PASCHAL MESSAGE OF HIS EMINENCE, ARCHBISHOP BENJAMIN - 04/24/19
“By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered You in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
There is an old saying, “Be careful what you pray for — you might just get it.” The powerful words of our father among the Saints, St. John Chrysostom, read every year during the Paschal Matins, brings us to a very clear image of that saying. “Hell” is almost personified in his sermon. “It was embittered, it was abolished, it was mocked, it was slain, it was overthrown, it was fettered in chains.”
The stichera of Holy Saturday sings out again and again, “Hell cries out groaning…” Why? Because “it took a body, and met God face to face.” The groaning is hell being destroyed from within. The demons saw the crucifixion and rejoiced, because the victory was finally theirs. But they prayed for the wrong thing — and got it. When hell swallowed the Savior, it choked. The corpse — for that is exactly what hell is — is bloated and finally explodes. The gates are smashed, locks are annihilated, chains are broken, doors are demolished and Adam and Eve are lifted out of Sheol along with all of their descendants. They (we) are restored to Paradise.
We live in the Resurrected Christ and His Body — the Church. But we still reside in a fallen and broken creation. The Paradise that Christ came to restore for us is tasted in the Church, but its fulness is yet to be realized and only in the Kingdom of Heaven. Our world is full still of darkness and hatred (see Sri Lanka just a few days ago on Western Easter), our own society seems more and more polarized — politically, socially and morally. And yet, in the midst of this darkness, we see those who are searching for the Answer.
We have nothing to give them but the Risen Christ. But what else is needed? Redemption has been offered to all of creation, renewal is there for the taking, Light is shining for those who would see it, Life has pierced the armor of Death and destroyed it. If each and every one of us simply embrace the Risen Christ with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul, thereby living the resurrected life, multitudes will be saved around us.
The Risen Christ is indeed all we have to give, but when given, we know the answers to the questions: O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Yours in the risen Christ,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West
EOCS offers scholarships for Orthodox Christian Scouts - 04/23/19
ASTORIA, NY [EOCS] — The Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting [EOCS] is offering up to two $1,000.00 scholarships to Orthodox Christian scouts who demonstrate love of God and the Orthodox Christian Faith through their service, scholarship, leadership, and practical citizenship in their churches, schools, scouting units, and communities.
The EOCS is an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America and the officially recognized Eastern Orthodox religious committee for all scouting organizations in the USA. It provides support, programs, and recognition of service and faith development to scouts and scouters of the Eastern Orthodox faith via the religious award program, adult recognition for volunteer scouters and clergy, scholarships, retreats, “camporees,” and associated activities.
Scholarships are contingent upon acceptance to an accredited four-year college or university. Eligible scouts should be registered active members of an EOCS-recognized scouting program --Scouts BSA, Venturing, Exploring, Girl Scouts of the USA, Trail Life USA, American Heritage Girls, and Camp Fire -- and communicants of parishes recognized by the Assembly of Bishops, having earned the highest award of an EOCS-recognized Scouting program (e.g., Eagle, Gold). Explorers and Venturers must have attained Eagle Scout. They also should have earned the EOCS Alpha Omega Religious Award and be enrolled in the final year of an accredited high school. Home-schooled students should contact the Scholarship Chairman for guidance in completing the application.
Detailed information and applications are available online and must be submitted no later than May 1, 2019. Scholarship recipients will be announced on June 1.
Enquiries may be directed to Dr. M. E. Kotsonis, EOCS Scholarship Chairman.
Diocesan Office Move - 04/11/19
February 26th, 2019
The Diocese of the West Administrative Assistant Office has been enjoying a new location at the DOW's Duboce property in San Francisco these past couple of months! Once His Eminence, Archbishop BENJAMIN realized his father would have to move in with him due to rent hikes in Southern California, Vladyka informed the Diocesan Council and Administrative Assistant Priest Andrew Smith that it would be necessary to find a new place for the office at 1520 Green St. With about a month to move the office with its archives and files, the DOW Council secured funds to hire Birch Circle Movers of San Anselmo, CA to simplify the process.
This still meant a few more days in the Green Street office for Fr Andrew, packing up files and empyting the loft area where archives had been stored. While the work was a bit unexpected, it did turn up various and sundry fascinating relics and souvenirs -- old event posters, portraits of previous diocesan hierarchs, a typewriter (!), and many reminders of people and places accrued over more than 50 years of administrative record-keeping (for many years kept by our Archbishop BENJAMIN, who was diocesan administrative assistant when he worked as Bishop TIKHON (Fitzgerald's) archdeacon).
The day of the move itself was smoother than expected in spite of the rain thanks to Birch Circle's professional and efficient team. St Seraphim Cathedral's intern, Deacon John Joseph Kotalik, helped Fr Andrew re-file all the DOW's documents that day after the movers finished -- thank you Dn J.J.! Fr Andrew was so pleased (and relieved) with the process that he served a Thanksgiving Moleben in the Chapel of the Synaxis of the Theotokos located on the property.
Please note: the 1520 Green St address is STILL the active mailing address for all diocesan mail and parcels -- thank you, and glory to God for all things!
Orthodox 360 Discount Offer - 04/04/19
Orthodox 360 will be conducting 360 Tours for churches in the greater San Francisco and Los Angeles areas in June and July of this year. As this is its first trip to the West Coast, the company is very interested in doing as many churches as possible, and to make that happen it is extending a 25% discount and no travel costs to the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of the West! Archbishop BENJAMIN gives his blessing for parishes to reach out to Orthodox 360 to enlist its services. A flyer for the promotion may be viewed and downloaded here.
Cruise to Alaska with Archbishop Benjamin - 03/30/19
Archbishop Benjamin invites you to join him on a special cruise to Alaska. Socialize with fellow Orthodox while you sail though the USA’s last frontier. Enjoy special services as well as educa-tional talks on the church’s history in this fascinating country. Embark on a convenient roundtrip Seattle adventure, offering spectacular Hubbard Glacier vistas, whale-watching and stops in God-protected Sitka, rough-hewn Ketchikan and Alaska’s capital, Juneau. (Please note: this is different than the Pilgrimage Cruise scheduled for July 2020.)
• 7-day cruise round trip from Seattle
Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers at Holy Trinity Cathedral - 03/29/19
March 17th, 2019
Holy Trinity Cathedral, San Francisco, CA
His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon visited Holy Trinity Cathedral for Vespers on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. From the bell tower, the murmurings of spring daylight made the San Francisco sunset a warm gray. The Blagovest rumbled as the service began and the doors opened just before the hour. A triumphant sight entered the cathedral, His Beatitude with Archbishop Benjamin, Archbishop Kyrill (of ROCOR's Western American Diocese) and Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa. The first intoning of the deacon and response of the choir set the stage for the rest of the evening. Somber and powerful, beautiful and heavenly, these are the moments that originally drew me into Orthodoxy.
His Beatitude's Visit to Santa Rosa - 03/28/19
Sunday March 17th, 2019
St Seraphim Cathedral, Santa Rosa, CA
The parishioners of St. Seraphim Cathedral in Santa Rosa, California received an extra measure of grace on the Sunday of Orthodoxy when His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, visited and celebrated Divine Liturgy with them. They counted it a triple blessing because their Diocesan hierarch, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco, and Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa, were also present at the Divine Liturgy.
His Beatitude gave the homily that morning, revealing the connections between the Gospel account of Christ penetrating the depths of Nathaniel’s heart as he saw him under the fig tree, and the restoration the veneration of the holy icons: “All this seeing and beholding is not the external capturing of phenomena, but the entering into the reality of the kingdom.” He reminded us that the holy icons are one of the gifts of the Church that “reveal the great mysteries of our Orthodox faith, and which compel us to proclaim today, ‘This is the faith of the Fathers, this is the Orthodox faith, this is the faith that has established the universe.’”
Metropolitan TIKHON's visit to San Anselmo - 03/27/19
Saturday March 16th, 2019
Walking to St Nicholas Church in San Anselmo for Sunday of Orthodoxy vigil, things were the same but different. It would be the same vigil, sung by the same choir in the same way, in the same building, in the same time of year. And yet the same choir would be singing ‘Eis Polla, Eti Despota” for our Primate, our Archbishop, and Diocesan Chancellor and Auxiliary Bishop. And yet yesterday’s drizzle and gloomy skies gave way to the first warm Spring evening of the year. And yet in the middle of this ‘same’ building would be standing not one, not two, but three hierarchs. Much the same, but much different.
Waiting for the bishops to arrive, the same parishioners had a slightly different energy – more flitting about, more excitement than usual. And yet, after the excitement of His Beatitude’s entrance with the blast of the bells, the dual deacons dishing out incense, the veneration of the venerable images, and the Metropolitan claiming his kathedra, this excitable energy distilled itself into a broader, more heightened normal.
Diocesan Pilgrimage to Spruce Island and Alaska - 03/22/19
Join your fellow Orthodox believers in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of St. Herman of Alaska’s gloriﬁcation and the 50th Anniversary of the OCA’s autocephaly in 2020. There will be weekly trips to Alaska over the summer of 2020 sponsored by each of the dioceses of the OCA. The Diocese of the West will sponsor their trip July 8-14, 2020. This will be a special trip for all Orthodox believers. Sign up early and reserve your space. Final cost to be determined.
Core package includes:
* 7 days/6 nights accommodation
* Round trip air fare to Kodiak from Anchorage
* Excursion to Spruce Island
* Touring and sightseeing as listed in itinerary
For terms and conditions, passports, visas, baggage fees, air, additional taxes and travel insurance information visit https://www.culturallycreativetravel.com/pilgrimage-to-alaska-2020/or email email@example.com 713-688-6793.
Download the flyer here.
Winter Feasts and Jubilees - 02/08/19
On December 19th (New Style), the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Parish celebrated Divine Liturgy for St Nicholas Day. This is, of course, always a much revered occasion for any Orthodox parish, but all the more so in our strong Slavic immigrant community. But this St Nicholas Day had an added jubilant atmosphere, as on that very day our longtime Sisterhood President, Tatiana Dimitrievna Diedovitch (known lovingly by all as ‘Tata’), turned 90 years young.
Tata, like so many ethnic Russians whose families fled the country after the Bolshevik revolution, came to America (by way of Brazil) from Harbin, China. She still taps into her Chinese background from time to time, speaking Mandarin with the Chinese inspector from the San Mateo County Environmental Health Services department who comes during our annual Christmas Bazaar to ensure health codes are being enforced (which of, course, they are, under Tata’s watchful eye).
Successful Bay Area Walk for Life - 02/03/19
Another year of praying for an end to abortion and another peaceful, prayerful and successful West Coast Walk for Life! It was a joy to see so many Orthodox Christian clergy, monastics and faithful of so many jurisdictions. Special thanks to Father Serge Kotar for leading the service to end abortion; to Father Josiah Trenham, with the assistance of Emily Wilkinson, for organizing attendance by Southern Californians; and to Father Aris Metrakos of Holy Trinity Church and the wonderful staff at the Christopher Center for hosting them. We hope all are inspired and energized to incorporate sanctity of life prayer, service and education throughout the coming year.
You can download the PDF for the text of the service to end abortion here. You can also download the Encyclical of Metropolitan Evangelos, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey, on the recent New York abortion law here. While this encyclical responds to a recent event, it is also a concise statement on the Church's teaching on abortion. Its issuance is timely and greatly appreciated.
Rocky Mountain Deanery Winter Activities - 01/28/19
Rocky Mountain Deanery Heads North for Meeting and to Honor Bozeman Church
It’s funny how business sometimes gets done in Orthodox churches, and the results are often unexpected. Like most deaneries, the clergy of the Rocky Mountain Deanery of the Diocese of the West like to support their sister church communities by attending one another’s Altar Feasts. Last November, these brother-priests found themselves talking business while enjoying a festive meal at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pueblo, CO. The question at hand: where and when should they meet for their more official meeting in early 2019? “Let’s go up to Bozeman (Montana) for their St. Anthony parish feast day!”
St. Anthony the Great Church up the northern clime of Montana is a wonderful account of God blessing a small group of Orthodox Christians who persevere, often against the common wisdom of church planting experts and wisdom. Under the pastoral care of Fr. David Morrison, St. Anthony’s recently “graduated” from mission status to that of a parish. As such, this fledgling Orthodox church was transferred from the diocesan-wide Mission Deanery to the Rocky Mountain Deanery. One of the great challenges of Orthodox churches in areas like Montana is tremendous isolation. The closest Orthodox Church to Bozeman is a 2 hour drive. In fact, it has been an ordeal for the Montana clergy to participate in the Deanery’s meetings, requiring an expensive flight or arduous drive down to Colorado. The Colorado members of the Deanery decided it was time to change that pattern; it was their turn to make the effort.