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Weekly Bulletin - Week of 3/1/2009

posted Mar 9, 2009, 7:41 AM by Arian Kulp
New Calendars Available-
       The March-April St. Raphael Church calendars are now available to be picked up at church.
New Building Update-
       The closing on the new building did not take place as scheduled last week due to an unforseen discrepancy in the appraisal price vs. our agreed upon purchase price.  As we enter into Lent, we are taking pause, and considering how best to proceed.

Pre-Sanctified Liturgies-
       On Wednesday evenings during Lent, we will celebrate the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy at 6PM, except on March 25, when we will have a Vesperal Liturgy for the Annunciation.  The sermons during the Pre-Sanctified Liturgies will focus on the Anaphora prayer of St. Basil's Liturgy.  Each Wednesday evening service service will be followed by a simple lenten soup supper.  We need volunteers to bring the soup each week.  A sign-up sheet is posted at church for these meals.

Friday Evenings During Lent-
       On Friday evenings during Lent, we will celebrate Little Compline with the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos at 7PM.
Russian Langauge Class Rescheduled-
       The next Russian class will be on March 12 at 7PM.  Throughout Lent, classes will continue weekly on Thursday nights, but will not meet on March 19.

Arabic Language Class Rescheduled-
       The next Arabic class will be on March 9 at 7PM.  Throughout Lent, classes will continue weekly on Monday nights.

Orthodox Parenting Retreat-
       The Iowa Orthodox Christian Clergy Association is happy to bring Kh. Maggie Hock to Cedar Rapids for a one-day retreat on Saturday, April 4 at St. George Church.  Kh. Maggie is the Director of the Dept. of Marriage and Parish Family Ministries of the Antiochian Archdiocese. She will present on parenting and raising families on a path to holiness, based on the writings of St. Theophan. Please make plans to be at St. George on April 4 for what promises to be an enriching, edifying experience.  A schedule and registration form are attached to this email.

Prayer on Behalf of the Victims of Abortion-
       On Saturdays at 10AM during Lent, at the Emma Goldman clinic at 227 E. Dubuque St. in Iowa City, Fr. Ignatius will be praying the Office of Prayer and Supplication for the Victims of Abortion and the Akathist of Repentance For One Who Has Aborted a Child.  Please join him if the Lord leads you.  This will be a time of prayer and repentance, and not a protest.

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.

Food For Thought:
I shall now turn to the missionary potential of Orthodox liturgical service. Orthodox divine services are characterized by inner integrity and astounding beauty. From the priest’s exclamation at the very beginning of the service we are immersed in an atmosphere of uninterrupted prayer, in which psalms, litanies, hymns, prayers and the celebrating priest’s invocations follow one another in a continuous stream. The entire service is conducted as if in one breath, in one rhythm, like an ever unfolding mystery in which nothing distracts one from prayer. Byzantine liturgical texts filled with profound theological and mystical content alternate with the prayerful incantation of the psalms, whose every word resonates in the hearts of the faithful. Even the elements of “choreography” characteristic of Orthodox services, such as solemn entries and exits, prostrations and censing, are not intended to distract the faithful from prayer but, on the contrary, to put them in a prayerful disposition and draw them into the theourgia in which, according to the teaching of the Fathers, not only the Church on earth, but also the heavenly Church, including the angels and the saints, participates.

Orthodox liturgical texts have, for Orthodox Christians, an incontestable doctrinal authority, whose theological irreproachability is second only to Scripture. Liturgical texts are a “school of theology” by virtue of being not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fullness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the contrary, have been accepted by the whole Church as a “rule of faith” (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox churches over many centuries. Throughout this time, any erroneous ideas foreign to Orthodoxy that might have crept in either through misunderstanding or oversight were eliminated by church Tradition itself, leaving only pure and authoritative doctrine clothed by the poetic forms of the Church’s hymns.

The heart of Orthodox daily cicle of services is the Divine Liturgy. Some of my non-Orthodox friends complain that the Orthodox Liturgy is too long, saying “why do you have to stretch out the Eucharist when you can serve it in half an hour?” My experience of the Liturgy is altogether different: two hours are never sufficient for me, since the time goes by so quickly and the dismissal comes too soon. It is always difficult to leave the altar and to descend from the heavens to earth, from the experience of the sublime to the cares of this world. There is a story about a priest in Saint-Petersburg at the end of the 19th century who had a small room above the church’s sanctuary. After serving Liturgy he would climb into this room by means of a ladder which he would then take with him. Only after two or three hours would he return to the church to talk with people. Although the majority of clergy in the 21st century cannot allow themselves this luxury, the reasons for this priest’s desire to prolong the sweetness of communion with God and the unearthly stillness and calm that enter the soul while serving the Liturgy, are wholly understandable.

The Liturgy is a “common act,” and without doubt demands the presence and active participation of the laity. Orthodox practice knows of no private Liturgies which priests might serve by themselves, as is very widespread in the Catholic Church. The entire structure of the Liturgy also presupposes the presence of a congregation which, together with the priest, is also a celebrant of the Liturgy. This is a congregation not of spectators, but of participants, who join in communion of the Mysteries of Christ. Many have rightly remarked (including Fr Alexander Schmemann, with special emphasis) that the order of the Liturgy of the Faithful does not at all presuppose the presence of believers who do not take communion....

If we can call the services of the Orthodox Church a school of theology, then the Divine Liturgy is this school par excellence. It teaches us about the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom because it itself is an icon of this Kingdom, the most complete, perfect reflection of the heavenly reality in our earthly conditions, a revelation of the transcendent through the immanent. In the Kingdom of God all symbols shall pass away, and only the heavenly reality will remain. There we will not commune of the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine, but in a more perfect way we shall be united with Christ Himself, the Source of life and immortality. If the manner of our communion with God will change, its essence will remain the same – always a personal encounter with God, not of isolated people, but of people in communion with each other. In this sense it is correctly said that the Liturgy served on earth is but a part of the incessant Liturgy celebrated by people and angels in the Heavenly Kingdom.
excerpted from Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev's "Orthodox Mission in the Twenty-first Century"