God put flesh on His Word. With this action, He revealed Himself to His world, claimed space and time as His own, and challenged His people to be who and what they were created to be. He modeled life as it is to be lived, taught in parables, touched us with healings and even showed us how to be complete in death. Christ is born, the prophecies are fulfilled, God has entered our lives and we are now challenged to respond. In glorifying Christ, we recognize Him as God, we accept His Lordship, we enter into His Priesthood, and we complete our humanity.
The Word of God praises the Father and takes care of us. This typifies the priesthood of Christ. In the Liturgy the deacon commends us to stand alert and in awe of God so that we can offer our priestly oblation in Christ (peace). With the choir, we respond in words that express Christ’s priestly mission: “a mercy of Peace, a sacrifice of praise.” We respond to God by praising God and taking care of each other. We do this as Christians sharing in Christ’s action, which is His Priesthood.
The month of December every year is designated as St. Ignatius month. We celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius on December 20, and the members of the Order recall their patron St. Ignatius during St. Ignatius Sunday. This annual celebration brings to mind the ministry of the Order that has become an integral aspect of the life of the Antiochian Archdiocese in the Western Hemisphere.
The Order invites the faithful of our Archdiocese to a special ministry and a special way of life. Christianity calls all faithful to a life of genuine personhood in Christ. This gift of life is modeled not after human or social forums and gatherings; it is founded on the life of the Triune Godhead. It is characterized by joy and a perpetual movement of love. Saint Ignatius in his letter to the Ephesians writes “Pray, then, come and join this choir, every one of you; let there be a while symphony of minds in concert; take the tone all together from God, and sing aloud to the Father with one voice through Jesus Christ, so that He may hear you and know by your good works that you are indeed members of His Son’s Body. A completely united front will help to keep you in constant communion with God.”
By Fr. Alexander Schmemann
Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.
Thank You, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which we offered to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.
Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and given us the foretaste of Your Kingdom.
Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and Your Holy Church.
Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the "one thing needed;" Your eternal Kingdom.
Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to Worship You.
Thank You, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed.
Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially, children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and holy noise.
Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.
Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.
Lord, it is good to be here! Amen.
This story was originally published in July 2013 on the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) Website. The Rev. Stephen Powley, a priest in the Antiochian Archdiocese, is the Assistant Director of OCPM. Many other Antiochian Orthodox Christians are involved in OCPM, including Board of Trustees Chairman Kory Warr.
Antiochian priest Fr. Stephen Powley can laugh about it now. At the time, his early encounters with Clark Porter weren't funny. Father Stephen was a prison chaplain; Clark was serving a sentence for robbing a federal post office. "I used to dread walking down Clark's range," Fr. Stephen says, referring to his weekly visits. "I knew he would be livid with me and would cuss me out, I just didn't know why."
Clark admits he was an angry man when Fr. Stephen met him. Though it wasn't yet obvious, he was trying to change, to turn around a young life that had gotten a troubled start. The sixth of seven children, he was raised first by his mother, then his grandmother, and then put into foster care at age eight.
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.
The Orthodox Christian faith is growing on our continent and, with it, awareness of the challenge of raising and educating our children in a way that is shaped by that faith. On many occasions I have been asked my opinion, as both a hierarch and as an educator, as to my preferred educational option, whether parents ought to favor public schools, private schools, homeschooling or some other approach.
It has become clear to me, though, that there can be no "one size fits all" approach; each circumstance requires careful and prayerful consideration and exploration of options. Parents must decide based on their particular situation what will be the best preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven for their children, how their children's schooling can be not only educational, but sanctifying. "Sanctified Schooling," as I've come to call it, means finding the best educational fit for students and their families to grow in sanctity as they grow physically, intellectually and emotionally.
St. John Chrysostom, The Orthodox New Testament: Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, Vol. 2, Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8, p. 360.
1 Timothy 5:8: "But if one provide not for one's own, and most of all for those of one's own house, such a one hath denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
The provision of which the blessed Paul speaks is universal and relates to the soul as well as the body, since both are to be provided for ... Isaiah says, 'Thou shalt not disregard the relations of thine own seed' [Is. 58:7]. If a man deserts those who are united by ties of kindred and affinity, how shall he be affectionate towards others? Will it not have the appearance of vainglory, when benefiting others he slights his own relations, and does not provide for them? ... What is meant is that the law of God and of nature is violated by him who provides not for his own family. But how has such a one denied the faith? Even as it is said, 'They confess to know God, but in works deny Him' [cf. Tit. 1:16] ...
St. Maximus the Confessor, The Life of the Virgin, translated by Stephen H. Shoemaker, Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2012, p. 149.
She is the ardent intercessor of her Son, Christ God, for all those who entreat her.
She is the calm harbor of all those buffeted by waves, who rescues them from spiritual and fleshly waves.
She is the guide on the way of life for all who have gone astray.
She is the one who seeks converts those who are lost.
She is the help and support of those who are afflicted.
She is the intercessor and mediator of those who are penitent.
And I will say even more than the above:
She is the resurrection of the fallen Adam.
She is the destruction of Eve's tears.
She is the comforter of those who mourn.
She is the throne of the king, who bears the One who bears all.
She is the one who renews the old world.
Eve of the Feast of St. Panteleimon, July 26, 2013
By Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick
Antiochian Archdiocese Convention, Houston, Texas
In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we read the account of the Lord Jesus calling the tax collector Matthew, the author of this Gospel, to follow Him and to be one of His disciples. We then read of how Jesus and His disciples are sitting with many tax collectors and and sinners and eating together with them. The Pharisees, who were known for their precision in following their particular interpretation of the Law of Moses, objected to this scene and accusingly asked Jesus' disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" (Matt. 9:9-11)
We look back at this incident from twenty centuries of hindsight and of course know that the Pharisees are the "bad guys," while Jesus is the "good guy." But in the first century, the Pharisees were most certainly not the bad guys, at least not as far as the general society of Judaism was concerned. The Pharisees were well-respected leaders in the community, and they made sure that Jews followed their traditions as they had been written—all 613 commandments that they counted in the Law of Moses. Eating with public sinners, especially traitors to the Jewish people and collaborators with the Roman conquerers like tax collectors, was not something good Jews were supposed to be doing. So when the Pharisees ask this question, it's a good question.
Jesus hears the Pharisees questioning, and He responds to them Himself, saying, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matt. 9:12-13).
In the 8th Century B.C., King Solomon, the author of the book of Proverbs, wrote: "A mild answer breaketh wrath: but a harsh word stirreth up fury. The tongue of the wise adorneth knowledge: but the mouth of fools bubbleth out folly." (Proverbs 15:1-2). Since first penned, this wisdom has been confirmed by thousands of years of human experience. This is no truer than in today's world in which we encounter a proliferation of crudeness, harshness, rudeness, lack of respect of the person and attempts to control others. The use of four letter and scatological words in dealing with others is found everywhere. No segment of the media is exempt. The explosive worldwide multiplication of social media use has made such discordant behavior almost unavoidable.
It is important to realize that a crude, rude and harshly toned reactive response by us often creates a pattern of escalation of incivility between all involved. We may not be able to change the uncivil behavior of others, but we can change our response to such rudeness when it is directed to us. This was recognized by Confucius in 4th Century B.C. China who wrote: "When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps."i In the Jewish Talmud we read: ""The highest form of wisdom is kindness."ii After being confronted by unseemly words and actions it might be a stretch for some to respond with kindness, but a good first step would be to act in wisdom according to the advice of Molière (1622-1673 A.D.): "A wise man is superior to any insults which can be put upon him, and the best reply to unseemly behavior is patience and moderation."iii