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Becoming Truly Human: the Spirit of Orthodox Christian Evangelism

by Sdn. Adam Lowell Roberts

Many of you may be familiar with the new Antiochian Archdiocese program Becoming Truly Human. Becoming Truly Human is a new evangelism program available to every parish in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, and the ministry has been blessed to be shared with other jurisdictions.

While some may be weary of programs, this program has proven to be different. More than several priests and lay people have admitted they were wrong about their initial concerns. Others recognized right away that this program captures and shares the spirit of Orthodox evangelism. They applauded the Archdiocese for having a program which is effective, loving, Orthodox in spirit and nature, and above all helping our North American churches reconnect with our history of evangelism. We even have some overseas churches wanting to run the program.

Metropolitan Joseph's Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

February 2, 2016

“Say, O Simeon, Whom carriest thou in the Temple in thine arms with rejoicing? Towards Whom dost thou cry, shouting, Now I have been let to depart; for I have beheld my Savior. This is He born of the Virgin. This is the Word, God of God, Who wast incarnate for our sakes, and saved man. Him let us worship.”

(From the Stichera of Great Vespers for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord)

We greet you with love and joy on this Holy Feast of the Presentation of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ into the Temple.  The verse from the Great Vespers of the holy feast which is quoted above transmits to us the essence of this holy feast.

February Liturgical Texts are Now Available

Metropolitan Joseph at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Los Angeles, CA, during the “Ceremony of the Presentation of the Boys” in 2015Metropolitan Joseph at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Los Angeles, CA, during the “Ceremony of the Presentation of the Boys” in 2015In February, the Orthodox Church finishes the forty-day celebration of Christmas and begins its journey into Great Lent. The liturgical texts for the month of February, blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, are now ready for clergy and laity to download from the Online Liturgical Guide.

February 2 marks the Great Feast of the Meeting (Presentation) of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ into the ancient Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-40). This was not some random meeting. This feast celebrates our forty-day-old incarnate Lord's first official encounter and manifestation with His people in the person of Simeon. In one of many acts of extreme humility, the divine Word thus lowers Himself and submits to the law in order to fulfill it and save mankind. In honor of this, churches offer the Ceremony of the Presentation of Boys, where our young men receive an extra blessing on this day.

Metropolitan Joseph Attends 50th Anniversary of the Episcopacy of Metropolitan Antonio

From January 14-19, 2016, Metropolitan Joseph visited the faithful in Mexico and participated in the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the episcopacy of Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Antonio (Chedraoui) of Mexico, Central America and Venezuela. January 17 was Sayedna Antonio's 84th birthday and also, his namesday. The memorable Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was presided over by their Eminences the Archbishops and Bishops of the Patriarchate, and distinguished guests.

View a photo gallery of the visit
View photos on the Archdiocese of Mexico's website
Read about the consecration of the Antiochian Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in 2011

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph Hosts His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios

On Monday, January 11, 2016, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph hosted a visit by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, at the Antiochian Archdiocese Headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey.

Also attending from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese were His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, and Rev. Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos.

Also attending from the Antiochian Archdiocese were His Grace Bishop John of the Diocese of Worcester and New England, Very Rev. Thomas Zain, Vicar General, and Very Rev. George Kevorkian, Hierarchical Assistant.

"Expressing our Faith": Interview with Rosemary Shumski About the Festivals

Rosemary Shumski is the Administrative Assistant for the Department of Christian Education. As a part of her duties, she serves as the Departmental Assistant for the Creative Festivals and is responsible for coordinating the Festivals on the Archdiocesan level. Rosemary has also served as the Photography Coordinator for the Eastern Dioceses since 2002. 

Rosemary is a graduate of Bloomsburg University and was previously employed in business management. Married to Dn. John Shumski and the mother of three grown children, Rosemary is active at St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in York, PA, where she has taught Sunday School for seventeen years. Recently, Antiochian.org asked her to tell us more about our Archdiocese's unique and successful Creative Festivals program.

Tell us about this year's theme for the Festivals: why was it chosen, and what is its significance for the Church today?

The 2016 Creative Festivals theme is “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15) This is the first theme chosen by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph.

Metropolitan Joseph's Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ

“When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity wast made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who hath appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee.” 

+The Apolytikion of the Feast of the Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ

We greet you with love and joy on this holy Feast of the Theophany of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.  The Apolytikion of the feast which is quoted above transmits to us the essence of this feast.  Our Lord and God Jesus Christ deigns to be baptized at the hands of John the Baptist, not because he is in need of cleansing of sin, for He is without sin, but so that He might reveal  to us His true identity and at the same time, honor and affirm the new life that comes through baptism.

Online Liturgical Guide Adds January Texts

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, commemorated on January 24St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, commemorated on January 24The first day of the civil new year begins with the celebration of an important act of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, which leads to another celebration of one of His great feasts. The liturgical texts for the month of January, blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, are now ready for clergy and laity to download from the Online Liturgical Guide.

On January 1, eight days after His nativity, our Lord consented to be circumcised in the flesh in order to become the only human to fulfill the Law of Moses. This act of humility and servitude shows that our Lord identifies with the low estate of His people to deliver them from sin and death by introducing God's grace that supersedes the ancient Law.

On this same day, we commemorate St. Basil the Great, archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, who reposed peacefully on January 1, 379.

Metropolitan Joseph Celebrates Nativity Liturgy

Christ is Born! Glorify Him! His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph celebrated the Nativity Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York. View a gallery of photos from the Nativity service.

Metropolitan Joseph's Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ

This is our festival, this is the feast we celebrate today, in which God comes to live with human beings, that we may journey toward God, or return—for to speak thus is more exact—that laying aside the old human being we may be clothed with the new, and that as in Adam we have died so we may live in Christ, born with Christ and crucified with Him, buried with Him, and rising with Him. For it is necessary for me to undergo the good turnaround, and as painful things came from more pleasant things, so out of painful things more pleasant things must return. "For where sin abounded, grace superabounded," and if the taste of forbidden fruit condemned, how much more does the Passion of Christ justify? Therefore we celebrate the feast not like a pagan festival but in a godly manner, not in a worldly way but in a manner above the world. We celebrate not our own concerns but the One who is ours, or rather what concerns our Master, things pertaining not to sickness but to healing, not to the first shaping, but to the reshaping.  (+St. Gregory the Theologian – from the Festal Oration 38 on the Nativity of the Lord)

As we celebrate the Birth in the Flesh of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, the profound words of St. Gregory the Theologian which are quoted above stir in us feelings of great joy and hope because of the great condescension which God has deigned to show toward His children.

2015 Nativity Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

December 20, 2015
By the mercy of God
Patriarch John X, The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
(Read the Arabic version)

To my brother pastors of the Antiochian Holy Church, and my children throughout the Holy See                                                                   

I behold a strange, most glorious mystery: heaven—the cave, the cherubic throne—the Virgin, the manger—the place where Christ lay. The uncontained God whom we magnify in song.

In a manger of love our Jesus was born, and in a cave He chose to visit our humanity.

By His descending, the Lord experienced all our weaknesses except for the sin. He did not chose the scepters or the sofas of the rich in order to preach the salvation, but the womb of a Virgin. He put us on so that we could put Him on. He dwelt in a cave so we may become citizens of Heaven.

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph Interviewed About Syrian Crisis

During his pastoral visit to Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Christian Church in Salt Lake City, Utah on December 12–14, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph sat down with Antiochian journalist Peter Samore to discuss the Syrian civil war and the millions of refugees it has produced. Sayidna Joseph proposed solutions for ending the bloodshed and for safely welcoming the displaced into the United States. Over the same weekend, His Eminence also ordained Fr. John Mahfouz to the holy priesthood.

In addition to serving as a consultant to the Department of Internet Ministry, Peter reports for KSL Radio, KSL Television, and the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, where his stories with His Eminence appeared this week. 

Read and view stories:
ISIS killers don't represent people of Syria, Archbishop says
Ordination of new assistant pastor is reflection of church's growth

Letter From His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph for Choir and Chanter Appreciation Sunday: December 13, 2015

"O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!" Psalm 95:1-2

Beloved in Christ,

Each year in the month of December we remember our choirs and chanters. This sacred ministry of the Church is essential to the beauty of our divine services. Oftentimes, a person's first experience of our Holy Orthodox Church is witnessing one of our beautiful services. This experience can either be enhanced by a beautiful and well-prepared choir, or diminished by an unprepared one. We are grateful to all of our choir directors, chanters and singers for their dedication, effort and commitment to making the divine services in their respective parishes beautiful to both God and the faithful.

A Call to Reject all Hateful Speech and Actions Against our Muslim Friends and Neighbors

The Hospitality of Abraham icon depicts unity, and the welcoming of strangersThe Hospitality of Abraham icon depicts unity, and the welcoming of strangersFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Englewood, New Jersey

As Orthodox Christians, we take to heart the commandments of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, especially the commandment that He has told us is the greatest, that is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

We have watched with dismay as several public figures have played on the fear which they assume has swept over this country. Specifically, a recent news release from the Trump campaign has called for “a total and complete shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States”. We reject in the strongest possible terms both this specific call, and all speech and actions which would encourage hate and persecution against any group of people. We call on all leaders, in the political arena and in the faith community, to also reject this call, and to remember that such an action would bring dishonor to all of the brave men and women of all backgrounds who have given their lives to uphold the core values of freedom and dignity which we enjoy.

We have seen an alarming rise in recent days in the number of hateful and violent actions which have been perpetrated against Muslims, or those who are presumed to be Muslims. There is no doubt that such hateful rhetoric encourages those who may be inclined to violence to act out this violence. We condemn in the strongest possible terms any act of violence against any human being, and we are reminded that all human beings bear the image of God, and are to be respected as children of God. We also unconditionally condemn all acts of terror, such as the recent one in San Bernardino, California which brought pain to so many people.

Metropolitan Joseph Celebrates the Patronal Feast Day of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles, California

He had only arrived in Los Angeles late the night before, but he was full of energy. His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph celebrated the feast day of St. Nicholas with his "family" at what has been his west coast cathedral and home for twenty years. Sayidna Joseph had just returned from the other side of the globe, visiting the Antiochian Orthodox Christian communities of St. George in London (which Sayidna founded as a priest in the 1980s), and St. Nicholas in Abu Dhabi. The latter community pleaded with him to stay for St. Nicholas Day, but he told them he had a promise to keep in Los Angeles.

At the conclusion of Orthros, Sayidna Joseph and the clergy offered Trisagion Prayers for his Father-in-Christ and mentor, His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV, upon the three-year anniversary of his repose; and for Mr. Joseph Chammaa (six months), a longtime member of St. Nicholas.

December Liturgical Texts Now Available

His Beatitude Patriarch John X blesses the loaves during Great Vespers at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, NY, in honor of its patronal feast on Dec. 5, 2014.His Beatitude Patriarch John X blesses the loaves during Great Vespers at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, NY, in honor of its patronal feast on Dec. 5, 2014.One of the most beloved saints in all of Christendom, plus two others with a strong devotion in the Patriarchate of Antioch, as well as the prophets and ancestors of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ Himself, are celebrated in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The Liturgical Texts for December, blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, are now ready for clergy and laity to download from the Online Liturgical Guide.

On December 6, we celebrate St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the fourth-century archbishop of Myra in Lycia. None of his writings is extant, but his examples of Christian generosity, virtue and love endure to this day. St. Nicholas is the living embodiment of the words “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). He is also the patron and protector of two cathedrals – Brooklyn and Los Angeles – in our Archdiocese.

Annual Orthodox Institute for Continuing Education Hosts 14th Annual Conference

Participants in the course, "Basic Principles of Adult Education"Participants in the course, "Basic Principles of Adult Education"The 2015 Orthodox Institute for Continuing Education in the Faith hosted its 14th Annual Conference from November 5–8 at Antiochian Village. This year’s theme, “Adult Education: Building on the Foundation of Faith” attracted more than ninety participants - both clergy and laity. Participants explored the necessary and sometimes challenging need for adult education in the parish.

Kevin Allen, Christian education and popular Ancient Faith Radio host, opened the Institute with the Keynote Address: “Adult Education is Crucial to the Parish.” He convincingly made his point with statistics, quotations and personal experience. “Why does the Orthodox Church need continuing adult education ministries across our pan-Orthodox landscape?” he began.

St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle + November 30

Let us acclaim Andrew, the preacher of the Faith and servant of the Word. For he fisheth men out of the deep, holding in his hands the Rood instead of a rod; letting down its power like a fishing line, he draweth up souls from the error of the enemy, and offereth them as a wellpleasing gift unto God. O ye faithful let us ever extol him with the choir of Christ’s disciples, that he might intercede with Him to be gracious unto us in the Day of Judgment.

+Doxasticon, Tone 8

Let us praise the divine leader and namesake of courage, first-called disciple and Peter's kinsman. For as of old Christ called to him so he now calls to us: Come, we have found the Desired One.

+Kontakion, Tone 2

On November 30 in the Holy Orthodox Church we commemorate the holy, glorious, and all-laudable Apostle Andrew the First-Called.

Statement on the Reception of Refugees in the United States

Syrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word MagazineSyrian children, from the June 2013 issue of The Word MagazineStatement from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America on the Reception of Refugees in the United States in Light of Recent Terrorist Actions around the World

Since the tragic terrorist actions in Paris, Beirut, Mali and elsewhere in the past two weeks, there have been polarized reactions to the reception of refugees, mainly of Syrian nationality, worldwide: an understandable reaction of concern on the one hand, but a sad overreaction of fear on the other. We are all concerned first and foremost for the safety of the citizens of the United States which must be continually addressed and assessed. At the same time, the humanitarian disaster caused by the war in Syria to which the U.S. government has contributed by calling for the removal of the established Syrian leadership – as it did in Egypt, Iraq and Libya – requires a moral response from the people and government of our great country. Misguided U.S. foreign policy helped create the so-called "Arab Spring" which has been a "tornado" that has destroyed Arab countries, leaving power vacuums that have fostered the soaring, vicious activity of terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Nusra, and others in the Middle East and around the world. All of this has resulted in an unprecedented number of deaths of innocent people and lack of basic services like healthcare and sanitation, healthy food and drinking water, safe and dignified housing, and so forth.

We must us not be guided by fear or bigotry, but rather let us work to heal the wounds of the injured, clothing the naked and feeding the poor as our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ has taught us (Matthew 25:35-36).

Metropolitan Joseph's Pastoral Message for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

Pastoral Message for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
November 21, 2015

"The all-pure temple of the Savior, the most precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the treasure house of the glory of God, today enters the Temple of the Lord, bringing with her the grace which is in the divine Spirit: whom also the angels of God do celebrate in song; for she is the heavenly tabernacle".

(The Kontakion of the Entrance of the Theotokos in Tone Four)

We greet you with love and joy on this Feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. The Kontakion of the feast which is quoted above transmits to us the essence of this feast. She who has become the Living Temple of the Lord, enters the Temple of the Lord and ascends into the "Holy of Holies" in order to assure us of her status as the most blessed bridal chamber of the Lord, and treasure house of the glory of God. She brings with her the grace which is the divine Spirit, and that very Spirit is poured out upon all of us who are so greatly loved and protected by the Mother of God. The angels of God stand in awe, and celebrate in song this awesome action which is granted by our compassionate and loving God.