Greetings from Guatemala!
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” ~Psalm 117:24
Nestled in the western highlands of Guatemala, I awake to the sounds of roosters announcing the coming day. I rise to join the seminarians and fellow long-term missionaries to offer our daily morning prayers with Matins. It is here in Aguacate that I draw on my seminary education and love of singing the hymns of the Church to mentor the parish choir located in the village, as well as to assist as God sees fit in the formation of the young men discerning their call to serve the Church.
We live on the grounds of a vibrant parish under the pastoral care of Fr. Evangelos, which also includes a medical clinic that hosts short-term dental and medical teams throughout the year, a high school, as well as a seminary program to prepare candidates for ordination. Also residing with us are: Chrysostom the parrot, Gerasimus the kitten, Yanko the dog, and even a duck, which all somehow connect us to the cultural rhythm of this gentle rural community.
My first months in the field have been very eventful. Since Pascha, I’ve continued my studies in Spanish. I have also been meeting on a regular basis with the choir. During Bright Week, we traveled to a parish about an hour away to assist in the mass chrismation of over 150 individuals in the community of Peb’il Pam! It was beautiful to see the entire church draped in the warmth and glow of so many candles representing the light of Christ held by the newly-illumined!
In April, we also received His Eminence Athenagoras of Mexico City to consecrate our church of Annunciation in Aguacate as the first Orthodox Cathedral in Guatemala! We even offered hospitality to those who traveled vast distances to celebrate with us this great blessing by the welcoming sounds of a mariachi band! What an historic occasion it was to lift up our voices in prayer as the entire town gathered to participate in the consecration of the Cathedral and anointing of the Altar with so many faithful!
St. Symeon, in writing about the anointing of the Altar Table, says the following: «Since the Altar is anointed with the Holy Chrism, which represents the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Altar Table then becomes a source of Grace to all people through the Sacraments which are celebrated thereon. The Holy Gospel is placed on the Altar, the Holy Relics are within, so we see that the Altar becomes the Altar of Christ, a throne of Glory, the dwelling place of God, and the Tomb of Christ.» (source: http://www.goarch.org)
I continue to be humbled and amazed by how God continues to be at work here in Guatemala! When I enter the church for services, I often find waiting for me the greetings and hugs from at least a dozen boys patiently waiting the arrival of Fr. Evangelos to receive his blessing to serve as acolytes.
They inspire and remind me of the great responsibility we have here, because it will be the youth serving as acolytes, the choir, and the seminarians who will be the ones to share the Faith and carry forth the Traditions of the Church with future generations.
Thank you for being a part of these ongoing efforts among the Mayan communities in bringing the light of Christ to all! It is only by your prayers and financial support that I am able to participate in these endeavors to grow the Church in Guatemala and Mexico!