Dear Parishioners and Friends,
I pray that this message finds you all in good health and spiritual state as we anticipate the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we enter this holy season of the Nativity Fast on November 28, we are reminded that it is an important time of our Liturgical year that prepares us spiritually for the celebration of the Christmas Season. It is a challenge for us as Orthodox Christians to live the Nativity Season when the commercialism and materialism of the world around us has already begun to bombard us with excessive advertising enticing us to shop more and more for things that we need and do not need. How do we balance our spiritual life in the midst of such commercialism during this holy season whose purpose is to prepare us so that we may properly welcome Christ the Child into our life?
I encourage you as a family to consider small ways that you can enter into the Nativity Fast Season this year. One small way might be to make a decoration in your home for Christmas a family activity; put some icon-tree-ornaments on your Christmas tree; light a special candle and place it on the table as you sit down to eat your meal together; say a prayer before and after each meal; read the lives of saints (see Orthoprax app for iphone users; or the Prologue online); plan confession and participation in the Liturgy (Holy Communion) every Sunday during this Nativity Fast; pray and fast every day; prepare a meal for the homeless (Focus ministry in downtown at God’s Extended Hand – 1625 Island Ave. our parish serves on the third Wednesday of each month); earmark your special Nativity Fast season donation for Kosovo children, orphans, widows, etc. These are some examples of how we can live the Nativity Fast Season – a time of waiting for the coming of the Lord – His Birth in the flesh for us and our salvation (January 7). May we welcome Christ worthily into our life!
Our Sacramental Life
The life and character of an Orthodox Christian is in large measure shaped, nourished, and enriched by the Divine Liturgy or worship in the Church. Abounding with biblical readings, imagery, and expressions, the texts of the Liturgy set forth in doxological (glorification) form the Church’s authentic and living tradition. In the Liturgy, the Orthodox Christian is in constant touch with the fundamental truths of the faith. Worship becomes a theology of fervent prayer, a living sacrifice of praise of a biblical people, a vision of the spiritual world, an acquisition of the Holy Spirit, and a foretaste of the things to come. Through the Liturgy, we are nourished with the food of eternal life – The Lord Jesus Christ.
The sacraments [mysteries] prepare the faithful for the future life, but they also make that life real, here and now. We are given the vision and have the insight of the things to come through them. They introduce us endlessly and in various ways to the transforming power of God, which communicates salvation, the cure of our fallen humanity and “the elimination of the germ of mortality.” In them we encounter the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to be Christ. We enter upon a decisively new reality: in Christ we learn to become fully conscious of what it really means to be human. Encountering God, we also see the power of evil whose force attacks, pervades and distorts the image of God in us. Becoming one with Christ, we share in his victory over sin and death; the power of divine love overcomes evil in us and makes us anew into children of God and heirs of His Kingdom. Let us, my beloved in Christ, contemplate these words this pre-Nativity and Nativity Season, take them to heart and apply them concretely into our spiritual life.
Events in our parish
Many community building and fellowship events have taken place in our parish. It is through your generosity, love and sacrifice that we continue sustaining our parish ministries, growing and planning for the future. The San Diego Serbian Festival stands out as the major event. As I’ve mentioned to many, we can measure the ‘success’ of these events by the number of attendees or funds that we were able to raise. Indeed, it’s a good way to look at it.
However, as your parish priest, I look at these events from the perspective of the way they were executed. I have in mind the way that our parishioners worked together, supported each other in the process and gave each other enough room to demonstrate ingenuity and creativeness. So in my mind, this year’s SD Serbian Festival was by far the most successful. Let us continue working together for our cherished St. George parish encouraging each other to reach new levels of spiritual and intellectual accomplishments. My profound gratitude goes out to all of you!
Our church property
The last couple of years have been marked as years of continued property maintenance and improvements, e.g. patio area, parking lot, the hall roof, shed doors, Sunday school room, remodel of Dopudja and Gregovich properties [these properties were endowed to our parish], the patio area extension with a retaining wall and gazebo (thank you to Kathleen Rutherford and her sister Kathy) and the list goes on. There is a lot yet to be accomplished.
What must be noted is that the Parish Council/Church Board members, just as the previous ones, have been working hard in prioritizing these projects based on our budget. I am grateful to each of them for their dedication to our parish ministries. The next focus is on the remodel of the hall, the installation of air-conditioning, heating, and then the projects inside and around the church (floor, air-conditioning, heating, sidewalk, etc.) The sequence of these projects is yet to be determined. Your continued support and prayers for the completion are greatly appreciated.
Dichotomy of spiritual and material
There cannot be a sharp distinction between our spiritual and material life. We live in this world that we are called to transform with our actions, prayer and acquisition of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual dimension is woven deeply into the very texture of people’s everyday lives. It is not an extra ingredient, an add-on factor. In religious practice, people should feel and know that the down-to-earth integrity of their everyday lives is being acknowledged and celebrated. What is celebrated is not just some esoteric dimension of their lives, but a concrete existence in this world that we, in cooperating with God, are called to transform. Our Sunday participation in the Liturgy is not just reserved for those two hours. We must take the Liturgy we’ve experienced and concretely took a part in, back into the world, i.e. share it, witness it, speak about it, live it. Alas, to have this happen, we must be totally taken up to Heaven, lay aside all earthly cares, and be immersed totally in the Divine Liturgy, singing responses together with the choir and looking at each movement and finding out what it means – what reality it communicates to us, where it’s taking us spiritually.
Resources and information
It’s always been our goal here at St. George to make our parish activity calendar available to our parishioners and friends. To that end, we use our parish website (StGeorgeInSD.org), Facebook, emails, phone calls and regular US postal service. Please, let us know (619-276-5827; firstname.lastname@example.org) if you do not receive some of this information. Additionally, for your spiritual edification and growth, I suggest the Orthoprax app (daily lives of saints with prayers and scriptural readings), our Bible Study/Faith talks on Wednesday night, and Sunday school for your children. Also, I recommend the AFR (Ancient Faith Radio) app offering talks and music, as well as Orthodox Christian Network (myocn.net). Finally, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, my cell phone number is 619-316-2362 and email:FrBratso@sbcglobal.net. All this is for your enlightenment and more frequent participation.
It is an incredible gift for me to serve as your parish priest. We walk this journey of our Orthodox Faith together. The Nativity Season of gift giving is indeed a special time of our year, and the gift of Jesus Christ coming into our lives is truly the greatest of gifts!
Many of you generously make contributions to the Church at the end of the calendar year. This year, December 31 falls on a Monday. If you are making end of year contributions, please do so by or on Sunday, December 30thor mail your dated checks for 2018 to our church address: St. George SOC, 3025 Denver Street, San Diego, CA 92117.
Have a blessed Nativity Season! You’re all in my daily prayers.
With profound thanks and humble prayers,
Fr. Bratso Krsic