Parish news – building
Two things I ask my flock to
The Octoechos (Paraklitiki)
The Services are the Scriptures
Can’t get enough of that true
about myself stuff.
07/01 – 07/14 2009 6th
Tuesday after Pentecost
some parish news, then a little bit about the service texts for
We plan to begin actual construction on the land this
week. It took us over 10 months to get our building permit. We were ready to go
in September, but there was one delay after the other. Now, with the building
permit in hand, we will finally begin. A schedule should be forthcoming at the
end of this week. We will take pictures of this odyssey and post them regularly
to the website. Professional photography is being provided, pro-bono, due to
the generosity of Nick Mallouf (malloufphotography.com)
We will continue to pray on the land on Thursdays (but not
this Thursday, since we will have vigil for the New Royal Martyrs Thursday at 7
PM, with liturgy Friday at 9 AM.). The cross, which is almost exactly where the
altar will be, will be moved, probably near to the big oak tree.
We have accomplished what we have thus far by prayer and
patience (whether we wanted to be patient or not!). Our delays have cost us
money and we will have no buffer of cash at the end of the building process
because of additional costs. I suppose this is the better path for us, because
it is not easy or secure. We cannot be complacent, knowing that we have smooth
We will be sending out a pledge letter soon. We are
experiencing a severe shortfall in monthly pledges, and things will get very
difficult for us if we do not make it up. I know “times is tough”,
but we are in a critical juncture in our history. It would be a shame to build
a temple, and then not have the money to meet our commitments and default. The
Gospel warns us about that.
I am asking my flock two things in regard to our finances:
1. please do your best to pay your voluntary pledge, and increase it if you
can. 2. Send me postal addresses or email addresses if you do not know the
postal address, so I can send a letter to those who might have good will
towards our parish. We are in the midst of trying to raise $40,000, which will
cover our increased expenses, and allow us to build an iconostasis (assuming of
course, that our monthly income from pledges increases to the pledged amounts.
If we continue to have a shortfall, all the $40,000 will get sucked up by the
shortfall, and we will delay our crisis till next year).
We have many readers from all over the world. We appeal to
you to consider a donation to our building fund (send to Box 37, McKinney TX
75070). You can also help us by letting us know of people you think might
respond favorably to a letter from us.
Abbot Gregorios of Docheiariou
would sometimes gather the newer monks in his cell after Compline to sing
through parts of the next morning's canons from the Paraklitiki [Oktoechos].
This also gave him the opportunity to comment on the texts themselves,
because, as he used to say, "If you want to learn Orthodox theology, you find
it in the Paraklitiki, Triodion and Pentecostarion."
A little crusade of mine since I have become a priest is to
teach about and kindle in the hearts of my flock a love for the Divine
Services. Our faith is well proclaimed in our service texts. All our theology
is there. All of our moral teaching is there. The entire mind” of the
church is there.
A great holocaust of this age is the ignorance so many have
about the services. Daily services in parishes are rare, and the majority of
Christians rarely worship at complete vigil services on Saturday, even if
they are offered.
We Christians need to know, study and participate in two things
much more than we usually do: The Holy Services, and the Holy Scriptures.
This is why I put so much emphasis on commentary on the scriptures. I have
done somewhat less commentary on the services, but intend to try to add more,
because the services are “the scriptures
It is good to be literate in the Services. This is a deep well,
and takes years to master; I am often lacking perfect liturgical details
because of my poor memory and lack of attention, but nonetheless, lets us
continue to attempt to glean salvific things from the services.
The usual weekday services (from the Octoechos or Parklitiki)
follow recognizable patterns. For instance, today is Tuesday, and on this day
we remember St John the Baptist, and also focus more on repentance.
Therefore, the service texts emphasize this.
The liturgical day begins with sunset, and the first service,
Vespers, will reflect the theme of the following (calendar) day. Therefore,
on Monday evening, Vespers has a distinctly compunctionate theme, with many
“stichera of repentance”. Matins on Tuesday continues the theme,
with many more comunctionate stichera (hymns), and much about the
The central part of matins is the canons. A “canon”
is a long set of hymns, usually in 8 parts, with a sung part at the beginning
(the Irmos) and several stichera, which are chanted, with short
“refrains” inserted before each. There may be several canons said
at the same time. On Tuesdays there is a canon of repentance and one about St
John the Baptist. There may also be a canon or canons from the
“Menaion” which is about the Saints remembered that
There is something quite marvelous about reading canons. Since
they all have the same basic structure, one feels a warm familiarity and
“rhythm” that assists prayer greatly. At first, they are
difficult to learn, and one feels very distracted, but this passes with
effort. Knowing anything worthwhile takes effort and a certain amount of
Here and there, I will give short excerpts from the services.
Hopefully this will whet your appetite. I assure you, when the services are
sung, the understanding and benefit to the soul is immeasurably greater. We
have a saying, “he who sings prays twice”. Therefore, it
is good to read the service texts (I do this often), but better to be at
church and pray them. As we get established and I am able to stop working for
at least part of my daily bread, we will have many more daily
O Lord, visit Thou my lowly
soul, which hath squandered all its whole life in sins; accept me as Thou
didst the Harlot, and save me. (Octoechos, Tone 4, Tuesday
Matins, 1st Sectional hymn)
Sometimes people mention their sense of awe when
they are in a historical place, such as the Holy Land, or even the
nation’s capital. Some of the very people we have read about in history
books were in the very place we now stand!
How much more should we be awed by the holy
services, which have been prayed by countless saints. In Monasteries, to this
very day, these services are chanted for hours daily, and at this very moment
are helping untold numbers attain to great sanctity.
The services contain all our theology, but we must
understand that theology is about how we should live, of which what
we should believe is only a part.
Only the Orthodox have this wonderful
compunctionate and yet hopeful and confident realism about the human
condition. You would not hear one hymn like this is a Protestant mega
church (and besides, how can one be compunctionate sitting in a theatre
chair)! Our Tuesday matins service has several dozen like this
It takes a lot of time to put off the brain washing
our proud soul has subjected itself to. I daresay that many people who
profess to be Christians would find the hymn above to be morbid, negative and
depressing, and indicating “low self-esteem”. They do not
understand. To me, such hymns are liberating! I can admit out loud what I
already know about myself. How can we get better unless we recognize what is
wrong? Our compunctionate. hymns throughout the year “call a spade a
spade” and a “sinner a sinner”. They are usually in the
first person – we are saying this prayer about ourselves, and no one
It is very hard to truly and fully know that we are
sinful. The repetition of the church hymns helps towards that end. How many
times did the humble monastic saints hear this type of prayer – a
million times in a lifetime? Of course, the other side of the story is also
frequently told – of God’s mercy and long suffering towards
sinners, but unless we acknowledge deeply within ourselves that we have deep
wounds of sin, we will not seek out the physician.
When I hear prayers such as this, I can feel my
soul only partially agreeing. I know I am a sinner, but I cannot honestly say
that I feel the depth of this tragedy, nor understand how frequently I
squander God’s grace. None of us can manufacture this feeling –
it comes about from years of toil in keeping the commandments, and as the
monastic story goes, “falling down and getting up” Our
problem is we often do not know when we have fallen, because we do not have a
fine, refined sense of what is right and wrong; we sometimes do not know when
we are squandering (wasting) the grace God offers us.
Do not let this depress you! You cannot get better
without effort and time, but you will definitely get better if you try. Part
of this process is fully, deeply feeling our sinfulness. When we totally
learn our own unreliability, we will cease to rely on ourselves, but only on
May God help us to “Redeem the
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.
St Nicholas Russian Orthodox
Church, McKinney, Texas
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