Monthly Pastoral Message from Fr. Christ

PASTORAL MESSAGE

 

 

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Fr. Christ's Pastoral Message

FR. CHRIST'S PASCHAL GRATITUDE

 

Christos Anesti - Alithos Anesti!

 

            This was one of the greatest Holy Week/Pascha celebrations and experiences.  I first thank my brother and co-celebrant Fr Christopher Grecu for assisting with so much energy throughout the week.  Thank you Fr Christopher and thank you Vlassis Vasiliadis for your hospitality and opening your home to Fr Christopher during the week.

 

            Our Choir, led by our very talented Dena Papadopoulos, led a very in sync and in tune choir.  Coupled with Serena Pantazopoulos for Holy Tuesday evening's singing Kassiani's penitential hymn, needless to say, we were moved.  Our Protopsalti, Nick Tsiadis led Noel Kelly and Dyonisius Porfiriadis in some of the most beautiful Byzantine chanting we have ever heard.  With Nick's ability to chant Byzantine music in English, there was an increased understanding and appreciation of our rich and beautiful Orthodox hymnography.  Together, our chantors and choir raised our worship experience to new heights.

 

            Our Esteemed Parish Council, under the leadership of President Tony Palmieri, organized and provided good order throughout the week.  A great deal of work and "wo/manpower" goes into keeping good order and we appreciate all their hard work.

 

            The Ladies Philoptochos provided so many resources.  Under the leadership of  President Alexis Limberakis, everything was perfect.  From all the flowers to the eggs, everything was perfect.

 

            Thank you to Niki Thompson who organized this year's Church cleaning, which allowed us to enjoy a clean and bright Church this Paschal Season.  In addition, we thank all the adults & youth who came and helped:

Adults: Alex Andreadis, George Maalouf, Georgiann Eleftherakis, Joann Kusturis, Cleo Xaras, Alexandra Perrot, Bill Sherneck, Presbytera Michele

Youth: Maria Raptis, Christina Topalidis, George Topalidis, Evan Palmieri, Christopher Palmieri, Aris Tsingiropoulos, Elaina Sosangelos

 

            To our Sunday School director, Panayota Kevgas, together with her assistant, Elaine Christie, we thank you for leading our youth in so many meaningful events.  Throughout Lent and Holy Week our youth participated in countless readings, exposing them to scripture and hymns,  giving them the opportunity to speak in front of our faithful during services.  On the Saturday of Lazarus, our Sunday School youth and parents folded 1800 palms for Palm Sunday.  Holy Friday was a true blessing for our youth as we spent a great deal of time talking about Holy Week and Easter, having crafts, fellowship and confession.  With a record 20 Myrrhbearers surrounding our Kouvouklion/Epitaphion, the Church was truly blessed to have these young ladies present and well organized by Panayota and Elaine. 

 

            My right hands behind the Altar, our 60 Altar Boys worked harder than ever in making the services solemn and smooth.  Led by their captains Jason Demetris, Nick Peters and George Topalidis, together with parent leaders; John Gillespie, George Papadopoulos and Jim Peters, our young men did an exceptional job.  Thank you gentlemen for the extraordinary hours of hard work and patience.

 

             We began a new tradition this year with the ringing of bells and rattling of pots on Holy Saturday morning.  With His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos gracing us with his presence and leading us in worship, we really brought in the announcement of the Resurrection with boldness.  I thank John Touring who secured the pans for us and Angeliki Demetris who secured the bells for us.  Looking forward to the celebration again next year.  I also thank the many parishioners who brought in their pans and bells and participated.  The Church was truly filled with the energy of the Holy Spirit.  Don't forget to bring you pans and bells next year.

 

            Finally, I remain humbled and in awe of the 1000s that came faithfully through our doors throughout the week, worshiping and celebrating the great works our Lord did for us.  We are believers and I pray our faith continues to grow and bring us closer to our Risen Lord, day in and day out.

 

Christ is Risen friends - Truly He is Risen!

 

Fr. Christ

 

 

 

Lenten Pastoral Message

"Liberate all our senses from killing passions, setting over them as a benevolent sovereign our inner reason. Let the eye be averted from every evil sight, and the ear be deaf to idle talk.

 

May the tongue be purged of unseemly speech. Purify these lips that praise You, Lord. Make our hands abstain from wicked deeds, doing only such things as are pleasing to You, thus sealing with Your grace all our members, and our mind."                       Prayer taken from the Wednesday Presanctified Liturgies during Lent

 

          Beloved, I believe the above words capture the real struggle of our spiritual walk as well as the means by which we can be tempted.  I also believe if we were to indelibly etch that prayer on the forefront of our every thought during this Lenten season and beyond, we would begin to realize our true potential as Christians.   

 

          With Lent beginning March 3rd, let us embrace this opportunity of spiritual growth and renewal.  Let us embrace this opportunity to recommit our lives to Christ and His Church through worship and the tools of faith....  Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving.

 

          FASTING:  Is our tool for Spiritual Warfare. Exercising our physical and spiritual person to cleanse ourselves by improving the areas of our Christian walk that we know to be weak.

 

          PRAYER:  Opens or strengthens our relationship with Christ.  We cannot have a relationship with anyone in our lives, unless we communicate with them.  Likewise, that applies ever so much with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

          ALMSGIVING:  The Greek word used when referring to giving Alms in scripture is “eleimosini”, which means “mercy”.  So, beginning with our families, extending it to our neighbors and beyond, let us begin practicing eleimosini to those who are needy and suffering.

 

          These three essential aspects of the Christian life are found in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3) and are to be lived daily.  The Church, through her Sacred Services and spiritual life, offers us the opportunity of askesis (spiritual exercise) and of becoming more Christ-like¸ imitating Christ in all things.

 

          Join me and the entire Church family on our Lenten Journey to the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection by attending as many services as possible. 

 

With peace, love and blessings from above,

Rev. Father Christ Kontos

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Message:  Pascha 2014

 

There is perhaps no greater a message regarding the celebration of our Lord's Pascha than the words of St. John Chrysostom in his Paschal Homily.  All too often Pascha sneaks up on us and before we know it, we find ourselves in Church, Saturday night, with great anticipation awaiting the "unwaning light " and the words " Δευτε λαβετε φως - Come receive the light". 

 

Friends, let us contemplate on the following words that we may be encouraged to prepare to receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ this Pascha.  As we celebrate Christ's holy Resurrection and the words:

 

Christos Anesti - Christ is Risen,

 

resound in our hearts, I encourage you to embrace Christ who dispels all darkness and despair and replaces it with light, love and hope. 

 

With brotherly love and pastoral blessings,

 

 

Rev. Father Christ Kontos

 

If anyone is a devout lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.

If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.

If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

 

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.

 

He both honors the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.

O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!

O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!

You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!

The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you!

The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!

 

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.

Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.

 

He that was taken by death has annihilated it!

He descended into Hades and took Hades captive!

He embittered it when it tasted His flesh! And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: "Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions".

 

It was vexed, for it was abolished!

It was vexed, for it was mocked!

It was vexed, for it was purged!

It was vexed, for it was despoiled!

It was vexed, for it was bound in chains!

 

It took a body and came upon God!

It took earth and encountered Ηeaven!

It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!

 

O death, where is thy sting?

O Hades, where is thy victory?

 

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen, and life reigns!

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

 

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.

 

To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

 

This month's Pastoral Message is dedicated to questions parishioners have had about the blessed Iconography Phase we have entered to finish the spiritual transformation of our Church.

HEAVEN on  EARTH

A   SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION

 

Your questions answered by Father Christ

 

Why Iconography and stained glass?

Throughout the years, I have visited the most beautifully erected and decorated Greek Orthodox Churches in the world at Mount Athos, the Holy Lands of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and beyond. I have prayed in these Churches and experienced greater spiritual strength through the surrounding iconography and elements that go into the interior design of a Greek Orthodox house of worship.

My prayer has always been that one day, all of us, the faithful of St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church, this generation of St. Luke’s youth and adults and future generations, will be able to experience the fullness and spiritual growth once the interior of our Church is further adorned.

 

How much will it cost and why now?

The cost to complete this project is $1,000,000. It is a great deal of money and will be completed with donated funds, there will be no borrowing. I know that our parishioners are some of the most committed and faithful in their Greek Orthodox faith. This project has been in the works for close to five years.  During that time we have built a new Education and Cultural Center and gone through the worst economic recession in history. 

While there may never be a “good time” to complete this project since there are many people still suffering and we are paying down the mortgage on our new center, which serves the many needs and ministries of our youth and adults, now is the time to complete the House of God which sustains our spiritual life through Worship and the Sacraments of the Church.  Our windows need to be replaced and our Church is half adorned.

I have sought and received the blessings from Metropolitan Evangelos.  Our iconographer, George Papastamatiou is prepared to complete the iconography which he started in 1998 and our stained glass artist, Nadya Penoff, is ready to move forward.  Nadya has told me that this will be her last major project after 30 years of creating stained glass windows for Orthodox Churches and wants to make it her crowning achievement.

 

How long will it be until we get started?

We cannot start until we reach total funding.  My prayer is to raise the necessary funds to move forward by The Nativity of our Lord-Christmas-of this year and complete this sacred work by Christmas, 2014. With your prayerful consideration, I have faith it will happen.

How can I participate?

After careful consideration and consultation with the Beautification Committee, I have established “Giving Levels” to allow everyone to participate according to their means.

Quite frankly, if we are blessed to have a small number of very committed and generous parishioners to donate at the Seraphim, Celestial and Eucharist levels, the project will go forward in short order.

However, a donation at any level is a God-Send and all donations; no matter how small or large, will make a difference.

 

Will benefactors be recognized?

All benefactors at all levels will be recognized in a prominent wall display that will list the donors.

We will be discussing the display with our artists in the next few months.

A richly designed book will also be created to display all the icons and donors.

A permanent website will include vivid photographs of each icon and window along with explanations of each scene. To reinforce the permanency of our legacy, donors and their families will be recognized with pictures and videos, if they so choose.

 

Will it be possible to meet the artists?

George Papstamatiou and Nadya Penoff will make a presentation on iconography, stained glass, and spirituality to the community on Sunday, December 8th.  I am available to discuss any questions you might have and would welcome your thoughts.  You can reach me via email: Fatherck@gmail.com or call the office: 610-353-1592.

Join me as we embark on this spiritual transformation by becoming an integral part of this lasting legacy of our Church.

Peace and blessings,

Fr Christ