Christmas Message From Metropolitan Methodios

His Eminence gave the sermon below after vespers last Sunday night for the feast of St. Spyridon.  Please pass it around:

Christmas Reflection 2011

 

Beloved in the Lord,

 

“And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

 

On Christmas day, the Church proclaims to humanity the good tidings of the birth of the Savior who is “Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten not created… who, “for us men and our salvation came down from heaven and was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man” (Confession of Faith).

 

Holy Scripture, the hymnology of the Church, and the Orthodox Christian icon help us to focus on this, the greatest of mysteries. “He who knows no beginning now begins to be, and the Logos is made flesh” (Doxastikon of Christmas Orthros).The Divine Logos, “He who by nature is invisible is seen today in the flesh”. “He lowered the heavens and came down to fashion corrupt Adam anew” (hymns from the Lity authored by John the monk).

 

St. Paul writing to the Galatians proclaims that God sent forth His Son, “so that we may receive adoption as Sons” (4,5). To the Romans, he speaks of the consequences of this salvific miracle: “If we are children of God, then we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17).

Studying the icon of the Nativity, we learn that Christmas is a Paschal mystery which culminates in the passion, death and Resurrection of Christ. The Incarnate Savior is seen in a sepulcher–shaped manger. He is wrapped in a winding burial cloth foreshadowing His repose in a sepulcher hewn from rock following his Crucifixion (Luke 23:53). The infant Jesus is not placed in a cradle, but on an altar of sacrifice symbolizing His death. The icon of the Nativity, however, points beyond darkness and death. A brilliant ray of light and an image of a dove pierce the darkness of the cave to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit. Above is the hand of the Father, the source of life. On the altar lies the incarnate Christ. In the poverty and misery of a manger, the three persons of the Holy Trinity appear. God is present and makes Himself known.

 

It is of paramount importance for us “to arise and behold the divine condescension from on high that is made manifest to us.” (Sticheron of the Sixth Hour). This is indeed difficult. The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by secular culture have unquestionably affected our lives. We are immersed in an environment beset by cynicism, apathy and selfishness — in a society that has lost its spiritual roots. Our culture has no time to reflect upon the “reason for the season.” It is reported that 98% of the references in various media highlight the impact of Christmas on the economy, on travel, on retail sales, etc. Few stories refer to the Son of God. Sadly, the media is only part of our culture which is determined to push Christ out of our sphere of interest. Public and private schools throughout America have removed references to Christmas from the classroom. The lyrics of traditional Christmas songs have been changed. ‘Silent Night’ has been changed to “Cold in the Night”. “We wish you a Merry Christmas” has been changed to “We wish you a swinging holiday.”

 

Under the influence of hedonistic consumerism, Christmas has lost its true meaning. Recently, shoppers filled retail department stores beginning at midnight in what has come to be known as “Black Friday”. Regrettably, some individuals — armed with pepper spray cans! — proved that they knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. The wisdom of the world claims that happiness comes from what you own, how much money or influence you have, how important other people think you are. St Paul reminds us that we celebrate the birth of Him who, “through he was rich, yet for your (our) sake became poor, so that by his poverty you (we) may become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). We celebrate the birth of Him who asks us,“what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

 

Christmas has always disturbed the conscience of the materialistic world. It has always challenged those who are on a frantic race to enrichment at all cost. It has always challenged those individuals whose selfishness and greed exploit the dignity and rights of their fellow human beings.

 

My brothers and sisters,

 

This Christmas, let us pause from the hustle and bustle of our daily routines to be alone with God. To pray. To read Holy Scripture. To read and reflect upon the beautiful hymns of our church which help us to focus on the Christmas miracle. Let us turn off our radios and televisions, our IPhones and IPads and everything else that is electronic. Let us hear the voices of the archangels proclaiming the birth of the Savior. Let us close our eyes to the blinding lights of the world so that we may see the light emanating from the cave in Bethlehem.

 

May that light radiate in our hearts and enlighten our minds this Christmas and every day of the New Year 2012.

 

With Archpastoral love

in the Incarnate Lord,

M E T H O D I O S

Metropolitan of Boston

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December 17th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Cathedral Archive Photos

These photos were given to me to put in the church archives by Connie K.  At least one is dated 1961.  Some are partially labelled in the back with names, but most aren’t.  Recognize anyone?

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October 6th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

October Archpastoral Reflection From His Eminence

The story is told about a number of frogs which were placed by scientists in a tub of water whose temperature was exactly the same as the pond from which they were taken. The scientists slowly increased the temperature and were soon astonished to see that, even though the water gradually became warmer, the frogs did not react. It was only when the temperatures were increased to a boiling point that the frogs reacted. It was too late. Before they knew it, they burned to death. Had they realized the slow increase in the water temperature, they would have reacted and thus spared their lives. The frogs grew accustomed to the slow rise in temperature and adapted. The change in water temperature occurred slowly but deliberately, and because of this process, the frogs failed to pay attention.

For us Orthodox Christians, the changes in the moral standards in our society have occurred so slowly that they have become imperceptible. We have adapted to the slow deterioration of moral life in society to the point where we have adapted to the moral decay in our midst and have taken it for granted. Sadly we live in a world of moral and ethical relativism, hedonism and selfishness; in a world in desperate need of spiritual renewal. Sunday is no longer the day that we worship Almighty God and then sit at our dinner table to enjoy fellowship. Rarely do we read the Bible. Prayers are no longer offered in our schools. The Ten Commandments have been removed from our civil courts. Lifestyles previously kept in the closet are now championed as reputable and worthy of emulation. The other day while driving to a liturgical service, a fellow priest pointed to a decal placed prominently on the bumper of the car in front of us. It was the symbol of a new atheist group in America.

The admonition of Saint Paul addressed to the Ephesians should echo in our hearts, “no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” (Eph.4:17) We need to re evaluate our lives and ask ourselves how the way we live differs from the way others live who have no faith. Do we differ as Orthodox Christians from our secular and oftentimes atheist neighbors? How do we live our Orthodox Faith?

I am concerned that we have become so accustomed to sin and immoral behavior, that we do not notice it. We must not accept the prevailing permissive immoral and unethical standards of modern day society which are clearly at odds with the tenets of Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

Remember the frogs in the experiment, and be wary of their mistake of growing accustomed to an environment which eventually caused their demise.

+ Metropolitan Methodios of Boston
October 2011

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September 22nd, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Why Greek School?

It is that time of the year – registration for Greek School at the Cathedral today and tomorrow, with the traditional Sept. 14  agiasmo service kicking off the year and classes starting the next day.  Greek School can be tough for parents – everyone’s schools seemingly get out at different times, some parents live several towns aways, etc.  But I think it is well worth sending our children to the Cathedral’s Greek Afternoon School.  Here are a few reasons:

-First of all, it is a good thing to learn a foreign language.  Americans are not great at this, but I think a big reason is that each state speaks the same language (think Europe, where most neighboring states speak different languages and people tend to know more than one).  Greek is a heritage language for many of us at the Cathedral, but learning modern Greek opens the door to learning one of the great classical languages.  I can tell you that I did very well on my verbal SATs partly because if I didn’t know a word I could figure it out from Greek roots.

-Our school is accredited, and the teachers are certified in teaching Greek.  Our students can receive credit in school for these classes.  I should also mention that our teachers are awesome – tireless, dedicated, super-smart and able to make every day fresh and interesting.  Unlike my Greek School experience many years ago, our students are tracked – those who speak Greek at home go on one path, and those who don’t are put on another so they learn at the appropriate pace.

-Greek School at the Cathedral is more than just language.  The students learn religion, history and cultural stuff like dances and poems.  It is a great supplement to Sunday School and other ministries – time spent with fellow students in Greek School means more time at the church and more time with their church friends.

-The various performances during the year get the students comfortable with public speaking in high-pressure situations.  I know that memorizing and reciting poems as a little kid helped prepare me for what I do now; I am very comfortable speaking in public, and I am sure that those early performances (which I dreaded back in the day) were part of it.

I could go on with reasons.  Greek School is worth the driving and time commitment – we are blessed to have such a program.

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September 12th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Building Project…Completed?

Is the building project at the Cathedral completed?  Well, except for a few small things Phase 2 Stage 2 pretty much is (we are currently working on the kitchen, which is a separate part of the project).  We still of course have to raise some more money but hopefully that will come in good time.  The refurbished Cotsidas Auditorium as well as the classrooms and the new “Bumpout” are beautiful, and I look forward to all of the spaces getting heavy use.  Check out pictures here.

I have been taking pictures throughout the projects (the ones in the link above were not taken by me) but haven’t posted them – for the most part people could see through the doors what was going on.  But below are two pictures I took because they are a piece of history and can be considered Cathedral archaeology.  The stairwell at the Russell/Cedar Streets corner (the one by what was the Food Pantry entrance) was demolished as part of the remodeling, but a segment of stairs remained, now buried behind the wall of the storage area where the stage used to be.  Here are pictures of the stairs before they were sealed up:

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August 8th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Vacation From Church?

Is the summer meant to be a time of vacation from church?  It is a natural question to ask, since many people are, in fact, away, and church attendance is definitely way down during these hot summer months.  Most priests would answer “of course it is not!” and yes, I do not think that summer should be vacation from church.  But there is, as always, more to the story…

It is not just people who are away who are not coming to church.  Many take the summer off, for various reasons.  And this is to some extent understandable.  This may sound weird, but going to church at St. Spyridon can be very hard work, especially if you have children.  The church is crowded, everyone is talking to everyone after church, and a typical Sunday, even in the summer, often has lots of stuff happening.  Going to church can be stressful.  It is natural for people to seek a break from this.  The Cathedral also inadvertently encourages the vacation mentality.  Ministries like GOYA and Philoptochos largely go on hiatus during the summer months because they are so active that indeed a break is needed.  We also all sort of take for granted that “it is summer, everyone is away, etc.”, and don’t really blink an eye that attendance is down.

The flip side of this is that church is great during the summer.  It is more relaxed, and there is more of an opportunity, I think, to have a fulfilling spiritual experience than a typical raucous fall or spring Sunday at the Cathedral.  The weather is nice, so everyone is happy, and there are many cool saints and events celebrated – the blessing of the grapes on August 6, the saints we celebrated last week, the feast of the dormition which is many people’s favorite, and so forth.  Also, going to church is part of our normal life as Orthodox Christians.  Sunday liturgy is foundational to our lives, and to take off for 3 months is to equate church with school and work and other things that are not, perhaps, our favorite things.  Do we want to send the message that church is just something we do when we have to?  Will our children come to church when they are older if they see it is not a huge priority?

So, where to go from here?  If you generally skip church in the summer, try to come.  I always advise people who don’t go to church but want to to start coming once a month, invite family and friends, and make it a fun day with brunch after service.  If you normally come faithfully but take the summer off you can make it more than just once a month – I think you will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the service.  If you are away, seek out a local Orthodox church.  It is fun to go to a new place where you don’t know anyone and meet the locals.  Most places in the US will have a church nearby, and if you are in Greece, well, there you go.  Tomorrow is August 1, and we begin our services leading up to August 15.  A month after that is when things “start up again” at the church, with the feast of the Holy Cross.  Get a head start on coming back from vacation – start now!

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July 31st, 2011 by Fr. Greg

“The Doors, The Doors…”

If you have driven by St. Spyridon lately you will probably have noticed that work is being done on the front doors of the church.  These doors were donated when the Cathedral opened back in the day but were not always maintained properly.  They are absolutely beautiful but pretty weathered – they are exposed to rain and the sun hits them all day long.  When I turn from the altar to give a blessing I can actually see the cars driving by on Russell Street because the cracks in the center doors let in so much light.  The “Cocoanut Grove” doors on the side have been refinished, and the the two center doors await.  Here are some pictures that show you the contrast:

This is the left side door and the left center door.  The shadow is me, the photographer:

Here are details from the doors showing both the beauty of the wood work as well as the contrast in finish:

Thanks especially to George Economou, who has taken the initiative in making this happen, and the rest of the House Committee.

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July 23rd, 2011 by Fr. Greg