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In Memoriam: Deacon Andronik P. Kashevarof
In Memoriam: Deacon Andronik P. Kashevarof
Deacon Andronik P. Kashevarof fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 89 on October 4, 2017, one day after his 69th wedding anniversary to his Matushka, Elekonida. He was born on St. George Island, Alaska on October 14, 1927. He was at home with his family in Anchorage where he passed very peacefully. 
 
Father Deacon Andronik was tonsured a reader in 1958 by Metropolitan Leonty (Turkevich) and served St. George the Victorious Martyr Church on St. George Island for 70+ years. He was later ordained a subdeacon by Archbishop Gregory (Afonsky), and ordained a Deacon by Bishop Innocent (Gula) on Feb 8, 1998. Deacon Andronik retired from active ministry in 2014, and continued attending services faithfully at St. Alexis Mission in Anchorage. 
 
Deacon Andronik is survived by his loving wife, Matushka Elekonida; daughters Gladys (Anthony) and Beverly (Christopher); sons Andronik, Jr. (Sharon), Gilbert, and Jeffery (Georgia); 15 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his biological parents, Eoff and Martha Philemonof, and his adoptive parents, Walter and Helen Kashevarof.
 
Funeral arrangements for Deacon Andronik Kashevarof are as follows:
Saturday, October 7th: 
   Panakhida, 2:00 pm at Evergreen Funeral Home, 737 "EStreet, Anchorage
Wednesday, October 11th
   Viewing, 12:00 noon at St. Innocent Cathedral, 401 Turpin Street, Anchorage
   Funeral, 1:00 pm at St. Innocent Cathedral
   Burial, 3:00 pm at Angelus Cemetery, 440 East Klatt Road, Anchorage
   Memorial Meal (Potluck), 5:30 pm at St. Innocent Cathedral
 
May Deacon Andronik's memory be eternal!
From the Desk of Bishop DAVID                            Around the Diocese
On Unexpected Death

When we lose someone that is very near and dear to us, we are troubled by a solitary, perplexing question that we cannot answer, and it seems that no one else can give us a satisfactory response for it either.  We all have the question, “WHY”, why did our loved one die?  It is a very natural question. Does it need to be this way?  Does it need to be an unanswerable inquiry? I think not, and offer this reflection coming out of my own difficult experience facing the death of my Matushka ten years ago.

We all relate to God in three equivalent and identical ways.  Some may call them by other names, but for the purpose this essay I will use the three that are the most logical to me.  They are 1) the Wisdom of God, 2) the Love of God, and 3) the Mystery of God.  Let us look at these three more deeply and see if it will be helpful in answering our "Why" question. Before I continue, I understand that what I am saying does not bring them back our loved one. It does not take away the pain of their loss or the emptiness that we feel because of it.  I only write this because it helped me—and might help others-- to understand what has happened and in some small way come to grips with the agony that comes with the loss of a loved one.

In a general way, we are always participating in these three modes of His being, even if we are unaware of it.  They continue to exist and operate whether we acknowledge them or not.  It is just that when we are talking about death, they are all the more acute, punctuated by the act of loss that has no equal in our world.

First, we are part of the Wisdom of God – not just knowledge, even if that is a principle part of Wisdom. By itself, knowledge is simply being able to remember certain natural laws, or forms of math, or historical memory; by themselves they are little more than a memory chip of the brain that we can call on when we need a given area to take action or respond to a situation.  But Wisdom is much more than this. It is the collective use of all that knowledge to use in a beneficial way.  Sometimes it is the result of our own years of experience in a given area, other times it is when we call upon others who we know to be wise and seek their guidance.  You cannot find Wisdom on your iPhone.  And Wisdom seeks to answer bigger questions about life rather than simply knowing a fact, like water boils at 212 degrees.  Wisdom seeks to answer questions like, why do we exist in the first place?  Deep in our being we begin with a longing for answers that we do not have.  We have a yearning that says we are certain we can find the answers, but first we need to know how to go about looking for the answers, discovering where they are. And they are in God.  Our relation to God sets us on the right path to discover and become more aware of our own existence and what it means to be in the world.  Only by looking to the Wisdom of God can we find those authentic answers that fill our need to know about the life we are living.  That is why it is the first stage in our relation to God, for we are always becoming what He intends us to be, the ones made in His Image and after His Likeness.  How wonderful this is! 

Secondly, this Wisdom leads us to the love of God, to appreciate what God has done for us and with us.  It makes us want to love Him for the life he has given us that makes us even the envy of angels.  "For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor."  [Psalm 8:5].  Not only this, but God became man and dwelt among us.  "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."  [John 1:14]. This occurred because God wanted to express His love for us and seek our response to love Him in return. "We love Him because He first loved us." [1 John 4:19]. This would not be possible without having Wisdom about God.  But it also creates a problem for us.  God is so Infinite, so all-encompassing, so full of mercy, grace and truth, we are scarcely able to understand His love, or be able to embrace it at all.

And this leads us to our third relation of being to God, His Divine Mystery.  All things from God are shrouded in this Mystery.  It is why we in Orthodoxy refer to the salvific acts of Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Communion, Marriage, Priestly Orders and Holy Unction not as Sacraments, but as Mysteries.  Indeed, our ability to comprehend them and how they function on and in us is very much a mystery to us, yet our Faith allows us to accept them and repeatedly use them as needed.  We may understand their usefulness for us, and why they are important for our Salvation, but we are not God and therefore cannot comprehend the depths of their functions and abilities.  The words of St Paul are appropriate here, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory…" [1 Corinthians 2:7]. This "wisdom of God in a mystery" means exactly what it says, that we can talk of the wisdom of God, but only insofar as the mystery allows us to do so.  We can see that these Mysteries of God were from the beginning and were specifically created for us and for our glory.  This means a day will come when we will receive their meaning in glory in the mysteries of God when all things shall be revealed.  Again, St Paul, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."  [Romans 8:18]

So far I have been talking in a general way about God’s wisdom, love and mystery in order to now answer our "Why" of death within the understanding of God's design and His relation to us.  That is, if we can have a right knowledge of the three modes of our relationship to God, then we can better understand the “why” of death.

Wisdom – When a person falls asleep in the Lord, three things happen.  First, their body stops working and doing the functions that allowed it to be animated in the first place, the heart, brain and nervous system all cease.  Medicine can tell us this has happened and our knowledge of medical facts tells us this is so.  Secondly, there is the separation of that which is directly connected to our being like God in the first place, our soul leaves the body.  And thirdly, our spirit no longer animates us.  No matter how much we may desire to remain in that body and with those we love, we cannot do it.  Perhaps this is why some people pass away with a slight smile or a frown?

Love – I believe the single most important thing to remember about the love of God has much to do with death.  People in anguish ask, “Why did God take him from me?” As if God wanted him or her to die.  Others become troubled when some catastrophe occurs and ask a similar question, “Why did God let that happen?”  In both cases it is as if to say our God is so cruel that he randomly takes people from us that we love without so much as a “I’m sorry I had to do that to you.”  If you want proof that God does not work that way just look at Christ in the Gospels.  The widow of Nain (Luke 7), the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5), and especially Lazarus, Jesus’ friend (John 11).  In fact, the account of raising Lazarus contains the most direct evidence for God’s reaction to our deaths; it contains the shortest verse in Scripture, verse 35, “Jesus wept”.  Does that sound like a vicious God, eager to bring down punishment on we wretched sinners?  I think not.  In fact, I am willing to say that God did not intend for us to die.  Period.

Mystery – Perhaps the most difficult duty of a Christian is to account for the Mystery of God where death is concerned.  Calling death a mystery does not give God a free pass out of our dilemma.  To say “We can’t understand it, so we must wait for the answer in the Kingdom of God” will not suffice when one is completely torn apart in their being due to the loss of a loved one. Our experience of death is rooted in what I would call “The Adam Factor”.  If we look at the beginning of creation, how God created the universe and everything in it, at each step of the formation of each part, he saw that it was good (Genesis 1:10,12,18, 21, and 25, and 31 where He says, “it was very good.”).  It was only when Adam and Eve disobeyed God that their life changed the course of humanity forever.  

In Genesis 2, God sees that Adam and Eve now have knowledge of good and evil. He knows they will not be able to balance their life well with this knowledge and so He had to banish them from Paradise.  The Church Fathers use this act to say that by allowing man to taste of death, he ceases to commit sin.  It is an act of love and mercy as much as it seems to us as a punishment. And what was their first experience with death?  God had to kill animals to make skins to cover their bodies.  And the second experience of death was even worse, they saw the loss of one of their children at the hands of the other, when Cain murdered Abel.  And the world has descended into one tragic deed after another ever since. 

Thus, the Mystery of God contained in our understanding here is found in two important facts.  It is in our inability to grasp the true purpose of death and our lack of comprehension of time and eternity.  St Paul reminds us that we lack the ability to fully comprehend this mystery when he says in Corinthians, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…”.  [I Cor. 2:9]  This is to say that the source of our struggle with Mystery is our own limited understanding, not God’s commands or directives.  Said another way, how can we expect a reasonable response to an unreasonable act?  If God did not intend for us to die, if God created us to be in Communion with Him, if God gave us a way to avoid death in the first place, and we did not heed it, if He then sent His Only-begotten Son to die for us and give us a path to life, it seems to me He has done all He can for us in our current state.  And He did all of this because He loves us despite our disobedience and our human frailties. 

Thus we come to perhaps the most beautiful statement by an Apostle concerning our topic.  St Paul wrote the Romans and said, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom 8:38-39]. You see, with the relationship we now have with God thanks to His Son, there is nothing that can separate us from His love and therefore nothing that can take away the love we have for our loved ones who are temporarily separated from us.  Yes, our time now is temporary, painful but temporary, for the day comes when we can never, ever be separated from them again.

In conclusion, when I lost my Matushka to cancer ten years ago, I had the following verse inscribed on our tombstone from the Book of Revelation:  “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” [Rev 21:4].  This world and all its suffering shall pass away and all life shall be renewed.  This is the hope I keep for my future, I hope you can keep it for yourself as well.

May God comfort you and ease your pain and suffering through His love and mercy.

 

+ David, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska

Homily on the First Sunday of Lent

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

In John 1:43, Jesus says to Philip, “Follow me.”  A few versus later Philip says to Nathaniel, “Come and see.”  This passage comes as Jesus is calling together His Disciples.  They are repeated to us each Sunday of Orthodoxy as we come to the end of the First Week of Lent and celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy and the restoration of the Holy Images to the Church.  As we receive these words once again, they serve to remind us of our own calling to be the Disciples of Christ to our generation.

Just as Nathaniel was skeptical about the Person of Jesus, we are surrounded by people who are no less skeptical of Him.  The difference is that no one is asking if anything good can come out of a certain city, it is now asking if anything good can come out of a church.  And we should be truly humbled by this idea, for in truth and all humility we cannot say that it is not a valid question.

St John of Damascus says an image is many things, but in his Third Apology on the Holy Images, he says that “all images make real and perceptible those things which are hidden.”   As man is the visible image and likeness of God, Himself, man’s purpose is to “make real and perceptible” God to those who do not know him, and therefore cannot see Him.  Thus we are all called to a high and noble position in all of creation as the only life created by God to be like Him in as many ways as possible.  No other created living being has this identity, only us.  St John also goes on to say that these images “are a source of profit, help and salvation for all, since they make things so obviously manifest, to enable hidden things.” 

Our calling, then, as living Icons of God, is to be the source of revealing that which is hidden in God to all of mankind.  If ours is to “follow” God and claim to be like him, even the word “Christian” means to be “like Christ”, then it should follow that as we seek to have others “come and see”, we should be aware of what we are showing them.

Icons are painted (the Greek word used here is ‘grafo’, which means both to write and to paint), in a specific manner with the Iconographer being required to paint in the manner of his teacher, never being permitted to introduce “new” ideas to the Icon yet always painting in his own manner from the way he/she has learned while an apprentice.  Certain colors, even the types of paints, are controlled and guarded.  The kind of board to use, the canvas properly prepared, the content and size all falling under a process that is centuries old.  And the Iconographer’s own preparation, the prayer and fasting needed before one even begins, all followed and maintained with each stroke of the brush.  And for all this, the Iconographer remains anonymous, never putting his name on even one completed work, no matter how many there may be produced, or how many churches bear his/her work.  The Iconographer may be well known and in demand, but the mention of the name is just one more way in which oral tradition is again manifested.

So it is for us, we have all been called as followers of Christ, to reveal Him to others, to be living Icons of God.  The Living Bible has a wonderful way of saying it, “So God made man like his Maker.  Like God did God make man; Man and maid did he make them.”  [Gen. 1:27]  Yes, we are made like our Creator and should be that image to others, we need to be like Him.

So what will others see if they come?  Will they see the image of God?  Will they see love?  Will they see compassion and caring?  Will they see how we love each other?  Will they see us working together in love for a common goal or improvement for either the church or community?  St John of Damascus says we are “encouraged to desire and imitate what is good, and to shun and hate what is evil.”  Hate and desire seem like the wrong human conditions to be using during Lent, but how else can we act within this image without the appropriate feelings?  But it is better to use them for God than for our personal satisfaction.  We should desire to please God and love our neighbor and not desire to be pleased in a selfish way by others.  We should desire to seek those who need care and love instead of wanting others to care and love us in the weakness of our human desires.  We should hate evil and not others who disagree with us.  We should hate those actions that cause evil in ourselves and others, envy, gossip, jealousy, covetousness, and any action that causes harm or sorrow in others.

We our only question should be, when we look at an Icon can we honestly say we are looking at our own image, or the image of someone unlike us.  It is within our ability to choose. 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ Bishop David

Tithing Presentation
Sowing Our Tithe
A Homily on II Cor. 9:6-11

 

By Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska

Today you heard St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, telling them the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully.  What is it about the Corinthians that caused St. Paul to talk to them this way?  What point is he trying to make to them?  Were they farmers that needed to grow more crops?  Were they rich financiers from which he wanted money?  We know that St. Paul had so many problems with the Corinthian Church that his two of his longest Epistles are written to them.  Corinth was a city free from persecution, it had pagan temples, its Christians were weak spiritually; they were surrounded by people of greed, lust, drunkenness, polytheism, freethought and divisiveness.  In short, it wasn’t that different from the land we live in today.

St. Paul had asked them at different times to help raise money for the suffering church in Jerusalem.  Because of its status and freedom, it was also wealthy and capable of helping others, if taught to do so.  So it is that we have this revealing passage on his thoughts on the relationship between giving and God’s response.

It is simply stated, but true.  It is stated in a way that shows the relationship between the giving and receiving in Faith, and it tells us how it is to be done by all of us.

When we give to God, we are not just giving something away.  We are not exchanging one type of bounty for another.  We are not doing something because we are looking for a reward, although we could, in reality be doing all of these things.  St. Paul makes it clear we should be doing so with real joy, cheerfully,  because we want to, and for no other reason.  Orthodoxy does not believe in the so-called “Prosperity Gospel”, the belief held by many of the televangelists that if you give them what they ask you will be highly rewarded in a financial way.  If fact, St. Paul is careful to present his idea about giving in a way that demonstrates the way our Creator has always operated in relation to his creation.

He uses the term “sowing”, a farming term related to how a farmer plants his seeds to collect a crop in the fullness of time.  As anyone knows who has ever been around farming, your yield from the seeds you plant is directly related to the quantity of seeds you put into the ground.  In a given area of ground, a farmer knows how many pounds of seeds he needs to have a good crop yield.  He also knows that if he skimps on the seeds, he’ll be looking at a poor harvest, but if he plants liberally, his chances of a bumper crop are much greater.

But the farmer also knows that it is not just the amount of seeds he puts into the ground, it is type of soil, the amount of rainfall, the warmth or coolness of the climate all are factors in the outcome.  We may ask what has this to do with giving money to God?  We find the answer in the further explanation that St. Paul when he states everyone has to give as he “purposes in his heart”, meaning as he intends to give because he has looked at all the needs around him and made a good choice.  Its not just in giving the money away, its giving it away for the right reasons at the right time.  And even more than that, it must be done cheerfully.  In other words, we should receive joy in the act of giving. 

When the farmer plants his seeds in the spring, he has no idea how wet or dry the summer will be, nor how warm or cool the weather will be, all he knows is that each time he did this in the past, he received his crops in their time.  He realizes that if he lets the seeds remain in the sacks he will have no crop, he has to put his faith in the way God works, the way the seeds, the soil, the water and the wind work together to receive his reward in its time.

All of this brings us to our current situation we find ourselves in.  God has given all of us a great amount of “seeds” for our benefit.  We can use them however we want, we received it freely for one reason, we are citizens of Alaska.  Nowhere else in the United States is there such an act of honor placed on its citizens.  We didn't put the oil in the ground, nor did we create the oil companies that harvested the oil, we didn’t even formulate the system from which we receive this bounty.  Only our act of being born, or moving to, Alaska made this possible for us.  We can be thankful for a good governor, like Jay Hammond, and a legislature that had the foresight to make this possible, but in the end, it is almost entirely an act of God that has given us this gift. 

So, seeing how little we have actually done to receive it, should we not be willing, with joy in our heart, return back to God a portion of what we have received?  Is it not in our interest and for our own benefit that we should be willing to over back to God from this seed that is ours to plant for our own future, the same way that our state planted those first oil revenues as seeds for growth, so that they would multiply and make this blessing possible? 

Beloved, with joy in our heart, let us plant the seed of faith, and do so not grudgingly, but cheerfully, so that we will be able to see the fruit of our efforts in due time.  Let St. Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians be his prayer for us, and “May He who supplies the seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the sedd you have sown and increase the fruits of your won righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

2017 Diocesan Assembly - November 3-5 - Anchorage
Orthodox Christian Fellowship - Fairbanks

His Grace Bishop David with the Fairbanks Orthoodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) following PreSanctified Liturgy as St. Herman Church in Fairbanks.

Thank you, God, for the PFD

What follows is a posting on FaceBook by the Dean of the Kuskokwim Deanery and Rector of St. James Church in Napaskiak, Fr. Vasily Fisher.  It is well written, concise, and to the point.  I pray we all heed his words and pledge a tenth of our PFD to our local Church.

Greeting in the Lord!

Today, and soon we all, will begin to be blessed with a free gift which is given to us each year, the PFD. It is a gift that we do not work to receive. It is a gift that is a blessing from the State of Alaska, and a blessing from God.
This is a rather touchy subject to write about but we need to remember that as Baptized Christians, tithing is what we do. Tithing is part of who we are. The scriptures speak of giving back to God that which is His. If we are Christians, we tithe. It's that simple. We give to God out of the joy of our hearts, give back to God with thankfulness for all the blessings He gives to us.

2 Corinthians 31.5 - "As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruit of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything."

Leviticus 27.30 - "Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord."

We all as baptized Christians tithe: Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Readers, Choir, those who work in the church, and all laity. We all give back to God ten percent of what He blesses us with. It is an opportunity to feel the joy of giving back to God with faith and love. In this day and age, it is God who we must remember first, for the sake of our loved ones and our children, so that they too may know the true JOY of giving back to God as Abel did in the old testament.

Genesis 4:3-5 - "In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell."

Let us all joyfully give as Abel did, in thankfulness and prayer because that is who we are - Christians who give back to God. ALL of us. From this joyful giving our loved ones and children WILL learn about the joy of giving back to God. Glory to Jesus Christ!





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