Holy Pentecost 2017
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the New Year! Recalling that “every good gift and every perfect gift
is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17), we all look
forward to another year at Saints Peter and Paul Church that promises to be filled
with heavenly blessings. As we enter the Year of the Lord 2018, may the Lord God
bless you all with peace, prosperity, good health, and all that is necessary for
We have just recently celebrated the joyous Feast of the Lord’s Nativity and, as
I write these few words, we are preparing to celebrate the Feast of Holy Theophany.
Also, still standing in the light of the Lord’s Theophany, on Sunday, January 7,
we will celebrate the Ordination to the Holy Diaconate of Subdeacon John Weiss. We
give thanks to God for his willingness to assume this role of service within the
Church, congratulate him, and offer our prayerful support to him, Matushka Grace,
and all their family as he begins this ministry within the Church. Many years! In
accepting ordination to the Diaconate, he follows in the footsteps of those who have
served Christ in the Holy Diaconate through the millenia, beginning with the first
seven deacons of whom we are told in the Book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles (Chapter
6). The role of deacon within the life and ministry of the Church is a special one,
based in charity and finding its culmination and fulfillment in service to the Church
at the Holy Altar. It is a ministry of witness, of service, and of sacrifice. The
life and martyrdom of the Holy Archdeacon and Protomartyr Stephen offers us the example
of just how sacrificial this ministry can be.
The Feast of the Nativity which we just celebrated and the Feast of the Theophany
which we now celebrate help us remember that Christ took on our human flesh in the
womb of the Most Pure Theotokos, was born as one of us in the cave of Bethlehem,
and that He revealed Himself to us on the bank of the River Jordan. These feasts
remind us that God came to unite Himself to us and that “GOD IS WITH US,” remaining
ever present in our lives as He continues to work within us through the action of
the Holy Spirit. We, in our turn, become His presence in the midst of the world
as we seek to sanctify the world through our own lives of holiness, service, and
As we begin this New Year, let us pray for one another as each one of us strives
to make 2018 another year in which we reach out to the world in the Name of Christ.
With love in the Lord Who reveals Himself,
Sunday of Zacchaeus
Commemorated on January 21
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.
St. Maximus the Confessor
Commemorated on January 21
Saint Maximus the Confessor was born in Constantinople around 580 and raised in a
pious Christian family. He received an excellent education, studying philosophy,
grammar, and rhetoric. He was well-read in the authors of antiquity and he also mastered
philosophy and theology. When Saint Maximus entered into government service, he became
first secretary (asekretis) and chief counselor to the emperor Heraclius (611-641),
who was impressed by his knowledge and virtuous life.
Saint Maximus soon realized that the emperor and many others had been corrupted by
the Monothelite heresy, which was spreading rapidly through the East. He resigned
from his duties at court, and went to the Chrysopolis monastery (at Skutari on the
opposite shore of the Bosphorus), where he received monastic tonsure. Because of
his humility and wisdom, he soon won the love of the brethren and was chosen igumen
of the monastery after a few years. Even in this position, he remained a simple monk.
In 638, the emperor Heraclius and Patriarch Sergius tried to minimize the importance
of differences in belief, and they issued an edict, the “Ekthesis” (“Ekthesis tes
pisteos” or “Exposition of Faith), which decreed that everyone must accept the teaching
of one will in the two natures of the Savior. In defending Orthodoxy against the
“Ekthesis,” Saint Maximus spoke to people in various occupations and positions, and
these conversations were successful. Not only the clergy and the bishops, but also
the people and the secular officials felt some sort of invisible attraction to him,
as we read in his Life.
When Saint Maximus saw what turmoil this heresy caused in Constantinople and in the
East, he decided to leave his monstery and seek refuge in the West, where Monothelitism
had been completely rejected. On the way, he visited the bishops of Africa, strengthening
them in Orthodoxy, and encouraging them not to be deceived by the cunning arguments
of the heretics.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council had condemned the Monophysite heresy, which falsely
taught that in the Lord Jesus Christ there was only one nature (the divine). Influenced
by this erroneous opinion, the Monothelite heretics said that in Christ there was
only one divine will (“thelema”) and only one divine energy (“energia”). Adherents
of Monothelitism sought to return by another path to the repudiated Monophysite heresy.
Monothelitism found numerous adherents in Armenia, Syria, Egypt. The heresy, fanned
also by nationalistic animosities, became a serious threat to Church unity in the
East. The struggle of Orthodoxy with heresy was particularly difficult because in
the year 630, three of the patriarchal thrones in the Orthodox East were occupied
by Monothelites: Constantinople by Sergius, Antioch by Athanasius, and Alexandria
Saint Maximus traveled from Alexandria to Crete, where he began his preaching activity.
He clashed there with a bishop, who adhered to the heretical opinions of Severus
and Nestorius. The saint spent six years in Alexandria and the surrounding area.
Patriarch Sergius died at the end of 638, and the emperor Heraclius also died in
641. The imperial throne was eventually occupied by his grandson Constans II (642-668),
an open adherent of the Monothelite heresy. The assaults of the heretics against
Orthodoxy intensified. Saint Maximus went to Carthage and he preached there for about
five years. When the Monothelite Pyrrhus, the successor of Patriarch Sergius, arrived
there after fleeing from Constantinople because of court intrigues, he and Saint
Maximus spent many hours in debate. As a result, Pyrrhus publicly acknowledged his
error, and was permitted to retain the title of “Patriarch.” He even wrote a book
confessing the Orthodox Faith. Saint Maximus and Pyrrhus traveled to Rome to visit
Pope Theodore, who received Pyrrhus as the Patriarch of Constantinople.
In the year 647 Saint Maximus returned to Africa. There, at a council of bishops
Monotheletism was condemned as a heresy. In 648, a new edict was issued, commissioned
by Constans and compiled by Patriarch Paul of Constantinople: the “Typos” (“Typos
tes pisteos” or “Pattern of the Faith”), which forbade any further disputes about
one will or two wills in the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Maximus then asked Saint Martin
the Confessor (April 14), the successor of Pope Theodore, to examine the question
of Monothelitism at a Church Council. The Lateran Council was convened in October
of 649. One hundred and fifty Western bishops and thirty-seven representatives from
the Orthodox East were present, among them Saint Maximus the Confessor. The Council
condemned Monothelitism, and the Typos. The false teachings of Patriarchs Sergius,
Paul and Pyrrhus of Constantinople, were also anathematized.
When Constans II received the decisions of the Council, he gave orders to arrest
both Pope Martin and Saint Maximus. The emperor’s order was fulfilled only in the
year 654.Saint Maximus was accused of treason and locked up in prison. In 656 he
was sent to Thrace, and was later brought back to a Constantinople prison.
The saint and two of his disciples were subjected to the cruelest torments. Each
one’s tongue was cut out, and his right hand was cut off. Then they were exiled to
Skemarum in Scythia, enduring many sufferings and difficulties on the journey.
After three years, the Lord revaled to Saint Maximus the time of his death (August
13, 662). Three candles appeared over the grave of Saint Maximus and burned miraculously.
This was a sign that Saint Maximus was a beacon of Orthodoxy during his lifetime,
and continues to shine forth as an example of virtue for all. Many healings occurred
at his tomb.
In the Greek Prologue, August 13 commemorates the Transfer of the Relics of Saint
Maximus to Constantinople, but it could also be the date of the saint’s death. It
may be that his memory is celebrated on January 21 because August 13 is the Leavetaking
of the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
Saint Maximus has left to the Church a great theological legacy. His exegetical works
contain explanations of difficult passages of Holy Scripture, and include a Commentary
on the Lord’s Prayer and on Psalm 59, various “scholia” or “marginalia” (commentaries
written in the margin of manuscripts), on treatises of the Hieromartyr Dionysius
the Areopagite (October 3) and Saint Gregory the Theologian (January 25). Among the
exegetical works of Saint Maximus are his explanation of divine services, entitled
“Mystagogia” (“Introduction Concerning the Mystery”).
The dogmatic works of Saint Maximus include the Exposition of his dispute with Pyrrhus,
and several tracts and letters to various people. In them are contained explanations
of the Orthodox teaching on the Divine Essence and the Persons of the Holy Trinity,
on the Incarnation of the Word of God, and on “theosis” (“deification”) of human
“Nothing in theosis is the product of human nature,” Saint Maximus writes in a letter
to his friend Thalassius, “for nature cannot comprehend God. It is only the mercy
of God that has the capacity to endow theosis unto the existing... In theosis man
(the image of God) becomes likened to God, he rejoices in all the plenitude that
does not belong to him by nature, because the grace of the Spirit triumphs within
him, and because God acts in him” (Letter 22).
Saint Maximus also wrote anthropological works (i.e. concerning man). He deliberates
on the nature of the soul and its conscious existence after death. Among his moral
compositions, especially important is his “Chapters on Love.” Saint Maximus the Confessor
also wrote three hymns in the finest traditions of church hymnography, following
the example of Saint Gregory the Theologian.
The theology of Saint Maximus the Confessor, based on the spiritual experience of
the knowledge of the great Desert Fathers, and utilizing the skilled art of dialectics
worked out by pre-Christian philosophy, was continued and developed in the works
of Saint Simeon the New Theologian (March 12), and Saint Gregory Palamas (November
CONGRATULATIONS AND MANY YEARS! To the newly-ordained Deacon John Weiss. May the
Lord bless him as he begins this new life of ordained ministry and grant him, Matushka
Juliana (Grace), and their family wisdom, strength, health, and many blessings!
ANNUAL PARISH MEETING: The annual parish meeting will be held on Sunday, January
28, following the Divine Liturgy.
THANK YOU to all of you for your love, support, cards, and gifts during the Holiday
Season. Your kind words and sentiments and your many expressions of support are
deeply appreciated. God bless you for your thoughtful kindness! +Bishop Daniel
THANK YOU to everyone who made our 2017 celebration of the Lord’s Nativity another
beautiful, inspiring, and spiritually-rewarding celebration of the Lord’s presence
among us. The Divine Services, Holy Supper, music, decorations, food, etc., etc.,
were all wonderfully arranged and yet another sign of our parish community’s love
of God and of neighbor. Blessings to everyone!
For February calendar:
Thursday, February 1,
Vespers, 6:00 p.m
Friday, February 2,
Meeting of the Lord, Divine Liturgy, 9:00 a.m.