Jackson, CA – Sunday, September 4, 2016 - The final day of the 20th Annual Diocesan Days celebration came on the Lord's Day, the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, the feast day of the Holy Martyr St. Agathonicus. The clergy were vested early during Matins Sunday morning in preparation to welcome and piously receive the relics of St. Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson who, during the course of Matins, was escorted into the makeshift church by His Grace Bishop Maxim and all the clergy of the Western American Diocese. With the bishop's blessing Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Nicholas Ceko beautifully delivered the homily after the gospel reading during liturgy, speaking on relationships – both the ones we have with one another and our relationship with God. Singing the responses during the liturgy were the students of Prizren Seminary as they had all weekend.After a continental breakfast the grand banquet was held in the main hall. The clergy and faithful were given one last time to listen to this year's guest speaker, Dr. Bogdan Lubardic, as he delivered his Keynote Address towards the end of the luncheon, entitled: Learning with St. Matthew: How are we to overcome and understand fear- on Christ the eternal source of Joy and Peace. His talk centered on the gospel event found in the 14th chapter of St. Matthews gospel. Namely, Jesus' walking on the water. The theme was the human conditioin of fear, which we collectively run away from but cannot escape. As he did in previous talks, Dr. Lubardic disected the reading from Scriptures in order to better understand its deeper meaning. This gospel episode which gives a deeper understanding of the human condition of fear reveals its twofold dimension: fear of the unknown and fear in not knowing Him who dispels all fear which, in fact, is a lack of faith due to sin. Dr. Lubardic tied his keynote address to Fr. Ceko's morning homily about relationships, stating that the only way man can overcome fear as an inherit human condition is through a living faith, that is, a living relationship with Christ our Lord who is the only one who dispel all our fears. Subsequently, it is interesting to note that when St. Peter, who began to slip upon walking on the waters, calls to Jesus "Lord, save me“, the waters become calm. Which is to say, that our confession of our faith results in peace in our lives. This slipping and drowning in the waves described in the gospel narrative, our guest speaker noted, will never occur and happen in our own spiritual lives as long as we keep our view focused on Christ.
20th Annual Diocesan Days Continues
- Created on Saturday, 03 September 2016 07:48
Jackson, CA - Saturday, September 3, 2016 – Chanting, the ancient melodies and hymns in glory and honor of the Holy Apostle Thaddeus whose memory the church commemorated on Saturday, 3 September, resonated through the crisp morning air. It came from the makeshift chapel under the tent at the St. Sava campgrounds and the morning Matins that prayerfully marked the start of the second day of this year’s Diocesan Days celebration. While the clergy filed in one by one, they received a blessing from their bishop and spiritual father, His Grace Maxim. During the course of the Matins service the clergy vested and gathered once more around their bishop for the start of the Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” His Grace stood before the altar and announced to the gathered faithful. “Whenever we celebrate one of the Apostles, as we do today, we remember that they went out to preach the gospel and they preached exactly this dimension of our salvation, that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, it is here with us in our Eucharistic gathering and celebration.”
20th Annual Diocesan Begins with a Lively Clergy Seminar
- Created on Friday, 02 September 2016 17:03
Jackson, CA - Friday, September 2, 2016 - Nestled in the rolling hills of Amador County is the beautiful and historic St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in the small, quiet town of Jackson, California. It was the site of this year’s Diocesan Days celebration of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America, which takes place each year on Labor Day weekend.
By noon clergy, coming from various parts of the vast diocese, slowly began to arrive at the beautiful St. Sava Camp where they were met and received a blessing from their ruling hierarch, His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America. After lunch the clergy were ready for the first item on the day’s agenda - the Clergy Seminar. This year’s guest speaker was Bogdan Lubardic, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at Belgrade University. Mr. Lubardic’s topic was entitled, Learning with St. Paul: How is the word of God (kerygma) to be offered to the world – Evangelization, Enculturation, Mission. Professor Lubardic spoke eloquently, taking as a central point in St. Paul’s preaching his interaction with the Athenians in Acts 17:22-31. While the speaker spoke at length of the philosophical thought of the people St. Paul was encountering and gave a more clearer picture to his listeners that they might grasp his evangelization tactics – this offering of the word of God – to the people who had an altar to “an unknown God”, her offered points for pondering. First, St. Paul addressed the basic need, the problem of sin, death and corruption. Secondly, he indicated that we now have a Savior, Jesus Christ who provides the gift, which is the Church, a workshop through a sacramental life. And, finally, the challenge: not only do we have Christ but we’re called to emulate Him ourselves. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles as a historical book is in the middle of the New Testament, meaning it is placed between the Gospels and Epistles, which reassures us that it is a historical event and Mr. Lubardic gave a deeper insight into the historical atmosphere at that particular time. However, he also noted, that the Book of Acts does not have a concluding chapter and, subsequently, we are all called to action. Just as St. Paul encountered and challenged the Gentile world we are reminded that wherever Chris is rejected is the gentile world.
Slava Celebration in Fair Oaks - “Living a Moment in God’s Time”
- Created on Saturday, 27 August 2016 17:53
On Saturday and Sunday, August 27-28, 2016, the Serbian Orthodox Church of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fair Oaks California celebrated its Slava.
One by one the cars started arriving and people began greeting each other. As we each entered our beautiful Church, we immediately felt the peace we would be blessed with for the entire weekend. We were not to be disappointed.
As candles were lit, as icons were venerated, as our places were taken, all of us breathed in the scent of holiness. The flowers gracing the icons so lovingly made and placed by Luba Karnaaokh added the final element showing love to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
With the entrance of His Grace Bishop Maxim, the newly assigned Diocesan Deacon Vladan Radovanovic, Deacon Dragan Stojanovich from Jackson, along with Proto Dane and Proto William, we were ready to begin. The evening Vesper service was beautiful and somber. Vladika Maxim led the prayerful group who had gathered. Three talented young Chanters filled the Church with their upraised voices. Our own Dusan Radosavljevic had invited two of his friends, Michail “Micho” Slavko (who is Bulgarian) and Dillon Diamandopoulos (who is Greek) to participate in the service. Several times the absolutely perfect harmony of their voices merged with the voice of our Beloved Vladika Maxim. At those moments the rest of us felt our hearts transported upwards. Later, Dusan admitted “we sang the first part of Vespers according to the long sticheraic genre that the Athonites repopularized. I felt like I had been transported to Chilandar Monastery.” (Mt. Athos) All of us who attended Vespers knew we had been truly blessed by the beauty and solemnity of the prayers we had heard.
Pilgrimage to Orthodox Alaska
- Created on Sunday, 14 August 2016 14:32
Spruce Island, known as the “New Valaam”, is where St. Herman lived from 1808-1818 in a life of prayer and strict asceticism. Although the original house he lived in no longer remains, a new house and church were built on the site of his repose. A miraculous, healing freshwater spring flows nearby. The island is also home to the monks of the St. Michael Skete, under the jurisdiction of His Grace, Bishop Maxim. Three monks are currently living in the monastery, celebrating the daily cycle of services and farming and fishing for sustinence. The monks boast an impressive vegetable garden and preserve whatever fish they catch for the cold winter months. The monastery does not have running water or refrigeration. Heating is obtained by burning the wood they must chop themselves and store in a small shed for the winter. It should be noted that the hard physical work is amplified by the very steep island terrain which is wet and rocky in the warm season, and covered by thick snow and slippery ice in the cold season.
The male pilgrims stayed at St. Michael’s Skete, while the women were shuttled to the St. Nilus Skete, (dedicated to St. Nilus of Sora), which is settled on a small island about ten minutes away by boat. Home to a myriad of birds- eagles, warblers, thrushes, woodpeckers and puffins- St. Nilus Island, as it’s known, is also home to four nuns and the Abbess, Mother Nina, also under the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Like St. Michael’s Skete, theirs too is very rustic and they live off of the land. The sisters produce and sell prayer ropes as a means of supporting themselves. They are in the process of building a new winter house and upgrading their current cells in order to be able to better survive the harsh winters and to accomodate future pilgrims. While many may find the conditions here rough, the monastics truly appreciate the natural beauty and splendor of the area, and as well as the solitude it provides so that they can experience the “royal path” and pray for those of us living in the world.
The servant of God Vladan Radovanovic ordained to the Priesthood
- Created on Tuesday, 02 August 2016 15:35
The Feast of the Holy Glorious Elijah, Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016, was a joyous day in the Western American Diocese. During the Divine Liturgy, at the Saint Steven's Cathedral in Alhambra, California, His Grace Bishop Maxim ordained to the deaconate, Vladan Radovanovic.
Among the concelebrants were V. Rev. Nikola Ceko, V. Rev. Bratso Krsic, V. Rev. Blasko Paraklis, Rev. Milovan Katanic, Rev. Milan Unkovic, Rev. Zoran Aleksic, and Deacon John Ma'ae. The prayerful responses, led by Jonathan Braun, were beautifully sung by the children attending the Cathedral's summer camp.
Following the Liturgy a luncheon was held to congratulate and welcome Deacon Vladan and his wife Dejana into the Western American Diocese. Deacon Vladan has been traveling from Serbia to the Western Diocese for several years, volunteering and assisting in the Diocesan office. He will now serve as the Diocesan Deacon.
May God grant him many years of service to Christ and His Holy Church. We prayerfully wish that he would preserve and multiply the grace that he has been given today so that when the time comes, he would receive (or be ordained to) the priesthood, thus being numbered among the presbyters of Christ’s Church.