that very service (we will hear more about this in the reports that are to be
given); and 4) to live lives that bear witness to the saving power and presence of
Christ in the midst of the world. If we’re faithful in these things, we can be sure
that the Lord will continue to be faithful to us. And the mercies of our great God
and Savior Jesus Christ will continue to be with us all.
Last Sunday, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Archdeacon Kirill read a letter
from His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon greeting me on the occasion of the first
anniversary of my episcopal service in the Church. It was a great personal honor
to receive this letter from His Beatitude as well as a humbling reflection about
my episcopal service to the Church at-large throughout the past year. But the letter
not only spoke to me and was not only about me. Included in that letter (just in
case you didn’t hear it) were words about this parish community- words about each
one of you. His Beatitude wrote: “I would also like to express my gratitude to the
faithful parishioners of Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church for their love and
care for their pastor…” I, of course, add my gratitude to his. But I also want
to highlight those words as an expression of an important aspect of parish life.
That is: no bishop, no priest who stands at the Holy Altar and guides and shepherds
the flock entrusted to him is able to do that without the love and care of that very
same flock. And I know that full well.
As you’ve heard me repeat and repeat throughout my nine-plus years of pastoral service
here at Saints Peter and Paul: it’s not just about the priest or the bishop or about
any one individual: its’ about each and every one of us doing our part, fulfilling
our unique roles, working together, united in a common mission. It’s all of us who
make our parish what it is. Our successes are everyone’s successes, our weaknesses
and burdens also belong to everyone. Therefore, I once again ask you to remain faithful,
to do the work we have been given to do, to carry one another’s burdens, and to always
keep your eyes fixed on the only goal, the only success of true importance: the Kingdom
of Heaven which awaits us.
My prayer continues to be the prayer found in the 80th Psalm, the prayer invoked
by every bishop when he celebrates the Divine Liturgy as he blesses those gathered
around him in prayer: “Look down from heaven O God, and behold and visit this Vine
which Thy right hand hast planted… and establish it!” (Psalm 80:14).
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Sunday of Zacchaeus
The paschal season of the Church is preceded by the season of Great Lent, which is
also preceded by its own liturgical preparation. The first sign of the approach of
Great Lent comes five Sundays before its beginning. On this Sunday the Gospel reading
is about Zacchaeus the tax-collector. It tells how Christ brought salvation to the
sinful man, and how his life was changed simply because he “sought to see who Jesus
was” (Luke 19:3). The desire and effort to see Jesus begins the entire movement through
Lent towards Pascha. It is the first movement of salvation.
Our lenten journey begins with a recognition of our own sinfulness, just as Zacchaeus
recognized his. He promised to make restitution by giving half of his wealth to the
poor, and by paying to those he had falsely accused four times as much as they had
lost. In this, he went beyond the requirements of the Law (Ex. 22:3-12).
The example of Zacchaeus teaches us that we should turn away from our sins, and atone
for them. The real proof of our sorrow and repentance is not just a verbal apology,
but when we correct ourselves and try to make amends for the consequences of our
We are also assured of God’s mercy and compassion by Christ’s words to Zacchaeus,
“Today salvation is come to this house” (Luke 19:9). After the Great Doxology at
Sunday Matins (when the Tone of the week is Tone 1, 3, 5, 7) we sing the Dismissal
Hymn of the Resurrection “Today salvation has come to the world,” which echoes the
Lord’s words to Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was short, so he climbed a tree in order to see the Lord. All of us have
sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). We are also short in our spiritual
stature, therefore we must climb the ladder of the virtues. In other words, we must
prepare for spiritual effort and growth.
St Zacchaeus is also commemorated on April 20.
Venerable Auxentius of Bithynia
Saint Auxentius, by origin a Syrian, served at the court of the emperor Theodosius
the Younger (418-450). He was known as a virtuous, learned and wise man, and he was,
moreover, a friend of many of the pious men of his era.
Distressed by worldly vanity, St Auxentius was ordained to the holy priesthood, and
then received monastic tonsure. After this he went to Bithynia and found a solitary
place on Mount Oxia, not far from Chalcedon, and there he began the life of a hermit
(This mountain was afterwards called Mt. Auxentius). The place of the saint’s efforts
was discovered by shepherds seeking their lost sheep. They told others about him,
and people began to come to him for healing. St Auxentius healed many of the sick
and the infirm in the name of the Lord.
In the year 451 St Auxentius was invited to the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon,
where he denounced the Eutychian and Nestorian heresies. Familiar with Holy Scripture
and learned in theology, St Auxentius easily bested those opponents who disputed
with him. After the end of the Council, St Auxentius returned to his solitary cell
on the mountain. With his spiritual sight he saw the repose of St Simeon the Stylite
(459) from a great distance.
St Auxentius died about the year 470, leaving behind him disciples and many monasteries
in the region of Bithynia. He was buried in the Monastery of St Hypatius at Rufiananas,