Address: 6447 76th Avenue North Pinellas Park, FL 33781 Phone: (727) 545-3797
Photos of Our Church

Monday, March 14
6:30 PM Great Compline and Canon of St Andrew of Crete (first half)

Wednesday, March 16
6:00 PM Pre-sanctified Liturgy followed by potluck Lenten Meal

Friday, March 18
6:30 PM Akathist Service to the Theotokos

Saturday, March 19
5:00 PM Vespers

Sunday, March 20
9: 30 AM Orthros
10:00 AM Choir Rehearsal
10:30 AM Divine Liturgy
5:00 PM Mission Vespers at St Sava Serbian Orthodox Church

Monday, March 21
6:30 PM Great Compline

Wednesday, March 23
6:00 PM Pre-sanctified Liturgy followed by potluck Lenten Meal

Thursday, March 24
6:00 PM Vesperal Divine Liturgy for Annunciation

Friday, March 25 Annunciation of the Theotokos
6:30 PM Akathist Service to the Theotokos

Saturday, March 26
5:00 PM Vespers

Sunday, March 27
9: 30 AM Orthros
10:00 AM Choir Rehearsal
10:30 AM Divine Liturgy
5:00 PM Mission Vespers at St Nektarios

Monday, March 28
6:30 PM Great Compline

Wednesday, March 30
6:00 PM Pre-sanctified Liturgy followed by potluck Lenten Meal
Jesus Christ’s first word when He began His Ministry after His Baptism and then forty days and forty nights in the wilderness where He repulsed the temptations of Satan was: “Repent.”

Why do you suppose that was His first word? Because connected to the word was the promise: “For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  John the Evangelist quotes Christ as saying that He came to give us life and to give it to us “more abundantly.” That promise is still alive and real today, health care
but to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven now as His followers did 2000 years ago we also have to “Repent.” There is no Sunday Pascha without the Cross of Good Friday!

Of course,
we want the promise. We want to be welcomed into the Kingdom where there is no longer “tribulation, wrath, or necessity” and to be with all “those who in faith have gone before us to their rest: Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and every rightest spirit made perfect in faith, especially are all-holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary.”

Not only is this Kingdom to come, but it is at hand; viz;, it is here and now. Before we receive communion we pray: “That to all those who shall partake thereof they may be unto cleansing of soul, unto remission of sins, unto the communion of the Holy Spirit, [and] unto the fulfillment of the kingdom of Heaven.”

How do we do that? Well like the lyrics of an old song said: “I’m goin’ to change my way of living,” and in doing so “My walk will be different, my talk and my name, Nothin about me is goin’ to be the same.”

Repentance means making a one hundred and eighty degree turn; instead of walking away from God we turn and like the Prodigal Son we walk back towards Him. In doing so we change our way of thinking, of acting, and of living because we want what He promised us: to have life and to have it “more abundantly.”

We all want a “more abundant” life, a life of peace rather than stress and tension, a life of kindness rather than a life of strife and anger, a life of understanding and consideration rather than one of argument and worry, surrounded by people who are kind, helpful, and humble rather than mean, arrogant and boisterous. And where do we find such people? In the community of believers and followers of Christ, particularly those who follow Christ in the Orthodox tradition.

In a recent retrospective of Bob Hope’s USO tours starting in 1941 until his death he closed each Christmas show to the troops with the Christmas carol “Silent Night,” and there was not a dry eye in the place. Whatever else was on the minds of the troops, many of whom would not live through the next battle, was deep within them the need to love and be loved by their families and comrades. Jesus’ coming into the world on that special silent night reminded them of all that was good in life. They longed for the peace that the Prince of Peace promised instead of the war they were forced to fight. I could not help thinking that Christ’s message of loving one’s neighbor as oneself and of loving one’s enemies was in direct contrast to the belligerent rhetoric of political leaders, and war mongers who beat the drums of war for their own benefit. Had Christ not come into the world where would we be? What standard would we follow? Christ holds us to a higher standard. Are we prepared to try to live up to it?

How do we go about repenting? We begin humbly. We sit quietly and take stock of our lives. Are we at peace with everyone and with ourselves? If not, then we need to do something about it. Are we actively trying to get closer to Christ? If not, then we need to begin. Are we using the talents God has given us for His glory? If not, then we need to change our emphasis. Are we visiting the sick and the captives; are we giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty; are we clothing the naked; are we helping the homeless? If not, then we are not doing to the least of these our brothers and sisters as we would do to Christ.

These questions we ask ourselves may not be easy to answer. Indeed, they may remind us of our shortcomings and of our tender sore spots, places and situations we would rather not think about. But, without dealing with them they tend to fester and stay floating around in our brains – unconsciously bothering us with their persistent reminders.

As difficult as it is to make this assessment of our lives, it is what God expects us to do. Why? So that He can forgive us; so that we can unburden ourselves and begin afresh with our lives unencumbered with our troubling doubts and thoughts. God wants us to be at peace, and reconciled to him. We cannot be at peace if we possess troubling doubts and thoughts.

Alone this taking stock is impossible. But, with God all things are possible. Christ established the community of believers – the church – as His Body with Him as the Head. Included in that Body are His priests and bishops. They are there to assist us in our taking stock through the sacrament of Confession.

Confession is good for the soul. The very action of articulating what is bothersome is itself cathartic; getting the thought out on the table so to speak in the light of day brings it out into the open where it can be discussed and evaluated. Here is where the priest can be helpful by putting the issue into context. Remember there is no sin that God will not forgive except the sin against the Holy Spirit.[Matthew 12:32]

By putting the issue into context it may not be as onerous as one thought. What a relief. Or, the issue may be so serious – like murder, infidelity, abortion, theft – that penance is called for. Again the priest is there to offer advice, comfort, and ultimately absolution in the name of the Lord. For Christ Himself said to the Apostles: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” [John10:23] Christ’s commission to His Apostles has been handed down over the centuries through the laying on of hands from the Apostles to the Bishops and to the Priests down to the present day. Thus, Orthodox priests are empowered to forgive and to retain sins.

Think of the priest in these circumstances as a coach. Just as a vocal coach, or a swim coach, or a pitching coach, or a dance coach is there to provide helpful instruction in perfecting one’s singing, or swimming, or pitching, or dancing so is a priest there to provide helpful instruction in growing more Christlike – the goal of our life to partake of the divine nature. [II Peter 1:4] A coach cannot sing for you, or swim for you, or pitch for you, or dance for you; rather, his role is to assist you to do so, to point out movements that need correction or improvement, to offer suggestions and advice, and to encourage you to try. Similarly, a priest does the same. He is not there to judge, but to encourage. It is Christ who will judge. The priest gets you ready for Judgment Day.

How often should we confess? As often as necessary! For some it will be monthly, for others three or four times a year, and for some once a year. The important thing is to begin, and Great Lent is a perfect time to begin. In our Orthodox tradition confession is required before taking Communion. Not every week, but often enough to stay on track with the Lord. St. Paul warned the Corinthians to “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Let him or her, in other words, confess their sins to be reconciled with God and to one another. “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” [I Cor 11:27-30] Those who do not “examine” themselves may find they are partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ in “an unworthy manner.”

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and thus be reconciled to God and to one another through the sacrament of Confession. Great Lent is a most appropriate time to go to confession, as Great Lent is designed to prepare us for Christ’s last week on earth, to be with Him as He enters Jerusalem triumphantly, then to be arrested and tried and sentenced to death on the Cross, but to rise on the third day again triumphantly. If we are to follow Christ, we need to follow Him particularly during this Holy Week.

God be with you!

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Schedule of Services

Saturday, 5:00 PM, Vespers
Sunday, 9:30 AM, Orthros
Sunday, 10:30 AM, Divine Liturgy