THINGS MY DAD TAUGHT ME

I’M IN A SOMEWHAT  UNUSUAL POSITION.   While my body is wearing down, my dad, at 96, is still growing strong.  I always figured I’d outlive him, it’s a natural order of succession.  However, these days it looks like he’ll beat me to the finish line.

My Dad has Alzheimers.  It usually takes him a little while to recognize me, but he does.  He often thinks I’m his dead brother Nicky.  He hasn’t seen me in my current state, unable to walk without a walker.  Funny thing is, he could beat me in a walker race!  I don’t want him to see me like this because I know he’ll worry.

So, what have I learned from him?  I’ve learned that I don’t believe I ever could have had a better father.  He’s been a rock throughout my life, always involved in our church, always the type of person who would help anyone.  My Dad was very inventive.  He made a riding lawnmower by welding half a bicycle to a power lawnmower.  He was extremely handy with everything.

My Dad was a Bus Driver for a long time.  My Mom would work at times.  We lived close enough to my Elementary School that I could come for lunch, and Dad would be there between bus runs.  Every day he’d make me a special drink with lunch.  Most were great, some clunkers.  We’d laugh about them.

Baseball cards: my Dad got me into it in 1962; every year he would search the stores to find a new box of cards for me to open.  I can still picture those first cards.  My favorite all-time player, Roger Maris.  The other Yankees.  Casey Stengel as Manager of the Mets.  My Dad wasn’t a Yankees fan, he rooted for whoever they were against (the Yanks won too often for his liking).

After hit 61 homers he made a movie with Mantle.  My Dad managed to get tickets and we saw the movie.  I remember going to the concession stand and my Dad asking what I wanted.  When I couldn’t decide he suggested Butterfinger, his favorite.  It instantly became my favorite because of respect for him.  I’ve asked my parish family during a sermon about their favorite and why.  Now, you know mine.

Dad was A Navy man.  He spent some time in World War II on Mine Sweepers off New England, then spent the rest of the War in the Pacific on a supply ship, the USS Tolovanna.  As a Navy man we’d watch the Army-Navy football game on TV.  He instilled a respect for all sports in me.  Friday night boxing was a highlight.

Hard to believe, but I wasn’t a perfect teenager.  Yeah, right!  My friends, after a school dance, couldn’t convince my parents my problem was too much pizza.  My parents suspected some libations.  The next meant a full day of yard work with a hangover; they didn’t miss!

One of the greatest lessons my Dad told me: When my parents were married they lived in a duplex they owned in Cohoes.  One time my parents went away.  When they came back their tenant had left, no rent, took some furniture.  Years later I’m at a Fair with my Dad.   He points to a man and tells me that’s the one who took things.  I’m like, “Yeah, let’s get him!”  My Dad says “He’s with his son, the son doesn’t know, I won’t embarrass him in front of his son”.  Forgiveness.  Compassion.  Faith.  A great lesson learned.

So many things he did for me.  In seminary my parents would drive down at Pascha.  After Liturgy we’d drive home so I could be in Cohoes for the morning Liturgy.  He would always put himself out to help.

I don’t know what the future holds for Dad and me.  I miss being able to see him. But I think right now it’s for the best.  But I do know I love him, and I feel God has given me as great a Dad as he possibly could.  I love you Dad!

 

 

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A JOURNEY CONTINUES……

I’ve tried to keep my Parish family (and my many friends who continue to pray for me), appraised of my current health situation.  A bit over 6 weeks ago I was living a pretty much regular life.  That changed a while back.

For anyone not aware of my situation: I’ve been dealing with Pancreatic and Liver cancer for five years.  No complaints here.  Life goes on, whatever we face we face with God’s help.  Recently my medical progress regressed rapidly.  We were actually in Myrtle Beach and I had to go to the emergency room.  MRI showed a tumor on my spine.  I flew to Strong Hospital in Rochester, had another MRI and was told my cancer has gone to my brain and spine.  Hey, it’s LIFE.  I’ll deal with it the best I can.

Biggest problem:  the tumor took my leg nerves so I can’t walk.  I rely on walkers and family.  Matushka Barbara has been a SAINT!  I don’t think I can do it without her help..

I have a hospital bed, everything I can basically use with, of course all the prayers I can get.  I can’t spend enough time thanking everyone for their prayers, gifts.  I naturally worry about my family.  It’s funny.  You never think you’d be the first to go, yet I think I understand Matushka Barbara is really the strongest of our two.  Coming up on 39 years of marriage!

What does the future hold?  It certainly doesn’t look promising.  I may have mentioned some of these things before:  I lost a friend to cancer (Kevin) when I was 13.  I lost my best friend and really a true brother at 25 to a diving accident.  I had walked to his house that morning to ask him to be in our wedding.  I lost my best friend and seminary roommate to cancer in his forties.  Everyone goes through these things in life; I’m no different.  I still have my best friend who has stuck with me from my seminary years,   Fr Neil Carrigan and Matushka Sherri.  Archpriest Michael Speck is fortunately here and has been a great help.  Archbishop Michael has been great. I correspond regularly with an old seminary friend. I don’t lack for friends or support.

Anyways, that pretty much covers things.  Please keep me in your prayers.  Also, pray for a boy named Spencer.  I don’t know his case.  He would come into the area while I was receiving radiation.  He’s about ten years old, confined to a hospital bed.  Pray especially for the young ones who might still have a chance to beat all this garbage.  And please know I love you all and appreciate you.

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WHEN YOUR CHILDREN ARE SMALL

The above is taken from a quote by the Elder Paisios which appears below.  One of my greatest joys in my priesthood has been baptizing children and watching them grow in the Faith.  I’ve been here long enough to watch children I’ve baptized having children themselves.

One of my many favorite Gospel readings throughout the Church Year is the reading from Matthew on Holy Spirit Day following Pentecost, Matthew Chapter 18: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in Heaven their angels always behold the face of My Father… like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in Heaven”  And in Chapter 19 we hear Jesus again: “Then children were brought to Him that He might lay hands on them and pray … Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven”.

I often marvel at the innocence of small children.  Our Lord tells us we must be like children to enter His Kingdom, but somehow adults seem too often get bogged down with worldly affairs, and forget the simple joy children often possess.  And as parents, we somehow take our innocent young children and turn them into something less than their natural state.  Somewhere along the line, usually late elementary school, our children lose a large portion of that innocence.

I suppose life contributes to the downfall of our innocence.  Many older people reading this may have lived through a great War.  My generation lost a good deal of innocence when President Kennedy was assassinated; my children lived through the terrible event of 9/11.  Many children experience the painful loss of grandparents, even parents at times, possibly friends (I lost a friend at 13 to cancer personally).  Divorce, which profoundly affects young lives, has become a National epidemic.  All of that being said, how do we keep our children on the proper path, a path that maintains, as much as possible, their childlike wonder at this world?

Below are some quotes from Fathers and Elders of the Church, beginning with the complete quote mentioned above by the Elder Paisios.  Their words offer us much guidance:

Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

“When your children are still small, you have to help them understand what is good. That is the deepest meaning of life.”  + Elder Paisios

Elder_Paisios_of_Mount_Athos

Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

“Whoever will not love his enemies cannot know the Lord and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us to love our enemies in such way that we pity their souls as if they were our own children.       + St. Silouan the Athonite,

Silouanicon

St Silouan the Athonite

“In children we have a great charge committed to us. Let us bestow great care upon them, and do everything that the Evil One may not rob us of them. But now our practice is the reverse of this. We take all care indeed to have our farm in good order, and to commit it to faithful manager, we look out for it an ass-driver, and muleteer, and bailiff, and a clever accomptant. But we do not look out for what is much more important, for a person to whom we may commit our son as the guardian of his morals, though this is a possession much more valuable than all others. It is for him indeed that we take such care of our estate. We take care of our possessions for our children, but of the children themselves we take no care at all. Form the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter.”  — St. John Chrysostom,

“What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home. The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relations to their children through their mildness, patience, and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children. Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behavior of the children. And their behavior is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness. If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don’t engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the parents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, harmony and understanding between parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.”  — St. Porphyrios

“The primary lesson for life must be implanted in the soul from the earliest age. The primary lesson for children is to know the eternal God, the One Who gives everlasting life.”  — St. Clement

If you are truly interested in the welfare of your children, why do you not watch as strictly, but once a week, how they attend to their lessons in the study of the Law of God, as you do in some home-work, which the children seemed to be forced to have prepared within the next twelve hours for their public school? You must obey God, above the public and all other masters, or lose your souls for the responsibility which rests upon you for the present and future welfare of your children.  Where there is intellect, there always will be knowledge. Still, you must educate the child. Teach the boy and girl geography and history; but if you do not train the child’s will, in order not only to please you, its parents, but to bend before the holy will of Him, who is the only just rewarder of good and evil, then you are a failure as a Christian. Where there is no discipline, there is no constancy.  + St Sebastian Dabovich, “On the Education of Children,”

We will shortly begin another Church Year, as well as another School Year.  The quotes above remind us of the need to guide our children in all ways of life, especially in their Faith.  We don’t always do a good job of it, judging by the number of younger members who fall away once they’re out of their parent’s homes (although, for that matter, many parents are poor examples themselves).  As we approach a New Year, let us pray for our children.  Let us pray that we will offer them proper guidance, that we will serve as examples of true Christians to them, that they may somehow avoid the tragedies all generations seem to acquire.  I close with a simple admonition of St John Chrysostom:

“Fathers and mothers: Go and lead your child by the hand into the church.”

 

 

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SLOW DOWN, IT’S TIME TO FAST

One of our Parish family members recently asked me a question about the June Apostle’s Fast, specifically when the Fast began.  It might very well be something I learned in Seminary many years ago, but I couldn’t honestly give him an answer.

With that question in mind, and with the Dormition Fast in honor of the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Theotokos beginning on August 1st, I did some minor research on the Internet and came up with the following explananations for the Apostles Fast and the Dormition Fast.  Most interesting to me is the esteem early Church Fathers held for the Dormition Fast, ranking it only below the Great Fast of Lent as a fasting period for Orthodox Christians.

In truth, the two summer Fasts are often ignored by many members of the Faith.  As a child I don’t recall any priest ever mentioning the Fasting periods; I also recall living in the 60’s and 70’s (80’s & 90’s in some places) where it was common to offer non-fasting dinners at churches during times like the Nativity Fast or the summer Fasts.  I believe we have become more educated about our Faith in recent years (no offense to the Babas who were often the backbone of parishes), but still, the summer Fasts are by no means held in the same view as Great Lent.

The two articles below are worthwhile reading for all Orthodox Christians, and they remind us of an important part of our Faith: the Fasting and Repentance that are integral aspects of our beliefs.

What is the Apostles Fast?

By Fr. Brendan Pelphrey in Orthodox Christian Reference Guide

  • Orthodox Christians around the world observe four fasting seasons during the year. Two of these—the Great Fast for the forty days of Lent, and the Dormition Fast during the first fifteen days of August—are considered “strict” fasts. The other two are generally observed as “lesser” fasts: the so-called “Christmas Lent” or fast during the forty days before the Feast of the Nativity, and the Fast of the Apostles which occurs in June.

In America the Fast of the Apostles is probably the least well known, but is among the oldest of Christian traditions. It is mentioned by St. Athanasius in the fourth century, and there are other testimonies to its existence very early in the history of the Church. The fast begins on the day after the observance of All Saints’ Sunday, which falls one week after Pentecost.

Today the fast ends with the observance of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is held on June 29. In earliest practice, however, the fast was probably not connected with the Feast of Peter and Paul. Rather, it was a time for fasting after the celebration of Pentecost and/or All Saints. Apparently, different traditions prescribed different lengths of the fast—whether for one week, several weeks, or even only one day. Today, the fast still has a variable length because of its connection to the date of Pentecost, and therefore of All Saints.

The date of Pentecost varies with the date of Holy Pascha (Easter), falling fifty days after Pascha. Therefore, the date of the Sunday of All Saints varies accordingly. This means that the length of the Fast of the Apostles also varies each year. For those churches which follow the Old Calendar, the Fast can be very long (as long as 42 days) or very short (8 days), depending upon when Holy Pascha falls. For Orthodox churches which use the New Calendar, there are some years in which there is no Apostles’ Fast at all.

There are different traditions regarding how strictly to follow the Fast. In most Orthodox traditions, the fast is not as severe as that during Great Lent. Fish, wine and oil are permitted on all days except Wednesday and Friday, which are strict fast-days throughout the year except immediately following the Great Feasts of the Lord. In other traditions, fish, wine and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays during the Fast of the Apostles.

For faithful Orthodox today, the Fast of the Apostles can be an occasion for reflection upon the lives and example of the Holy Apostles. On the Sunday of All Saints, we remember and celebrate the lives of all those who have gone before us in the faith: our fathers, forefathers, the apostles, preachers, evangelists, teachers, hierarchs and martyrs. The readings which are appointed for that day (Hebrews 11:33-40, 12:1-2, and Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38, 19:27-30) remind us that countless worshippers of God have sacrificed their lives for the faith which we have inherited.

Following Jesus’ admonition recorded by St. Matthew, the Apostles left behind their parents, their children, and their possessions in order to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who did not know Him. Christian missionaries around the world are still doing this today. During the Fast of the Apostles we are reminded to pray for them all, and for Orthodox mission everywhere.

The Fast is also an occasion to remember that in Christ, we have a unity that goes far beyond our personal opinions, likes or dislikes. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the Apostles themselves recognized this very early. The occasion was an argument which took place regarding whether the followers of Christ needed to continue to observe the Law of Moses. At first, Peter and Paul took different sides in the discussion.

Both Peter and Paul were Jews, but their personalities and backgrounds were very different. Peter, who was formerly a fisherman, was among the first of the disciples to follow Jesus. Presumably he was uneducated and probably spoke only Aramaic in the local Galilean dialect. Paul, on the other hand, was very well educated under Gamaliel, the most famous rabbi (teacher) of his time, and spoke several languages.

Moreover, Paul—originally named Saul—was not among the Twelve Disciples. He even led a deadly persecution of Christians until he received an astounding vision of Christ while on the way to Damascus (Acts 9). The blinding vision changed his life forever. Thereafter he became an ardent witness to the risen Christ. But because of his former life, it was very difficult at first for the disciples to forgive and accept him.

Before very long, Peter and Paul became involved in the dispute about keeping the Law. Paul, who was preaching among Gentiles, taught that it was no longer necessary to keep the Law, because the purpose of the Law was to points to the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul even proclaimed that the Law had been nailed to the cross with Christ, for now we are justified by faith and not by following the Law (see Romans 10 and Galatians 3). Peter, however, was drawn towards the opinion of some Jews that although Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, the Law nevertheless should continue to be observed for all time.

Paul journeyed to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and the other disciples in order to settle the matter. Paul says that he opposed Peter to his face (Galatians 2:11 ff.). After some discussion it was agreed that Christians would no longer follow the Law, including practices like circumcision and the complex dietary laws given in the Books of Moses. However, they would continue to observe some of the restrictions of the Law regarding moral principles, and the eating of blood.

It is significant that Peter did not simply decide to agree with Paul on these matters. Rather, he was given a vision from God in which it was declared that foods which were formerly declared to be “unclean” for all Jews, were now “clean” or acceptable (Acts 10). Thus, Peter realized that God was instituting a new order and way of life, and that to agree with Paul was a matter of obedience to Christ himself.

These events remind us to seek God when we have disagreements within the Church. This requires humility on our part, and the willingness to accept others even when we might not have agreed with them before. We let go of our own personal wishes or demands, and pray for the good of the Church and for a recognition of the will of God for all of us together.

At the conclusion of the Fast, therefore, we celebrate Peter and Paul together. The icon of the Feast depicts the two men standing side-by-side, holding the Church together in their hands. This is a powerful symbol of the supernatural love for one another which is given by the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit we have agreement and new life. For this reason, Orthodox Christians today can regard the Fast of the Apostles as one of the most important times of the year, a time to humble ourselves and pray for genuine love and unity in the Church around the world.

THE DORMITION FAST

Fresco of the Dormition of The Mother of God

The Dormition fast was established as preceding the great feasts of the Transfiguration of the Lord and of the Dormition of the Mother of God. It lasts two weeks—from August 1/14–August 14/27 (old style/new style).

The Dormition fast comes down to us from the early days of Christianity.

We find a clear reference to the Dormition fast in a conversation of Leo the Great from around the year 450 A.D. “The Church fasts are situated in the year in such a way that a special abstinence is prescribed for each time. Thus, for spring there is the spring fast ]—the Forty Days[Great Lent; for summer there is the summer fast… [the Apostles’ fast]; for autumn there is the autumn fast, in the seventh month [Dormition fast]; for winter there is the winter fast [Nativity fast].”

St. Symeon of Thessalonica writes that, “The fast in August [Dormition fast] was established in honor of the Mother of God the Word; Who, foreknowing Her repose, ascetically labored and fasted for us as always, although She was holy and immaculate, and had no need for fasting. Thus, She especially prayed for us in preparation for being transported from this life to the future life, when Her blessed soul would be united through the Divine spirit with Her Son. Therefore, we also should fast and praise Her, emulating Her life, urging Her thereby to pray for us. Some, by the way, say that this fast was instituted on the occasion of two feasts—the Transfiguration and the Dormition. I also consider it necessary to remember these two feasts—one which gives us light, and the other which is merciful to us and intercedes for us.”

The Dormition fast is not as strict as the Great Fast, but it is stricter than the Apostle’s and Nativity fasts.

On Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays of the Dormition fast, the Church rubrics prescribe xerophagy, that is, the strictest fast of uncooked food (without oil); on Tuesdays and Thursdays, “with cooked food, but with no oil”; on Saturdays and Sundays wine and oil are allowed.

Until the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when grapes and apples are blessed in the churches, the Church requires that we abstain from these fruits. According to the tradition of the holy fathers, “If one of the brethren should eat the grapes before the feast, then let him be forbidden for obedience’s sake to taste of the grapes during the entire month of August.”

On the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Church rubrics allow fish. After that day, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the fruits of the new harvest would always be included in the meals.

The spiritual fast is closely united with the bodily, just as our soul is united with the body, penetrates it, enlivens it, and makes one united whole with it, as the soul and body make one living human being. Therefore, in fasting bodily we must at the same time fast spiritually: “Brothers, in fasting bodily let us also fast spiritually, severing all union with unrighteousness,” the Holy Church enjoins us.

The main thing In fasting bodily is restraint from abundant, tasty and sweet foods; the main thing in fasting spiritually is restraint from passionate, sinful movements that indulge our sensual inclinations and vices. The former is renunciation of the more nourishing foods for fasting food, which is less nourishing; the latter is the renunciation of our favorite sins for exercise in the virtues which oppose them.

The essence of the fast is expressed in the following Church hymn: “If you fast from food, my soul, but are not purified of the passions, in vain do we comfort ourselves by not eating. For if the fast does not bring correction, then it will be hateful to God as false, and you will be like unto the evil demons, who never eat.”

The Great fast and the Dormition fast are particularly strict with regard to entertainment—in Imperial Russia even civil law forbade public masquerades and shows during these fasts.

The Dormition fast begins on the feast of the
“Procession of the Wood of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.”

Icon of the Veneration of the Cross. Novgorod. (Preserved in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.)

In the Greek horologion of 1897, the origin of this feast is explained: “Because of the illnesses that occur very often during August, the custom was established in Constantinople of processing the Precious Wood of the Cross through the roads and streets to sanctify places and prevent disease. On the eve of the feast it was carried out of the royal treasury and placed upon the holy table of the Great Church (the Hagia Sophia, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God). From that day until the Dormition of the Most Pure Theotokos, lityas were served throughout the city, and the Wood of the Cross was then offered to the people for veneration. This was the procession of the Precious Cross.”

In the Russian Orthodox Church, this feast was linked with the remembrance of the Baptism of Russia in 988. The memory of the day of the Baptism of Russia was preserved in the Chronologies of the sixteenth century, which state that, “Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev and All Rus was baptized on August 1.” In the Discussion of active rites of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church on the Dormition, written in 1627 at the request of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow and All Russia, the feast on August 1 is described: “During the procession on the day of the Precious Cross, there is a blessing of the waters for the enlightenment of the people, throughout the cities and villages.”

On this day, a feast was established of the All-Merciful Savior Christ God, and of the Most Pure Virgin, in honor of the victory of Grand Prince Andrei Bogolubsky over the Volga Bulgars, and of the Greek Emperor Michael over the Saracens.

According to Orthodox Church tradition, on this day the Cross is venerated (according to the rubrics of the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross during Great Lent), and a lesser blessing of the waters is served. Together with the blessing of the waters, new honey is also blessed. (This is where the Russian folk name for the feast, “Savior of the honey,” comes from.)

Official site of the Moscow Patriarchate

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WHERE ARE WE HEADED??

I’ve been in Auburn for almost 33 years now.  In that time I saw our membership increase from around 120 with 2 kids, up to 160 with 42 kids, now down to about 75 adults, 4 or 5 kids.  Big changes, changes that reflect our local area; changes that pretty much reflects most of Upper New York State.

Our question has to be:  Where do go from here?  Where are we headed?  We live in an area where the population hasn’t really decreased much in the past ten years, but it’s a different environment.  When I came to Auburn years ago we were known (if at all!) as the “Russian” church.  Two blocks over was St Hyacinth’s, the “Polish” church; down the street around the corner was Ss. Peter & Paul Ukrainian church.  Ss Peter & Paul at one time was very large.  They had their own school. They were the center in 1988 for 1,000 years of “Ukrainian Christianity” (they like to take credit for some Russian events), and they had two very active halls.  These days their population has dropped, the school closed about five years ago; one hall is mostly unused.  Add to the above mentioned Italian area and churches, the German section, the very large Protestant denominations. Auburn was a hopping, growing place at one time.  I don’t know of any church in Auburn that is currently growing.  The Roman Catholics have closed and consolidated many parishes.  The two Episcopal churches in Auburn merged years ago.

I mentioned the population hasn’t changed greatly, but the mix of population has.  Where Auburn years ago was mainly a mix of Eastern European immigrants, these days the population trends much more in the direction of Hispanic and African American families.  A lot of this is brought on by family members moving to the Auburn area to be close to their loved ones in Auburn Correctional Facility, our main employer and one of the largest maximum security facilities in the State.  For whatever reasons, we don’t seem to appeal to our newest Auburnians, a combination of lack of knowledge of Orthodoxy, probably also our meek attempts to make inroads in those groups, and a general overall disinterest in any organized religion.  And as far as Orthodox individuals coming to Auburn:  in my thirty-two years here we’ve had one Orthodox individual move into Auburn itself (a Greek woman who ran a restaurant for two years, then left for greener pastures).

I have spent many of my years in Auburn on the Human Rights Commission.  Years ago we came forward and stopped a Neo-Nazi march from taking place in our city.  I’ve been involved in school board matters; also have served for twenty-five years on our local Homsite Commission dealing with many low income housing issues.  As a church we’ve opened ourselves up to the community as much as practical.  We currently have a diet club (no parishioners) who meet weekly; we’ve had several AA groups that have used our facilities.  I’m not sure what more we do (hey:  we’re open for suggestions!).

All that being said, what does the future hold for us?  My parish family has heard me say many times that I don’t fear for the future of our church.  I truly believe we have the Faith to keep our parish here as a reminder of Orthodoxy, as a firm foundation which others will someday want to build on and be part of.  Does that mean we’ll ever see the days like the 1950’s when membership in our parish included over 750 adults and over one hundred kids?  Does it mean we’ll ever get back to my earlier years here where we took a small parish, built it up to 42 Church School students, and had to place folding chairs in the aisles to accommodate the number of people who would show up on Palm Sunday and Pascha?  I don’t know if we’ll ever see those days again, but a remnant of strong Faith remains.  For all our shortcomings we’ve ordained three deacons and tonsured several readers in my years here after no ordinations were ever performed in our parishes’ first eighty years.  We have Fr Michael Speck who served as an Altar server as a youth, spent 27 years as a Deacon, and is now an ordained priest assisting in our services and functions.  We have Deacon David Donch, ordained two years ago.  We’ve tonsured Subdeacon Michael Speck and Peter Speck, and expect to add more official readers in the near future.

St. Paul writes in his epistle to the Romans in Chapter 11 (a chapter entitled by the Orthodox Study Bible as “God elects a remnant of Israel”):  “At this present time there is a remant according to the election of grace.  …. Israel has not obtained what it seeks, but the elect have obtained it.”  From Jeremiah: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes…” Jer 17:7).

I trust in the Lord that our local parish will be here for at least decades to come, and will hopefully survive until the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior.  We are not, by any means, a perfect church.  Like any family we have our little squabbles and differences at times.  But, hopefully, whatever differences we have, we express them through the Love of Christ.  We’re here.  We will be here for anyone who comes seeking the truth.  Our Lord clearly tells us in the Gospel of John, Chapter 14:  I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.  We always invite our community to share in the Truth with us.

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A LIFE OF SERVICE

On June 1 we had the unenviable, but still enjoyable (because of our belief in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, which gives us a path to Salvation) task of bearing our longtime Choir Director, Reader Paul Flurschutz, to his final resting place.  It has been my honor and privilege to have Paul as our Choir Director for many of my thirty-two years in Auburn.

Calling Paul just a Choir Director in my life does him a disservice.  Paul was much more to our parish family.  He served on our Parish Council for a number of years, and also served as our Parish Senior Warden for several years in the early 2,000’s.  Paul was always someone I could count on for advice and support.  Paul also served as a mentor to me years ago when I became involved in school board politics, having been a former teacher, professor, principal and guidance counselor.  He served as a voice of reason and helped me understand the inner workings of the school system bureaucracy.

Most people do not understand exactly what a Choir Director does. Obviously he leads the choir, but in the Orthodox Christian Faith there are a lot of rules and regulations (Rubrics) which need to be followed.  I’ve worked with numerous choir directors through the years, and very few were as capable as Paul.  Especially when the Church reaches a season like the Nativity or Great Lent and Holy Week, the services require a lot of extra preparation and work.

Pauls’ heart was failing rapidly in recent months.  Most weeks he was unable to attend our services.  Somehow, I’m sure with the Grace and Aid of God, he was able to attend the Sunday before he passed away, directing the Choir one last time, which had been his hope.

Paul’s last days were peaceful, surrounded by his loving wife Marge, his son Mark and his wife Sue, and his four beloved granddaughters.  We pray several times at our services for a “Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless, and peaceful”.  Paul was granted this grace in his final days.  He left this world calmly, with no regrets; truly a peaceful, and deserved, end.

We will keep the Reader Paul always in our prayers.  He has been added to our long list of departed parishioners and loved ones.  We pray, as always, for his Memory to be Eternal!

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HORSES, CEMETERIES, AND ABORTIONS?

Two separate articles below, unrelated but both of interest to our parish family and Orthodox Christians:

 This letter appeared in the May 6 edition of the Post Standard.  What do you think about the letter?  What do you think about the comments?

In America, we care more for racehorses than for the unborn

To the Editor:

The Kentucky Derby is the greatest horse race in these United States of America. “My Old Kentucky Home” make our hearts swell with pride and brings a tear to most people’s eyes as 40,000 horses bred yearly for the sole purpose of racing. They are given the best possible care — even heated swimming pools for injured foals and horses.  To even suggest aborting a potential winner would be criminal. Can we do any less for a human being?  Sadly, we do much less for God’s children. In America we kill thousands upon thousands of babies a day. So many babies make it to full term only to be put to death daily by the abortion clinics across this country.  I would dare to say that we in America have a false pride. Horses and eagles are protected by law. An innocent baby you can kill anytime up to delivery.  Can we continue to allow a mother to kill her baby?

Michael J. Roche, Solvay

Orange 3 minutes ago

Hey Roche, they prob should of called an audible on you in the huddle

Jruffino 4 minutes ago

Preach it brother! We somehow value animals more than humans. What a world we live in!

Sarge 6 minutes ago

LOL. And not one of gods creatures kills its young? Give me a break!

This pamphlet regarding our Cemetery bylaws was placed in our May 7 bulletin, but is reprinted here for your enlightenment.  Our Cemetery, you should know, is basically a losing proposition, costing us more money each year to maintain it than we take in through donations.  If you happen to have a plot in our cemetery, or might be interested in one, please take the time to read the pamphlet below:

 

ST NICHOLAS

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CEMETERY

HALF ACRE ROAD, AURELIUS, NEW YORK

MAILING ADDRESS:

St Nicholas Orthodox Church

81 Cottage Street, Auburn, NY 13021

St Nicholas Orthodox Christian Cemetery is a privately owned cemetery of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Auburn, New York.  It is subject to the Statutes of the Orthodox Church in America, the Diocese of New and New Jersey, and the bylaws of St Nicholas.

 

Our Cemetery is an extension of our belief as Orthodox Christians.  As a privately owned cemetery, we reserve the right to bury only Orthodox Christians, children and spouses on our property.  Burial includes Perennial Care of the grounds.  Families are responsible for the maintenance of any gravestones or markers. 

We do not allow the planting of any shrubbery or trees as they may interfere with our burial locations.  The placing of flowers or potted plants is welcome; also artificial flowers and plants may be placed in front of graves, but please note that these items may interfere with the caretaker’s ability to trim around gravestones.  Any artificial plants or flowers should be removed by October 31 of each year or they will possibly be disposed of by the caretaker.  Also, no fencing or borders may be placed around graves as, again, they would interfere with the caretaker’s duties.

 Only gravestones or crosses consistent with the Orthodox Christian Faith are allowed.  Veterans plaques are of course permitted and we have a special section of our Cemetery where many of our Veterans are honored.  As Orthodox Christians we do not accept cremation due to our belief in a bodily resurrection.  All burials must be done through a licensed Funeral Director.  Costs of burial include purchase of burial plots, opening of graves, and the price of the vault.  We add a surcharge to any burial where the individual has not been an active, supporting member of the Orthodox Faith.  The purchase or possession of a cemetery plot does not alone entitle an individual to be buried in our cemetery.  If an individual is originally from Auburn, has moved away, but has faithfully supported their local Orthodox church, we recognize their faith and do not add a surcharge.  Also, no non-human remains (pets for example) are allowed to be buried on our cemetery property.

Our cemetery is open 24 hours a day.  In winter months, we only plow the driveways when a funeral is scheduled.  Water spigots are provided for watering of plants. 

Rules and regulations above are a summary of our bylaws.  Any questions or comments regarding the cemetery should be directed to our church:

 St Nicholas Orthodox Church

 Rectory Address 81 Cottage Street

 Auburn, New York, 13021

 Phone Number 315-252-3423

 Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory:  Our God is “not the God of the dead but the God of the living.” (Mark 12;27).  Our greatest joy is our belief in Christ’s Resurrection and the resurrection of all in Him.  And the Church’s constant prayer for departed members is thus the affirmation that they are still alive in Christ, that we are all united in God’s love, that, in the words of St. Paul, “neither death, nor life … shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).

Death is not the absurd end, which deprives life of its meaning and permeates everything with its poison of despair, but he passage into the “desired fatherland”, the return to Him in Whom is all joy, all peace, all fulfillment.  Indeed it makes life meaningful … it makes it a movement toward Paradise.

GIVE REST IN BLESSED REPOSE, O LORD, TO THY SERVANTS WHO HAVE  FALLEN ASLEEP, AND MAKE THEIR MEMORY TO BE ETERNAL!

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