Academy Newsletters


June 2012 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Recently I was asked about the Academy’s interactive approach to our studies and student lessons – both students and prisoner-students. With this in mind, here is an example of our approach, using the words, thoughts, and answers of the student, to further develop and challenge him to dig even deeper than the mere words on a page. The following example comes from our two-part course on the Apostolic Fathers. The answers relate to the Mandates and Similtudes from the Shepherd of Hermas.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

May 2012 Newsletter + With the Eyes of Faith: Christ is Risen

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Through His death on the cross, the Lord makes known; 1) how reasonable it was, and 2) why our salvation could be accomplished only in this way. Even more, He invited all creation to witness this, His Banquet feast.

What was the fruit? His Apostles went forth into the world, joyfully taking the offensive, not fearing the cost of the One true faith that overcomes death and its fears. Thus, by entering into the fulness of His Baptism, death and Hades, is no longer feared, instead preferring death to denying our living faith in Him, – 1Pet. 1:7.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

March 2012 Newsletter: Great Lent

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

A Challenge to Us, As Orthodox

One of our prisoner-students, taking the advanced Academy course – Orthodox Church Year, was reading Isaiah 58, from his Bible. He wondered if this reading reflected upon Great Lent and the purpose of fasting – what we fast from, and for what reason? Here is the text he sent to the Academy.

58: 1- 9 Shout the message! Don't hold back. Say to my people Israel: You've sinned! You've turned against the LORD. Day after day, you worship him and seem eager to learn his teachings. You act like a nation that wants to do right by obeying his laws. You ask him about justice, and say you enjoy worshiping the LORD. You wonder why the LORD pays no attention when you go without eating and act humble. But on those same days that you give up eating, you think only of yourselves and abuse your workers.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

February 2012 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

My name is David, a graduate of the Academy and former prisoner. In the 60s, as a committed Evangelical Protestant Christian, I took a Gospel of John bible class as a college freshman in San Francisco. Who would know 50 years later I would be helping an Orthodox Academy build a brand new study course for prisoners on the Gospel of John. Glory be to God. This course is written from an Orthodox perspective, with research by St. Athanasius Academy, the home of the Orthodox Study Bible: Septuagint Old and New Testament. It is an in-depth, verse by verse, study of the Gospel of John, based upon the Apostles, Holy Scripture, and renown Fathers of the early Church – a true work of joy. Please help us make this available to prisoners.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

January 2012 Newsletter: Nativity Icon

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

We received this letter from one of our prisoner-students. It arrived unexpectedly and speaks to a heart filled with the Joy of the Lord and His Nativity. We thank him and the many students who found the time to send us Christmas letters and cards. Our program is helping the Lord in finding many of the lost sheep seeking His Light. Please help us as we help each other in doing the Lord’s work. Your prayers and donations are being well served.

Dear Paul and Anastasia,

The top of the icon is of gold, reminding us of the eternal glory of the Lord’s Kingdom (Luke 2:9). We also see the darkness being overcome by the inspired Light of the star pointing to His birth (Num. 24:17; Matt. 2:2). The 3 rays of light radiating from the star, speak to the One Light of the Holy Trinity, bringing enlightenment to this fallen world (John 1:5, 9). To the left, are the three Magi who followed the star to the Child (Isaiah 60:5-7; Psalm 72:10,11; Matthew 2:1-11).

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

December 2011 Newsletter: Zossima

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

My name is Zossima, a former prisoner and graduate of Saint Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (SAAOT). I did my course work under the guidance of Father Jack N. Sparks (may his memory be eternal!) and later, Paul Goetz.

In my former life, I was a member of a very conservative fundamentalist denomination who loves nothing more than to hate on catholicism and what even appeared to be Catholic, including Orthodoxy.

Having been so busy condemning others, while finding spiritual satisfaction in it, I found the perfect lazy man's excuse not to see nor even tend to my own, more serious problems – problems eventually landing me in prison.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

November 2011 Newsletter: Apostle Peter and Paul Prisoner Education Scholarship Program

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Before losing my personal freedom to the cold of prison, I was a Protestant pastor for nearly a quarter century, a child of dedicated missionary parents.

I witnessed most Protestant beliefs, coming to prison believing in Jesus alone. Half way through my time, I was introduced to orthodoxy and came to understand the Christ.

It was a conversion one might liken to St. Paul on the road to Damascus. I was knocked off my high horse, or in my case, jolted off the hard steel springs of my bed.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

October 2011 Newsletter: Seeking Partners To Help Bring The Good News

As a friend of the Academy, we need your help.

Our ministry is to bring Apostolic teachings to prisoners through our interactive study. We have studied with 1,000's of prisoners since 1992. Our program is essay-based only and demands the prisoner-student do more than read and repeat. Here are three proofs this works.

First, they meet and exceed every challenge. Why? Because we care, and much more, there is a person, Jesus, who loves and gives them hope and promise.

Second, our prisoner-students do not return to prison.

Third, they give thanks to God for being in prison, realizing only in prison could they have found Jesus, the One Lord Who came for them – His lost sheep.

To expand our out-reach, we need many partners. Please consider a monthly gift of 5, 10, or 20 dollars.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full newsletter and to download a monthly pledge card.

September 2011 Newsletter: Apostle Peter and Paul Prisoner Education Scholarship Program

As a friend of the Academy, we need your help.

The Academy brings the depth and breath of Orthodox teachings to our prisoner-students through our inter-active education-program. It was started in 1991 by Fr. Duane Pederson and Fr. Jack Sparks of the Academy, as essential to his OCPM outreach ministry. They understood the importance of an education-based study program to bring the fulness of the faith to prisoners. We have continued this vision for twenty years.

Our program is not true/false or fill in the blank. They are essay and we demand the prisoners commitment to the study. They have accepted the challenge, and exceed every expectations. For them, we offer not just a grade or letter, but more – detailed comments and questions to further challenge and expand their thinking and love of the Lord.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

August 2011 Newsletter: Why Moses? Why Elijah?

Jesus called three of His disciples – Peter, James and John – to Mount Tabor where He was Transfigured with Moses and Elijah present. Again, as at His Baptism, the voice of the Father confirms our Lord, clothed in our human nature, to be His beloved Son – “This is My beloved Son, hear Him!” Our Lord is with us and we may see His face.

MOSES: As part of worship, we read Exodus 24 & 33 (OSB Septuagint), where Moses is called to meet the Lord on the Mountain. Here Moses received the tablets of stone, and the law, and the commandments, written by Him. Here, Moses witnesses the glory of God to be like a devouring fire, and spoke with Him in true friendship. The Lord promises Moses to be with him and all people, as "The Lord God, compassionate, merciful, longsuffering, abounding in mercy, and true, preserving righteousness and mercy unto thousands...” the spirit of the Law. Yet, Moses was unable to look upon Him.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

July 2011 Newsletter: Love Of Our Neighbor - Love Of Our Holy Church

As we approach the heat of summer, when nerves and patience are tested, let us live and remain in the words of St. Paul. Let the spirit of Christ and His Law love, guide us in our relationship with our neighbor and those in our Church. For it is through our fellowship with Him, and His Grace, we find His mercy, compassion, and forgiveness we seek and need. And with this spirit, we find brotherly fellowship with one another.

What follows are Academy study notes for Romans 13: 8-10. The depth of this love beckons us to live our lives in the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Let us leave behind earthly fears and cares, seeking instead the guiding spirit of Sts. Athanasius, Ignatius, Chrysostom, and St. John of Damascus: The Spirit of Grace and Truth.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

June 2011 Newsletter: The Holy Spirit - Annunciation - Pentecost

Concerning the Manner of the Lord's Conception
(OSB Translation & Comments: St. John Damascus)

The angel of the Lord was sent to the holy Virgin, a descendent of David, a house fallen and disgraced. And bearing glad tidings to her, he said, Hail thou highly favored, the Lord is with thee. She was concerned at his word, yet the angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God, and shalt bring forth a Son and shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins. Hence it comes that Jesus has the interpretation Savior. When she asked in her perplexity, “How can this be, seeing I know not a man?”, the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also, the holy thing who shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. She responded, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Thy word."

After the assent of the holy Virgin, the Holy Spirit descended on her, according to the word of the Lord which the angel spoke, purifying her, and granting her power to receive the divinity of the Word, and likewise power to bring forth. And then was she overshadowed by the enhypostatic Wisdom and Power of the most high God, the Son of God Who is of like essence with the Father as of Divine seed, and from her holy and most pure blood He formed flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, the first-fruits of our compound nature: not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklet.

May 2011 Newsletter: An Invitation to Study with the Academy

The response to our April newsletter was most pleasing, along with the numerous requests to know more about this man of great faith – St. Athanasius the Great.

With this in mind, the Academy wants to invite you to take advantage of a special offer for this summer. For a donation to help defer the costs of our Prisoner Education Project - Scholarship Program, we will send you as a thank-you gift, LESSON I of our correspondence course: CHST 400: The Incarnation – a study of the work written by St. Athanasius concerning the Incarnation of Christ.

Lesson One puts focus on his early life and days as a Bishop as well as the theological significance of St. Athanasius and his work. If you choose to continue, Lesson 2 - 10 are a careful study of his book On the Incarnation, moving from the Fall and its dilemma, to our desperate need of His Incarnation - life, death, and resurrection. You will also study the refutations of the other wrong teachings held by Jew and Gentile, concerning Jesus as the Christ. The course opens with CS Lewis and closes with a discussion of the great and holy things we gain through Jesus, our Christ.

See the attached PDF files to read more and to order Lesson One.

April 2011 Newsletter: Celebrating Pascha with St. Athanasius

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Throughout Church history, God raises up men to defend her from heresies attempting to compromise the divine person Jesus, and His saving Grace. They do so by trying to confuse and reduce the two distinct natures of Christ, thus making Him less than fully God, fully man.

St. Athanasius became one of those great defenders. In particular, against the mother of all heresies – Arianism and its chief author, Arius. Arius denied the divinity of Christ, claiming there was a time Jesus was not, making Jesus a created being and our hope of salvation null and void.

As archdeacon to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, and barely in his early twenties, Athanasius successfully answered this false teaching at the great Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) based on his two-part work, Against the Heathen and The Incarnation of the Word of God. As it turned out, his role would not be forgotten by the defenders this horrific heresy, for after becoming bishop of Alexandria, he became the focus of their raging anger, being exiled several times.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklet.

March 2011 Newsletter: Death and Eternal Life

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

CHAPTER 23 presents the beginnings of a Christian philosophy of death and our hope in Christ, Jesus. It is most appropriate for the upcoming Season as we approach the Lord’s death and Resurrection, and its meaning to us as seen in the Book of Genesis – OSB Septuagint Old Testament and New Testament. For among other things, philosophy is a study of death and the hope. And just as life is twofold, so death is likewise.

1) Life is both natural and voluntary. It is natural in the sense of satisfying the blameless passions, for example, those of hunger, thirst and sleep; it is voluntary in the sense of clinging lovingly to this present life.

2) Death, likewise, is both natural and voluntary. It is natural when the soul is separated from the body; it is voluntary when one disdains this present life and aspires to the world to come. For as the Nicene Creed says, "I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklet.