Featuring a guest conductor, a string quartet, a selection from Handel’s Messiah, and favorite Christmas carols, this year’s Lessons & Carols service will be held at St Michael’s Church on Saturday, December 22, beginning at 6 p.m.
Join us, and invite family and friends. This is a community event, intended for all we know and love!
The Society of St Benedict will host the annual Advent Retreat on December 8.
The Very Reverend Patrick O’Grady from St Peter the Apostle Church in Pomona will present the three Advent meditations on “Obedience, Repentance, & Pure Prayer.”
This retreat is open to all persons. It is designed primarily to give, for at least a few hours, a respite from the many distractions in December so that one can focus on the gift of Our Lord in our flesh.
The retreat begins with Prime at 9 a.m. and concludes by 3 p.m. with None. Please RSVP by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (562.692.6121).
(Note: Child care is not provided.)
On All Saints Day, the Church does not celebrate all those who were baptized, particularly the faithful who are still living. For the Church does not use the word “saint” lightly. Therefore, she does not refer to any or every Christian as a “saint.” Rather, the word “saint” is reserved for those who have led exemplary lives of holiness. And as a mark of their holiness, these men and women would not see themselves as saints. Rather, they would see themselves as unworthy of this honor.
It is not a mark of pride, then, but a recognition of godly humility when a person is canonized (officially recognized) as a “saint.” And it is a witness to all the faithful that we should strive not to be saints, but to live humbly, “soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Ti 2.12-13)
The greatest honor bestowed upon a saint, then, is to imitate that person’s life. And there are two things in particular that we should strive to imitate so that we might worthily commemorate the saints.
First, all saints—whether known or unknown—freely confessed Christ and His unending mercy by willingly sacrificing their life. Many of the saints made this confession by spilling their blood as martyrs. Others, however, did not receive the crown of martyrdom, but nevertheless made a great confession by sacrificing all that they had and all that they were for the love of God and the love of all men.
To commemorate the saints by imitation, then, means that we adopt this same attitude of self-sacrifice; that we become willing to give up all our possessions, all our ambitions, all our desires, even our own life if necessary, in order to attain the kingdom of heaven. That is how the saints lived and died; and we honor them by living as they did.
Secondly, all saints strove not for fame, but for humility. All of them desired to be known not for their deeds or writings. Rather, they desired simply to gain true life by losing their lives in a life dedicated to repentance. For they saw themselves as unworthy of even the least of Christ’s mercies, and so lived St. Paul’s creed: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim 1.15)
To commemorate the saints rightly, then, means that we adopt their spirit of repentance and humility; that we strive not to impress others, but instead strive to divest ourselves of all pride and self-serving desires. To live knowing that no one is worse than we are, that all are more deserving, and that the Lord should first save everyone else, even the worst sinner—that is the saints’ spirit of humility and repentance that we should strive to imitate. And whenever we do, we truly honor them.
The celebration of the Patronal Feast will commence on Friday, September 28, with First Vespers at 6 p.m. Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, September 29 at 10 a.m. The Patronal Feast will be celebrated again on Sunday, 30 September, with Lauds at 9:15 a.m. and Mass at 10 a.m.
Holy Week in the Western Tradition: A Brief Synopsis
Holy Week consists of two parts: the first four days, beginning with Palm Sunday; and the Triduum Sacrum (“holy three days”), which celebrate with particular solemnity Our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
During the first half, the words of St Thomas should fill our hearts and minds: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (Jn 11.16) Through the liturgical rites, we follow Our Lord and, in heart and mind, follow Him by participating in His sufferings and death. Yet our focus is not to pity Our Lord, nor effect a somber mood. Rather, we participate by being immersed in His self-sacrifice, understanding that we must also put to death the deeds of the flesh, so that we might rejoice fully and full-throatedly as we are raised and glorified in Him.
During the second half of Holy Week, the Eucharistic liturgy, together with the Divine Offices (most especially the three Tenebrae services), draw us into more profound participation while, at the same time, inculcating in us the depth of joy that is located in Our Lord’s Passion. During these days, the words “Behold how He love[s] [them]” (Jn 11.36) should capture our meditations.
Briefly, these days may be summarized as follows.
Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week, when we remember Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Immediately after Lauds, the blessing and distribution of the palms take place. Each person receives a palm, and the clergy lead the faithful in procession around the Church, while joyful chants are sung culminating in the hymn “All Glory, Laud and Honor.”
When the worshippers return, the Mass commences. During the Mass, the faithful hear the First of the Passion Narratives, from the Gospel according to St. Matthew. This Passion Narrative depicts Our Lord as the fulfillment of the promised King Messiah. “Christ our King, intercede for us!”
At the Mass, we will hear of Our Lord’s preparation for burial by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. While she anoints Him with fragrant oil, we also are reminded of Judas’ betrayal and, more sadly, his impending impenitence. May the Lord’s Spirit soften our hearts to be more like Mary!
During the Mass, the Second of the Passion Narratives, from the Gospel according to St. Mark, is read. This Passion Narrative depicts Our Lord as the Suffering Servant, who willingly and freely bears the weakness, brokenness, and sin of all humanity. “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold Him who takes away the sin of the world!”
During the Mass, the Third of the Passion Narratives, from the Gospel according to St. Luke, is read. This Passion Narrative depicts Our Lord as the merciful Physician who readily sacrifices Himself to heal our souls. Nowhere is this more poignantly presented than in the exchange between Christ and Dismas (the “good” thief on the cross). Lord, grant us this same mercy!
Following Vespers, the first of three Tenebrae services is prayed. Tenebrae is a service of prayer conducted in near-darkness. This service includes a candle ceremony, where candles are extinguished at the end of each psalm and the Benedictus. The central feature of this service is the mystical application of the Lamentations of Jeremiah to our participation in Our Lord’s Passion, and a glorious explanation of Psalm 54 (55) by St Augustine.
The Institution of the Mystical Supper is the focus for the Holy Thursday Mass. The Gloria in Excelsis is restored with joyful bells, and the Readings recall the events when Our Lord gathered with His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. We hear that Our Lord loves us to the end, and calls us to love one another in the same way. In an interesting juxtaposition from Holy Monday’s Gospel, we see Our Lord washing the feet which will carry the Gospel throughout the world. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Gospel of peace!” (In imitation of Our Lord sending His apostles, in both Eastern and Western Rite cathedrals the Bishop, as the icon of Christ surrounded by his disciples, enacts the mandatum by washing the feet of thirteen males.)
After all have received Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacrament is processed to the Altar of Repose where it remains for adoration until the Pre-sanctified Liturgy on Good Friday.
After Mass, toward the end of Vespers, the Altar is stripped while Our Lord’s prayer on the cross (Psalm 21 ) is solemnly chanted. Following Vespers, the second Tenebrae service is prayed. Once again, the Lamentations of Jeremiah are mystically applied to our participation in Our Lord’s Passion, and St Augustine instructs us on Psalm 63 (64).
Our Lord’s Death on the Cross is commemorated with the Solemn Liturgy for Good Friday. The service is moving in its starkness and consists of four parts: hearing the Lord’s Word, the Solemn Prayers for all persons, the Veneration of the Holy Cross with its “reproaches” (improperia), and the reception of Holy Communion from the Pre-Sanctified. During the first part, the faithful hear the fourth Passion Narrative from the Gospel according to St. John. This Passion Narrative depicts Our Lord ascending His throne in glory as the triumphant King, as the sign declares.
Following the Liturgy, the third Tenebrae service is prayed. The ceremony is nearly identical to the previous two Tenebrae services. After completing the Lamentations of Jeremiah, St Augustine reminds us of the significance of Our Lord’s two natures as they relate to His Passion.
The Western rite knows two celebrations of Our Lord’s Resurrection. The first and most ancient is the Great Vigil which, in the first seven centuries, was kept throughout the night and climaxed with the celebration of Holy Communion at dawn on Easter Day. In the past 13 centuries, the Great Vigil has been assigned, in both Eastern and Western churches, to Holy Saturday afternoon or morning. (In recent decades, not a few Western churches have begun celebrating the Paschal Vigil later in the afternoon or evening, while also retaining the Easter Sunday Mass.)
During the Paschal Vigil, worshippers gather quietly in the entrance for the blessing of fire. Then the Deacon leads the faithful into the Nave. While the worshippers are taking their places, the ancient Easter hymn of praise (Praeconium) is sung and the candles of the faithful and throughout the church are lit. Following this candlelight ceremony, Old Testament prophecies are read. This Service of Readings is followed by the blessing of the Baptismal font. The Litany of the Saints leads the faithful to a joy-filled celebration of Holy Mass. The service concludes with an abbreviated form of Vespers.
The Resurrexi Mass (“Mass of the Resurrection”) is the chief celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection. It commences with the blessing of the faithful with the holy water that was blessed at the Great Vigil. Then the Mass proceeds, with the Gloria in Excelsis sung once more with great joy! While the usual order of the Divine Liturgy is maintained, it is augmented with the acclamation of “alleluia” numerous times, and with the beautiful Easter sequence (Victimae paschali laudes) as well as many familiar Easter Scripture readings and hymns. In addition, flowers once more decorate our altars, and joy pervades our hearts and minds as we proclaim, “Christ is risen: He is risen indeed, alleluia!”
The Most Reverend Metropolitan Joseph will preside at Lauds and Mass on Passion Sunday, March 25. His Eminence is the Metropolitan Archbishop for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and had been scheduled to visit last August but was detained by a meeting of the Patriarchal Synod in Damascus. Several times since then he has expressed his love and desire to come to St Michael’s as soon as his schedule permits.
The Metropolitan visited St Michael’s Church many times during his tenure as Bishop of Los Angeles and the West. But now, for the first time, he visits us as our Metropolitan Archbishop.
It has been nearly 27 years since St Michael’s Church was blessed with the visit of a Metropolitan Archbishop. That occurred on September 9, 1990, when Metropolitan Philip, of thrice-blessed memory, consecrated the altar and solemnly dedicated the church.
His Eminence will arrive at 9 a.m. on Sunday, March 25. During Lauds, he will ordain Reader Lazaro Mancilla to the rank of subdeacon.
Bishop John, the local bishop for Western Rite parishes, will also visit St Michael’s in March. On Saturday, March 10, His Grace will preside and give the meditations at the Lenten Retreat hosted by the Society of St Benedict. Bishop John will also preside at Lauds and Mass on Sunday, March 11. Following the Mass and dinner, His Grace will host an informal conversation with the young adults in the parish.
The Rt. Rev. John Abdalah, Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester and the Western Rite Vicariate, will present the annual Lenten Retreat at St Michael’s Church on March 10. His Grace’s three meditations on “Being Right with God” will draw attention to the Sacrament of Penance (Private Confession).
This retreat, hosted by the parish’s Society of St Benedict, will follow the Benedictine model of a “silent retreat.” Therefore, there will be ample quiet time for personal prayer, reflection, and meditation.
This event is intended to provide a break from the busyness of this world, to offer time to learn how to live the season of Lent, and to refresh and prepare the soul for the Lenten journey.
The retreat begins at 9 a.m. with prayer according to the rule of St Benedict, and concludes at 3 p.m. Lunch will be provided, and a free will donation is appreciated. Child care, unfortunately, will not be available.
For more information or to RSVP, please call or email the St Michael parish office.
St Michael Orthodox Church is located at 3333 Workman Mill Road, across the street from Rio Hondo College.
A service of Christmas Lessons & Carols will be offered at St Michael on Saturday, 23 December, at 6 p.m. This year’s rendition will feature the Pacific Coast Quartet and Scott Rieker, Guest Conductor.
This service combines Scripture readings with familiar traditional Christmas hymns and carols. It is open to the community, in order to help foster the true spirit of the Lord’s Nativity.
Here are five reasons you may attend, and encourage others in your community to join us:
- You will hear the context, as well as the story, of Christ’s birth.
- You will sing familiar Christmas songs, and learn new ones.
- You will unite with Christians of all times and places as the readings and songs traverse centuries.
- You will unite with Christians in Whittier as you rejoice together.
- You will be reminded of what Christmas is truly about.