His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:
GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2012
Beloved brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, God-fearing Monastics, and all my Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our True God:
Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!
When they who were with Mary came, anticipating the dawn, and found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher, they heard from the Angel: Why seek ye among the dead, as though He was mortal man, Him who abideth in everlasting light? Behold the graveclothes. Go quickly and proclaim to the world that the Lord is risen, and hath put death to death. For He is the Son of God, who saveth the race of man. (Hypaköe of Pascha, Tone 4)
As we now gaze into the tomb with those who first heard the news of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, how should we understand this moment? Surely we know that this is the height and heart of our faith, that the beautiful and radiant message of the Resurrection is the defining word of the Orthodox Christian life. But how does this touch us in our own lives? How does this connect with us?
Just like those myrrh-bearing women of long ago who gazed into the sepulcher and came expecting to see death and disappointment, we, too, are people who find that our own vision is permeated by the expectation and the experience of death. The myrrh-bearers came to that tomb not out of joy but to mourn. They came there to pour their hearts into that place of death. But they were greeted there not with death, not with decay, but with life, and not just mere existence, but the Life of the World, the Life Who puts death to death.
St. Anthony Church in Bergenfield, NJ Welcomes Bishop Thomas to Commence Parish Life Conference Registration
His Grace Bishop Thomas honored St. Anthony Church of Bergenfield, New Jersey with his annual visit on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. During the beautiful Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Dn. Peter Boulukos was elevated to Archdeacon as his proud brother and sister-in-law and entire St. Anthony family beamed. After Liturgy, the parish hall was filled as all enjoyed breakfast and entertainment by our children. Inspired by the Creative Festivals theme “The Bible…fills us with eternal joy,” church school students sang a song about Old Testament patriarch Abraham and teens hosted a radio call-in show - featuring audience participation – about the prophesies of the Old Testament.
St. Anthony Parish Life Conference chairs Jim Bach and Lisa Fares, under the guidance of V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Allen, have been working hard to make sure every aspect of this year’s Dioceses of Charleston and New York Parish Life Conference—to be held July 4-8, 2012 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, New Jersey— is a great event. Bishop Thomas spoke to the faithful about our role in making sure that we use the PLC as a way to spread The Word, as we are all called to do, during this registration kick-off event. A table of materials, a “Top 10 Reasons Why All Should Attend the Parish Life Conference” slide show, and a guided tour of the dedicated PLC web site helped ensure that every parishioner knew “The Top 10 Reasons to Attend,” including to enjoy the camaraderie of diocese Orthodox Christians and participate in the traditional and fun events the conference offers for adults, teens, and children!
To register, obtain schedules, purchase an ad for the souvenir journal, or learn more, please visit http://EasternDiocesePLC.weebly.com.
(Unionville, MD) On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas was received by the Sisterhood of the Holy Monastery of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Bishop Thomas was accompanied by four of his diocesan priests including Father Gregory Mathewes-Green (Holy Cross Church, Linthicum, MD), Father Patrick Cardine (St. Patrick Mission, Warrenton, VA), Father James Hamrick (St. John the Baptist Mission, Lewistown, MD), and Father Raphael Barberg (St. James the Apostle Mission, Westminster, MD).
Following a short service of reception in the chapel, Bishop Thomas welcomed the sisters to their new property and urged all present to do whatever was necessary to ensure that the property would remain an Orthodox monastery. Bishop Thomas and his priests were then led to the dining room where the sisters provided a hot Lenten meal.
Following lunch, Sister Ignatia accompanied Bishop Thomas and the guests on a brief tour of the property.
His Grace Bishop Thomas visited the community of St. George Cathedral in Oakland, Pennsylvania over the first weekend of Lent, arriving on the evening of Thursday, March 1st and departing on the afternoon of Monday, March 5th.
During the weekend, the clergy and the faithful of St. George were blessed to worship at eight different services with His Grace! On Thursday evening, we prayed Compline with the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. On Friday evening, we prayed the Little Compline with the Akathist Hymns to Our Lady Theotokos. On Theodore Saturday morning, we had Orthros and Divine Liturgy and, in the evening, had Vespers. On Sunday morning, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we had Orthros and a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Later in the evening, the Orthodox community of the Greater Pittsburgh area gathered for the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers, which was presided over by His Grace Bishop Thomas and His Grace Bishop Melchisedek of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania (Orthodox Church in America). Over 20 priests and deacons from every jurisdiction of the Greater Pittsburgh Orthodox community participated in the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers! Of course, every service was followed by the joy of coffee hour and fellowship in the Church Hall.
St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas on the occasion of its annual patronal feast day celebration over the weekend of November 11-13, 2011. Sayidna Thomas began the weekend festivities by attending a dinner with the parish council members and their spouses on Friday evening.
On Saturday morning, His Grace blessed the icons in the dome which were written this past Spring. He was accompanied by the Reverend Fr. Peter Pier, pastor of St. John Chrysostom, and Dn. Jerome Atherholt. Following the blessing, the children learned about the Prophets in the dome from Kh. Pam. Great Vespers was then concelebrated by Fr. Peter, Fr. Joseph Butts and Fr. Theodoros Daoud of St. Mary’s in Hunt Valley, Maryland, with Bishop Thomas presiding. Following Great Vespers, a gala banquet was held at the Golden Stories Restaurant in Columbia, Pennsylvania.
The mission community of St. Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, Delaware welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas for a most blessed weekend on November 19th and 20th, 2011. Also joining in the very special weekend observances was Fr. Nicholas Alford of the Church of St. Gregory in Washington, D.C., along with the Deacon Raphael Garcia and a number of parishioners from D.C. Also coming for the weekend were Fr. Adrian Budica and Kh. Viktoriia from the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY. And also present were Subdeacons Joseph Kavchok from St. Paul, Emmaus, PA; Jason Flowers from the Holy Ascension Mission, West Chester, PA; and Benjamin Daniel of St. Philip, Souderton, PA. A very delicious supper was furnished by the Antiochian Women of St. Andrew following the Vespers Saturday evening.
St. George Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania was delighted to be able to welcome His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph) for his annual parish visit over the weekend of December 9-11, 2011. Due to Sayedna’s additional duties as locum tenens for the Diocese of Toledo, the original plans for an October visit had to be postponed. In addition to celebrating the usual cycle of services from Great Vespers to the Divine Liturgy, Sayedna joined the Fr. Stephen Lourie, pastor of the parish, and the Dn. Gregory Roeber and many parish families for an Advent meal hosted by the Ladies’ Society. Sayedna singled out the Society and especially its officers Lydia Kachur and Rebecca Edmiston for praise for the dinner, program for the children, and recognition of the other hard-working women of the parish.
Much to the delight of the parishioners of St. George, His Grace Bishop Thomas made his annual hierarchical visit to Bridgeville, Pennsylvania over the weekend of September 10 and 11, 2011. During his stay, His Grace provided many wonderful opportunities for the membership of our community to meet and interact with our beloved hierarch.
On Saturday morning, September 10, our Church School children and teachers gathered with His Grace for breakfast and a lively discussion of the Orthodox Christian faith. His Grace, in his fatherly fashion, accepted questions from our children as well as questioning them regarding their progress in their understanding of the Orthodox Christian faith. His Grace’s presence and words, as always, were supportive and lovingly challenging.
Following breakfast, our pastor Fr. Jason DelVitto escorted His Grace to the Pittsburgh FOCUS Center located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. Upon arrival at the Center Sub-deacon Paul Abernathy, Director of FOCUS Pittsburgh and a member of the Parish Council of St. George, Bridgeville, welcomed His Grace and thanked him for visiting the Center. Following Paul’s welcome, His Grace led those gathered at the Center in prayer and proceeded to bless the Center, the people who are involved in accomplishing the extraordinary ministry to the poor done through the Center, as well as the vehicles which are used delivering food, furniture, etc., to those in need.
Beloved in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our incarnate God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!
When Augustus became supreme ruler of the earth, the multiplicity of rule among men ceased. And when Thou becamest human from the spotless one, the worship of many heathen gods also ceased. Then the cities came under one worldly rule; and the nations believed in one divine supremacy. The nations were enrolled by an order of Caesar; but we believers were enrolled in the name of Thy Divinity, O our incarnate God. Wherefore, great are Thy mercies, glory to Thee. (Vesperal Doxastikon for the Nativity)
We are once again reminded by this beautiful hymn that the Good News of the coming of the God-man Jesus Christ into the world is a message not just for certain people, but for all people. We are also reminded that Christ’s Gospel is what unites us all together, no matter what our color, culture, birthplace or language may be. Likewise, the incarnation calls us forth from all our former delusions and idolatry to worship only the one true God, Who has become incarnate as a human being just like us, yet without sin.
As we celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, let us be again inspired to become evangelists and apostles bearing the Gospel to everyone around us; to pray and work together in true unity with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what they look like or where they are from; and most especially always to turn away from anything that keeps us from dedicating ourselves totally to the worship and service of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Yours in Christ,
Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS (Joseph)