Welcome to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church!

Interior.04
14220 Elva Avenue
Saratoga, CA 95070
Phone/fax: (408) 867-0628
Map and Directions
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church is part of the Orthodox Church in America, within the Diocese of the West, and belonging to the Pacific Central Deanery.
We are located near the Saratoga Village, on the West end of Silicon Valley. Our members commute from all over the valley to celebrate in worship together and enjoy Orthodox Christian fellowship.

We welcome all visitors, whether you are just passing through, or are new to the area, or are just curious about Orthodox Christianity. We will be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Come and experience the ancient faith and worship in a vibrant living community with us!

From the Fathers – Pentecost

“Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) He tells us also that when their minds would be illuminated by the torch of the Spirit they would be able to see into all things, even though no longer able to question Him bodily as when He was present among them. The Saviour does not say that they would no longer as before need the light of His guidance, but that when they received His Spirit, when He was dwelling in their hearts, they would not be wanting in any good thing, and their minds would be filled with most perfect knowledge.”

+ St. Cyril of Alexandria, On Luke

“‘And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives luster to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.”

+ St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 17.15, Catechetical Lectures

Orthopraxis – Pentecost – Trinity Sunday

The custom of adorning the church with trees, branches, flowers, and grass on Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) goes back to ancient times. The Old Testament Pentecost was the feast of the first harvest (Ex. 23:16). People brought the first fruits of their harvest and flowers into the court of the Temple. In New Testament times, the trees and other plants in the church symbolize the renewal of people through the power of the Holy Spirit which descended in the form of fiery tongues upon all of them.

Additionally, it is the custom of the Orthodox Church for the faithful to bring bouquets of flowers which they hold in their hands, especially in the Divine Liturgy.

The Feast of Pentecost

by Fr. Alexander Schmemann

In the Church’s annual liturgical cycle, Pentecost is “the last and great day.” It is the celebration by the Church of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the end – the achievement and fulfillment – of the entire history of salvation. For the same reason, however, it is also the celebration of the beginning: it is the “birthday” of the Church as the presence among us of the Holy Spirit, of the new life in Christ, of grace, knowledge, adoption to God and holiness.

This double meaning and double joy is revealed to us, first of all, in the very name of the feast. Pentecost in Greek means fifty, and in the sacred biblical symbolism of numbers, the number fifty symbolizes both the fulness of time and that which is beyond time: the Kingdom of God itself. It symbolizes the fulness of time by its first component: 49, which is the fulness of seven (7 x 7): the number of time. And, it symbolizes that which is beyond time by its second component: 49 + 1, this one being the new day, the “day without evening” of God’s eternal Kingdom. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples, the time of salvation, the Divine work of redemption has been completed, the fulness revealed, all gifts bestowed: it belongs to us now to “appropriate” these gifts, to be that which we have become in Christ: participants and citizens of His Kingdom.

The all-night Vigil service begins with a solemn invitation:” Let us celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, The appointed day of promise, and the fulfillment of hope, The mystery which is as great as it is precious.”

In the coming of the Spirit, the very essence of the Church is revealed:

“The Holy Spirit provides all, Overflows with prophecy, Fulfills the priesthood, Has taught wisdom to illiterates, Has revealed fishermen as theologians, He brings together the whole council of the Church.”

In the three readings of the Old Testament (Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29; Joel 2:23-32; Ezekiel 36:24-28) we hear the prophecies concerning the Holy Spirit. We are taught that the entire history of mankind was directed towards the day on which God “would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.” This day has come! All hope, all promises, all expectations have been fulfilled. At the end of the Aposticha hymns, for the first time since Easter, we sing the hymn: “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth…,” the one with which we inaugurate all our services, all prayers, which is, as it were, the life-breath of the Church, and whose coming to us, whose “descent” upon us in this festal Vigil, is indeed the very experience of the Holy Spirit “coming and abiding in us.”

Having reached its climax, the Vigil continues as an explosion of joy and light for “verily the light of the Comforter has come and illumined the world.” In the Gospel reading (John 20:19-23) the feast is interpreted to us as the feast of the Church, of her divine nature, power and authority. The Lord sends His disciples into the world, as He Himself was sent by His Father. Later, in the antiphons of the Liturgy, we proclaim the universality of the apostles’ preaching, the cosmical significance of the feast, the sanctification of the whole world, the true manifestation of God’s Kingdom.

The liturgical peculiarity of Pentecost is a very special Vespers of the day itself. Usually, this service follows immediately the Divine Liturgy, is “added” to it as its own fulfillment. The service begins as a solemn “summing up” of the entire celebration, as its liturgical synthesis. We hold flowers in our hands symbolizing the joy of the eternal spring, inaugurated by the coming of the Holy Spirit. After the festal Entrance, this joy reaches its climax in the singing of the Great Prokeimenon:

“Who is so great a God as our God?”

Then, having reached this climax, we are invited to kneel. This is our first kneeling since Easter. It signifies that after these fifty days of Paschal joy and fulness, of experiencing the Kingdom of God, the Church now is about to begin her pilgrimage through time and history. It is evening again, and the night approaches, during which temptations and failures await us, when, more than anything else, we need Divine help, that presence, and power of the Holy Spirit, who has already revealed to us the joyful End, who now will help us in our effort towards fulfillment and salvation.

All this is revealed in the three prayers which the celebrant reads now as we all kneel and listen to him. In the first prayer, we bring to God our repentance, our increased appeal for forgiveness of sins, the first condition for entering into the Kingdom of God.

In the second prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us, to teach us to pray and to follow the true path in the dark and difficult night of our earthly existence. Finally, in the third prayer, we remember all those who have achieved their earthly journey, but who are united with us in the eternal God of Love.

The joy of Easter has been completed and we again have to wait for the dawn of the Eternal Day. Yet, knowing our weakness, humbling ourselves by kneeling, we also know the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit who has come. We know that God is with us, that in Him is our victory.

Thus is completed the feast of Pentecost and we enter “the ordinary time” of the year. Yet, every Sunday now will be called “after Pentecost” – and this means that it is from the power and light of these fifty days that we shall receive our own power, the Divine help in our daily struggle. At Pentecost we decorate our churches with flowers and green branches – for the Church “never grows old, but is always young.” It is an evergreen, everliving Tree of grace and life, of joy and comfort. For the Holy Spirit – “the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life – comes and abides in us, and cleanses us from all impurity,” and fills our life with meaning, love, faith and hope.

Services in the Orthodox Home

In addition to the temple where we meet and worship on Saturday, Sunday, feast days and various other occasions, it is a part of normal Orthodox Christian life to have regular services in the home, usually in the “beautiful corner” set aside for such purposes. We all know about morning and evening prayers and house blessings, but there are other services that can be done in the home as “reader services”. Most of the services of the daily cycle can be done this way (except for the Divine Liturgy and other sacraments). In places without a priest, this has been a necessary means of keeping the life of the church going.

Many years ago, Alexey and Susan Young were new converts and pilgrims to the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery.  They were instructed to do reader services at home as they could, since they were not near a local parish.  They set up a storage shed in their backyard as a little chapel, and began to do the Ninth Hour, eventually adding Vespers. A curious neighbor happened to see them and commented:

“Every afternoon, I see you go into your shed for a while, and when you come out you look so peaceful.  What do you do in there?” to which Alexey replied, “Come and see!”.

Out of that little effort to do services in the home, and share it with others, a new Orthodox parish was born, and Alexey was eventually ordained a priest to serve there!

August is filled with important feast days such as Holy Transfiguration, Holy Dormition and St Herman of Alaska. There will be Vigil and Liturgy services for these feasts at St. Nicholas.   We will not be able to do the daily Paraklesis service, which is traditionally done during the evenings of the Dormition fast.  This is a good opportunity for you do this service at home as you can!

In order to make this easier, You will find the full service on this page that you can download and place on your tablet or phone. It is in PDF format.  Instructions in italics show you how to do this service as a “reader at home”.   If you know the tones, or have sung this with us at St. Nicholas in the past, you can sing it at home.  If you don’t know the melodies, you can simply chant it, singing only in your heart!

 

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