Dr. Bradley Nassif is a scholar and author known especially for his ecumenical involvement and active role in Orthodox evangelism. Raised within the Orthodox Church as a Lebanese-American, Dr. Nassif is currently Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at North Park University in Chicago. He has served as a teacher for the Antiochian House of Studies and is a member of Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Orthodox Church in Warrenville, Illinois.
This spring, Dr. Nassif released two new books with broad appeal to both Orthodox and Christians from other traditions. Antiochian.org asked him about these titles and how they came about.
1. You have just released two new books with Zondervan. Tell us the back story for each one--what were your objectives in becoming involved in each project?
Bringing Jesus to the Desert is a book about the desert fathers and mothers of Egypt, Palestine and Syria from the 3rd to 6th centuries. Dr. Gary Burge from Wheaton College invited me to write this book as part of a series he's editing titled "Ancient Context, Ancient Faith." Each book, including mine, can stand on its own. But together, they focus on the theme of the desert as it appears in the Bible and early Christian literature.
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship's (OCF) Real Break program provides an alternative spring break for Orthodox college students across North America. This year, more than 50 students from 36 universities participated in the six service projects around the world in locations such as Constantinople, Mexico, Guatemala, Romania and Texas. This following OCF report summarizes the impact of Real Break, 2012.
As the week was coming to an end and all sat in the dining hall eating the typical meal of beans and tortillas, University of Illinois freshman, Anthony Jonas, notices Brayan with a sad face and not touching his food. Jesus Brayan is one of the 31 young boys living at the St. Innocent Orphanage in Rosarito, Mexico. Anthony says to him,
“¿Qué paso Brayan?” (What’s wrong Brayan?)
The Antiochian House of Studies School of Orthodox Theology, home of the St. Stephen's Program, has launched a new website section. The project centered on the work of two House of Studies graduate students, Keith Buhler and Emmanuel Gergis, who worked with the staff of the House of Studies and the Dept. of Internet Ministry to update the web presence of this special Archdiocese ministry.
The new House of Studies section offers an introduction to the distance-learning school, a list of its academic programs, information for prospective and current students, and links for faculty, news and contact information. With affordable tuition and flexible scheduling, the House of Studies offers students, parents, or full-time professionals the ability to pursue an Orthodox theological education.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and South America has designated May 20 as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday. Antiochian Archdiocese member Kory Warr is Chairman of the Board for the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM). He explains: "The sixth Sunday of Pascha was selected as Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday because the prescribed epistle reading (Acts 16:16-34) describes the experience of Sts. Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. This story is a clear reminder of the truth that the light of Christ shines in even the darkest of places, pouring forth healing and salvation. All of us who participate in the work of OCPM have, like Paul and Silas, encountered the transforming grace and power of God in places where despair and hopelessness seemed to have erected impregnable strongholds.
The May 2012 issue contains the following articles:
Mary, Our Cause of Rejoicing, pg. 4
by His Grace Bishop Basil
Do We Really Believe in the Resurrection?, pg. 8
by Fr. Michael Shanbour
A Message from Metropolitan Philip on Events in Syria, pg. 11
Focus on Protecting the Christians in Syria and Lebanon, pg. 13
Heal Always, pg. 21
by Fr. Antony Hughes
Works of the Order in Action: "Give Me a Boost", pg. 20
by Fr. Michael Nasser
"Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!"
As Great Lent came to a close in 2012, somber Holy Week services commenced and then gave way to joyful Paschal celebrations, as Antiochian Orthodox Christians around the Archdiocese marked the holiest season of the Church year. In fledgling small town mission parishes and established communities in the heart of big cities, SOYO teens kept vigil on Holy Friday, chanters and clergy offered daily services even as their voices grew tired, the members of Antiochian Women chapters covered parish interiors with fragrant flowers, and the faithful contributed in ways large and small in order to join in the joy of the resurrection. If your parish isn't represented in our photo gallery yet, send us your photos and we can add your church to the gallery.
Across the United States and Canada, mission team participants with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) are gearing up for a summer of activity and ministry. Fourteen teams, each with a different purpose, will serve in ten different countries during the second half of 2012.
Roberta Sardell, a member of St. Stephen Antiochian Orthodox Church in Campbell, California, has participated in three mission trips. "In 2008 I was in Alaska, chiefly in an isolated village called Tatitlak on Prince William Sound, snowed in, in October," she explains. "In September of 2009 I helped lead retreats in Romania, touring monasteries and the painted churches of Bucovina. July of 2011 found me in the heat of Lodwar, northeastern Kenya. In each case I was blessed with talented Christian team mates; I was blessed meeting Orthodox brothers and sisters in other countries. I went as a teacher, a catechist, but I was educated in different cultures, different lifestyles, and how the Holy Spirit convicts people around the world."
The Feast of the Life-giving Spring which is kept on the Friday of Bright Week has its origins in the 5th century. It is the feast that commemorates the consecration of the Church of the Life-giving Spring outside of Constantinople.
The very large and beautiful church named in honor of the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring was built about the middle of the fifth century by the Emperor Leo the Great (457-474 AD), outside of Constantinople. Emperor Leo was a pious man (he is commemorated on January 20th) and before he became Emperor, he had encountered a blind man, who being tormented with thirst asked him to help him find water. Leo felt compassion for him and went in search of a source of water, but found none. As he was about to cease his search, he heard a voice telling him there was water nearby. He looked again, and found none. Then he heard the voice again, this time calling him "Emperor" and telling him that he would find muddy water in the densely wooded place nearby; he was to take some water and anoint the blind man's eyes with it. When he had done this, the blind man received his sight.
After Leo became Emperor, as the Most Holy Theotokos had prophesied, he raised up a church temple over the spring, whose waters worked many healings, as well as resurrections from the dead, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. From this, it came to be called the "Life-giving Spring."
Ancient Faith Today is what Ancient Faith Radio and Orthodox Internet radio have been missing -- a live inter-active conversation program. Now that void has been filled! Ancient Faith Today streams live, with call-ins from around the world, twice a month on Sunday nights at 5:00pm Pacific/7:00pm Central/8:00pm Eastern on Ancient Faith Radio Talk.
Topics cover all of life through the lens of Scripture and the teaching and canonical tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Fr. Alexander Atty is the Dean and Chief Operating Officer of St. Tikhon's Seminary (Orthodox Church in America). Prior to this assignment, Father served for over 30 years as an Antiochian parish priest, most recently as pastor of the large and thriving Louisville, Kentucky parish, St. Michael Orthodox Church. When the OCA's Holy Synod of Bishops approved Fr. Alexander's appointment as St. Tikhon's Dean in 2010, they also permitted him to remain attached to the Antiochian Archdiocese.
During Lent, Father took a break from his busy travel schedule to answer a few questions for the editors of antiochian.org.
1. Fr. Alexander, these last few years have presented you with daunting health challenges. How are you doing these days?
It depends on who you ask. For my own peace of mind I’ve limited myself to only the opinions of my doctors. My most recent scan indicated remarkable improvement. The doctors were pleased but determined to keep at this thing until they were satisfied that they had this thing beat. I have some of the best doctors in country working on this but that’s only half the job. Many, many people have my situation in mind when they sit down at home to do their prayers or when they are commemorating the names of the sick before the Holy Chalice. I believe that it is because of their prayers and faithfulness that I am showing signs of improvement.
April 5, 2012
Beloved faithful of our Archdiocese,
Two days ago we received a very important message from the head of our Antiochian Patriarchate throughout the world, our father in Christ, His Beatitude, Ignatius, IV, Patriarch of Antioch and of all the East. Due to the importance of His Beatitude's message our ofﬁce has translated it from Arabic into English. We are sending it to you to be read from the pulpit and printed in your church bulletin.
Wishing you a most blessed Holy Week and a glorious Pascha.
March 14, 2012, Damascus
To all our Antiochian children in the Archdioceses overseas:
We greet you first as we begin the Holy and Great Lent, asking God to help lead us in our journey and in our spiritual struggle to deserve the participation in His saving suffering and rejoice in His triumphant resurrection crying, “Christ is risen, Truly He is risen."
Second, while we write to you, we feel overwhelmed with pain due to the tragic events which are happening in Syria.
In the Lenten Readings section, Patristic and contemporary writers explore the meaning of Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week.
In the Department of Sacred Music's Library, a wide range of choral selections for Holy Week are available for church musicians.
Teachers and youth leaders can find useful tools for ministry on the Department of Christian Education's Summary of Lenten Offerings page. Additionally, information and promotional materials about the SOYO's Great Friday Vigil for teens, are posted here.
Finally, Feastoffeasts.org, a joint project of the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America, offers articles, a photo gallery, video and audio features, and links to Pascha gifts and music--all centered on the theme of the Orthodox Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The April 2012 issue contains the following articles:
On Forgiveness, pg. 4
by Chris Humphrey, Ph.D.
A Mother's Letter to Her Children on Marriage, pg. 8
Antiochian Heritage Foundation, pg. 10
by Dan Abraham and David Ghiz
Christian Churches Together Meet in Memphis, pg. 12
Works of the Order in Action: Learning Christian Living through the Orthodox Camping Experience, pg. 20
by Khalil Samara
Leaders See IOCC Work Firsthand in Damascus, pg. 26
"Who else is going to take care of your marriage if you don't?" the brochure for the annual clergy couple retreat at Antiochian Village asks.
The popular weekend event, held this year on April 23-25, sets out the following goals for clergy couples:
- to enjoy time together
- to attend to your marriage away from the distractions and “busyness” of daily life
- to draw closer to Christ and each other
- to meet and share with other Clergy Couples
- to be refreshed by the beauty of spring in the peaceful surroundings at the Village
This year's retreat speaker is Presbytera Kerry Pappas, a certified Prepare-Enrich facilitator and trainer, and a licensed marriage and family therapist who works for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as the Coordinator for Clergy Couple Care. The schedule of the weekend allows for group time and quiet reflection. Prior to the retreat, couples will complete a "Couple Checkup," an online assessment.
TO BE READ FROM THE PULPIT AND PRINTED IN THE BULLETIN
Beloved Hierarchs, esteemed members of the Board of Trustees, members of our Archdiocesan Organizations and all faithful of our God Protected Archdiocese,
Greetings and blessings to you in the spirit of this Holy and Great Lent. I am certain that you have been following the tragic events in Syria from where many of us have originated. Besides our cultural and historical roots which are planted in Syria, Syria has a great spiritual significance to all of us and all Christians. Damascus is considered the most ancient city in the world. Syria and the entire Fertile Crescent gave the world its first known civilization.
Damascus is a holy city for us. It has been the center of our Patriarchate since the Patriarchate moved from Antioch. Our venerable Patriarch lives on the Straight Street where St. Paul walked to be baptized after his conversion to Christianity. (Acts 9:11)
The Assembly of Bishops Research Coordinator Alexei Krindatch has released a new 40-page report titled, "Five Interesting Facts About Orthodox Church Geography and Demography in the United States." The report provides fascinating insight into the life and practice of Orthodox communities today.
In "Fact 1: About Orthodox Church Membership in America" the report notes that "nationwide, and for all jurisdictions of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops combined, the total number of persons attending Orthodox parishes on a regular weekly basis is 209,000."
The report goes on to explain, however, that the total number of adherents (people who are at least loosely associated with a parish) is 797,600. Of those, 476,000 are associated with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The next two populous jurisdictions are the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Archdiocese, respectively.
Family Activities for the Lenten Journey details one family's successful use of the kitchen refrigerator as a message and teaching board. In the Department's Featured Program section, a plethora of resources from various jurisdictions and publishers are listed, from board games to classroom handouts to teen "zines."
In A Lenten Message for All Orthodox Teens, kids are encouraged to reflect on Lent's meaning and embrace the journey to Pascha. The Sundays of Lent and the days of Holy Week are explained simply and briefly, and then many "Practical Suggestions for a Change" are outlined.
Visit the Department of Christian Education's site for these Lenten resources and more.
On February 10-12, 2012, The Basilica of St. Mary, in Livonia, Michigan hosted their annual Marriage and Family Encounter weekend, led by Father Constantine Nasr, pastor emeritus of St. Elijah Church in Oklahoma City. This was Fr. Constantine’s second visit to the Basilica for this retreat, and he once again shared with the participants his extensive research on what he’s learned over the years as a priest, regarding what it takes to maintain a successful and faithful marriage. Fr. Constantine is the author of the Conciliar Press book entitled, Mastering the Art of Marriage: Staying Together When the World Pulls You Apart, and much of his research is documented within the pages of this spiritually enlightening and engaging book.
The 9th Annual Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) College Conferences concluded as they always do – with college students longing for more spiritual nourishment and opportunities to be part of an Orthodox community. Thanks to the generous scholarships provided by The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, over one hundred Antiochian Orthodox college students attended College Conference, along with their peers from other jurisdictions. One student explained, “I go to school in Arkansas and cannot tell you how grateful I am, both for College Conference, and for the scholarship The Order provided. There are not many Orthodox students at my school, and being here helps me to remember who I am and why my faith is so important to me.”
OCF is host to three separate conferences. One is held in the south at the Diakonia Center, one in the west at St. Nicholas Ranch, and the largest and most established is held in the east at the Antiochian Village.