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Patriarch John X Hosts Historic Meeting

In a historic meeting on August 17, 2014, His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, hosted His Holiness Mar Ignatius Ephrem II, Patriarch of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, along with a distinguished delegation traveling with him. The meeting took place at the ancient St. George Antiochian Orthodox Monastery located in the "Valley of the Christians" in the town of Meshtaye in northwestern Syria. Before his election to the Patriarchate, His Holiness served as Archbishop of the Eastern United States for the Syriac Orthodox Church.

A complete English translation of the welcoming speech by Patriarch John X can be read at Notes on Arab Orthodoxy. Patriarch John X said in part:

It is a great pleasure for me to say to you, "How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together!"

The Psalmist once said this and today your sweet faces and the smiles of your children say this. The stone of this holy monastery say this. If they could speak, they would sing of their longing to see loved ones and would chant welcome to them all as living stones in the body of the Antiochian Church that first sang the name of Christ and spread it to the lips of all humankind. We welcome you most warmly. It is better for us to say: welcome to your home in the Monastery of Saint George. Our meeting today is a message to the world that the seeds of Christian unity will by watered first by us in Antioch, just as Jesus' disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Enthronement of Metropolitan Joseph Scheduled

It is with great pleasure that we announce that the events related to the Enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph will take place during the weekend of December 5 through 7, 2014, at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York. The actual enthronement will take place in conjunction with Vespers on Saturday, December 6.

We will be greatly blessed by the presence of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, who will preside during this weekend.

The details concerning the schedule for the weekend, the hotel accommodations, and the banquet information are still being finalized, and will be communicated to all of you as soon as they are confirmed.

29th Sacred Music Institute Trains and Inspires

By Christopher Holwey, Chair of the Department of Sacred Music 

VIew SMI YouTube videos and the Flickr photo gallery by Paul Jabara

The Sacred Music Institute (SMI), held this year from July 23-27 at Antiochian Village, has been getting better each year. I'm not being biased simply in my role as the Department Chair. Rather, looking at the SMI's progression from year to year, I see the quality of our instructors, speakers, and program, improving on an academic and spiritual level.

More than ever, this year our speakers were educated and trained musically and theologically, coming from many of our Orthodox jurisdictions. They helped our participants grow in the same way, musically, technically, vocally, and theologically, in their understanding of Orthodoxy and the sacred music of our Church. We learned the hymns of our Church with regard to our theme, "Pascha," and then we presented this music in a concert, utilizing the talents of our Sacred Music Chorale and our newly formed Byzantine Choir.

Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos + August 15

Shudder, O ye heavens! and, O earth, give ear unto these words: God descended once before for our sake He descends again today for His Mother.

--from The Lamentations at the Bier of the Mother of God, Tone 5

O thou most Holy Virgin, who knew not wedlock, the heavens rejoice in thy glorious falling asleep, the hosts of angels are glad, and the whole earth crieth out in joy, singing to thee the funeral song, O Mother of the Lord of all, thou who hast delivered human kind from its ancestral condemnation.

--Orthros of the Feast, Tone 4

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos: an introduction by Archpriest Ayman Kfouf

Teachings and traditions for the Feast of the Dormition

St. John of Damascus on the Dormition

A Description of the Theotokos by St. Maximus the Confessor

Tender Love and the Dormition: Frederica Mathewes-Green on Ancient Faith Radio

Mary, Our Cause of Rejoicing, by His Grace Bishop Basil

2015 Festivals to Commemorate Anniversary of St. Raphael's Repose

The 2015 Oratorical Conference theme for the Antiochian Archdiocese has been announced as the "100th Anniversary of the Falling Asleep of Saint Raphael." Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny), much beloved by the American Syrian community he served during the early years of Orthodoxy on the North American continent, reposed in 1915 and was canonized in 2000 as St. Raphael of Brooklyn. This year's Creative Arts, Bible Bowl, and Oratorical Festivals held across the U.S. and Canada will feature his life and legacy.

The Great Feast of the Transfiguration + August 6

"Thou hast been transfigured, O Saviour, on Mount Tabor, indicating the transformation of mankind which shall take place at thy dreadful Second Coming. Moses and Elijah did converse with thee. But thy Disciples, whom thou didst call, when they beheld thy glory, O Master, were dazzled by thy brightness. Wherefore, O thou who didst at that time cause thy light to shine on them, lighten our souls."

+ First Kathisma of the Feast

"O thou holy One who hast sanctified the whole universe by thy light, thou hast been transfigured on a high mountain, and hast shown thy Disciples thy might and that thou shalt deliver the world from transgression. Wherefore, do we cry out to thee, O compassionate Lord, save our souls."

+ Idiomelon of the Feast

Antiochian Women Surpass Goal to "Help the Orphans of War in Syria"

At the July 2014 Archdiocesan organizational meetings at the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America (AOCWNA), represented by North American Board President Violet Robbat, and Vice President/Project Coordinator Dianne O'Regan, announced the total contributions received to date for the 2013-2014 Project: "Help the Orphans of War in Syria." On behalf of the Antiochian Women across North America, these women were honored to present a check to His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph for $283,055.55, the largest amount ever raised in a single year during the forty year history of the Antiochian Women!

Middle Eastern Violence and the Place of Christians in the Region Addressed in Patriarchal Statements

The Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East has issued two statements regarding, first, the violence in Iraq, Syria, and Gaza, and second, the place of Christians throughout the region.

The first statement, dated July 23, 2014, reads (official Arabic versionofficial English version):

At a time when Syria's wounds have been bleeding for more than three years, amidst the wounds of Iraq, which has experienced conflict since the 1980's, amidst the unrest that is sweeping countries near and far, and amidst the world's indifference to Palestine's wounds, which have not healed in almost seventy years, these days in particular we are witnessing a multiplication of these wounds in the expulsion of Mosul's Christians and the all-out assault on Gaza amidst a disgraceful international silence.

The cycle of violence sweeping Iraq and Syria, expelling peaceful citizens has not let up, as recent events in Iraq and specifically in Mosul have completed the series of murder, religious prejudice, and terror.

We strongly condemn attacks on any segment of society in this Middle East and we especially condemn the attack on the Christians of Mosul and their being compelled by force of arms to change their religion under the penalty of paying the Jizya or abandoning their homes and having their property confiscated.

Dormition Fast Begins on August 1st

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

Knowing that she is eternally present at the throne of God interceding for mankind, we pray for her love, guidance, and protection. Every year the Orthodox Church sets aside the first fourteen days of August in honor of the Virgin Mary. This fast period is climaxed on August 15th, when the Church gathers to celebrate the Great Feast of the Dormition (Falling-Asleep) of the Theotokos.

Metropolitan Joseph Makes His First Visit to His New Cathedral

On Sunday, July 27, 2014, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph visited St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral of Brooklyn, NY for the first time since his election. Saint Nicholas is the Mother Cathedral of the Archdiocese and the seat of the new metropolitan. Although many of the Cathedral faithful were out of town for summer vacations and travels to visit family overseas, a large crowd nevertheless came to greet Metropolitan Joseph.

During his homily, Sayidna Joseph told the congregation that while this was his first visit to the historic Cathedral as metropolitan, it would not by any means be his last. At the end of the Hierarchical Liturgy, Cathedral Dean and Vicar-General Archpriest Thomas Zain, and Vice-Chairman of the Cathedral Council Mr. Samir Khoury, presented His Eminence with an engolpion (an episcopal medallion) of the Theotokos, offered as a gift from all the Cathedral clergy and faithful. Many years to our new metropolitan!

Additional photographs follow below.

Metropolitan Joseph Speaks at the 2014 Clergy Symposium

Update July 23: A full written transcription of His Eminence's speech is available below.

At the closing banquet of the 2014 Clergy Symposium, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, gave a speech including his initial vision for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America (beginning at 11:20 in the recorded audio). These remarks are available as an audio recording from Ancient Faith Radio

His Eminence says in part:

Tonight, I am going to utilize my time by sharing with you my vision for the future of this Archdiocese. I truly believe that each and every one of us is an important and integral part of this body. We are grateful for everything that our beloved Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory created over the past 48 years. We humbly accept the fruit of his labor, as well as the labor of the faithful who worked alongside him and the legacy upon which we will now build. We have serious work ahead of us. We don’t have time to waste. ...

St. Mary of Palos Heights, IL Wins 2014 Bible Bowl

Representing the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest this year at the annual NAC Bible Bowl was St. Mary Church of Palos Heights, Illinois, located in Chicago's South Side. Team St. Mary, composed of members Salena Ibrahim, Marlena Sweiss, Sandra Khouri, and Elizabeth Khouri, achieved a near perfect score of 104 points (out of 105). Under the leadership of their coach, Kh. Delia Haddad, and their clergy, Fr. Mousa Haddad and Fr. Malek Rihani, team St. Mary won first place. Afterwards, the team was congratulated by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop Anthony of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest.

Institute for Orthodox Christian Thought and Culture at Eastern University

Dr. Gary Jenkins, a member of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Emmaus, PA, has been teaching history at Eastern University in the greater Philadelphia area, for 20 years.

Lately, he's been feeling called to do something even bigger. After much prayer and consultation with hierarchs and clergy throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, he has proposed the creation of an Institute for Orthodox Christian Thought and Culture at Eastern University.

Eastern is a fully accredited, Christian university with 35 majors and about 1,500 undergraduate students on its beautiful campus in suburban Philadelphia.

The proposed Institute would offer a minor for Orthodox students and serve as a hub for their spiritual, academic, and professional development.

Metropolitan Joseph Presides Over 18th Biennial Clergy Symposium

The 18th Biennial Antiochian Archdiocesan Clergy Symposium, sponsored by the Antiochian House of Studies, is taking place at the Heritage and Learning Center at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, from July 14-18, 2014. This will be a historic Symposium, representing the newly-elected Metropolitan Joseph's first opportunity to greet all of the clergy of the Archdiocese. 

Priests and deacons of the Antiochian Archdiocese, in addition to invited laity, will be attending lectures and forums relevant to the theory and practice of Orthodox ministry within the context of the spiritual and historical roots of the Church. This year's theme, "...for the sick and the suffering": Medicine, Theology, Healing, will be explored by a variety of speakers.

John Maddex of Ancient Faith Ministries is at the Village, and preparing audio recording of many of the presentations. Follow along at this special section of Ancient Faith Radio. Written transcriptions of several talks are planned as well.

A photo gallery of the Symposium is available here.

Statement of the July 2014 Meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch

The following official translation has been provided by the Patriarchate of Antioch:

The Third Ordinary Session of the Holy Synod of Antioch was held between 1 and July 4, 2014. His Beatitude Patriarch John X presided over the meeting, with the participation of Their Eminences, the Metropolitans: Spiridon (Archdiocese of Zahleh and dependencies), Georges (Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon and dependencies), Youhanna (Archdiocese of Lattakia and dependencies), Elias (Archdiocese of Beirut and dependencies), Elia (Archdiocese of Hama and dependencies), Elias (Archdiocese of Tyre, Sidon and dependencies), Antonio (Archdiocese of Mexico, Venezuela and dependencies), Sergios (Archdiocese of Chile), Damaskinos (Archdiocese of Brazil and dependencies), Saba (Archdiocese of Houran and All Jabal Al Arab), Paul (Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand), Georges (Archdiocese of Homs and dependencies), Silouan (Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and all Argentina), Basilos (Archdiocese of Akkar and dependencies), Ephrem (Archdiocese of Tripoli, El- Koura and dependencies), Ignatius (Archdiocese of France, Western and Southern Europe) and Isaac (Archdiocese of Germany and Central Europe). 

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph Speaks at 2014 San Francisco Parish Life Conference

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, newly-elected Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, presided over the 2014 San Francisco Parish Life Conference of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Eagle River, shortly after his return from the Antiochian Unity Conference held in Balamand, Lebanon.

Two recordings are available below, of Metropolitan Joseph's first remarks after his arrival (18 minutes) and of his homily delivered on Sunday, July 6 (23 minutes). A written transcription of Metropolitan Joseph's initial statement is available here from Ancient Faith Radio.

Metropolitan Joseph says in part in his first remarks:

"Before anything, we have to think of the Holy Spirit who is leading the Church. … Thank you for your love, thank you for your patience, thank you for your endurance, thank you for your prayers and your tears as well. There is no reason to have any fear. … The Holy Spirit is leading this Archdiocese, is leading this Church. ... All of us, clergy and laity, laity and clergy ... the Archdiocese is all of us. We have to believe in this. And we have to have faith."

Archbishop Joseph Elected Metropolitan of All North America

His Eminence Archbishop Joseph has been elected Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America by the Holy Synod of Antioch, led by His Beatitude Patriarch John X, meeting in Balamand, Lebanon on Thursday, July 3, 2014. Axios!

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on June 30, 1991 at the St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus, after many years of serving as a deacon and a priest. His Eminence was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1950. He was consecrated with the title, Bishop of Katana in Syria, and served as Patriarchal Assistant and Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch. In 1995, he was sent by Patriarch Ignatius IV of blessed memory to America. Here in our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was assigned to the West Coast Chancery by Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory. After self-rule status was awarded to our Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral by Metropolitan Philip as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West on September 12, 2004. On December 11, 2011, at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, Patriarch Ignatius elevated Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop, in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in our Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate of Antioch.

Read A Message from Metropolitan Joseph today, with instructions for services.

Read Metropolitan Joseph's full biography here.

View photo galleries of Metropolitan Joseph from the Diocese of the West, including the ongoing 2014 Parish Life Conference.

Gallery Features Highlights from Unity Conference

From June 25–28, 2014, the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East His Beatitude John X joined with the Fathers of the Holy Synod to call the faithful from around the world to the Hill of Balamand for a conference on Antiochian unity. Appropriately, the Conference concluded with the joyous celebration of the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the Antiochian Church. (Read the text of Patriarch John's homily.) 

Antiochian.org has assembled a collection of photographs highlighting the Unity Conference. Additionally, the Patriarchate of Antioch's website has published photo galleries and written reports of the historic events in both Arabic and English, and galleries are also available on the Patriarchate's Facebook page. The sizable North American delegation, pictured here with Patriarch John X, was composed of bishops, priests, key department heads, and organization leaders. Members of the group will begin returning home on Monday, June 30.

Final Statement of the Antiochian Unity Conference: Dimensions and Exigencies

From the Patriarchate of Antioch website:

On June 25th through 28th, 2014, His Beatitude John X the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, together with the Fathers of the Holy Synod, called the faithful to the Hill of Balamand for a conference on the Antiochian unity. The Conference concentrated around the Antiochian Unity in its dimensions and exigencies. Participants in the conference included metropolitans and bishops, and Church delegations from all the dioceses of the Antiochian See in Syria, Lebanon and the whole Diaspora. Throughout the conference the kidnapped bishop Paul of Aleppo was present in our thoughts and prayers, and we asked God for his safe and quick return to his church and people.

During the opening ceremonies, we were overjoyed to welcome their Holinesses and Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the East, who addressed the conferees with words full of life, inspired from our common Antiochian heritage and the legacy of our saints. Furthermore, they stressed the importance of one witness of Christians to the Gospel in the lands of the Antiochian See, to which we all belong. The presence of their Holinesses and Beatitudes enhanced brotherly love, and assured the necessity of serving people in "All the East", where God has made them shepherds of His People. The Patriarchs' visions and words were very well received by all attendees. They comprehended the necessity of taking theological and pastoral initiatives, in the goal of demonstrating Christ's full presence in the one Antiochian family. This Antiochian togetherness in Christ would constitute the pattern of the Universal Christian Unity that we all hope for and aspire to.

Historic Patriarchal Divine Liturgy for Patronal Feast

A unique and historic Patriarchal Divine Liturgy will be streamed live on June 29, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. Lebanon time (3:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time), by Noursat (Telelumeire). The Liturgy will take place in the outdoor stadium at the University of Balamand at the conclusion of the June 26-28 Antiochian Unity Conference. The event, titled  "Antiochian Unity: Its Dimensions and Exigencies," was convened by His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.