Thursday, June 28, 2007

Remembering Holy Prince Lazarus

and the People of Serbia

Following the new calendar, St Lazarus is remembered on June 15. According to the old calendar, presently in use by the Serbian Orthodox Church, he is remembered today, June 28 - as is the battle of Kosovo, in which he was martyred. The following is taken from the menologion of the Orthodox Church in America:

The Holy Prince Lazar of Serbia lived during the fourteenth century at a time when the Turks, having conquered neighboring lands, were preparing to invade Serbia.

St Lazar was raised at the court of the holy King Dushan, and was appointed governor of one of the Serbian districts. In the year 1371 he was chosen King of all Serbia and he toiled much at strengthening the condition of the country. He pacified neighboring princes, who had wronged or plundered Serbian settlements. He was concerned also for the Christian enlightenment of the nation, he built churches, supported the monasteries and charitable establishments. In 1380 the saint established the monastery at Rovanetz. Saint Lazar petitioned the Patriarch of Constantinople to remove the anathema from the people of Serbia. During the course of the ten years of his rule, Serbia was at peace.

Afterwards there began war with the Turks. At the time of the Battle of Kosovo, the wounded king was taken prisoner. On the orders of Sultan Bayazet, he was beheaded with a sword on June 15, 1389. The body of the holy King Lazar was buried at a nearby church. In 1391 his incorrupt relics were transferred to the Ravanica monastery. The monastery was destroyed by the Turks in 1683, and the relics of King Lazar were transferred to the monastery of New Ravanica on Mount Thruzh. He was the founder of the Monastery of St Panteleimon on the Holy Mountain, as well as numerous other monasteries and churches.

Battle of Kosovo 1389; by Adam Stefanović 1870

Pray for us, Holy Lazarus, for we turn to you, the sure helper and intercessor for our souls!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

June 24: Nativity of the
Holy Glorious Prophet,

Forerunner and Baptist John

Six months before his appearance in Nazareth to the All-holy Virgin Mary, the great archangel of God, Gabriel appeared to Zacharias the high priest in the Temple at Jerusalem. Before he announced the miraculous conception to the unwed Virgin Mary, the archangel announced the miraculous conception to the childless old woman, Elizabeth. Zacharias did not immediately believe the words of the herald of God and this is why his tongue was tied with dumbness and remained as such until eight days after the birth of John. On that day, the relatives of Zacharias and Elizabeth gathered for the young child's circumcision and for the sake of giving him a name. When they asked the father what name he wishes to give to his son and being dumb, he wrote on a tablet: "John." At that moment his tongue became loosed and he began to speak. The home of Zacharias was on the heights between Bethlehem and Hebron. The news of the appearance of the angel of God to Zacharias was spread throughout all of Israel, as well as of his dumbness and the loosening of his tongue at thee moment when he wrote the name "John." The news concerning this even reached Herod. Therefore, when Herod sent soldiers to slay the children throughout Bethlehem, he directed men to the hilly dwelling place of the family of Zacharias to kill John also. However, Elizabeth promptly hid the child. Enraged, at this King Herod sent his executioners to Zacharias in the Temple to slay him (for it happened that it was Zacharias' turn again to serve in the Temple of Jerusalem). Zacharias was slain between the court and the temple and his blood coagulated and petrified on the stone pavers and remained a perpetual witness against Herod. Elizabeth hid with the child in a cave where she died soon after. The young child John remained in the wilderness alone under the care of God and God's angels.

- from The Prologue from Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Serving our Community... with LouFEAT

In recent months, Saint Matthew Orthodox Church has provided administrative support and served as host for several gatherings of LouFEAT, Louisiana Families for Effective Autism Treatment.

This organization is committed to providing educational opportunities for educators and parents of children and adults with autism. They are firmly committed to methods demonstrated to be effective for teaching persons with autism based on peer-reviewed research, specifically those based upon the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis on Verbal Behavior.

As Orthodox Christians, we believe that all things in this life - our joys, sorrows, victories, and defeats - are given to us that through them we may work out our salvation. Learning to love, accept, nurture, and teach children with profound developmental disabilities can be a fearful and daunting task. But through such works of mercy, we grow in our love of God and neighbor, reflecting the Light that is Christ Jesus.

If you would like more information about LouFEAT, you may contact them by email at Tax-deductible contributions to their work may be made by check to Saint Matthew Orthodox Church, with "autism ministry" indicated on the memo line.

Please remember LouFEAT in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

All Saints of North America

On the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church commemorates all the saints, known and unknown, who have shone forth in its territory. Accordingly, the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of North America on this day.

In our mission, we welcomed Fr Nikolay Miletkov as our visiting priest. On Saturday evening, we were delighted to meet Fr Philip Rogers and his wife, Khouria Kathryn, who have recently been assigned to Archangel Gabriel Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. After Vespers, a number of us enjoyed an evening of Cajun food and music at Boutin's.

At Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, Fr Nikolay was assisted at the altar by Alex Tabbal, a graduate student at LSU.

Glory to God for all things!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Visiting Priest This Weekend -

Make plans now to join us for Great Vespers on Saturday evening, June 9, at 5:00 PM and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, June 10, at 10:00 AM as we commemorate the North American Saints.

Our visiting priest, Fr Nikolay Miletkov, is a native of Bulgaria and a graduate of St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He is presently serving as assisting priest at St John of the Ladder Orthodox Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

Visitors are always welcome - join us as we pray!

Monday, June 04, 2007

June 3: All Saints Sunday

"The veneration of the saints and prayers addressed to them is an ancient tradition of the Church preserved from apostolic times. Accusations that the Church worships people on the same level as God, thereby breaking the commandment ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve’, are unjust. Greek theology makes a clear distinction between worship (latreia) of God and veneration (proskynesis) of the saints. The latter are venerated not as gods, but as people who have attained a spiritual height and who have become united with God. The saints are closely connected with each other and with Christ. In venerating the saints we venerate Christ, Who lives in them.

"Official numbering among the saints, or canonization, is a comparatively late phenomenon: there were no acts of canonization or glorification in the early Christian Church. A martyr who suffered for Christ soon after his death would become the object of reverential veneration by believers; they would pray to him and would celebrate the Liturgy on his tomb. To this very day there is a rule in the Orthodox Church whereby the Liturgy is celebrated on the relics of the martyr or a saint. This emphasizes the link between the Church on earth today, made up of living people, and the Church triumphant in heaven, made up of saints glorified by God. It also shows how the martyrs are the basis and foundation of the Church. ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity’, said Tertullian.

"The veneration of a particular saint is not a result of the act of canonization. Actually, the reverse is true: canonization comes as a result of the popular veneration of a saint. There are saints about whose lives almost nothing is known, and yet their veneration is universal. A good example is St Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia (the fourth century). He is glorified by Christians of both the Eastern and Western Churches, he is loved by both children and adults (Christmas holidays in the West would be unthinkable without Santa Claus visiting the home and bringing presents). Even non-Christians who pray to St Nicholas receive help from him. This universal veneration of the saint is rooted in the experience of many generations of people: he became the ‘personal friend’ of those thousands of individuals whom he has helped and whom he has saved from death.

"Some people find it difficult to understand why it is necessary to pray to the saints when there is Christ. Yet the saints are not so much mediators between us and Christ: rather, they are our heavenly friends, able to hear to us and help us through their prayers. Someone who has no friends in heaven cannot properly understand this reverential veneration which surrounds the saints in the Orthodox Church. It has to be said, therefore, that those Christian communities which have no direct and living communion with the saints, cannot fully experience the completeness of the Church as the mystical Body of Christ uniting the living and the dead, saints and sinners."

- from The Mystery of Faith, by Bishop HILARION Alfeyev; icon from the website of the Orthodox Church in America