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Featured Reflections

What Can We Do for God's Youth Today?

Metropolitan Philip installs SOYO officersMetropolitan Philip installs SOYO officersBy Bishop John Abdalah

From the October 2012 edition of The Word magazine

Metropolitan Philip has designated October Youth Month in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Each October we highlight the contributions, activities, and needs of our youth. This year I would like to highlight their needs.

Our youth need Jesus Christ. The need: a real relationship with Christ that will sustain them when their faith is challenged by peers, academics, change, loss and fear. Our youth need pious and holy adults willing to share honestly. Our youth need mentors who will share boldly and unashamedly the Orthodox faith delivered to us from the Apostles and preserved in the Church without alteration or adulteration. Orthodox adults, our youth need you.

Our youth need liturgy. Liturgy is the cooperative work of God and His people. It is here that we join the angelic world at God’s throne to praise Him and interact with His Word, and to be fed in the Eucharist. Liturgy by its very nature can only happen as we gather as the Church. This Church prayer does not happen at the hockey rink or golf course. It doesn’t happen watching sit-coms on television or mowing the lawn. It only happens when we gather as the Church to be the Church. It only happens around the Eucharist and around the bishop or his designee. It is essential to knowing God in the biblical sense of sharing God’s Oneness and living in Him. We who are made one with God in baptism are nurtured by God through His Church in Sunday and festal worship.

Living the Christian Life in a Secular Age

by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph

The following remarks were given by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph at the Ss. Athanasius and Cyril Symposium held at St. Andrew Orthodox Church, Riverside, CA on February 7, 2015. The Theme of the Symposium was "The City, a Desert – Living the Life of the Desert in the Midst of the World". Other speakers included Archimandrite Irenei, founder and director of the Institute, Archimandrite Gerasim, rector of St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas, TX and former abbot of St. Herman Monastery in Platina, CA, Fr. Andrew Cuneo, rector of St. Katherine Mission (OCA) in Carlsbad, CA and V. Rev. Josiah Trenham, pastor of the host parish.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Reverend fathers and deacons, beloved faithful, and you who seek for the refreshing waters in the oasis of the Church, I extend the blessing to you in the name of the Lord. We take up a powerful theme in this conference, a theme which brings us to reflect upon the relationship of our Christian faith and life in this tempestuous and dynamic world around us with the simple quiet and solitude of the desert wilderness.

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.

Message for the New Year

By Archpriest George Shalhoub

Beloved,
I greet you and your loved ones in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, Who became one of us in order for us to become one with Him.

I am fascinated by the popularity of New Year's Eve resolutions, as if our lives depend on them, and how so many people do not adhere to their resolutions. National statistics state that 90% of all resolutions will be forgotten within the first few days of the New Year.

I wish to point out the first major feast day of the New Year is January 1st, St. Basil the Great and on January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany (the appearance of God at Christ's baptism). We read in the Gospel of St. Mark that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit appeared at Jesus' baptism. (Mark 1:10-11)

In Him is our beginning and our end. And, unless we make room to receive God, as He appeared to us, everything will remain old in us. His appearance renews and transforms us, making us children of the most high God by entering into communion with Him through the mysteries of the church—the Holy Eucharist, the Blood and Body of Christ. Our faith teaches us to believe in Christ and in His Holy Church. God is timeless. Therefore, we do not wait for a new year, because God's grace is a living engine that moves us every moment, every day, every year through the rest of our lives.

The Beauty of the Church: Its Place and Purpose

By The Right Rev. Anthony Michaels, Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest

When you have your wedding photo framed and hung in your home, you put that picture in the most expensive and elaborate frame you can afford. You do not think of the cost so much as the event it preserves and the feelings experienced. In this way, and with all family pictures, something more than paper and ink and color prints are present for us. It is the sacrament of the moment that counts. Material things become the conveyer or vehicle for an invisible and spiritual reality which is far more precious to us than the expense demanded to express it. Yet, if these special times in our lives are not adorned with the beauty and expense of frames and colors we would cheapen them, turn something that for us was wonderful into a common, forgotten and ordinary thing. The beauty of the material package attracts us to the lasting value of the experience which that package holds. 

The icons we see in Church are material things: wood, paint, lamination, etc. But in them is the presence of the wonder-working saint.

Bishop Antoun Reflects on His Life in the Archdiocese, Metropolitan Philip, and Metropolitan Joseph

Bishop Antoun at the Antiochian Village LibraryBishop Antoun at the Antiochian Village LibraryThis reflection from the September, 2014 edition of The Word magazine begins with a brief introductory explanation by the Editor, Bishop John Abdalah.

We were at the Antiochian Village in July, 2014, for the Clergy Symposium, sitting in front of the portrait of Patriarch Alexander (Tahan), the Patriarch who ordained Bishop Antoun to the diaconate in 1951. Bishop Antoun began to reminisce about the late Patriarch and his ordination. Metropolitan Philip served this Patriarch as his Secretary and Deacon. Sayidna Philip found this portrait at St. John of Damascus Parish during a pastoral visit. "How important it is for us to remember those godly men who went before us, forming our spiritual lives through their witness and teachings," remarked our senior Bishop Antoun.

Sayidna Antoun has served the Archdiocese of North America for 60 years. He is part of the history of our Church, witnessing its growth and changes as a priest and bishop, as a pastor and as an administrator, as an immigrant and as an American. As we experience our transition from the leadership of Sayidna Philip to that of Sayidna Joseph, we are blessed to hear Bishop Antoun's reflections, visions and hopes.


I served as a teacher in the Orthodox School in Damascus, and later as the Principal of St. John of Damascus School in Syria. I then moved to San Paolo, Brazil, and served the Church there as a deacon before coming to the United States, where I studied at St. Vladimir's Seminary. Almost right away I was reunited by phone with my longtime friend, Metropolitan Philip, who was then a priest in Cleveland, Ohio. Because I missed my friend Fr. Philip, I went to visit him there. I had asked how long a trip Cleveland would be from New York. He told me it would be a few hours: just tell the Greyhound Bus [people] you want Cleveland and they will bring you here. The trip took overnight! I found my friend Philip waiting for me in the Church.

August 6, 2014 + The Banquet-Table of Christ

by Leontius the Presbyter of Constantinople

Christ, our generous host, has set before us again today a banquet-table worthy of veneration: a table not simply to be honored by custom, but recognized as part of our familiarity with God; a table not marked by yearning for earthly delights, but sharing in those of heaven; a table not splendid with Solomon's delicacies, but crowned by God's laws; a table not made blessed by abundance of food, but made solemn by thoughts of God. For what could be richer than Solomon's table, spreading out day by day (as is told us in the Third Book of the Kingdoms) 'thirty kors of fine wheat flour, and sixty kors of ground barley meal, and ten tender, choice calves and twenty grazing cows and a hundred sheep – to say nothing of deer and gazelles and choice birds' [see III Kingdoms 11:1-13]. But such a lavish abundance of dishes brought Solomon no benefit, nor did it lead him towards perfect virtue. Just the opposite: by leading him to indulge himself beyond measure, it led him to go mad in the end. But the table of the Lord, richly laid before us again today – a table that is immaterial, infinite, incorruptible, immortal, uncircumscribed, beyond human reckoning – directs us not only towards earthly blessings, but towards heavenly ones as well! For it does not offer us 'thirty kors of wheat flour,' but lavishes on us the kingdom of heaven, as the yeast in 'three measures of barley' [Mt. 13:33]. Nor does it set out 'sixty kors of barley,' but the bread of heaven itself; I mean that the Lord Christ rewards believers here with the gift of Himself, day after day.

July 30, 2008 + The Fast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos

clip_image002By Fr. Gabriel Barrow

From The Word, June 1977

For the first fourteen days of August during each year, the Holy Orthodox Church enters into a strict fast period in honor of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. The eminent Orthodox theologian, Father Sergei Bulgakov, beautifully expresses the high regard which the Orthodox Christians have for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, for her special role in the salvation of mankind, when he affirms, “The warm veneration of the Theotokos is the soul of Orthodox Piety.” St. John of Damascus, one of the great Orthodox fathers, pointed out that when the Blessed Virgin Mary became the Mother of God and gave birth to Christ, the Redeemer of Mankind, she became the mother of mankind. We call the Virgin Mary “Theotokos”, from the Greek, which means “The Birth-Giver or the Bearer of God.” This is the highest title that can be bestowed upon any member of the human race.

The Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, was “blessed amongst women,” and she was chosen “to bear the Savior of our souls.” We, therefore, as Orthodox Christians, consider her to be the Queen of all the saints and the angels.

Knowing that she holds such a high place in the Kingdom of Heaven and that she is eternally present at the throne of God interceding for mankind, we, as good Orthodox Christians, must pray for her love, guidance, and protection. We must never forget to ask for her intercessions in times of sickness and danger, and we must constantly thank her for her care and her prayers in our behalf.

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.

His Eminence Archbishop Joseph's Advent Message: "The Orthodox Advent Tradition"

In November, 2012, Archbishop Joseph offered the following Nativity reflections to the faithful.

Contemplating the blessings of the Advent season, at times we ponder whether we have lost our blessings to the material world in which we live. Surrounded by ostentatious displays of wealth and unhealthy indulgences, we realize that they are slowly taking the place of more appropriate preparations for the celebration of Christmas. The very foundation of the Christmas Feast is the birth of an unassuming Child born quietly, humbly. The King of Glory was born of a mother who was turned away from every house, in a cave among the animals who could not speak.

Advent is the time of our preparation to meet the Lord of Lords. Certainly, we desire to offer our best gifts to the Christ Child, but they must be gifts of substance - the gifts of prayer, repentance, forgiveness and love.