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2013 Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday Encyclical

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has announced Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday:

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me...only Luke is with me. 2 Timothy 4:9-11

To the Most Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics and Devout Laity of the Orthodox Churches in North and Central America:

Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Christ is Risen!

We greet you in the surpassing joy of the Risen Christ. By the grace of God, we are blessed to observe the Sixth Sunday of Pascha, which this year falls on June 9, as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. We embrace the diakonia of prison ministry in keeping with the example of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Physician of our souls, who did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; who ate in the houses of thieves and forgave the sins of harlots; and who said that, when we visit those in prison, we are in truth visiting Him, the Lord of Glory.

US Congress Prepares Letter to Prioritize Release of Abducted Archbishops

Charles Ajalat writes on May 13:

The following needs just a minute or two of your time to help obtain the release of the two bishops who were kidnapped three weeks ago in Syria while on a humanitarian mission. One of the bishops is Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), brother of our Antiochian Patriarch, John X. The other is the Syriac Archbishop Youhanna (Ibrahim). Six prominent members of Congress are already spearheading this effort, and yesterday sent a Dear Colleague letter to their remaining 429 colleagues to join as co-signers of the letter they are sending to the Secretary of State later this week (with a copy to Ambassador Ford), asking the Representatives to commit to their signing by this Friday noon. I have been working with the Congressional Representatives and they have asked me to contact you for needed help.

Metropolitan Tikhon Visits Antiochian Archdiocese Headquarters

l. to r.  Metropolitan Philip, Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop Nicholasl. to r. Metropolitan Philip, Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop NicholasFor the first time since his election as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America in November 2012, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was the guest of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip at the offices of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America in Englewood, New Jersey on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Metropolitan Tikhon was accompanied by Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor; Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky, OCA Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations; and Subdeacon Roman Ostash. Joining Metropolitan Philip in welcoming the OCA delegation was His Grace Bishop Nicholas, Auxiliary-Brooklyn and Resident Assistant to Metropolitan Philip; Archpriest Thomas Zain, AOCA Vicar General; and Archpriest George Kevorkian, AOCA Assistant to the Metropolitan. A warm atmosphere provided the context for substantive conversations about the current plight of Christians in the Middle East and specifically the situation of the two Syrian hierarchs who remain in captivity as well as the OCA’s recent history, the ongoing work of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, and hope for a united autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America.

Support for Abducted Syrian Hierarchs

Republished May 10: The Archdiocese encourages all of her members to show their continuing support for kidnapped archbishops Paul and John of Aleppo, first and foremost through heartfelt prayer. We also encourage people to sign and promote the online petition available here at the website of the White House, calling for United States government action on behalf of the abducted metropolitans. Please use the petition at this link.

Support and attention for Archbishop Paul and Archbishop John continues to grow. The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has published their joint letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry here. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has published Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's call for the release of the archbishops. The Russian Orthodox Church has published several statements, including the patriarchal message from Patriarch Kirill to Patriarch John X available here, along with the list of documents available below. Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church prayed for the release of the metropolitans, as announced here. The Archdiocese is grateful for these and all other ongoing efforts for the sake of Archbishop Paul and Archbishop John, and all our brothers and sisters suffering in the region.

Metropolitan Philip Presides at Paschal Liturgy, St. Nicholas Cathedral

His Eminence at St. Nicholas Cathedral on PaschaHis Eminence at St. Nicholas Cathedral on PaschaThe Very Rev. Thomas Zain, Dean of the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York reports:

"Christ is Risen!" "Indeed He is Risen!" This joyous refrain could be heard in St. Nicholas Cathedral in the early morning hours of May 5. After waiting for spring in the Northeast this year, the dark and short days of the season have given way to "the day that knows no night" and the celebration of our Lord's resurrection from the dead. Once again, our father in Christ, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, returned home to celebrate the Feast of Feasts and the season of seasons in his cathedral, the mother church of the North American Archdiocese.

View the photo gallery

Listen as the chanters of St. Nicholas, led by Protopsaltis Rasem El Massih, sing "Today is the Day of Resurrection." 

Paschal Letter of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

His Beatitude Patriarch John X, Pascha 2013His Beatitude Patriarch John X, Pascha 2013The Patriarchate of Antioch has released the following Paschal Letter in a range of languages. Please see the attached PDF files at the end of the letter for the greeting in other languages. Christ is risen!

Paschal Letter 2013 

With the Mercy of God John Xth Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

To all our beloved in the Lord the children of the Antiochian See, clergy and laypersons,

On the great day of Resurrection, on which Christ rose and raised us with Him, it pleases me to remember with you the meanings of Resurrection and to explain some of its aspects.

The resurrection of the Lord is the resurrection of each one of us. In the resurrection the power of the devil, our enemy, was brought to naught. Although death terrifies human beings, yet the Lord Jesus has defeated it with his life-giving resurrection. He descended in His death to the abode of death, that is, to Hades, and exploded it from within, abolishing its effects. It is true that death is still there, however it has become a mere passage to true life, a complete liberation from temporal things and a way to eternity. Resurrection gave us grace instead of sin, immortality instead of corruption, life instead of death. The rule of the evil one is gone and the kingdom of God has appeared. Darkness gives way to light.

Great and Holy Saturday

Epitaphion

Today hell groans and cries aloud: "My power has been destroyed. I accepted a mortal man as one of the dead; yet I cannot keep Him prisoner, and with Him I shall lose all those over whom I ruled. I held in my power the dead from all the ages; but see, He is raising them all." Glory to Thy Cross, O Lord, and to Thy Resurrection.

Read about Great and Holy Saturday, "The Forgotten Feast"

For more reflections and resources, please visit our Holy Week section. And for more material dedicated to the pinnacle of the liturgical year, visit FeastOfFeasts.org.

Great and Holy Friday

On Great and Holy Friday, the Orthodox Church commemorates the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross. "Today He Who hung the earth on the waters is hung on the tree," sing the solemn worshippers. Beginning with the Orthros of Holy Friday on Thursday evening, and ending with Vespers on Friday afternoon, the day is one of solemn observation and strict fasting. The richness of the liturgical actions and hymnography on this day, are unsurpassed.

We worship Your passion and Your burial,
for by them, You have saved us from death!

For more reflections and resources, please visit our Holy Week section. And for more material dedicated to the pinnacle of the liturgical year, visit FeastOfFeasts.org.

May 2013 Edition of The Word Now Available

Click cover to download: 

The May 2013 issue includes the following articles:

What Language is This?, pg. 4
by R. Leo Olson

How to Think About Evil, Until You Can't, pg. 8
by Christopher Humphrey, Ph.D. 

The Role of Women in the Orthodox Church, pg. 16
by Bishop Nicholas 

Strengthening the Voice of Young Arab-Americans, pg. 20
by Laila Mokhiber

Works of the Order in Action: Project Mexico, pg. 22

Interview with Father George Shalhoub, pg. 24
by Elizabeth Ajluni

...and more!

Holy Week Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Patriarch John X

The following Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Patriarch John X was released in a range of languages by the Patriarchate of Antioch on Lazarus Saturday via their Facebook page. The original letter is available in PDF format, here for English and here for Arabic.

Pastoral Letter

With God’s mercy

JOHN X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

To my brethren, the Shepherds of the Holy Church of Antioch, And my children throughout the Holy and Apostolic See

I address you today, at the end of Great Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, and at a time when we are being surrounded by much pain and suffering. Throughout our Antiochian lands, dangers threaten our homes, and political conflicts storm our countries. As a result, man’s livelihood, dwelling, and even life are at risk. We are tried every day by death or abduction, and our latest plight is the recent kidnapping of our beloved brothers, Bishop Paul Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, Iskenderun and dependencies, and Bishop John Ibrahim, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, and the killing of the Deacon who was accompanying them.

Joint Communique on the Abduction of Bishop Paul and Bishop John

The following official joint statement has been released by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. (Original PDF here.)

On Monday the 22.04.2013, we were surprised by the news that our brothers Bishop Paul (Yazigi) of Aleppo and Alexandretta and Bishop John (Ibrahim) Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo, have been kidnapped on their way back to Aleppo after accomplishing a humanitarian mission. We deeply regret what happened as we regret all similar acts targeting civilians, regardless of their belonging and therefore we address to the local and international communities the following declaration:

1- The Christians living here are an essential part of their lands. They suffer the pain every person suffers, work as messengers of peace to lift the injustice off every oppressed: They follow the teaching of their Gospel telling them that love is the basis of human relations. The official positions issued by the spiritual leaders of the various churches, are the best expression in this respect and the mission fulfilled by the two kidnapped bishops is but a further proof of this orientation.

Release Reports False

There have appeared many reports in both the Eastern and Western press that the two hierarchs who were abducted yesterday by terrorists in Syria, Metropolitan Boulos Yazge, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, have been released. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip spoke by phone this morning to His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East (pictured), who said that these reports are false, and that the release of these two hierarchs has NOT taken place.

We ask you to continue to pray for their safety, and eventual release.

Confirmed updates will be published as soon as they are known.

Pray for the Safety of Abducted Bishops

Metropolitan Paul of AleppoMetropolitan Paul of AleppoHis Eminence Metropolitan Philip is saddened to report that, in a telephone discussion that he had today with His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, it was learned that Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Of Aleppo, and the brother of His Beatitude, as well as Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo, were both abducted by terrorists in a suburb of Aleppo as they  were returning from Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) to Aleppo.

The deacon who was driving  their automobile was shot and killed in the attack.  As you know, Syria has been suffering from these acts of terror for more than 2 years.

Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of AleppoMar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo

 

We ask all of you to remember Metropolitan Paul, and Archbishop Gregorios in your prayers, asking the Lord to deliver them safely from this ordeal. All official information will be released from the Archdiocese Headquarters through official communication channels.

Summer, 2013: Three Dynamic College Programs

Students gather for OCF event at Georgetown UniversityStudents gather for OCF event at Georgetown UniversitySeveral new Orthodox summer programs have been opened up for collegians. The first two were announced by The Very Rev. Anthony G. Yazge, director of the Department of College Ministry for the Antiochian Archdiocese, and will be coordinated by Fr. John Diamantis, college chaplain for the Districts of New York and New Jersey, Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). A workshop,  "The Fields Are White For Harvest: Welcome to College Ministry," will focus on the practical efforts necessary to start an OCF, and will emphasize the positive impact campus ministry has on students and parishes. College students, clergy and laity are encouraged to attend.

Two workshops will be available: June 1, at the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in New York City, and June 8 at Murray Dodge Hall on the campus of Princeton University in New Jersey. Both workshops will run from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. and will include a light brunch and lunch will be provided. The workshops are free of charge.

A second event, a college student retreat, is scheduled for the heart of the summer on July 12-14 and is called  "Love 2 Serve."

Sacred Music Library Offers Holy Week/Pascha Resources

The mission of the Department of Sacred Music is to provide leadership to the parishes of the Archdiocese, drawing from the talents of the faithful in order to serve in these ways: publishing music, organizing workshops and seminars, building strong ties of communication throughout the Archdiocese, supporting the work of mission parishes, and providing a positive influence towards the creation of new works of liturgical music. In this spirit, the department reminds priests and choir directors that the Sacred Music PDF Library is available and offers a full compliment of musical scores for the upcoming liturgical season of Holy Week and Pascha.

Additionally, a delightful photo gallery from the 2012 Sacred Music Institute (SMI), the department's intensive training class for church musicians, was recently posted to Antiochian.org. Learn about how to attend the next SMI , and view all the other resources from the department in the Sacred Music web section.

St. George's Fellowship of St. John Ministers in Chicago

Care Packets for the needy of ChicagoCare Packets for the needy of ChicagoOn Saturday, March 2, 2013, under the guidance of Fr. Nicholas Dahdal and with leadership from Fr. Musil Shihadeh, Dn. Saed Rihani and Sdn. Joseph Hazar of the Fellowship of St. John the Divine at St. George Antiochian Church in Cicero, IL, the group pioneered an innovative project in respect to community outreach and humanitarian aid. Titled "Care Packets for the Needy," the program brought Walgreens Drugstore and Einstein Bagels in a creative partnership.

With donated food from Einstein Bagels and well over a thousand dollars worth of goods from Walgreens generously assembled and donated by store employees, Fellowship members were able to assemble and distribute care packets to the needy over the course of the Saturday in early March.

Order Member and House of Studies Alum Launches Podcast

Bill Hinkle is a founding member of Prophet Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Mission in Ellensburg, WA, a member of the Order of St. Ignatius, and a graduate of the Antiochian House of Studies. Bill's varied history also includes a stint as the Minority Whip of the Washington State House of Representatives, a career as a firefighter paramedic, service as a county commissioner, civic involvement in boards and a leadership institute, and a career in health insurance. He recently launched a bi–monthly podcast with the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) called "Our Life in Christ and in America." Antiochian.org spoke with Bill about the many hats he wears. 

1. How long have you been Orthodox and how did you discover the Church? Tell us a little about your parish.

I told my wife on our first date that I wanted to know God, live a Christian life and find the Church, but wasn't sure how to do any of that. Almost 10 years later in 1999, we met Fr. George and Pres. Dianthe Livanos on a ferry dock in Port Angeles Washington the week before Thanksgiving. He had travelled from Canonsburg, PA and we were on vacation six hours from our house. We spent 45 minutes crossing the Strait of Juan De Fuca on a ferry talking about "the historic church" as Fr. George explained it to us.

Antiochian Archdiocese Purchases Property for the Establishment of the Convent of St. Thekla

Main house at the new propertyMain house at the new propertyPhoto gallery of the new Convent of St. Thekla property

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has completed the purchase of property and buildings in York County, Pennsylvania for the establishment of the Convent of St. Thekla, a female monastic community. The property is located in Glenville, Pennsylvania and consists of 51 acres of land which includes a four-bedroom “move-in-ready” house, a two-story barn, and a three-car garage with an attached workshop. The property also has a pond, and includes 30 acres of farmland and seven acres of woodland.

The original plan for the Convent called for it to be built on a parcel of land which is on the main property of Antiochian Village. However, it became clear that the cost of doing this would be too high, especially given that it would have required that all the infrastructure (road, water, electricity, and sewage) be made available at the site. There was also the risk that environmental concerns (such as the discovery of endangered plant life or animals) could have seriously impacted the building plans. The purchase was funded by a combination of the money that had been raised by the Antiochian Women through their multi-year fundraising effort, an endowment fund that had been set aside many years ago for this purpose, and generous donations from individual members of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees.

April 2013 Edition of The Word Now Available

Click cover to download: 

The April 2013 issue includes the following articles:

Curriculum Vitae of His Beatitude Patriarch John X, pg. 4

A Response to the Encyclical of H.B. Patriarch Youhanna X, pg. 11
by Economos Antony Gabriel

The Funeral Service: Lecture 5 - Christian Burial, Graves and Cemetaries, pg. 12
by Archpriest Josiah Trenham, Ph.D.

Orthodox Spirituality in an Ungodly Age, pg. 17
by Kevin Allen

Works of the Order in Action: The Treehouse, pg. 28

...and more!

Assembly of Bishops Committee For Youth Report

Bishop Thomas, ChairBishop Thomas, ChairAssembly of Bishops.org reports:

New relationships and unity among Orthodox Christian youth workers are the result of diligent efforts by the Committee for Youth, one of the very active committees of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.

The committee’s members are Bishop Thomas (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese), Metropolitan Alexios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) and Bishop Irineu (Orthodox Church in America). As with all of the Assembly’s committees, clergy and lay consultants support the work of the committee. The Committee for Youth has more than sixty consultants with extensive experience and knowledge of Orthodox youth and youth programs.

One of the fruits of the committee’s efforts has been new relationships and increased collaboration among jurisdictional youth directors. “Prior to the committee’s formation, a handful of jurisdictional youth directors would meet occasionally,” says His Grace Bishop Thomas, the chairman of the committee. “Now there are 17 who meet in person and by phone, representing every jurisdiction in the Assembly.