Academy Newsletters


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.

February 2011 Newsletter: Born Again to Eternal Life

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

As we gain momentum – moving from the Baptism of our Lord in the River Jordan, to His coming Pascha – it is often helpful to be mindful of the Lord’s Words. This is especially true as they relate to His Incarnation and our salvation. They are critical in our gaining a deeper understanding of what it means for us, through Him and in the Holy Spirit, to be “born again to eternal life”. In this, we more clearly see how His Baptism is our Baptism, and how His Resurrection points us toward the promise of our resurrection and hope of eternal life. This month’s booklet – GOSPEL OF JOHN: Chapter 5 – With Study Notes – is a good starting point, offering a helpful perspective for the upcoming Great Lent. Below is a small sample.

5:24 Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life, and he shall not come into judgment, but passes from death into life.

1. The Jews were very angry at Jesus and wanted to kill Him, for He violated the Sabbath Day by healing the paralyzed man and by telling him to take up his bed and walk. Therefore Jesus tried to defuse the situation and calm their anger in an attempt to save them.

2. To accomplish these ends, He would vary His teaching – sometimes He would say high things and sometimes low things. He would say low things so as to calm down His opponents, and also to teach us humility. He would say high things, so as to lift up His opponents (and us as well) to the true faith.

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

January 2011 Newsletter: To Be Born Again

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

This month’s letter is from our study booklet on the Book of Romans, Chapter 8. It contains detailed Study Notes reflecting the teachings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius. Considering the significance of this Season – and the promise of salvation given to all by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – it seems worthy to seek out the deep richness of His gift. Below is a small taste of what is presented in this booklet (v. 1-3). Our hope is to inspire your interest in this booklet, as we contemplate Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan, developed further in the Orthodox Study Bible: Septuagint Old and New Testaments. It encourages faith and purpose for His Baptism.

8:1 Now therefore, there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ freed me from the law of sin and death.

1. Christ not only freed us from our former sins, as emphasized in previous chapters, but also He made us unconquerable in relation to future ones. For the words, Now therefore, established the transition to this future reality, which is explained in this chapter. Thus he says, There is no
condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. So in Baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to assist us to walk in such a reality.

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

December 2010 Newsletter: Upon the High and Spiritual Thrones

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

As I write, we approach a day most familiar - CHRISTMAS. And yet, if we meditate upon the meaning of the wondrous joy welling up inside, we also find a sense of unanswered mystery. As we anticipate the coming celebration of the birth of our Lord God and Savior, it is hard not to wonder how we can adequately celebrate His birth.

It is strange and beyond comprehension. Yet, real and very physical. He, the Pantocrator, choose to be born to a family of little honor, unbeknown and no wealth, with an earthly step-father. Yet, it is the beginning of His Promised Incarnation - the anticipated age of the ages. This babe in the manger is the very power of the Promise of our renewed beginning – a redeeming of our lost relationship with Him and a reopening of Paradise to those made in His likeness and image.

See the attached PDF file for this month's full teaching.

November 2010 Newsletter: Prisoner Education Scholarship Project - Reaching the Forgotten of Christ Through Almsgiving

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

We need your prayers and gifts to help and aid our Prisoner Education - Scholarship Project. There is indeed no adequate way to measure the good being done by this program for prisoner-students. Even so, it is amazing to see people who never before gave serious thought to putting their lives in the care of God, now spending hours writing about it at length.

Here are men and women, incarcerated for many years – some for life – who complete lesson after lesson, course after course, and begin to confide in us their deepest thoughts and sense of repentance. Most wonderful, they come to understand their need be to near to God, desiring His Will not their own.

See the attached PDF file for this month's full teaching.

October 2010 Newsletter: The Seed of Sarah and Abraham

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Their faith was in the promise of the pre-incarnate Son of God, the fulfillment of the Seed of promise and the One true faith, being gifted to every generation – Jew and Gentile.

Some say three great nations emerged from the lineage of Abraham: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. For many this idea brings confusion, even doubt, bringing such questions as: Is this true? Was the Lord’s promise to Abraham and Sarah – speak to a faith in Him alone, or to ancestral bloodlines? What does Scripture tell us?

See the attached PDF file for this month's full teaching.