As temperatures across the Midwest and Northeast hit record lows this week, vulnerable populations—the homeless, elderly and working poor—are at particular risk of the dangers posed by the winter storm. Inadequate shelter or a broken furnace can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. The arctic weather is being blamed for 20 deaths thus far, and emergency rooms have been flooded with cases of hypothermia and frostbite.
In response to the severe weather, Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) Centers in St. Louis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are on high alert, ramping up services and assistance. FOCUS Centers have had their doors open to help those in need with hot meals, coats and blankets.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) released a statement on January 8, 2014 mourning the passing of IOCC Honorary Board Member Dr. George Farha. Founding member and former Chairman of the IOCC Charles Ajalat said, "Dr. Farha played a critical role during IOCC's formative years with his wisdom, vision and commitment. IOCC owes a great debt to him."
From serving on the IOCC board of directors to supporting countless humanitarian works which assisted people in need of shelter, food or safety, Dr. Farha's tireless efforts to always "put people first" served as a spiritual cornerstone for the organization.
"Dr. George Farha was a man of singular vision and great stature in the Orthodox community and beyond," said Michael S. "Mickey" Homsey, Chairman of IOCC's Board of Directors. "This pious, humble and loving man's lifelong mantra of 'people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care' left an indelible effect on all who were blessed to know him.
MEMORY ETERNAL! Your prayers are requested for the repose of the soul of the newly-departed servant of God, brother, and concelebrant Archpriest James King of St. Athanasius Antiochian Orthodox Church in Goleta, CA who fell asleep in Christ January 7, 2014. The schedule of divine services has not yet been announced.
Condolences may be sent to his wife Khouria Margaret and their family, at 6830 del Playa Drive, Goleta, CA 93117.
On December 24, 2013, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip presided over the celebration of the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ at his cathedral, St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York. He was assisted by Archpriest Thomas Zain, Vicar-General of the Antiochian Archdiocese and dean of the Cathedral, Priest Adrian Budica, assistant priest at the Cathedral, Archdeacon Hans Elhayek, assistant to the Metropolitan, and Dn. Andre El-Hajj, the Cathedral's deacon. Protopsaltis Sub-deacon Rassem El Massih served as chanter for the feast.
The Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (OCABS) has released two new volumes in "The Chrysostom Bible" series titled Isaiah: A Commentary, and Jeremiah: A Commentary. Both are written by The Very Rev. Dr. Paul Nadim Tarazi, professor of Biblical Studies and Languages at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. "Books in the Chrysostom Series are not so much written in honor of John Chrysostom as they are published to continue and promote his legacy as an interpreter of the biblical texts for preaching and teaching God's congregation," notes Dr. Tarazi.
"Isaiah can well be viewed, without exaggeration, as a mini-scripture. By the same token it is no wonder that, besides Genesis—the tone-setting book for the entire scripture in both its Testaments, and Psalms—the book of psalmody of the new Zion, Isaiah is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament," he says, adding that "...the Book of Jeremiah...is the book where God 'alone' stands 'over the nations and over the kingdoms' of his entire earth (Jer 1:10) in his office of sole supreme judge of all, including the deities of the nations (Ps 82)."
Order both books and many other Biblical commentaries from OCABS Press.
Apolytikion of St. Basil, Tone 1
In all the earth that received thy sayings, thy melody did resound, O righteous father, through which thou didst go about and proclaim, as worthy of God, the nature of creatures, cultivating the character of mankind, O thou of kingly Priesthood, Basil. Wherefore, plead thou with Christ God to save our souls.
Fr. John Badeen, former pastor of St. Antony Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, St. Michael Church in Beaumont, Texas, St. George Church in Detroit, Michigan and Archangel Gabriel Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, reposed in retirement early Christmas morning, December 25th, 2013, at the age of 86. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time. Fr. John in survived by Khouriya Louise and their children, Farida, James and George.
The Very Rev. Anis Elias fell asleep in the Lord on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at the age of 92. He was born in Saain, Syria in 1921 to Michael Elias and Jamileh Yousif Makhoul, the only son of four children. Father Anis was ordained to the priesthood in 1948 in Syria. In November of 1961, Fr. Anis immigrated to Detroit, Michigan and on June 9, 1962 was assigned to St. Michael Orthodox Church in Monessen, PA. He served as the priest of St. Michael’s for 25 years before retiring.
After his retirement, Fr. Anis moved back to Michigan to be near his family. In February of 1988, he came out of retirement to serve ten years at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Berkley, MI and in Windsor, Canada before his final retirement in July of 1999. However, he continued to serve at the request of Very Rev. George Shalhoub of St. Mary in Livonia, MI, as well as assisting with Fr. George Baalbaki in St. Mary, Berkley.
Noursat and Tele Lumiere, Christian television for Lebanon and the Middle East, will broadcast an encounter with His Eminence Metropolitan Philip on Sunday, December 22, at 3:30 pm Eastern time, repeating at 9:00 pm Eastern.
The 2014 Run for FOCUS is a benefit organized by the Orthodox Christian communities of the San Francisco Bay Area to raise money and awareness for Operation Lace Up, a program of FOCUS North America (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve). The RUN is scheduled for Saturday, March 22, 2013 at Lake Merced in San Francisco, CA.
Through Operation Lace Up, FOCUS has partnered with a major American shoe company to distribute thousands of new athletic shoes to impoverished children in 28 metropolitan areas across the United States. Support raised through the 2014 Run for FOCUS will allow FOCUS to continue maintaining Operation Lace Up and similar programs that provide aid to children living in poverty stricken communities across the United States.
The impact that a pair of shoes can make in a child's health and educational development is pivotal, as many children are unable to attend school simply because of a lack of shoes. Through this program, and with the help of public school districts across America, hundreds of thousands of children affected by homelessness and poverty will receive two pairs of brand new shoes per year.
At the end of this calendar year, the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) has published a report summarizing the activities of the ministry throughout the course of 2013. Titled "OCPM's 2013 Impact Report," it shows at a glance the many ways in which OCPM reached out to those behind bars during the last twelve months.
Their Website explains, "As 2013 draws to a close, we share with you our recent report highlighting the impact of OCPM's programs on those in prison and their families....We feel blessed to say that we have witnessed as one Orthodox community how the Lord Jesus Christ has transformed lives.
"We look forward to 2014, when we will launch some wonderful new programs that will involve your communities, families and churches. These programs will allow us to share the Faith with more people and draw new volunteers into our ministry."
Ancient Faith Radio (AFR) recently introduced several new podcasts. A Spanish-language podcast features homilies by Fr. Nicholas Andruchow, the priest of the only Orthodox orphanage in North America. Every Sunday Fr. Nicholas offers the homily at the St. Innocent Orphanage for boys. This is the opportunity to reflect on the Gospel from the point of view of Orthodox Christianity in Latin America," notes the AFR Website about Hasta la Gloria. "Through God’s grace this will help you ascend to the heavens."
Another new podcast was launched in cooperation with Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). Titled Sowing Seeds: Building Orthodox Campus Ministry, the episodes promise to help listeners "learn about the leadership, vision, and direction of the OCF with Executive Director Jennifer Nahas and AFR host John Maddex."
Beloved in Christ,
I write these words just after the 2013 Orthodox Institute at Antiochian Village. The fellowship and book-signings were a chance to get to know and speak with some of the prominent people in the Orthodox Church. The presentations were truly educational and inspirational. An eight-panel display of "Art and Symbols of the Catacombs" shed light on the images that were most important to the early Christians. All together it was a memorable and valuable weekend.
Almost a hundred people participated in The Orthodox Institute at Antiochian Village, October 31 – November 3, 2013. The theme was "Blessed is the Kingdom: Acts 2:42 and Today," and the goal was to answer the question, "Can we revive the spirit of giving for which the early church was known?"
Nisrine, 23, a Syrian refugee, huddles with her heavily bundled newborn daughter next to the welcome warmth of a propane stove provided by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Winter storms brought heavy snow and frigid temperatures to northern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley where thousands of Syrian refugee families live in flimsy vinyl tents or tenement buildings that are little more than concrete shells with no electricity or water. Lebanon has no designated refugee camps in spite of the estimated 840,000 Syrians who fled there to escape the civil war raging in their homeland. The severe winter weather and lack of adequate shelter leaves vulnerable families with young children exposed to the elements and threatens their health and well-being.
IOCC, an ACT Alliance member, is responding now to the urgent needs of 900 Syrian refugee families living in Lebanon's coldest regions with the distribution of stoves and fuel for heating and cooking. IOCC is also providing new refugee mothers like Nisrine with pre and post natal care as well as health care for refugee infants and young children under five years of age.
Since March 2012, IOCC has provided humanitarian relief to more than 890,000 Syrian people displaced in their own country or living as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Armenia. For more information, contact: Rada K. Tierney, IOCC Media Relations, 443-823-3489
On Friday, December 6, 2013, Metropolitan Philip issued a letter which was read on the following Sunday in all the parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese. In it, he expressed his deep concern over the recent abductions of the bishops, nuns, and children in Syria.
Dear Clergy and Faithful of our God-Protected Archdiocese,
Greetings and blessings in the name of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the midst of this Holy Advent season.
It is with great sadness that we have received the news of the abduction of our beloved nuns and orphans from the Convent of St. Thekla, Maaloula, Syria. It is inexcusable for such peaceful, God-loving and defenseless people of God to be abducted and displaced from their place of residence and worship, after having suffered so much angush for the past three months. St. Thekla Convent, through the intercessions of its patron Saint and the prayers of all its nuns, has been since its inception in the first century a beacon of light for peace, miracles, and the spreading of our Lord's message of love for all. It is unfathomable to hear that peaceful servants of Christ are being treated in such barbaric manner, as have Metropolitan Boulos and Archbishop Youhanna been treated.
We are inviting people to The First Scriptural Symposium to be hosted on January 16-19, 2014 by the newly-established Antiochian Biblical Institute (ABI), a ministry of the Fellowship of St. John the Divine (FSJD) here at St. George Cathedral in Coral Gables, Florida.
Several scholars will be in attendance from across the country to present papers on specific topics relating to the study of Scripture. Please see the attached flyer for more details. During the weekend, the ABI is honored to celebrate the 70th birthday of The Very Rev. Dr. Paul Nadim Tarazi, professor of Scripture for the last 43 years and founder of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (OCABS).
Please feel free to distribute the attached flyer to your parishioners and friends. All sessions with lunch are complimentary. Donations are appreciated. Reservations are required to properly finalize all arrangements. All are welcome! I hope to see you here in Miami in January, God willing.
The video below of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip's teaching on December 8, 2013, and remarks on the abducted nuns of Maaloula, has been provided by St. Nicholas Cathedral:
December 6th is the celebration of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and the name's day of His Grace Bishop Nicholas. May God grant him many years!
Apolytikion of St. Nicholas, Tone 4
The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance. Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility, riches by poverty. Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
The following report was issued by the National News Agency of Lebanon on Dec. 3:
Orthodox Patriarch Yuhanna Yazegi on Monday leveled a heartfelt cry for the world to mobilize to free a dozen of Lebanese Syrian nuns that were evacuated in the historic Christian town of Maaloula in war-torn Syria.
"Our cry is addressed to the international community and the world's government to release Saint Taqla's nuns and orphans detained since yesterday," the Patriarch said.
"Detaining the nuns is a blatant offensive to people's dignity and the voice of peace throughout Syria and the entire Levant," he indicated.
Update: See also this report from the Associated Press.
David Alexander Tait, beloved father, husband, son, professor, friend, and devoted member of St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Oklahoma City, died tragically on November 19, 2013, while he was ministering to a community of friends in Chandler, Oklahoma. David was born on March 13, 1951, in Washington, D.C., and was the oldest of five children born to Charles and Katharine Tait. He spent his childhood between the United States and England, as well as Uganda, where his parents were missionaries.
He completed high school at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, before earning a Bachelor's degree in Public Relations at Boston University. It was there that he met his future wife, Laura Hubbs Tait, while she was a graduate student. They were married in Boston on June 26, 1976 and shared 37 wonderful years together.
It was a weekend like no other! For months we prepared for this special event, the highlight of this year, and our entire existence as a parish. Between September 27-29th, 2013, we were about to celebrate our 50th Anniversary as St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero!
Excitement built up when we knew that our beloved Metropolitan, His Eminence Sayidna Philip, would be presiding over the weekend's activities. We were also blessed with the presence of His Grace Bishop Antoun, Bishop of Miami and the Southwest, as well as His Grace Bishop Anthony of our diocese. We were also honored to have Subdeacon Rassem Massih, who accompanied the Metropolitan on this visit. Everyone from all ages were thrilled to be part of this historic celebration; a celebration of a parish that has faced obstacles in its history, but overcame them with faith and hard work!
The Winter 2013-14 issue of DIAKONIA is now available online. This issue highlights Diocese of New York and the Archdiocesan District, and the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, and contains:
- A message from His Eminence Metropolitan Philip
- A Nativity message from His Eminence Archbishop Joseph
- Sanctified Schooling: Working Out Salvation within Education, by His Grace Bishop Thomas
- The Church at Home by His Grace Bishop Nicholas
- A message from Diocesan President Fadia Juzdan
- A message from spiritual advisor Fr. Don Shadid
...and more! Click here to download (PDF).
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — This young displaced Syrian mother of two now living in the southern city of Dara'a carries away new thick blankets and bedding provided to her by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in cooperation with church partner, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA). As Syria's night time temperatures dip closer to freezing, displaced Syrian mothers forced to flee their homes empty-handed are struggling to keep their children warm and sheltered from the impending harsh weather.
This will be the third winter that the people of Syria have had to face since the conflict began, and resources to protect against the cold are dwindling as the civil war drags on. IOCC/GOPA is responding to the urgent needs of 255,000 of Syria's most vulnerable with the distribution of winter protection – heavy blankets, bedding kits, children's winter clothing, and shoes.
The first weekend in November was more than a normal weekend for the congregation of St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Monessen, PA. The parish began the celebration of their 100th anniversary, first celebrating Great Vespers on Saturday evening. Bishop Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, spoke after the service, encouraging us to honor our forefathers' and mothers' memories by working to keep the parish a healthy Orthodox presence in Monessen. On Sunday, Orthros and a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Thomas and Bishop Basil, Auxiliary Bishop of Wichita and Mid-America. Following the Liturgy a 100th anniversary luncheon and program was held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Hellenic Center.
St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church was founded in 1913 by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants as a place where Orthodox Christians were able to worship and seek salvation. The church was one of many that owes its organization to then Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny (St. Raphael).
On Thursday, December 12th, 2013 at 7:00 P.M., Fr. Aidan Wilcoxson and the clergy and congregation of St. John the Forerunner Church in Cedar Park, Texas (near Austin) will host a presentation by one of the world's premier Orthodox iconographers and craftsman, Aidan Hart. Hailing from England, Aidan Hart's work is displayed online at aidanharticons.com. The event is free and open to the public. A brief reception will be follow, and refreshments will be served, but we ask that you please make your own arrangements for child-care. For further information, please contact Father Aidan Wilcoxson at email@example.com.