Gospel of Luke
Register your team today!
It is time for our annual Bible Bowl once again so mark your calendars for March 29 and start brushing on Luke. All teams include 3 players, plus alternates if you like. TEEN Teams: players aged 13 – 19 or ADULT Teams: players 20+. Registration forms are available now in Mt. Tabor Hall. Please return the form by March 15. For more information, contact Dr. Jacob Angelo at email@example.com
At Sky Ranch March 13– 15, 2015
The 2015 Southern Region GOYA Lenten Retreat will be held March 13-15, 2015, at the Sky Ranch retreat center in Van, Texas. GOYAns, ages 11-18, are invited to retreat away from every day challenges for a weekend of growth and fellowship. The registration fee for the 2015 GOYA Southern Region Lenten Retreat is $125. Registration closes at midnight in the Mountain Time Zone on March 3, 2015. Click here for the online registration.
An exciting GOYA event is taking place this weekend here in Austin. For the third year, FOCUS Youth Equipped to Service is visiting our city and giving the opportunity to our GOYAns to spiritually grow through a weekend full of activities that give them the opportunity to see our beautiful city through the eyes of those in need. We will meet at 5pm on Friday and stay Friday and Saturday nights at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church: 414 Saint Stephens School Road South, Austin, TX 78746. The service learning weekend will come to a close following Liturgy on Sunday, February 22nd. For questions about the program or future trips, please contact Katrina Bitar, YES Program Director at: Kbitar@focusna.org
On Sunday, February 8, we hosted our parish Oratorical Festival. Many thanks to all those who made this possible. All of the students who participated offered wonderful writings on the Orthodox Faith, and all of their works will be featured in the parish newsletter, Light from Light.
With the beginning of every new year, comes the celebration of a new beginning and the wish that the year be blessed with health, happiness, love and the protection of God. Households with elaborately decorated dinner tables, filled with platters of homemade foods and sweets are opened to family and friends. And the cutting of the Vasilopita (va-see-lopee-ta) placed in the middle of the table brings everyone together. Although every family may have a slightly different tradition as to how the Vasilopita is cut and distributed, the spirit is the same. As is the case with all Orthodox feasts, such ceremonies do not merely commemorate an historical event but celebrate the loving incarnation of the Son of God, the sanctification of the new year, and the Church in her saints.
The Vasilopita, as a bread, reminds us of our Lord’s teaching: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) Of course the Lord is speaking specifically of Holy Communion, however, the Vasilopita reinforces this blessing for us.
The tradition of the cutting of the Vasilopita goes back to St. Basil.
For centuries upon centuries parents, grandparents and Godparents have related the following story to Orthodox children about St Basil and the Vasilopita. One year, during a time of terrible famine, the ruler Julian, the apostate of Christianity, levied a sinfully excessive tax upon the people of Caesarea. The tax was such a heavy burden upon the already impoverished people that to avoid debtors’ prison each family had to relinquish its few remaining coins as well as pieces of jewelry, including precious family heirlooms. Learning of this injustice against his flock, St Basil the Great, the archbishop of Caesarea, took up his bishop’s staff and the book of the holy Gospels and came to his people’s defense by fearlessly calling the emperor to repentance. The ruler threatened that he would destroy Caesarea if they did not pay him, after returning from his return from war with Persia. The people of Caesarea called a fast and offered up prayers to God. The ruler never returned to Caesarea because he died in battle. The Caesareans decided to offer the largest portion of their to the Church in thanksgiving to God. St. Basil used these to create the famous village of Basilias—a place housing a hospital, orphanage, and refuge for the elderly and abandoned. What was left over from the treasury, was to be given back to the people, but how? St. Basil asked the Caesareans to make dough for sweet buns. Then he blessed the gold and jewelry and threw it into the dough. The saint, then, distributed the buns to all the people. Tradition tells us that the people of each household miraculously received a bun containing the gold or jewelry that originally belonged to them.
In the spirit of this tradition, our parish will have the cutting of the Vasilopita, offering a piece of bread to each ministry on Sunday, January 4, followed by the Vasilopita Auction of Philoptochos.
The ritual of the cutting of the Vasilopita with the family, begins with the head of the household. Making the sign of the cross, he begins by praying to God that He come and bless the household, guests, and finally the food and drink that will be served.
The blessing of the Vasilopita usually begins with the Apolytikion of St Basil the Great, chanted in tone 1:
Thy sound hath gone forth into all the earth that received thy word.
Thereby thou hast divinely taught the Faith;
Thou hast made manifest the nature of things that be;
O namesake of the royal priesthood,
our righteous Father Basil,
Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Then the following prayer may be said:
Let us pray unto the Lord. Lord, have mercy. O Creator of all things, Lord and King of the ages, plenteous in mercy and bountiful in goodness, who didst accept the Magi’s gifts in Bethlehem, who art the Bread of life that came down from heaven, who by Thine authority didst establish the seasons and the years and dost hold our life in Thy hands. Hear us who pray to Thee on this holy day upon our entrance into the new year of Thy goodness and bless (+) this Vasilopita, which has been offered to Thy glory and in honour of our Father among the Saints Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Do Thou who art Benevolent, look down from Thy holy heaven and send down upon us, upon those who have offered these gifts and upon them that partake thereof, Thine heavenly gifts, for our hope is in Thee, the living God, unto the ages. Bless this parish (home, school, foundation, etc) and our entrances and exits; replenish our life with all good things and direct our footsteps that we may keep Thy divine commandments, for man shall not live by bread alone; Through the intercessions of Thy Most pure Mother, of our Father among the saints Basil the Great and of all Thy saints who from all ages have been well pleasing to Thee. Amen.
Then he lifts the Vasilopita, kisses it, and makes the sign of the cross over it with his knife and proceeds to cut.
The first piece traditionally is cut for Christ, teaching us that we offer to the Lord, the first fruits of His blessings upon us. The second piece is cut for the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the third for St. Basil. The next piece is cut for the entire household hosting the event, and then a separate piece is cut for each family member and guest. Each person feels special and appreciated, having individually been remembered, receiving a portion of the blessed bread. Finally, a piece is always cut for the poor, reminding us to always keep a portion of our blessings for those who are in need. Hidden within one of the pieces of the Vasilopita is a coin or a small piece of jewelry. The person who receives the piece with the coin receives a special blessing. There is a strong connection between the piece of Vasilopita which is cut for St. Basil and the one that is cut for the poor. It is believed that the person who finds the coin in his piece of Vasilopita will not only come into God’s good fortune for that year, but that he will also be in a position to care for the poor, widows, and orphans.
This connection is found in the teachings of the saint. “He who works ought not to work to serve his own needs but to fulfill the Lord’s commandment, which says, ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat.’” (Mt. 25, 35) As we are fed by the salvific love of our Savior this blessed season, may our new year be blessed with every good gift from above, especially the gift of giving.
This vital mission of Saint Basil Academy, carried out by the directors, staff, trustees and benefactors, is in keeping with our Lord’s command to “let the children come to me.” This is accomplished through this ministry by bringing the love of Christ to those in need. Everything that is offered for the children and youth at Saint Basil’s is offered in the name and presence of Christ. In daily care, in counseling and teaching, in recreation, and in worship, the students encounter Christ and His abundant and comforting love.
Saint Basil Academy is also a place where the lives of the children and youth are guided in Christ. On the beautiful campus, in a nurturing environment of prayer and grace, they are led in the path of truth and love. They are shown the blessings of the life in Christ, how to follow His will and to find strength and assurance in His promises. They see the hope, joy, and power in a life of faith and a lifelong relationship with Him.
This sacred work was also the focus of the patron saint of the Academy, Saint Basil. For the sick, orphans, travelers, and many others in need, he offered an encounter with Christ by taking His love to them. For others he guided them in truth and love through teaching and preaching, as a faithful and caring pastor, to their Savior and Redeemer. This is also our calling today. In our support for Saint Basil Academy, we are led by our Ladies Philoptochos Society and our local Philoptochos chapters in collecting an offering and in the celebration of the cutting of the Vasilopeta. We are also led by Christ and by the example of Saint Basil to fulfill the command of our Lord and let the children come to me. In your ministry in the parish and in your daily life in Christ, you are called to offer Him and guide others to an encounter with the Lord that will lead to abundant and eternal life.
On this day may we offer our prayers and generous support for Saint Basil Academy. May we strengthen this vital work to children and youth in fulfilling the request of our Lord and in honoring the legacy of all who have established and supported this ministry in the past seventy years. May you also receive the abundant and rich blessings of our Lord at the beginning of this new year as we offer Him glory and honor unto the ages of ages!
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America