Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church
We are a community of Orthodox Christians struggling to 'work out our own salvation with fear and trembling' (cf. Philippians 2:12). We are Greeks, Cypriots and non-Greeks; American converts to the Orthodox Christian faith; immigrants from various nations; and our children and grandchildren.
We live, teach and worship according to the traditions (cf. II Thessalonians 2:15) of the ancient, apostolic churches of the eastern Mediterranean evangelized by the Apostles in the first century AD, as documented in the New Testament book of The Acts of the Apostles.
We worship in both Greek and English:
- Greek (the ancient world's lingua franca or 'common tongue'), to preserve and celebrate the language of the Septuagint Old Testament and the New Testament, the Church’s Ecumenical Councils and many of her theologians and saints, as well as the immigrant founders of this parish; and
- English (the lingua franca or 'common tongue' of this parish, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, the diverse peoples of North America, and the world today), in obedience to the biblical commands to “pray with understanding” and to “teach all nations” (1 Corinthians 14:15, Matthew 28:19).
(Constantinople – also named "New Rome" – was founded in 324 AD by the Emperor St. Constantine the Great on the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium as the new, Christian capital of the Roman Empire. This Christian Roman Empire endured in the East until its capital fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD – long after "Old Rome" and the Western Roman Empire had fallen.)
“The mission of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America” – and therefore the mission of Holy Cross in Stroudsburg – “is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, to teach and spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, to energize, cultivate, and guide the life of the Church in the United States of America according to the Orthodox Christian Faith and Tradition.”
“The Greek Orthodox Church in America sanctifies the faithful through divine worship, especially the Holy Eucharist and other Sacraments, building the spiritual and ethical life of the faithful in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, the doctrines and canons of the Ecumenical and local Councils, the canons of the Holy Apostles and the Fathers of the Church and of all other Councils recognized by the Orthodox Church.” Our mission is to serve “as a beacon, carrier, and witness of the message of Christ to all persons who live in the United States of America, through divine worship, preaching, teaching, and living of the Orthodox Christian Faith.”
Our Parish Feast: The Exaltation of the Cross
Our church is dedicated to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross (September 14), which commemorates the rediscovery of the wood of the Cross upon which the God-man, Jesus Christ, was crucified.
The Reading for our patronal feast day tells us: "Saint Helen, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great, when she was already advanced in years, undertook, in her great piety, the hardships of a journey to Jerusalem in search of the cross, about the year 325. A temple to Aphrodite had been raised up by the Emperor Hadrian upon Golgotha, to defile and cover with oblivion the place where the saving Passion had been suffered. The venerable Helen had the statue of Aphrodite destroyed, and the earth removed, revealing the Tomb of our Lord, and three crosses. Of these, it was believed that one must be that of our Lord, the other two of the thieves crucified with Him; but Saint Helen was at a loss which one might be the Wood of our salvation. At the inspiration of Saint Macarius, Archbishop of Jerusalem, a lady of Jerusalem, who was already at the point of death from a certain disease, was brought to touch the crosses, and as soon as she came near to the Cross of our Lord, she was made perfectly whole. Consequently, the precious Cross was lifted on high by Archbishop Macarius of Jerusalem; as he stood on the ambo, and when the people beheld it, they cried out, "Lord have mercy." It should be noted that after its discovery, a portion of the venerable Cross was taken to Constantinople as a blessing. The rest was left in Jerusalem in the magnificent church built by Saint Helen, until the year 614. At that time, the Persians plundered Palestine and took the Cross to their own country (see Jan. 22, Saint Anastasius the Persian). Late, in the year 628, Emperor Heraclius set out on a military campaign, retrieved the Cross, and after bringing it to Constantinople, himself escorted it back to Jerusalem, where he restored it to its place."
The Orthodox Church
Our parish, the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, the Greek Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are in full communion with the ancient, apostolic Orthodox Christian Churches of Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch (Syria and Lebanon), Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine), Greece, Cyprus, and the Republic of Georgia, as well as their missionary 'daughter churches' in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Albania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and North America (the 'Orthodox Church in America'), Japan, and with communities in Western Europe, Australia, the Americas, Africa and Asia. The Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian communion in the world behind the Roman Catholic church and ahead of the Lutheran and Anglican churches – none of which are in communion with the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church today, numbering over 250 million faithful worldwide, is a communion of self-governing Churches, each administratively independent of the other, but united by a common faith and spirituality. Their underlying unity is based on identity of doctrines, sacramental life and worship, which distinguishes Orthodox Christianity. All local Orthodox Churches share full communion with each other, and they recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as protos or primus inter pares, 'first' or 'first among equals'. The living tradition of the Church is expressed through the gathering of the entire Orthodox episcopate in council, as the need arises. Except in extraordinary circumstances, the internal life of each independent Church is administered by the bishops of that particular Local Church. In addition, the Orthodox Church believes in the universal priesthood of all its faithful, i.e., the laity share in the responsibility to preserve and propogate the Christian faith and Church (see the 1848 Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, A Reply to the Epistle of Pope Pius IX, "to the Easterns".)
Orthodox Christianity in North America
Before the establishment of a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America there were numerous communities of Orthodox Christians in North America from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, e.g., Greeks, Slavs, Arabs, Native Alaskans, even Colonial American converts.
In 1794, a small group of Russian missionaries, including St. Herman and St. Juvenaly, arrived in Russian Alaska to serve Russian workers and to bring the Orthodox Christian faith to the Native Alaskans (Aleut, Alutiiq, Tlingit, Yup'ik, Eskimo and Athabascan Indian), most of whom remain Orthodox to this day (see M. Oleksa, Orthodox Alaska and Alaskan Missionary Spirituality). Following the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867 and under the authority of the Church of Russia's bishops in the New World, parishes were established beyond Alaska in San Francisco, New York City, New Orleans as Orthodox Christian immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East arrived in the New World - and as Eastern Rite Catholics in communion with Rome returned to the Orthodox Church (see the life of St. Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre). Among the leaders of the Orthodox Church in North America at this time were Innocent of Moscow (then priest and bishop in Alaska), the Russian-Aleut priest Jacob of Alaska, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow (then Russian Archbishop in New York), the Arab Bishop Raphael of Brooklyn, as well as the priests Alexander Hotovitsky and John Kochurov who labored in New York and Chicago, respectively. Links to these and other saints' lives may be found here.
History records that on June 26, 1768 the first Greek immigrants landed at St. Augustine, FL. The first specifically Greek Orthodox parish in North America was, in fact, a multiethnic parish of Greeks and Slavs established in New Orleans in the 1860s under the loose jurisdiction of the Church of Greece and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The first Greek Orthodox parish in North America under the Ecumenical Patriarchate was Annunciation parish in New York City, founded in January 1894 as an offshoot from the first Greek Orthodox church in New York (Holy Trinity, Church of Greece, January 1892.) The first priest of Holy Trinity in New York, Fr. Paisios Ferentinos, had been sent by the Archbishop of Athens (Church of Greece), apparently in consultation with the Ecumenical Patriarch. This Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York is today the seat of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America (under the Ecumenical Patriarch, as with all Greek parishes in the Americas). (For more on early Greek Orthodox history in the United States, see posts by Matthew Namee here, here, here and here, among others on the site.)
Especially following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the various Orthodox immigrant communities in America sent home to the Old World for priests and bishops. This led to the creation of various 'ethnic', Orthodox Christian jurisdictions (church bodies) in North America – all of whom were and remain in full communion with one another. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America - the largest single Orthodox 'jurisdiction' in the United States - was incorporated in 1921 and officially recognized by the State of New York in 1922. Today, all canonical Eastern Orthodox bishops in America are members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, the successor body to the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and its ministries.
According to the 2010 Census of Orthodox Christians in the United States by Alexei Krindatch for SCOBA, and completed as a part of the national 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, there are just over 1 million adherents of the various Orthodox Christian churches in the United States. (This figure includes 227,000 members of the so-called Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches such as the Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite Syrian, Assyrian, and Malankara Indian Orthodox churches that are not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church or any other Christian church.) Orthodox Christians in America worship in 2,380 local parishes belonging to 20 different national Orthodox Church bodies (including six Oriental Orthodox church bodies). Orthodox Christians live and have churches in all 50 US states. Almost half (48%) of all Orthodox Church members live in just five states: California (14.5%), New York (13.5%), Illinois (7.2%), New Jersey (6.9%) and Massachusetts (5.9%).; and five states have the largest number of Orthodox parishes, i.e., California (254), Pennsylvania (249), New York (240), Florida (136) and New Jersey (128). In addition, there are 78 typically small, Orthodox Christian monastic communities in the U.S. (41 male, 37 female), the oldest of which is the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk in South Canaan, PA (60 minutes north of Stroudsburg) and the largest of which is St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ. Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Monastery for women in White Haven, PA is our local monastic community 30 minutes west of Stroudsburg on I-80.
See the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches (Boston: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2011), ed. Alexei Krindatch for more on Orthodox Christian demographics in North America today, and visit the website of the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA) for more on the history of Orthodox Christianity in North America.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Today the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is composed of an Archdiocesan District (New York) and eight Metropolises (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and San Francisco). It is governed by the Archbishop and an Eparchial (provincial) Synod of Bishops. The Synod of Bishops is headed by the Archbishop and comprised of the Bishops who oversee the ministry of the Metropolises. It has all the authority and responsibility which the Church canons provide for a provincial synod.
There are 525 parishes, 20 monasteries, 800 priests, and just under 500,000 faithful in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Archdiocese receives within its ranks and under its spiritual aegis and pastoral care Orthodox Christians, who either as individuals or as organized groups in Metropolises and Parishes have voluntarily come to it and which acknowledge the ecclesiastical and canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
‘Mission Statement’, ‘The Orthodox Church’, and ‘The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’ are freely adapted from About the Archdiocese on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). The 'Reading' for the feast is courtesy Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA as posted on the website of the GOA. Data from the "2010 U.S. Orthodox Christian Census" conducted by Alexei Krindatch and completed as a part of the national “Religious Congregations and Membership Study 2010” has also been incorporated, as well as information from SOCHA's OrthodoxHistory.org website and Matthew Namee.