Day of the Russian Child in San Francisco - 05/21/19
May 12th, 2019
Youth from the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church (Menlo Park) participated in the 88th Day of the Russian Child festivities at the Russian Center in San Francisco on this day. This is not just an event about Russian Culture, or the effort to stave off assimilation of American cultures, or even about patriotism. Rather, it is an opportunity to help and support those whom Christ calls "the least of these, my brethren."
Since its founding in New York City in 1926 and its subsequent founding of the San Francisco branch in 1932 (the inaugural year of the Day of the Russian Child), the Russian Children's Welfare Society has collected funds to support orphanages, schools for the deaf, disabled children's programs, and more, all across Russia. The Society has always been purely charitable -- anyone involved with the RCWS is a volunteer!
This year the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church School put on a presentation titled "Seasons of the Year" ("Времена Года"), featuring the recitation of poems by famous Russian authors on each season: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer.
The parish of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin took up two weeks of collections to help support the work of the RCWS.
Diocesan Pilgrimage to Spruce Island and Alaska - 05/17/19
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 713-688-6793.
Download the flyer here.
Cruise to Alaska with Archbishop Benjamin - 05/16/19
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
REFLECTION - We are Members of One Another - 05/11/19
by Deacon George Shumaik
We are at the conclusion of the Old Testament readings for Great and Holy Saturday. The choir surrounds the tomb of Christ singing the Song of the Three Children— “Praise the Lord, sing and exult Him throughout all the ages.” Gunfire erupts, shattering the joyous moment. Time stops, festivity turns to fear, sirens blare, young men instinctively move to the doors of the church. Congregants of Synagogue Chabad flee to Saint John of Damascus. The fellowship hall is opened. Refuge is given. The Divine Liturgy is completed. The interior raiment of the church has turned to white. The exterior world is shadowed by a dark veil of evil. People of differing faith are thrown together. Comfort is given. Tears are shed. Hugs are exchanged. The best of humanity shines forth! All are detained for hours while authorities sort out good from evil. A tsunami of news media descends upon the scene.
At Saint John of Damascus there will be no midnight office, there will be no procession to the empty tomb, there will be no pre-dawn announcement of the Risen Christ. The next morning, a police escort will guide clergy and faithful to the church. Like the myrrh-bearing women, we go not knowing what we would find but understanding that the “one thing needful” was necessary. The tomb is taken down. The Epitaphion is transferred quietly to the altar. Then the doors are physically and spiritually thrown open. Light begins to overcome darkness. The Risen Christ is proclaimed. The Resurrectional Troparia are sung. The Prologue of John is read. The sermon of St John Chrysostom is delivered with more poignancy than ever – “Death where is thy sting? Hades where is thy victory? Christ is Risen and you are overthrown!” The Eucharist nourishes. The Paschal flowers that had adorned the tomb of our Lord are carried in a spontaneous silent procession to the Synagogue to honor their martyred congregant Lori. Memory Eternal!
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
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.
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.