Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Nativity Icon

The intimate relationship of icon, ritual worship, and event of the feast is nowhere better illustrated than on Christmas. The icon of the Nativity of Christ shows in a remarkable way the special place the Orthodox Church assigns to icons. It portrays the whole scene of the Incarnation, its spiritual and theological dimension. If one were to see this icon and understand it, one would have a profound insight into the meaning of the Birth of the Lord.

The icon is crowded with figures and scenes, but each has a story to tell, each is involved with the Nativity. Occupying the central place is the new-born Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, while the Mother, the Holy Virgin, reclines close by. they are in a dark cave, from which peaks jut into the sky. The light from heaven pierces the blackness. All this conveys an other-worldly character to the scene. The Incarnation involves two worlds- that of eternity and that of God and Man. And in the birth of Christ we have a fusion of those worlds, we have God becoming Man.

We see the God-Man in all His humility. He is born in a cave. Animals watch and wait upon Him silent wonder. He comes at night and the world is asleep to the awesomeness of the occasion. Still the newborn Child is the Lord of Creation. the heavens open and a star points its light at Him. The angels appear and sing out praises to God and Child. The shepherds, awed by the sight and sound of the night, cautiously approach the improvised cradle. Strange men of the East come, and kneeling before Him, offer Jesus the precious gifts they bear.

The Magi often translated as Wise Men are connected with the Three Wise Youths who refused to offer worship to idols in the Book of Daniel and were rescued from the fiery furnace that King Nebuchadnezzar had placed them in when they invoked the name of God. The Magi were considered priests of an eastern cult and practitioners of magic and astrology. The wealth of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria represented the sorcery and idol worship that the Magi gave up when they worshipped Jesus. Even their names have significant meaning. Balthazar a Greek corruption of the Babylonian name Belshazzar, familiar in the Book of Daniel which means: O Lord, protect the king". Melchior, is an Aramaic name which means, "The king is my light". Gaspar is a Roman corruption of Persian name for Gondophares, which means, "treasure bearer".

St. Irenaeus of Lyons alluded to the role of the Magi in the allegorical interpretation of their gifts. Gold because He was a king of an eternal kingdom, Frankincense, burnt on altars as divine offerings, because He was a High Priest and Myrrh, used for anointing corpses to indicate that He would die and be buried for the sake of mankind. Venerable Bede recorded in later tradition that the three Magi signified the three parts of the world- Africa, Asia and Europe and that they were thus linked with the sons of Noah, who fathered the three races of Earth.

Christmas Services Schedule

Dear Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Christ is Born! Indeed He is Born!

This is a great time in our Christian year, a time of rejoicing, a time of faith, a time of hope and therefore a time of love. It is to that joy, to that friendliness that we invite all today, those who are practicing your faith both in the Church and outside it, in your daily life and also you whom we miss at the wonderful and holy services of the Church, yours and ours. Come let us all be one in our Holy Orthodox Faith and in the One Lord, Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who by His great love and compassion for all mankind condescended to be born of a virgin. And by His Nativity He revealed to all His almighty divine power by which He reigns over the universe.

Your church sends this greeting to all in love and hope that you will respond. As we all know in the previous months that our island of Galveston suffered a major catastrophe which engulfed many of our parishioners who lost almost all of their earthly possessions. Unfortunately, even our small but ever faithful orthodox church communities have suffered as well, especially our sister parish of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Birth-Giver of God. It is my fervent prayer that we will remember these parishes not only now for this holy season but continually throughout the whole year and the course of our life, and for our earthly, temporal gifts that God grant us His heavenly and eternal gifts.

Enclosed we will find the schedule for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Services for Sts. Constantine and Helen Serbian Orthodox Church:

December 24th at 7:00pm we will have Othros followed by Divine Liturgy for the members of our Greek Orthodox Community whose church, hall and office were completely decimated by the storm

January 6th at 7:00 pm we will have Great Vespers Service (Badnje Vece) with traditional burning of Yule Log.

January 7th at 10:00 am Divine Liturgy NATIVITY OF OUR LORD & SAVIOR

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Future announcements

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A few announcements:

Father Nicholas Hadzellis together with YAM: Young Adult Ministries( A Pan-Orthodox Ministry) has asked us to join the Ballapalooza! Basketball and Volleyball in an effort to help the Orthodox Churches in Galveston recovering after Hurricane Ike. The event will take place on October 23, 2008 between 6:30-8:30pm at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Gym. Father Nick can be reached below.

Father Nicholas Hadzellis
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
3511 Yoakum Blvd.Houston, Texas 77006
(713) 526-5377

Also on Sunday October 25th, 2008 following the Divine Liturgy we will have a special church meeting for all board members, family and friends of Sts. Constantine and Helen to discuss future plans in the reconstruction of our church hall and also in the effort of helping our fellow parishioners with any assistance they might need. Don't forget the day before on Saturday the 24th we will have another cleanup work day on our church hall

Church services have resumed at Sts. Constantine & Helen Church

Dear brothers and sisters,

Thank God we are now able to serve divine liturgy in our church and will do so going forward. We have the air conditioning working and lights as well. It is so good to see everyone back at home in our church where we all belong. We will still have to wait another month or so before we can sand and repolish the church floor and then to add the carpet again. Unfortunately we cannot enjoy each others company for fellowship post liturgy as the hall is still in need of major repair. Nevertheless we will make sure that we will triumph over this tragedy. Great news friends our sister parish of the Greek Orthodox church will be able to save their icons from the iconostas after all. There were initial worries that this would not be the case but thanks to the Good Lord above and His divine providence they will be spared. The icons were painted in the period between 1931-1934. The icon of the Mystical Supper above the Royal Doors was painted in 1966 while the deacons doors with Sts. Archangel Michael and Gabriel were painted in 1977. They were carefully removed from the church yesterday and placed in storage with the help of Jim Kyritsis and Barnabas Powell from the IOCC Team under the supervision of Tony Speakman. The church has been able to be aired out and the majority of pews and carpets have been taken out as they were destroyed.

Enclosed are some pictures prior to the removal of the icons from the church in order to give us a better understanding of the devastating affects the waters did have on both the church and hall

Monday, October 13, 2008

Church and Hall Cleanup

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On October 4th at 9:00 am about 20 or so volunteers had gathered together at Sts. Constantine & Helen to help clean up the church as well as the Church Hall. What started out to be a routine cleanup turned into a mjor project and one that was truly beneficial to all involved. The floor in the hall had to pulled up after buckling beyond any hope of recovery. Next to go was the sheetrock on the walls that had to pulled down revealing the mold spots behind them. Almost everything in the hall needed to be thrown out. All the tables and chairs were ruined. We were fortunate enought to save some tables. The kitchen and restrooms were not spared the fury of Ike and needed to be cleaned from top to bottom. We were also able to trim bushes and cut down any branches hanging precarioulsy over our fence. It goes without saying that a good, honest, hard day's work does not go unrewarded. We were treated to a feast of sorts provided again by the generosity of the workers who had come to clean the church. Their love and support was shown most perfectly by their actions. God bless the workers, cleaners, cooks and everyone who helped, continues to help and who will help in the near future. A special thanks need to go out to the following people:

Slobodanka Matic, Ljubica Puskac, Mira Djujic, Aleksandar Savic, Natalija Hryshechko and John (Ilija), Joby and Colleen Erickson, Richard (Basil) and Mary Gustafson, Carl Northcutt, Irena Milosavljevic, Ross Leo, Gordan and Dijana Joncic, Branko Gligoric, Gordan and Mileva Heckner, Nada Grueneich, Zoran Milenkovic, David and Andrew Jarrett.

Enclosed are some pictures from that days labour which commenced at 9:00am and did not finish until 5:00pm. Don't worry brothers and sisters, there will be another cleanup scheduled for October the 25th for all those who missed the first one.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Church Services in Galveston this Sunday

God-willing, dear brothers and sisters, we will be having a Service of Thanksgiving this Sunday September the 28th at our church of Sts. Constantine and Helen at 10:00am. Seeing that we still do not have electricity and a majority of our parishioners have lost a majority of the earthly possessions we still wish to thank our patron saints and our Good Lord for sparing our lives and most importantly to give us strength, hope, courage and love so that we can lean on each for support and of course see each other for the first time after this calamity that has befallen us.

Enclosed also is a new link with more pictures taken by the IOCC Team:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sunday Services

Services will be held this Sunday, September 21st at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Houston.

Divine Liturgy at 9:00 a.m. (English) 10:30 a.m. (Greek)

Fr. Serge will be serving at the 9:00 a.m. service. Following the Divine Liturgy, we will meet with representatives of IOCC in the church hall.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
3511 Yoakum Boulevard
Houston, TX 77006

View Larger Map

Friday, September 19, 2008

Local News Media Outlets

The following links are to local Houston news media outlets.

Houston Chronicle Newspaper

KHOU-Channel 11 News (CBS Affiliate)

KPRC-Channel 2 News (NBC Affiliate)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photos of Serbian & Greek Orthodox Cemetery

The following link contains photos of both the Serbian & Greek Orthodox cemeteries on Galveston Island.

Photos from Sts. Constantine & Helen Serbian Orthodox Church & Hall

Click on the link below to see photos from Sts. Constantine & Helen Serbian Orthodox Church & Hall:

More photos will be forthcoming as they become available from the IOCC team.

Photos of Greek Orthodox Church & Hall

Please click on this link to view the photos from the Holy Assumption Greek Orthodox Church & Hall.

IOCC and Fr. Serge Visit Galveston Churches

IOCC representatives Lee Kapetanakis, Pascalis Papouras, Deacon Dan Gray and Fr. Serge visited Galveston Island yesterday. They toured the Sts. Constantine & Helen Serbian Orthodox Church and the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church. A report and photos will be forthcoming.

Video from the Strand

Channel 2 News did a walking tour/video of the Strand. Follow this link:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update on Parishioners & Friends

Here is a list of the following parishioners/friends I have heard from thus far:

Sveto & Angela Andrich
Allison Baker
Sandra Bartosh & Family
Leslie Canatella
Tom Colyandro
Fr David & Presbytera Eckley
Joby & Colleen Erickson
Celina Guyewski
James & Pat Callahan w/children
Branko Gligoric & Family
Slavica (Silvia) Hallum & Family
Alex & Monica Heckner
Gordan & Mileva Heckner
John (Ilija) & Nataliya Hryshecko
Lister Family
Bernice Kovacevich
Eleanor Kovacevich & Family
John & Cindy Kovacevich
Natalija & Danica Kovacevich
Pete Kovacevich & Family
Larry & Taki Kriticos (Olympia Grill) & Family
Getrude (Baba Goya) Popovich & Family
Danilo (Danny) Popovich & Family
Elizabeth (Betty) & Marko Markovich & Family
Bobana Matic
Dana & Nenad Mirkovich
Elizabeth Mitich
Elaine Mitrovich
Mimo Milosevich
Ilija Milovanovic
Valentina Novakovich
John & Sharon Powell & Family
Bethany Powell
Vida Rector & Family
Alex Savic
John & Lisa Stanish
Raul (Ralph) & Joanne Valencia & Family
Stephanie (Caravageli) & Brent Vasut

FEMA Will Pay for Hotel Bill Directly

For those of you who cannot return to the island, or any area that has been designated a disaster by the federal government, FEMA will pay for your hotel directly. Please visit the FEMA website for more information-you must register for assistance with FEMA first, then apply for this program-and it is only available to those who are unable to return to their home:

Look & Leave Policy for Galveston Residents

Galveston was allowing residents onto the island this afternoon on a "look and leave" policy only. Each car was marked with "LL" to designate that it must exit by curfew. As word spread, I-45 the Gulf Freeway became a parking lot with cars trying to get on the island. A few minutes ago, news reports indicated that the "look and leave" policy was going to stop due to the number of police needed to monitor the overwhelming traffic and the number of incidents of looting that subsequently increased due to police being diverted to the handle the huge inflow.

Update Regarding Churches

We have just received information from Leroy Naschke, president of The Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on Ball Street, that the Greek church did take in some water. He will going by there today to reassess the damage.

Sts. Constantine & Helen Serbian Orthodox Church is in good condition, from the outside there doesn't seem to be any damage to either the church or the hall.

Leroy remains on the island and will contacting Fr. Serge in approximately 2 hours with another update.

Sts. Constantine & Helen Church

Fr. Serge and Christopher Bolan emptied out the church on Friday, September 12th at 4:00 pm. All liturgical items, vestments, church records, icons, etc. have been removed and are being housed in a safe location. The only thing, unfortunately, that was not taken out of the church were the icons on the iconostas.

If you have heard any information on the condition of the church, please post here.

Blog Set Up to Share Information

This blog is created to help share information regarding the Orthodox faithful on Galveston island. As you've seen in the news, Galveston took a direct hit from Hurricane Ike and the devastation is far and wide. No one is being allowed onto the island and it is extremely difficult to get information from anyone still located on the island.

If you have heard from parishioners from the following churches, please post information regarding their status:

Sts. Constantine & Helen Serbian Orthodox Church
4109 Avenue L
Galveston, TX 77552

Holy Assumption Greek Orthodox Church
1824 Ball
Galveston, TX 77550