From His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP:
January 6, 2009
Great Feast of Theophany
Beloved in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who was baptized by John in the River Jordan for our salvation. A blessed and happy feast day and New Year to you and your families.
While we rejoice in this great feast of our holy church, we are also deeply saddened by the humanitarian crisis that we are witnessing daily in Gaza. With each news update we hear of more and more people, many of them women and children, whose lives have been abruptly and needlessly ended by the brutality of the ongoing invasion of a foreign army. In addition to this senseless loss of life, there is a humanitarian disaster taking place. Food and water are running out, there is a dire lack of medical supplies, and countless thousands have no place to rest their heads at night.
Since there is no infrastructure in Gaza, we have no way to help these suffering people directly as an Archdiocese. Thanks be to God, however, that we have IOCC, International Orthodox Christian Charities. IOCC is mobilizing its forces in the disaster relief community and through its contacts in Gaza to bring much needed aid to the suffering people there. Therefore, I strongly urge each of our parishes to collect money in a way they see fit and forward it directly to the IOCC as soon as possible. For more information on the IOCC and how they are helping in Gaza, please see the attached news release or view their website at www.iocc.org.
Although it remains difficult to get supplies into Gaza, IOCC [International Orthodox Christian Charities] is working with organizations that have significant operations inside the territory and who are in touch with government officials and United Nations personnel to gain access. [IOCC Representative Dirk] Lackovic-van Gorp reports that the greatest need now is life-saving drugs and medical supplies to equip hospitals which have been forced to turn away the injured.
Help IOCC speed relief to families who have been caught in this conflict. Visit www.IOCC.org, call 1-877-803-4622, or mail a check or money order payable to "IOCC" and write Middle East Relief in the memo line to: IOCC, P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, MD 21263-0225.
And during this time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, please join us in praying that His peace may reign in the Holy Land and throughout the world.
We of The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America join most of the world in decrying the loss of life and extreme human tragedy unfolding in Gaza before our eyes.
In light of this, we make an urgent appeal to all of the faithful of The Antiochian Archdiocese to immediately contact their elected representatives. Urge them to exert the considerable influence of the U.S. Government to end these hostilities and engage the various parties in a meaningful dialogue to forge a just and lasting peace. At the same time we ask you to keep all of the victims of this tragedy in your daily prayers.
His Grace Bishop THOMAS thought he would be at Antiochian Village for the College conference when he began his 4 hour drive from the Chancery in Charleston, West Virginia on December 27th. But just a few miles from the Village he recieved a message from Metropolitan PHILIP asking him to represent the Antiochian Archdiocese at the Enthronement of Metropolitan JONAH of the OCA. Bishop BASIL, who was originally scheduled to attend, was prevented by bad weather. Bishop THOMAS then drove the 4-1/2 hours to the Washington area in order to attend the Enthronement and Divine Liturgy on Sunday the 28th.
Bishop THOMAS arrived at Saint Nicholas Cathedral at 7:45 on Sunday morning and vested with around 16 other Hierarchs from the various Orthodox Jurisdictions. The occasion provided the opportunity for many of the bishops to greet one another and catch up. At one point the new Metropolitan JONAH came in and asked if Bishop THOMAS remembered attending seminary with him, which he did of course.
While His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP travels extensively throughout this vast Archdiocese every year, his Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, NY is always honored to have him preside on two occasions each year, Great and Holy Pascha and the Feast of our Lord's Nativity in the Flesh. This year was no exception. May God grant him many years!
Dear to God:
Christmas is the great event that reconciles Heaven and Earth.
In this event God has joined us, and has become the catalyst that unifies, and that eliminates all polarities between God and the world, God and man.
The Birth of Christ represents the living example that God has claimed His creation fully. This is so because man is the symbol of creation, and God’s progenitor on earth. Man has thus regained the image that was intended for him, and has restored creation to the Divine purpose for which it was intended.
Is it too much for us to hope for a modicum of justice and to thus restrain the immoral aggressor, and to help instead the homeless refugee to return to his family and his home?
Is it too much for us to expect the world to look at us as ends in ourselves, not as means in the hands of powers that recognize nothing short of force and violence? Is it too much for us, people of the East, the people of love and brotherhood, to have our voice heard throughout the world?
We pray the Lord of Heaven and Earth that He may infuse His Spirit in our world, that we may be sanctified by it.
We ask the Child in the Manger to confer His grace upon you, and render your Holidays occasions of continuing joy and success. May the Lord protect you and give you everlasting peace.
+ I G N A T I U S IV
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
He who is before the morning star
Was begotten of the Father without a mother,
Is made flesh on earth today without a father form you.
A star announces the glad tidings to the wise men,
While angels and shepherds sing the praises of your child-bearing without corruption,
You who are full of grace!
--Kontakion of the second day of the Nativity, by St. Romanos the Hymnographer
What shall I offer you on your birthday in return for your infinite love?
I have neither gold nor silver, neither myrrh nor frankincense.
My house is without a roof. I have no room for you; not even a manger.
My soul is even darker than the clouds of my passion.
My eyes are too dim to look beyond the horizon of myself.
Help me behold your bright star; "For in thy light we shall see light."
by Virginia Nieuwsma
Of all of the saints particularly loved by Antiochian Orthodox, St. Ignatius ranks somewhere near the top of the list. Of Syrian origin, St. Ignatius, otherwise known as Theophorus, which in Greek means "God-Bearer," led the Christian Church during a critical period of her history. Pious tradition has always maintained that he was the little child that Christ held on His lap when he uttered the immortal words, “Let the children come unto me.” What is known for certain is that he grew up to be a disciple of the Apostles, St. Peter personally ordained him a Bishop, and his name is mentioned in the book of Romans.
Not much is known about St. Ignatius’ life until he began his famous last journey—on foot—to Rome, where he was thrown to the lions as portrayed in his icons. On his way to his death, many churches sent representatives to him, and fortunately for future Christians, he sent letters back to the churches. Thanks to St. Polycarp, seven of these letters survived; in them, we find some of the earliest teachings about the organization, practices, and beliefs of the Church. He emphasized the importance of loyalty and obedience to the bishop, as well as the salvific power of the Eucharist, "the flesh of Christ," "the gift of God," "the medicine of immortality." On December 20, 107, during the reign of Emperor Trajan, St. Ignatius ended his life in a Roman arena, torn to bits by beasts. Rather than discouraging the fledgling faith of Christianity as the Romans had hoped, his noble death ignited and strengthened the faith of many.
Bethlehem has opened Eden: come, let us see!
We have found delight in secret.
Come let us receive the joys of Paradise within the cave.
There the unwatered root whose blossom is forgiveness has appeared;
There has been found the undug well from which David once longed to drink.
There a Virgin has born a babe and has quenched at once Adam's and David's thirst.
For this, let us hasten to this place
Where there has been born a little child:
God before the ages.
The promise of the Old Covenant was understood only vaguely. But with the coming of the Lord, God's purpose was made clear. Therefore, joyously proclaim His birth.
Plus several Christmas episodes of the Orthodixie podcast by Fr. Joseph Huneycutt of St. George Church in Houston, Texas!
|Left to right: Very Rev. Thomas Zain, Very Rev. Joseph Allen, Mr. Charles Ajalat, Metropolitan PHILIP, Metropolitan JONAH, Bishop ANTOUN, Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, Very Rev. Ellias Bitar, Very Rev. Michael Ellias.|
On the evening of December 10th, 2008, the newly elected primate of the Orthodox Church in America, His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH was hosted for dinner by Metropolitan PHILIP at the headquarters of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Englewood, New Jersey. This was the first visit for His Beatitude since his election as the First Hierarch of the OCA. He was accompanied by the OCA Chancellor, Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs.
All of the following people attended the dinner: Very Rev. Thomas Zain, Very Rev. Joseph Allen, Mr. Charles Ajalat, Metropolitan PHILIP, Metropolitan JONAH, Bishop ANTOUN, Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, Very Rev. Ellias Bitar, Very Rev. Michael Ellias.
The two Metropolitans engaged in lively and serious discussion, and shared many common visions for the future of the Orthodox Church in North America.
It is our prayer that this was only the first of such gatherings to discuss and address issues that are critical to the Orthodox Church on this continent.
From the web site of the Moscow Patriarchate:
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, 79, died on 5 December 2008.
Session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will take place on December 6 to elect Patriarchal Locum Tenens who will chair the Memorial Commission.
The Holy Synod will announce the time of the funeral of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy.
Metropolitan PHILIP writes to the U.S. Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in the U.S.:
Beloved Brother in Christ:
I greet you in the name of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ who is the Resurrection and the Life of all who repose in him.
It is with great sadness that I awoke this morning to the shocking news of the passing into eternal life of His Holiness ALEXY II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The loss of this great man is not only a loss for the Church of Russia, but for the entire Orthodox world. I recall with great fondness the two occasions I had to be in his presence, once on his visit to the United States in the early 1990s when we hosted him at our Archdiocese Chancery and the second when I accepted his kind invitation to visit Russia in 1997. It was during this trip in 1997 that I came to realize the greatness of his leadership and vision for the Church of Russia and the Orthodox world at large. Having met with him at the Danielov Monastery and having served with him in the historic Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin and again at the dedication of the awe-inspiring Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow (that he was instrumental in rebuilding as a symbol of the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church after more than 70 years of oppression), I felt assured that the Church would continue to thrive under his leadership.
His Grace Bishop JONAH of Fort Worth was elected Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the 15 All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America on November 12, 2008.
On the evening of Thursday, November 13th, 2008, His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP hosted the Antiochian Seminarians and their spouses for the annual Seminarian Dinner, which is held at the Archdiocese Headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey. This year, we are blessed to have 32 seminarians (20 of whom are married) in attendance at three Orthodox seminaries: St. Vladimir in Crestwood, NY; St. Tikhon in South Canaan, PA; and Holy Cross in Brookline, MA. More than 60 people attended the Dinner.
The evening began with the Vesper service for St. PHILIP The Apostle (the patron saint of His Eminence). After vespers, everyone proceeded to the large dining room for a wonderful dinner, and dessert. His Eminence addressed the seminarians and their spouses, especially on matters of pastoral care for the faithful. He emphasized the need to remain true to Orthodox traditions while being mindful of the culture that we live in. He emphasized also that our faith must touch the lives of people in a positive way, and that the wives of our priests also have an important ministry.
From October 28 to November 2, 2008, His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV met with Metropolitan PHILIP and the Archdiocese synod of Bishops in Boston, Massachusetts. Please click on the following picture to see more photos of each respective event.
|A luncheon was held in honor of His Beatitude on October 28th.||The Archdiocese Board of Trustees held a meeting on October 31st and November 1st.|
|On November 1st, His Beatitude presided over a banquet celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of the University of Balamand in Lebanon.||His Beatitude, together with Metropolitan PHILIP and the Bishops in attendance, celebrated Patriarchal Divine Liturgy on Sunday, November 2nd.|
This week on the Orthodox Christian Network:
On this week's episode of Come Receive the Light, Fr. Alexander Goussetis, author of "Encountering World Religions: An Orthodox Christian Perspective," talks with Fr. Chris about Buddhism.
Also, Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, a professor at Boston University, answers questions about Orthodoxy sent in from listeners around the country.
"Special Moments in Orthodoxy" continues its adult Bible study of the Book of Acts with Fr. Harry Pappas.
"Turning to the Fathers" with Fr. John McGuckin looks at the spiritual teachings of St. John of Damascus.
Also new this week: "Get Wisdom," the Bible study program for teens and young adults, and "Just Thinking," where Fr. Chris and Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News discuss current events and social trends.
His Beatitude IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East presided over a meeting of the Archdiocese Synod of Bishops on Friday, October 31st, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts.
His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV arrived in Newark, New Jersey on the evening of October 28th, 2008. He was greeted at the airport by His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP, Bishop ANTOUN, Bishop THOMAS and area clergy. His Beatitude will stay at the Archdiocese Headquarters until Thursday October 30th when he will depart for Boston, MA, where he will preside over a celebration banquet for the University of Balamand (click here for more information).