With great joy the congregation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, West Virginia and its priest, Fr. Samuel Haddad, were pleased to receive His Grace Bishop Thomas for a visit to the parish on the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Pascha, May 13–15, 2011.
The busy weekend schedule got underway Friday evening when Sayidna met with the parish council. Members had the opportunity to tell His Grace about progress that St. Nicholas has made during the previous year, including the installation of a beautiful Christ Pantocrator icon written by iconographer Matthew Garrett, new carpeting for the church, and continued growth of the congregation. Parish council members also discussed the ongoing work of various parish organizations, including the Women of the Holy Myrrh Bearers. The women’s group operates a soup kitchen called Carpenter’s Corner on the first Monday of each month, offers financial support to the local crisis pregnancy center, helps gather food for a nearby food pantry, and undertakes many other charitable endeavors, seeking whenever possible to provide assistance to those in need. In addition, the Myrrh Bearers contribute substantially to the Parish Building Fund and support all these efforts through organizing and leading the parish’s annual baklava baking project.
by the Right Reverend Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D.
If we were to survey the Orthodox Christian private grammar schools that currently exist in our country, we would discover that they exist for one of two reasons. The first, and probably the more common, is that parents want a place for their children that is safe from the evil influences found in the secular schools that will also give to them an adequate academic education. Such schools do not particularly exist as Orthodox schools for the sake of Orthodoxy, but rather as safe havens, sheltering students reassuringly under the preferred religious branding.
By contrast, the other kind of Orthodox Christian school that exists in our country is dedicated to immersion in the Kingdom of God. Their purpose is not to provide a shelter from the world that happens to give a decent education, but rather it is to use education sacramentally to unite students mystically with Jesus Christ. Indeed, far from providing a shelter, we may think of such places as a barracks or as a training camp, raising up soldiers for Christ’s mystical army. Such schools have one purpose: the salvation of students and of the world. For them, education can become a mystery of the Church.
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in no wise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
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 are again drawn to contemplate and stand in awe at the holy Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man and our Savior. This year, I pray that we will not mark Pascha as a mere remembrance on the calendar, a happy annual festival that is anticipated and enjoyed but whose power does not provoke us to a radical change in ourselves, a challenge toward holiness and perfection in the Holy Trinity. Indeed, I think many times we enjoy these delightful feasts but have so “institutionalized” them within ourselves that we do not actually let them touch us.
Fundamentally, Christ’s Resurrection is a cataclysmic event. It marks not merely the beginning of a religious movement, but truly the utter reversal of history, the moment that death itself was turned back, when the ultimate catastrophe befell the powers of darkness and bright hope came again into the world. When the God-man died, as St. Basil tells us, “the Author of life could not be held by corruption.” And so He rose again! And so we can be saved from death and from all corruption.
May we ourselves be not simply emotionally moved or cheered by this Gospel; may we never be the same! If even time and history could not stand to remain as they were, how can we ever be content with a mere recollection of past events? Let us once again shout out in victory to the Conqueror of death, casting aside all of our earthly entanglements and entering with Him into that glory that will never fade.
Yours in Christ,
On March 19, 2011, His Grace Bishop Thomas visited the congregation of St. Patrick’s Western Rite Orthodox Mission in Warrenton, Virginia. Since the establishment of the mission, Sayidna Thomas has been a great encouragement, always offering his time, guidance, and love. He is a true shepherd and spiritual father of the community. After greeting and giving his blessing to a group of smiling children, Bishop Thomas prayed alongside Fr. Patrick Cardine during Solemn Vespers. In the midst of worship he spoke with ardent love about our Most Holy Mother’s betrothed husband, St. Joseph. As though recounting the life of a dear and close relative, Sayidna told the story of St. Joseph’s deep faith, humility, and trust in God. His words could not have painted more clearly the reality that our Holy Church is truly one large family. Indeed, “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses”!
The Fellowship of St. John the Divine in the Eastern Dioceses of Charleston and New York is offering college tuition scholarships for Antiochian students. Watch for the updated 2013 application form, coming soon! If you have any questions, call scholarship administrator Maria Abdalah at: 412-916-4772, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The completed form will be due June 1, 2013.
One (1) scholarship (each) of $1,500.00 and $1,000.00 will be awarded, along with four (4) scholarships of $500.00 each. The awards will be presented at the Annual Eastern Dioceses Parish Life Conference.
All scholarships are made possible by endowments created by concerned individuals from the parishes of our Eastern Dioceses and fund-raising programs held by the Fellowship of St. John the Divine.
We wish you all God’s blessings and look forward to submitting your application to the evaluation committee.
His Grace Bishop Thomas celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy at St. Mary Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on March 13, 2011. In addition to Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, His Grace also celebrated the Pan-Orthodox Vespers service. At the close of Vespers, a memorial service was held for the recently reposed Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Church.
PITTSBURGH, PA (Jan. 25, 2011)—Speaking to over 450 people at the Jan. 25 FOCUS Pittsburgh fundraising dinner, Theodora Polamalu challenged those present to put their hope and desire to help those in need into action.
Theodora and her Super Bowl-bound Pittsburgh Steelers husband, Troy Polamalu, are committed to caring for those in need. Theodora, FOCUS North America Advisory Board Member, said during her address to the crowd, “to treat every person as an icon of Christ is the foremost principle of FOCUS, the heart of its mission.”
Seeing that mission realized is what brought such a large crowd to the event, which was hosted by Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church’s Philoptochos Chapter and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Clergy Brotherhood. Through tickets sales, auction items, sponsorships and general donations, the event raised nearly $65,000 to further the good work of serving those in need.
His Grace, Bishop Thomas made his annual visit to the mission of Saint Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, DE the weekend of November 21st.
On Saturday a group of parishioners along with our Pastor, Father Boniface Black, accompanied Sayidna to the property where, God willing, our Church will be built. With appropriate prayer, a cross was planted on the land.
The Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos was celebrated with Vespers, Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Subdeacon Adrian Budica, a son of Saint Andrew and recent Masters Degree graduate of Saint Vladimir's Seminary was ordained Deacon. Archpriest Thomas Zain, Dean of the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York joined us for the weekend.
December was filled with tidings of great joy at St. George Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia. We welcomed home for the holidays His Grace, Bishop Thomas, who served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Nativity and was in attendance for several of our holiday presentations.
On December 5th, after Divine Liturgy, our teen group served their annual pancake breakfast with all the toppings. On December 6th, 8th, and 10th, the Antiochian Women/Ladies Guild, St. Ignatius, and the Young Adults held their Christmas Dinners and end of year meetings.
HARK! The voices of angels were heard on Sunday, December 12th, and fourteen members of our Junior Choir performed solos and duets of traditional Christmas carols for the congregation, after Divine Liturgy. Under the direction of our choir director, Lexie Damous, and accompanied by Michael Barnhouse, this was truly a gift of the season.