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Diocese of Charleston News

Orthodoxy in the Contemporary World

By Bishop THOMAS (Joseph) and Peter Schweitzer

In the contemporary worldview, nothing is so prized as progress and change. They are so highly regarded that calls for change and progress are even heard within our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Those who call for progress and change within the Church often demand change for change sake so that the world will be more comfortable with the Church. These demands often include that the Orthodox Church modify or completely abandon the traditional fasting periods, shorten the divine services, and become more "open" and accommodating on moral issues such as marriage, gender identity, and human rights.

These winds of change and progress are undoubtedly a result of contemporary man's embrace of Enlightenment thinking in which man replaces God as the ultimate arbiter of truth and human life. Yet, our Christian Tradition tells us that such notions are fundamentally flawed. The flaws concern two fundamental misconceptions of Sacred Tradition and the ascetical and mystical character of the Christian life.

A Word on Forgiveness

By Bishop THOMAS (Joseph) and Peter Schweitzer

In her enduring wisdom and love for mankind, the Church provides us with a period of preparation before we enter Great Lent. We have passed through the Sundays of Zacchaeus, the Publican and the Pharisee, the Last Judgment, and now finally with today - the Sunday which commemorates the expulsion of Adam from Paradise.

In each of these preparatory Sundays, forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel message. In his great zeal to meet the Lord, Zacchaeus confessed his sins and repented by giving back four-fold his ill-gotten gains. The publican asks for forgiveness through his heartfelt "have mercy upon me, a sinner." The Sunday of the Last Judgment reminds us that Christ will judge us according to the extent that we were merciful and forgiving of others. Finally, Forgiveness Sunday recalls Adam's sin and more importantly, his unwillingness to ask for forgiveness. Reflecting upon this ancestral sin, Abba Dorotheos writes:

Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service to be Held on March 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 4, 2018, a prayer service and dinner for Syria will be held in Pittsburgh, PA, with proceeds benefitting the IOCC's Syrian Crisis Response Fund. His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH, as well as His Grace Bishop THOMAS, will join other hierarchs and clergy for the event.

The prayer service will be at 4:00 p.m., followed by the dinner at 5:00, at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral on 419 South Dithridge Street (Oakland), Pittsburgh, PA, 15213. For reservations contact Zelfa Khalil: 412-417-4706 or zkhalil1@live.com.

Visit the event page for reservations and sponsorship information.

2018 Greeting for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

February 2, 2018
The Meeting of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace, for from thee arose the Sun of justice, Christ our God, lighting those who are in darkness. Rejoice and be glad, O righteous elder, carrying in thine arms the Deliverer of our souls, Who granteth us Resurrection. (Troparion of the Feast)

Beloved in Christ,

I greet you on the solemn and joyous feast of the Meeting of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ! Today, the Lord Christ is brought up to the Temple in obedience to the law of God. As Saint Gregory Palamas notes, "Notice that the Creator and Lord of the law is completely obedient to the law. What does He achieve by this? He makes our nature obedient in all things to the Father, He completely heals us of its disobedience, and transforms the curse on it into a blessing." The Lord Christ assumes our human nature in order to heal and redeem it.

Metropolitan JOSEPH Leads Theophany and Anniversary Celebrations for St. John Chrysostom Church

View the photo album

In a spirit of joy and commemoration, His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH celebrated the Feast of Theophany and the 25th Anniversary of St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA on the weekend of January 5–7, 2018. His Eminence worshipped with the faithful of St. John on Friday evening, and presided over Hierarchical Divine Liturgies on Saturday for the Great Blessing of Water and on Sunday morning. His Eminence was joined by His Grace Bishop THOMAS, Diocese of Oakland, Charleston, and the Mid-Atlantic, who celebrated with the community as well.

Father Peter Pier is the founding pastor of the congregation. In April of 1995, 13.8 acres of land was purchased for St. John's future home, and in the spring of 1997, His Grace Bishop ANTOUN of Blessed Memory broke ground for construction.

2018 Eastern Dioceses Scholarships

The Diocese of New York & Washington, D.C. and
The Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic                  

Eastern Dioceses of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

January 15, 2018

Dear Reverend Fathers and Teen SOYO Advisors:

We are pleased to announce that applications are being accepted for the 2018 Eastern Dioceses Scholarships. This year, up to 3 awards are available in amounts ranging from $1000 to $2,000.

Included with this cover letter, please find a copy of the 2018 Scholarship Application for you to share with graduating high school seniors from your parish. The form may be copied should you have additional applicants. Your cooperation in sharing this information is so very important in spreading the word about the availability of these scholarship opportunities.

Thank you for your cooperation and support. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any and all questions!

Yours in Christ,

Mary Elizabeth Asencio, Scholarship Coordinator
201-327-0667
maryecross@optonline.net

2018 Theophany Greeting from His Grace Bishop THOMAS

January 6, 2018
Theophany of our Lord

Beloved in Christ,

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee. (Troparion of the Holy Theophany)

I greet you on the solemn and joyous feast of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ! As the Nativity revealed Almighty God’s condescension and humility in becoming incarnate, so the Theophany reveals the glory and power of the triune God.

Diocesan Deacons' Retreat Held at St. George Cathedral in Charleston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Friday, October 20, to Sunday, October 22, 2017, the annual retreat of the deacons of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid Atlantic took place. This year we were hosted by the parish of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia and their priest, Fr. Christopher Eid. In attendance were Sayedna Thomas, Fr. Anthony Roeber (the chaplain to our deacons), and seven deacons. This year our retreat was pan Orthodox, as Deacon Wayne Paul Wright of the Romanian Orthodox Church of Fairlawn, Ohio heard about our retreat, and he asked Sayedna Thomas if he could attend.  Sayedna Thomas enthusiastically invited him, and Deacon Wright’s participation was most welcome and instructive.

Memory Eternal! + Sylvia Jean Joseph, Mother of His Grace Bishop THOMAS

Sylvia Jean Joseph, mother of His Grace Bishop THOMAS, reposed in the Lord on Christmas Eve, 2017. She was 93 years old. Writes His Grace, "As you know, she had been suffering for a good period of time. Although this was unexpected, she was visited by both a deacon and priest today....There are so many of you who prayed for my mom and offered all kinds of support. My father, my sister and I are eternally grateful to you. More importantly, Mom is grateful. I'll ask again for your holy prayers for her soul. May she rest in peace, and may God give us the strength to bear this loss."

The funeral arrangements Sylvia Jean Joseph are as follows:

On Friday, December 29, 2017, there will be a viewing from 2-4pm at Holy Cross Orthodox Church, 2365 South South Olga Drive in Ft. Myers, FL 33905. Included in this will be a Trisagion service at 3:30pm.

Winter 2017-2018 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Winter 2017–2018 issue of DIAKONIA, the newsletter of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America, is now available online. This issue features the Diocese of New York, and the Diocese of Oakland, Charleston, and the Mid-Atlantic, and includes special messages from His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH and His Grace Bishop THOMAS.

The issue also contains:

  • Introductions to the diocesan officers and coordinators
  • Numerous reports and photographs from parish chapters of Antiochian Women
  • Reflections on the spiritual life

And more! Download the PDF

"Living Orthodoxy" Podcast Features Interview with Bishop Thomas

December 19, 2017

As a part of the "Faith Stories" series in the Living Orthodoxy podcast, His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph) of the Diocese of Oakland, Charleston and the Mid-Atlantic was interviewed in a recently posted podcast. Living Orthodoxy strives to provide "an invitation to a deeper life in Christ," and is hosted by St. Philip Orthodox Church in Souderton, PA.

The wide-ranging discussion with Bishop Thomas covers a variety of topics, including: a brief recap of his upbringing and background, his collaborative approach to ministry, his reflections on the history of the Antiochian Archdiocese, his observations about parish growth and ministry, and his advice to priests and parishioners.

Listen to Living Orthodoxy with Bishop Thomas.

 

Antiochian Village Summer Camp Registration Opens Monday, December 11

The Antiochian Village Summer Camp Program serves young people ages 9–17 who come to attend one of four two-week sessions. A primary goal of the Village camp program is to present to young people a living experience of the Holy Orthodox Faith in their relationship with God and other campers in a natural environment.

Registrations are now open for the 2018 summer camp season. The sessions run June 17 through August 10; two special sessions are Byzantine Chant Camp held from June 17 – June 29, and Iconography Camp, which runs from July 15 – July 23.  Slots fill up very quickly for this incredibly popular program, so act now! Additionally, it's not too early to think about sending your child to your local diocesan camp; visit The Department of Camping for more information.

ANTIOCHIAN VILLAGE CAMP REGISTRATION LINK

Save the Date! The Order of St. Ignatius Christmas Reception, December 21

Please save the date for The Order of St. Ignatius Christmas Reception!

WHEN:  Thursday, December 21, 2017: 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM

WHERE:  St. Anthony Orthodox Church
385 Ivy Ln.
Bergenfield, NJ 07621

HOSTS:  Metropolitan JOSEPH, V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Allen and Kh. Valerie Allen, and Order Members of St. Anthony Church

RSVP:  By December 14, by phone (724) 238-3677 x410 or via email to theorder@antiochianvillage.org  (Official invitation to follow in the mail)

Zlata Ryan
Administrative Assistant for The Order

2017 Nativity Message from Bishop Thomas

NATIVITY OF CHRIST 2017

Thus all magic was dissolved and every bond of wickedness vanished; ignorance was abolished and the old kingdom was destroyed, since God was becoming manifest in human form for the newness of eternal life; what had been prepared by God had its beginning. Hence everything was shaken together, for the abolition of death was being planned.

– St. Ignatius of Antioch, To the Ephesians, 19:3

At this great feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, these words from St. Ignatius the God-bearer of Antioch focus us powerfully on the purpose of the advent of the Savior Jesus. As we read in the Scripture, there was a proclamation to God's glory of "peace on earth, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). But why? Why would the coming of Jesus mean peace and good will toward men? There does not seem to have been peace in the centuries that have passed since, and in our own time we certainly see no lack of ill will toward mankind from his fellow men.

Bishop Thomas 2017 Entry of the Theotokos Greeting

November 21, 2017
Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple

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

May God be with you all!

I greet you on this most joyous occasion, one of the twelve major church feasts numbered among those that affect our salvation. The Most Holy Theotokos' entry into the temple mirrors our own entrance into the heavenly kingdom. As the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, prepared the holy Virgin, so too we must prepare for our entrance into the Kingdom of God.

St. Andrew Orthodox Church – Five Years of Growth

On the weekend of October 15–16, 2017, St. Andrew Church in Lewes, Delaware, welcomed Bishop Thomas for his annual visit.

In addition to inducting six new members into the Order of St Ignatius, His Grace blessed and dedicated the newly-expanded church facility in the name of our beloved Archpriest Boniface Black, founding pastor of St. Andrew’s, who reposed in the Lord in August 2016.

After meeting for five years in rented space, St. Andrew’s moved to its new facility in September, 2012, and immediately began to experience a growth in membership--seniors and young families seeking to strengthen their Orthodox faith through the Church. It soon became clear that the new space would need to be expanded. 

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, DE

On the weekend of October 14 and 15, 2017, His Grace Bishop Thomas visited the community of St. Andrew the Apostle Mission in Lewes, Delaware. Bishop Thomas presided at Vespers and Divine Liturgy, then dedicated a new addition to the parish building and the Great Hall.

Diocesan Clergy Brotherhood Meets in Fall Synaxis at Antiochian Village

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Clergy Brotherhood of the Diocese of Oakland, Charleston and the Mid-Atlantic met in Synaxis under the Patronage and prayers of St. Joseph of Damascus, October 16-19, 2017 at Antiochian Village.  We experienced once again the warm hospitality and service of the Village under the excellent direction of Amy Stiffler and her staff, and the exquisite cuisine at the hand of Tim Johnston and his crew.

Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black Holds 24th Annual Ancient Christianity Conference

Fr. Alexii Altschul moderates the Young Orthodox Preachers Panel at the St. Moses Conference.Fr. Alexii Altschul moderates the Young Orthodox Preachers Panel at the St. Moses Conference.Watch video of the Conference on Facebook

On October 6–8, 2017, the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black held its 24th annual Ancient Christianity Conference at the Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church in Princeton, New Jersey. The Brotherhood is a pan-Orthodox organization which has desired through its efforts to make the Orthodox faith available to the African American community, and help the Church itself in realizing this goal. Over 100 people attended, including His Grace Bishop Thomas and His Eminence Archbishop Michael of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). The theme, "Growing Closer to Christ, Growing Closer Together," featured the scripture: "...speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15).

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 Blesses St. Mary of Hunt Valley with Pastoral Visit

To mark the occasion of their patronal feast day, the Nativity of the Theotokos, St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Hunt Valley, Maryland had the honor of welcoming His Grace Bishop Thomas to their parish from Wednesday, September 6 to Friday, September 8, 2017. (View the photo gallery)

The commemoration and celebration began Wednesday evening with a Paraklesis service presided over by Bishop Thomas. Following Paraklesis, His Grace met with St. Mary's Young Adult Ministry to enjoy a meal and to answer their questions on the  Church's history, doctrine, and theology.

On Friday, September 8, Bishop Thomas presided over a Vigil for the Nativity of the Theotokos, starting with Great Vespers and Festal Orthos. Before the Divine Hierarchal Liturgy began, His Grace ordained Zade Jabaji as Subdeacon Hilarion. Previous to his Ordination, Subdeacon Hilarion had served the St. Mary's community faithfully as an altar boy and Teen SOYO advisor.

Bishop Thomas 2017 Elevation of the Cross Greeting

September 14, 2017
Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross

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

I greet you on this most joyous feast, the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. It is through this sign that we Christians conquer the passions and the evil in the world. Love conquers all. Saint Gregory Palamas reminds us,

This is the wisdom and power of God: to be victorious through weakness, exalted through humility, rich through poverty. Not only the word and the mystery of the Cross are divine and to be reverenced, but so also is its sign. For it is a holy, saving, and venerable seal, able to hallow and perfect all the good, marvelous and indescribable things which God has done for the human race. It can take away the curse and condemnation, destroy corruption and death, bestow eternal life and blessing. It is the wood of salvation, the regal scepter, the divine trophy of victory over visible and invisible enemies, even though the heretics' followers are insanely displeased. They have not attained to the apostle's prayer that "they might be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth" (Eph. 3:18). They have not understood that the Lord's Cross discloses the entire dispensation of His coming in the flesh, and contains within it the whole mystery of this dispensation. Extending in all directions, it embraces everything above, below, around and between. The heretics abhor the sign of the King of Glory (Ps. 24:7–10), putting forward an excuse, in accordance with which, if they were reasonable, they ought to reverence the Cross along with us. The Lord Himself, when He was going to ascend the Cross, openly referred to it as His lifting up and His glory (John 3:14–15). And He announced that when He came again and manifested Himself, this sign of the Son of man would come with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30). ...

Annual Clergy Wives Weekend to be Held at Antiochian Village, October 20-22, 2017

Byzantine wedding ringByzantine wedding ringDownload the Registration Form

Come to this pan-Orthodox gathering and be refreshed and restored! As always, this weekend offers an opportunity for clergy wives to rededicate ourselves to our own personal spiritual journeys as we participate with our husbands and families in the various vineyards where God has led us. We are reminded of the efforts and the memory of Kh. Joanne Abdalah, for whom care and nurturing of clergy wives was always a priority. Likewise this year we will celebrate and remember Kh. Stefanie Yazge, whose dedication to clergy wives and their families will be remembered on Friday evening specifically by her children—Matt, Mark, and Alexis—as we open our session.

Details

Speaker: Mother Christophora, Abbess Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA

Group Facilitator: Deacon Seraphim Moslener: Gifts for the Journey: Faith, Hope and Love

Bishop Thomas 2017 Nativity of the Theotokos Greeting

September 8, 2017
Nativity of the Theotokos

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

I greet you on this most joyous feast, the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos! On this day we pause and reflect upon the splendor and beauty of the Theotokos extolled in the words of Saint Gregory Palamas, “Indeed, to express the honor of the Virgin Bride as is her due, she did not just act as a mediator for certain chosen races, but, standing between God and every race of men, she made God the Son of man, and men the sons of God. She alone was shown to be the natural mother of God in a supernatural way, and by her indescribable child-bearing she became the Queen of the entire Creation in this world and beyond, for ‘all things were made by Him’ who was born of her, ‘and without him was not anything made that was made’ (John 1:3).”

Transfiguration and Dormition 2017 Greeting from Bishop Thomas

July 31, 2017

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

I greet you as we prepare to commemorate these most joyous feasts, the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos! These feasts coincide with the holy fast of the Dormition, and appropriately so, since we are accustomed to prepare for great feasts of the Church through the necessary and salvific ascetical practice of fasting.

The feasts of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos and the Transfiguration reveal to us the salvific activity of God and how we are to prepare and receive these gifts.

Saint Gregory of Palamas wrote concerning the Transfiguration: