Bishop Daniel Visits St. Anthony of the Desert Ukrainian Orthodox Mission in NM!


Bishop Daniel Visits St. Anthony of the Desert Ukrainian Orthodox Mission in NM!
By Subdeacon Andriy Matlak

With chanting of Paschal tropar: “Christ is Risen” and greetings of love, St. Anthony of the Desert Ukrainian Orthodox Mission community in Las Cruses, NM welcomed their eparchial hierarch, His Grace Bishop Daniel, to their spiritual home.

This is the bishop’s second archpastoral visit to the mission. The spiritual connection between the spiritual father of the Eparchy and his spiritual children was well established during the first visit to the mission in 2009. By now, the community has grown, welcoming new members from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. This year, the bishop was accompanied by a seminarian of St. Sophia Seminary, subdeacon Andriy Matlak, who led a three-hour long Sacred Music workshop with the members of the mission’s choir, covering various liturgical chants of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as well providing guidance on liturgical rubrics.

On Saturday, April 17, 2010 Bishop Daniel visited with various members of the mission addressing their pastoral needs. One of the highlights of the day was a meeting with Rev. Scott Ruthven, pastor of Holy Ascension Episcopal Church in Las Cruses, the community that graciously opened its doors to our St. Anthony of the Desert Mission, offering a place for the mission worship to take place.  Rev. Fr. Gabriel Rochelle, pastor of St. Anthony Mission family, introduced Rev. Ruthven to Bishop Daniel, noting that they shared something in common – both have served as Chaplains in the US Armed Forces, ministering to those in uniform.

Later the bishop met with the founder of St. George Orthodox Military Association (SGOMA) Vladimir Laven, who is a parishioner of St. Anthony Mission.  SGOMA was founded on October 20th, 2009, on the Feast Day of the Holy and Great Martyr Artemius (the patron saint of military forces in many countries). The Association is a Pan-Orthodox group designed for the spiritual support, assistance, and growth of the Eastern Orthodox Christian men and women serving in the United States Armed Services around the world. 

The day concluded with the Vespers served by Rev. Fr. Rochelle and Deacon David Mascarenas of Orthodox Church of America from Albuquerque, NM.  At the conclusion of the service, Bishop Daniel addressed the congregation reflecting upon the daily spiritual journey of an Orthodox Christian. He stressed the importance of an active Orthodox Christian life based on the Commandments of God rather than our own interpretation of those Commandments mere suggestions or guidelines that may or may not justify our choices in life. The bishop stated that we must be dedicated with every fiber of our being to the Word of God and the mission of salvation preached by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, meaning that we must commit ourselves fully in service to Christ and to our fellow man. Partial commitment is simply not good enough in relationship with our Savior.

Following the evening service, the congregation hosted a dinner in bishop’s honor, with a program modeled after the Consistory’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry theme: “My Church! My Faith! My Generation!”.  The informal meeting with the bishop included discussion on such important moral and social issues as the Orthodox understanding of Capital Punishment, abortion, care for the needy and elderly, etc.

On Sunday morning, the faithful welcomed their bishop for the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist – Divine Liturgy. With the singing voices of the dedicated choir, presence of children with their parents and visitors to the community, the congregation journeyed together with the Myrrh-bearing women to the tomb of Christ. Bishop Daniel preached about various kinds of courage that we witness in daily life:

     “There is the courage we see on the battlefield. There is the courage shown by astronauts.  There is the courage of the early Christians who, rather than deny Christ, suffered martyrdom. 
      There are times when it takes courage to live. It takes courage such as is never seen on the battlefield to live doing what we have to do, not what we like to do, but what love and duty and compassion demand of us.  To face the new day with the knowledge that it will be another day just like yesterday with the same burdens, the same problems, the same heartaches.
       It takes courage to be a true follower of Christ, without jeopardizing our Faith. It takes courage to stand up for the Lord, even if it seems that the entire world is against us. It takes courage to deny ourselves and our desires for the sake of our neighbor and Christ.
      The Old Testament Holy Prophet Daniel was forbidden by decree of the king to pray to his God, he not only continued to pray three times a day as was his custom; but he continued to perform this ritual before his open window, as he did before, where all might see, fully aware that he would be cast into the den of lions as punishment.  What was the source of Prophet Daniel's courage?  It was prayer - prayer and openness to our Lord’s answers to our prayers.”

The bishops stressed the danger of adopting a McDonald’s type of instant prayer-answer attitude, which seems to penetrate many relationships with God and the world stating:  “that we must learn to accept the answer from the Lord, which sometimes says “Not Yet” or “NO”.  Rather than looking and asking what the Lord and the Church can do for us, maybe the time has come for us to ask of ourselves, what is that we can do for Christ and for His Church!”

Prior to the beginning of the Liturgy, the bishop tonsured Alfred Henderson as a Reader for the mission, calling upon him to daily reflection upon the Divine Scriptures so that when he reads during worship services, he is contributing to our Lord’s ministry among the people of God.  The bishop also set aside (ordained) a subdeacon for the mission in the person of Reader Vladimir Michael Laven, who is one of the founding members of the community. His Grace called upon the newly set aside subdeacon to be a true light among the members the mission family as he serves in an “angelic” manner about the altar of our Lord – as the Cherubim and Seraphim do around the Throne of God in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Following Divine Liturgy and photos in the parish garden, the congregation shared in a festive agape meal (feast of love). During the meal, the newly set aside subdeacon Vladimir presented His Grace with the certificate of membership in St. George Orthodox Military Association (SGOMA), the organization that come into existence through the blessing of the Bishop Daniel. Panimatka Susan presented Bishop Daniel with his favorite “treat” – some dark chocolate – with a special New Mexico addition to it – the infusion of Pasilla Chiles peppers, cayenne pepper and cinnamon! 

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