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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. 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



On Saturday, October 21, 2017, a group of deacons gathered for the Deacons' Retreat for the Diocese of Oakland, Charleston, and the Mid-Atlantic. The event was held at the St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Charleston, WV.

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:

Memory Eternal! + Kh. Helen Kahle

Memory Eternal! + Khouria Helen S. Kahle, 87, of Emmaus, PA, passed away July 26, 2017 at Lehigh Center, Macungie. She was the wife of the late Very Rev. John (Robert) Kahle (+2008), the founding pastor of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Emmaus, PA.

Born in Emmaus, Helen was the daughter of the late John and Kathryn (Slota) Sikorski. She was a graduate of Emmaus High School, Class of 1948, and Sacred Heart Hospital School of Nursing in 1951. Helen served several medical practices as a registered nurse for many years.

She is survived by her sons, Robert Kahle and his wife, Karen, James Kahle and his wife, Rebecca; and daughters Anne Boyle, Susan Crouthamel and her husband, David, Karen Buss and her husband, Mark, Patricia Domyan and her husband, Mark, Barbara Parker and her husband, Peter; fourteen grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and her sister, Julia Kooker. 

Funeral arrangements are as follows:

  • Sunday, July 30: Viewing 3-5 pm at Bachman Kulik Reinsmith Funeral Home in Emmaus, PA (225 Elm St.), with a Trisagion Memorial at 4:30pm
  • Monday, July 31: Viewing 10-11 am, Funeral 11 am at St. Paul Orthodox Church in Emmaus (156 E. Main St.)

Khouria Helen's obituary can be read on Legacy.com. Contributions in her memory can be made to St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Emmaus, PA.

May her memory be eternal!

Care for the Elderly and Infirm in an Orthodox Setting

Bp Thomas Joseph and Peter Schweitzer 

Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. (Psalm 71:9)

Proper and loving care for the elderly should be a Christian concern for each of us.  Whether we have aged or infirm parents or loved ones, we all know elderly people who need our attention.  As Orthodox Christians, we have a duty to them before God.  We have a duty to look after their physical and most importantly, their spiritual needs.

While elected officials grapple with the financial and moral questions concerning healthcare, the elderly population continues to grow. In 2010, one-sixth of the adult U.S. population was older than 65; by 2030, about one-fourth will be.  This presents a pastoral challenge for the Orthodox clergy and laity.  All too often our elderly, infirm, and dying are isolated, in some cases abandoned.  They may be found in nursing homes where no one visits them and they are unable to attend church services.  In many instances, priests are not aware of their circumstances and they are left without confession and the other salvific Mysteries of the Church.  When they repose, they may even be cremated as opposed to given a proper Orthodox burial.  This may be the result of a family’s ignorance of Church teaching or a desire to reduce the costs of a funeral.  (An Orthodox funeral does not have to be an expensive affair.  There are Orthodox resources available that substantially defray costs while at the same time remaining faithful to our spiritual traditions.)

Phronema the Lifeblood of Orthodoxy

By Bishop Thomas Joseph and Peter Schweitzer

The Greek word φρόνημα, transliterated in English as phronema is difficult to capture in a single word since it is more of a way of being in the world or a way of looking at the world.  Often, it is rendered in English as mindset or ethos.  For the purposes of this paper, we will employ the understanding of phronema as ethos.

In no Western religion is the concept of phronema present.  The concept truly has meaning only for the Orthodox Christian.  Perhaps this is because most Western religions understand themselves intellectually.  They adopt a so-called theology and employ philosophical categories to make it intelligible to their adherents and the world around them.  This is not the case for Orthodoxy.  Indeed, it would be hard to experience Orthodoxy apart from this ethos.  Since Orthodoxy is not about the intellectual pursuit of knowledge, it is thoroughly consistent that phronema can’t be grasped or recognized in a purely rationalistic pursuit.  One has to live Orthodoxy, experience it deeply, to perceive its ethos.

Keeping the Empty Tomb in our Hearts and Turning our Crosses into Victory

By Fr. Joshua Makoul

Having completed Holy Week and Pascha, we were able to experience the transition from the long, darker services of Holy Thursday and Holy Friday to the brighter and joyful services of Holy Saturday, Pascha, and Bright Week. For many, having labored through Lent and Holy Week, this transition to joy, hope, and relief is an emotional occasion and reminder of many things. Indeed, this transition that the Church has given us to experience has far more meaning for our own life than we might realize. It is a reminder that in the end, God is always triumphant and victorious. It means that in the end everything will be okay. It means that this world will never have the final say. It means that behind every cross is a potential new life waiting to be had, behind every struggle is God’s promise to wipe every tear from our eye, that behind every moment of despair or struggle is hope and joy waiting to break forth, that behind every hurt there is healing, and that behind every crucifixion we endure there is a resurrection waiting to occur.

The Fast and the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

By Bishop Thomas Joseph and Peter Schweitzer

Having celebrated the feast of feasts, the Lord’s Pascha, and Pentecost fifty days thereafter, we are about to embark upon the Apostles’ Fast, which this year begins on June 12, 2017, and ends with the commemoration of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29. 

The Apostles’ Fast is a prescribed fasting period of the Church, lasting from the day after the Sunday of All Saints to the 29th of June, the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

It is a sad truth that many neglect this particular fast for a variety of reasons inconsistent with the apostolic and patristic tradition.  Prior to reflecting upon the importance of the Apostles’ Fast, a review of the ancient history of this particular fast may help us to recognize its integral place in the life of each and every Orthodox Christian.

Bishop Thomas Offers Commencement Address, Receives Honorary Doctorate at St. Tikhon's Seminary

By Joseph Clark

During the weekend of May 26–29, 2017, the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, America’s oldest Orthodox monastic community, held its 113th Annual Pilgrimage, and St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary celebrated its 75th Annual Commencement Exercises. Five saints of the Church: St. Tikhon of Moscow, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre, St. Alexander Hotovitzky, and St. Nicholai of Zhicha, have walked the hallowed grounds of these communities, and all who visit this holy mountain are touched by the prayers of these saints.

The festivities began with the arrival of the “Hawaiian” Myrrh-Streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. Many miracles are attributed to her intercessions, and the mere presence of the holy icon brought joy to the faithful. The miraculous myrrh was so plentiful that upon entering the altar, after processing with her, His Grace Bishop Thomas’ hands were thoroughly covered, and this occurred in spite of the wooden case and velvet cover in which she is kept.

The 2017 May PhD Residency - A Resounding Success!

By Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Assistant Director
The Antiochian Orthodox Institute (TAOI)

Something special is happening in the Antiochian Archdiocese.

The 2017 May Residency of the Antiochian House of Studies PhD program proved to be a resounding success. It was hard to see how it could be otherwise, given the world-class calibre of its faculty, including Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos and Renos K. Papadopoulos. But even so, the second Intensive (Residency) of the first-ever AHOS PhD cohort managed to surpass all expectations.

No stranger to the Antiochian Archdiocese, Metropolitan Hierotheos—speaker at the Archdiocese's 2016 Clergy Symposium—immediately recognized the importance of Metropolitan Joseph's invitation to contribute to the spiritual and intellectual life of the Church in North America.

2017 Pentecost Message from Bishop Thomas

June 4, 2017
Pentecost

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

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (that is, the Holy Spirit), will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. (Jn. 16:7, 13).

On this feast of Pentecost, I greet you in the name of the thrice-holy Trinity, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Our Creator and our Savior now also becomes our Comforter! In the words of Saint Theodore the Studite:

Metropolitan Joseph Visits St. George Cathedral, Pittsburgh, PA

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, the community of St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA, with Fr. Joshua Makoul, was honored to host His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.

2017 Ascension Message from Bishop Thomas

May 25, 2017
Holy Ascension

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 Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ! As human life has been restored by the Resurrection, our true homeland on high has been established by the Lord Christ’s Ascension. As Saint Gregory Palamas writes, “Neither an angel nor a man, but the Incarnate Lord Himself came and saved us, being made like us for our sake while remaining unchanged as God. In the same way as He came down, without changing place but condescending to us, so He returns once more, without moving as God, but enthroning on high our human nature which He had assumed. It was truly right that the first begotten human nature from the dead (Rev. 1:5) should be presented there to God, as firstfruits from the first crop offered for the whole race of men.”

St. Emmelia Homeschool Conference Encourages and Refreshes Families

St. Emmelia Homeschool Conference, 2017St. Emmelia Homeschool Conference, 2017

 

 

 

 

 


Christ is risen!

The St. Emmelia Homeschool Conference 2017 was a great success; glory to God for His generosity in blessing our humble efforts! The theme was "touching heaven" and we really did touch heaven in many various ways as we came together for encouragement, equipping, and refreshment in the God-ordained task of raising His children. Please visit at our website for coming updates and a report.

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. 

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.