A reflection on 50th anniversary as a priest

A reflection on 50th anniversary as a priest

Reflecting on my golden Anniversary to the priesthood, many thoughts come into my mind.  One that is most vivid is the image of an angel.  When driving, I listen, at times, to a station “On Broadway” on Satellite Radio.  This year, as I drove to the Shrine of the Archangel Michael in Tarpon Springs for the Great Vesper Service, I remember hearing a tune from one of my favorite musicals. “Mama Mia:   I believe in angels”.  When heard the song, I thought it was very timely since the Church is celebrating the Feast of the Synaxis of the Archangels.

The eve of the Feast Day, has, also, a great significance for me since on November 7, 1971, I was ordained a priest at my home parish of St. George when it was in Lincoln Park, MI, by Bishop Iakovos, later Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, of blessed memory.  Following the ordination and luncheon, that my parents hosted, Presvytera Vasiliki and I packed up the car and drove to Akron, Ohio, so I could celebrate my first Divine Liturgy as a priest with my godfather, Father George Bartz, of blessed memory.  What a blessing for both of us!  Being extremely nervous, it was reassuring when my godmother remarking that I did a great job as a new priest.  

Serving as a priest of the Holy Archdiocese of America, many doors of opportunity opened to travel to significate places that enhanced my ministry:  trips to Greece, the Holy Land, the Phanar, the Holy Mountain and in the US.   Throughout my ministry, Presvytera Vasiliki has been my great support and we have worked as a team, helping each other. She is wife, mother to our sons and grandmother to our grandchildren and cares for all of us.   My appreciation and love to her!   

Let me extend my gratitude to all those I have had a chance to encounter during my ministry in the various parishes I’ve served;  to those from whom I have learned and to those I have taught and touched.  Many thanks to the committee from Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene that have organized my Golden Anniversary commemoration, which is greatly appreciated and their love and consideration will never be forgotten. Thank you to all who have attended the commemoration and those who have offered their good wishes, who were unable to attend.

I don’t know where the years have gone as I celebrate my 50th anniversary of ordination, but my angel has been there with me. That same angel that whispered in my ear, on Holy Thursday evening in 1963, as a member of the male choir, chanting the “Simeron Kremate..” facing the Crucified Christ on the solea of Sts. Constantine and Helen in Detroit, MI. ‘you must be here all the time’, continued to guide me through good and not so good times. So, the song asks if I believe in angels… and I say, “I sure do!”  May I whisper in your ear to pray that your angel will continue “to protect you under the shelter of their wings.”

Fr. James

Christmas 2021

Christmas 2021

While driving, I often listen to a station that plays the ‘old songs’ and I’m sure for many of you, these are really old songs.  I heard a song the other day, the title of which implied that the singer was ‘all alone and feeling blue’, “Me and My Shadow”.  But while a shadow may be dark, it can be a blessing, as well.  Some can appear so unimportant when they cast shadows in our path, that we completely ignore them as they pass us.  The star of Bethlehem, however, cast a shadow of light that the Magi could not disregard.  These great men paused to search the skies, their books and to follow this shadow, which led them and us to a future of hope and salvation.

As we end the year 2021 and enter the new chronological year, I hope you take time to reflect and search as the Wise Men did before you go full speed forward packing up Christmas and returning to a routine life.  Slow down and think about the shadow case by 2021 and the light that 2022 will shine in your life.  Remember, you’re a year older and a year wiser. 

Reflect on:

–the goodness and grace of God in your life;

–the personal promises you have made and their fulfillment;

–the type of service you have given to others and to your Church;

–the personal inspiration you have derived from your devotional life;

–the rewards of Orthodox Christian fellowship received in you Church, and

–the growth of your spiritual and emotional stature.

Once you have reflected on the shadow of the past year, it’s time to ask what the New Year will bring.  What opportunities and choices lie ahead?  With what spirit, attitudes, values and way of life will you meet the events and experiences of the New Year?

Some goals that can be set for the New Year are practicing gratitude, encountering the Lord daily, nurturing friendships, being a good steward in time talent and treasure, being a positive influence in your parish, becoming healthier and continuing to practice a Christian Orthodox lifestyle.

You can grow spiritually in the New year by searching your book, THE BIBLE and for your convenience, there is an Orthodox Daily Bible Reading Guide for Orthodox Christians, so that in one year you can read the entire Bible.  There is always something new to learn from it, and, in fact, that’s a personal goal for me in the New Year, too!

Hearing that old song, I am assured that I’m not alone ‘strolling down the avenue’ but that our Lord is with me and with you now and in the New Year.  Whatever 2022 will bring, I pray it be a hopeful blessing to you.  Let the New Year be one of freedom from sin, a year of renewed service to others and to your parish, full of love and dedication a year of trust in God, so it will be productive and prosperous from the beginning to the end.  The year 2022 may be the best or the hardest year you will ever know, but it can be the happiest for you if you have a strong faith in our Lord

Grasping the opportunity to reflect on the blessing of the past year, as we came out of the pandemic, sort of, and moved into the new church, my personal thoughts are a prayer of thanks for the support and love of so many.  To my co-workers in the earthly vineyard of the Lord, whom I am privileged to serve as a shepherd of His sacred work, a sincere token of appreciation and gratitude for the blessings of you.


Another Christmas Star

Another Christmas Star

The Christmas season always brings various joyful concerts and programs to inspire us.  Each year we take our granddaughter to see a Christmas play, like one of my favorite stories, “A Christmas Carol”, (sometimes known as Scrooge) or the Nutcracker Ballet, or “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.  This year it will see something very special since Presvytera and I will take her to New York for three days to see the famous Radio City Music Hall Christmas Extravaganza with the Rockettes.  Although, Presvytera has seen the show three times when she was a student at St. Basil Academy, I or Sophia have not seen this show and we look forward to witnessing this famous presentation and experience Timer Square and Rockefeller Center during this Christmas season.  Maybe there will be snow!   We, also, will go to Ground Zero to see the new St. Nicholas Church, rebuilt after being destroyed with the Twin Towers.

Another favorite and famous Christmas presentation is an operetta by Gian Carlo Menotti, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” with the haunting musical selection, “The Three Kings”.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see it performed in our area.    It is the story of the Three Magi, who are following a bright star in heaven, on route to visit the new born King.  They stop at the home of Amahl, a poor, lame boy, who lives with his mother in a meager cottage in Bethlehem, to rest and get some refreshment.  The boy, who is a storyteller, is not taken seriously by his mother when the Three Magi, late at night, stop at the cottage.  Finally, she is convinced about the night visit, extending hospitality, but later out of desperation, steals some gold from the Magi’s gifts, which is finally allowed to keep.  Amahl, learning where the Magi are going, convinces his mother to allow him to seek the babe, knowing he will be healed by the Christ child.

 More than 2,000 years have passed since the Magi searched the

 heavens only to find heaven in a manger.  Long since has their guiding star returned to its natural course in the skies.  But God’s will remain the same forever, to draw all of us unto Him by the light of His grace, peace and good-will.  Since God wants fellowship with you, He began the reunification and reintegration of the human race in the “little town of Bethlehem.”  Rich and poor came together, kings and shepherds came to worship the educated and illiterate, young and old, male and female, Jews and Gentiles, saints and sinners, angels and human and even the beasts of the fields;  all creation paused to bask in the joy of the moment, to bow down and worship the incarnate Son of God.  “All is calm and all is bright” in one corner of the dark and troubled world.  All is whole again as the Star of Bethlehem ushers in the Sun of Righteousness, raised with healing in His wings, as Malachi prophesied. 

In the popular Christmas carol, “We Three Kings,” the refrain states, “star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guiding us to the perfect light!”  These words refer to the Gospel of Matthew 2:2, when the Wise Men say, “We have seen His Star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  They came from across desert and mountain in a humble stable in Bethlehem of Judea.  They knew the stars, but gazing into the wondrous Star of Bethlehem, they were witnesses to a phenomenon great and awesome, a new star, a star leading kings to a King, a guiding star which was guided by One whose will be to draw all men unto Himself.  A Spanish legend tells that the Three Kings cross Spain each year on their way to Bethlehem and leave gift for children who have been good.  On Epiphany Eve, the children put out shoes filled with hay and carrots for the Kings’ camels.

Where is His star in the East, leading us to experience “the glories of the righteousness and wonders of His love” today?  Where is the glimmering star for our fallen race, guiding us into the very presence of Emmanuel—God with us?  You are called to be the Christmas star.  You are called to be the light of the world, leading those around you to the knowledge of the incarnate Lord.  You, in whose hearts the day has dawned and the morning star has risen, you are designated to be the guiding stars of humanity, drawing others to Christ through the light of your peace, harmony and good-will, through the brilliance of your faith, virtue and kindness, and through the warmth of your zeal, forgiveness and love.  It is your task of pointing other to Jesus Christ;  quietly patiently, like the bright star of old.  You must endeavor to bring together others to the manager of Bethlehem where the newborn Savior is waiting to give light to those in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  (Lk. 1)  At the end of the famous “A Christmas Carol”, when Ebenezer Scrooge finally wakes up spiritually, he became a star in his community. 

Now, you, be a star!


You, in whose hearts the day has dawned and the morning star has risen, you are designated to be the guiding stars of humanity, drawing others to Christ through the light of your peace, harmony and good-will, through the brilliance of your faith, virtue and kindness, and through the warmth of your zeal, forgiveness and love.

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