Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is risen!
As in the early morning hours of Holy Pascha, I greet you with the joyful announcement
of Christ’s Resurrection, wishing you the continued joy of the Feast of Feasts. Memories
of our parish observance of Holy Week and Pascha are still fresh in our minds as
we walk with the Risen Lord during these 40 full days of celebration.
Having completed our 40 days of fasting, we now rejoice in our 40 days of feasting.
I am grateful to each and every one of our parishioners who made our Great Lent,
Holy Week, and Pascha to be spiritually uplifting and fulfilling… and so very beautiful
and inspiring. So many people were involved in so very many aspects of those days
that it would be difficult (and risky) to attempt to prepare a list of names of those
who should be thanked. There were so many areas of dedicated involvement and service—cleaning,
decorating, singing, praying, reading, directing, traveling to and from church, serving
in the Altar, baking and cooking, dyeing eggs, ironing and changing covers and servers
robes, setting up and taking down and setting up again… and so many additional things
taking place “behind the scenes” in order for everything to be prepared as a fitting
offering to the Lord. All of this time, energy, and resources were all for one purpose:
to give glory to the Lord Jesus Christ in celebration of His victory over darkness,
sin, and death itself. All was done to give glory to the Triune God.
Now that Great Lent and Holy Week have passed and we are fully into the Paschal Season
and heading toward the 50th day celebration of Pentecost, the challenge before us
is to preserve the brightness, joy, and excitement of the Feast of Feasts! We do
not want to allow our paschal greeting, “Christ is risen!” to be a mere habit or
something that is simply routine, even though we’ve all returned to our normal schedules,
everyday duties, and maybe even the monotony of our daily lives. No, we want to
make our daily lives, in and out of season, to be true reflections of the joy of
Pascha Night itself. (We remember that Saint Seraphim of Sarov greeted the people
who came to him with the paschal greeting, no matter the time of the year). All we
do, whether during Pascha or throughout the rest of the year, is to be done for one
and the same purpose: to proclaim Christ’s victory over sin and death in the glory
of His Resurrection- to proclaim the Good News that is the Gospel. And to give glory
Let us, each and every one of us, do our part in keeping the joy of Pascha alive
and vibrant in our parish, in our homes and families, with our friends and acquaintances,
and in our daily lives—throughout the 40 days and throughout the entire year. I
wish to express my gratitude to God for all of you, (priests, clergy, and faithful
alike) for your participation in the life of our parish, and for your many personal
kindnesses to me-- and, most importantly, for how your lives and faith inspire me
to walk ever more closely with Christ, our Crucified and Risen Savior.
Indeed He is risen!
With love in the Risen Lord,
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
The Holy Martyr Photina (Svetlana) the Samaritan Woman, her sons Victor (named Photinus)
and Joses; and her sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva, Kyriake; Nero’s daughter
Domnina; and the Martyr Sebastian: The holy Martyr Photina was the Samaritan Woman,
with whom the Savior conversed at Jacob’s Well (John. 4:5-42).
During the time of the emperor Nero (54-68), who displayed excessive cruelty against
Christians, St Photina lived in Carthage with her younger son Joses and fearlessly
preached the Gospel there. Her eldest son Victor fought bravely in the Roman army
against barbarians, and was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia
Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.
Sebastian, an official in Italy, said to St Victor, “I know that you, your mother
and your brother, are followers of Christ. As a friend I advise you to submit to
the will of the emperor. If you inform on any Christians, you will receive their
wealth. I shall write to your mother and brother, asking them not to preach Christ
in public. Let them practice their faith in secret.”
St Victor replied, “I want to be a preacher of Christianity like my mother and brother.”
Sebastian said, “O Victor, we all know what woes await you, your mother and brother.”
Then Sebastian suddenly felt a sharp pain in his eyes. He was dumbfounded, and his
face was somber.
For three days he lay there blind, without uttering a word. On the fourth day he
declared, “The God of the Christians is the only true God.” St Victor asked why Sebastian
had suddenly changed his mind. Sebastian replied, “Because Christ is calling me.”
Soon he was baptized, and immediately regained his sight. St Sebastian’s servants,
after witnessing the miracle, were also baptized.
Reports of this reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to
him at Rome. Then the Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said, “Fear not,
for I am with you. Nero, and all who serve him, will be vanquished.” The Lord said
to St Victor, “From this day forward, your name will be Photinus, because through
you, many will be enlightened and will believe in Me.” The Lord then told the Christians
to strengthen and encourage St Sebastian to peresevere until the end.
All these things, and even future events, were revealed to St Photina. She left Carthage
in the company of several Christians and joined the confessors in Rome.
At Rome the emperor ordered the saints to be brought before him and he asked them
whether they truly believed in Christ. All the confessors refused to renounce the
Savior. Then the emperor gave orders to smash the martyrs’ finger joints. During
the torments, the confessors felt no pain, and their hands remained unharmed.
Nero ordered that Sts Sebastian, Photinus and Joses be blinded and locked up in prison,
and St Photina and her five sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva and Kyriake
were sent to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero’s daughter Domnina.
St Photina converted both Domnina and all her servants to Christ. She also converted
a sorcerer, who had brought her poisoned food to kill her.
Three years passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had
been locked up. The messengers reported to him that Sts Sebastian, Photinus and Joses,
who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were visiting them
to hear their preaching, and indeed the whole prison had been transformed into a
bright and fragrant place where God was glorified.
Nero then gave orders to crucify the saints, and to beat their naked bodies with
straps. On the fourth day the emperor sent servants to see whether the martyrs were
still alive. But, approaching the place of the tortures, the servants fell blind.
An angel of the Lord freed the martyrs from their crosses and healed them. The saints
took pity on the blinded servants, and restored their sight by their prayers to the
Lord. Those who were healed came to believe in Christ and were soon baptized.
In an impotent rage Nero gave orders to flay the skin from St Photina and to throw
the martyr down a well. Sebastian, Photinus and Joses had their legs cut off, and
they were thrown to dogs, and then had their skin flayed off. The sisters of St Photina
also suffered terrible torments. Nero gave orders to cut off their breasts and then
to flay their skin. An expert in cruelty, the emperor readied the fiercest execution
for St Photis: they tied her by the feet to the tops of two bent-over trees. When
the ropes were cut the trees sprang upright and tore the martyr apart. The emperor
ordered the others beheaded. St Photina was removed from the well and locked up in
prison for twenty days.
After this Nero had her brought to him and asked if she would now relent and offer
sacrifice to the idols. St Photina spit in the face of the emperor, and laughing
at him, said, “O most impious of the blind, you profligate and stupid man! Do you
think me so deluded that I would consent to renounce my Lord Christ and instead offer
sacrifice to idols as blind as you?”
Hearing such words, Nero gave orders to again throw the martyr down the well, where
she surrendered her soul to God (ca. 66).
On the Greek Calendar, St Photina is commemorated on February 26.
Virginmartyr Theodosia of Tyre
Saint Theodosia of Tyre lived during the third and fourth centuries. Once, during
a persecution against Christians, which had already lasted for five years, the seventeen-year-old
Theodosia went up to condemned Christian prisoners in the Praetorium in Caesarea,
Palestine. It was the day of Holy Pascha, and the martyrs spoke about the Kingdom
of God. St Theodosia asked them to remember her before the Lord, when they should
come to stand before Him.
Soldiers saw that the maiden bowed to the prisoners, and they seized her and led
her before the governor, Urban. The governor advised the maiden to offer sacrifice
to the idols but she refused, confessing her faith in Christ. Then they subjected
the saint to cruel tortures, raking her body with iron claws until her bones were
The martyr was silent and endured the sufferings with a happy face, and to a second
suggestion by the governor to offer sacrifice to the idols she answered, “You fool,
I have been granted to join the martyrs!” They threw the maiden with a stone about
her neck into the sea, but angels drew her out from the depths. Then they threw the
martyr to the wild beasts to be eaten by them. Seeing that the beasts would not touch
her, they cut off her head.
By night St Theodosia appeared to her parents, who had tried to talk their daughter
into not going to the sufferings. She was in bright garb with a crown upon her head
and a luminous gold cross in her hand, and she said, “Behold the great glory of which
you wanted to deprive me!”
The Holy Martyr Theodosia of Tyre suffered for Christ in the year 307 or 308. On
May 29 we commemorate the transfer of her relics to Constantinople and Venice. She
is also commemorated on April 3.