As we move toward the atmosphere of the upcoming weekend with both Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday to look forward to, I would like to cast a glance back to the full and wonderful weekend we just experienced as a parish family and offer a few pastoral comments.
The first thing to recognize is that the weekend began on Saturday morning with the pre-paschal parish clean-up of the church. The church is the “bridal chamber” of the Heavenly Bridegroom, so that before it is properly “adorned” for Pascha it is first properly cleaned. We had a good number of cleaners present and working hard – including some of our Church School students. Working under the supervision of Mickey Callendar in a spirit of cooperation and mutual help, I believe that our team got to most of the goals that were set for the day. The schedule worked out well, because we cleaned the church just in time for the arrival of our special guests from St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York. Presvytera Deborah shared with me that one of our cleaners told her that “it was an honor to be able to clean the church.” That nicely captures the sense of stewardship that expresses itself in the more mundane, but necessary, aspects of parish life. On behalf of the entire parish, I would like to thank our workers for their ministry to the church.
I believe that the rest of the weekend, revolving around the presence of Fr. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, proved to be a real blessing for the parish. Fr. John spoke twice about the seminary and this was highly encouraging because it was clear that St. Vladimir’s has a justifiably high international reputation that continues to expand through the years and the dynamic programs that St. Vladimir’s continues to initiate both domestically and abroad. The future clergy, educators, choir directors, etc. of the Church are being well-prepared to serve when called upon. In my estimation we had a beautiful Liturgy for the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent and I thoroughly enjoyed con-celebrating with Fr. John. His homily was an excellent summary of the Lenten journey up to the Fifth Sunday, as well as an inspiring reading of the Gospel passage that prepares us for the upcoming Cross of Holy Week. But the highlight of the weekend was the profound talk that Fr. John delivered following another beautiful service – the Sunday evening deanery Lenten Vespers for the Fifth Week. With our deanery clergy, other local clergy, and visitors present together with a good representative group from the parish, Fr. John offered insight after insight about our Christian lives through his theme of “Becoming Human According to the Early Church Fathers.” His thorough command of the Scriptures and Church Fathers is very impressive together with how he integrates everything into an over-all coherent vision of the Gospel. (We had a lot to talk about when we returned home last Sunday evening!). We were challenged to absorb a great deal, and perhaps you still find yourself thinking about some of the things that he said. If so, that is good. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions, comments or points of clarification that you may have. Only please try and avoid a question such as this: “Just what was it that Fr. John actually said?”
Our parish hospitality was at its best. There was a wonderful meal prepared for the clergy of our deanery before the Vespers; and the refreshments that followed Fr. John’s talk were excellent. Again, on behalf of the entire parish I would like to thank all of those who helped in one capacity or another to create such a hospitable and welcoming environment within the parish that we did for this evening’s “mini-retreat.” Both Fr. John and Ted Bazil were quite fulsome in their praise of the over-all atmosphere of the parish and thankful for our hospitality.
We presented Fr. John with a stipend for his presentation; and we collected around $768.00 in the basket by the Cross for the seminary that we will soon send in.
Fr. John Behr, dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and internationally acclaimed theologian, will be with us for the Fifth weekend of Great Lent, April 20-21.
Fr. John will serve the Liturgy on that Sunday (April 21) and deliver the homily, and also address the parish in the post-Liturgy discussion. Then, we are planning an Indianapolis Deanery Vespers to be hosted by our parish at 5:00pm that Sunday evening. Following the service, Fr. John will deliver his main talk, Becoming Human According to the Early Church Fathers. Refreshments and fellowship will follow. Please mark your calendars now for Sunday, April 21.
- Fr. Steven
Scroll down for more info on Fr John Behr, links to order his acclaimed book, The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death, and a YouTube video of a presentation Fr John gave last year (2012) at Augustine College.
Event Flier - Click to Enlarge
Event Flier - Click to Enlarge
Fr. John Behr is the Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary and Professor of Patristics, teaching courses in patristics, dogmatics and scriptural exegesis at the seminary, and also at Fordham University, where he is the Distinguished Lecturer in Patristics.
He finished an M.Phil. in Eastern Christian Studies at Oxford University, under Bishop Kallistos (Ware), who subsequently supervised his doctoral work, which was examined by Fr. Andrew Louth and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. While working on his doctorate, he was invited to be a Visiting Lecturer at St Vladimir’s Seminary in 1993, where he has been a permanent faculty member since 1995, tenured in 2000, and ordained in 2001. Before becoming Dean in 2007, he served as the editor of St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, and he still edits the Popular Patristics Series for SVS Press. He is the author of The Way to Nicaea, The Nicene Faith, and The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death.
In his presentation, Fr. John will discuss how the early Church Fathers understood salvation, how Christ is born in those who are born again in the Church, their "Virgin Mother," so that they become truly human, after the stature of Christ, and continue the incarnation of the Word by glorifying God in their bodies.
Fr. John Behr: Becoming Human According to the Early Church Fathers
Beginning with the Passion narratives, Fr Behr examines how we search the scriptures to encounter Christ and thereby realize that we were created for this encounter, thus opening a profound perspective on creation, the fall, sin, and salvation history. He further explains how Christ is born in those who are born again in the Church, their "Virgin Mother," so that they become truly human, after the stature of Christ, and continue the incarnation of the Word by glorifying God in their bodies.
"A Christian's first concern is for truth. The Mystery of Christ provides astounding insights into the truth, indeed the many truths, of and about God's gospel in his Son Jesus, the crucified Lord." - Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus, St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
"This magnificently conceived, tightly presented and argued introduction to Christian theology is brilliant...I haven't enough superlatives to do it justice." - Rev. Dr. Andrew Louth, Professor of Patristics and Byzantine Studies, University of Durham