Fr. John Oliver, the priest of St. Elizabeth Orthodox Christian Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has released Giver of Life through Paraclete Press. The book tackles a topic not easily grasped, that of the Church's teaching on the Person of the Holy Spirit. An experienced communicator, Fr. John has authored the Conciliar Press story Touching Heaven and has been an Ancient Faith Radio podcaster since 2007. However, he says that writing Giver of Life proved to be a different experience altogether, and in an interview with the editors of antiochian.org, he explains why.
1. The Holy Spirit seems at times to be the most neglected Person within the Holy Trinity. Tell us what motivated you to write about Him in this book.
Actually, the idea for Giver of Life was not mine. Paraclete Press, the publisher, contacted me about writing a book for a series they were doing on the role of Holy Spirit in various traditions. They asked if I’d consider writing the Orthodox perspective. Since it’s such an enormous and lofty topic, with which I have very little personal experience, I didn’t agree to it at first.
But Paraclete said some things that led me to accept the project - they were looking for something introductory; they were fine with lots of direct references to the Church fathers; and they hoped for a book that was specifically devotional in nature. So, Giver of Life is not an academic book, and it’s certainly nowhere close to being any definitive text on the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox tradition. Rather, it’s a reflection on what the Orthodox believe about the Holy Spirit and how He changes our lives.
May 27-29 was a weekend like no other! For months we prepared for this holy consecration event…not knowing what to expect. But we knew we had to be ready! We built a new iconostasis! We had new icons written for the occasion! We re-constructed the altar area to be suitable for Orthodox worship! And we built a new altar table! And now the weekend was upon us. Sayidna Philip was to consecrate the Church of the Virgin Mary in Alsip, Illinois!
Words cannot express the extent of our happiness at having His Eminence, Sayidna Philip consecrate our Holy Church. It was the wishes of our Pastor, the Rev. Father Mousa Haddad, and the entire congregation that he visit us. Also, since this would be his first visit to our community, it was befitting that he would consecrate our house of worship. Committees worked hard to prepare for this holy and historic visit. We welcomed Sayidna Philip and we were honored to have Sayidna Antoun also join us for this historic weekend. Also, we were grateful for the presence and assistance of Archdeacon Hans El-Hayek.
Fr. Joseph Purpura's report to the Antiochian Archdiocesan Board, presented to the Board on June 4, 2011, highlighted several areas of progress for the Department of Youth and Parish Ministries.
Regarding the fledgling Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth, Fr. Joseph explained that "Our work and travels this year led us to our May meeting at the White House, with the White House Director of Drug Free Communities, Jack Claypoole. We continue to receive good support in our efforts to reduce substance use and abuse among our Orthodox Population from both the White House Office of Drug Free Communities and from General Arthur Dean of CADCA and his staff." Fr. Joseph and Kh. Kathleen will have completed 120 hours of Drug Free Communities training by July. Coalition members from the Cicero and Cleveland Coalitions have also begun training, and Father and Khouria have been working to establish additional Parish Coalitions. Fr. Joseph noted, "We will continue our efforts to reach out to other dioceses to establish additional coalitions to address the issues of substance use and abuse by our youth and encourage respect for the sanctity of the human body.
Santa Barbara, CA, August 9, 2011 — On May 31, the Antiochian Archdiocese's Department of Missions and Evangelism announced a contest to write the best 30-second or less explanation of what the Orthodox Church is, essentially an Orthodox “elevator speech”. Entries were submitted according to specific criteria, and the due date was June 20, 2011.
The Department is delighted to announce the winner of the contest, Valerie Ann Zrake of New York City! Valerie won with the following entry:
Orthodox Christianity is the authentic and original Christian Faith founded by Jesus Christ. As an Orthodox Christian you can experience heaven on earth through the Divine Liturgy which is mystical, spiritual, and beautiful, with it's incense, icons, and sacred music. You can transcend time and space while you meditate upon the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. It's the most pure form of Christianity – nothing artificial added. It's the real deal.
Valerie will receive $100 worth of Conciliar Press publications. Read all the winning entries of the top ten finalists here.
“Meen hayda?” Sara asked her educator, her finger pointed at me. Sara was sitting in the shade, shielding herself from the morning sun’s rays that were beating down on the courtyard of Al-Kafaat’s Lily Shwayri Center. “Ask him (Iss’alee),” the educator told Sara with a smile.”
Sara turned her head towards me and smiled. She was just playing games. Her sense of humor, however, was far more sophisticated than that of any other 11-year-old I had ever met. “Shou ismak (what’s your name)?” Sara asked me, her eyes slightly peaking over her glasses. “Andrew,” I replied, failing to hold back the smile that had now taken over my face. “Wa shou ismeek intee, mad moiselle?” I had hardly been in Lebanon for a month and the Lebanese were already rubbing off on me. “Sara,” she answered coyly.
I was delighted to meet Sara – but after I learned more about her story, my naïve delight was turned into genuine humility.
Sara came to Al-Kafaat in 2004 at the age of three. She has developmental issues that are sometimes exacerbated by severe epilepsy. She also has a weak visual field, as she also suffers from cataracts. As a result, her communication abilities were limited; before coming to Al-Kafaat, Sara could only answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no”.
But at Al-Kafaat foundation, a team of specialists – speech therapists and physiotherapists – assumed responsibility for Sara’s development. Over a short period of time, her situation improved dramatically, and her communication skills transcended the barriers created by her vision and developmental impairments.
The bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese joined with their brother bishops in Chicago, IL, from May 25-27 for the second annual meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. The Assembly has released both a press release about the gathering, and an official message from the 45 bishops who attended. The Greek Archdiocese has also published a photo gallery of the Assembly.
From May 25-27, the second annual Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America gathered for its meeting at the Chicago O'Hare Hilton. There was a total of 45 bishops in attendance. In addition, nearly all of the members were present at the Assembly: the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese, and the Albanian Orthodox Diocese; the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese; the Patriarchate of Moscow, including the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas; the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church; and the Orthodox Church in America.
In our deliberations as Orthodox Hierarchs, we manifested a spirit of conciliarity, expressing our commitment to proceed on all matters in collegial and collaborative manner reflective of the unity that characterizes the various jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church within our regional Assembly.
The premier researcher of American Orthodoxy, Alexei Krindatch, has released a comprehensive volume which includes data on all Orthodox Churches (including Oriental) in the United States. Supplemented with numerous maps, current and historical facts, Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches is published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press and was co-sponsored by SCOBA and the Virginia Farah Foundation. In addition to full coverage of all American jurisdictions, the Atlas includes an additional chapter which profiles all American monastic communities.
The press release explains, "The Atlas provides a 'snapshot' of the Orthodox Christian Churches in the United States...Simultaneously, this book is an atlas, a reference book and a thematic monograph. It is an atlas because it contains numerous maps to show the historical development and present territorial patterns of Orthodox Church life in America. It is a reference book because it furnishes comprehensive information and statistical data on all American Orthodox Christian Churches. It is a thematic monograph because the essays in this book tell the story of the Orthodox Christian past and present in the United States."
Upcoming Meetings of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North & Central America, The Synod of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, and the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees
Over the course of the next two weeks, several meetings that are critical to the future of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, and all Orthodox faithful in North and Central America will take place.
Next week, from Wednesday May 25th through Friday May 27th, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North & Central America will convene for their second meeting in Chicago, Illinois. The members of this Assembly are all of the active canonical Orthodox bishops who reside in North and Central America. It is expected that all of the Antiochian Orthodox bishops will attend this most important meeting.
The Synod of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America will convene their regular Spring meeting at The Antiochian Village on Friday June 3rd in the morning. Among the agenda items to be discussed will be the plan to nominate additional Auxiliary Bishops at the upcoming Archdiocesan Convention in Chicago, Illinois, to be held from July 24th through July 31st, 2011. In addition, each of our hierarchs will give a report on important developments in his diocese since the last meeting.
On Thursday, May 5, 2011, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip met with Mother Alexandra and Douglas Shoop of DSA Architects at the Archdiocese office in Englewood, New Jersey. They presented to His Eminence the schematics and renderings for the new Convent on which they had been collaborating since October.
A video walkthrough is available below:
Conciliar Press has released Antiochian priest Fr. Andrew Damick's book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. Birthed by the popular Ancient Faith Radio podcast with the same name, the book provides an overview of "the gamut of ancient heresies, modern Christian denominations, fringe groups, and major world religions, highlighting the main points of each faith." Fr. Andrew pastors the community of St. Paul Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Recently we asked Fr. Andrew to reflect on his chosen topic, and to explain why he believed it was necessary to write about the differences between Orthodoxy and other faiths.
1. Fr. Andrew, what was your motivation for tackling this topic?
The impetus for putting together the original lectures which eventually led to this book was a direct question from a parishioner: How are the Orthodox different from other Christians? In doing the writing and in thinking about the topic, it became apparent to me that many of us, both inside and outside the Orthodox Church, often do not understand why doctrine matters. We often do not see why what we believe and what we do have a real, discernible effect not only on our lives here on earth, but also in the age to come.
The May 2011 issue contains the following articles:
New Creation in Christ: How Jesus Changes Us and Our Marriages, pg. 5
by V. Rev. Josiah Trenham, Ph.D.
Vision for Life Reaches Out to a Million Homes with Pro-Life Message, pg. 10
by Chris Humphrey, Ph.D.
Over and Above: The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, pg. 12
by V. Rev. Peter E. Gillquist
Report from the Department of Christian Education, pg. 17
Structure & Symbolism in Stone: The Architecture of Ancient Christian Syria, pg. 22
An important new resource has just been produced for Orthodox couples. In Mastering the Art of Marriage: Staying Together When the World Pulls You Apart, Antiochian priest Fr. Constantine Nasr (St. Elijah, Oklahoma City) writes about the love, commitment and hard work involved in making marriages last. "As a pastor for the last 38 years," he notes, "I have had many young couples discuss their plans for marriage with me. I have seen their joy, their excitement and their eagerness to enter into marriage. During the same 38 years I have had many married couples come to me with their marriages in trouble. These same young couples that had been filled with happiness were now filled with anger, distrust and pain. It is staggering to hear that two out of three marriages will end in divorce. It is not the statistic that staggers me. It is the massive pain of divorce that staggers me."
Fr. Constantine continues, "The old signs that guided couples are gone. Today young couples head off in any number of directions hoping it will lead to happiness. Sadly, those roads most often lead to divorce."
Bishop Michael Dahulich of the Orthodox Church in America calls the book "...a resource masterpiece (which) combines the wisdom of the Scripture and the Holy Fathers throughout the centuries and the guidance of modern scholarship and marriage counseling from our own time."
Education and evangelistic outreach is of the utmost importance to the bishops, clergy and laity of the Antiochian Archdiocese. In support of their efforts, Discover Orthodox Christianity now provides a topical library of links and reflections presenting the faith to site visitors in an engaging and accessible format. We hope this will be a useful tool for teaching of the faith, for both newcomers and for people who are rediscovering Orthodoxy.
A massacre at one of Iraq's largest churches in October, 2010 and continued attacks in predominantly Christian areas of central Baghdad highlight the continued danger for Iraq's Christian community. Many of Iraq's million and a half Christians wonder if they can continue to remain in their homeland.
In 2010, with support from the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and others, IOCC provided more than 1,500 Iraqi families in Baghdad with food and personal hygiene items and is currently seeking new ways to assist vulnerable families in the country.
An estimated 7,500 people received critical assistance in areas that have been the target of some of the greatest violence since 2003. Some of the families receiving assistance have been displaced by violence within Iraq and are unable to return back to their homes – some of which have since been destroyed.
O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. 'Woe is me,' she said, 'for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the love of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline to the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my heads, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgments, O Saviour of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure.
Just over two years ago, twenty Orthodox leaders from various jurisdictions gathered at the invitation of Antiochian philanthropists Charles and Marilee Ajalat, and the Orthodox Vision Foundation. That meeting laid the foundation for the subsequent launch of FOCUS North America (Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding and Shelter), a coast to coast network of Orthodox Christian outreach ministries.
Since its inception, FOCUS has steadily added partner ministries ranging from homeless shelters to medical and counseling centers. On April 3, FOCUS Orange County was awarded the Community of Faith Award, an honor endorsed by the California State Assembly. By the end of 2011, the organization hopes to increase its number of directors, partner ministries, and student volunteers in the Youth Equipped to Serve (YES) program.
Executive Director Fr. Justin Mathewes studied business as an undergraduate and subsequently earned a masters degree and was ordained at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Chrismated in an Antiochian parish, Fr. Justin currently serves at a Serbian parish near FOCUS headquarters. With the Lenten season as a backdrop, we asked Fr. Justin to reflect on his first two years at the helm.
1. Since 2009 you've working to make FOCUS a reality and not just a list of organizational goals. What is the most important thing you've learned?
The most important thing I am learning through our ministry together is that the only person we can attempt to change is ourselves. In these last two years I have kept the basic Orthodox Christian spiritual principle before me of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire the Spirit of peace and thousand around you shall be saved.”
Antiochian Village Museum Curator Julia Ritter invites you to glimpse the architectural beauty of ancient Christian Syria through the latest exhibit at the Antiochian Heritage Museum.
From the lofty arches of a fifth-century church, to an elaborately carved palace doorway, the stone churches and homes of ancient Christian Syria were built from large, hand-carved blocks of stone, with often graceful results. Remarkably preserved for over a thousand years, these buildings of early Christian life and worship are presented in a series of photographs from the Princeton University archives, taken during American archaeological expeditions to Syria between 1899 and 1909.
The goal of the Syrian expeditions was to study, measure, draw, and photograph the ancient buildings, inscriptions and monuments of Syria, many of which had been abandoned for over a thousand years. Expedition leader Howard Crosby Butler was a Professor of Art and Archaeology, and founder of the School of Architecture, at Princeton University. Braving extreme desert conditions, travelling on horseback, and accompanied by a donkey caravan carrying limited supplies, Butler and his team eventually documented over two hundred ancient sites. Butler recognized the rare and extraordinary opportunity that lay before him: though in a state of partial ruin, these were original buildings, dating to the first centuries after Christ (and earlier), many of them untouched by the renovations of subsequent generations.
The April 2011 issue contains the following articles:
Domestic Violence: Where Are the "Well-Meaning" Men?, pg. 4
by V. Rev. Fr. David Randolph
Why the Church Needs Monasteries, pg. 6
by Roberta Royhab
Letting the Light of Christ Shine Through, pg. 8
by Janet Jaime
Thoughts on Living with Cancer, pg. 11
by V. Rev. Elias Bitar
Leaders as Spiritual Trustees, pg. 14
by Rev. Dr. Frank Marangos, D. Min., Ed. D.
...Nothing in this world but God can fill our heart or fully satisfy our desires. A fire cannot be put out with brushwood and oil, because only water will put it out. In exactly the same way, the desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied with the goods of this world, because only the grace of God can quench the thirst of our desires. + St. Innocent of Alaska
You evangelized the Northern people of America and Asia, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to the natives in their own tongues. O Holy Hierarch Father Innocent, Enlightener of Alaska and all America, whose ways were ordered by the Lord; pray to Him for the salvation of our souls in His Heavenly Kingdom.
-Troparion of the Feast, Tone 2
Listen to Fr. John Dunlop of St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak Alaska tell the story of his life and work.