His Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN's Paschal Message - 04/14/14
Let all mortal flesh keep silent,
and in fear and trembling stand,
pondering nothing earthly-minded.
For the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords,
comes to be slain, to give Himself as food to the faithful.
(Holy Saturday Liturgy, replacing the Cherubic Hymn)
HOLY PASCHA 2014
To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
The mystery of the Sacrifice that journeys from the Incarnation, through the Cross, and to the empty Tomb is expressed in the beautiful words that replace the Cherubic Hymn at the Liturgy of Holy Saturday. This liturgy is the very first proclamation to the faithful of the Resurrection. Everything mortal, every one mortal, must stand in silent awe as we witness the depth of the Love that has been crucified and risen to restore us to Paradise. This Love is Himself offered and given back to the faithful in the life of the Church.
Our Lenten journey is finished. Our efforts being fruitful or even fruitless, Christ and the Church bid us to enter into the Resurrection. The tombs are empty, sins are forgiven, we who were dead in those sins are offered Life! Christ is risen and all creation has been changed forever. Christ is risen and we are filled with His grace to live already resurrected as we have died with Him. Christ is risen and we walk no longer in blindness, but rather in the Light, which has destroyed darkness.
May the risen Son of God shine brightly in the heart of each one of you, my spiritual children! May we share the love of the risen Savior with each other and the whole universe! And I say to you all again:
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Yours in the risen Christ,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West
|Parker Mission Celebrates First Anniversary - 04/12/14|
On Monday evening, April 7, the first patronal feast was celebrated at a new mission community in Parker, Colorado dedicated to St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Enlightener of North America. Among the over 40 faithful in attendance were eight priests, six of whom concelebrated the Presanctified Liturgy.
Father Alexander Vallens, the Priest-in-Charge, edified those gathered by recounting the Saint’s many labors in North America, including his visits to Colorado, and emphasizing that St. Tikhon personally established three local parishes which continue today. Father Alexander also described several of the Saint’s terrible trials when he returned to Russia and was elected Patriarch of Moscow. Despite his strong connections to the area, this is the first parish dedicated to St. Tikhon in the Diocese of the West.
|Hieromonk Daniel (Brum) tonsured; Hierodeacon Innocent ordained - 04/11/14|
His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, visited the Monastery of St. John of Shanghai for the old style Feast of the Annunciation on April 7. During his visit, he tonsured into the monastic ranks Archpriest David Brum, Rector of Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Phoenix, giving him the name Daniel. Hieromonk Daniel will continue his duties in Phoenix.
Also, His Eminence ordained the monastery's abbot, Father Innocent, to the Holy Diaconate. Hierodeacon Innocent continues his monastic life at St. John's, leading the brotherhood.
May God bless both Hieromonk Daniel and Hierodeacon Innocent many years of service to come in His holy Church!
|The Manton-Gagauzia Connection - 04/07/14|
Fr Cosmas of the Monastery of St John in Manton, CA is spending some time overseas from the end of February to the beginning of April 2014, getting initial orientation and training for his participation in a project to produce a new version of scriptures and to meet the others who will be working on this project. This is a project, initially, to produce a version of the Gospels in the Gagauz language and it is organized by the Institute for Bible Translation, which is headquartered in St Andrew’s Monastery in Moscow. The role envisioned for Fr Cosmas is as exegetical editor, which means that he will check the Gagauz renderings against the original Greek text.
|Hands Across the Ocean - 04/03/14|
Over the past couple of years a connection has been formed between the Monastery of St John in Manton, CA and Orthodox Christians living in the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, as well as some expatriate Gagauz people living in Russia.
You might wonder who the Gagauz are. They are a Turkic people who have been Orthodox Christian since late Byzantine times. This combination of ethnicity, language, and religious tradition gives their culture something unique. Usually we think of Turkic peoples as having become Muslim, and this is true of a great many nations, but there are also Buddhists among some of the Turkic groups and also those who hold onto the more ancient animist and shamanist practices. Scattered subgroups of Orthodox Christians exist within the Turkic peoples, whose homelands stretch from East and Central Asia to Eastern Europe and from the Arctic regions to the Mediterranean, but what distinguishes the Gagauz is the antiquity and deep-rootedness of their Orthodoxy. Because they have migrated from place to place over the centuries before settling down where they are now, three main geographic elements can be seen in their culture: remnants of the ancient Turkic nomadic life, a Balkan influence, and a Bessarabian part.
|On Monks, Bees and Almonds - 03/26/14|
St. John Monastery, Manton, CA
Spring has arrived early in Northern California, and the monks have had to scramble to get their bees ready for the annual trip to the almond orchards. “Brother Ioann, can you meet tomorrow morning at 3:30 for a bee trip?” Monk Innocent asked, clearly pushing the limits of monastic obedience. “As long as I don’t get stung,” came the stout-hearted reply. Faithful to the plan, following sufficient caffeination, the brothers worked by flashlight to load and stack 28 beehives—each weighing around a hundred pounds and, of course, full of thousands of stinging insects. Although the bees may not appreciate the early morning jostle and sudden deportation to lands unknown, it is a crucial link in the ancient dance of bees and flowers that helps the monks support themselves and contributes to the great cause of making thousands of tons of the single most valuable agricultural commodity in California.
Almonds are commonplace in the grocery store providing us with a healthy (and Lenten!) snack to munch on, but few people realize where they come from and how honey bees are essential to produce them. The almond tree produces an apricot-like fruit. The fruit is not eaten, but kernel of the pit is the edible part—the tear drop-shaped nut that we know and love. But before the tree can “set fruit” the all-essential transfer of pollen from flower to flower must take place. In days gone by, when almond acreage was small and wild bee populations were high, the whole process would happen naturally. In today’s era of mechanized, factory-like agriculture, plantings have increased exponentially. The trees are densely planted for maximum production. In 2014, according to the Almond Board, fields planted in almonds topped out at 810,000 acres. Production of California almonds for 2013 was 1.88 billion pounds. Worldwide demand for almonds has remained strong. Despite the high production in recent years, farmers can expect to fetch $2 a pound wholesale from the field for their product. In many places in the Central Valley in late February, one can gaze from a hill to see a snow-like blanket of pinkish-white blossoms spread from horizon to horizon. Each flower demands pollination, but who can step up to such a monumental task? Enter the motley band of beekeepers.
| ||Lenten Message of His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin - 02/28/14|
GREAT LENT 2014
To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Let us begin the Fast with joy! Let us prepare ourselves for spiritual efforts! Let us cleanse our soul and cleanse our flesh! Let us abstain from every passion as we abstain from food! Let us rejoice in virtues of the Spirit and fulfill them in love, that we all may see the Passion of Christ our God, and rejoice in spirit at the holy Pascha!
(Lord I Call Stichera, Forgiveness Sunday Vespers)
We are now on the threshold of the great spiritual effort of Great Lent. It seems a little strange to hear “let us begin the Fast with joy,” when the long seven weeks of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and repentance seems more than a little dark and somber. But we must always remember the words of Father Alexander Schmemann, who spoke of Great Lent as a “bright sadness.” The “sadness” is the realization of how far away we are from our Beloved and the effort it will take to come back to His embrace. But the “brightness” is the joy of our realization that He has not abandoned us, but has come down to us, become what we are, and goes to the grave itself to rescue us. The darkness of my life engulfed in sin always ends in the light and redemption of resurrection, if I so desire it with my whole heart and strive to make the journey. May it be so!
So we move into the difficult effort of return. We must guard against reducing our Lenten efforts to a “checklist” of dietary restrictions, the number of prayers we say and services we attend, the amount of spiritual reading we do and the number of times we confess our sins. All of them are absolutely necessary and indispensible, but must be done with sincerity and humility, trusting that God knows our weakness and strengthens us in our efforts. May we all truly repent of our sins and lament our separation from the Bridegroom. May we all feel the emptiness of true battle with our appetites and passions, opening our mouths only to nourish ourselves and not to consume our brothers and sisters.
I ask your forgiveness as we enter into this holy time of year and wish for all my faithful parishes and each and every one of you a most fruitful and joyous Fast. May we all rejoice in the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at the end of the bright sadness!
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of San Francisco
|Project Mexico Basic Training - 11/24/13|
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood…”
Orthodox Basic Training Week July 15 - 21
Hosted by the OCA Diocese of the West
Clergy and lay-workers from around the diocese will join together in serving "the least of these my brethren". Over the week, we will construct several sturdy, weatherproof homes for families without adequate shelter. As if that weren't enough(!), through various talks and discussion groups we will explore in-depth practical ways we can participate in, and prepare ourselves for, service "from glory to glory" during the high-school and college years. Among the topics to be presented and discussed:
- Discerning the Call
- Vocations: Monasticism, Priesthood, Music, Iconography, Family Life as Sacred Vocation
- Surviving the College Years: Prayer, Morality, Debt, Community, Sacramental Life
- "The Fields are Ripe for Harvest": Missions Both Home and Abroad
Where do volunteers stay? Volunteers will need to bring tents (or arrange to borrow) and set up on the grounds of St. Innocent Orphanage. The orphanage is located on a beautiful 16 acre ranch near Rosarito, Mexico.