This Sunday evening we will enter into the season of Great Lent with Forgiveness Vespers.
This Sunday, February 15th, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the holy Apostles Onesimus of the Seventy, one of the patron saints of our Holy Apostles Mission Station. As a community sent out to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in deed and word, we look to the Holy Apostles – both the Twelve and the Seventy – as witnesses to the truth and love of God.
Saint Onesimus, Apostle of the Seventy in his youth was a servant of Philemon, a Christian of distinguished lineage, living in the city of Colossae, Phrygia. Guilty of an offense against his master and fearing punishment, St Onesimus fled to Rome, but as a runaway slave he wound up in prison. In prison he encountered the Apostle Paul, was enlightened by him, and was baptized.
In prison St Onesimus served the Apostle Paul like a son. St Paul was personally acquainted with Philemon, and wrote him a letter filled with love, asking him to forgive the runaway slave and to accept him like a brother. He sent St Onesimus with this letter to his master, depriving himself of help, of which he was very much in need.
After he received the letter, St Philemon not only forgave Onesimus, but also sent him back to Rome to the apostle. St Philemon was afterwards consecrated bishop of the city of Gaza (January 4, February 19, and November 22).
After the death of the Apostle Paul, St Onesimus served the apostles until their end, and he was made a bishop. After the death of the holy apostles he preached the Gospel in many lands and cities: in Spain, Carpetania, Colossae, Patras. In his old age, St Onesimus occupied the bishop’s throne at Ephesus, after the Apostle Timothy. When they took St Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20) to Rome for execution, Bishop Onesimus came to meet with him with other Christians, as St Ignatius mentions in his Epistle to the Ephesians.
During the reign of the emperor Trajan (89-117), St Onesimus was arrested and brought to trial before the eparch Tertillus. He held the saint in prison for eighteen days, and then sent him to prison in the city of Puteoli. After a certain while, the eparch sent for the prisoner and, convincing himself that St Onesimus maintained his faith in Christ, had him stoned, after which they beheaded the saint with a sword. A certain illustrious woman took the body of the martyr and placed it in a silver coffin. This took place in the year 109.
Troparion — Tone 3
Holy Apostle Onesimus, / entreat the merciful God, / to grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.
Kontakion — Tone 4
Like a beam of light you shone on the world, / illumined by Paul, the all-radiant sun, whose rays enlighten the world. / Therefore we honor you, glorious Onesimus.
February 7 & 8th marked the first liturgical services of the Holy Apostles Mission Station in Chilliwack, British Columbia. It was the culmination of a season of prayerful planning, but also the beginning of something new that the Lord has established and blessed.
Established by His Grace, The Right Reverend Irénée, Bishop of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Canada, the Mission Station was blessed in November 2014. Fr. Matthew Francis and his family arrived in Chilliwack in late January, and took up his assignment as Priest in Charge. Last Sunday, he received the blessing of the Dean of BC, Archpriest Michael Fourik, and this week the Holy Apostles Mission Station witnessed its first services.
The services of Great Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy for the Sunday of the Prodigal Son were held in the historic Tabernacle building on the grounds of Charis Camp and Conference Centre, about 10 minutes east of downtown Chilliwack. The seasonal Fraser Valley rains did not deter the faithful who gathered for Great Vespers on Saturday evening. And, come Sunday, the sun broke through the clouds to accompany the offering of the Divine Liturgy. Father Matthew was blessed to serve together with local BC Deanery clergy Father Richard Rene (Chilliwack, BC) and Deacon Peter Choi (Vancouver, BC) for the Divine Liturgy. Subdeacon Barnabas Neufeld also provided valuable liturgical assistance.
Following the Divine Liturgy, members of the interim Mission Council, a dedicated group of parishioners that have been working with Father Matthew to organize and establish the community, were blessed. In addition, the Mission Station is blessed with experienced directors of Church music, who also received a blessing to fulfill this vital Church ministry.
We would like express thanks for the prayers and encouragement of our Bishop, His Grace Irénée, and of so many others across the Archdiocese of Canada and beyond. Our hope is that we may faithfully bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ, raising high His Holy Cross over the eastern Fraser Valley. Please continue to pray that the Lord will establish this vine of His own planting in the beautiful Chilliwack area!
This past Sunday, Holy Apostles Mission Station’s Priest, Father Matthew Francis, had the blessing of serving the Divine Liturgy with the Dean of British Columbia & the Yukon, Father Michael Fourik, at Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Sobor, in Vancouver, BC.
Father Michael has served as Rector of the Church there for many years, and the community has grown and flourished spiritually under his faithful pastoral care. Holy Resurrection has a great legacy of proclaiming the Orthodox faith in Vancouver, and celebrated its 90th Anniversary this past year.
As a new priest in the BC Deanery, Father Matthew was honoured to have the opportunity to serve with Father Michael, and to receive his blessing as Dean. Father Michael encouraged Father Matthew as he begins the Mission work in Chilliwack, which has been established and blessed by His Grace Bishop Irénée. Father Matthew was invited to share with the Sobor community about the newly established Holy Apostles Mission Station, and asked for the prayers of the parishioners of Holy Resurrection Sobor. He also introduced his family members, Matushka Krista, and their son Basil.
Father Matthew and Father Michael have known each other for many years, and previously served together on the Archdiocesan Council for the Orthodox Church in America’s Archdiocese of Canada. Deans are appointed by the Bishop in each region of Canada, to assist His Grace in the Administration of the Diocese. They can provide support, instruction, and encouragement to the local parish clergy and faithful. Thank you, Father Michael, for your diligent service and care of Christ’s flock. We pray that God will continue to bless all the parishes of the BC & Yukon Deanery, as they faithfully bear witness to Jesus Christ!