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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + December 7, 2016

II Thessalonians 2:1-12
Luke 8:16-21

II Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NKJV)
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

2016 Nativity Message from Bishop Basil

The Nativity of Christ 2016

To the Right Reverend Archimandrites, the Very Reverend and Reverend Priests and Deacons and their families, the Venerable Monastics, and all the Christ-loving Faithful of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America:

God is with us! God is on earth, God is among us, not now as Lawgiver – for there is no fire, trumpet blast, smoke-wreathed mountain, dense cloud, or storm to terrify whoever hears him – but as one gently and kindly conversing in a human body with his fellow men. God is in the flesh. Now he is not acting intermittently as he did through the prophets. He is bringing back to himself the whole human race, which he has taken possession of and united to himself. By his flesh he has made the human race his own kin, for God is with us!
− St. Basil the Great, Homily 2 on the Birth of the Lord

I send to each of you my paternal love, festal greetings and prayerful best wishes for the merriest of Christmases and a healthy and happy 2017.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

+Bishop Basil
Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America

2016 Nativity Message from Bishop Thomas

NATIVITY OF CHRIST 2016

"The Word became flesh:" in this is the ultimate joy of the Christian faith. In this is the fullness of revelation. The same incarnate Lord is both perfect God and perfect man. The full significance and the ultimate purpose of human existence is revealed and realized in and through the Incarnation. He came down from Heaven to redeem the earth, to unite man with God for ever. "And became man." The new age has been initiated. We count now the"anni Domini [years of the Lord]!" As St. Irenaeus wrote: "the Son of God became the Son of Man, that man also might become the son of God." Not only is the original fullness of human nature restored or re-established in the Incarnation. Not only does human nature return to its once lost communion with God. The Incarnation is also the new revelation, the new and further step. The first Adam was a living soul. But the last Adam is the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).
– Protopresbyter Georges V. Florovsky, Incarnation and Redemption

Although with the Annunciation we have the moment of the Incarnation itself, the public appearance on this earth of the Lord of Heaven at His Nativity is celebrated most festively in December as the beginning of the story of our salvation. And it is right that we should celebrate. Can there be anything, other than the divine moment of Pascha, which should bring us more joy than the coming of our God?

December 2016 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

In the Spirit of the Lord's Nativity, please remember our prisoner-students.
Let them know we care, as we seek His Voice of Wisdom. (Mat. 25:34-40)

The Nativity of the I AM
The One named Jesus, the One called the Christ,
The Child and the Emmanuel

Academy Study Notes from the Gospel of John 4: 26 where: Jesus said to her, "I who speaks to you, am He." (I AM the One)

1. Time was now deemed appropriate for the Word of the Lord to reveal Himself to Photini - the woman at the well. He literally said to her, "I AM", for the pronoun "He" does not appear in the Greek, nor is it complete. The "He" is inserted to not confuse the reader. Yet more, the term "He" does not capture the fulness of the "I AM". "I AM" helps remind us of when Moses asked the Lord, Who shall I say sent me. The Lord did not simple say "I", but with greater significant, tells the children of Israel, "I AM", The One-Who-Is", sent me, or "I AM the I AM", sent me, or "The-One-Who-Is", sent me." Bottom line: It was the pre-incarnate One – Jesus Christ – the Anointed Son of His eternal Father, Who spoke to Moses.

2. Jesus, being the Christ, is the Word of the Lord. He is the promised One - the Messiah, the One known to the Jews. He became Incarnate through the womb of Mary, and though always the One divine Person, He is given the personal name Jesus. Why? Because He is and remains, as always, the Deliver – the One Who shall deliver as He promised and promises.

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

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + November 30, 2016

I Thessalonians 4:1-12
Luke 20:1-8

I Thessalonians 4:1-12 (NKJV) -

Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

Resources for Parents + December 2016

While there is an abundance of resources for Orthodox Christian Parents on the internet, here are a few that have been featured on our facebook page recently. These resources will help you explore the lives of saints with your children.

To follow our facebook page, visit www.facebook.com/orthodoxchristianparenting.

The Orthodox Church in America Department of Christian Education offers these (free!) printable activity books that will help your family learn about saints (and the animals that served them; those commemorated in the Litiya prayers; those that can help in times of trouble; and those from North America) through stories and related activities.

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Online Shopping Rewards Program

The Archdiocese Board with the support of the Bishops and endorsement from Metropolitan Joseph are extremely excited to announce the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Rewards Program. This is an online shopping rewards program connecting individuals and their businesses to their favorite retailers. It also provides the ability to order gift cards from a large selection through the Gift Card Mall including Visa, American Express, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Itunes, restaurants, department stores and more.

Program Overview

  • What is it? A free Antiochian Orthodox online shopping rewards program connecting you to your favorite retailers, as well as the ability to order from the Gift Card Mall which includes vendors such as Visa, American Express, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Itunes, restaurants, department stores, and many more.
  • Why join? Program creates an automatic monetary contribution back to the church which will help fund your individual parish and contribute to the clergy retirement fund.

How Do I Sign Up?

  • Go online to antiochian.org/rewardsprogram and register with your email. Remember to visit the site prior to making online purchases to enable a contribution to your ministry, and discover savings offers.
  • .....and optionally.... Install the "Support Button" on your Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer browser to automatically support our ministry every time you shop on an approved site you will see this small cross appear.

November 30, 2016 + The Knowability of God

by St. John Damascene

"Now, one who would speak or hear about God should know beyond any doubt that in what concerns theology and the Dispensation [the term commonly used for the Incarnation by the Greek Fathers] not all things are inexpressible and not all are capable of expression, and neither are all things unknowable nor are they all knowable. That which can be known is one thing, whereas that which can be said is another, just as it is one thing to speak and another to know. Furthermore, many of those things about God which are not clearly perceived cannot be fittingly described, so that we are obliged to express in human terms things which transcend the human order. Thus, for example, in speaking about God we attribute to Him sleep, anger, indifference, hands and feet, and the alike.

November 23, 2016 + The Spotless and Holy Virgin

by St. Gregory Palamas

Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation. He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips" (Is. 53: 9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51: 5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.

God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin. She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word" (Lk. 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.

The Entrance of the Theotokos + November 21

Today is the prelude of God's goodwill and the prophecy of the salvation of men. The Virgin appears openly in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. So let us cry to her with loud voices: Rejoice, thou who art the fulfillment of the Creator's providence.

+Troparion of the Feast, Tone 4

Today in the Holy Orthodox Church we celebrate the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Leading the procession into the Temple were virgins with lighted tapers in their hands, then the three-year-old Most-holy Virgin, led by her father and mother. The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the “King’s daughter, the Bride of God” (Psalm 44:13-15).

On The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos

On Nov. 21 (or Dec. 4) we celebrate the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. This feast celebrates the day when the Theotokos, still a child, went to the Temple. The background story to this event is pretty important:

Joachim and Anna were devout Jews who loved God very much. They lived on only a third of their income, tithing and giving away the rest. Yet they had no child. They promised God that they would give their child back to Him, if He would grant them one, and He blessed them with the gift of their daughter Mary.

Saints of Recent Decades: St. Maria of Paris

Commemorated July 20 or August 2

In 1891, in Riga, Latvia, a baby girl named Elizabeta (“Liza,” to her family) was born to the Pilenko family. The Pilenkos were Orthodox Christians, and raised Liza in the faith. When she was 14, Liza’s father died, and Liza was so upset that she gave up her Faith. When the family moved to St. Petersburg, instead of going to church, Liza began to hang out with radical people who, like her, liked to read and wanted to make the world better. They would spend hours talking about revolution and about theology, but (in Liza’s words) they “seemed to do nothing but talk.” She wanted to actually DO something to make a change. Years passed, and Liza slowly came back to her faith.

Saints of Recent Decades: St. Maria of Paris (July 20 or August 2)

In 1891, in Riga, Latvia, a baby girl named Elizabeta ("Liza," to her family) was born to the Pilenko family. The Pilenkos were Orthodox Christians, and raised Liza in the faith. When she was 14, Liza's father died, and Liza was so upset that she gave up her Faith. When the family moved to St. Petersburg, instead of going to church, Liza began to hang out with radical people who, like her, liked to read and wanted to make the world better. They would spend hours talking about revolution and about theology, but (in Liza's words) they "seemed to do nothing but talk." She wanted to actually DO something to make a change. Years passed, and Liza slowly came back to her faith. 

When she was only 18, Liza got married. Three years later, she left her husband and moved back to the house where she grew up. While she was there, she gave birth to her daughter Gaiana. Three years after Gaiana's birth, Liza was accepted as a student at the Theological Academy of The Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg. She was the very first woman to study there! For a while in 1918, Liza was the mayor of her town. This was during the time that the Bolsheviks were taking over Russia, and she was accused of being part of their Red Army. She was arrested and taken to trial. Her judge, Daniel Skobstova, said she was innocent, and he had her released instead of executed. After she was free, she went to find him to thank him. They quickly became friends and were married only a few days later!

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + November 16, 2016

Colossians 3:17-4:1
Luke 15:1-10

Colossians 3:17-4:1 (NKJV)
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye service, as men pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Photios Beekman Ordained to Deaconate

His Grace Bishop Basil writes:

WORTHY! Photios Beekman of St. Anthony Church in Spring, Texas was ordained to the holy diaconate on Sunday, November 13th, 2016 and is assigned to that parish.

 

 

Fr. Richard Petranek Elevated to Archpriest

His Grace Bishop Basil writes:

WORTHY! Fr.  Richard Petranek of St. Paul Church in Katy, Texas was elevated to the rank and dignity of Archpriest on Sunday, November 6th, 2016.

 

Nativity Fast Begins on November 15

November 15 is the beginning of the Nativity Fast, one of the four Canonical Fasting Seasons in the Church year. This is a joyous fast in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ.

In the weeks between now and December 25, Orthodox Christians prepare themselves to celebrate the birth in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we begin the fast, we encourage both believing Orthodox and inquirers to review the reflections and resources in our special Nativity section.

For additional general resources on the Orthodox Christian tradition of feasting and fasting, visit the Feasts and Fasts section of Discover Orthodox Christianity.

November 16, 2016 + On Understanding the Divine Services

by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, 1749-1809

[B]eware, brethren, the thought which the devil implants in some and which says: "you are unlettered and unlearned and do not understand what is said in church and so why do you submit to the Church in all things?" You are answered, brethren, by an abba in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, who tells you: "It may be that you do not understand what is said in church, but the devil does and quakes and fears and flees. I mean that you, too, even if you do not understand all the words spoken in church, you will understand a lot of them and benefit from them". And I would add this: if you go often to church and hear divine words, the continuation of this is that, in time, you will understand what you – earlier – did not, as Chrysostom says, because God, seeing your willingness, will open your mind and illumine you to understand.

November 9, 2016 + On How Grace Operates in the Mysteries

by St. Nicholas Cabasilas

The Holy Spirit grants to those who partake of the sacred offerings the remission of sins of their sins. "Let not this grace be removed from these offerings because of my sins." There are two ways in which grace operates in the precious offerings; first, by grace they are sanctified, and secondly, by grace we are sanctified through them.

The working of grace upon the offerings — the first of which we spoke — cannot be invalidated by any human evil. Since the consecration of the offerings is not the work of human virtue, it cannot be hindered in any way by the wickedness of men.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + November 9, 2016

Colossians 1:18-23
Luke 12:48-59

Colossians 1:18-23 (NKJV)
Brethren, He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Synaxis of the Holy Archangels + November 8

Supreme Leaders of the Heavenly Hosts, we implore you that by your prayers you will encircle us, unworthy as we are, with the protection of the wings of your immaterial glory and guard us who fall down before you and fervently cry: deliver us from dangers, for you are the commanders of the powers above.

+Troparion of the Feast, Tone 4

O Archangel Michael whose countenance is like lightning, gleaming in an ineffable manner with the illuminations of the Trinity, of exceeding divine brilliancy, thou dost traverse the whole creation like lightning, fulfilling the divine command, watching over, preserving, and sheltering those who joyfully laud thee.

+Exaposteilarion of the Feast, Tone 2

Fall 2016 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Fall 2016 issue of DIAKONIA is now available online. This issue highlights the Diocese of Ottawa, Eastern Canada & Upstate New York. The issue contains:

  • Holding onto the Truth by His Grace Bishop Alexander
  • Be Heavenly as Your Father is Heavenly by Fr. Maximos Saikaly, DOECUNY-AW Spiritual Advisor
  • A message from the Diocesan President Géhane Ephtimios Zahran
  • Profiles of diocesan officers
  • Chapter reports, photos and happenings

...and more! Download (PDF) here.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + November 2, 2016

Philippians 2:24-30
Luke 11:42-46

Phillipians 2:24-30 (NKJV)
But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

Am I Any More Ready to Receive Christ Today Than Israel Was 2,000 Years Ago?

by His Grace Bishop John, from The Word Magazine, November 2016

Last week a young man came to me lamenting over not living as if Christ is resurrected and the tomb is empty. I invited him to explore with me what that "living after the Resurrection" should look like. He thought that there should be some peace, arising from a simple understanding that God has accomplished already those things that we fear and dread. We should not need to compete for God's attention or love; He has come to us!  Therefore we should live without fear.  There should be some joy, as we understand that God is with us, cares for us, and is active in our lives.  This is why He took on flesh and shared in everything that human life is, from conception to death. There should be freedom to make godly choices, because Christ is the Truth that has set us free. Filled with God, we no longer try to fill our emptiness with food, alcohol, drugs, television or anything else of the world. We have life-giving food from above.

November 2016 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Please remember our prisoner-students. Let them know we care.
They grow with us, but we need your special donation to help them. (Mat. 25:34-40)

We, His adopted children are being called to protect the unborn of His.

The life of the living child, yet in the womb of her mother, is filled with all potential to grow in knowing the Lord; able to leap in great joy in the presence of the Lord and His Spirit. Truly the water of the woman's womb is blessed with a special gift of Life, a relationship beyond wonder. If true, who are we, the ones of His Creation – His adopted children – to judge the worthiness of such a life and deny the purposing of His divine Grace. Let us fear Him, not the wisdom of man.

As we approach November elections, may this be our priority, remembering how blessed this nation is, even with its flaws and failings. How it is built upon the name and promise of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed Son of His eternal Father. May we remain ever vigilant of His love, filled with appreciation and the joy of His Nativity. For as our Lord and Father, He gifts us His Life and Light, as we dwell in liberty and freedom, in His Name.

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

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