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Holy Pascha - 04/19/14

O Christ, great and most holy Pascha. O Wisdom, Word and Power of God, grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the never-ending day of Thy kingdom (Ninth Ode, Paschal Canon).

Each year, we find the high point of our Church Year in the Feast of Feasts, Holy Pascha. This is my first one as a bishop. I celebrate it with all of you in Alaska, by being at our first Cathedral Church, Holy Resurrection, in Kodiak. It is somehow fitting to be in this place at this time, to celebrate Pascha near the relics of our Holy Patron, St. Herman of Alaska. We all mark our celebrations in different ways, some have favorite foods, others favorite hymns, or by decorating eggs, pysanky.

In all that we do, we create something that otherwise would not exist. With our celebration of Pascha, we join the ranks of the saints in honoring the reason we have hope in eternal life, the Resurrection of Christ. But it is more than this, much more, because we also join the ranks of all those who have celebrated this Holy Feast throughout the centuries, especially our loved ones who have gone to rest. Our understanding of Pascha comes from our understanding of the eternal itself, a “time outside of time” we enter into every Divine Liturgy, but most especially at Pascha. Our continued cries of “Christ is risen” over and over again become the battle cry of victory over death itself. We are led into the victory by Christ’s own death and Resurrection, His trampling down death, by Himself becoming dead and descending into the tombs, and emerging victoriously with Adam and Eve in tow.

The Icon that depicts this event, one we commonly refer to as a “Resurrection Icon”, is not really an Icon of the Resurrection, but is actually the “Harrowing of Hell”. Jesus appears in the center as emerging from the earth itself, His hands outstretched and grasping the hands of Adam and Eve; under His feet, the gates of hell lay broken and the locks and keys are strewn about and satan lay bound below Him. To Christ’s right are David, Moses and Solomon, to His left are two elderly men and a young boy. We imagine the old men represent the prophets, or Enoch and Elias, but who is the young boy? It is Able, who was killed by his brother, Cain. Thus, the entirety of the Old Testament, the period prior to Christ’s coming, is represented to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. His coming forth shows us the power of His victory by the radiance that surrounds Him.

God’s wisdom, word, and power are all revealed in this one moment, a moment we create with him each time we celebrate Holy Pascha. So whether we are in Kodiak, or a village, or at sea, we participate in that power of God, we obtain that wisdom anew of victory over death, and we honor the Word of God by our proclaiming Christ is risen! We join all of mankind from Adam and Eve until now in proclaiming the victory of life over death and look forward to living that victory in the perfect Kingdom of God which has no end, no morning or evening, but only one eternal and perfect day that will never end.

May the joy of Christ’s Resurrection bring you renewed hope in life eternal and the delight of partaking of Christ in a more perfect way.

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

+ David

Bishop of Sitka and Alaska




Creation and Created in Orthodox Understanding - 03/06/14

The following lecture was given by His Grace Bishop DAVID at the General Conference of the Yukon Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, USA, held in Wasilla, Alaska on Saturday, March 1, 2014. In connection with His Grace's involvement in PLUME, (the Judicatory Board in Anchorage, Alaska), responding to the EPA report on the proposed Pebble Mine. The adverse impact of the the proposed mine on the subsistence lifestyle of Native Alaskan's has become a major catalyst in the proclamation of the Orthodox Church's understanding of mankind's responsibility to care and preserve the very environment which sustains us.

 

Today, I would like to give you three references that should help you to understand what we in the Orthodox Church feel is our responsibility for care of the earth. It is a position that The Church has held for centuries, it is indicated in the teachings of some of the earliest Church Fathers, and in light of the recent attention given the environment, it has again taken a prominent position in the discussion of our call to be good Stewards of all we are given to care for, our churches, our families, our neighbors and our environment.

FIRST, GENESIS

In the book of Genesis, after God had finished creating everything, He spoke to man and said, And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Gen. 1:28] Now there will be some who will point to the “subdue” as the primary directive of this verse, and believe that God implied for man to be conquerors of this new creation. According to Strong’s, the word [kavash] translated as subdue, has the connotation we would expect, in fact it even implies “take under bondage” as if the earth is meant to serve our every whim.

But the first word of command in the verse is the word “fill”, again with a standard connotation to many that would imply a progenitor and his progeny occupying space on the earth. The problem is that this is not the most accurate understanding of the word in this case. The Hebrew word [male] means “to consecrate, to fill the hand”, an indication that man was given a responsibility to take this creation and do something with it that would dedicate it back to God. Adam was put in charge because of his likeness, his God-like image that no other creature in creation, not even the angels, were capable of doing.

This is the first and, if you will, prime directive that God gave to man. In our theology, we are so caught up in the transgression of the eating of the forbidden tree, we forget the only other command that man was given by his Creator; that of being responsible for and caring for, all the earth and all its inhabitants. The command not to eat does not come for some twenty more verses, and considering there were no divisions of Scripture until a much later time, I believe it makes this an even more significant point. The command to consecrate comes in the first creation story, the command to not eat comes in the second one. In both versions of the Creation Story, Adam is given the deciding and primary role, this earth was created for him to care for, to be a good steward of, and to make progress towards his role in relation to his creator. The fall would change almost all of that, and yes, I said almost all, but not all. This brings us to our second Scripture reference, Psalms.

SECOND, PSALMS

In Psalm 104, a description of the purpose of all creation, we find verse 28 referencing man in this way, “Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.” What is his work and his labor? Is this merely a reference to the fact that he has to work so he can have something to eat? Is it a veiled reference to the fall and man’s hard labor to make the ground yield for him, as compared to the fact that God provides for all other creatures in the Psalm? I suppose it could be, but let us look at it in a little greater detail. The phrase “his work” uses the Hebrew word [po’al], also a a reference to a deed, an acquisition (as of treasure); his labor uses the Hebrew word [abodah], a service (of God). So let us try to rephrase this verse and couch it in more terms to benefit our creation Theology, so now we should say, “Man goes to his deed, his treasured acquisition that God gave him, he goes to his service to God, his work of caring, until the evening.” Does this help us understand our relationship to the environment a little better? I hope so, and now to top it all off, here is the capstone, the paradigm of Grace for good environmental Stewardship, the words of Christ, Himself.

THIRD, JESUS

When our Lord went to be Baptized by John in the Jordan, John looks at him bewildered and asks this question, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” [Matt. 3:14]   “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.” [Matt. 3:15] This is a most curious phrase without our previous discussion, is it not? We need to separate the phrase “fulfill all righteousness into two parts. The first part, fulfill, is a translation of the Greek word [plearoo], and again we find ourselves looking for a fuller meaning to this word. In this case, we should be thinking in terms of “to bring to realization” or “to render full”. After the fall, we were left incomplete in many ways, as the Scriptures indicate. Crops would not grow without labor, animals developed antagonistic natures, the earth itself would buckle and heave at random, and the elements themselves could bring destruction and ruin to the work of man’s labor for his sustenance.

The second part of that phrase, “all righteousness” is perhaps the easiest to understand. This is to say, if we understand what righteousness is. What does this word actually mean? Can we agree on a common meaning? Its Greek word is [dikaiosynÄ“] meaning, “state of him who is as he ought to be”. Too often we tend to underestimate the power of a word, or we get so accustomed to thinking about a word in a certain way that the power of its real meaning can become lost. We are always looking towards the lofty and high divine meaning of a word or phrase without realizing that it may have a more connected meaning to our own selves, and this is definitely one of those times.

Let’s try to re-state our Lord’s intention with this passage and say it in a more comprehensive way, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for you and I, John, to realization the fact that by doing this we will make possible for all mankind to return to a state as he ought to be, the way he was before his transgression.” That is what the Theophany of our Lord has done for us, his descending into the waters of Baptism rejuvenates the water so that all who follow Him into those waters can return to the state He intended them to be in for his created purpose of being enough like God to do the work he was intended to do, to care for, and to consecrate to God, His creation.

You may ask what proof do I have to say I’m right about this? That is a fair question, and again, we will find the answer in Holy Scripture. Everyone knows John 3:16, or at least we think we do (there’s another understanding of this verse we don’t have time to go into now, maybe if I’m invited back, I’ll speak to it), but what about the verse that follows it? What about John 3:17? For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” It may be assumed that the reference for world is simply the inhabitants of the world, but I think not. Here, the word for world is the Greek word [Cosmos], so the intention should be clear to all of us, God did not send His son to condemn his creation, He sent Him to save His creation. And God gave man the responsibility of continuing that Cosmic Salvation through his Sacramental interaction with his Creator. The Orthodox Church has taken this responsibility very seriously, it is why every year, on the Feast of Christ’s Theophany, His Baptism, we consecrate and sanctify water to use for blessing our homes, the rivers we use and receive our life from, our vehicles, and anything else we use made from God’s creation itself.

So it is imperative that we continue to be the caretakers and guardians of God’s creation, it is for this reason that He created us. The only question that remains is of our own Stewardship, shall we be good stewards, like those who the earth as a Sacred gift of God? Or shall we be as those who see the earth and its resources as existing for our own passionate, greedy self-satisfactions?

 




2014 Pascha in Kodiak - 04/20/14

His Grace Bishop David joined the clergy and faithful of Holy Resurrection Cathedral to celebrate his first Pascha as a Bishop. His Grace presided at the services of Holy Friday and Holy Saturday. Deacon Irenaios Anderson was awarded the double orarion at the Vesperal Divine Liturgy on Holy Saturday.

Joining His Grace were Archpriest Innocent Dresdow, Dean of Holy Resurrection Cathedral and Archpriest Michael Trefon, rector of Transfiguration of our Lord Church in Ninilchik, AK. Deacon Irenaios Anderson and Deacon Innocent Philo served with His Grace as well.

 

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His Grace Visits King Cove & False Pass

His Grace Bishop DAVID arrived in King Cove on Friday, April 4, the first visit of a bishop since 1997.

The faithful welcomed Vladyka with bread and salt at the church. Many children were present to receive his blessing after he entered the church. On Saturday morning he joined local children at a Church School lesson and Great Vespers was served in the evening. During the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, Vlaydka awarded Fr. Andrei the kamilavka. After the dismissal he presented the lay reader Irene Christiansen with a grammota for her many years of dedicated service to St. Herman Church. In appreciation of his visit, the parishioners presented Vladyka with a framed image of the Lord’s Prayer written in Eastern Aleut and a leather skufia to wear on his travels. A community pot-luck took place in the afternoon and Vladyka visited with elders who once lived in Belkofski. Great Vespers with litiya was served in the evening and on Monday morning we celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Annunciation. Afterwards at the city office Vladyka and several elders presented the Mayor of King Cove with an ukaz to show our appreciation for a recent land transfer to the local Orthodox community. After lunch, Vladyka and Fr. Andrei flew to False Pass to meet the faithful in that small coastal village of less than 100 residents. It was the first ever visit of a bishop to False Pass. A service for the departed was held in the cemetery followed by fellowship and refreshments in the community center before flying to Cold Bay. Vladyka David’s pastoral visit will be remembered gratefully by the faithful of these two Eastern Aleutian fishing communities.

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ROSSIA Awarded $5000.00 Grant for Juneau

ROSSIA (Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska) has received confirmation that it has been awarded a $5000.00 grant from the National Trust Preservation Fund to support fire suppression engineering and electrical schematic designs for the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. "The National Trust is very supportive of this worthwhile preservation initiative and we hope that this financial commitment will assist your organization in raising any additional funds needed for this effort."



Consecration of Bishop DAVID

Faithful from parishes and villages across Alaska and the dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America began arriving early at the spacious Saint Innocent Cathedral here on the morning of Friday, February 21, 2014 for the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, during which Bishop-Elect David [Mahaffey] was consecrated to the episcopacy as Bishop of Sitka and Alaska.

Over forty priests and deacons joined His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin; His Grace, Bishop Michael; His Grace, Bishop Ireneu; and His Grace, Bishop Irénée in welcoming His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon at the cathedral entrance.  Joining them were the Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, Archpriest John Jillions and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Alaska, Archpriest Victor Nick.

Also present were Bishop-Elect David’s children, their spouses, and his granddaughter.

At the outset of the Liturgy, Father Jillions and Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov brought Bishop-Elect David before Metropolitan Tikhon and the bishops, seated in the center of the cathedral, where he read the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, followed by a detailed explanation of the Church’s Trinitarian and Christological doctrines.  He then read his personal commitment to uphold the Church’s canons and the teachings of the Holy Fathers and to preserve unity with his brother bishops.

Referencing 2 Timothy 2:24-25, Bishop-Elect David proclaimed, “I will deal with the opponents of the Holy Church reasonably, uprightly and gently, as taught by the Apostle Paul, ‘for the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth.’  I promise to visit and watch over the flock which is now entrusted to me after the manner of the Apostles, so that they remain true to the Faith and true in the performance of good works.  I will show special concern for the priests.  I promise to inspect with diligence, to exhort and to restrain, in order that schisms, superstitions and unholy venerations and customs contrary to Christian teaching of piety and good morals may not arise or injure the Christian way of life.”

During the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Tikhon placed the open Gospel Book over Bishop-Elect David’s head as all five consecrating bishops place their hands upon it.  The Metropolitan then proclaimed, “By the election and approbation of all the Venerable Bishops of the Holy Synod, the Grace Divine, which always heals that which is infirm and fulfills that which is lacking through the Laying-on-of-Hands, elevates you, most belovèd of God, Archimandrite David, to be the Bishop of Sitka and Alaska, which enjoys the protection of Almighty God….  O Lord our God Who, in that it is impossible for the nature of man to endure the Essence of the Godhead, in Thy Providence hast provided for us teachers of like nature with ourselves to maintain Thine Altar, that they may offer to Thee sacrifice and oblations for all Thy People.  O Lord, make this man also, who has been proclaimed a steward of the Episcopal Grace, to be an imitator of Thee, Who art the True Shepherd, Who laid down Thy Life for Thy sheep.  Grant that he will be a leader of the blind, a light to those in darkness, a reprover of the unwise, a teacher of the young, a lamp to the world.  Grant also that he, having perfected the souls entrusted to him in this present life, may stand unashamed before Thy Throne, and that he may receive the great reward which Thou hast prepared for those who have fought with valor for the preaching of the Gospel.”

During the Divine Liturgy, Bishop David ordained Deacon Symeon Askoak to the priesthood. Newly ordained Father Symeon is from the village of Russian Mission and will be completing his studies at Saint Herman Seminary in May.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Tikhon and the consecrating bishops, along with the clergy and faithful, venerated the Cross and greeted His Grace, Bishop David.  The cathedral thundered with the singing of “Many years, O Master,” after which the clergy and faithful joyously sang traditional hymns in Yupik and Slavonic until everyone had the opportunity to receive Bishop David’s blessing and offer their personal congratulations.

Metropolitan Tikhon delivered the homily and offered an exhortation to Bishop David as he presented the newly consecrated bishop with the archpastoral staff.  The texts of his homily and exhortation appear in their entirety below.

The Consecration Liturgy was streamed live on the OCA web site.

A photo gallery of the Divine Liturgy may be found on the OCA web site and Facebook page. Updates and additional galleries will be posted as they are received.
Metropolitan Tikhon’s Homily at the Consecration Divine Liturgy

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a day of great rejoicing for the Diocese of Alaska as we gather in this sacred Cathedral of Saint Innocent to participate in and witness the ordination of the Right Reverend David as the new Bishop for this diocese, the Mother Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America—the diocese which guards the relics, the teachings and the examples of so many of the inspired and great saints of North America.

On this day, we commemorate the leavetaking of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, the Great Feast of the Church in which we honor both the Mother of God, whose womb was sanctified by the birth of her Son, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself Who, as we sing, “has now come to save us through love.”

At the same time, having entered into the period of the Lenten Triodion, we find ourselves in that time of the Church’s liturgical calendar during which we prepare ourselves to enter the season of Great Lent. As happens each year, the appointed scripture readings for the days preceding the Sunday of Forgiveness take us through the Gospel account of the Passion and Death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And so, in today’s Gospel reading, we have walked with our Lord to Golgotha, the place of a skull, where He was given wine mingled with myrrh to drink, where His garments were divided and lots cast, where He was crucified on the Cross and where, after having cried out with a loud voice, He breathed His last.

So we have today both a reminder of the Passion and Death of Christ and an expression of His divine love, through which He has saved us. This is indeed fitting for this day in the life of the Diocese of Alaska and in the life of the newly ordained Bishop David because, as we know so well and as we sing so often in the Church, “through the Cross joy has come into all the world.”  Today, Bishop David and the clergy and faithful of this diocese receive the joy of the fullness of the Church: a bishop elected and appointed to be the Archpastor and High Priest to safeguard the unity, identity, integrity, unanimity, continuity, solidarity and harmony of the churches of this diocese.

This same joy was manifest in the amazement of the Centurion who, when he saw the manner in which the Lord died, said, “truly this Man was the Son of God!”  This same joy was contained within the hearts of the women who stood, looking on from afar, wondering about that to which their following of and ministering to the Lord had led them. Their particular joy of each of these may have been hidden, buried under the immediate sorrow that seemed to overwhelm them, their eyes veiled to the truth that “through the Cross, joy has come into all the world.”

And yet the joy of the Lord was present in them, waiting to be released by the news of the third day Resurrection which would make clear to them that their Paschal joy was made possible through the pain and sorrow of the Cross. The intimate connection between the Cross and joy works both ways: Joy preserves us in the midst of the sorrow and temptations of life, while the Cross preserves our sobriety when we are filled with joy.

And so it is today, on this day of the Consecration of Bishop David, on this day in which the Diocese of Alaska receives a new shepherd, a new father, that our joy is also made stronger by the remembrance of the Cross and Death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through which life and resurrection have been given to all of us.

How do we preserve the Cross and the joy of the Resurrection in a healthy balance? The Apostle John, in his second epistle which we heard today, writes to “the elect lady and her children” and reminds her, even pleads with her, as he reminds us and pleads with us not as though he wrote a new commandment, but “that which we had from the beginning: that we love one another.”

To preserve the joy of the Lord, to remain in the Truth of the Gospel, to give thanks for the unity and integrity of our local diocese, we need to love one another. This is a love that is simple, yet is based on our faithful and constant adherence to the commandments of Christ: “This is love, that we walk according to His Commandments.  This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.  Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.  He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”

It is the Bishop who, above all, is given this sacred task of guiding his flock to abide in the doctrine of Christ and to preserve the Truth of this doctrine through love, just as Saint John “loves in truth” the elect lady to whom he addresses his epistle. The Bishop offers his love to his clergy and his flock, just as he is supported by their prayers and their love for him.

The joy we feel today should be an inspiration for all of us, an inspiration to bear with courage the crosses that are placed upon us, to love one another and, as Saint Herman so piercingly reminds us, to love God above all every day, every hour and every minute.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is going to His voluntary Passion in the flesh, strengthen us, encourage us and fill us with His love, so that we may walk with Him to the light of the Resurrection, the joy of life eternal, and the glory of the heavenly Kingdom.  Amen.
Metropolitan Tikhon’s Exhortation to the newly consecrated Bishop David

It is a great blessing for all of us to be gathered here, from near and far, for this joyous event, to have served with so many clergy from the Diocese of Alaska, together with the faithful of the region, and to welcome the clergy and faithful of many of the dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America and other jurisdictions.

I am grateful to the members of the Holy Synod who have concelebrated with us today: His Grace, Bishop Michael of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey; His Grace, Bishop Irénée of Quebec City, Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada; and His Grace, Bishop Ireneu, of Dearborn Heights.

Especially, I would like to express, on behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops, their sincere thanks to His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, who has labored sacrificially and with great love for the clergy and people of Alaska during his time as Locum Tenens. I am sure that I speak for all the clergy and the faithful in expressing the deep appreciation for his willingness to serve, to bring the diocese to a place of stability and solidity, to a place where today’s event, the Consecration of a new father and Archpastor, Bishop David, was made possible.

To His Grace, the newly consecrated Bishop David, I offer these few words on behalf of the Holy Synod and all the clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America: I wholeheartedly congratulate you on your consecration and enthronement as the ruling Bishop of the See of Sitka, and the Diocese of Alaska.

Through the mystery of the All-Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands, our Lord has bestowed on Your Grace the apostolic grace to strengthen you in your Episcopal labors. Your election and consecration come at a time when the faithful of Alaska are in great need of a good pastor and capable shepherd who knows his people, and is known by them.

There is much to do in this land, which received the Word of our God through the great missionary saints Innocent and Herman, and their companions, and through the sacrificial examples of the martyrs who shed their blood in this land. Chief amongst your concerns must be the training of young men and women who will become the future of the Orthodox Church here in Alaska, so that the love and missionary zeal of the entire Church may be kindled anew.

My dear brother, I pray that Our Lord will grant you good health and the plentitude of spiritual gifts so that you may, in peace and love, nourish the People of God and be a witness to all who are searching and seeking for the Truth as offered by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  From my heart I wish you inexhaustible energy, peace and joy as you undertake this awesome ministry as a Bishop of Christ’s Church.

To the clergy, especially the newly-ordained Priest Symeon, we offer our congratulations and deep gratitude for the great number of you who have come here today to serve with us and to participate in this great event. I exhort you to prayerfully and lovingly offer your love, support and encouragement to your new Archpastor, and to learn from him as he leads you and guides you in your pastoral ministries.

To the faithful of the diocese, I also ask you to offer your prayers for Bishop David, so that his ministry might truly bear fruit a hundredfold and that he, working together with all his clergy, may lead all of you in the direction of the heavenly Kingdom and into the glory of God.

Consecration of Bishop DAVID

Consecration of Bishop DAVID - 02/21/14

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