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© 2016 - Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church    602-253-9515                    All rights reserved.

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Bookstore

About Us

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Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church

1614 E Monte Vista Road

Phoenix, Arizona 85006

602-253-9515

Regular Services

Saturday:  

 5:00 PM  Great Vespers

Sunday:

 9:00 AM  Divine Liturgy


The Right Reverend DANIEL, Bishop of Santa Rosa, Rector


Priest David Balmer, Attached, Retired


Deacon

Andrew Maxwell

Biography




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Monday May 15th , 2017

Brothers and Sisters,

Christ is risen!

I returned home last evening after participating in the first “World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians” which took place in Washington, DC, May 10-13.  The event was hosted and sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) which has a long history of supporting persecuted Christians around the world, beginning with Billy Graham’s personal interest in and support of suffering Christians in the Soviet Union.  The summit brought together approximately 700 church leaders from around the world as well as men and women who have suffered personally because of their Christian faith.  I was pleased to attend at the invitation of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, and to accompany him throughout the week.  As Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan Tikhon offered words of greeting to the participants during the first session. The Russian Orthodox Church was represented at the event by Metropolitan Hilarion, Chairman of the Russian Church’s Department of External Church Relations, Bishop John, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, and several members of their delegation.  Representatives of the Greek Archdiocese (Archbishop Demetrios), the Antiochian Archdiocese (Metropolitan Joseph) and several other Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches (Copts, Assyrians, etc.) were also present to participate in the meetings and discussion.  It is interesting to note that the vast majority of participants come from Protestant and Evangelical backgrounds but that the welcome given to the Orthodox was overwhelmingly positive.  This was largely, I believe, to their appreciation of the  great witness given by the Russian Orthodox Church throughout its many decades of suffering.

Several members of the US government were also present.  Vice President Mike Pence addressed the summit as did several members of congress.

I was very moved by the stories of personal suffering shared by those who have been beaten, tortured, banished from their homes, and lost loved ones because of the hatred of Christians, especially in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. All in all, it was an extremely enlightening week.  I will share more with you in the future. Also- Belated Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, etc. if our parish community!  +Bishop Daniel

For more information on this important summit and the issues it addressed:

OCA coverage: https://oca.org/news/headline-news/metropolitan-tikhon-addresses-world-summit-in-defense-of-persecuted-christi

Photo Gallery: https://billygraham.org/gallery/photos-world-summit-in-defense-of-persecuted-christians/

More on the Summit: https://billygraham.org/story/vp-mike-pence-encourages-persecuted-christians-stand/

Photos from Sunday’s Liturgy in His Beatitude’s Cathedral, St Nicholas in Washington (courtesy Yuri Gripas) :https://www.flickr.com/photos/62114815@N04/albums/72157683724105656


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Tuesday May 2nd , 2017

Christ is risen!

Beloved in the Risen Lord,

This coming Saturday morning, I will join Archbishop Benjamin in celebrating the Rite of the Consecration of a Church for the new church at Saint Barbara Monastery, Santa Paula, CA (www.stbarbaramonastery.org).  Saint Barbara Monastery is one of the five women’s monasteries in the Diocese of the West.  Below are a couple of links to videos about the monastery.  The first provides a few views of the monastery, including the old chapel.  The second speaks about the monastery’s casket-making industry; this video has a few shots of the new church before its completion.

We pray for Mother Victoria and the monastery sisterhood, congratulating them on this milestone.  May the Lord bless them and the Mother of God watch over and protect them.

Indeed He is risen!

+Bishop Daniel

Saint Barbara Monastery:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGvezK0etfQ

Monastery Caskets (with views of the new chapel during construction)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9UTYFsS-v0


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Monday May 1st , 2017

Christ is risen!

The following link is another video…  this one from the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy.  It’s about 36 minutes long and all the interviews are in Russian (unfortunately, without English subtitles).  However, it’s worth a look as it shows how the seminary students, faculty, and staff, under the leadership of Archbishop Amvrossy of Peterhof, prepared for this year’s celebration of Holy Pascha.  If you have the time (fast forward if you need to) and are interested, the video provides some beautiful images of behind-the scenes-preparations, from polishing brass to baking kulich to rehearsing music, as well as clips of the Paschal Service itself (at 20:17.)  Enjoy!

Indeed He is risen!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGvezK0etfQ


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Thursday Apr. 27th , 2017


Christ is risen!

 

The ringing of bells is a beautiful addition to the Divine Services and a traditional way to call people to prayer.  The Church in Russia has raised the ringing of church bells to the level of high art.  Many of our own parishes in America are also developing this tradition.  Here's a link to the ringing of the bells at Saint Nicholas Church, San Anselmo, CA, a parish of our Diocese of the West.  The Rector - and chief bell-ringer- is Father Stephan Meholick.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzKgB1L1uK8


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Tuesday Apr. 25th , 2017


Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

Today, the Tuesday of Saint Thomas week, is known as “The Day of Rejoicing” - Radonitsa. As we continue to celebrate with the full joy of Pascha throughout these forty days, we remember those Orthodox Christians from all ages who have died in faith and in the hope of resurrection.

It is traditional to remember one’s loved ones in prayer, whether at church with special memorial services or by visiting their graves and praying for them there, sharing with them the joy of the Resurrection.  Often, especially in Orthodox countries, entire families visit the graves of their loved ones and ask a priest to serve a memorial services and bless the graves.  

If you are unable to visit a cemetery, you might consider honoring the memory of your departed loved ones by remembering the poor and needy by giving alms to someone you might encounter today or by making a special donation to a charity that serves the poor. Christ is risen!


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Bright Tuesday Apr. 18th , 2017


Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is risen!

Try watching this without smiling…  and then share the joy of Pascha with those around you!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1qYQQEwPUU


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Monday Apr. 17th , 2017


Christ is risen!  

Beloved in Christ,

Even though we might be returning to our usual schedules today, we also continue our celebration in the light and joy of Pascha!  

Thank you to our wonderful parish community for all the extra efforts that went into making our Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha truly beautiful and deeply spiritual. This year's services were particularly beautiful.  May the Risen Lord continue to bless you all.

I’m sending a link to a wonderful video expressing the joy of Bright Week.  Many of you have probably already seen this- it was first circulated a few years ago and I’ve distributed it before.  It shows a group of Christians in a Beirut shopping mall bearing witness to their faith in the Risen Lord by singing the Paschal Troparion in both Arabic and Greek.  May this same joy continue in all of us throughout the forty days of Pascha.  

Truly, He is risen!

With love in the Risen Lord, +Bishop Daniel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJW5X16NLsY


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Sunday Apr. 16th , 2017

Christ is Risen!

Христос воскресе!



المسيح قام

Beloved in Christ,


I greet you in the bright joy of the Resurrection: Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!  Having walked with the Lord through the days of His Passion, having stood beneath the Cross on Calvary and looked upon the Lord of Life lying in death, we now experience the joy of that “first day of the week,” when Mary Magdalene and the other Myrrhbearing Women made their way to the Tomb, found it to be empty, and heard the first proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection: “He is not here. He is risen!”


Please accept my sincere and prayerful best wishes and extend these wishes to all who gather with you to celebrate Our Lord’s Resurrection.  May Christ’s victory over sin and death be a victory in which we all share and which we, in turn, proclaim to the world by our very lives. Christ is Risen!


Invoking God’s blessing upon you and yours, I remain

With love in the Risen Lord,

+Daniel


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Saturday Apr. 15th , 2017

From this morning’s Vesperal Divine Liturgy—


Today, Hell cries out groaning:

“My power has been trampled down.

The  Shepherd is crucified and Adam is raised.

I have been deprived of those whom I ruled.

Those whom I swallowed in my strength I have given up.

He Who was crucified has emptied the tombs.

The power of death has been vanquished.”

Glory to Your Cross and Resurrection, O Lord!


The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said: “God blessed the seventh day.”

This is the blessed Sabbath;

this is the day of rest,

on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works.

By suffering death to fulfill the plan of salvation,

He kept the Sabbath in the flesh;

by returning again to what He was,

He has granted us eternal life through His Resurrection,

for He alone is good and the Lover of man.


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Great and Holy Friday


Apr. 14th , 2017


“Joseph and Nicodemus took Thee, Who clothest Thyself with light as with a garment, down from the tree, and having gazed upon Thy Body, dead, naked and unburied, and in grief and tender compassion he lamented: Woe is me, sweetest Jesus, Whom, a short while ago, the sun beheld hanging on the cross hid itself in darkness, and the earth quaked in fear, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two: But lo, now I see Thee, willingly submit to death for my sake; How shall I bury Thee, my God, or how can I wrap Thee in a shroud? How can I touch Thine uncorrupt body with my hands? Or what songs can I see for Thine Exodus, O compassionate One? I magnify Thy passion, I glorify in hymns both Thy burial and resurrection, crying out: O Lord, glory to Thee.”


On this great and holy day on which Christ offered His life on the Cross for the salvation of the world, let us stand in silent awe before the Mystery of the Son of God shedding His blood and offering His life on the Altar of the Cross.  


Vespers today at 3:00 p.m. and Matins of Holy Saturday with Lamentations at the Tomb at 6:00 p.m.


With love in the Lord,

+Bishop Daniel


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Thursday Apr. 13th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


This morning we celebrate the Divine Liturgy of the Lord’s Mystical Supper, commemorating what we commonly refer to as “The Last Supper.” Today’s main theme is found in the major hymn of this day: “Of Thy Mystical Supper….” This hymn is sung many times during this morning’s Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. It replaces the Cherubic Hymn, and “Let our mouths be filled…” (sung after Communion); it is also the Communion verse of the day.


Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God,

accept me today as a communicant,

for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies,

neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss;

but like the thief will I confess Thee:

Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.


On this last night with His disciples, Christ took bread, and blessed, and broke it. He gave it to His disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my Body.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” After the supper, Jesus led the disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It was there that Judas came and betrayed

Him to the soldiers, beginning the last phase of His voluntary Passion, Death, and Burial—and His life-giving Resurrection.


May the Lord Who gives Himself to us in the Mystery of His Body and Blood, strengthen us to walk with Him to the Cross on Golgotha and, then, to join the Myrrhbearing Women as the Good News of His Resurrection is proclaimed at the empty tomb.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


“Of Thy Mystical Supper” sung in Finnish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odP22TZ5LkI


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Wednesday Apr. 12th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,

 

Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts this morning at 9:00; Matins this evening at 6:00.

The theme that pervades the services of Holy and Great Wednesday is the commemoration of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus before his Crucifixion and Burial; a second theme is the agreement to betray Jesus made by Judas Iscariot.  For this reason, Wednesday of Holy Week is known in some places as “Spy Wednesday” because from today Judas “spied for” an opportunity betray the Lord.

A moving moment in today’s Matins Service (sung last evening) is the Hymn of Kassiani. The hymn, written in the 9th century by Kassiani the Nun, tells of the woman who washed Christ's feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee (see Luke 7:36-50).  Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself from in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."


Like the sinful woman of the Gospel, may we recognize in Christ the One whose mercy washes away our sinfulness and brings us to the joy of His Resurrection.


Asking your prayers in these holy days ahead and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Tuesday Apr. 11th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


Today the Church guides us, the faithful, to spiritual watchfulness, as is appropriate in view of the sufferings of the Lord for us which we reflect upon during this special week. In its hymns for this day, the Church, with special persistence, inspires us also about the obligation of spiritual watchfulness and religious-moral perfection for us, calling out: “Let us love the Bridegroom, O brethren, Let us adorn our lamps, shining with virtues and right belief: that like the wise virgins of the Lord we may be ready to enter with Him into the marriage"; "O come, faithful, let us work zealously for the Master, for He distributes wealth to His servants. And let each of us according to his ability increase his talent of grace: Let one be adorned in wisdom through good works, let another celebrate a service in splendor. The one distributes his wealth to the poor; the other communicates the word to those untaught. Thus we shall increase what has been entrusted to us, and as faithful stewards of grace, we shall be accounted worthy of the Master's joy".


Kontakion of Matins - Tone 2

You understood that this is the last hour, O soul,

And have feared the cutting of the fig tree.

Work diligently with the talent given to you.

Keep watch and cry: Let us not remain outside the bridal chamber of Christ.


Bridegroom Matins this evening at 6:00...  Let’s continue in prayer for one another.  May the days ahead lead all of us to fullness of joy in the Risen Lord.


+Bishop Daniel


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Monday Apr. 10th , 2017


Great and Holy Monday:  Bridegroom Matins today at 6:00 p.m.


From Bridegroom Matins –


Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight,

And blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching;

And again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.

Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be burdened with sleep,

Lest you be given over to death,

And lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.

But return to your senses and cry aloud:

Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O our God,

Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.


Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph,

And his noble son was seated on a chariot, and honored as a king.

For when he refused to be enslaved by the pleasures of the Egyptian woman,

He was glorified by the One, who knows the hearts of men,

And bestows on them an incorruptible crown.


Thy chamber I see adorned, O my Savior,

And I have no garment that I may enter therein.

Enlighten the vesture of my soul,

O Giver of Life, and save me.



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Sunday Apr. 9th , 2017


Palm Saturday


O new Israel, church of the Gentiles,

assemble today and sing with the Prophet Zechariah:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your King is coming to you!

He is meek, bearing salvation.

He rides on the colt of an ass.”

Celebrate with the children, holding palms in your hands:

“Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is He that comes, the King of Israel!”


By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion,

You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God.

Like the children with the palms of victory,

we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death:

“Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.”


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Saturday Apr. 8th , 2017


Lazarus Saturday


Beloved in Christ,


Today we celebrate “Lazarus Saturday” as we commemorate the Lord Jesus raising his friend Lazarus, Brother of Martha and Mary, from the dead.  This observance reminds us of the resurrection that awaits us all in the Kingdom that is to come.  Those of you who are unable to join us this morning for the Divine Liturgy may wish to reflect upon the Gospel which is proclaimed today and which tells us the story that sets the stage for the week ahead:  John 11: 1-45


Troparion of the Feast –


By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion,

You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God. Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.”


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Friday Apr. 7th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


Today we commemorate the Repose of Saint Tikhon (+1925).  Saint Tikhon served as Archbishop of America from 1898 to 1907 and was elected Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in 1917.  Saint Tikhon was faithful to Christ the Good Shepherd in his care for the emerging Church here in North America and in his leadership of the Church in Russia as it faced the challenges it faced as a result of the Russian Revolution.  Many of Saint Tikhon’s writings, addresses, and sermons are now available in English translation.  Included among these published is a collection of his writings from during his time in the United States.  It is available through Amazon.com:


https://www.amazon.com/St-Tikhon-Moscow-Instructions-Teachings/dp/0997471816/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491308201&sr=8-1&keywords=tikhon+moscow


Troparion –  Tone 1

Let us praise Tikhon, the Patriarch of All Russia, and Enlightener of North America,

an ardent follower of the apostolic tradition, and good pastor of the Church of Christ,

who was elected by Divine Providence, and laid down his life for his sheep!

Let us sing to him with faith and hope, and ask for his hierarchical intercessions:

keep the Church in Russia in tranquility, and the Church in North America in peace;

gather her scattered children into one flock, bring to repentance those who have renounced the True Faith, preserve our lands from civil strife, and entreat God’s peace for all people!


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Thursday, Apr. 6th , 2017


The first days of Holy Week are highlighted by the Matins Service known as “Bridegroom Matins.”  In these services, we will reflect upon the last days of the Lord as well as upon the fact that he will come again—at an hour and on a day we do not know.  The icon of Christ the Bridegroom is placed in the middle of the Church for our veneration, the scripturally-based texts of the service are sung to solemn and moving melodies… and we acknowledge Christ as the Bridegroom of His Church.

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching, and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, O our God, Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.


Most modern people—meaning people living in the affluent and comfortable societies of North America and Europe—spend little time examining their consciences and reflecting on eternity. They are simply too busy, too caught up with the “cares of this world” to concern themselves with the next. If Jesus is to be taken at his word, this is a very dangerous assumption. As the Bridegroom Hymn (based on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in the gospel of St. Matthew, 25:1-13) makes clear: if we are caught unaware when the Day of Judgment comes we will be shut out of the Kingdom. It is that simple.


Bridegroom Matins can be seen as another “wake-up call” that encourages us to be ready for the Bridegroom when He comes. This is the prescription we are given for re-orienting our lives towards eternity. However, it is not, in truth, something which is limited to the Lenten season; it is meant to become a way of life. Lent just gives us an added push in the direction of becoming truly spiritually awake and prepared to stand before the “awesome judgment seat of Christ.”  Hopefully, the season of the Fast has awakened in us the desire to change, to repent, to turn our hearts toward what really matters, the “pearl of great price” that never loses its value.


Here’s a link to a lovely youtube video with the choir of the Stretensky Monastery in Moscow singing the haunting melody of the Troparion of the Bridegroom Matins.  It’s sung in Slavonic, but you will recognize the melody and appreciate the beautiful imagery.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcNJHOkknEY&index=3&list=RDFLvDa5T5oF0


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Wednesday Apr. 5th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


With this coming Saturday’s commemoration of the Raising of Lazarus and Sunday’s observance of Palm Sunday (Sunday of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem), we will enter into our annual observance of the week we refer to as “Great and Holy.”  The services of Holy Week offer us the opportunity to accompany the Lord in His last days, the saving days of His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.  Those who have participated in these services can attest to the power of the experience- there is no experience like it found outside the Orthodox Church. And there is no celebration of Pascha like one that has been prepared for beforehand by participation in the services of Holy Week.   Attached is the schedule of Holy Week Services (also found on our parish website and in our April newsletter); it is provided here for you to print and place in a convenient location.  


I look forward to celebrating and praying the Divine Services of Holy Week with you.  May our participation in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Savior bring all of us to the eternal joy of the Kingdom He has opened unto us.


Also, please remember that this evening is the last Wednesday evening Liturgy of the Presanctified, followed by a Lenten meal.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine, +Bishop Daniel


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Monday Apr. 3rd , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


As we enter the last week of the Fast, I'd like to share the following prayer to add to our reflection upon the Lord’s Passion.

 

God, who has made all men in Thy likeness

and lovest all whom Thou has made,

reconcile us with one another and with Thee;

and as Thy Son and our Savior was

born of a Hebrew Mother,

but rejoiced in the faith of a Syrian woman

and of a Roman Soldier,

welcomed the Greeks who sought Him, and suffered a man from Africa

to carry His cross,

so teach us to look upon all men and women

as fellow-heirs of the kingdom

of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen


As we enter the last week of the Fast and prepare for the beginning of Holy Week (also called Passion Week), let’s continue to pray for one another, asking the Lord to grant us all a successful end of the Fast, a meaningful Holy Week, and a bright and joyous celebration of Pascha.


With love in the Lord,

+Bishop Daniel


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Sunday Apr. 2nd , 2017


Beloved in Christ,

 

Today we arrive at the last Sunday of the Great Fast.  Today, it is Saint Mary of Egypt whose conversion to Christ and life of repentance inspires us in our own spiritual journey.  By her prayers, may we also recognize the Cross of Christ as the key that opens for us the doors of Paradise.

 

This evening’s Lenten Vesper Service will be hosted at Saint Ignatius Antiochian Orthodox Church, 5515 E Redmont Circle, Mesa, 85215, 6:00 p.m.

 

As we draw near to the life-giving days of Holy Week and Pascha, I ask your prayers and assure you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel

Troparion - Tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother,
For you took up the Cross and followed Christ.
By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away;
But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.
Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels.

Kontakion - Tone 3

Having been a sinful woman,
You became through repentance a Bride of Christ.
Having attained angelic life,
You defeated demons with the weapon of the Cross;
Therefore, O most glorious Mary you are a Bride of the Kingdom!


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Saturday  Apr. 1st , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


 Tomorrow is the fifth Sunday of Lent, the Lenten Sunday dedicated to reflecting upon the life and example of Saint Mary of Egypt, the great sinner whose life was transformed by the power of God.  We are blessed to have a beautiful icon of Saint Mary displayed in our church for veneration and for contemplation of the life of this great model of Christian life.  Below is a short sermon for the fifth Sunday of the Fast by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (+2003).  

As we enter into the “home stretch” of the Great Fast, may Saint Mary intercede for us all.

 

Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


SUNDAY OF SAINT MARY OF EGYPT

In the In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

On the fifth Sunday in Lent we remember Saint Mary of Egypt, and she can teach us a great deal of what we need to know. She was a sinner, publicly known, a temptation and a scandal to men. How she became a sinner - we do not know; whether there was evil in her, whether she was seduced or raped, how she became a harlot, we shall never know. What we know for sure is that one day she came to a church of the Mother of God - the image of perfect wholeness - and she suddenly felt that she could not enter it. We need not imagine a miraculous force preventing her from crossing the threshold; the force was probably - certainly - within herself. She felt that the realm was too sacred, and the person of the Mother of God too holy for her to dare walk into Her presence and stand in the precincts of the church.


This was enough for her to realise that all the past was darkness, and that there was but one way out of it: to shake off all evil and to start a new life. She did not go for advice, she did not go for confession; she walked out of the city into the desert, into the scorching desert where there was nothing but sand and heat and hunger, and desperate loneliness.


She can teach us something very great. As Saint Seraphim of Sarov repeated more than once to those who came to see him, the difference between a sinner who is lost and a sinner who finds his way to salvation lies in nothing but determination. The grace of God is always there; but our response is not. But Mary responded; through the horror of her new perception of herself she responded to the holiness, the grace, the wholeness and sanctity of the Mother of God, and nothing, nothing was too much for her to change her life.


Year after year, in fasting and prayer, in the scorching heat, in the desperate aloneness of the desert she fought all the evil that had accumulated in her soul; because it is not enough, to become aware of the evil, it is not enough even to reject it in an act of will, it is there, in our memories, in our desires, in our frailty, in the rottenness which evil brings. She had to fight for her whole life, but at the end of that life she had conquered; indeed, she had fought the good fight, she had become pure of stain, she could enter the realm of God: not a temple, not a place but eternity.


She can teach us a great deal. She can teach us that only if one day we become aware that in the realm into which we walk so freely: the church, or simply the world created by God and which has remained pure of evil although subjected, enslaved to evil, because of us - is so holy that we alone have no place there, we might in response to this sense repent, that is turn away from ourselves in horror, and turn against ourselves with stern determination. Then we could follow her example.


This example of hers is presented to us as a crowning moment of this spring of life, which is Lent. A week before we heard the teaching and call of Saint John of the Ladder, the one who has established a whole ladder of perfection for us to overcome evil and come to right. And today we see one who from the very depth of evil was brought to the heights of saintliness, and as the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete says: 'Be sure that God Who could heal the leprous could heal the leprosy which is yours'.


Let us therefore see in her a new encouragement, a new hope, indeed, a new joy, but also a challenge, a call, because it is in vain that we sing the praise of saints if we do not learn from them and emulate them. Amen.


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Monday Mar. 27th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


 The fourth Sunday of Lent is generally set aside to reflect upon the life and teachings of Saint John Climacus (“of the Ladder”).  This year, that commemoration was set aside because the Leavetaking of the Feast of the Annunciation overshadowed it.  Nonetheless, I thought it would be good to reflect upon his teachings in the following sermon from Metropolitan Anthony of Sorouzh:

Saint John of the Ladder

9 April 1989

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Lent is a time of repentance, a time when our heart of stone must be made by the power of God into a heart of flesh, from insensitive to become perceptive, from cold and hard to become warm and open to others, and indeed, to God Himself.

Lent is a time of renewal when, like in spring, everything become new again; when our life that had gone into a twilight becomes alive with all the intensity which God can communicate to us, humans, by making us partakers of His Holy Spirit, by making us partakers, through the Holy Sacraments and the direct gift of God, of the Divine nature.

It is a time of reconciliation, and reconciliation is a joy: it is God's joy, and it is our joy; it's a new beginning.

Today is the day of Saint John of the Ladder, and I want to read to you a few phrases of his which are relevant to the particular time of the year in which we live:

“Repentance, that is our return to God is renewal of our baptism; it is our effort to renew our covenant with God, our promise to change our life. It is a time when we can acquire humility, that is peace; peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with all the created world. Repentance is born of hope and rejection of despair. And one who repents is one who deserves condemnation — and yet, goes away from the tribunal without shame, because repentance is our peace with God. And this is achieved through a worthy life, alien to the sins we committed in the past. Repentance is cleansing of our conscience. Repentance implies carrying off all sadness and pain.”

And if we ask ourselves how we can achieve it, how we can come to this, how we can respond to God Who receives us as the father received the prodigal son, a God Who has waited for us, longingly, Who, rejected, never turned away from us — how can we respond to Him? — here is a short word about prayer :

“Don't use in prayer falsely wise words; because it is often the simple and uncomplicated whispering of children that rejoices our heavenly Father. Don't try to say much when you speak to God, because otherwise your mind in search of words will be lost in them. One word spoken by the publican brought Divine mercy upon him; one word filled with faith saved the thief on the cross. The use of the multiplicity of words when we pray disperses our mind and fill it with imaginations. One word spoken to God collects the mind in His presence. And if a word, in thy prayer, reaches you deeply, if you perceive it profoundly — dwell in it, dwell in it, because at such moments our Angel guardian prays with us because we are true to ourselves and to God”.

Let us remember what Saint John of the Ladder says, even if you forget the short comments which I introduced to make his text more readily understandable. Let us remember his words because he was a man who knew what it means to turn to God, to stay with God, to be God’s joy and to rejoice in Him. He is offered us in this time, when we are ascending towards the days of the Passion, he is offered us as an example of what grace Divine can do to transform an ordinary, simple human being into a light to the world.

Let us learn from him, let us follow his example, let us rejoice in what God can do by His power in a human being, and let us confidently, with faith, with an exulting and yet serene joy follow the advice, listen to God begging us to find a way of life and telling us that with Him, in Him we will be alive, because He is the Truth but also the Way and also Life eternal. Amen.


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Friday Mar, 24th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


Tomorrow, March 25, is the Great Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos.  Compline will be prayed this evening at 6:00 p.m. and the Divine Liturgy of the Feast will be celebrated tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.  As a help to prepare for the Feast, below is a short article by Fr Lawrence Farley of the Diocese of Canada.  


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


Find the text below or go to this link: http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-lawrence-farley/the-annunciation-and-the-secularism-of-christianity

The Annunciation and the Secularism of Christianity

We are so used to hearing the story of the Annunciation that we sometimes miss things in it. One of the things we miss is how secular is the setting for it. It is an understandable mistake—for us, the whole theme is religious. Any story about the Theotokos is religious, any story containing an angel is religious. When we read of Mary listening to the archangel Gabriel, we regard that moment as the essence of Religion. And by doing so, we miss its whole point.

It is easier to see the story for what it is when we re-insert back into the flow of its parent narrative, the Gospel of St. Luke. That Gospel opens not with the Annunciation to Mary of Nazareth, but with the Annunciation to Zachariah of Jerusalem. When the archangel comes with announcement of the impending birth of John the Forerunner, he comes not to his mother, Elizabeth (as might be expected), but to his father, Zachariah. And he comes when Zachariah is in Jerusalem, the holy city celebrated in psalm and prophecy, the city of divine destiny and promise. And not just in the holy city, but also in the holy Temple. And not just in the holy Temple, but actually performing his priestly work of burning incense in the Holy Place. The whole scene radiates with sanctity, history, solemnity, power, glory, and sacred privilege. In other words, with Religion. (Significantly, this annunciation in a religious setting does not end well; Zachariah disbelieves the message and is struck mute for his lack of faith.)

Juxtaposed to this is the annunciation to Mary, and the contrast is intentionally stark. The archangel comes to a woman, not a man (we must be grateful to feminism for the reminder), and to a young girl, not an old man. These details are significant in a culture which valued masculinity and age, and gave decidedly less honor to women and to the young. Also, the angel did not come to Jerusalem to find her (although doubtless as a devout Jewess she would have visited Jerusalem), but to Nazareth. Once again, the contrast is stark: Jerusalem is THE city for Jews, the city which luxuriated under the weight of destiny. Nazareth was nothing. In fact if you look up “Nazareth” in an Old Testament concordance, you discover that it is not there, not once mentioned in the sacred scriptures of the Old Testament. Nazareth lay within the disdained region of Galilee—“Galilee of the Gentiles”, people called it, pagan Galilee. And even other Galileans had not much time for Nazareth. Nathanael of Cana skeptically inquired, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). Ouch. That was Mary’s town. And when the angelic messenger found her there, Luke’s Gospel does not mention that she was doing anything especially pious, like saying her prayers. Some icons show her holding a spindle, that is, doing housework. The context is clearly secular, work-a-day, and ordinary.

Original perceptive readers of Luke’s text would be struck by this contrast. On the one hand, power, glory, history, honor, religion. On the other hand, weakness, obscurity,  common life, and a secular setting. And it is this secular setting that God chose for the announcement of universal salvation. This young girl, obscure, unnoticed, powerless, poor—was the one chosen out of all the world to fulfill the greatest role and task that history had ever offered, or would ever offer. None of this was accidental. It was a harbinger of things to come.

Fast forward a hundred years to find the Church of God, the people that sprung from Mary’s assent to the angelic annunciation. The Church of that time also looked immensely secular compared with the rest of the world, and compared with Religion. Everyone, pagan and Jew alike, knew what Religion involved: it involved having a sacred space, a temple, a sacred idol, a valid priesthood, an altar and fire for the animal sacrifices. The Christians, on the other hand, seemed to have no Religion at all. When they met, they didn’t meet in a sacred space, but in people’s homes (later on, they would build buildings for worship, but these too were patterned after people’s homes more than they were patterned after temples.) If need be, they could meet in the graveyard, the forest, or anywhere. Also, the Christians seemed to have no god, at least not one that anybody could see. They did not gather before an image to offer it homage. They simply met together with no idol in sight. And they didn’t offer sacrifices, killing an animal and offering it up in the fire of sacrifice upon an altar. They simply prayed, and ate a small bit of bread and wine, the ordinary stuff of daily meals. And they had no real priesthood as far as anyone could see.  Some of their number presided at their prayers, men who had been themselves set apart by prayer. But that didn’t make them priests. Everyone knew that priests were distinguished by their ancestry, their lineage, their pedigree, and it looked like anyone could be chosen as one of their clergy. As far as every ancient Jew and pagan was concerned, the Christians had no real or proper religion at all.

These Jews and pagans were right. Christianity was not a religion—it is even, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann once said, “The end of religion”. It is not Religion; it is our participation, through our sacramental union with Christ, of the powers of the age to come, a participation that transcends religion with all its earthly categories and boundaries.

It is important to remember this when we enter an Orthodox Church for worship, because there we encounter a lot of stuff—icons, and candles, and vestments. We meet in a building set apart; we clothe our clergy in fancy vestments. All of this might give the unsuspecting the erroneous impression that Orthodoxy was primarily a religion, and that the icons, candles, vestments, and externally beautiful things were what it was all about. But these things do not constitute its essence; they are merely adornments of its essence. Its essence is power of Christ in our midst. When Christ comes into our midst, of course we fancy things up and celebrate it. When a royal dignitary comes to visit, we lay out the red carpet. These external things are the red carpet we lay out for Him. But what matters is not the carpet, but the King.

The Annunciation reminds us that Christianity is not a religion, but the life-giving power of God that transcends religion. In its early days, it did not look like a religion. Even now, when it looks rather more religious, it is still not a religion. It is a presence—the presence that the Virgin of Nazareth welcomed into her body when she spoke with the archangel in Nazareth long ago. It is the same presence we welcome into our midst today, whenever we gather together in His Name.


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Wednesday Mar. 22nd , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


Please remember the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts this evening at 6:00, followed by a Lenten meal.


In this fourth week of the Fast and as the Cross remains placed in the middle of the church for our veneration, we are invited to reflect upon the Lord’s Passion and Death—the fact that the Son of God, having taken on our human nature, suffered and died for us and our salvation.  He was crucified in the flesh and suffered all the pains of the cruel and horrible death of crucifixion.  The prayer below offers us the opportunity to reflect upon this great mystery which we will celebrate solemnly during Holy Week.  May all of us fully appreciate everything the Lord endured for us.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


Prayer to the Lord Jesus Crucified

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,
Creator of Heaven and earth, Savior of the world,

Behold I who am unworthy and of all men most sinful,
humbly bow the knee of my heart before
the glory of Thy majesty and praise Thy Cross and Passion,
and offer thanksgiving to Thee, the King and God of all,
that Thou wast pleased to bear as man all labors and hardships,
all temptations and tortures,
so that Thou might be our Fellow-sufferer and Helper,
and a Saviur to all of us in all our sorrows, needs, and sufferings.

I know, O all-powerful Lord, that all these things
were not necessary for Thee,
but for us men and for our salvation Thou didst endure Thy Cross and Passion
that Thou might redeem us from all cruel bondage to the enemy.

What, then, shall I give in return to Thee, O Lover of mankind,
for all that Thou hast suffered for me, a sinner?
I cannot say, for soul and body and all blessings come from Thee,
and all that I have is Thine, and I am Thine.
Yet I know that love is repaid only by love.
Teach me, then, to love and praise Thee.

Trusting solely in Thine infinite compassion and mercy, O Lord,
I praise Thine unspeakable patience,
I magnify Thine unutterable exhaustion,
I glorify Thy boundless mercy,
I adore Thy purest Passion,
and most lovingly kissing Thy wounds, I cry:
Have mercy on me a sinner,
and cause that Thy holy Cross may not be fruitless in me,
that I may participate here with faith in Thy sufferings
and be vouchsafed to behold also the glory of Thy Kingdom in Heaven.

Amen.


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Monday Mar. 20th , 2017

Beloved in Christ,

Yesterday we celebrated the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross.  Throughout this week we continue to reflect upon the Cross in the history of our salvation and in our daily lives.  May the saving Cross of Christ encourage us as we continue our Lenten journey to the Lord’s Pascha—His passion, death, and glorious Resurrection.

It might be helpful to meditate on the following verses from Vespers of this past Sunday:

O mighty Cross of the Lord, manifest thyself: show me the divine vision of thy beauty, and grant me worthily to venerate thee. For I speak to thee and embrace thee as though thou wast alive.

Hail! life-giving Cross, the fair Paradise of the Church, Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory: through thee the hosts of demons have been driven back; and the hierarchies of angels rejoice with one accord, as the congregations of the faithful keep the feast. Thou art an invincible weapon, an unbroken stronghold; thou art the victory of kings and the glory of priests. Grant us now to draw near to the Passion of Christ and to His Resurrection.

Hail! life-giving Cross, unconquerable trophy of the true faith, door to Paradise, succour of the faithful, rampart set about the Church. Through thee the curse is utterly destroyed, the power of death is swallowed up, and we are raised from earth to heaven: invincible weapon, adversary of demons, glory of martyrs, true ornament of holy monks, haven of salvation bestowing on the world great mercy.

-       From the Great Vespers on Saturday Evening before the Third Sunday of Lent, The                   Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross


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Friday Mar. 17th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


Today’s shamrocks, leprechauns, Irish dancing, and the “wearin’ o’ the green” always seem to distract from the seriousness and soberness of this Lenten season.  However, we should be aware of the fact that today the Orthodox Church also venerates the memory of Saint Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland and Apostle to the Gaels.  Saint Patrick is one of the world’s best known saints, and is rightly honored by Orthodox Christians as a great preacher, teacher, and bishop… even though his memory might not be honored by some of the activities that have come to define his special day.  


From the Lorica of Saint Patrick:

“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”


Let’s pray that we may we be so identified with Christ in our words, deeds, and entire life, that others will recognize Him within us… and that we will see Him in those around us as well.


Also, today is the feast of Saint Alexis, Man of God, the well-loved fourth century monastic.  We prayerfully remember Protodeacon Alexis as well on the feast of his heavenly patron.  May his memory be eternal!


Please remember that tomorrow is also a Memorial Saturday; Memorial Service at 4:30 p.m.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Wednesday March 15th , 2017


Beloved in Christ,


Having trouble with the Fast?  Wondering whether or not you’re making any spiritual headway or accomplishing any spiritual good or experiencing any spiritual growth?  Not getting the “results” you want? The following words from the Discourses of Saint Symeon the New Theologian (+1022) offer hope, encouragement, and perspective.

 

"'My brethren, it is not possible for these things to come about in one day or one week! They will take much time, labor, and pain, in accordance with each man's attitude and willingness, according to the measure of faith and one's contempt for the objects of sight and thought. In addition, it is also in accordance with the fervor of his ceaseless penitence and its constant working in the secret chamber of his heart that this is accomplished more quickly or more slowly by the gift and grace of God. But without fasting no one was ever able to achieve any of these virtues or any others, for fasting is the beginning and foundation of every spiritual activity.”

 

Please remember: Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts this evening at 6:00 p.m.  Also, to learn about the UN Fellowship in which our own Andrew Romanov is participating (and a photo), please see:  https://oca.org/news/headline-news/united-nations-fellowships-available-for-grads-post-grads

Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Monday March 13th, 2017


Monday of the Third Week of Lent – St Gregory Dialogos, Pope of Rome


Beloved in Christ,


Throughout the Great Fast, we celebrate the ancient and beautiful Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  The composer of this Liturgy of Saint Gregory Dialogos (because of his writings known as the Dialogues).  Saint Gregory was born around the year 540 A.D. During his years of service as a deacon, he was sent to Constantinople as ambassador to represent the Pope at the Imperial Court.  It was there that he became familiar with and appreciative of the Eastern liturgical sensitivity and aesthetic.  Later, as the Bishop of Rome, he became  known for his great liturgical reforms, for the chant that bears his name (Gregorian Chant), as well as for arranging the prayers and ceremonial of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.


Saint Gregory is invoked at the dismissal of this Liturgy, just as Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great are also commemorated at the end of the Liturgies which they compiled and which bear their names.  Each time we hear the name of this Bishop of Rome at the end of the Presanctified Liturgy, it is good for us to remember the time when the entire Christian world- the fullness of the Church- was in communion.  Having suffered through years of heresies and persecutions, the Church managed to maintain its unity for a little over one thousand years.  Unfortunately, this unity of faith and life was ruptured in the year 1054—undoubtedly one of the most unfortunate years in the entire history of Christianity.


As we celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Holy Gifts as part of our Lenten prayer, and as we remember its author, a successor of St Peter as bishop of the Church at Rome, let’s remember to pray for the unity of the Church—the same unity for which our Lord Jesus Christ prayed on the night before He offered His life on the Cross: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Sunday March 12th, 2017


Second Sunday of Lent –


Tomorrow is the second Sunday of Great Lent, the day on which the Church commemorates the life and teachings of St Gregory Palamas, 14th century monk, theologian, and Archbishop of Thessalonika.  Please remember that Sunday Lenten Vespers will be hosted by Saint John the Evangelist Mission, Tempe, at 6:00 p.m.

 

Troparion - Tone 8

O light of Orthodoxy, teacher of the Church, its confirmation,
O ideal of monks and invincible champion of theologians,
O wonder-working Gregory, glory of Thessalonica and preacher of grace,
always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion - Tone 8

Holy and divine instrument of wisdom,
joyful trumpet of theology,
together we sing your praises, O God-inspired Gregory.
Since you now stand before the Original Mind, guide our minds to Him, O Father,
so that we may sing to you: "Rejoice, preacher of grace."


For the life of Saint Gregory, check out this link: https://oca.org/saints/lives/2017/03/12/12-2nd-sunday-of-great-lent-st-gregory-palam


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Saturday Mar. 11th , 2017


Saturday of the Second Week of Lent – Memorial Saturday


Today is one of the Memorial Saturdays (Soul Saturdays) observed during the Lenten Fast.  We remember our beloved departed on this day as an act of mercy and love and we reflect upon our own mortal nature, remembering that we, too, shall one day stand before the Lord and be judged according to our deeds (see Matthew 25:31-46).


We will pray the Panikhida/Memorial Service today at 4:30 p.m., followed by Vespers at 5:00 p.m.


From the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 3

1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. 7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. 8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. 9 Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.


May the Lord grant rest with the saints to the founders of our parish, to all our departed loved ones, and to all who have reposed in hope of the Resurrection.  May their memory be eternal!


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Friday, Mar. 10th, 2017 of the Second Week of Lent


Beloved in Christ,


At this point, we’re well into the Great Fast and maybe, just possibly, we’re beginning to become a bit weary of the fast and what it asks of us, especially regarding food and meals, what’s allowed and what isn’t.  Maybe some of us are already to the point of rationalizing why we shouldn’t keep the fast.  Here’s a link to a short, helpful, and thought-provoking interview with Catherine Mandell, author of “When You Fast: Recipes for Lenten Seasons,” available through our parish bookstore (See Katrina).  Catherine is the daughter of the ever-memorable Father Thomas Hopko, well-known author, speaker, and Dean Emeritus of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. This interview was broadcast a few years ago on PBS’s “Religion and Ethics Weekly,” from whose website this link is taken.  I hope you find it helpful.


http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/april-8-2011/orthodox-lenten-meals/8542/


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Thursday Mar. 9th , 2017


Thursday of the Second Week of Lent


Beloved in Christ,


A few short quotes from the writings of Saint Ephraim the Syrian:


A Humble Person


A humble person is never rash, hasty or perturbed; never has any hot and volatile thoughts, but at all times remains calm.  Even if heaven were to fall and cleave to the earth, the humble person would not be dismayed.


Not every quiet person is humble, but every humble person is quiet.  There is no humble person who is not self-constrained, but you will find many who are self-constrained without being humble.


This is also what the meek and humble Lord meant when He said, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart.”  For the humble person is always at rest, because there is nothing that can agitate or trouble his mind.


Just as no one can frighten a mountain, so the mind of a humble person cannot be frightened.  If it be permissible, and not incongruous, I should say that a humble person is not of this world.  For he is not troubled or altered by sorrows, nor amazed or enthused by joys, but all his gladness and his real rejoicing are in the things of his Master.


Humility is accompanied by modesty and self-collectedness, i.e. by chastity of the senses,  a moderate voice, normal speech, self-belittlement, modest clothing, a way of walking that is not pompous or ostentatious, a gaze directed to the earth,  superabundant and overflowing mercy, easily flowing tears, a contrite heart, imperturbability to anger, undistracted senses, few possessions, moderation in every need, patience, endurance, fearlessness, courage of heart born of contempt for the things of this temporal life, patient endurance of trials and temptations, deliberations that are serious and not frivolous, extinction of thoughts, guarding of the mysteries of chastity, modesty, reverence, and above all – continually to be still and always to claim ignorance.


The humble person never encounters a necessity that can trouble or confuse him.  When alone, he even feels shame before himself.  (Homily 71)


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Wednesday, Mar. 8th ,of the Second Week of Lent

 

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.  But give, rather, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.  Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.  Amen.

 

During the Season of Great Lent, we pray this Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian every day.  However, many know nothing about the author of this important prayer.  Here follows a short life of this great saint:

 

Saint Ephraim was born in Nisibis of Mesopotamia some time about the year 306, and in his youth was the disciple of Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis, one of the 318 Fathers at the First Ecumenical Council. Ephraim lived in Nisibis, practicing a severe ascetical life and increasing in holiness, until 363, the year in which Julian the Apostate was slain in his war against the Persians, and his successor Jovian surrendered Nisibis to them. Ephraim then made his dwelling in Edessa, where he found many heresies to do battle with. He waged an especial war against Bardaisan; this gnostic had written many hymns propagating his errors, which by their sweet melodies became popular and enticed souls away from the truth. Saint Ephraim, having received from God a singular gift of eloquence, turned Bardaisan's own weapon against him, and wrote a multitude of hymns to be chanted by choirs of women, which set forth the true doctrines, refuted heretical error, and praised the contests of the Martyrs.

Of the multitude of sermons, commentaries, and hymns that Saint Ephraim wrote, many were translated into Greek in his own lifetime. Sozomen says that Ephraim "Surpassed the most approved writers of Greece," observing that the Greek writings, when translated into other tongues, lose most of their original beauty, but Ephraim's works "are no less admired when read in Greek than when read in Syriac" (Eccl. Hist., Book 111, 16). Saint Ephraim was ordained deacon, some say by Saint Basil the Great, whom Sozomen said "was a great admirer of Ephraim, and was astonished at his erudition." Saint Ephraim was the first to make the poetic expression of hymnody and song a vehicle of Orthodox theological teachings, constituting it an integral part of the Church's worship; he may rightly be called the first and greatest hymnographer of the Church, who set the pattern for these who followed him, especially Saint Romanos the Melodist. Because of this he is called the "Harp of the Holy Spirit." Jerome says that his writings were read in some churches after the reading of the Scriptures, and adds that once he read a Greek translation of one of Ephraim's works, "and recognized, even in translation, the incisive power of his lofty genius" (De vir. ill., ch. CXV).

Shortly before the end of his life, a famine broke out in Edessa, and Saint Ephraim left his cell to rebuke the rich for not sharing their goods with the poor. The rich answered that they knew no one to whom they could entrust their goods. Ephraim asked them, "What do you think of me?" When they confessed their reverence for him, he offered to distribute their alms, to which they agreed. He himself cared with his own hands for many of the sick from the famine, and so crowned his life with mercy and love for neighbor. Saint Ephraim reposed in peace, according to some in the year 373, according to others, 379.


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Monday Mar. 6th, 2017


Monday of the Second Week of Lent


Beloved in Christ,


I hope that those of you who were able to attend last evening’s Vesper Service for the Sunday of Orthodoxy found it to be a spiritually enriching experience and a fruitful part of your Lenten journey.  Many thanks to Father Christopher Salamy and the clergy and faithful of Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church for their gracious hospitality.  These Lenten Vesper services, held every Sunday evening during Lent and hosted by various parishes, are a special expression of Orthodox solidarity and of the unity of faith we share with our Orthodox brothers and sisters throughout the Valley.  Next Sunday’s Vespers will be hosted by Saint John the Evangelist Mission in Tempe (6:00 p.m.).  Please make plans now to attend next week’s service as well as the others that will follow.  


With love in the Lord,

+Bishop Daniel


Today begins the second week of the Lenten Fast:


“Let us begin the second week of the fast, O brothers,

fulfilling it with rejoicing, day by day,

making a fiery chariot for ourselves, like Elijah the Tishbite,

out of the great cardinal virtues,

elevating our minds by subduing our passions,

arming ourselves with purity,

to chase away and vanquish the Enemy!”

-       from Vespers of Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Sunday Mar. 5th, 2017


First Sunday of Lent – Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy


Beloved in Christ,


I wish you a joyous feast as we celebrate the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.  Through our lives of fidelity to the Truth of the Gospel, may we all contribute to the Triumph of Orthodoxy in our own day.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


Verses from Vespers of the Sunday of Orthodoxy—


Grace and truth have shone forth.

The predictions of old have been clearly fulfilled.

Behold, the Church adorns herself with the form of Christ incarnate!

The icons of the new creation transcend the adornments of the old.

As the Ark of the Covenant held the presence of God,

so now the icons reveal the presence of the One we adore.

By honoring them we will never go astray.

It is our glory to fall down and worship Christ in the flesh.

Come, O faithful, venerate His image and cry out:

“O Lord, save Your people, and bless Your inheritance!”


Advancing from false doctrine to true faith,

illumined with the light of knowledge,

let us clap our hands and offer grateful praise to God in song!

With due honor let us venerate the holy icons of Christ,

of the all-pure Virgin, and of all the saints,

depicted on walls or panels or sacred vessels,

rejecting the godless teaching of the heretics!

For as Saint Basil says:

“The honor shown to the image passes to its prototype.”

By the prayers of Your pure Mother and of all the saints,

we beseech You, O Christ our God, to grant us great mercy!


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Saturday, March 4th, 2017


Beloved in Christ,


Thank you to all who participated in this morning’s Divine Liturgy celebrated on the occasion of my nameday in honor of Saint Daniel of Moscow.  Thanks, as well, for the lovely coffee hour that followed.


Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy as we recall the restoration of the Holy Icons to the life of the Church.  As is our custom, the children of our parish are invited to bring icons from home to carry in the procession that follows the Divine Liturgy.  Icons will also be available for anyone who forgets to bring their own.

 

For a nice reflection on the meaning of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, you might wish to read the following brief article by Fr Alexander Schmemann:


 http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-alexander-schmemann/sunday-of-orthodoxy


Let’s pray that each one of us will participate in the mission of the Church: the proclamation of the fullness of Truth revealed in the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ,


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Friday, March 3rd, 2017


Beloved in Christ,


In last Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 6:14-21), the Lord Jesus spoke to us of fasting, telling us that when we fast (not if we fast), we are to have a positive attitude about this important spiritual practice. One of the most commons questions I’m asked during this time of the year is about the Orthodox practice of fasting- most especially about how to fast, what are the “rules” for the fast, etc.  The following link provides a short commentary on the Orthodox practice of fasting during Great Lent:


http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/.../prayer.../lenten-fasting


When we fast, we should always be aware of the fact that fasting, in and of itself, is not something that is holy.  Rather, fasting is a spiritual exercise which takes us outside of ourselves and beyond our usual day-to-day routine, in order to help us recognize that this season is different and that our focus is also different—with less attention being given to our physical needs and more attention being given to our spiritual growth in the Lord.


There are always questions of health and age and how various circumstances (e.g. school or work) might make it more difficult to fast.  My answer remains the same: be realistic- fasting is not really that difficult. Trust the Church’s centuries of experience and wisdom in this regard; expect more from yourself than you think you can do; and don’t easily excuse yourself from the fast.  Even when fasting we still have healthier and more abundant food than most of the world has year-round.  When we keep the fast, the feasting that follows is all the more meaningful and all the more joyous. Lastly, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine…

+Bishop Daniel


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Thursday March 2nd, 2017 of the First Week of Lent


Beloved in Christ,


Since the earliest Christian centuries, Orthodox Christians have made pilgrimages to the Holy Land, to monasteries, and to other holy sites as a means of enriching their spiritual lives.  The Great Fast is a most appropriate time to go on pilgrimage and seek the blessings that accompany such spiritual endeavors.  If you’re able to make arrangements to visit a monastery or holy place during these weeks of the Fast, consider yourself blessed.  If you simply can’t do that in the midst of everything else going on in your life, there are other ways to “go on pilgrimage" during this Lenten season.  Consider taking a day (or even a morning or an afternoon) to go somewhere that takes you away from your normal activities and routine: spend some extra time in prayer, reflect upon the Gospel accounts of the Passion of Christ, take a long prayerful walk in the beauty of God’s creation, or just spend some time apart, away from your normal hectic routine.


Another very simple way to make at least a symbolic pilgrimage is to visit our sister parishes in the Phoenix area for Sunday Lenten Vespers.  Travel to another church here in the Valley, pray with your brothers and sisters from other parishes, and spend some time in friendship and fellowship with others who, like you, are making the Lenten journey, the Lenten pilgrimage to the Empty Tomb.  


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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Wednesday March 1st, 2017


Beloved in Christ,


This evening our parish community will celebrate the first Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts of this Lenten season.  As a preparation for this evening’s Liturgy and as part of your Lenten study, you might like to review two short articles on this ancient liturgical service at the following links:


http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-div/liturgy-of-the-presanctified-gifts


http://orthodoxwiki.org/Liturgy_of_the_Presanctified_Gifts


and a nice recording of Bortniansky’s “Let my prayer arise…” from the Presanctified Liturgy (in Slavonic):


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-05lT8-N0k


Please also plan on joining us for a simple Lenten meal (soup, salad, bread, & fruit) following these Liturgies every Wednesday during Lent.  Sharing in the Church’s Lenten cycle of services, being nourished mid-week with the Holy Mysteries, and joining in fellowship with your brothers and sisters will add greatly to your Lenten journey.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine,

+Bishop Daniel


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February 27, 2017


Monday of the First Week of Lent


Beloved in Christ,


I am remembering all of you with love on this first day of the Great Fast, praying with you and for you that the Lord will grant you all a grace-filled forty days.  May our shared Lenten journey bring all of us to share in the fullness of Christ’s joy on Pascha, the glorious Feast of Feasts!  


With love in the Lord,

+Bishop Daniel


Let us begin the fast with joy!

Let us prepare ourselves for spiritual efforts!

Let us cleanse our soul and cleanse our flesh!

Let us abstain from every passion as we abstain from food!

Let us rejoice in virtues of the Spirit and fulfill them in love,

that we all may see the Passion of Christ our God,

and rejoice in spirit at the Holy Pascha!    

-       Vespers, Monday of the First Week of Lent


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May 17, 2016


Christ is Risen!


The Teen and Young Adult League would like to invite you to participate in their next service project at St. Mary’s Foodbank…


This Saturday, May 21, 12:00 noon – 3:00 p.m.

St Mary’s Foodbank

Del Webb Distribution Center

2831 N 31st Ave, Phoenix 85009 

We will be packing/sorting/distributing food during this event.

This event is open to everyone 12 years and older (if under 18 years old, parents must sign a waiver when they drop the child off) and it is open to EVERYONE IN THE PARISH, so pass the word along!!!


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May 6, 2016


XB

Christ is risen!

 

This Sunday is Mothers Day-- a day on which we're given the opportunity to pray for and honor all the significant women who have been and continue to be a part of our lives.  As part of our observance of Mothers Day, our Teen & Young Adult League (T&YAL) will be hosting its annual Mothers Day Brunch following the Divine Liturgy of Thomas Sunday.  Please make your plans accordingly.  We look forward to sharing the day with all our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, spiritual mothers, and all the women of our parish community.

 

Blessings of the 40-day Feast...

+Bishop Daniel


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May 6, 2016


Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

I pray that everyone is continuing to bask in the light and joy of Pascha.  After 40 days of fasting, we now enjoy the 40 days of Paschal feasting!

 

The annual Arizona Walk for Missions is scheduled to be held next Saturday, May 14, at Kiwanis Park.  Please plan on walking, helping set up, or supporting with you financial donation.  Proceeds equally benefit the Orthodox Christian Missions Center (OCMC) and Project Mexico.  For more information, please see the attached flier as well as the flier providing directions to the location.

 

Those who will be walking are seeking pledges-- and will be asking for your pledges this Sunday (if they haven't already done so). Please be generous in your support of this annual inter-Orthodox event.  Share the joy of Pascha...

 

Blessings...

+Bishop Daniel


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Monday, May 2, 2016


Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

 

Beloved in Christ,

 

As we continue the forty-day feast of the Lord's Resurrection, I pray you are still basking in the light and joy of our parish Holy Week and Pascha celebrations.  Many thanks for everyone who, in any way, contributed to making this year's celebration so reverent, prayerful, and vibrantly joyous.  We are blessed to have such a wonderful community.  And I am blessed to serve as your pastor!

 

To help keep alive the joy of this Feast of Feasts, you might like to follow the following link to a beautiful video of the Paschal Canon sung in various languages:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka7htN2BbiE

With love in the Risen Savior,

+Bishop Daniel


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Saturday, Apr 30, 2016


From this morning’s Vesperal Liturgy (9:00 a.m.)—


Today, Hell cries out groaning:

“My power has been trampled down.

The  Shepherd is crucified and Adam is raised.

I have been deprived of those whom I ruled.

Those whom I swallowed in my strength I have given up.

He Who was crucified has emptied the tombs.

The power of death has been vanquished.”

Glory to Your Cross and Resurrection, O Lord!


The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:

“God blessed the seventh day.”

This is the blessed Sabbath;

this is the day of rest,

on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works.

By suffering death to fulfill the plan of salvation,

He kept the Sabbath in the flesh;

by returning again to what He was,

He has granted us eternal life through His Resurrection,

for He alone is good and the Lover of man.


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Friday, Apr 29, 2016


Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

On this great and holy day on which Christ offered His life on the Cross for the salvation of the world, we stand in silent awe before the Mystery of the Son of God shedding His blood and offering His life on the Altar of the Cross.  We come together in prayer today and commemorate this great mystery of our salvation with the solemn Vespers and Burial Service (3:00 p.m.) and Matins with Lamentations at the Lord's Tomb (6:00 p.m.).

 

Joseph and Nicodemus took Thee, Who clothest Thyself with light as with a garment, down from the tree, and having gazed upon Thy Body, dead, naked and unburied, and in grief and tender compassion he lamented: Woe is me, sweetest Jesus, Whom, a short while ago, the sun beheld hanging on the cross hid itself in darkness, and the earth quaked in fear, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two: But lo, now I see Thee, willingly submit to death for my sake; How shall I bury Thee, my God, or how can I wrap Thee in a shroud? How can I touch Thine uncorrupt body with my hands? Or what songs can I see for Thine Exodus, O compassionate One? I magnify Thy passion, I glorify in hymns both Thy burial and resurrection, crying out: O Lord, glory to Thee.

Asking the Lord's blessing upon you and your loved ones...

+Bishop Daniel


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Thursday, Apr 28, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


This morning (9:00 a.m.) we celebrate the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of the Lord’s Mystical Supper, commemorating what is commonly referred to as “The Last Supper.” Today’s main theme is found in the major hymn of this day: “Of Thy Mystical Supper….” This hymn is sung many times during this morning’s Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. It replaces the Cherubic Hymn, and “Let our mouths be filled…” (sung after Communion); it is also the Communion verse of the day.


Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God,

accept me today as a communicant,

for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies,

neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss;

but like the thief will I confess Thee:

Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.


On this last night with His disciples, Christ took bread, and blessed, and broke it. He gave it to His disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my Body.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” After the supper, Jesus led the disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It was there that Judas came and betrayed Him, beginning the last phase of His voluntary Passion, Death, and Burial—and leading to His life-giving Resurrection.


May the Lord Who gives Himself to us in the Mystery of His Body and Blood, strengthen us to walk with Him to the Cross on Golgotha and, then, to join the Myrrhbearing Women as the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection is proclaimed at the empty tomb.


Assuring you of my prayers throughout these holy days…

+Bishop Daniel


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Wednesday, Apr 27, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

 

We gather this morning to celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (9:00 a.m.).  Our participation in this Service nourishes us with the very Presence of Christ as we walk with him in these saving days of His Passion.

The theme that pervades the services of Great and Holy Wednesday is the commemoration of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus before his Crucifixion and Burial; a second theme is the agreement to betray Jesus made by Judas Iscariot.  For this reason, Wednesday of Holy Week is known in some places as “Spy Wednesday” because from today Judas “spied for” an opportunity betray the Lord.

A moving moment in today’s Matins Service (sung last evening) is the Hymn of Kassiani. The hymn, written in the 9th century by Kassiani the Nun, tells of the woman who washed Christ's feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee (see Luke 7:36-50).  Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gathers into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself from in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."


Here’s a youtube link to the Hymn of Kassiani, sung in English in Byzantine chant:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHIqvNngR2c&feature=related


Like the sinful woman of the Gospel, may we recognize in Christ the One whose mercy washes away our sinfulness and brings us to the joy of His Resurrection.


With love & blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


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Great and Holy Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


Today the Church guides us, the faithful, to spiritual watchfulness, as is appropriate in view of the sufferings of the Lord for us which we reflect upon during this special week. In today's hymns the Church, with special persistence, inspires us also about the obligation of spiritual watchfulness and religious-moral perfection for us, calling out: “Let us love the Bridegroom, O brethren, Let us adorn our lamps, shining with virtues and right belief: that like the wise virgins of the Lord we may be ready to enter with Him into the marriage"; "O come, faithful, let us work zealously for the Master, for He distributes wealth to His servants. And let each of us according to his ability increase his talent of grace: Let one be adorned in wisdom through good works, let another celebrate a service in splendor. The one distributes his wealth to the poor; the other communicates the word to those untaught. Thus we shall increase what has been entrusted to us, and as faithful stewards of grace, we shall be accounted worthy of the Master's joy".


Kontakion of Matins, tone 2 -

You understood that this is the last hour, O soul,

And have feared the cutting of the fig tree.

Work diligently with the talent given to you.

Keep watch and cry: Let us not remain outside the bridal chamber of Christ.


Let’s continue in prayer for one another.  May the week lead all of us to fullness of joy in the Risen Lord.  (Bridegroom Matins this evening, 6:00 p.m.)

 

With love & blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


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Great and Holy Monday, Apr 25, 2016


From Bridegroom Matins –


Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight,

And blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching;

And again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.

Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be burdened with sleep,

Lest you be given over to death,

And lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.

But return to your senses and cry aloud:

Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O our God,

Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.

 

LINK TO THE BRIDEGROOM TROPARION FROM VALAAM MONASTERY CHOIR (sung in English):

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c00GlAIWJdg


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Palm Sunday, Apr 24, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

 

After this morning's celebration of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, we begin our observance of Holy Week in earnest with this evening's celebration of Bridegroom Matins (6:00 p.m.)

 

The first days of Holy Week are highlighted by the Matins Service known as “Bridegroom Matins.”  In these services, we will reflect upon the last days of the Lord as well as upon the fact that he will come again—at an hour and on a day we do not know.  The icon of Christ the Bridegroom is placed in the middle of the Church for our veneration, the scripturally-based texts of the service are sung to solemn and moving melodies… and we acknowledge Christ as the Bridegroom of His Church.

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching, and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, O our God, Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.


Most modern people—meaning people living in the affluent and comfortable societies of North America and Europe—spend little time examining their consciences and reflecting on eternity. They are simply too busy, too caught up with the “cares of this world” to concern themselves with the next. If Jesus is to be taken at his word, this is a very dangerous assumption. As the Bridegroom Hymn (based on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in the gospel of St. Matthew, 25:1-13) makes clear: if we are caught unaware when the day of Judgment comes we will be shut out of the Kingdom. It is that simple.


Bridegroom Matins can be seen as another “wake-up call” that encourages us to be ready for the Bridegroom when He comes. This is the prescription we are given for re-orienting our lives towards eternity. However, it is not, in truth, something which is limited to the Lenten season; it is meant to become a way of life. Lent just gives us an added push in the direction of becoming truly spiritually awake and prepared to stand before the “awesome judgment seat of Christ.”  Hopefully, the season of the Fast has awakened in us the desire to change, to repent, to turn our hearts toward what really matters, the “pearl of great price” that never loses its value.


With love and prayers,

+Bishop Daniel


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Thursday, Apr 21, 2016


Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

 

The great and awesome days of Holy Week will soon be upon us.  Attached please find the schedule of Holy Week services.  I look forward to praying with you throughout these holy days as we commemorate the "Week that Changed the World"  -- indeed, the week that has changed our lives and brings us to the doors of Paradise.

 

Also, please note the following:

 

Tomorrow, Friday, April 22:  Funeral Services for Rose Koval at Sunland Mortuary & Cemetery, Sun City, 10:30 a.m.

 

Saturday:  We will have the joy of welcoming into the Church Bill & Susan Weiss, Lauren, Hailie, and Sophie.  The Service of Baptism and Chrismation will begin at 8:00 a.m. and will be immediately followed by the Diving Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday.  Following Liturgy:  Decoration of the church and preparation of palm and pussy willow branches for Palm Sunday (The Sunday of the Entrance of the Lord in Jerusalem.)  Please plan on staying to help.

 

Let's all remember to continue to pray for everyone in our parish community.  May our common prayer and fellowship in the days ahead bring us all to a bright and joyous celebration of Holy Pascha.

 

With love & blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


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Wednesday, Apr 20, 2016

Beloved in Christ,

 

The following prayer adds to our reflection upon the Lord’s Passion:

 

God, Who has made all men in Thy likeness

and lovest all whom Thou has made,

reconcile us with one another and with Thee;

and as Thy Son and our Saviour was

born of a Hebrew Mother,

but rejoiced in the faith of a Syrian woman

and of a Roman soldier,

welcomed the Greeks who sought Him, and suffered a man from Africa

to carry His cross,

so teach us to look upon the members of all races as fellow-heirs of the kingdom of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen


As we enter into the last week of the Fast and prepare to enter Holy Week, let’s continue to pray for one another, asking the Lord to grant us all a meaningful Holy Week observance and a bright and joyous celebration of Pascha.


With love and blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


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Saturday, Apr 16, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

Tomorrow we arrive at the last Sunday of the Great Fast.  It is Saint Mary of Egypt, whose conversion to Christ and life of repentance, inspires us in our own spiritual journey.  By her prayers, may we also recognize the Cross of Christ as the key that opens for us the doors of Paradise.

+Bishop Daniel

Troparion - Tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother,
For you took up the Cross and followed Christ.
By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away;
But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.
Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels.

ALSO:  Happy First Birthday (today) to Elisha Ferbrache!

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Friday, Apr 15, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

This Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Lent, is dedicated to reflecting upon the life and example of Saint Mary of Egypt, the great sinner whose life was transformed by the power of God.  We are blessed to have a beautiful icon of Saint Mary in our church for our veneration and for contemplation of the life of this great model of Christian life.  Below is a short sermon for the fifth Sunday of the Fast by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (+2003).  

As we enter into the “home stretch” of the Great Fast, may St Mary, model of repentance, intercede for us all.

Love & blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


SUNDAY OF SAINT MARY OF EGYPT

In the In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

On the fifth Sunday in Lent we remember Saint Mary of Egypt, and she can teach us a great deal of what we need to know. She was a sinner, publicly known, a temptation and a scandal to men. How she became a sinner - we do not know; whether there was evil in her, whether she was seduced or raped, how she became a harlot, we shall never know. What we know for sure is that one day she came to a church of the Mother of God - the image of perfect wholeness - and she suddenly felt that she could not enter it. We need not imagine a miraculous force preventing her from crossing the threshold; the force was probably - certainly - within herself. She felt that the realm was too sacred, and the person of the Mother of God too holy for her to dare walk into Her presence and stand in the precincts of the church.


This was enough for her to realise that all the past was darkness, and that there was but one way out of it: to shake off all evil and to start a new life. She did not go for advice, she did not go for confession; she walked out of the city into the desert, into the scorching desert where there was nothing but sand and heat and hunger, and desperate loneliness.


She can teach us something very great. As Saint Seraphim of Sarov repeated more than once to those who came to see him, the difference between a sinner who is lost and a sinner who finds his way to salvation lies in nothing but determination. The grace of God is always there; but our response is not. But Mary responded; through the horror of her new perception of herself she responded to the holiness, the grace, the wholeness and sanctity of the Mother of God, and nothing, nothing was too much for her to change her life.


Year after year, in fasting and prayer, in the scorching heat, in the desperate aloneness of the desert she fought all the evil that had accumulated in her soul; because it is not enough, to become aware of the evil, it is not enough even to reject it in an act of will, it is there, in our memories, in our desires, in our frailty, in the rottenness which evil brings. She had to fight for her whole life, but at the end of that life she had conquered; indeed, she had fought the good fight, she had become pure of stain, she could enter the realm of God: not a temple, not a place but eternity.


She can teach us a great deal. She can teach us that only if one day we become aware that in the realm into which we walk so freely: the church, or simply the world created by God and which has remained pure of evil although subjected, enslaved to evil, because of us - is so holy that we alone have no place there, we might in response to this sense repent, that is turn away from ourselves in horror, and turn against ourselves with stern determination. Then we could follow her example.


This example of hers is presented to us as a crowning moment of this spring of life, which is Lent. A week before we heard the teaching and call of Saint John of the Ladder, the one who has established a whole ladder of perfection for us to overcome evil and come to right. And today we see one who from the very depth of evil was brought to the heights of saintliness, and as the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete says: 'Be sure that God Who could heal the leprous could heal the leprosy which is yours'.


Let us therefore see in her a new encouragement, a new hope, indeed, a new joy, but also a challenge, a call, because it is in vain that we sing the praise of saints if we do not learn from them and emulate them. Amen.


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Saturday, Apr 9, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

I appreciate your ongoing prayers, as does Protodeaocn Alexis who spent the last few days in the hospital.  Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Lent, the Lenten Sunday set aside to reflect upon the life and teachings of Saint John Climacus (“of the Ladder”).  I thought it would be good to reflect upon his teachings in the following sermon from Metropolitan Anthony of Sorouzh.  With love & blessings, +Bishop Daniel

Saint John of the Ladder

9 April 1989

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Lent is a time of repentance, a time when our heart of stone must be made by the power of God into a heart of flesh, from insensitive to become perceptive, from cold and hard to become warm and open to others, and indeed, to God Himself.

Lent is a time of renewal when, like in spring, everything become new again; when our life that had gone into a twilight becomes alive with all the intensity which God can communicate to us, humans, by making us partakers of His Holy Spirit, by making us partakers, through the Holy Sacraments and the direct gift of God, of the Divine nature.

It is a time of reconciliation, and reconciliation is a joy: it is God's joy, and it is our joy; it's a new beginning.

Today is the day of Saint John of the Ladder, and I want to read to you a few phrases of his which are relevant to the particular time of the year in which we live:

“Repentance, that is our return to God, is a renewal of our baptism; it is our effort to renew our covenant with God, our promise to change our life. It is a time when we can acquire humility, that is peace; peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with all the created world. Repentance is born of hope and rejection of despair. And one who repents is one who deserves condemnation — and yet, goes away from the tribunal without shame, because repentance is our peace with God. And this is achieved through a worthy life, alien to the sins we committed in the past. Repentance is cleansing of our conscience. Repentance implies carrying off all sadness and pain.”

And if we ask ourselves how we can achieve it, how we can come to this, how we can respond to God Who receives us as the father received the prodigal son, a God Who has waited for us, longingly, Who, rejected, never turned away from us — how can we respond to Him? — here is a short word about prayer :

“Don't use in prayer falsely wise words; because it is often the simple and uncomplicated whispering of children that rejoices our heavenly Father. Don't try to say much when you speak to God, because otherwise your mind in search of words will be lost in them. One word spoken by the publican brought Divine mercy upon him; one word filled with faith saved the thief on the cross. The use of the multiplicity of words when we pray disperses our mind and fill it with imaginations. One word spoken to God collects the mind in His presence. And if a word, in thy prayer, reaches you deeply, if you perceive it profoundly — dwell in it, dwell in it, because at such moments our Angel guardian prays with us because we are true to ourselves and to God”.

Let us remember what Saint John of the Ladder says, even if you forget the short comments which I introduced to make his text more readily understandable. Let us remember his words because he was a man who knew what it means to turn to God, to stay with God, to be God’s joy and to rejoice in Him. He is offered us in this time, when we are ascending towards the days of the Passion, he is offered us as an example of what grace Divine can do to transform an ordinary, simple human being into a light to the world.

Let us learn from him, let us follow his example, let us rejoice in what God can do by His power in a human being, and let us confidently, with faith, with an exulting and yet serene joy follow the advice, listen to God begging us to find a way of life and telling us that with Him, in Him we will be alive, because He is the Truth but also the Way and also Life eternal. Amen.

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Tuesday, Apr 5, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


We're already over halfway into Great Lent and maybe you're feeling spiritually lethargic.  Maybe you're wondering whether you’re making any spiritual headway or accomplishing any spiritual good or experiencing any spiritual growth.  Maybe you're not seeing the “results” you want.  If that's the case, the following words from the Discourses of Saint Symeon the New Theologian (+1022) offer hope, encouragement, and perspective:

 

"'My brethren, it is not possible for these things to come about in one day or one week! They will take much time, labor, and pain, in accordance with each man's attitude and willingness, according to the measure of faith and one's contempt for the objects of sight and thought. In addition, it is also in accordance with the fervor of his ceaseless penitence and its constant working in the secret chamber of his heart that this is accomplished more quickly or more slowly by the gift and grace of God. But without fasting no one was ever able to achieve any of these virtues or any others, for fasting is the beginning and foundation of every spiritual activity.”

 

Let's continue to pray for one another....

Love & blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


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Monday, Apr 4, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

Yesterday we had a beautiful celebration of the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross.  Throughout this week we continue to reflect upon the Cross in the history of our salvation and in our daily lives.  May the saving Cross of Christ encourage us as we continue our Lenten journey to the Lord’s Pascha—His passion, death, and glorious Resurrection.

It might be helpful to meditate on the following verses from Vespers of this past Sunday:

O mighty Cross of the Lord, manifest thyself: show me the divine vision of thy beauty, and grant me worthily to venerate thee. For I speak to thee and embrace thee as though thou wast alive.

Hail! life-giving Cross, the fair Paradise of the Church, Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory: through thee the hosts of demons have been driven back; and the hierarchies of angels rejoice with one accord, as the congregations of the faithful keep the feast. Thou art an invincible weapon, an unbroken stronghold; thou art the victory of kings and the glory of priests. Grant us now to draw near to the Passion of Christ and to His Resurrection.

Hail! life-giving Cross, unconquerable trophy of the true faith, door to Paradise, succour of the faithful, rampart set about the Church. Through thee the curse is utterly destroyed, the power of death is swallowed up, and we are raised from earth to heaven: invincible weapon, adversary of demons, glory of martyrs, true ornament of holy monks, haven of salvation bestowing on the world great mercy.

-          From the Great Vespers on Saturday Evening before the Third Sunday of Lent, The Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross


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Friday, Apr 01, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

 

Tomorrow is one of the Memorial/Soul Saturdays observed during the Lenten Fast.  On these Saturdays, we pray for and remember our beloved departed as an act of mercy and love. We also pause to reflect upon our own mortal nature, remembering that we, too, shall one day stand before the Lord and be judged according to our deeds.


We will pray the Panikhida/Memorial Service at 4:30 p.m., followed by Vespers at 5:00 p.m. The names of departed loved ones that have been submitted to me this year will be remembered during this service.  


From the Book of Wisdom -  Chapter 3

1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. 7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. 8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. 9 Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.



May the Lord grant rest with the saints to the founders of our parish, to all our departed loved ones, and to all who have placed their trust in Him.  May their memory be eternal!


Love and Blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


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Wednesday, Mar 30, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


This evening at 6:00 p.m., we will celebrate the ancient and beautiful Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  The composer of this Liturgy of Saint Gregory Dialogus (because of his writings known as the Dialogues).  Saint Gregory was born around the year 540 A.D. During his years of service as a deacon, he was sent to Constantinople as ambassador to represent the Pope at the Imperial Court.  It was there that he became familiar with and appreciative of the Eastern liturgical sensitivity and aesthetic.  Later, as the Bishop of Rome, he became  known for his great liturgical reforms, for the chant that bears his name (Gregorian Chant), as well as for arranging the prayers and ceremonial of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.


Saint Gregory is invoked at the dismissal of this Liturgy, just as Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great are also commemorated at the end of the Liturgies which they compiled and which bear their names.  Each time we hear the name of this Bishop of Rome at the end of the Presanctified Liturgy, it is good for us to remember the time when the entire Christian world- the fullness of the Church- was in communion.  Having suffered through years of heresies and persecutions, the Church managed to maintain its unity for a little over one thousand years.  Unfortunately, this unity of faith and life was ruptured in the year 1054—undoubtedly one of the most unfortunate years in the entire history of Christianity.


As we celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Holy Gifts as part of our Lenten prayer, and as we remember its author, as bishop of the Church at Rome, let’s remember to pray for the unity of the Church—the same unity for which our Lord Jesus Christ prayed on the night before He offered His life on the Cross: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).


Prayers and blessings,

+Bishop Daniel


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Monday, Mar 28, 2016


Beloved in Christ,

 

Yesterday we had a wonderful celebration of the visit of His Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN.  Many thanks to all who made his visit a successful, joyful, and blessed occasion for our parish community.


At this point, we’re well into the Great Fast and maybe, just possibly, we’re beginning to become a bit weary of the fast and what it asks of us, especially regarding food and meals, what’s allowed and what isn’t.  Maybe some of us are already to the point of rationalizing why we shouldn’t keep the fast.  Here’s a link to a short, helpful, and thought-provoking interview with Catherine Mandell, author of “When You Fast: Recipes for Lenten Seasons."  Catherine is the daughter of well-known author,  Father Thomas Hopko. This interview was broadcast in 2012 on PBS’s “Religion and Ethics Weekly,” from whose website this link is taken.  I hope you find it helpful.


http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/april-8-2011/orthodox-lenten-meals/8542/

 

With love and blessings,

+Bishop Daniel



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Saturday, Mar 26, 2016


Brothers and Sisters,

 

As you're already aware, our Diocesan Bishop and Archpastor, His Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN, will be visiting our parish community this weekend.  He will preside at this evening's Vesper service and lead us in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy tomorrow morning.  The visit of the diocesan bishop is always an important moment in the life of any parish.  The presence of our bishop not only reminds us of the unity of the Church, but also reminds us that we, at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Phoenix, are a component part of the Diocese of the West and of the universal Orthodox Church.  

 

During the season of the Great Fast we are assisted in our growth in holiness through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  But almsgiving sometimes gets lost in the mix.  Too often we forget that we are called to reach out in charity to those in need as part of our ongoing spiritual journey.  One of the ways we accomplish this each year is through our participation in the Arizona Walk for Missions, an event which supports the important work of Project Mexico/St Innocent Orphanage and the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).  The Walk is scheduled for Saturday, May 14.  Mark your calendars now and plan on participating in the walk and through making a donation to this worthwhile endeavor.  More information will be forthcoming.

 

Love & Blessings,

+Bishop Daniel



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Friday, Mar 25, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation to the Theotokos.  We honor the great mystery by which the Pre-Eternal Son of God took on our human flesh in the womb of the Most Pure Virgin.  As we celebrate this key moment in the history of our salvation, let us also honor Mary of Nazareth, the Ever-virgin Theotokos, chosen by God to bring forth His Only-Begotten Son.  We ask her intercession as we continue our Lenten journey, praying that we, like her, may accept the Word of God into our hearts and bring the Presence of Christ into the world through our daily lives.  You may like to reflect upon the scriptural account of the Annunciation found in Luke 1:26-38.  

 

Prayers and Blessings...

+Bishop Daniel



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Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016


Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.  But give, rather, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.  Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.  Amen.


During the Season of Great Lent, we pray this Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian every day—as we will this evening at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (6:00 pm).  However, many know little about the author of this important prayer or about his many teachings on the spiritual life.  Here follow a few of his thoughts on humility:


A humble person is never rash, hasty or perturbed; never has any hot and volatile thoughts, but at all times remains calm.  Even if heaven were to fall and cleave to the earth, the humble person would not be dismayed.


Not every quiet person is humble, but every humble person is quiet.  There is no humble person who is not self-constrained, but you will find many who are self-constrained without being humble.


This is also what the meek and humble Lord meant when He said, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart.”  For the humble person is always at rest, because there is nothing that can agitate or trouble his mind.


Just as no one can frighten a mountain, so the mind of a humble person cannot be frightened.  If it be permissible, and not incongruous, I should say that a humble person is not of this world.  For he is not troubled or altered by sorrows, nor amazed or enthused by joys, but all his gladness and his real rejoicing are in the things of his Master.


Humility is accompanied by modesty and self-collectedness, i.e. by chastity of the senses,  a moderate voice, normal speech, self-belittlement, modest clothing, a way of walking that is not pompous or ostentatious, a gaze directed to the earth,  superabundant and overflowing mercy, easily flowing tears, a contrite heart, imperturbability to anger, undistracted senses, few possessions, moderation in every need, patience, endurance, fearlessness, courage of heart born of contempt for the things of this temporal life, patient endurance of trials and temptations, deliberations that are serious and not frivolous, extinction of thoughts, guarding of the mysteries of chastity, modesty, reverence, and above all – continually to be still and always to claim ignorance.


The humble person never encounters a necessity that can trouble or confuse him.  When alone, he even feels shame before himself.  (Homily 71)



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Monday, Mar 21, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


I hope that those of you who were able to attend last evening’s Vesper Service for the Sunday of Orthodoxy found it to be a spiritually enriching and inspiring experience.  These services, held every Sunday evening during Lent and hosted by various parishes, are a special expression of Orthodox solidarity and of the unity of faith we share with our Orthodox brothers and sisters throughout the Valley.  Next Sunday’s Vespers will be held Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church.  Please make plans now to attend next week’s service as well as the others that will follow.  If you haven’t already done it, please mark your calendars for Sunday evening, April 10, when our parish will host that week’s Vespers.  Also, you are asked to please assist in offering hospitality to our guests by bringing a Lenten dish to be shared at the reception which will follow the Vespers service.  


Let us begin the second week of the fast, O brothers,

fulfilling it with rejoicing, day by day,

making a fiery chariot for ourselves, like Elijah the Tishbite,

out of the great cardinal virtues,

elevating our minds by subduing our passions,

arming ourselves with purity,

to chase away and vanquish the Enemy!

-          from Vespers of Monday of the Second Week of Lent


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine as we continue our Lenten journey,

+Bishop Daniel




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Saturday, Mar 19, 2016


Brothers and Sisters,

 

Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy as we recall the restoration of the Holy Icons to the life of the Church. As is our custom, at the end of the Divine Liturgy the children will participate in a procession.  Icons will be provided, but the children are also encouraged to bring their own icons from home.

 

For a nice reflection on the meaning of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, you might wish to read the following brief article by Fr Alexander Schmemann:


 http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-alexander-schmemann/sunday-of-orthodoxy


Let’s pray that each one of us will participate in furthering the mission and work of the Church: the proclamation of the Truth revealed in the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ,


Asking your prayers...

+Bishop Daniel



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Friday, Mar 18, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


In last Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 6:14-21), the Lord Jesus spoke to us of fasting, telling us that we are to have a positive attitude about this essential spiritual practice. One of the most commons questions I’m asked during this time of the year is about the Orthodox practice of fasting- most especially about the “rules” for fasting.  The following link provides a short commentary on the Orthodox practice of fasting during Great Lent:


http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/.../prayer.../lenten-fasting


When we fast, (remember that Jesus advises us about when we fast, not if we fast) we should always be aware of the fact that fasting is not something that is holy in and of itself.  Rather, fasting is a spiritual exercise which takes us outside of ourselves and beyond our usual day-to-day routine, in order to help us recognize that this season is different and that our focus is also different—with less attention being given to our physical needs and more attention being given to our spiritual growth in the Lord.


There are always questions of health and age and how various circumstances (e.g. travel, school or work) might make it more difficult to fast.  My answer remains the same: be realistic.  Given the great variety of foods easily available to us, fasting is not really that difficult.  Trust the Church’s centuries of experience and wisdom in this regard; expect more from yourself than you think you can do and don’t easily excuse yourself from the fast: even when fasting, we still have healthier and more abundant food than most of the world has throughout the year.  When we keep the fast, the feasting that follows is all the more meaningful and all the more joyous. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine…

+Bishop Daniel



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Wednesday, Mar 16, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


This evening at 6:00, our parish community will celebrate the first Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts of this Lenten season.  In preparation for this evening’s Liturgy or as part of your Lenten study, you might like to review two short articles on this ancient service at the following links:


http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-div/liturgy-of-the-presanctified-gifts


http://orthodoxwiki.org/Liturgy_of_the_Presanctified_Gifts


Please plan on joining us for a simple Lenten meal (soup, salad, bread, & fruit) following the Liturgy of the Presanctified every Wednesday during Lent.  If you can assist with these light, Lenten meals, please contact Barbara Peterson.  Sharing in the Church’s Lenten cycle of services, being nourished mid-week with the Holy Mysteries, and joining in fellowship with your brothers and sisters will add greatly to your experience of this grace-filled season.


Asking your prayers and assuring you of mine as we journey through the Fast to Holy Pascha,

+Bishop Daniel



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Monday Mar 14, 2016


Beloved in Christ,


I greet you on this first day of the Great Fast, praying with you and for you.  May the Lord grant us all a grace-filled forty days.  May our shared Lenten journey bring all of us to share in the fullness of Christ’s joy on Pascha, the glorious Feast of Feasts!  


With love in the Lord,

+Bishop Daniel


Let us begin the fast with joy!

Let us prepare ourselves for spiritual efforts!

Let us cleanse our soul and cleanse our flesh!

Let us abstain from every passion as we abstain from food!

Let us rejoice in virtues of the Spirit and fulfill them in love,

that we all may see the Passion of Christ our God,

and rejoice in spirit at the Holy Pascha!    

-          Vespers, Monday of the First Week of Lent


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