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2017 Paschal Greetings from Bishop Thomas

GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2017

Beloved brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, God-fearing Monastics, and all my Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our True God:

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

We celebrate the slaying of death, the destroying of hell, the beginning of another way of life that is eternal. And leaping for joy, we sing a hymn to the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers. 

On the Holy Mountain of Athos, this troparion from the Paschal Canon is repeated seven times on the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha. In repeating these holy words composed by Saint John of Damascus, we enter into the joy of Pascha. This prayer brings joy to the world for it proclaims the Resurrection in all its radiance and splendor, as Elder Porphyrios so clearly explains:

An Orthodox Spiritual Response to Clergy Burnout

By Bishop Thomas and Peter Schweitzer

In my last article, I wrote about the faithful participation in the life of Christ and what that entails on a practical level. In this present paper, I hope with God’s help to address the issue in terms of our beloved clergy. In the last paper, I made a distinction between being at church and being in church. On the surface, this distinction does not hold for our clergy by the fact of their ordination. We must necessarily be in church leading the services. However, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ come to mind, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)  There is a temptation for clergy and faithful alike to be physically present for services while their hearts remain cold and hardened. 

Bishop Thomas to Offer Commencement Address, Receive Honorary Doctorate at St. Tikhon's Seminary

His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Board of Trustees of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and St. Tikhon's Rector His Eminence Archbishop Michael, have invited His Grace Bishop Thomas to deliver the Commencement Address at the Seminary's graduation on May 27, 2017. In his letter of invitation, Archbishop Michael cited His Grace's "faithful, tireless and yeoman service to the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States, and Holy Orthodoxy throughout the world, as well as to theological education in particular." Bishop Thomas will also be awarded an honorary doctorate by the Seminary.

Saint Tikhon's has graciously invited all the faithful to attend the graduation exercises, as well as the entire weekend of festivities that mark the Annual Pilgrimage to St. Tikhon's Monastery. Pilgrimage services begin Friday afternoon, May 26, continue Saturday, and Sunday, and culminate with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Monday morning, May 29.

Fidelity in the Life of Christ: A Lenten Reflection by Bishop Thomas

by Bishop Thomas (Joseph) and Peter Schweitzer
April 5, 2017

In my last article, I wrote about the notion of the Orthodox Church as the Ark of Salvation whose mission concerns the salvation of its members. In so doing, I dismissed the notion that the Church functions as a corporation concerned with the smooth administration of an institution. The corporate mentality has no place in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. This affirmation leads to the next issue--what does it mean to be a member of the Church?

At first glance, one could reasonably assume that membership requires a fidelity to the Church’s teachings and, on the local level, participation in the life of the parish. Of course, this is true and a necessary first step but it doesn’t capture entirely what membership in the Orthodox Church implies. Just as a child who is initiated into the Church through the mysteries of baptism, chrismation, and Holy Eucharist must continue to be nourished throughout life by the regular and consistent participation in the Mysteries and the services of the Church, adult members can’t claim fidelity to Christ and His Church without the same.

Metropolitan Joseph Presides at Fifth Annual Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service

Read the article in the Post-Gazette.

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph presided at the fifth annual Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service, held this year at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA. His Grace Bishop Thomas was in attendance, along with other Antiochian clergy and hierarchs and clergy from other jurisdictions. The International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Pittsburgh Metropolitan Committee organized the service and dinner. 

The money will be distributed to programs that aid displaced Syrians internally, as well as to relief efforts that assist refugees in Lebanon, Greece and Jordan, said IOCC spokeswoman Kristen Fianni.

Save the Date! 2017 Sacred Music Institute and Youth Music Ministry are July 12-16




 

 

 

SAVE THE DATE!

  • Summer Sacred Music Institute  (SMI) and Youth Music Ministry, ages 14-18 (YMM)
  • July 12-16, 2017
  • Antiochian Village

For more information, please contact Paul Jabara for the SMI, at sacredmusic@antiochian.org; or Chris Farha for the YMM, at chrisfarha@cox.netLook for preliminary schedules and registration forms after Pascha.

Read about the 2016 SMI and YMM at Antiochian Village

Sunday of Orthodoxy at St. Moses the Black Mission Station: Pittsburgh, PA

The Diocese of Charleston is nurturing a new mission outreach effort, the Mission of St. Moses the Black in Pittsburgh, PA. The mission station is located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, the same neighborhood that was the setting and topic of the movie Fences with Denzel Washington. It was also the setting for the old TV show Hill Street Blues.

View a video slideshow of the March 12, 2017 Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers at St. Moses the Black 
Read more about this unique mission station

Metropolitan Joseph, Bishop Thomas to Attend IOCC Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Pittsburgh Metropolitan Committee will hold a prayer service and fund raising dinner that will benefit our suffering Syrian brothers and sisters. His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and His Grace Bishop Thomas will be in attendance, along with other Antiochian clergy, as well as hierarchs and clergy from other jurisdictions. The Syrian Relief gathering will be held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA. All Orthodox Christians are cordially invited to attend in support of IOCC's aid efforts in Syria. The recent conflict has been devastating, resulting in the displacement of a substantial percentage of the population which is now hungry, homeless, and lacking essential items. 

During the past four years, four similar Syrian Relief gatherings have been held; approximately 600 people attended last year. These gatherings have been efficient and productive, because the community prepared and donated much of the food and supplies for the events. Over the past four years, $210,000 has been raised, and a net amount of $201,000 has been sent to IOCC. 

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Ancient Faith Publishing Releases New Edition of Bestselling Book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

Ancient Faith Publishing is re-releasing Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: Finding the Way to Christ in a Complicated Religious Landscape in a new, fully revised and significantly expanded edition. Authored by The Very Rev. Archpriest Andrew Stephen Damick, pastor of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church, the bestselling book now includes several new features: a full chapter on Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movements, and two new appendices, "Relations with the Non-Orthodox" and "How and Why I Became an Orthodox Christian." More detail and more religions and movements have been included, and the book is now addressed broadly to both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, making it even more sharable than before. 
 

Preorder the book

2017 Special Olympics Volunteer and Coaching Applications Available

Special Olympics campers and staff at the VillageSpecial Olympics campers and staff at the VillageThe 2017 Special Olympics Sports Camp is scheduled to be held at the Antiochian Village August 11–20, 2017. This ministry is sponsored by the North American Council of Teen SOYO, and is the second longest running program of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, serving over 340 Special Olympics athletes, coaches, and staff each season. It is the premier SOYO outreach program, now in its 36th year of service. Each year SOYO teens raise the funds on Special Olympics Awareness Day.

In addition to the funds raised, SOYO teens provide at least half the coaching staff, and many adult volunteers participate as well. The Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Purpura, chair of the Department of Youth Ministry, has announced that the 2017 Special Olympic Coaches Application is now available for those youth who are interested in working at the Sports Camp. Additionally, for adults over twenty years of age, the Special Olympics Volunteer application is posted as well.

2016 Creative Festivals Media Winner from the Diocese of Charleston

Winning entry in the Media category from the 2016 Diocese of Charleston Creative Arts Festivals, by Maria Zafaran from St. George Church in New Kensington, PA:

Seek First the Kingdom of God: A Reflection for the Nativity Season

St. JohnSt. JohnSt. SeraphimSt. SeraphimOn December 6, 2016, His Grace Bishop Thomas, Diocese of Charleston, presented this Nativity reflection to a group of parish council members. His timely words are equally applicable to any and all of the faithful during this holy season of the year.

It is my pleasure to be speaking here this evening.  I want to commend you all for your hard work and dedication to your parish. The spiritual health of any parish is a reflection of the spiritual health of its leadership, especially that which is provided by the parish council. 

As I begin my reflection, I thought I would offer a short story concerning St. John Maximovitch of San Francisco. On the evening before St. John was going to commemorate the solemn canonization of Fr. John of Kronstadt, he was celebrating the All Night Vigil in preparation for the Divine Liturgy the next day. It so happened that a group of parishioners had organized a Halloween Ball on the very same night of this vigil. Thus, when the All Night Vigil began many people were absent, to the great sorrow of St. John.

After the vigil service, St. John went to the place where the ball was being held. He entered the hall and the music stopped; in absolute silence, he glanced sorrowfully at the revelers. With his staff in hand, he slowly walked around the entire hall. He didn't speak, but the sight of the holy bishop brought general consternation to the party. Saint John then left the hall, but the next day in church he issued a call to all present, to seek the devout Christian life.

2016 Nativity Message from Bishop Thomas

NATIVITY OF CHRIST 2016

"The Word became flesh:" in this is the ultimate joy of the Christian faith. In this is the fullness of revelation. The same incarnate Lord is both perfect God and perfect man. The full significance and the ultimate purpose of human existence is revealed and realized in and through the Incarnation. He came down from Heaven to redeem the earth, to unite man with God for ever. "And became man." The new age has been initiated. We count now the"anni Domini [years of the Lord]!" As St. Irenaeus wrote: "the Son of God became the Son of Man, that man also might become the son of God." Not only is the original fullness of human nature restored or re-established in the Incarnation. Not only does human nature return to its once lost communion with God. The Incarnation is also the new revelation, the new and further step. The first Adam was a living soul. But the last Adam is the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).
– Protopresbyter Georges V. Florovsky, Incarnation and Redemption

Although with the Annunciation we have the moment of the Incarnation itself, the public appearance on this earth of the Lord of Heaven at His Nativity is celebrated most festively in December as the beginning of the story of our salvation. And it is right that we should celebrate. Can there be anything, other than the divine moment of Pascha, which should bring us more joy than the coming of our God?

St. James the Apostle Orthodox Church of Westminster, Maryland Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary

O holy James
As a disciple of the Lord you received the Gospel
As a martyr, you displayed an unyielding will
As a brother of the Lord you have special power with Him
As a hierarch you have the right of intercession
Intercede therefore with Christ our God
That He may save our souls!

With these words, the faithful of St. James the Apostle Orthodox Church celebrated the tenth anniversary of their founding as the first canonical Orthodox Church in Carroll County, Maryland. Sayidna Thomas, joined by Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green and clergy and faithful of local parishes of many jurisdictions, entreated our Holy God to look down with favor on His Church in our locality.

2017 Diocese of Charleston/New York Parish Life Conference

The 2017 Diocese of Charleston/New York Parish Life Conference will be hosted by St. George Church in Little Falls, NJ. Dates are Thursday to Sunday, June 29–July 2, 2017.

Please check back for more information.

The Light and Joy of the Lord: Dn. Paul Abernathy is Ordained to the Holy Priesthood

The ordination of Deacon Paul Abernathy to the Holy Priesthood: Saturday, August 27,  2016: St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Bridgeville, PA, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and His Grace Bishop Thomas, ordaining hierarch

By The Very Rev. Dr. Jason DelVitto, Pastor of St. George Church, Bridgeville, PA

If one could express in words the spirit of a very special weekend in the life of our Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, and in particular among the members of St. George Church, Bridgeville, PA and of St. Moses the Black Mission located in Hill District of Pittsburgh, I believe that we would describe this as a “weekend of joy, thanksgiving, peace and gladness in the Lord.” I am referring to the celebration of the ordination of Deacon Paul Abernathy to the Holy Priesthood of the Orthodox Church.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit and with blessing of our father in Christ, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, and through the hands of His Grace Bishop Thomas of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and Mid-Atlantic, faithful and dedicated parishioner Deacon Paul Abernathy was ordained to the Holy Priesthood during the Hierarchical Liturgy on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at St. George Church.  The Very Rev. Joshua Makoul of St. George Cathedral in Oakland and I served as Fr. Paul’s sponsors.

Remembrance and Ordination at St. Philip Church + Souderton, PA

Fr. Noah Bushelli writes:

And of His fullness we have all receive, and grace for grace. (John 1:16)

We are always overflowing with God's grace, but sometimes we don't realize it. Recently, though, at St. Philip Church (Souderton, Pennsylvania), God's generosity has been too much for even my hard heart to ignore. 

First, we recently said goodbye to our beloved founding pastor, Fr. Boniface Black. He was a great man with a big heart and many years of pastoral and missionary success.

Episcopal Visit and Elevation at St. Paul Church + Emmaus, PA

The parishioners of St. Paul Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania had the supreme joy of combining their annual visit from their beloved father and chief-pastor His Grace Bishop Thomas with the elevation of their pastor Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick to the rank of Archpriest over the weekend of October 1st and 2nd, 2016 in recognition of his service to the parish and the Church as a whole. The pastoral visit began with Bishop Thomas' meeting with the men of the parish for breakfast on Saturday morning, and then with the women for lunch at midday. That evening, Fr. Andrew celebrated Great Vespers as Bishop Thomas presided from the throne.

The next morning Orthros was chanted and Bishop Thomas served Hierarchical Liturgy. Concelebrating were Fr. Andrew; the V. Rev. Archpriest Olof Scott, dean emeritus of St. George Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia, where Fr. Andrew served his first two years as a priest; as well as Rev. Dn. David Keim of All Saints Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Fr. Andrew was received as a convert to Orthodoxy in 1998. Also assisting were seminarians Marshall Goodge and Joseph Clark. Shortly before the final dismissal, Bishop Thomas prayed over Fr. Andrew before giving him a pectoral cross, accompanied by shouts of "Axios! Mustahiq! He is worthy!" from the assembled congregation and visiting family. In his address following, Bishop Thomas stressed that archpriests are meant to serve as exemplars to other clergy, and their parishes as exemplars to other parishioners throughout the archdiocese.

Refugee Charity Dinner to be Hosted by Holy Trinity in Pottstown, PA

A charity dinner to benefit refugees is being hosted by Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Pottstown, PA.

"Refugee Aid: How the Orthodox Church Can Help"
Holy Trinity Orthodox Church
Pottstown, PA
Saturday, November 12, 2016 
3:45 p.m.

Presentation and Vespers to follow

 

Fr. Andrew Damick Elevated to Archpriest

AXIOS! On October 2, 2016 His Grace Bishop Thomas elevated Fr. Andrew Damick to the dignity of Archpriest at Fr. Andrew's home parish of St. Paul Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. May God grant him many years!

Blessed Namesday to Bishop Thomas!

His Grace Bishop Thomas' namesday is October 6, Thomas the Apostle of the Twelve. Many years, Master!
Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston
Read about St. Thomas the Apostle

Thomas, the faithful servant and disciple of Christ, filled with divine grace, cried out from the depth of his love: "You are my Lord and my God!"
Kontakion — Tone 4

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Mary in Wilkes-Barre, PA

Over the weekend of August 19–21 2016, Sayidna Thomas visited St. Mary in Wilkes-Barre. He arrived on Thursday afternoon so that he would be present on Friday for the parish's annual golf tournment. After bringing all of his liturgical supplies to the church on Friday morning, Sayidna came to the golf tournment which was held at Sands Springs Golf Club. There were thirteen foursome teams golfing and in addition, twenty five people who came to help with the organization of the tournment and to watch the golfers. Sayidna rode with Fr. David Hester, pastor of St. Mary, to watch the golfers and to be asked for his prayers for divine help as they played. Sayidna enjoyed the day and was able to visit with many of the parishioners during the day.

Register Now! 2016 Clergy Wives Weekend at Antiochian Village, October 21-23

The 2016 Clergy Wives Weekend will be held at Antiochian Village the weekend of October 21–23. This year's speaker at the pan-Orthodox event will be Catherine Hopko Mandell, daughter of Fr. Tom and Mat. Anne Hopko, and granddaughter of Fr. Alexander and Mat. Juliana Schmemann. She is well qualified to speak from her understanding of life in the clergy family, and will reflect not only on her life as a daughter and granddaughter, but as mother and aunt. 
 
The info and registration form can be downloaded. Scholarship funding is available. To make a request for that, or if you have questions, contact Kh. Stefanie Yazge:  SYazge@msn.com.

2016 Feastday Vigil at St. Thekla Antiochian Orthodox Monastery, Glenville, PA

Celebrate the feast of St. Thekla at her monastery in Glenville, Pennsylvania, on 23-24 September, 2016!

Friday, 23 September 2016
6:30 pm - 9th Hour
6:40 pm - Vespers with Litya & Artoklasia...
7:40 pm - Small Compline with Akathist
8:15 pm - Fellowship & Refreshments

Saturday, 24 September 2016
8:00 am - Nocturnes
8:15 am - Matins
10:00 am - Divine Liturgy
11:30 am - Fellowship Brunch
1:00 pm - St Thekla Supplication Service

Please, let me know if you are coming so we have enough food. Please, email or call for further info. Also, in preparation for our Feast Day Celebration on 23-24 September, if you're available, come help clean, cut, fix, cook and generally prepare on both Saturdays of September 10 and 17 anytime between 9 am til 3 pm. If here around noontime, please bring something to eat. If able, bring brooms, cloths, buckets, cleaners, gloves, weed trimmers, axes for splitting logs, creativity, muscles and enthusiasm.

May our Lord Bless you,

Fr. Mark Sahady, Convent Chaplain
724-557-5311
FatherMarkSahady@yahoo.com

Spiritual Talks From His Grace Bishop Thomas

Beloved in Christ,

God bless you.
 
Attached are several presentations I have given recently. One is on instructing  your spiritual children for salvation, given at the St. Tikhon’s Seminary 2016 Continuing Education Program, and the others are a series on Orthodox Christian Witness, given at the Antiochian House of Studies in September of 2016. I pray you will find them edifying.
 
Yours in Christ,
+Bp. Thomas

(Acknowledgements to Marshall Goodge and Peter Schweitzer for their assistance in preparing this material.)