Skip to Navigation

Featured Reflections

Words of Wisdom: Reflections From Notable Antiochian Priests on Love, Faith, and Ministry

As we anticipate the start of the Lenten season in March, three of the senior statesmen in the ranks of Antiochian clergy have offered reflections for our spiritual edification: Archpriest George Shalhoub, Economos Antony Gabriel, and Archpriest Joseph Antypas.

Fr. George and Kh. Nourhad ShalhoubFr. George and Kh. Nourhad ShalhoubThe Gospel and the Orthodox Family: The Christian Meaning of Love

"As our nation celebrates the feast of love, Valentine’s Day," writes Fr. George Shalhoub, pastor of The Basilica of St. Mary, Livonia, MI, "it brings with it the measures of marketing and the things that most of us have come to believe will make the wrong right, and the right better. Valentine’s Day will be celebrated by the exchanging of love with flowers, candy, dinner or surprise trips. It has become one more thing to do because others are doing it, and many find it is easier to purchase something than act." Read more

Holy Week: An Explanation

Great Lent and Holy Week are two separate fasts, and two separate celebrations.  Great Lent ends on Friday of the fifth week (the day before Lazarus Saturday).  Holy Week begins immediately thereafter. Let's explore the meaning of each of the solemn days of Passion Week.

Lazarus Saturday:  Lazarus Saturday is the day which begins Holy Week.  It commemorates the raising of our Lord's friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days.  This act confirmed the universal resurrection from the dead that all of us will experience at our Lord's Second Coming.  This miracle led many to faith, but it also led to the chief priest's and Pharisees' decision to kill Jesus (John 11:47-57).

Palm Sunday (The Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem):  Our Lord enters Jerusalem and is proclaimed king - but in an earthly sense, as many people of His time were seeking a political Messiah.  Our Lord is King, of course, but of a different type - the eternal King prophesied by Zechariah the Prophet.  We use palms on this day to show that we too accept Jesus as the true King and Messiah of the Jews, Who we are willing to follow - even to the cross.

Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday:  The first thing that must be said about these services, and most of the other services of Holy Week, is that they are "sung" in anticipation.  Each service is rotated ahead twelve hours.  The evening service, therefore, is actually the service of the next morning, while the morning services of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday are actually the services of the coming evening.

Understanding that, let's turn to the Services of Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (celebrated Palm Sunday , Monday and Tuesday evening).  The services of these days are known as the Bridegroom or Nymphios Orthros Services.  At the first service of Palm Sunday evening, the priest carries the icon of Christ the Bridegroom in procession, and we sing the "Hymn of the Bridegroom."  We behold Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God's Kingdom.

Upward, Inward

Excerpted from “Out Of The Depths Have I Cried: Thoughts on Incarnational Theology in the Eastern Christian Experience,” by Metropolitan Philip Saliba and Fr. Joseph Allen, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1979

We are never totally aware of how God is moving in our lives, how He is active in our existence. We do know that He is there, that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We are in Him and He is in us. But we are never totally conscious of just how He is there, and what are His motivations for our lives.

The Fathers of the East have known this truth of His “incomprehensibility” and have variously expressed it, remembering that we see, as Saint Paul said, “darkly, as through a glass.” Not understanding completely, we wonder in fact if we can lure Him into doing what we want. We make a “deal”: if this happens, I will do this or that. We sometimes make our faith conditional, even though our faith must be there in spite of what happens – not because of what happens.

We try to comprehend it all rationally, with our heads, but it does not work like that. We know such things not with our heads; we know them with our hearts – we intuit, we perceive, we sense, we experience. This is dangerous, as we will see, and yet it is truly the deepest kind of knowing.

But even with this kind of knowing, God’s existence in our lives remains only partially in our awareness; the rest is out of our awareness.

Attaining the Kingdom Of Heaven

By Metropolitan Joseph

This article is adapted from a speech given by His Eminence to a Northern California Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America retreat in November, 2002.

How do we attain the Kingdom of Heaven? Where is it to be found? It is very easy for us in the Western world to view this Kingdom as something that one attains as a final destination or ending of a journey. As Orthodox Christians, we believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is Christ Himself, not a physical place or location.

It is within Christ that the Kingdom is to be experienced. For this reason, we cannot think of the Kingdom as something we are either “in” or “out” of. Through baptism and a life of repentance, we participate in the Life of Christ, and thus we participate in the Kingdom. The Kingdom is a dynamic state, wherein we grow in perfection through God’s grace. Our journey is not to the Kingdom, our journey is in the Kingdom.

As long as we are struggling to be Christlike, we are assuredly tasting of the Fountain of Immortality. When the struggle ends and the growth ceases, the Kingdom disappears. It is nowhere to be found. The moment we think we have achieved something, that we have earned our place, then we have lost the Kingdom. Our struggles are meaningless without Christ, and vice versa: without struggles, we are meaningless, because we will lose Christ.

Why Should I Pray

by Fr. Michael Keiser

The other Sunday, a friend of mine who is a pastor took an informal survey of his congregation during the homily. “How many of you struggle with your prayer life?” he asked. Every hand in this parish of nearly three hundred shot up! The priest admitted that prayer was his own greatest spiritual struggle. The fact is, practicing effective prayer is like fighting on the front lines in a war. Our greatest challenge is to pray!

This is an interesting time to be Orthodox. Our secular world provides little certainty for people’s lives, and the Orthodox faith issues an unchanging message of truth and stability. Orthodox Christianity may be the last firm footing on which to stand, yet it would be fair to say that very few Orthodox Christians are aware of the depth and richness of the Church’s spiritual tradition when it comes to personal devotion. We Orthodox are big on externals. Our liturgical worship is a drama of striking beauty and color, of scent and sound. But besides being beautiful, icons, vestments, chanting, and incense together constitute an important statement about God. He has created us as physical beings in a material world, and we approach Him using the elements of that material world. The way in which we Orthodox worship involves all of our senses and physical nature, so that we may respond to God with all of our being—our bodies as well as our minds and souls.

However, there is something else that is as essential to our spiritual growth as outward worship, and that is personal prayer. Anyone who wants to grow closer to God must develop a disciplined prayer life.

What Is Prayer?

Public worship and personal prayer are the twin support beams of the spiritual life for any believer. All our growing will take place within the framework they provide. But they are not the same thing, and they are not interchangeable.

We Are Always Going Towards Pascha

by Janice Bidwell

Great Lent came and went, and I’m still traveling toward Pascha at a steady lumbering pace. My life is a series of peaks and valleys between the seasons, but my route never varies. This rhythm is unchanging, and yet different each year.

Rising Victorious

by Frederica Mathewes-Green

Jesus is standing on the broken doors of hell. The massive portals lie crossed under his feet, a reminder of the Cross that won this triumph. He stands braced and striding, like a superhero, using his mighty outstretched arms to lift a great weight. That weight is Adam and Eve themselves, our father and mother in the fallen flesh. Jesus grasps Adam's wrist with his right hand and Eve's with his left, as he pulls them forcibly up, out of the carved marble boxes that are their graves.

On Living Lent

by Janice Bidwell

This is the time of year when I take a journey within a journey. It's an annual trip I've taken since I was a small child, and the trip varies year to year.

Lent Is a Time For Parish Renewal and Growth

Photo by Christopher Humphrey PhotographyPhoto by Christopher Humphrey PhotographyLent is not only a time for personal renewal; it is a time for parish renewal as well. The Church is reborn every time someone enters the community. This is true even when the new member comes from another Orthodox parish, or a Christian communion outside the Orthodox Church, or is baptized as an infant or adult. The community is changed to make room for the new member who will build relationships, assume responsibilities, and even need to find a place to stand and sit in the worship.

To be deliberate about our parish renewal through this transition, the Church has appointed this Lenten time of fasting and intense prayers. We rediscover our roots with our new members as we read during the weeks of Lent from the Old Testament. We rediscover our innocence as the catechumens ask questions and express delight at the Orthodox perspectives. We regain our fervor as see the community grow and see how God is active in the lives of the catechumens and in our own.

We can not take this process for granted. Not every Lent sees catechumens in every parish. Not every parishioner is even aware that the Church is growing and that God is calling people to Himself. Perhaps at some places and at some times, communities don’t grow simply because the community is on “vacation” or asleep when people come knocking on our doors, or even when they sit in our pews. This is a great tragedy and we will be held accountable for this on Judgment Day. We really need to be deliberate about being ready to witness and care for those whom God is calling. Some prospective members are walking into our Churches unnoticed; others are working and playing with us all day long, waiting for our invitation to share in the life God has prepared for all. If this is too abstract, let me be more concrete:

Invincible

By Molly Sabourin

"So, what's so special about Lazarus Saturday?" asked my kids, meaning: "So why do we have to go Liturgy twice this weekend?" It's a legitimate question. One should know these things as an Orthodox Christian.