More than a Fan, Fr. Gary’s Message
I know you won’t believe me, but I really didn’t want to go to the Dodger game. When I was up visiting my brother in Seattle he had tickets to the Seattle Mariners vs. the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. Peter bought the tickets at the beginning of the season and was not anticipating his illness when he made the purchase. As he was working through his physical therapy he looked at me and said, “you gotta go. It’s meant to be. Take Fr. Photios and have fun.” How could I have fun I thought? I was troubled by his ailment. Finally, after lots of persuading from my mom, and then confirmation by my dad, I considered leaving the hospital for the game. In a call with Christie she agreed that it would provide a good distraction for what we were all experiencing. Fr. Photios picked me up and we went to the game.
I was amazed as we approached the ballpark. It was a festive atmosphere and felt as if we were part of a parade. Hordes of people marching toward the stadium for what was the city’s major event that evening. Vendors selling peanuts and hot dogs in the streets. Kids walking with balloons and cotton candy in hand. There was even a guy dressed as Mr. Incredible giving people rides in a carriage he pulled with his bicycle. There was something very odd about this crowd though. Most of the people sauntering this parade were Dodger fans.
Dodger blue reigned. They were waving Dodger flags, chanting, “Let’s Go Dodgers,” and wearing jerseys of their favorite players. Fr. Photios, wearing a Seattle Mariners jersey, accidentally bumped into massive guy wearing Dodger gear. As Father apologized the guy said, “No problem MAN, but look, you’re in Dodger country now!” He was right. It looked as if it were a Dodger home game. No joke, the Dodger fans made up most of the stadium. As we found our seats an enormous Dodger flag was being waved in right field. It was awesome.
Everyone around us were cheering for the Dodgers and showed their Dodger pride by wearing the team logo and hats. I turned to the family behind me, the couple in front of me, and the people across the aisle – all decked out in Dodger attire - and asked, “Are you from Seattle?”
They all said, “No!” They each explained how they flew up from various parts of Southern California, got tickets to the game (some had seats to all three games), and hotel rooms in the city to watch and rout for their beloved team. They were proud! I was astounded. The love and devotion they shared was profoundly displayed by the time invested and valuable resources exhausted to attend. It was a reminder that people are willing to support that in which they believe.
Much like the love we show for our beloved parish of St. Demetrios, but in a different way. We are not fans or spectators, we are participants in the game! We are called to be more than just loyal fanatics on a journey to “witness” an exhibition. We are called to be transformed through our involvement in sacramental life. We have made a commitment to something greater than the Dodgers or any other professional team. We are part of the Church of Christ. Our participation, our investment, our desire, leads towards our salvation. The Church is the vessel that guides us toward a more perfect and peaceful life. How can we learn from the investment the Southern California Dodger fans made to enhance our life in Christ and His Church?
They proved that they are willing to forsake other plans and make attendance and participation at the stadium a priority. Is the worship cycle of the Church, and are Sunday mornings? Have we acknowledged Sunday mornings, from 9:00AM to 11:30AM, as time to come together as God’s people, to glorify Him at the Divine Liturgy? I know that getting up early on Sunday mornings is hard. Having to be up early all the other days of the week gives one a good reason to pull the sheets up over his head as the alarm clock rings on that Sunday morning. Make Sunday significant. Come and pray. Try to be on time. The fans of the ballgame all arrived before the singing of the National Anthem and the first pitch. Service begins at 9:00AM on Sundays.
A great number of those Dodger fans were familiar with the line up and the names of the players. Those fans could name the players on the field and the dugout. They all knew the rules of the game and were experts at its strategy. How familiar are we with our Orthodox Christian Faith? Do we read scripture? Do we understand what is happening in the services? Do we know the teachings our Faith? Attend Orthodox Study, ask me questions, even through email or text, it is important to know why we believe the way we do.
As much as I love the Dodgers, and enjoy an evening at the ballpark, there is nothing greater than the being in Church and serving Christ. Understandably, our world drives us in a million different directions. Our time and resources are limited. Inevitably, we are defined by how we spend our time and resources. Take a moment and reflect on your faith, relationship to Christ and His Church. Is it a priority for you in your life?
Take into consideration the following ways you can become more than just a fan at St. Demetrios: NEEDS OF OUR PARISH: 1. Webmaster- someone to maintain and update our website. Currently I (Fr. Gary) am doing it, and boy, I think I need to take a few classes and add a few hours to the day to keep up with this amazing beast. Our website is one of a kind. We want to keep it that way. Please let me know if you have the talent to help. 2. Volunteer at Feast Day Celebration- The weekend leading into our Feast Day, we will celebrate with a TRADITIONAL PANAGYRI! That is a mini-Greek Festival. The fun will be held on our Agape Campus on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21. Volunteers and teams of people are needed to achieve success. Call the Church office (805) 482-1273 to help. 3. Assistance in visiting and calling our Shut ins. These are people that cannot attend Sunday liturgy for a specific reason. They may be too old to drive and have no one to rely one, or they may be recovering from surgery. Whatever it is, we want them to feel the love of our community. I (Fr. Gary) try to visit as often as possible, but having a caring team oversee and nurture our loved ones will ensure that they stay connected to our Parish. Please contact me if you are interested in receiving an “assignment.” 4. Sunday morning chanters for Orthros. Come help Michael. Do you like to sing? Do you want to learn the hymns of the Church and exercise the depths of your faith? Come and assist with (shoot, even if you don’t want to sing, still come) Orthros. This is the hour in which preparation for liturgy is made. Special prayers are offered, exciting hymns with an array of liturgical beauty. Come, give it a shot. Call me for more information. 5. Make it a point to participate in weekly Paraklesis (Supplications to the Mother of God, for the health and well-being of our loved ones), which is then followed by Orthodox Study on Wednesday evenings beginning at 6PM – service and 7PM Study. This is a great way to reconnect in the middle of the week. These services begin weekly on Wednesday, September 12. Come! Lastly, it would be amazing if we could create a team of people that would walk the building and the property on a weekly/regular basis to check for abnormalities, insects, and unwanted guests of the furry kind. Maybe on a regular basis they would inspect the refrigerators both large and mini, to make sure that nothing stays in there too long and grows appendages. This team could check the status of the sprinklers, pick the fruit off the trees, and make sure all looks good.
We are all capable of these tasks. See which one fits your talents and give me a call. It would be greatly appreciated! 805-443-3376
In Christ’s Service,
Fr. Gary Kyriacou