We are an inclusive Old Calendar Orthodox Christian community but our worship services conform to the theology of the Slavonic (Russian) typicon. We are not a local Church in Hayward but a small Orthodox metokian skete, dedicated to worship, study, and service to Orthodox and Catholic Christians from any historic jurisdiction in the greater San Francisco bay area. We also have a unique (among Orthodox Christian communities) focus in service of the marginalized, including the LGBT community as well as their welcoming non-LGBT friends. If you live in the San Francisco bay area, we invite you to join the Meetup group we are supporting:
The large Orthodox and Catholic jurisdictions continue to publicly humiliate LGBT folks with declarations like: “homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.” This attitude is so prominent that some LGBT folks assume that our Russian jurisdiction must be homophobic, judgmental and concerned all about sex as these jurisdictions seem to be. Very seldom do clergy talk about knives which can be used for good or for evil. We think the same way about sex so we seldom discuss it. Some of the best advice about sex might be found in Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, appropriately enough to be found on page 69:
Those members of our community, as well as any visitors, who are still catechumens (learners), are welcome to approach and kiss the Holy Chalice, the cross, and the priest's hand. We also welcome those who are prepared to receive Holy Communion, have been Chrismated or Confirmed in their own Orthodox or Catholic jurisdiction and believe in the Real Presence of our Lord. That is, believe in the precious and most holy Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, and in His Holy Blood, given unto us for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting. If you also believe in the Communion of Saints who hear our prayers, come pray with us as we say the following preparatory prayer for Holy Communion attributed to Saint John Chrysostom:
Beginning in 1980, Axios, an organization of Eastern & Near Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine & Eastern-rite Catholic Gay & Lesbian lay Christians was founded in Beverly Hills California. They did not include Roman Catholics at that time because the LGBT Roman Catholics already had their own support group called Dignity which had been founded earlier in San Diego, California.
Details about the history of Axios.org can be found on the Axios website. Axios marched in Pride celebrations for five years until two anti-catholic members insisted on ousting the two Eastern-Rite Catholics from the group. Axios, following its charter, voted unanimously (except for the 2) to uphold their membership. The two disgruntled members sent the Axios mailing-list to the OCA bishop in San Francisco. California membership has been mostly underground ever since. Anyone interested in working with Axios may contact them directly.
While Catholic and Orthodox Church hierarchy still continues to see each other as schismatics of sorts and argue over authority, the overwhelming majority of LGBT Orthodox and Catholic lay people, I have met, perceive each other to be in cultural jurisdictions of the one Church established at Pentecost with valid and effective sacraments. Therefore, our Saint Seraphim community, serving the San Francisco bay area of California, in solidarity with all LGBT Orthodox and Catholics, welcome each other to pray and commune with us.
We celebrate Divine Liturgy, as a community, almost every Sunday morning at 10 AM in our Saint Seraphim skete chapel in the hills of downtown Hayward, CA 94541. Our Saint Seraphim phone line for messages is (510) 856-3611. Please phone ahead for directions and to make certain we are not out of town that Sunday. If you enjoy singing Russian chant in English, please do ask about singing with us. We enjoy hearing from anyone who is interested in our work.
Grant rest eternal in blessed repose, O Lord, to thy departed servant Metropolitan Symeon, who is fallen asleep, and make his memory to be eternal!
Khristos voskrese! Christ is Risen!
Today we celebrate the great and holy feast of Pascha, the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:4-6)
Through baptism we die to sin and become alive in Christ. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:21-22) “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
If we sin, we die again. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Through repentance, we live again. “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18) Repentance is the first requirement in the sacrament of confession (or reconciliation). The second requirement is to confess our sins.“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)
In the Orthodox Church as in the Roman Catholic Church, we confess our sins to a priest who stands in the place of the entire Church and of our fellow human beings. If we sin, we sin against our fellow man, not only against God. “Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou. If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.” (Job 35:6-8) We, as Christians, are part of the body of Christ (which is the Church) and when we sin, we also sin against the body of Christ. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14)
But why a priest and not just another Christian? This is because Our Lord after His resurrection “breathed” on His Apostles and conferred on them the authority to forgive sins. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23) In Genesis, when God “breathed” into man created from dust, He gave life to the man. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 27) When we sin, we die and when we confess our sins and receive forgiveness of our sins, we become alive again. The priest has to listen to what sins to “remit” (forgive) and what to retain, thus he has to hear the confession.
The bishops who are the successors of the Apostles, through the laying on of hands, gave the priests the authority (via their ordination) to forgive sins in their place when the Church grew in number. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.“ (2 Timothy 1:6) “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” (1 Timothy 4:14)
Of course, God is not bound by confession and if we are in some dire situation (say, with the possibility of death) without the presence of a priest, if we truly repented and prayed to God for forgiveness, He will not refuse to forgive us. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1) But if we are able, we should confess our sins to a priest and receive God's forgiveness as Our Lord Jesus intended.
So let us, on this Pascha, remember that Our Lord is a loving and merciful God. “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” (Isaiah 43:3-4) “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” (Psalm 103:8) “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” (Psalm 86:5)
Today is a time for renewal after our 40 days of fasting and penance. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:12)
Today we rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)
Have a blessed Pascha!