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From the Weekly Bulletin (week of September 4, 2011)

posted Sep 25, 2011, 1:32 AM by Ilya Buchkin
Sept.-Oct. St. Raphael Church Calendars Now Available-
       The printed September-October St. Raphael Church Calendar is now available in the narthex at church. 
Introduction to Orthodoxy Classes to Begin Soon-
       Beginning Sunday September 18 at 1PM, Fr. Ignatius will offer a series of 7 weekly classes that are designed to be a basic introduction to the Orthodox Christian faith.  This class series is appropriate for inquirers or for anyone who wants to increase their knowledge of what our church teaches and practices, including Orthodox Christians who feel they were never taught the basics.  Please let Fr. Ignatius know if you are interested in participating, and invite your friends!
Free Lunch Program Volunteering-
       This Tuesday, September 6, we will be providing volunteers to assist serving food at the Free Lunch Program at the Wesley Center (120 N. Dubuque St.) from 11:30AM-1:30PM.  Please let Fr. Ignatius know if you can help this month. 
Sunday School Beginning Soon/Save the Date-
       We will have a kick-off to the Sunday School year with a fun day scheduled for Saturday September 10 from 10AM-1PM at the church.  The children will gather for a picnic and t-shirt dyeing and games in anticipation for the first day of Sunday School on Sunday September 11.  Please plan to get your children involved in what promises to be a wonderful year of Sunday School.  Also, we are in need of volunteers to be helpers in the classroom.  If you have not returned your registration forms yet, please do so ASAP to Fr. Ignatius or Alli Rockwell. 
We Need More Tables-
       Due to rearranging of some tables in the church fellowship hall based on our needs for Sunday School, we are in need of several long (8 or 10ft) tables for use during coffee hour.  If you would like to donate a table or the money to buy a table, please see Fr. Ignatius or Parish Council chairman Todd Wiblin.
Daily Orthodox Study Bible Readings for the Week-
       On September 1, some of us committed to reading through the Orthodox Study Bible over the course of the Church year (Sept. 1-Aug. 31).  Following are the readings for this week:
       Sept. 4- Genesis 11:10-15:21; Psalms 6; Proverbs 1:16-19; Matthew 4
       Sept. 5- Genesis 16-18; Psalms 7; Proverbs 1:20-24; Matthew 5:1-20
       Sept. 6- Genesis 19-21; Psalms 8; Proverbs 1:25-29; Matthew 5:21-48
       Sept. 7- Genesis 22-24:49; Psalms 9:1-17; Proverbs 1:30-35; Matthew 6:1-18
       Sept. 8- Genesis 24:50-26:35; Psalms 9:18-39; Proverbs 2:1-5; Matthew 6:19-34
       Sept. 9- Genesis 27-28; Psalms 10-11; Proverbs 2:6-9; Matthew 7
       Sept. 10- Genesis 29-30; Psalms 12-13; Proverbs 2:10-16; Matthew 8:1-17
       Sept. 11- Genesis 31-32; Psalms 14-15; Proverbs 2:17-23; Matthew 8:18-34
Sermon Series- Understanding the Divine Liturgy-
       Fr. Ignatius is preaching a series of sermons each Sunday titled "Understanding the Divine Liturgy."  In this series, we will consider some general characteristics of the Liturgy, and then we will work our way through the text of the Liturgy, asking God to enlighten us regarding this marvelous gift of God to His Church. 
Upcoming Service-
       We will commemorate the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross with a Vesperal Liturgy on Tuesday, September 13 at 6PM.
33rd Annual St. Thekla Pilgrimage September 23-25-
       Mother Alexandra and the Monastery of St. Thekla invites you to the 33rd Annual St. Thekla Pilgrimage held at the Antiochian Village near Bolivar, PA.  Speakers will include Mother Alexandra and Bishop Thomas.  For schedule and registration information, go to: http://www.antiochianvillage.org/assets/files/center_pdf/St.%20Thekla%20Pilgrimage/2011%204%20panel%20brochure.pdf
Do You Have a Prayer Request?
       Please give it to Fr. Ignatius and he will distribute it by email to all those on the Prayer Chain.  If you wish to join the Prayer Chain, please let Fr. Ignatius know.
Holy Bread-
        On Sunday September 11, the Branch/Peterson family will provide the holy bread.  Thank you in advance.  Anyone who would like to provide the holy bread can sign up at the bulletin board in the narthex.  Bread seals are available to be loaned out.
Choir Leadership-
       On Saturday September 10 and Sunday September 11, Lori Branch will lead the choir.
Coffee Hour-
      On Sunday September 11, the food for coffee hour and the cleaning of the fellowship hall will be provided by the St. Raphael team.
Church Cleaning-
       During the week following Sunday September 4, the cleaning of the nave, narthex, bookstore/library, stairs, nursery and bathrooms will be provided by the St. Nina team.
Food for Thought-
A Commentary on the Seven Appellations of the Virgin Mary-
Most Holy-
The holy Virgin is called most holy, Panagia in Greek, the most common appellation among Orthodox faithful.  How can anyone be called holy, let alone "most holy"?  Is not God the one who is holy as we sing in the Liturgy?  Yes, but we are all called to "share in His holiness" (Hebrews 12:10).  Besides God, teh Holy Scripture calls the following holy: the angels, the prophets, the apostles, John the Baptist and the Christians.  Is not the holy Virgin holier than all of them?  If the mountain on which the Lord stepped was called "holy" how much holier was the Virgin's womb?  If we call the Scripture holy, which is about the Word of God, how much holier is she who gave birth to God the Word?  If the altar of the temple was called "most holy" shouldn't she who is a "temple pure and immaculate" be called most holy?  If the utensils of the temple are called most holy. shall she who carried in her womb the "Holy One of God" not be called most holy?
She is called immaculate or undefiled, a term also reserved to describe the consecrated Gifts.  God found her as a "lily among thorns," fragrant and pure.  "O most sacred daughter of Joachim and Anna, who escaped the powers and principalities and 'all the flaming darts of the evil one,' kept in the bridal chamber of the Spirit spotless, in order to be the Bride of God and Mother of the true Son of God."  By the grace of the Holy Spirit, Panagia was kept holy and undefiled, completely free of the taint of any personal sins.
Most Blessed-
She is "the most blessed woman," because she was elected by God to bear His Only Begotten Son.  That is why the Church does not call her simply "blessed," but "super blessed."  Indeed, true to her prophetic utterance (Luke 1:48), the Orthodox people call her blessed for all generations.
She is called glorious.  Indeed the Church calls her more glorious than the seraphim themselves, for if the seraphim (the highest among the angelic orders) surrounded God's throne, the Holy Theotokos was God's throne, bearing Him and carrying Him in her womb and in her arms.  It has been written: "Glorious things are spoken of you, O City of God" (Psalm 86:3) a reference, according to the Church, to the holy Virgin.  Also the Scripture says prophetic utterances about her such as, "His dwelling shall be glorious" (Isaiah 11:10 and "I will glorify my glorious house" (Isaiah 60:7). She who gave birth to the "Lord of Glory" is indeed glorious.
Lady was the title of the queen.  She is "Lady," even "our Lady," being the Mother of the Lord and King- the Queen Mother!  She is the Queen because she is the spouse of God!  "The queen stands at Your right hand, clothed in gold robes" (Psalm 44:9b).  The Church applies these prophetic utterances to her.
The Church calls her Theotokos, Mother of God, a title she received at the Third Ecumenical Synod of Ephesus (431 AD).  She was called the Mother of God in the Holy Scripture! (Luke 1:43).  Why is it important to call her Theotokos?  If we call her Theotokos we believe that her Son is God.  But if we refue to call her Theotokos, it would indicate that we have a problem accepting that He Who was born of her was truly God Himself in the flesh.  Indeed, if we have no problem accepting that He Who was born of her was truly God in the flesh, then we should have no problem calling her what she truly is, Theotokos, Mother of God.   St. Gregory the Theologian say that, "If one does not accept holy Mary as Theotokos he is cut off of divinity...he is an unbeliever.  The ultimate glory of the Theotokos and the chief reason for the honor we pay to her is her role in the plan of salvation.  She is the one who gave us Christ, our salvation: "What is greater than to be called and be Mother of God?"
Ever-Virgin simply states the obvious: even after giving birth, she still remained a virgin.  Isaiah had prophesied, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son" (Isaiah 7:14).  Those who deny her ever-virginity say that the Hebrew word almah means young girl.  From the context of the prophecy a great "sign", a portent, was expected.  If the word meant simply "young girl" what portent would that be?  The New Testament text in Greek has parthenos, "virgin," so if it is an inspired text we must accept it as an inspired interpretation of the ancient prophecy.  He wWho could enter the Upper Room while "the doors were shut" could enter and exit the womb of the Virgin without violating it.  If one does not accept the virginity of the holy Theotokos, then one does not accept that she conceived above any laws of nature the One Who is above nature.  The Church sees the Prophet Ezekiel's vision of the East Gate of the Temple that remained shut to all men, for it was only the Lord God to pass through- as a prophecy of the ever-virginity of Mary. 
Adapted from "Panagia- A Mini Study" in "The Heavenly Banquet: Understanding the Divine Liturgy" by Fr. Emmanual Hatzidakis