The fourth and fifth weeks of Great Lent 2012 were especially spiritually blessed for St. Mary Church  in Hunt Valley (Baltimore), Maryland. His Grace Bishop Thomas’ pastoral visit to the parish during the weekend of March 23-25 for the Feast of the Annunciation coincided with these two critical weeks of Great Lent, prayerfully and powerfully linking them in the Church’s journey to Pascha.
During an eleven day stay in the Baltimore area, Sayidna presided over St. Mary’s daily English and Arabic Lenten services in the weeks both preceding and following the weekend of the Annunciation Feast. His Grace’s gentle pastoral presence, sensitive and profound spiritual guidance, and wisdom offered at the end of these services deepened and strengthened the spiritual preparation of the attendees to receive the Risen Lord at Pascha.
The principal liturgical highlights of His Grace’s visit to St. Mary’s were his presiding over the offering of the fourth Akathist Hymn on March 23, Great Vespers of the Annunciation on March 24, and celebrating Sunday Orthros and Hierarchical Liturgy marking the Feast of the Annunciation. Bishop Thomas’ recurring message to the faithful throughout the Annunciation weekend services was that they must constantly strive to fully comprehend the meaning of the “good news” announced to the Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel and individually live out the reality of the Lord’s redemptive love for humanity demonstrated by the Incarnation, just as did the Theotokos.
At the conclusion of the Hierarchical Liturgy, His Grace and all those present proceeded to the newly constructed road that will access the construction site of the new Byzantine-style church the St. Mary’s community is building. Bishop Thomas prayed over and blessed the new road, aptly named “Heaven’s Way."
Also, just prior to the beginning of the Hierarchical Liturgy, Bishop Thomas ordained Vasili Poulos to the Sub-Diaconate. Subdeacon Vasili is a graduate of the St. Stephen’s Program, holds a Masters of Arts in Applied Orthodox Theology from The University of Balamand's St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology, and is a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Ministry Program offered in academic partnership by The Antiochian House of Studies and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
The eventful Sunday of the Feast of the Annunciation ended with a luncheon prepared and served by St. Mary’s Sisterhood of Martha and Mary in honor of Sayidna’s visit. Archpriest Fr. Theodoros Daoud, St. Mary’s Parish Council and the entire parish wish Bishop Thomas many years and look forward to the blessings of many future visits by His Grace!