Priest’s Corner: February-March 2019
At this time last year, our Parish Council—with the intent of properly preparing our church building for full consecration—took a “leap of faith” and committed to a contract with CJK Sacred Space to design and build a new iconostasis as the centerpiece of a complete “refurbishing” of our church building. At the annual General Parish Meeting, I presented a budget projecting major expenses for these projects, a conservative estimate of special donations in the amount of $50,000, and a deficit of $115,000. Glory be to God, I was very wrong about my predictions! The call to help us in completing these expensive, yet indispensable, projects was heard far and wide, and the generosity with which our parishioners and friends responded was incredible. The amount donated has far exceeded the figure I had projected, and the deficit for the year is but a fraction of what we thought it might be. We are not done yet, but what a joy it is to see what has been accomplished and what can be done when we come together in a common effort.
I have never been disappointed by our parishioners when a call for help or aid has been made. Whether it is to aid victims of natural or manmade disasters, to help needy people in various places in the world, to assist other parishes, or to beautify our own spiritual home to the glory of God— our parishioners and friends have always opened their hearts and their checkbooks. It is part of our Christian duty to do such things, and we certainly should not to be conceited about it, but only grateful that God gives us both the opportunity and the wherewithal to be able to do so. Glory be to Him for such mercies!
Great and Holy Lent begins on March 11 this year. Of all the fasts during the year, Great Lent, of course, is the most important. Regardless of how well or how poorly one fasts in a physical sense, it must never be forgotten that the primary reason for the fast is to properly reset our priorities: specifically, to put our physical needs “on the back burner” while moving our spiritual needs to the forefront, where they truly belong. By recognizing this, one realizes that fasting is a spiritual discipline, not a method to lose weight or a way to obtain any other earthly benefit.
It is important to note here, that while abstaining from food, entertainment, and trivial pursuits are all important aspects of Lent, we must also take advantage of the exceptional and most prayerful church services conducted only during this time of the year. The penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, read during the first, and again during the fifth, week of Lent encourages deep introspection on our spiritual condition. The Presanctified Liturgies again, conducted only during Great Lent, are most prayerful and spiritually fulfilling. We take time to honor the Mother of God with the akathist to her, read at the end of the fifth week, and we conduct the parastas (the Great Panikhida) several times during this season to remember our reposed brethren and to remind ourselves that one day our names will be among those commemorated on these special days. We are grateful to our ruling bishop, Archbishop Kyrill, for bringing to our church the General Unction Service, scheduled for April 8 this year, giving us all the opportunity to participate in the Grace of the Seventh Sacrament. How many wonderful and unique opportunities we have for true meditation, prayer, and repentance during this most holy time of the year!