Thy nativity, O Theotokos, hath proclaimed joy to the whole universe; for from thee did shine forth the Sun of justice, Christ our God, annulling the curse, and bestowing the blessing, abolishing death and granting us life everlasting.
- Troparion of the Feast, Tone 4
Today the Church celebrates the Birth of the Most-holy Theotokos, the first Great Feast of the Church Year. Here is a meditation on the Feast by Fr. Steven Rogers, from The Word Magazine. Listen here to hymns and discussion of the feast on the Orthodox Christian Network's Icons in Sound.
On Friday, September 12, 2008 at 7:30 pm, the Belgrade Theological Student Choir will present a free public concert on the campus of St. Vladimir's Seminary, in Yonkers/Crestwood, NY. Hailing from Belgrade, Serbia, the choir will offer a program featuring multi-part Russian Orthodox liturgical hymns in Slavonic and traditional Byzantine chant following the typikon of Mount Athos.
Students in the choir will be staying on the seminary campus from September 12-19, as "performers in residence," cultivating cultural and academic fellowship between seminarians in the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Belgrade, and those at St. Vladimir's.
In particular need of our prayers at this time are our fellow Christians of the Orthodox Christian Patriarchate of Georgia, led by His Holiness and Beatitude Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II.
His Grace, Bp. BASIL has sent out this prayer:
PRAYER FOR PEACE IN THE CAUCASUS: "O Master Who lovest mankind, King of the ages and Bestower of good things, Who hast destroyed enmity and givest peace to the human race: Grant peace even now unto all Thy servants who dwell in the lands of the Caucasus. Establish among our nations love one for another; quell every uprising; and allay all dissent and temptations. Grant unto them, O Lord, health and oneness of mind, protect them from all tribulations, afflictions and sudden death; bring an end to all enmity and malice which ariseth through the activity of the devil. Plant peace, O Lord, through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos, of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-called, of the first hierarchs of Moscow, of the holy Nino, Equal-to-the-Apostles, and of the Great Martyr George the Victorious. For Thou art our Peace, and we send up glory unto Thee—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen."
Constantine Triantafilou, Executive Director and CEO of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) - a ministry supported by the Antiochian Archdiocese via the collective work of the bishops of SCOBA - sends word of the following blessed development:
"I am very pleased to announce that IOCC has secured a major grant that will provide food and emergency supplies to vulnerable families living in Sadr City, one of the poorest and most densely populated districts of Baghdad. The nearly $400,000 grant, awarded to IOCC by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), will assist about 2,400 vulnerable families in this predominantly Shiite area, which has been the site of continuous conflict. This program follows a very successful delivery by IOCC of food and hygiene kits to 3,000 families in Baghdad and Mosul. I commend our IOCC Iraqi staff who deliver these life-sustaining supplies while braving Iraq’s hardships."
On August 7, His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba), Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America released instructions for the clergy and faithful of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America regarding the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America's creation of a "Vicariate for Palestinian/Jordanian Communities in the USA." Our Archpastor's message begins:
"On August 5th, 2008, The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America issued a press release which established a vicariate with the name "Vicariate for Palestinian/Jordanian Communities in the USA". The membership of this vicariate will consist of those communities in the USA which were originally a part of the Patriarchate of Antioch, but most recently (since 1993) were uncanonically claimed by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. From an historical perspective, it has been clear since the disintegration of Orthodox unity which existed in North America until 1917, that the Arabic-speaking Orthodox people in North America have been exclusively under the pastoral care of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Similarly, the Greek-speaking Orthodox people (e.g. Cypriot, Greek, Egyptian, Turkish, etc.) have always been under the pastoral care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. What reaction would occur if the Antiochian Archdiocese were to establish a vicariate for Greek communities which separate themselves from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese?!"
Bishop Demetri’s book, Saints and Martyrs from the Holy Land, is a great contribution to our Orthodox religious library and all those who are interested in the lives of the saints. Bishop Demetri was fortunate to be born not far from the gates of the holy city of Jerusalem. He walked where Jesus walked and breathed the same air which Jesus breathed. He spent his childhood in the shadow of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Mount Tabor, Calvary and the empty tomb. Palestine is a land of prophets, apostles, saints, martyrs and church fathers. We commend Bishop Demetri for writing this volume and we recommend it to all readers, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.
You can learn more about Bishop Demetri at his website, www.almoutran.com. And you can order A Cloud of Witnesses online here!
On August 5, 2008, the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration, Bishop ALEXANDER visited Camp Transfiguration, in its new location about an hour and 20 minutes from Montreal. It is nestled in the Laurentian mountains on the banks of a lake, and His Grace has provided the pictures below to share the beauty of this uplifting visit. By the grace of God, the direction of Alex Younes and Khalil Samara and the spiritual guidance of Fr. Michael Shaheen the camp has 108 participants, a good number of counselors and volunteers. The kitchen is headed by Salome Tannis, whose family donated the food. The campers are having a good time praying, fishing, sailing, playing ball and doing arts and crafts. Endless thanks go to every one who made this camp happen.
Inshallah next year we can increase the numbers and build more fellowship among our young ones. Pictures follow below.
"Let us crown the Church with songs on the falling asleep of the ark of God; for today doth heaven open its bosom to receive her who gave birth to the One whom all cannot contain. And earth doth adorn itself in blessing and splendour, restoring the fount of life." + Vesperal Litiya of the Feast, Fifth Tone
The Great Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is August 15. In honor of the Holy Virgin Mary, we are making available online this powerful meditation by Bishop BASIL originally published in The Handmaiden, the magazine for Orthodox Christian women from Conciliar Press: Mary, Our Cause for Rejoicing.
OCF Executive Director Fr. Kevin Scherer Presents at Greek Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Clergy Laity Congress
Antiochian Archdiocese pastor and Orthodox Christian Fellowship Executive Director Fr. Kevin Scherer presented workshops on youth ministry at July's Greek Archdiocese national gathering, and the good work of OCF was specifically noted by Archbishop DEMETRIOS in his keynote address.
OCF released the following summary of the news. We encourage everyone in the Antiochian Archdiocese to support this great labor of our Church in America, under the leadership of all our canonical bishops via SCOBA. Learn more about OCF's college ministry on their recently redesigned website!
Jesus went up the mountain with Peter, James, and John and was transformed before their eyes. He appeared to them in His glorified humanity and was illumined with the light of divinity. ... Here we have the whole Bible summed up in this one event. The Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, point to Christ, the eternal Son come in the flesh. Read more.
This meditation on theosis is appropriate reading for the Great Feast of the Transfiguration, and a sample of the articles available at Discovering Orthodox Christianity, from Antiochian.org and Conciliar Press.
St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church of Van Nuys, California will be hosting the 49th Antiochian Archdiocese Convention at the J.W. Desert Springs Marriott Resort and Spa from July 19 – 26, 2009. There is a guaranteed room rate of $165.00 per night (plus 9.16% room tax). Already, rooms are going fast! If you have not yet made your hotel reservation we encourage you to do so, as soon as possible. You may reserve your rooms online by going to the convention website at www.archdioceseconvention2009.org and clicking on the Online Hotel Reservation image. No phone reservations can be made until August 2008. If you have any questions please email email@example.com.
Come Receive the Light, OCN's national Orthodox Christian radio program, interviews Fr. Luke Veronis, author of the new book from Conciliar Press, Lynette's Hope. Fr. Luke shares the story and journal entries of Lynette Hoppe, an Orthodox Christian who served as a missionary in Albania, even as she faced terminal cancer with courage and faith. Click here to listen!
Why is Orthodoxy the noted exception when it comes to the declining interest in religion by men? Noted author and speaker Frederica Mathewes-Green tells us in a 45 minute talk available for free listening online via Ancient Faith Radio, part of the Antiochian Archdiocese's Conciliar Media Ministries.
The Word is on their annual July and August hiatus, but while we eagerly await the September issue we can still be fed by this beloved ministry of our Archdiocese, founded in Arabic in 1905 by St. Raphael of Brooklyn and in 1957 made an English language publication by Metropolitan Antony Bashir. At The Best of The Word, you'll find thought-provoking articles that share the blessed work being done in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and the wisdom of her workers. So whether you missed reading an issue (maybe even a few?) in print, or want to discover The Word for the first time, enjoy The Best of The Word.
Some recommendations to get you started: Kevin Allen's Church Growth, Orthodox Style; Gregory Cook's Words We Live By: ORTHODOX and American Ideals In Foundational Texts; Fr. Thomas Gallaway's The Sacred Nature of Sex; Harvey H.H. Homsey's Stewardship: Why My Family Tithes; and Fr. Joseph Purpura's Are We Doing Enough For Our Teens?
The Handmaiden: A Journal for Women Serving God Within the Orthodox Christian Faith is published quarterly by Conciliar Media Ministries of the Antiochian Archdiocese. Readers can sample the latest issue, "Good Stewards of the Earth," with the article A New Heaven and a New Earth: Church and Environment - Theological and Spiritual Insights, by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis.
"This world is a never-ending movement toward the kingdom. Indeed, it is profoundly and intimately related to the heavenly kingdom. This means that what we do on earth matters for what we believe about heaven. ... We have learned not to treat people like things because they are created 'in the image of God.' We must now learn not to treat even things like mere things because they, too, contain the very trace of God."
His Grace Bishop THOMAS shares with us this article about St. Raphael originally published in the New York Times in 1895, on the occasion of the "Damascus Preacher" arriving in the city. Thank you Bishop THOMAS, and thank you Vera Acker, secretary of St. Philip's Church in Souderton, PA, for transcribing this piece of history.
From The New York Times, September 15, 1895:
MINISTER FOR SYRIANS
Christian Church to be Filled by a Damascus Preacher.
Fr. Patrick, one of the most thoughtful and prolific of today's Orthodox Christian writers, is the author of an important new book from Conciliar Media titled Creation and the Patriarchal Histories: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Genesis.
This week Orthodox Christian Network's Come Receive the Light national Orthodox radio program features Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff, teacher of dogmatic theology at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theology Seminary, speaking about the mystery of death. Dr. Bouteneff teaches, "We do indeed teach and believe in a bodily resurrection. I don't think we have a very clear sign of what that will look like. But we do know that is something we will know and recognize as our own body."
Learn more about this and the other blessed offerings of OCN at their newly designed website, www.myocn.net.
Residents of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, spend their days piling debris outside their ruined homes. One woman who lost everything only cared about not finding her favorite picture of her daughter. “This is a vibrant community, which has been changed forever. People try to go about their daily lives and they can’t deal with a lot of what’s hitting them emotionally right now,” says Father Chris Flesoras, a member of International Orthodox Christian Charities’ (IOCC) Emergency Response Network, known as the “Orthodox Frontline,” which is providing trauma counseling and coordinating resources with other charities on the scene.
Also, learn about the first response team from IOCC to the flood ravaged areas via this Ancient Faith Radio podcast with Fr. Haralambos (Bob) Fox, who is on assignment in Cedar Rapids, IA.
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East met in mid-June at the Balamand under the presidency of His Beatitude, The Most Blessed Patriarch IGNATIUS IV.
Among the agenda items were elections for the widowed Metropolitical Sees of Western Europe, which is headquartered in Paris, France and formerly headed by the late Metropolitan GABRIEL (Saleeby), and of Akkar, which is headquartered in Halba, north Lebanon and formerly headed by the late Metropolitan PAUL (Bandaly). The secretary of the Holy Synod, The Very Reverend Economos George Dimas, announced the following:
1 - Elected Metropolitan of Akkar on June 17th is His Eminence BASIL (Mansour), 46, former Titular Bishop of Tartous. His enthronement will take place on July 5th.
2 - Elected Metropolitan of Western Europe on June 17th is His Eminence JOHN (Yaziji), 53, former Titular Bishop of al-Hosn. His enthronement in Paris will take place on September 21st.
Many years to Metropolitan BASIL and Metropolitan JOHN!