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 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.