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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + May 18, 2016

Acts 8:26-39
John 6:40-44

Acts 8:2 6-39 (NKJV) 
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethi-opia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot." So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth." So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

On Helping Children to Participate in the Divine Liturgy

We attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday and sometimes during the week as well. Admittedly, there are times when it may seem like a long service to us adults, and it is certainly even more so to our children, for whom time feels different. Depending on the child, their age, and their ability to understand what is going on, the Liturgy can seem a daunting service. Getting beyond merely attending (being present) to truly ATTENDING (paying attention and participating) is not easy for any of us, especially for children.

Some have translated the words 'Divine Liturgy' as "the work of the people." Perhaps a better translation is "the offering of the people for the whole world." Either way, it is the people who do the work or the offering. The Orthodox Church considers all of its members, including children, to be an important part of the Church's life. Therefore it follows that even the children are needed to do this work/give this offering. So, if it is important that every member of the parish participate in this work/offering, but if it is a challenge even for adults to be fully present and engaged, what can be done to help the children? This blog post will offer a few suggestions, as well as links full of even more ideas of ways that all adults in a parish can help the children of their parish to participate in the Divine Liturgy. Regardless of our status as adults: whether we are parents, godparents, Sunday Church School teachers, or any other adult in a parish, we share the responsibility for helping to raise the children who are a part of our parish.

Rather than focus on the things children should NOT do during the Divine Liturgy, we will frame this blog post more positively. Here are things that children CAN AND SHOULD do during the Liturgy to participate more fully. (I will include a few personal anecdotes as well, to serve as illustrations for some of the ideas.) Children in our parishes can:

Metropolitan Joseph Celebrates Liturgy at Balamand Monastery

On Sunday May 15, 2016, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph presided over a Divine Liturgy in Our Lady of Balamand Patriarchal Monastery in Lebanon. Also present was His Eminence Metropolitan Antonio Chedraoui Tannous, Archbishop of Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean. 

Memory Eternal! + Fr. Theodore Mikovich

On May 5th, 2016 the Very Rev. Archpriest Theodore J. Mikovich, formerly of St. Paul Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, reposed in the Lord. May his memory be eternal!

From the St. Paul Church website:

The Very Rev. Archpriest Theodore J. Mikovich (affectionately known as “Fr. Ted”) was born on September 18, 1945, to Orthodox parents, John and Anna (Goida) Mikovich in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, with two sisters, Helen (Berezniak) and Dorothy (Macenka). He was baptized by the Rev. John Zeliniak in St. John’s American Russian Orthodox Church (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese) in Nesquehoning. It was in this church that as a young boy he served as an acolyte. It was also at St. John’s that he began a life long career in teaching when he became a student religious education teacher. There he received the Boy Scouts of America “God and Country” Award, known in the Orthodox Church as the Alpha Omega Award.

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + May 11, 2016

Acts 4:23-31
John 5:24-30

Acts 4:23-31(NKJV)
And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ.' For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Announcing the 2016 Western Rite Vicariate Conference

August 9 -12, 2016 
St. Patrick Orthodox Church,
 Bealeton, Virginia
westernriteconference2016.wordpress.com

Registration Form (PDF)
Hotel Information (PDF)

The biennial conference of the Western Rite Vicariate will be held Tuesday, August 9 through Friday, August 12, 2016 at St. Patrick Orthodox Church in Bealeton, Virginia.

The theme for this year's conference will be based on these words from the Canon of the Mass:

"Remember, O Lord, ... all here present, whose faith and devotion are known and manifest unto thee: for whom we offer, or who them­selves offer to thee, this sacrifice of praise."

Presentations will focus on participating in and assisting at the Mass.

Bishop John (Abdalah), Vicar Bishop for the Western Rite Vicariate, will preside at all liturgical services, and will be one of the presenters. He will also address the clergy and laity on various Vicariate matters. Other presenters will include the V. Rev. Michael Keiser, the V. Rev. John Mangels, the V. Rev. John W. Fenton, and V. Rev. Edward Hughes, Vicar General for the Vicariate.

Thomas Sunday

Today the fragrance of spring is shed forth, and the new creation shall rejoice. Today the locks shall be lifted from the doors with the faithlessness of the beloved Thomas, as he shouteth out, Thou art my Lord and my God.

-Orthros of the Feast

On the second Sunday of Pascha, we inaugurate the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, and the occasion whereon the Holy Apostle Thomas touched the Savior’s side.

Read a reflection by Fr. Joshua Makoul, "Keeping the Empty Tomb in our Hearts and Turning our Crosses into Victory"

Miracle of Holy Fire Received in Taybeh

by Maria C. Khoury, Ed.D.

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

We are sending you sincere greetings from the sacred land of our Lord's Resurrection on this most joyous Holy Saturday where the Miracle of the Holy Fire was received from the Holy-Life-Giving-Tomb-of-Christ in Jerusalem by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch His Beatitude Theophilos III.

We prayerfully and anxiously waited until 5:30 pm to receive the Miracle of the Holy Fire in our small Christian village of Taybeh while the whole time it was carried by the altar boys and scouts (boys & girls) in a beautiful procession from Jerusalem to the city of Ramallah and Bethlehem where surrounding Christian communities went with their own church leadership and scouts to receive the flame and place on their altar table for the Midnight Holy Resurrection Service. This is such a beautiful ancient tradition and brilliantly celebrated ceremony but Palestinians do not have the freedom of movement to get into Jerusalem without permits thus "making lemonade out of lemons" more than 14 scouts groups (Christian & Muslim) were in Ramallah anxiously waiting for this special moment where the Holy Fire passed via Israeli military checkpoints, to come to the other side of the "Apartheid Wall" reaching the faithful. May the True Light of Christ reach your hearts instantly.

May 25, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 3

by St. Justin Popovich
(...continued from Part 2)

By conquering the sin within him through Christ, a man conquers death. If a single day passes and you have not yet conquered at least one of your sins, realize that you have become all the more mortal. If, however, you have overcome one, two, or three of your sins, you have become more greatly renewed in that newness that does not age: immortality and eternity. Let us never forget that, for one to believe in Christ, this means that he must struggle ceaselessly against sin, evil, and death.

A man demonstrates that he truly believes in the Resurrected Lord by his struggle against the passions and against sin; and if he so struggles, he must know that he struggles for immortality and for eternal life. If he does not struggle, then his faith is in vain. For, if a man's faith is not a struggle for immortality and eternity, then what is it? If by faith in Christ one does not attain to immortality and victory over death, then to what end our faith? If Christ is not resurrected, this means that sin and death have not been conquered. And if these two things have not been overcome, then why should anyone believe in Christ? He who, through faith in the Resurrection of Christ, struggles against his every sin, however, has profound reinforcement within himself of a sense that Christ is in fact resurrected, that He has in fact removed the sting of death, that He has in fact conquered death on all fronts of battle.

May 18, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 2

by St. Justin Popovich
(...continued from Part 1)

By the grace of the resurrection of Christ, by the grace of His conquest over death, men became, are now becoming, and will in the future become Christians. All of Christian history is nothing other than that of one singular miracle, the miracle of the Resurrection of Christ, which is eternally contained within the hearts of Christians from day to day, from year to year, and from age to age, until the Second Coming.

Man is truly born, not when he is brought into the world by his mother, but when he comes to believe in the Resurrected Savior, Christ; for then he is born into immortality and eternal life, while the mother brings a child only into death, to the grave. The Resurrection of Christ is the mother of all of us, all of us Christians — the mother of all who are deathless. By his faith in the Resurrection of Christ, man is born anew, born into eternity.

May 11, 2016 + "Condemned" to Be Immortal: Part 1

by St. Justin Popovich

Men have condemned God to death; God, however, has by His Resurrection "sentenced" men to immortality. In return for their buffets, He offers embraces; for their insults, blessings; for death, immortality. Never have men shown such enmity for God as when they crucified Him; and never has God shown such love for men as He did in resurrecting. Men wish to render God mortal, but God by His Resurrection designed to make men immortal. The crucified God resurrected and overcame death. Death is no more. Immortality has overtaken man and the whole of his world.

Through the Resurrection of the God-Man, the nature of man has been led irrevocably to the path of immortality, and death has thus become fearful. For, before the Resurrection of Christ, death was something feared by man; but after the Resurrection of the Lord, man has become something fearful for death. If a man lives in Faith within the Resurrected God-Man, he lives above death. He stands impregnable by death. Death is transformed into a "footstool beneath his feet": "O death, where is thy victory? O Hades, where is thy sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55). Therefore, when a man in Christ breathes his last, he sheds only the shell of his body, to be clothed with it once again on the day of the Second Coming.

A Handful of Helpful Books for Children

At the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education, we are always on the lookout for great resources for parents. Whenever we discover some that will be beneficial, we do our best to pass them on to you! This week's blog is about a handful of books that have come to our attention recently. They are written for children at a variety of ages. We hope that you find them helpful. We also hope to periodically offer you more "handfuls" of books that come our way!

For the youngest children among us, we have found the board book called What Do You See at Liturgy? by Kristina Kallas-Tartara. This brightly-colored board book is filled with pictures of what a child will see when they go to the Divine Liturgy. The text is simple, with a delightful rhyming pattern. The photos are basic, featuring only the item being discussed on a white background, but the colorful photos are crisp and engaging. This book is the perfect size for little hands, and offers us an opportunity to help our wee ones enter into the service when their attention needs to be redirected. To learn more about this book, and/or to purchase it for a little one in your life, visit the author's Etsy store.

Photos from Metropolitan Joseph's Pascha Celebration

On April 30 and May 1, 2016, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph presided over the Paschal Services at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York. Concelebrating with him were Cathedral Dean, the Very Rev. Thomas Zain; the Rev. Adrian Budica; and Deacon Andre El Hajj.

May 2016 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Please remember our prisoner-students. Let them know we care. (Mat. 25:34-40)

JESUS CHRIST - THE ANOINTED ONE
THE "I AM" OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

As we contemplate and participate in the joyful wonder of the Pascal Season, let's further develop the many ways in which Scripture helps us to better grasp Who this Jesus is and what it means for Him to be the incarnate "I AM", the Anointed Son of His eternal Father. This will help us better appreciate, with continual thankfulness, the profound and incomprehensible love He has for each of us and our salvation.

If someone were to ask, "Who is this Jesus?" We might offer, He is the promised One - the Anointed of His Father - born from a Virgin, being both the Child and the Immanuel. Then they might ask, How do I know and why do I care?

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

May 4, 2016 + On Obedience for Our Sakes

by St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

For even though He was God, yet He fulfilled obedience in the flesh and according to the flesh and prevailed over the will of the flesh by the will of the Godhead, as He had said beforehand, 'I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of the Father Who sent Me, calling that of the flesh His own will, since the flesh had become His own.

It was necessary for the will of the flesh to be moved and yet subjected to the divine will, and so human disobedience is forgiven as a result of this extraordinary obedience, that of Christ for our sake.

Vocations Day for East Coast Teens and Young Adults + May 14

from OCA.org:

“Exploring Ministry: A Day in NYC to Discover How You Can Serve the Church” will be the focus of a gathering for Orthodox Christian teens and young adults interested in exploring the many opportunities available to serve the Church at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, 59 East Second Street, New York, NY on Saturday, May 14, 2016.

Sponsored by the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of New York and New Jersey and funded by a grant from the Forum for Theological Education, the day will begin at 10:00 a.m. with prayers and opening remarks by His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, followed by a panel discussion and question-and-answer session on vocations.  Panelists who will share their stories and field questions include men and women currently serving the Church in a variety of ways as hospital and military chaplains, parish priests, deacons, choir directors, and theology professors.

Great and Holy Wednesday

The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, O Lord, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. "Woe is me," she said, "for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the love of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline ot the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine inneffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my head, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgements, O Savior of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure."

Tone 8, by Kassiani the Nun

Palm Sunday + The Entrance of Our Lord Jesus Christ Into Jerusalem

O Christ God, when before thy voluntary sufferings Thou didst explain to all the confirmation of universal resurrection; Thou didst raise Lazarus in Bethany by thine exalted might, after he had been dead for four days. And to the blind Thou didst give sight; for Thou art the Giver of light, O Savior. Thou didst also enter the city with thy Disciples, sitting on an ass, fulfilling the preaching of the Prophets, as though riding upon the cherubim, and the Hebrew youths received Thee with palms and branches. Wherefore, we also carry olive branches and palms, crying out to Thee in gratitude, Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he that cometh In the Name of the Lord.

- Orthros of the Feast

For more Holy Week reflections and resources, see our section here. And for more material dedicated to the pinnacle of the liturgical year, visit our Pascha section.

The 2016 Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church: Implications for Unity

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Spring 20161

There are many serious challenges to the unity of the Churches, ecclesial communities and confessions and religious groups in today's world. Among these are: secularization, religious pluralism, fundamentalism and ethnophyletism. If the Orthodox Churches one of the Apostolic Churches tracing their succession to Christ Himself, in agreement on faith and morals can achieve agreement on approaching these issues confronting her today, God willing, this will be a witness and model for other Churches and religious communities to do the same. This would be a step toward healing the division among the Churches and communities.

Just such a witness was described in the document issued in January 2016 in Chambésy , Switzerland, by the Synaxis of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in preparation for the Holy and Great Council that is to be held on the Greek island of Crete during June 2016 - Pentecost as celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This had been preceded by a draft document adopted by the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council in October 2015, also in Chambésy. Many ecumenical encounters between Eastern and Western Churches have occurred leading to these events.

April 27, 2016 + Christ Was Never Forsaken by the Godhead in His Passion

by Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

… [W]e bade the simple and unthinking hearer not take the words My God, etc., in a sense as if, when Jesus was fixed upon the wood of the cross, the Omnipotence of the Father’s Deity had gone away from Him; seeing that God’s and Man’s Nature were so completely joined in Him that the union could not be destroyed by punishment nor by death. For while each substance retained its own properties, God neither held aloof from the suffering of His body nor was made passible by the flesh, because the Godhead which was in the Sufferer did not actually suffer. And hence, in accordance with the Nature of the Word made Man, He Who was made in the midst of all is the same as He through Whom all things were made. He Who is arrested by the hands of wicked men is the same as He Who is bound by no limits. He Who is pierced with nails is the same as He Whom no wound can affect. Finally, He Who underwent death is the same as He Who never ceased to be eternal, so that both facts are established by indubitable signs, namely, the truth of the humiliation in Christ and the truth of the majesty; because Divine power joined itself to human frailty to this end, that God, while making what was ours His, might at the same time make what was His ours. The Son, therefore, was not separated from the Father, nor the Father from the Son; and the unchangeable Godhead and the inseparable Trinity did not admit of any division. For although the task of undergoing Incarnation belonged peculiarly to the Only-begotten Son of God, yet the Father was not separated from the Son any more than the flesh was separated from the Word.

Pascha Resources for Sunday Church School Teachers

Pascha is the Feast of Feasts! It is a time of the year like no other. That is as it should be, for it is when we celebrate the most important thing that there is to be celebrated: the resurrection of our Lord, and His trampling down death itself by His own death! Let us celebrate accordingly, and find ways that help to communicate to our Sunday Church School students how important this festal celebration is!

We have gathered a few links in case you are looking for additional ways to set this feast apart with your students. We hope that these ideas enhance what you already have planned to do, and to teach them about the celebration. May we all be granted to see His glorious Resurrection once again, and may we help our students to celebrate well alongside us. May the Light of Christ indeed illumine us all!

Holy Week Resources for Families

Holy Week is a wonderful, special week for Orthodox Christians. It is also filled with long services that can be challenging to anyone, but especially to young children. This post offers suggestions for Holy Week that can help to make Holy Week more meaningful for children of different ages. There are many ideas here. They range from ideas of ways to prepare yourself for the week to ways to help your children understand the services to crafty things you can do together.

Check out these ideas if you have time, and apply any that you wish. Please do not let these many suggestions discourage you, especially if you do not have the energy to add “one more thing” to your family’s schedule! You know your family, and what each member needs the most. So live accordingly!

Above all, let us love our Lord and each other throughout Holy Week. May we live this week together, in awe of His compassion and mercy, and in gratitude for His great gift to us. May all that we do (or do not do!) prepare us to celebrate His holy resurrection!

Christ Speaks from the Cross – A Holy Friday Retreat

by Elissa Bjeletich

Lately, I have been fascinated by the idea of Family Retreats, of events that feed the parents as much as they feed the children. Orthodoxy is a way of life, and you can teach facts and ideas in a weekly class, but to truly follow Christ we must be living as His body. Sunday School teachers can plant seeds and inspire thoughts, even inspire faith and prayer — but parents have the power to do so much more. By establishing an Orthodox home with a pattern of prayer and fasting, parents can help their children develop a healthy spiritual rhythm that they’ll carry throughout their lives.

April 20, 2016 + Remedies for Senseless Anger, Part 2

by St. Mark the Ascetic

From the time that Christ came to dwell with us, man created according to God's image and likeness is truly renewed through the grace and power of the Spirit, attaining to the perfect love which 'casts out fear' (1 John 4:18) - the love which is no longer able to fail, for 'love never fails' (1 Cor. 13:8). Love, says John, is God; and 'he who dwells in love dwells in God' (1 John 4:16). The apostles were granted this love, and so were those who practiced virtue as they did, offering themselves completely to the Lord, and following Christ with all their heart throughout their lifetime.

Fifth Sunday in Lent + St. Mary of Egypt

Thou didst sever with the sword of abstinence the snares of the soul and the passion of the body, O righteous one. And by the silence of asceticism thou didst choke the sins of thought. And by the stream of thy tears thou didst water the whole wilderness, bringing forth for us the fruits of repentance. Wherefore, we celebrate thy memory.

-Vespers of the Feast

On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt. By her example, we are reminded of the extraordinary power of repentance and God's mercy, by which even the greatest sinner may be transformed and sanctified.

Read about the life of St. Mary of Egypt
Read a reflection on St. Mary's life by Fr. Patrick Tutella
Visit our full section on Great Lent

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