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.
We are part of the American Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church under the omophorion of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Nestor.
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 in their own Orthodox jurisdiction.
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.
Today is the Second Sunday of Great Lent. Today the Church also celebrates the Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), one of the pillars of Orthodoxy. Saint Gregory was famous for his defense of hesychast spirituality, the uncreated character of the light of the Transfiguration, and the distinction between God's essence and energies. Saint Gregory defended the monks of Mount Athos against the heresies of Barlaam, a Calabrian monk. Barlaam, influenced by the Latin Church, taught that God could be understood through the study of philosophy and logic. Saint Gregory, however, reiterated the Orthodox position that it was only through prayer and fasting, as revealed by the Holy Fathers that God could be understood.
When it became clear that the dispute was irreconcilable, judgment had to be rendered by an synodal council. Barlaam's heresies were finally put to rest by a series of synodal councils (1341, 1347 and 1351), collectively known by Orthodox Christians as the Ninth Ecumenical Council.
In today's Gospel passage (Mark 2:1-12), we see the scribes who had just witnessed Our Lord Jesus forgive the sins of a paralytic and accused Him of blasphemy as only God can forgive sins. Our Lord knew what was in their hearts and challenged them with a question, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'?” He then healed the paralytic.
The Scribes were correct in that only God could forgive sins and we can forgive them that they did not really know who Our Lord was. Our Lord wasn't really chastising them as demonstrating His power to heal and forgive sins, providing them with a clue as to who He was. This power to forgive sins would be extended to His Apostles after the resurrection when Our Lord appeared to them, breathed on them and said, ““Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:22-23).
God is mysterious. His ways are even more mysterious. In Our Lord's Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) Jesus is showing us that God does not think like us. He will do whatever He wants to do. In this case, be generous to whoever He wants to be generous to. In Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
In Judaism, even the Name of God is so mysterious that it cannot be uttered. Instead, a tetragammaton (or four letters) YHWH is used. By the time of the Temple's destruction (70 A.D.), the word was considered too holy to pronounce. The Jewish Mishnah (a book of early Jewish traditions) even states, “He who pronounces the Name with its own letters has no part in the world to come!”
In Orthodoxy, we understand this mysteriousness about God and do not seek to probe it. We rely on the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition to guide us to God. During this Lenten period, let us reflect on Psalm 139 about a very mysterious God who loves us and knows us more than we know ourselves.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end[a]—I am still with you. O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil![b] Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked[c] way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. God bless you!