2 THE SHEPHERD • MARCH 2021 • SAINT SPYRIDON GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO A recent email from a friend caused me to look back over the year. What a year it has been! Last year, at the start of the Triodi- on, I had started reading “The Road Back to Christ” by Father Stavros Akrotirianakis. In the book, he writes that the Triodion is a time for a checkup, a chance for us to eval- uate ourselves on a spiritual basis. From the perspective that we are all a year older since we last celebrated Pascha, he offers this “sev- en-point inspection” from St. Paul’s Epistle to Timothy for us to consider: 1. My Teaching—What kind of Christian example am I setting for others? 2. My Conduct—Am I living my life ac- cording to the tenets of Christianity and the teachings of Christ? 3. My Aim in Life—Do I live with a sense of purpose? Is God the source and center of my life? Is my aim in life to please Him, or to please myself? 4. My Faith— Has my faith grown in the past year? Am I excited about my faith? Or stagnant? 5. My Patience—How is your patience on a daily basis? In control? Easily lost? 6. My Love—Every commandment that God ever gave us comes under the umbrella of “love.” Which set of words describes your life best at present: fear, anger, lust, and sad- ness; or joy, chastity, confidence, and grati- tude? 7. My Steadfastness—Steadfastness is be- ing in the game, showing up to play. Where am I? Last year in my letter to you, I wrote about forgiveness and the prospect of traveling “the road of Lent, not as isolated individuals, but jointly as members of the Body of Christ.” At the time, I admit I was thinking of being together, physically. Gathering in service to- gether as we moved towards Pascha. Being together in mass, in darkness, only to rejoice together in receiving and sharing the “Light.” And coming together at the Pascha Picnic to share the good news that “Christ has Risen.” But that’s not how last year unfolded. In- stead, we were physically isolated from one another. We have been precluded from gath- ering freely in our Sanctuary and embracing in person in our faith. We have worshiped in our homes via live stream. We have gotten together in prayer and for meetings, only virtually. When we have gathered, we are required to “socially distance.” But what has this experience done to our faith, my faith, your faith; is it stronger after what we have experienced? Ultimately, the question is the one God asked Adam in the Garden - “Where are you?” On the eve of Lent, it appears we are on the verge of turning the corner and I have al- lowed myself to think of returning to some level of normalcy. On the upcoming Sunday of Forgiveness, we will again have the op- portunity to truly forgive one another. As the Prodigal Son did, we can return and be forgiven. Right now, I am finding that mes- sage particularly appealing. My brothers and sisters in Christ . . . I am looking forward to our return to the Sanctuary and, as we do, I ask for your forgiveness. Many Blessings, Jim Gilpin Parish Council President Yes, the storage dungeon is fewweeknights and aweeken adjacent to the Kitchen. Reno anddisposalofallcabinetsand walls were prepped and RFP open, and brighter room via u lighting, aswell as heavy duty have a few finishing touches t nextcoupleofweeks. Special thanks for theirhardwo somewell-deserved breaks) fo JimLeventis,CoreyLeventis, a request forall topleasemakea cleanandorganized,whilealso that youmay“forget”behind. Πιστεύουμε ότι θα σας αρέσε στην Κουζίνα. Όλη η ομάδα π διατηρήσουμε και μελλοντικά καθαριότητα αυτού τού χώρο μας! Regards, Vlassiand theTeam FROM THE PARISH COUNCIL PRESIDENT WOMEN WORD OF THE Last month we had two very fruitful ses- sions. The first was on “How to Approach Our God Who is Love and Life Itself.” This was inspired by some passages from Elder Thaddeus’ book Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives where he writes: “We must learn how to approach our Heavenly Father, how to come before Him with our heart and with our whole being, how to please Him as the angels and the saints do.” Our discussion centered around these ques- tions: What do we actually need to do? How do we gain an “innocent and “open heart”? And even if we don’t think we’re anywhere near like a saint or the Theotokos, what is it that they do that we can practice or try to imitate? We shared how we look to the saints for both example and intervention – in par- ticular, the Theotokos and her example of saying “Yes” to God; how being attentive and practicing silence allows us to draw closer to Him; and how both prayers and hymns, pub- lic and private worship help us approach our good and loving God. The other interesting topic that we discussed was “God’s Grace & Being Partakers of the Divine Nature.” Our starting point was this quote from Ephes. 2-:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” And this one from an online podcast: “Grace is the energy that allows us to participate in God’s life. It is the very life-giving, transforming, divine pow- er and uncreated energies of God Himself.” On this topic, we found some very helpful arti- cles in the Orthodox Study Bible on the role of Christ’s grace in our salvation and how the law as given to Moses was part of the plan of our preparation for turning our hearts back to God. Of course, we just “scratched the sur- face” on what grace is and how it joins us to Christ’s life and being renewed in His image and likeness. However, both of these studies have served as a good preparation for going into Lent with more purpose and focus. Wishing everyone a most fruitful Lenten journey! With Love in Christ, + e Women of the Word Bible Study Group BEAUTY SHOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU Marian Khoury Dougenis | 619.520.3660 | www.beautycounter.com /mariankhoury Beautycounter Consultant