Today is born of the Virgin Him Who holdest all creation in the hollow of His hand.
He Whose essence is untouchable is wrapped in swaddling clothes as a babe.
The God Who from of old established the heavens lieth in a manger.
He Who showered the people with manna in the wilderness feedeth on milk from the breasts.
And the bridegroom of the Church calleth the Magi, and the Son of the Virgin accepteth gifts from them.
We worship Thy Nativity, O Christ.
Show us also Thy divine Theophany!
The Antiochian Archdiocese wishes a holy and blessed Great Feast of the Nativity to all!
Archpriest Thomas Zain writes on December 23, 2013:
Beloved in Christ: It is with great joy that we present to you our updated online liturgics guide containing the Service Texts of the weekend services for parish use. The new order for publishing Great Vespers, Litia-Artoklasia, Orthros and Divine Liturgy Variables commences January 5, 2014. Like before, the Antiochian Archdiocese will offer word-for-word compilations of these services, as well as "abbreviated rubrics." The Service Texts will be posted in Rich Text Format (RTF) that can be used in any word-processing software for making booklets, as well as the traditional Portable Document Format (PDF).
Last spring, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip appointed me to chair a new Committee on Liturgics to bring together the various people in the archdiocese who were doing this work in their respective dioceses so that we might pool our talents in order to present a unified set of liturgical notes for our one archdiocese.
Like a living monument and an animate image, thy yearly feast is come, O God-bearing Ignatius, proclaiming thy mystic teachings and thy heroic exploits, thy resistance for the Faith even unto blood, and those blessed and celebrated words of thine, which said: I am the wheat of God, and in the teeth of beasts shall I be ground up. Wherefore, as an imitator of the Passion of Christ, intercede that our souls be saved.
-Orthros of the Feast, Tone 1
Fr. Andrew Damick presents a study of the letters of this second century martyr and the third bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatius, in the podcast, Voice From Antioch: Martyrdom.
In 1972, at the Archdiocese Convention in Los Angeles, California, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip stated, "We must realize once and for all that women have a definite ministry in the life of the Church. Very often we have the tendency to confine women's role to the kitchen. Both the Old and New Testaments testify beyond doubt to the important role which women played in the history of salvation. Time does not permit me to speak in detail about Ruth, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael, the Virgin Mary, the Ointment-Bearers, the Deaconesses and many others who ministered to the church and Christ. I propose, therefore, that a NATIONAL SISTERHOOD OF CHARITY be organized in the Archdiocese."
The month of December every year is designated as Order of St. Ignatius month, in conjunction with the feast day of St. Ignatius on December 20. The Order is the philanthropic arm of the Antiochian Archdiocese and one of its most vital lay ministries, under the guidance of Metropolitan Philip and the Archdiocese Board of Trustees. Currently, there are nearly 3,000 active members supporting approximately 38% of the Archdiocese's budget, as well as a host of other worthy causes including: camping and college conference scholarships, married seminarian assistance, Antiochian Village, Teen SOYO Special Olympics, theological and religious education, clergy retirement, Project Mexico, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), The Treehouse Family Ministry, and Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF).
Dr. Elias K. Hebeka, the North America Vice-Chair for the Order, wrote in December 2012's The Word magazine that the Order's Governing Council "is a group of volunteers, elected or appointed members of our Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, that has the responsibility to make many of the important decisions for the Order.
In an obscure corner of what is now Alaska, on an Aleutian island called Spruce, a monk labored from the late 1700’s until his repose in 1837. Braving subzero temperatures, plagues and storms, ill treatment from fellow Russians who resented and misunderstood him, St. Herman lived a life marked by astonishing ascetic labor that gave birth to a deep love and concern for all with whom he came in contact. Strangely, despite the miracles associated with him not only throughout his life but also, after his death, he was all but forgotten after he reposed.
"Thirty years will pass after my death, all those who live now on Spruce Island will be dead, you alone will remain alive, and you will be old and poor; then they will remember me," Father Herman said to his Aleut follower, Ignatius Aliaga. As with other prophecies of the saint, this one too was fulfilled, as in 1867, Bishop Peter of Alaska began a formal investigation into his life. It wasn’t until 1894 that his story became known to the outside world, and then his glorification waited another 76 years, until August 9, 1970.
December 7, 2013
The President and Mrs. Obama; The White House; 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; Washington D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President and Mrs. Obama,
Greetings and best wishes to you and to your two precious daughters in the spirit of this Holy Christmas season. I was honored to receive your invitation to attend a White House holiday reception on Friday, December 6th, 2013.
I remember fondly my attendance at the White House reception two years ago. The photograph which we took together on that auspicious occasion continues to adorn my office. Unfortunately Mr. President, I did not attend your holiday reception this year because while I do have the joy of Christmas, I do not have the peace of Christmas. This is the peace which the angels proclaimed on that Holy Night "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (Luke 2:14). Although I am Lebanese by birth and a proud American citizen for the past fifty-seven years, I received my secondary education in the cities of Homs and Damascus, Syria.
The December 2013 issue includes the following articles:
St. Stephen's Course for the Residency Program, pg. 4
by Archdeacon Peter N. Boulukos
Antiochian Women Celebrate 40th Anniversary, pg. 8
by Violet K. Robbat, President
Bishop Anthony Addresses Priests at 9th Annual Synaxis, pg. 10
Metropolitan Philip Welcomes Seminarians to Dinner, pg. 12
The Missionary Character of Preaching in American Orthodoxy Today: An Interview with the Late Fr. Peter Gillquist, pg. 16
by Daniel Miles, Ph.D.
Special Olympics - Different Abilities, pg. 34
by Leilah A. Rodriguez-Anter
Anna besought the Lord in fervent prayer for a child. The voice of the angel proclaimed to her: God has granted you the desire of your prayer. Do not weep, for you shall be a fruitful vine, bearing the wondrous branch of the Virgin who will bring forth in the flesh the blossom Christ, Who grants great mercy to the world.
Today the great mystery of all eternity, whose depths angels and men cannot perceive, appears in the barren womb of Anna. Mary, the Maiden of God, is prepared to be the dwelling place of the eternal King Who will renew human nature. Let us entreat her with a pure heart and say: Intercede for us with your Son and God that our souls may be saved.
--Vespers of the Feast
His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, issued the following remarks on December 5, 2013 at a press conference in Balamand, Lebanon:
Amidst the calamities besetting Syria and the bloodshed afflicting our people and amidst the uncertainty that still surrounds the fate of our metropolitans Boulos and Youhanna in Aleppo, it is with deep pain that the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East has received news of the abduction of her daughters, nuns and orphans of the Monastery of Saint Thekla in Maaloula on December 2, 2013 and their being transported to Yabroud. Because our initial attempts to obtain the release our abducted daughters did not achieve the desired outcome, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East calls upon the international community and all governments to intervene and make efforts to release them safely. She likewise calls upon the conscience of all humanity and upon the spark of living conscience that the Creator, may He be exalted, sowed in the souls of all those who worship God, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters the nuns and the girls of the orphanage.
The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance. Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility, riches by poverty. Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion, Tone 3
Thou wast a faithful minister of God in Myra, O Saint Nicholas. For having fulfilled the Gospel of Christ, thou didst die for the people and save the innocent. Therefore thou wast sanctified as a great initiator of the grace of God.
On December 8th, the second Sunday of the month, our Antiochian Archdiocese will be celebrating Choir/Chanter Appreciation Sunday. While we appreciate our choir and chanters many other times throughout the year, for all the liturgical services they beautify and make possible with their singing and chanting, this is one Sunday that we especially acknowledge them particularly throughout the Archdiocese, and thank them for their ministry in the parish.
Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power. Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly Joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.
What do American Orthodox do on Thanksgiving? We give thanks, to our Creator and Fashioner and God. The following links offer inspiration and assistance in celebrating this great American holiday in proper fashion, in full eucharistic thanksgiving "for all things of which we know and of which we know not, for blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us."
Ancient Faith Radio's live call-in show Ancient Faith Today with Kevin Allen covered the critical subject of "Addiction, Recovery, and Orthodox Christianity" on Sunday, November 24 at 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific.
Addictions and struggles with the passions are rampant in our culture. In this two-hour special, Kevin and his guests discussed addiction and ways to overcome it. Joining Kevin were Fr. George Aquaro, priest at St. Matthew Antiochian Orthodox Church, Torrance, CA, an international speaker on the topic of addictions, and the author of the blog Orthodoxy and Recovery, and Dr. Albert Rossi, a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York, a teacher in pastoral theology at St. Vladimir's Seminary, an author, and the host of "Becoming a Healing Presence" on Ancient Faith Radio.
The program streamed live on Ancient Faith Radio's talk station on November 24, and can be heard via AFR's Website.
Today is the prelude of God's goodwill and the prophecy of the salvation of men. The Virgin appears openly in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. So let us cry to her with loud voices: Rejoice, thou who art the fulfillment of the Creator's providence.
Troparion of the Feast, Tone 4
Today in the Holy Orthodox Church we celebrate the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Leading the procession into the Temple were virgins with lighted tapers in their hands, then the three-year-old Most-holy Virgin, led by her father and mother. The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the “King’s daughter, the Bride of God” (Psalm 44:13-15).
The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) recently met in Busan, Korea, from October 30-November 8, 2013. The Assembly is the highest governing body of the WCC, convening every seven years to review the WCC’s ongoing agenda, formulate public statements of concern and action, and endorse activities and outreach being undertaken by Christian ecclesial bodies around the world.
In addition to conducting its annual business meetings, which included the election of officers and Central Committee members, the Assembly issued a statement concerning the situation of Christians in Syria, Egypt, and the Middle East.
In his professional life, Kory Warr is a commercial real estate developer. As an Antiochian Orthodox Christian, he has served terms as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Antiochian Archdiocese, and as a Board member for St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He is a member of St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City, OK, and is currently the chairman of the Board of Trustees for Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry. Antiochian.org recently had the opportunity to ask him about his outreach to prisoners, and what motivates him to minister to the incarcerated.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you first become interested in prison ministry?
I got involved in prison ministry in 2005. Prior to that, if I had made a list of things I might have wanted to do as a layman in the Church, prison ministry would have been at the very bottom—prison ministry was literally the last thing I wanted to do. However, my bishop, Bishop Basil of Wichita, asked me to participate in a working group whose task it was to begin to shape the prison ministry of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America into the official prison ministry of SCOBA (now the Assembly of Bishops).
On Tuesday, November 12, His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Brooklyn, and Antiochian Archdiocese Vicar-General Archpriest Thomas Zain, visited His Eminence, Archbishop Justinian, Archbishop of Naro-Forminsk and Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA. The purpose of the visit was to present Archbishop Justinian with a letter and substantial monetary donation from His Eminence Metropolitan Philip on behalf of the clergy and laity of the Antiochian Archdiocese for St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which had been damaged by fire the evening of October 4, 2013. While the church proper was not damaged, the electrical fire caused severe damage and destruction to the basement area that houses the refectory and offices. Archpriest Georgy Roschin was also present at the meeting and served as the translator.
The two bishops discussed many topics of interest in the Orthodox world and especially regarding the situation of Christians in the Middle East and the ongoing war in Syria.
Friday, November 15, 2013, is the beginning of this year's Nativity Fast. The Nativity Fast is one of the four Canonical Fasting Seasons in the Church year. This is a joyous fast in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ.
In the weeks between now and December 25, Orthodox Christians prepare themselves to celebrate the birth in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we begin the fast, we encourage both believing Orthodox and inquirers to review the reflections and resources in our special Nativity section.
For additional general resources on the Orthodox Christian tradition of feasting and fasting, visit the Feasts and Fasts section of Discover Orthodox Christianity.
Supreme Leaders of the Heavenly Hosts, we implore you that by your prayers you will encircle us, unworthy as we are, with the protection of the wings of your immaterial glory and guard us who fall down before you and fervently cry: deliver us from dangers, for you are the commanders of the powers above.
-Troparion of the Feast, Tone 4
O Archangel Michael whose countenance is like lightning, gleaming in an ineffable manner with the illuminations of the Trinity, of exceeding divine brilliancy, thou dost traverse the whole creation like lightning, fulfilling the divine command, watching over, preserving, and sheltering those who joyfully laud thee.
-Exaposteilarion of the Feast, Tone 2