In St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (12:27-31; 13:1-8) he writes, “Brethren, you are the body of Christ and individu- ally members of it.” We are not just members, remember, we are partners, and as St. Paul instructs us, we are also the body of Christ!
St. Paul goes on to explain about the necessity of love in everything we do as part of the body of Christ. He explains, “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Love is the key to everything in the life of the Church.
Every year the Holy Metropolis of San Francisco gathers priests and lay-participants from each parish to conduct a yearly re- view of the Metropolis and conduct necessary business. This is much like what we do at a General Assembly meeting here at St. Demetrios.
The Metropolis has business matters and budgets to take care of just like all its parishes, and lectures are offered for encour- agement and inspiration.
During our last Fall Parish As- sembly, John Poulos and Bob Thomas were selected to attend the conference with me (clergy) and Nick Mirras, who repre- sented our Parish Council.
It was my pleasure and privi- lege to attend this year’s assem- bly with these three parishion- ers and share with them the peace and joy of St. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center. We really should consider a Parish trip to the ranch, and after read- ing the reflections from John, Nick and Bob that follow, you’ll understand why.
Please remember that every- thing we do in our parish, we do as servants of Christ and as part of his body.This includes every decision, every business interaction, every motion, by- law and meeting.
May our Parish continue to be blessed as it grows and may the light of Christ guide us in eve- rything that we do!
Weaving a Tapestry of Faith
was the theme chosen by his Eminence Metropolitan Gerasi- mos for this year’s Clergy- LaityAssembly. Thedays went by in a blur as we moved in and out of many activities and interactions meeting priests and clergy from different par- ishes.
We were busy with spiritual activities including a moving Divine Liturgy on St. Antho- ny’s Feast Day, and secular activities like discussing the finances of the Metropolis. An aura of shared commitment and grace permeated the gathering as we collectively focused on bettering our parishes and our faith. Metropolitan Gerasimos kept us focused on our higher
calling with calm and gentle leadership throughout the assembly.
The setting of St. Nicholas Ranch is stunning. The ranch, camp and conference center sits in a verdant grassy valley in the Sierra foot- hills. Perched atop a hill overlooking the ranch sits the church, the Monastery of the Holy Theotokos of The Life Giving Spring. To go into the church is to be transported back in time; it is filled with the wonderful sounds of the nuns from the monastery singing and chanting in unison, their graceful tones reverberating. This alone was worth the trip. After the liturgy we attended a memorial for Metropolitan Anthony at his gravesite behind the church. The ranch, conference center and the monastery were a vision he worked passionately to bring forth during his life.
Theo Nicolakis, the Chief Information Officer and head of Internet Ministries for the Archdiocese spoke on internet and smart phone resources and tools available to the churches and to followers. Ex- amples of these available today include simple smart phone applica- tions for the Orthodox calendar and daily Orthodox bible readings.
One of the spirits of the monastery is manifested in a cute, friendly, medium-sized dog names Axios. He roams with a glimmer in his eye and the sapient presence of a spiritual mascot thoroughly doted on by loving nuns. Any thought that this was an ordinary canine was dispensed with when I glanced through the book the nuns had written about him in the monastery bookstore.
Tuesday night after a long drive back home, I lay in bed and reflect- ed on the work we did and the spirit of fellowship that we encoun- tered. Drifting to sleep, I could still hear the echoes of the chants and harmonies sung by the nuns at the monastery.
As the four-hour car trip to St. Nicholas Ranch got underway, I mentioned to Bob and John (my two great traveling companions from St. Demetrios) that I was really looking forward to a spiritual lift from the Clergy-Laity Assembly. I wasn’t disappointed; it would be hard to overstate the impact of the trip. I haven’t been so moved since seeing the birth of my son, Cole, over eight years ago.
John gives a wonderful description of the beautiful setting at St. Nicholas. So much was packed into our time there, beginning with the designation of a presiding officer and secretary for the Assem- bly, much like what we do at our own Parish Assembly meetings.
Here is what I took away from his Eminence Metropolitan Gerasi- mos’ remarks on Weaving a Tapestry of Faith: though we are all individuals, we are also part of the whole community of Orthodox faithful. The Metropolitan spoke about the individualistic child who still looks to his elders and peers for affirmation and acceptance. He referenced Facebook and other social media to underscore the fact that while we are individuals, we are also social beings with a need to connect with each other.
Later, Reverend Nicholas Triantafilou, President of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, gave an emo- tionally evocative speech on faith and life. He said that when we see a person down on his luck or suffering from some affliction, we shouldn’t say the usual “There but for the grace of God go I” but “There go I” as we are not just a part of an organization, but part of the body of Christ. As we dwell within Him and He dwells within us, we are all Zoi’ Pion’ or life creating. Reverend Nicholas encour- aged us not to fight over issues that divide, but to pray over issues that unite, always seeking to go deeper into that body of Christ.
He asked us how we serve and if our Parish Assembly discussions would have the same tenor in the church as they have in the hall? In other words, are we just as passionate about serving, sharing, caring and praying when we meet outside the church as we are inside it?
You’ve already read John’s description of the beauty of the monas- tery and the chanting of the nuns at Vespers, which we attended with Fr. Gary. I’ll add that the candelabra, which seems to be 20 feet in diameter, is attached to a beautiful dome by gold links which allow it to be lowered from the ceiling so that the candles may be lit. Fronting the altar are stories carved in wood; the Old Testament below the Icons, and the New Testament, above them.
We don’t always see everything the Archdiocese provides us at the parish level. Fortunately, Theo Nicolakis, the Chief Information Officer for the Archdiocese was there to explain about content pro- vided for church web sites and links to other Orthodox information such as jobs, a marketplace, bookstore, and more. We should also remember to “like” ourselves on Facebook.
On day two, we discussed the Metropolis financial statements. There’s little difference in the discussion at that level than at our parish. We all have similar issues – the calculated anticipation of where the money’s coming from, discussion of on-going versus one- time expenses, how much will be devoted to each ministry, etc. The controversial issue raised was the calculation of each individual parish’s contribution to the Archdiocese – it was tabled, but there will be more discussion about it in coming years.
The beauty of the monastery and the coming together of our Ortho- dox brothers and sisters cannot be described with words. I guess I just have to leave it as being part of the incomprehensible mystery that is our Lord whom we must constantly keep in our hearts as we do our part to weave the tapestry of faith. Read more..