Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year! (and Theophany is coming...)

Happy New Year! 2008 was both a challenge and a blessing to us all, I think. And undoubtedly the lion's share of both challenge and blessing for many of us came from the merger of St. John's with St. Nina's. It has been a great blessing to me (as I have shared with many of you) to look out from the royal doors and see one family - and that has been the direct result of many individual decisions to get out of our comfort zones to listen, to learn, and to love. May God continue to bless us in this important work He has given us, to make us one as He is one, and to teach us to love Him whom we have not seen in the brothers and sisters that we see week in and week out at St. John's and St. Nina's, our spiritual home.

2009 is already bringing us fresh challenges. We already have the beginnings of a Building Committee to help us try to find the way forward as our family grows. Holy Cross Chaplaincy is committed to establishing itself as an independent entity (the better to minister to all Orthodox students at UBC) and to raising our profile on campus. And I have no doubt that the Lord will bring fresh challenges our way that we are not yet aware of - and, as we rise to the challenges, fresh blessings!

The next great blessing scheduled to come our way is the feast of Theophany. This is the second-greatest feast in the Church calendar, celebrating the manifestations of God (hence the name "Theophany" meaning the "appearance of God") culminating in the ultimate manifestation of the Trinity at the baptism of Christ. It is at this feast that we renew our supply of holy water - the Great Blessing of the Waters is an integral part of the service. We will be celebrating the feast of Theophany with a Vesperal Liturgy at St. John's and St. Nina's on the eve of the feast (i.e., at 7:30pm on Monday, January 5th, so come fasting from about noon on if you are planning to receive communion), at which we will have the Great Blessing of the Waters indoors (so bring your holy water containers!).

The outdoor service of the Great Blessing of the Waters we will reserve for the Sunday after Theophany (January 11th) so that as many of the community as possible can make it. The exact location of the Great Blessing of the Waters has yet to be determined, so I am open to suggestions at this point. We could bless the waters of Trout Lake again, but I am actually partial to the suggestion that we continue the St. Nina's tradition and bless the Pacific Ocean - which would give us rather a lot of scope in terms of location, so, please, let me know where you think would be best! I have also heard rumours that there are a few brave (and hopefully hardy) souls who are actually willing to jump into the water to retrieve the cross, so if you are one of those individuals, please let me know.

The period following Theophany is the time when Orthodox Christians traditionally make arrangements to have their priest over to bless their homes. As you know, I am generally in Vancouver from Thursday evening to Sunday, but I am willing to come in Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings by special appointment, which may be necessary at this special time of the year. Please contact me by e-mail or by phone to make an appointment to have your home blessed. Nothing is needed for a house-blessing other than a good supply of holy water (which you should have obtained at Theophany!), a candle, a few minutes to pray, and a willingness to listen to your priest attempt to sing the troparion for Theophany as you guide him through your home (note that you are welcome to join in as he does so)! You might also want to cover up anything that might be damaged by water-droplets before the blessing...

Finally, one other very important feast-day coming up is our winter patronal feast (as Peter the Medic has christened it) of St. Nina of Georgia, which we will be celebrating on the eve of St. Nina's feast-day with a Vesperal Liturgy at St. John's and St. Nina's at 7:30 pm, January 13th. I look forward to celebrating both of these highly significant upcoming feasts with all of you, united in one Body as one family by the grace and the love of our Lord!

Love in Christ,

Fr. Justin.