Dedicated to the sanctity of marriage and family
The presence of authenticated Holy Relics accessible for veneration by the faithful, especially those of a parish’s matron or patron saint, is a blessing beyond measure. Of course, each community is sanctified by the Holy Relics that reside in her Altar Table, founding the parish in the blood of the martyrs as well as by the Holy Eucharist that makes the community the Body of Christ. Even so, access to the sanctified remains of the “Holy people of God” furthers our transfiguration as a local community and if understood correctly, when shared with the greater community, they allow God to work through His Saints, introducing through a purely spiritual means, the transfiguration of hearts and souls of all those who search for God in landscape of spiritually shallow wells.
Historically, parishes that possess Holy Relics of their matron or patron Saint are deemed “Shrines.” This distinction is bestowed as a Shrine becomes a place of pilgrimage to venerate and seek the intercessions of one not only invisibly present, but also physically present in our midst. A quality of a Shrine is then serving her immediate faithful as well as providing hospitality to those who travel from near and far, Orthodox and non Orthodox alike.
Since receiving our initial Holy Relic of Saint Anna in 2005, the community has labored to realize a vision of ministry appropriate to our respective flock and to those who visit our Church campus. On the occasion of our reception of Holy Relics of Joachim and Anna on September 9, 2007, we were distinguished as a Metropolis Shrine Church dedicated to “the Sanctity of Marriage and Family.” As far as is known, it is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
It was at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco offered the following prayer on the occasion of the Dedication of the Shrine Church:
Most merciful Master, Lord Jesus Christ our God, in the laver of Baptism we have been washed clean, redeemed, sanctified, forgiven of sins, illuminated, regenerated, renewed in spirit, and adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High. In Your infinite grace and great goodness, You also came to Cana-in-Galilee and blessed the marriage there, to show that lawful marriage and the bearing of children is Your will. Being mindful of the need to preserve the sanctity of the home, made firm through the prayers of grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, and kin, we beseech You to hear our prayer. Cast aside every trial, the temptation, and the tribulation that besets the members of our Christian family – young and old alike, those who persevere in virginity, those who are married, those who widowed, and those who are divorced. Strengthen, preserve and sanctify us in Your peace, the estate of marriage, and the nurturing of children through the dedication of this Shrine, which shall seek the intercessions of Saints Joachim and Anna, spiritually and physically ever present in her midst.
Heeding the words of Saint Paul let us, bow [our] knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom every family in the heavens and on earth is named, that He would grant [us], according to the wealth of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit…that the Christ might dwell in [our] hearts through faith, having been rooted and founded in love, in order that [we] might be able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge, that [we] might be filled to all the fullness of God” [Eph. 3:14-21].
We offer this, our humble prayer, calling to mind the righteous Ancestors of Christ, Joachim and Anna, the most holy, pure blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, whose Nativity we commemorate, and all the Saints.
For You bless and sanctify all things, Christ our God, and to You we offer up glory, as to Your Father who is from everlasting, and Your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.
Since being distinguished as a Shrine, phone calls, emails and visitations have necessitated an orchestrated response, again, worthy of the title of Shrine and fitting the lives of our matron and patron saints. Currently, we are attempting to engage Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike by:
- Updating our website. Our website will provided any and all desired information on the Orthodox faith as well as on the Holy Relics as well as a discussion forum and a listing of miracles attributed to the Saints. Some pages are being posted in Spanish to accommodate the greater Hispanic, Roman Catholic community.
- Praying a Supplication Services to Saints Joachim and Anna on the first of every month. It is a service that is attended by a Pan Orthodox community as well as by numerous non Orthodox Christians who seek their Holy Intercessions.
- Coordinating visitations and venerations of the Holy Relics by interested groups from sister Orthodox Church and from other Christian traditions within our greater region.
- Expanding our Archangel Gabriel Bookstore. We have identified texts in English, Greek and Spanish appropriate to our Shrine as well as icons, prayer ropes, crosses from the Skete of Saint Anna on Mount Athos.
- Conducting an orchestrated media outreach. Prior to the Feast and since this time, we have engaged the media in a very positive and pro-active manner, providing any and all information to print and broadcast media which has led to notable coverage.
- Celebrating the day(s) on which the Holy Relics were received.
As we take these initial steps, especially as a youthful parish, we continue to dialogue about and plan for other means of outreach through:
- The design of the Sanctuary and a traditional yet innovative iconographic scheme befitting our Shrine, which will communicate the sanctity of marriage and family.
- Additional print and video material regarding the gifting services, the intercessory prayers of Ss Joachim and Anna, etc. A prayer book is also planned which will be composed of prayers for the family, through the intercessions of Ss. Joachim and Anna.
- Additional staffing: a priest to serve as “chaplain” to the Shrine who will be assigned specifically to work with pilgrims and praying a more complete cycle of services; a marriage and family counselor on site to work with any/all families who visit the Church; docents; full time religious educators to provide information on Orthodoxy, etc.
- Regular writings addressing issues of marriage and family from an Orthodox perspective to a non Orthodox audience. We have a fully developed plan that is in need of a benefactor.
- Broadcasting Services on the internet in “real time” so as to make the Supplication Prayers available to a larger audience.
- Transitioning our “Greek” Festival to the Feast of Saint Anna by incorporating Feast Day services. Essentially we will transition the Festival to a traditional Panagyri, accessible to the greater community.
These remain some initial thoughts as we further our ministry to Christ through the intercessions of our beloved Saints ever present with us in Roseville, California. Of course, we will be directed accordingly through their prayers, manifesting a ministry that is appropriate to our Shrine and desired by our Lord as is expedient for Him.