It was on a recent bright sunny day, with a break between winter storms, that His Grace, Bishop Maxim together with the Clergy and the faithful of the St. Andrew Church, Abbot Hilarion from St. Herman Monastery and the nuns from St. Xenia Skete, with the added attendance of faithful from neighboring parishes, gathered on February 28, 2010 to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. On this day His Grace ordained the servant of God, Monk Andrew from the St. Herman Monastery in Platina, California, to the Holy Deaconate. Upon his arrival our little girls held purple Irises as gifts for His Grace and everyone rang bells of greeting. This was quite an experience for our new neighbors who had never seen the reception of a Bishop before in our new neighborhood. It was with much joy for the parishioners of St. Andrew Church to receive His Grace for the first time since they had moved into their new church building in Anderson, CA.The Divine Liturgy, which included the ordination of Monk Andrew, was an inspiring opportunity for the faithful, as many of them had never before been present at an ordination. It was a joyous blessing for all the parishioners to have His Grace with us for this Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, the Royal Doors open, as they are at Pascha allowing the grace of God to flow out among the praying congregation. In his homily our dear Vladika spoke about the theme of the 2nd Sunday which dedicated to the memory of St Gregory Palamas and his teaching on our personal communication with God in His Son through the grace of the Spirit in the atmosphere of the divine energies imparted to the faithful in the event of Communion. At the reception of Antidoran, newly-ordained Hierodeacon Andrew gave out beautiful icons of the Lord and St. Michael the Archangel. The children also received an extra blessing as His Grace gave them lovely bookmarks. Later at the conclusion of the meal, His Grace also presented to Fr. Michael a special blessing cross for the altar table. During the festive meal parishioners were able to share with His Grace selections of American Gospel music with lyrics and melody so simple everyone was able to sing. Following our “gospel indulgence”, the parish engaged in a heartfelt discussion regarding its transition into a new phase of its growth. The discussion, which was lead by His Grace, addressed questions that parishioners had regarding the selection of a new parish priest. During the discussion it was apparent how dear St. Andrews parish is to its faithful, and how they desire to have continued faithful and loving pastoral care, after Fr. Michael departs for San Francisco. Very beneficial counsel was provided by His Grace, with added reflection from Abbot Hilarion and Fr. Michael. The counsel provided for preparing the ground of the parish for a new pastor included: reconciliation, forgiveness and “right worshipful thinking” as Orthodox Christians toward each other. It became apparent this counsel was very appropriate guidance for our spiritual practice during Lent. At the conclusion of the discussion, His Grace asked for us to sing a hymn together; we chose Joy of All Who Sorrow. We then received a very special and surprising treat. His Grace gave us an ison note, while he sang in Serbian and Greek the beautiful “Open to Me the Gates of Repentance”. It was so beautiful and piercing of the heart…we all fell silent after the last note. We finished with a Prayer of Thanksgiving to God for His nourishment of soul and body. We are thankful for Bishop Maxim’s visit, praying with us, loving us. As His Grace waved goodbye, the faithful sang “It is Truly Meet” and the day was still bright and warm as it was in the morning.
After departing from St. Andrew's parish on Sunday, His Grace visited the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood in Platina and the St. Xenia Skete in Wildwood where he took part in the Lenten Services and talked with the monastics.
On Monday evening Bishop Maxim attended an important meeting with the parishioners of the St. Archangel Michael parish in Saratoga where they discussed Church life, outreach, building plans and many other important items.
His Grace will stay in the Bay area over the next 2 days and will attend the Clergy Confession and Retreat where the guest speaker, Dr. John Klentos, an Associate Professor of Eastern Orthodox Christian Studies at the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkely, California, will speak on the topic "Liturgies of Lent and Holy Week: History, Theology, Pastoral Aspects."