Pilgrimage to Holy Sites of St John in San Francisco - 03/19/18
On Saturday, March 10th, members of our parish made a pilgrimage to San Francisco to visit some of the sites associated with our holy father and wonderworker St John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Our first stop was at the Old Cathedral 'Joy of All Who Sorrow' on Fulton St. This was the site where St John served for most of his tenure in San Francisco, while the new Cathedral on Geary Blvd. was being built. We began our day with the Divine Liturgy, followed by a Litia for the reposed, and then a Moleben to St John - afterwhich each person was able to come forward to be wrapped in the mantia (bishop's robe) of St John.
Our host, Abbot James (Corazza), was most gracious and shared many edifying stories from the life of St John.
After our prayers at the Old Cathedral, we enjoyed a festive lunch of Lenten Chinese food, courtesy of Max and Chrissy Neilepko.
After lunch, we then went to St Tikhon's House where St John lived, had his orphanage, and where there is a small church which contains the iconostas from China and many precious icons which found their way out of Russia via China and the Phillipines. Pilgrims were treated to additional stories from the life of St John and were able to visit his cell and sit in his chair.
Following this, many continued on to the New Cathedral on Geary Blvd. where we were able to venerate the incorrupt relics of the saint and address our prayers to him most directly there in his presence.
It was truly a grace-filled day and we hope to be able to make this an annual event.
Highlights, including some video, can be viewed here.
Ladies Lenten Retreat - 03/19/18
On Saturday, March 17th, at the home of Thalia Welch, we held our Ladies Lenten Retreat. The topic of our discussions was the book "God's Path To Sanity" by Dee Pennock. Below are the notes from Fr Martin's talk highlighting certain points from the book. We had a wonderful time together and hope to continue this as an annual event where the women of the parish can get together for fellowship, edification, and enjoying each other's company.
Notes From God’s Path To Sanity
Point #1 – The nature that we were born with, our fallen human nature that we inherited as fallen human beings, is NOT the nature for which we are created, the image of Christ.
Wisdom 2:23-24 – “For God created man for immortality and made him an image of His own eternity. But death entered into the world by the envy of the devil, and those of his portion tempt it.”
Our nature… that which we were born with – fallen and in need of healing; and that which were created with – in the image of Christ. We must neither ‘give up’ nor make excuses for our sins because ‘that is human nature’. We were created for much more!
With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.
We have the example of the saints… who were perfected in the image of Christ. We know salvation is possible by virtue of the sanctity of their lives.
So, understanding this distinction of what we are in our fallen state vs. what we are created and intended to be is very important for the proper approach to the spiritual life.
Quote from St Cyprian of Carthage on page 48: “By being able to see and condemn what we are, we immediately become able to love what we shall be in God.”
Point #2 – The holy fathers make a distinction between the lower aspects of the soul and the higher aspects of the spirit.
“A man has three layers of life: that of the spirit, of the soul, and of the body. Each of these has its sum of needs, natural and proper to a man. These needs are not all of equal value, but some are higher and others lower; and the balanced satisfaction of them gives a man peace. Spiritual needs are the highest of all, and when they are satisfied, then there is peace even if the others are not satisfied; but when spiritual needs are not satisfied, then even if the others are satisfied abundantly, there is no peace. Therefore, the satisfaction of them is called the one thing needful.
“When spiritual needs are satisfied, they instruct a man to put into harmony with them the satisfaction of one’s other needs also, so that neither what satisfies the soul nor what satisfies the body contradicts spiritual life, but helps it; and then there is a full harmony in a man of all the movements and revelations of his life, a harmony of thoughts, feelings, desires, undertakings, relationships, pleasures. And this is paradise!” (St Theophan the Recluse)
The distinction made here between “soul” and “spirit” does not mean that these are separate entities within human nature; rather, the “spirit” is the higher part, the “soul” the lower part, of the single invisible part of man (which as a whole is usually called the “soul”). To the “soul” in this sense belong those ideas and feelings which are not occupied directly with spiritual life-most of human art, knowledge, and culture; while to the “spirit” belong man’s strivings towards God through prayer, sacred art, and obedience to God’s law.
So often, spiritual life remains relegated to the aspects of the soul. It is important for us to examine this – both in order to understand and elevate the soul, but also to recognize the higher aspects of the spirit.
Fr Seraphim Rose spent a good deal of time in his catechism of young people discussing the need to develop the formation of the soul. Modern man has been so impoverished that we have some work to do just to familiarize ourselves with the awakening of the recognition and appreciation for the good, the beautiful, and what used to be ‘normal’ responses of human empathy and compassion.
Philippians 4:8 – “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
Point #3 - The three aspects of the soul: thinking, feeling, desiring or mind, heart, gut.
St Maximus the Confessor page 28: “There are three powers in the soul – the thinking, the excitable (energetic), and the desiring. By the thinking power we seek to understand what is good; by the desiring power we desire the good we have understood; by the excitable power we strive and fight for it.”
Defining these specific aspects of the soul is extremely helpful in better understanding our spiritual make-up and therefore being able to more accurately diagnose where we are falling into sin.
We must raise our mind, warm our heart, tame our will.
The passion that attacks the mind or thinking aspect is pride. It blinds us to reality and puffs us up with an over-inflated sense of our independence, need for control, and need to be right.
The passion that attacks the heart or feeling aspect is self-love. It enflames us with a desire for the fool’s gold of carnal satisfactions (gluttony, lusts, pampering, etc.) lulling us to settle for or attempt to satisfy ourselves with earthly consolations.
The passion that attacks the gut or desiring aspect is vainglory. It seeks out admiration and attention from others and leads us in the futile pursuit of people-pleasing.
And so, what are we to do? First call of Christ – repentance! Repentance is defined on page 47: “What is repentance? People often think of it as just taking the blame for something, confessing that one is guilty of wrongdoing, being sorry for having done something ‘bad’. And they shy away from it. Repentance is much more than that. It’s recognizing and mourning our separation from God.”
Analogy of the ‘umbrellas’... God’s love is unchanging. His love shines down upon us consistently. It is WE who hide ourselves in the shadows of our sins. Each time we sin it is like we open up an umbrella that obstructs the light of the sun. Sometimes those umbrellas are little cocktail umbrellas and sometimes they are huge parasols. But each one creates and obstacle between us and the shining love of God. Repentance and confession allows us to knock down those umbrellas and once again be able to perceive and receive the light of Christ.
Point #4 - How do we turn around the passions that affect our thinking, feeling, and desiring aspects?
If pride is rooted in ignorance of ourselves and our need for God, then we pray and work toward true self-knowledge and an awareness of God and our relationship to Him. We must feed our mind with holy things (scripture, contemplation of God, prayer, lives and writings of saints, etc.). Things which inspire us and build us in truth and FAITH.
Our vain-glory is fed by self-justification, blaming, hiding from facing the reality of our state. Making excuses for our sins… How quick we are to do so and how hesitant we are to make excuses for the sins of others. This should be completely reversed! We focus on the sins of others – it is THEY who are annoying, rather than looking at our self and working on why we are being annoyed. Things which inspire us toward humility and build in us HOPE.
Our self-love is fed by pitying ourselves, by trusting in our abilities, and – when they are frustrated – by seeking comfort in sensual pleasures to get a quick fix. Self importance and willfulness are the main causes of our anger, irritation, frustration, depression, etc. We are looking for love in all the wrong places… St Augustine said: ‘Man is restless until he finds his rest in God.’ Things which inspire us toward true LOVE of God.
Quote from St John Chrysostom on page 111: “…it is not the outward circumstances which make the storm within us. Rather, it is the disposition or condition of our own minds. Therefore, we should so order the mind that it may bear all things contentedly in Christ. Then we shall have no storm, nor even a ripple, within us, but always and clear and steady calm.”
If our spiritual condition is dependent upon the ups and downs of life, we are in for trouble… because you can count on life to be filled with ups and downs.
So much of the spiritual life is paradoxical… Our Lord tells us that he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it. It is when we jealously and fearfully cling to our self importance and our willfulness that we lose out.
Bob Dylan sang: ‘When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’ It is not that we must literally lose everything, but we must indeed lose our attachment and misplaced hope in things. It is a matter of the disposition of the heart.
Where is our focus? If our focus is constantly on our self – our needs, our will, our desires – then we are in for a world of trouble and frustration. If the center of our focus shifts away from our self, toward the proper priority of God, then others, then our self… then we better align ourselves with the will of God and we can find peace and joy. Too much dramatization of our lives is an indication of self-love.
Point #5 – Watching the compass
The compass and the map. We often get so bogged down in the details of the map that we lose sight of the compass.
We must have our sights set higher… upon God and upon eternity (which begins now).
If we do so, we don’t get rattled by the ups and down of this life. All hell can be breaking loose and we can take it with greater patience and perspective – trusting in God that all things can work toward the good and knowing that what is happening in this moment is just that: what is happening in this moment. It does not define me, it does not define my life, it is an experience from which I can either draw closer to God or draw farther away from Him. Quote on pg 220: “this earthly life is given by God for the purpose of our redemption, our repentance and restoration to eternal life.”
And this is where that highest aspect of our being comes into play. We spoke at the beginning of mankind being composed of body, soul, and spirit. And we have just dissected the soul into its three main components: thinking, feeling, and desiring. Now, what of this higher aspect of the human being: the spirit. St Theophan the Recluse defines the spirit as that force which God breathed into man when He created Him. It comes from God, knows God, seeks God, and in Him alone finds rest.
St Theophan further goes on to define three movements in the life of the spirit: the fear of God, the conscience, and the longing for God.
The spirit acts upon the lower elements of the soul… In the thinking part by inspiring the yearning for the ideal. In the desiring part by inspiring the yearning for and production of good deeds. In the feeling part by inspiring the yearning for the beautiful.
Understanding this patristic teaching of the nature of human beings helps us to understand ourselves better. It allows us to better perceive the temptations which beset us and where they are attempting to take hold in us.
Point #6 - Understanding the true dignity of who we are helps us to raise ourselves up above the carnal and mundane and tune in to the true measure of who we are created to be.
The opposite of self-love is NOT self-loathing. This kind of disproportionate beating up of oneself is the other side of the same coin of self-preoccupation. It still remains me, me, me. A sober and healthy sense of the worth of our human person, that Christ values us enough to have suffered and died to redeem us, this kind of vision of the image of God within us is necessary in order to distinguish the unhealthy and sick tarnish and soot that besmirches the icon of Christ within us from the beauty of that icon. We must mercilessly persecute and work to eradicate and clean up that dirt and soot that defiles the beauty of the image of God, while never confusing the sickness of our sin from who we really are created to be.
What is the purpose of our lives? In baptism we make emphatic declarations… renouncing Satan and uniting ourselves to Christ. It is this process that heals us and it is the healing of our whole person that is the purpose of our life. Last paragraph on page 223 says: “Jesus came for these multitudes who wanted to be healed of the illnesses of sin: Those who are whole have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. From Him, we can receive sanity and restoration to life. What is sanity? It’s just coming into God’s will, and seeing the purpose of life, and living accordingly. Jesus makes it happen. He said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. All His wonderful blessings come to us through the Holy Spirit. Through Him, writes St Basil the Great, hearts are lifted up, the infirm are held by the hand, and those who progress are brought to perfection.”
Holy Unction 2018 - 03/12/18
On Friday evening, March 2nd, our parish had the blessing of the Holy Unction service. Several priests assembled to perform the sacred service of anointing with holy oil including: Abbot Juvenal (Herrin) from the Kazan Church in San Francisco, Abbot James (Corazza) from the Old Cathedral in San Francisco, Priest Ioan Comenescu from the Protection of the Mother of God in Palo Alto, Priest Florin Lapustea from Holy Cross in San Jose, and Priest Andrew Smith from the Nativity of the Mother of God in Menlo Park.
The service was very beautiful and was especially adorned by the singing of our choir - who sang the service for the first time. All went smoothly and prayerfully and at the end of the service, the many people who came to be anointed unto their physical and spiritual well-being received the Sacrament of Unction.
Following the service their was a special meal served to the visiting clergy prepared by Matushka Sarah, Nadia Ungureanu, and Alex Gliga. The meal was delicious, the tables were set beautifully, and our guests were most grateful for the hospitality of our parish.
A small gallery of images can be viewed here.
St Herman's Feast Day 2017 - 12/26/17
Many. many thanks to all who contributed to make our feast day a great success! The Vigil service was very beautiful and the Hierarchical Liturgy was truly magnificent. Several clergy came to show their support of St Herman's - we had six priests, five deacons, several subdeacons and many altar servers... though the altar became quite cozy at times with so many people, all went smoothly and a prayerful atmosphere was evident. The choir did an amazing job and all sounded splendid, properly dignified, and joyful! Congratulations to our Protodeacon George Balaban upon receiving the kamilavka for his years of service and to Deacon George Kalousek who received a gramata honoring his many years of service to our Holy Mother Church. A wonderful meal was prepared for visitors on Sunday evening and the main festal meal after the Liturgy on Monday was fantastic. All went smoothly and many hands made lighter work... thank you to all who participated in making this such a joyful and successful parish feast day! View the Photo Gallery here.
St Nicholas Day - 12/20/17
On Tuesday, December 6/19, St Herman's celebrated the feast day of our holy hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas of Myra in Lycia.
Before the Vigil service began, we held our annual 'tree lighting ceremony'... the choir sang a carol to St Nicholas while the tree in front of the church came alive with beautiful Christmas lights. The lights will stay on through the fast and Nativity season.
Following the festive tree lighting, we began the Vigil service for the saint. All attending were anointed with oil from the lampada burning above the relics of St Nicholas in Bari, Italy. We are also blessed to have a portion of the saint's relics in our icon. A piece of cotton soaked in myrrh from the myrhh-streaming icon of St Nicholas was also available for veneration.
Liturgy followed early on Wednesday morning...
Saint Nicholas is one of the most popular saints, beloved all over the world for his zeal and for his generosity of heart which cared for so many during his lifetime and continues to guide and guard all those who call out to him in faith.
Through the prayers of our holy father Nicholas, may Christ save us and have mercy on us!
Visit from Woodside Priory - 12/10/17
On Sunday, December 10th, St Herman's was visited by students from the Woodside Priory School in Portola Valley. Students from the Christian Scriptures class were on assignment to visit some local churches to experience their worship service and to ask questions of the priest.
Five wonderful students were in attendance and stayed after the Liturgy to ask follow-up questions about what they had witnessed in the Divine Liturgy, about the histiry and teachings of the Orthodox Church, about the Orthodox Church's stances on various contemporary social issues, etc. Fr Martin and Fr Deacon Andrew sat with the students to address their questions. The students seemed interested and engaged... it was a joy to have them with us.
We hope that they also enjoyed their visit to St Herman's and hope to see them again some time.
May God bless their studies and may the blessings and prayers of St Herman guide them in their lives.
Feast Day At Holy Virgin Cathedral - 11/21/17
On Monday, November 6th, the Holy Virgin Cathedral, 'Joy Of All Who Sorrow', celebrated its feast day.
Concurrently, we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the 10th anniversary of the reunification of the Russian Church, and the 25th anniversary of the episcopacy of our Archbishop KYRILL.
Clergy and faithful from all over the Diocese convened to commemorate these events and to greet our Archpastor on this silver anniversary of his episcopate.
St John of Kronstadt Vespers and Children's Sermon - 11/01/17
On Tuesday evening, October 31st, we held a Vespers service in honor of St John of Kronstadt. Liturgy followed on Wednesday at 7am.
Each year, on this evening, we invite the children of the parish to come to church to celebrate this beloved saint and to provide an alternative to the Halloween activities which occur on this night.
Like most American holidays, the meaning of the day has been obscured by trivialization and mass-marketing. Just as the Nativity has been reduced to snowmen and reindeers and the great feast of Pascha has been reduced to easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, so too has the Anti-Christian origins of Halloween been reduced to costumes and trick-or-treats. Nevertheless, those dark origins and practices continue to this day and we avoid them.
Gratefully, we have a wonderful saint whose celebration outshines all darkness... St John of Kronstadt!
After serving the Vespers for St John, the children gathered at the bottom of the steps to hear a word of encouragement in their faith related to St John. Fr Martin told the story of a kingdom and a castle that was filled with great treasures. But thieves were able to break in and steal the treasures. The king called on his advisors to resolve this probem and they proposed building a mote all around the castle, building a drawbridge gate, and setting a guard at the gate. The guard would let down the gate for the friends of the king, but he would keep the gate closed if thieves and enemies of the king's treasure attempted to get in.
St John of Kronstadt spoke about the human heart in just this way... our heart is the place of great treasures (love, joy, peace, etc.), but we must set a guard to stand watch in order to not let thieves come in and steal away this good treasure. Those thieves are anger, jealousy, selfishness, etc. It is important for us to establish this gate and guard about our heart to test whether something is good or bad. We invite the good and we reject the bad.
Following the little sermon, all stood to sing the magnification to St John and then, after the children venerated his icon, they were presented with a small treasure of 'goodies' in a bag.
May God bless our young people and keep the treasure of their hearts safe!
Visit to St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington DC - 10/16/17
During Fr Martin and Matushka Sarah's travels to Canada and the East Coast, they had the blessing of visiting the Cathedral of St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church in Washington DC. This is a beautiful church which was founded by St John of Shanghai and San Francisco during his visits to the nation's capitol to advocate on behalf of his flock in the Phillipines to be allowed entry into the United States.
Fr Martin and Sarah were received with great warmth and love by the clergy and parishioners of St John's. While serving the Divine Liturgy, Fr Martin was honored to give the homily on the Sunday Gospel. That homily may be viewed here.
Should any of us have the opportunity to visit Washington DC... please make the effort to go to the Cathedral of St John the Baptist... you will be richly blessed indeed!
Teen Talk & Golfing - 09/25/17
On Sunday evening, September 24th, St Herman's held its most recent 'Teen Talk'.
Teens gathered in the church hall first for some pizza and then 'warmed up' a bit with some mind-expanding riddles. This group was not easy to stump with perplexing riddles... they got most of them pretty quickly!
After we had our pizza, Fr Martin gave a presentation on the topic of Kindness and Compassion. Three short films were shown to help illustrate the impact of kindness and compassion upon one another... an act of kindness, given in the spirit of love, has ripple effects.
Following the presentation, everyone traveled to Golf Land where we had a wonderful time playing Pee Wee Golf!
Photos of the event can be seen here.
Labor Day BBQ & Swim Party - 09/11/17
On Sunday, September 3rd, many members of the parish gathered at the Bradley's home for an afternoon of fun.
The barbeque was grilling, the drinks were chilling, and the kids were thrilling to all the fun and festivities on the hot, late summer afternoon.
It is always such a joy to spend time with the parish family to catch up with each other, have some good food, and enjoy each other's company.
Many thanks to the Bradley's for hosting the event, congratulations to Alex and Diego on their birthdays, and may God grant that we find many more occasions to gather together in friendship and fellowship.
The Transfiguration and Blessing of Fruits - 08/20/17
On Saturday, August 19th, we celebrated the bright feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.
Following the Liturgy, first fruits were blessed with holy water - calling to mind and soul the wonder of the life brought forth from the light and warmth of the sun which brings forth abundant fruit from the earth. Just as these fruits mature and ripen under the influence and blessing of the light of the sun, so too do we spiritually mature and 'ripen' under the influence and blessing of the Light of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
May that Light of Christ shine brightly in all of our lives!
Clergy Awards - 07/10/17
On July 1st, at the celebration of our father among the saints, Holy Hierarch and Wonderworker John of Shanghai and San Francisco, two of our clergymen received awards from our Archbishop KYRILL.
Father Deacon Andrew Gliga was awarded the right to wear the double orarion in recognition for his years of dedicated service to the Church.
Father Martin Person was appointed Dean of the San Francisco Deanery and was awarded the gold cross and palitsa - being elevated to Archpriest.
Congratulations to Fr Andrew and to Fr Martin... may God grant many more years of service to His Holy Church!
Youth Work Days At St Silouan's Monastery - 07/10/17
The week of July 3rd through 8th saw great progress in continued construction projects and beautification at the St Silouan Monastery in Sonora, CA.
Youth from around the Diocese gathered to work and pray at the monastery. Many projects were accomplished including the building of an additional monastic cell, building raised beds for the garden, creating a firepit with surrounding benches, painting the fences, and much more.
Despite the heatwave, everyone gave it there all... and by the end of the day on Thursday all intended improvements were done. As a reward, the group drove to Yosemite National Park where we hiked and enjoyed the beauty (and cooling mist!) of the abundant waterfalls.
It was a wonderful week... each day included the cycle of services for morning and evening and Divine Liturgy was served each morning. Our days ended gathered around the campfire where one of the priests would lead a spiritual discussion. On Wednesday evening we were blessed to have his Grace Bishop Irenei lead the talk.
Fr Ignaty and Br Andrew were gracious and welcoming hosts.
We left with a sense of joy and accomplishment, fatigue and gratitude, and a desire to return again as soon as possible.
Russian River Camping Trip - 06/19/17
The weekend of June 9, 10, and 11, many members of the St Herman of Alaska parish made pilgrimage to the Kazan Church on the Russian River, near Guerneville, CA. Our Archbishop KYRILL graciously opened the doors to this wonderful setting, amid redwoods and upon the shores of the river, for our parish camping trip.
Fr Martin and Matushka Sarah arrived a day early on Thursday to make preparations for everyone’s arrival. To our concern, the day was rainy and wet… the grounds intended for camping were full of puddles and an ‘advisory’ was sent to forewarn campers of the conditions. Thanks to the prayers of the Mother of God and St Herman, late Thursday turned sunny and windy… these conditions continued all day Friday so that, by the time people were arriving, the sun and wind had dried everything nicely and the remainder of the weekend was just beautiful!
Campers arrived throughout Friday… pitching their tents and settling in. In the evening we had Evening Prayers, dinner, and an outdoor movie presentation. Campers bundled up under blankets and enjoyed a showing of ‘The Princess Bride’ – an amusing fairy tale which all ages seemed to appreciate.
Saturday morning began with Morning Prayers and then a breakfast. After breakfast, we carpooled to the nearby Armstrong Redwoods Park where a choice could be made between a flat one mile hike around the forest floor, or a more rigorous four mile hike up to the ridges and back. The park was absolutely beautiful and both teams of hikers had a great time.
After lunch, that afternoon was designated as ‘free time’… most of the families took advantage of the direct path on the property down to the river and enjoyed swimming and splashing in the water. Others relaxed around camp, and others explored other local activities.
In the evening we reassembled for the Saturday evening Vigil service. It was a great pleasure to serve and pray in the Kazan Church amid the beautiful icons and under the shade of the towering trees.
Following Vigil we had another fantastic dinner and then all gathered around the campfire for some songs, games, and conversation.
Sunday morning we had Divine Liturgy in the Church… celebrating All Saints under the omophorion of the Mother of God in her Kazan Icon. It was a great privilege and great blessing to be there together!
Following Liturgy a brunch was served and then all began reluctantly taking down their tents and packing for the ride home.
I think I speak for all in saying that the weekend was a great success. Being able to spend time together like this was both a great pleasure and I believe all felt a renewed and strengthened sense of community and a ‘parish family spirit’.
We will be gathering feedback to keep improving on these experiences, which, with God’s blessing, we intend to make more frequent parts of our parish life.
You can view the Photo Gallery by clicking HERE.
Birthday Celebration for Fr John - 05/22/17
On Sunday, May 21st, everyone was invited to the home of Fr John Ocana to celebrate his 75th birthday. Fr John is the founding priest of St Herman's parish and many were on hand to express their congratulations and best wishes to him.
Fr Martin demonstrated his BBQ grilling skills - flipping burgers and hot dogs for the hungry crowd.
Matushka Sarah led a number of fun games for the children and young at heart including a water balloon toss, a treasure hunt for hidden toys, and singing American folk songs.
Many thanks to all those who helped make this party a great success... those who helped with hosting, those who helped with the setup and takedown of chairs and tables, those who brought so many wonderful dishes to share, and all who expressed their love for Fr John!
See the photo gallery here.