Dear Faithful of Saint Anthony: The sacred mission of the Church is to bring people to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). It is by this means that we come to know our Lord and to live our lives in pursuit of eternal life. It requires the commitment and conviction to live the life in Christ as an individual and within the community.
By now I hope you have had a chance to read the message on RESTORING PARISH LIFE from Metropolitan Gerasimos [https://sanfran.goarch.org/news/restoring-parish-life]. It contains a great deal of information about the reopening expectations and plan for the churches within our Metropolis. We are actively working within the guidelines of this plan to prepare St. Anthony for a return of our cherished parishioners.
I remind you of the thoughtful reflections shared by Metropolitan Gerasimos – While we are all anxious to return to worship together, being vigilant for the safety and protection of all must be of paramount importance. The guidelines he has provided are positive and proactive and are ways of caring for each other — that is, ways of loving.
We do not yet have a set date for parishioner return, but rest assured this is our top priority and will provide a date just as soon as it is known. We are also working to bring back the online streaming of our services with improved quality. It is our commitment to keep you informed with regular updates and sharing key details as they become available.
Many elements of our physical church participation will be different for the foreseeable future. As the Metropolitan shared, our transition back to a fully opened parish will take time, requiring patience and understanding. There may be challenges along the way, but we must preserver with faith, knowing that “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26b).
I continue to pray for everyone to be safe from this virus and to guide our leaders as we work to through the details of readying St. Anthony for the return of our parishioners.
Sunday of the Paralytic (Jn. 5:1-15)
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
The Pool of Bethesda -that we hear about in today’s Gospel- lies a few yards from St. Stephen’s Gate inside the walls of Jerusalem. At the time of Jesus, it was just outside the northern wall of the city. It stood near the Sheep Gate which led into the Temple. It was also a meeting place for those who were sick and suffering because its water had healing properties. The people could step down any time they wanted, but it was not always the right moment. God’s actual intervention was needed. There is an important connection here between human freedom and God’s action. People act whenever they want, but our actions only mean something if they coincide with God’s action. It must be the action of human beings together with God.
Now you should know that this is exactly how our Liturgy works, and in fact, all the Holy Sacraments: our actions coinciding with God’s action. Spirituality is synergy, meaning both human and divine action in cooperation. And this is how we learn to live!
We discover real life by connecting to the true source of life. By following the Gospel commands and turning from darkness to light we learn first how to relate to God, then to each other. It’s with God that we can find real life: “the life of the resurrected Christ.”
In a very real way, our Liturgy becomes a new pool of Bethesda, a place where we find that God is active and where we find healing. Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, of blessed memory, once described it this way, saying,
“Because we know and believe that God is our Father, we view the church, especially when we celebrate the Liturgy, as our true home. We come in and go out freely, we are happy to be here, we make the sign of the cross, we light candles, we speak with our friends, and it is easy to see that the Orthodox feel that the church is their home… The Liturgy is our family, our gathering, our house. So, we come to church, to our true home, and we are truly glad. This is the greatest privilege which a Christian can have. Here we experience the grace of God.”
It is a privilege to be in the place where God acts!
As I mentioned earlier this week, throughout these difficult days and months we have been separated “in person”, but certainly not “in heart”. We are planning for our return to Church, together with the guidance of His Eminence and fellow clergy. However, until we can return to the Divine Liturgy, let’s not waste these days, let’s give ourselves to prayer and to cultivating within ourselves the desire to be touched and healed by Christ! This will make our homecoming just that much sweeter when that time arrives.
May God be with you all! Christ is Risen!
“Since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face” (1 Thess 2:17)
As we go through the period of Pascha (from the Resurrection to Pentecost), let me express my desire for our expected return to Church with the words of the Apostle Paul, “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:8) Yes, we are separated “in person”, but certainly not “in heart”. I want you to know that we are planning for our return to Church, together with the guidance of Metropolitan Gerasimos and fellow clergy, with more details to be offered in the coming days and weeks. Our return will be a prudent and safe transition from the security of our homes to the security of our Church which will give us Christ and joy once again!
It is inevitable that you will hear and see various posts, videos and images throughout the media that describe possible scenarios for the causes of this difficulty that we have experienced and are still going through. These theories exist and will multiply every day. Unfortunately, as people lose patience with “shelter-in-place” orders and social distancing, our response to the virus as a society becomes ever more politicized and divisive. However, as Orthodox Christians, we know a better way!
It is Christ who has set the example for us to approach all worldly theories, hypotheses, diverse views and interpretations of human life: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33; You can read the entire 16th chapter of the Gospel of John at https://biblehub.com/esv/john/16.htm).
Jesus offers this very same peace to us that he gave to his disciples after the Resurrection: “peace be with you” (John 20:19,21,26). And together with his words “rejoice, do not be afraid” (Matt. 28:10), he offers this same encouragement to us in every contact we have with Him!
Let us therefore be heartened and assured that the Divine Liturgy we offer at Church is the very bond of love that connects each one of us to the person of the risen Christ; let us continue to be patient, praying for the health and safety of one another (we need each other’s prayers!), looking forward to the time that we will be together once again!
Please note that the following ministries will resume once given the clearance that it is safe to congregate once again.
Sunday School for Kids K-8
Hospitality = Filoxenia
Prosphoro /Altar Bread
College Outreach Ministry
Archangel Michael Food Barrel
Through a charitable gift, you can have a significant positive effect on the ministries of the Church and those people whose lives are changed because of them. The impact of your gift will be felt for years and generations to come. Consider making a gift in one of the following ways: •Bequest •Matching Gift •Gift of Cash •Gift of Securities •Gift of Life Insurance •Gift of Real Estate •Qualified Retirement Plans •Charitable Gift Annuity •Deferred Gift Annuity •Charitable Lead Trust •Charitable Remainder Trust. Planned giving can be very rewarding, allowing you to see your gift at work while receiving tax benefits now. More information is available at the church office.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every corner of our world. In the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, all seven states, 67 parishes, and three monastic communities, have had to make significant adjustments to worship services and ministry activities during this time when people are directed to stay at home and shelter in place. We know this presents challenges on many levels, but the Metropolis has compiled a unique page to include special resources for Worship, Technology, Finance, and Ministries. Please visit this address to view the Resource Page:
Additionally, the Archdiocese has a similar page with resources available, including a newly announced COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist individuals who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Visit: https://www.goarch.org/covid19
We are living through unprecedented and uncertain times which are impacting all facets of life, including our festival preparation. First and foremost, it is the prayer of the Festival Committee that our families and communities remain healthy and strong in faith, body and mind during this time. We are continuing to move forward with festival planning finding unique ways to progress at a social distance. We are optimistic that come September things will have settled down and we’ll be able to celebrate with a full festival. That said, we are also realistic that we will be impacted in some way. It is too early to tell what the future holds for our festival, but we are brainstorming on the possibilities and approaches so we are prepared to adapt to what we may be faced with. We will continue to keep you posted as we move forward. All ideas, suggestions and questions are welcome – please email them to Dimi @ firstname.lastname@example.org.