A NEW CHURCH YEAR: A NEW BEGINNING
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:29)
The New Church Year begins in September. It coincides with the beginning of the New School Year and the resumption of many of our parish programs following the summer months. This September also marks the beginning of a new stage in my priestly ministry. After twenty-seven years of ministry here at Nativity, the reins of pastoral leadership are being turned over to a new and younger priest, Fr. Luke Palumbis.
I have served the parish since September 1984. In that time I have had the privilege to serve you, to work with you, to pray with you, to hear your confessions, to baptize, and to marry. I have had the privilege to be with you in times of joy and of sorrow and pain; to console and comfort as best I could, and to offer the prayers of the Church for those who have departed from this life in the hope of eternal life.
Presvytera, my family, and I, are deeply grateful for those years. We have been partners in the Gospel for a long time, praying together, planning together, working together, and, I hope, growing together in our love for God, in our faith in Him and in our service to others. They have been years of growth, of joy, of challenge, and at times of disappointment and anguish, but always filled with God’s love and bountiful mercy and forgiveness.
As Orthodox Christians we do not live merely as individuals but as brothers and sisters in Christ. Together we make up the communal and living Body of Christ. We belong equally to Christ and to each other because He is the Vine and we are the fruit-bearing branches. We are united and energized by His Holy Spirit. We confirm and live our corporate identity and life through worship and the sacraments, glorifying God. We work together in the governance and various ministries of the parish, sharing a life of mutual love and forgiveness, and caring for and helping each other. We thus nurture a supportive environment for our children and ourselves. Recall St. Paul’s counsel: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please Himself . . . Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:1-3, 7)
Always have in mind that our Leader is Christ. Our energy is the Holy Spirit. Our center is the Eucharist. Our agenda is the good news of the Gospel. Our base of operations is God’s Holy Church. Our work is to advance God’s rule and kingdom in our personal lives, families and world, living out and sharing the mystery of God’s love.
Let us welcome the New Church Year then, and sincerely turn our hearts and minds to God who blesses us as His children and calls us to be His co-workers for the salvation of the world. Whatever we have comes from God. Whatever worthy thoughts rise up in us are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Whatever noble aspirations spring forth from our hearts derive from the love of Christ. Whatever ideas and plans we cherish about our Church and parish we entrust to the Holy Trinity for blessing and success. We dare not think that we ourselves are the source of wisdom and goodness. We are not presumptuous to take credit for past accomplishments or rest on assumed laurels. We place our time, talents and treasures, our hopes and plans, indeed our very selves and families, in the hands of God for sanctification and fulfillment of His purposes, and the praise and glory of His name.
My prayer and hope is that you will strive always to know Christ, to love Him, and to serve Him, through renewed dedication to participation in the worship and sacramental life of the Church, personal prayer, faith and devotion. Then I will know that my efforts to teach and minister will not have been in vain.
Please forgive me if in any way I may have ever hurt or embittered you. I ask for your prayers for me and Presbytera and our family, as we begin this new stage in our life. Welcome Fr. Luke, his Presbytera Eleni, and their children, Panagioti and Nikola. Embrace, love and support him and his family, as you have embraced, loved, and supported us.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.”
With much love in Christ,