October 1 - Venerable John Koukouzelis

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ God,

Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.

STEWARDSHIP OF SAINT JOHN KOUKOUZELIS (+ 1st October)

Christian Orthodox Stewardship is a practice that is often misunderstood and misused in the Church. Many think of Stewardship solely from a monetary perspective, as a means to financially support the sacred work of the Church. This is, of course, important, but Stewardship should not be limited to this - it is much more!

Christian Orthodox stewards are taught to give their time, talents, and treasure to the glory of God. There are many opportunities in parish life that enable us to support the Lord's work. It is a sacred privilege for each of us to participate in the life of the Church. We pledge ourselves to the Lord so that our offerings may be faithful and obedient to His teachings and the Sacred Traditions of our Christian Orthodox Faith.

Among the many ways, we can participate in our parish ministries is as a chanter, a reader, or member of the choir. We emulate the angelic choirs in heaven when we sing to the glory of God. There are also a number of Saints whose example we follow by managing our Time and using our musical Talent to sing to the Lord. Among them are: Saint Romanos the Melodist, Saint John of Damascus, Saint Andrew of Crete, Joseph the Hymnographer, and Saint Kassiane. There is also another Saint who is known for his love for the music of our Church, a pious man who possessed a marvelous voice, and a steward of the Faith who gave his Time and Talent to the glory of God. Who was this person? Saint John Koukouzelis whose feast we celebrate today.

As a young man, Saint John Koukouzelis was recognized for his musical talent. He was sent to the Conservatory of Music in Constantinople, where he became a popular singer for the Imperial Court. The success he enjoyed as an entertainer for the Emperor and his court should have given him every satisfaction, but John was not content with his life. He was concerned about the flattery and praise brought upon him for his musical talent and felt that his voice was not being used for its real purpose. John knew that the Emperor would never allow him to leave his position, so he fled to the Holy Mountain to search his soul and to pray to God for guidance. The Emperor became concerned about the disappearance of his favorite singer and offered a reward to anyone who could give him information about him.

At the Great Lavra Monastery, John did not reveal who he was or what position he had held in the Imperial Court. He simply wanted to be a shepherd and monk. While taking care of the flock, John would sing hymns to the Lord and to the Theotokos. One day, a couple of monks heard him singing with a voice so sweet and melodic that they thought that it was that of an Angel. The monks rushed back to the monastery and told the Abbot (Egoumenos) what they had heard and seen. When John returned, he was summoned by the Egoumenos who asked him why he was not willing to use his voice during the divine services. John explained his story to him, but the Egoumenos (Abbot) assured him that the Emperor would understand and accept his desire to pursue the monastic life. The Egoumenos instructed him to never hide the Talent that God had given him, but to use it to praise and glorify His Almighty Name. From that moment on, John served as the lead chanter in the monastery. As the Akathist Hymn was being sung during Great Lent one year, John was exhausted and sat down and fell asleep near the holy icon of the Holy Mother of God. The Theotokos appeared to him and said: "Greetings, John! Sing, and don't stop singing; and for this, I will never leave you." She then placed a gold coin into his hand and disappeared. Saint John woke up immediately, and in his hand was the gold coin.

The life of Saint John Koukouzelis is an example of how important it is to manage our Time so that we may use our Talents properly. We have all been entrusted with blessings from God, and He desires that we put them to good use. take a moment from your busy schedule and ask yourself: "Am I managing God's blessings as a good and faithful servant" May Saint John Koukouzelis intercede on your behalf and be an inspiration so that you use your Talents for the glory of God. (Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

MAY ALL OF YOU HAVE A BLESSED, HEALTHY, AND SAFE NEW MONTH!

With agape,
+Father George