On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, March 9, 2014, multiple media outlets including a leading newspaper in Lebanon, The Daily Star, reported that the thirteen nuns held in captivity by Syrian rebels for over three months were freed late in the day, as a result of Lebanese and Qatari mediation. Officers from Lebanon's General Security received the nuns on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal.
Parishioners and clergy at the Archdiocese's mother cathedral, St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY, received the joyous news during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in which Bishop Nicholas was presiding. "We learned of the release just prior to commencing Holy Communion, and began ringing the bells of the Cathedral loudly, chanting 'O Lord, save Thy people' and 'To Thee the Champion Leader,'" says Archpriest Thomas Zain, Vicar-General of the Antiochian Archdiocese. An English translation of a statement from His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch, is being prepared by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.
Today hath appeared, a day full of joy, because the splendor of true doctrine shineth forth brilliantly, and the Church of Christ now sparkleth, adorned by the elevation of the Icons of the saints and their illustrating pictures, and believers attain there a unity rewarded of God.
+ Orthros of the Feast, Tone 4
On the first Sunday in Lent, we commemorate the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 A.D. upholding the use of holy icons in Orthodox worship. We also commemorate today the unity of Orthodox belief and the oneness of our Faith throughout our various jurisdictions, nations and languages and across the continents and the centuries.
The Great Lent: When Mercy Dries Up, Fasting Suffers Drought
By God's mercy John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
Brethren, Pastors of the Holy Church of Antioch;
Beloved children in all dioceses in this apostolic see
Brethren and dearest spiritual children, whose strength and anticipation in God, strengthen ours;
Entering this redemptive period which leads us to the Cross (of Christ) and the dawn of His and thus our resurrection, these days bring to us the anticipation to Jesus and His divine consolation for His beloved humans; for whom He descended from His highest, incarnated in the Virgin, submitting Himself to the human law, willingly walking the path of the Cross, in order to rise from the dead, becoming the first fruit for our resurrection from our earthly misery and tribulation.
Jesus chose the path of the Cross, and drank from the chalice of death to simply tell us that the tribulation of our times will not overshadow our hope for light, and that hardship cannot eclipse the brightness of resurrection.
The month of March is designated as Antiochian Women’s Month by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, and is a time when the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America encourage their sisters in Christ to minister in their parishes and their communities. With this in mind, Khouria Suzanne Murphy, Religious Coordinator for the National Board of the Antiochian Women, wrote this reflection about the women saints of the Church.
When I was a little girl, I loved to read stories about brave knights and lovely princesses. By the time I was a mother, societal sensibilities had broadened so that our children not only read about brave knights, but also brave princesses. The Walt Disney company did a good job of coming up with female characters that were both feminine and brave – and they did this without diminishing the virtues of the male heroes. Our Orthodox saints, however, are not fairy-tale heroes. These brave men and women (and children) faced very real horrors – torture, enslavement, and death – with steadfast resolve.
Patriarch John X of Antioch and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow Issue Appeal on Syria, pg. 5
Role Models for Women in Antiochian Women's Month, pg. 6
by Kh. Suzanne Murphy
Glory to God for the Antiochian Women, pg. 8
by Kh. Dannie Moore
Some Thoughts Concerning the Dispute over Qatar, pg. 10
by Archpriest John W. Morris
A Missionary's Journey into Orthodoxy in Turkana, pg. 12
by Karen Morrison
Worship: What's the Point, pg. 20
by Chris Humphrey
Food, Sex, and Sports: Idols or Pathways to Salvation?, pg. 23
by Fr. Philip LeMasters
O Lord, we were estranged before from paradise, because of eating from the tree. Therefore, lead us into it again by Thy Cross and by Thy Passion, my Savior and my God. Fortify us therein that we may fulfill our fast with becoming purity, and worship Thy divine Resurrection and Passover of salvation, by the intercessions of Thy Mother.
-- from Orthros, Tone 2
For those observing the Lenten Fast, Cheese-Fare Sunday is the last day on which eggs and dairy are eaten before Pascha.
On Cheese-Fare Sunday, we also commemorate the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, entering into the Lenten fast in remembrance of mankind's separation from God through disobeying his commandment to fast from the fruit of the tree.
On February 27, we commemorate the repose of our beloved father among the saints, St. Raphael (Hawaweeny) of Brooklyn.
Today is the day we honor the holy hierarch Raphael! Who can describe his many sorrows and his many labors? Who can describe his many pains? He journeyed on land and on the sea, searching for his lost sheep, in weariness and in poverty, in sleeplessness, thirst and hunger. He became the good shepherd of the lost sheep in America, so let us cry out unto to him: O our Father, intercede for the salvation of our souls!
+ Praises at Orthros
- The Life of Our Father among the Saints Raphael Hawaweeny by His Grace Bishop Basil, published in the May 2000 issue of The Word following St. Raphael's glorification
- Akolouthia for St. Raphael (PDF)
- Biographical details of St. Raphael's life
- Read about a recent miraculous intervention by St. Raphael in the life of an Athos monk
- See a New York Times article about St. Raphael written on his arrival in America
Beloved in the Lord:
Greetings and blessings to you as we enter this most holy season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
It is with the greatest joy that I write to you today to inaugurate the 2014 Food for Hungry People campaign. This year marks the 40th anniversary of this charitable drive. When reﬂecting on the past 40 years, I call to mind the countless charitable organizations and individuals that we have helped because of this fund. Through the efforts of our dedicated and long-standing chairlady, Miss Robin Nicholas, and by your generosity on the parish level, this drive has grown into a strong witness of our Holy Orthodox faith on this continent and throughout the world.
This year holds special signiﬁcance as we continue to raise funds through various means to help those affected by the war in Syria. Through your contributions to FFHP over the years, we have helped many of the orphanages and other charitable organizations within Syria and throughout our Patriarchate and the entire the Middle East, in addition to our domestic charitable contributions. As we continue to witness the horrors of the war in Syria, please make a special effort this year to use FFHP to raise funds and awareness to the tragedy there so we can help those in need even more.
We urge you, during this season of prayer, self-discipline and fasting, to be very generous in your contribution to this campaign. As we practice the virtues which cleanse our souls, let us not forget or refrain from what St. John Chrysostom calls the “greatest of the virtues," giving to the poor. As important as prayer and fasting are, they are of no avail to us if we fail to give to those in need.
The trumpets shall blow, and the graves shall be empty, and all mankind shall rise trembling. They who have done good shall rejoice with joy, expecting their reward; and those who have done evil shall tremble greatly, moaning and shaking, as they are sent to suffering, separated from the elect. Wherefore, O Lord of glory, be compassionate toward us, and make us worthy to be of those who love thee; for thou art good.
- from Vespers, Tone 6
For those observing the Lenten Fast, Meatfare Sunday is the last day on which meat and poultry are eaten before Pascha.
To learn more about the season of pre-Lenten preparation, please visit our Great Lent section.
Read more about Meatfare Sunday, in an excerpt from Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann.
Listen to Fr. Thomas Hopko's reflections on the Sunday of the Last Judgment on Ancient Faith Radio.
As the faithful prepare to celebrate the high point of the Church year—Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha—the Archdiocese highlights our section of resources and reading for the season. Great Lent Resources & Readings is a topical library of links and reflections that presents the meaning and practice of the forty days of prayer and worship of Lent, for both newcomers to the Orthodox Christian Faith as well as for those who are rediscovering the spiritual benefits of the Lenten journey.
Visitors to Great Lent Resources & Readings will find three subsections:
- All Revered Days: the Lenten Calendar is a library of information broken into the weeks of Lent from the Pre-Lenten Sundays through Holy Week,
- Bright Sadness: Entering into the Lenten Spring contains counsel about making the most of the forty days, and
- Holy Week: Journey to the Empty Tomb offers an overview of Holy Week as well as reflections on some of its specific days, such as Holy Friday.
We are grateful to all the various sources who have allowed us to repurpose their material, and we encourage those maintaining Orthodox websites of their own to link to this section.
When I disobey in ignorance thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of thy hired servants.
- Kontakion, Tone 3
I have been entrusted with a verdant and faultless region, but I planted evil in its soil and reaped its cares with the scythe of laziness. And I gathered my deeds into sheaves but placed them not on the threshing-floor of repentance. Wherefore, I ask thee, O divine Husbandman, to winnow the straw of my deeds with the breeze of thy compassionate love; and fill my soul with the wheat of forgiveness. Store me in thy heavenly garners and save me.
- from Vespers, Tone 1
O Lord, Thou didst reproach the Pharisee when he justified himself, boasting of his deeds; and justified the Publican when he approached humbly, seeking forgiveness with sighs; for Thou dost not draw near to arrogant thoughts, nor turn away contrite hearts. Wherefore, we also kneel before Thee meekly, O Thou Who didst suffer for our sakes. Grant us forgiveness and the Great Mercy.
--Doxasticon from Orthros, Tone 8
When the Pharisee went down with empty glory, and the publican bowed himself in repentance, they came to Thee alone, O Master. But the one through boasting lost his reward, and the other by his silence deserved gifts. Wherefore, by those sighs confirm me, O Christ God, since Thou art the Lover of mankind.
--from the Praises at Orthros, Tone 1
Read more about the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, in an excerpt from Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann.
Listen to a podcast about the Sunday by Fr. Josiah Trenham, The Doors of Repentance.
Visit the Archdiocese section, Great Lent Resources and Readings.
Katrina Bitar is the North America Program Director for YES, or Youth Equipped to Serve. A ministry of FOCUS North America, YES provides opportunities for junior high and high school students to participate in formative weekends of service in urban environments across the U.S. and Canada. A lifetime member of the Antiochian Archdiocese, Katrina began working with youth during her college years and eventually was tapped to head the YES program after graduating from St. Vladimir's Seminary in 2009. A look at her busy calendar for the first half of 2014 reveals that she will be involved with outreach efforts in Philadelphia, Montreal, Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, Houston, Austin, and St. Louis. Antiochian.org asked her to introduce the work of YES and explain the impact it is having on the Church's youth.
What is your background, and how did you first get involved with YES?
I was born in Burbank, California, but spent most of my life in Little Falls, NJ. I discovered my youth ministry gifts while serving at the Antiochian Village as a counselor during my college years. In 2001, I took a job as a youth director for a parish in Phoenix, AZ that began my full-time youth ministry work. It was through my work as a parish youth director that I was introduced to the YES Program.
Do We Need to Rethink the Parish Council?, pg. 3
by His Grace Bishop John Abdalah
Christ and the Children, pg. 5
by Fr. Joseph Antypas
Metropolitan Philip's Letter Regarding the Nuns of St. Thekla Convent, pg. 8
New England Parish Council Seminar, pg. 10
Mother Macrina Addresses Women's Retreat, pg. 14
by Dianne Julianna Storheim-Hill
St. Athanasios and His Relevance Today, pg. 17
by Fr. Athanasios Papagiannis
The 12th Annual Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Workers Conference took place at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA from January 23-25, 2014. Over 80 youth workers from across the United States and Canada gathered together for this year's conference, sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Camps Association and youth departments from different jurisdictions. This year's conference was co-hosted by the Youth and Camping Ministries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. The theme of the Conference was "Writing Icons of the Kingdom: Understanding our Youth as Icons we are Helping to Write."
Ruling Hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa was the keynote speaker. In his first address, Bishop Gregory spoke about the unity required of us in youth ministry in order to effectively "write" icons for the kingdom. For his second address His Grace stepped aside for a very special presenter, Protopresbyter Mark Leasure, his priest from St. George Church in Taylor, PA, who brought the myrrh-streaming icons of the Mother of God that reside in his parish.
Adorn thy chamber, O Zion, and receive Christ the King. Welcome Mary the heavenly gate; for she hath appeared as a cherubic throne; she carrieth the King of glory. Verily, the Virgin is a cloud of light carrying in her body the Son Who is before the morning star, Whom Simeon carrying in his arms proclaimed to the nations as the Lord of life and death, and the Savior of our souls.
-Vespers of the Feast, Tone 7
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace, for from thee arose the Sun of justice, Christ our God, lighting those who are in darkness. Rejoice and be glad, O righteous old man, carrying in thine arms the Deliverer of our souls, Who granteth us Resurrection.
-Apolytikion of the Feast, Tone 1
Common Statement by Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
On January 30, 2014, His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East concluded his five-day visit to Russia, and the following Common Statement with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia was released (translation provided by the Russian Orthodox Church):
At the invitation of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East John X paid his official visit to the Russian Orthodox Church from January 25 to 30, 2014. The Patriarchate of Antioch is going now through difficult times because of the violence committed in its homeland and its tragic consequences of the political crisis for its people. This visit has given the two sister Churches the opportunity to discuss several disturbing issues affecting their witness and ministry. The two Churches feel the need to state the following:
1. The important mission of a Church in a society is to bear witness in word and deed to God's love for each person, regardless of his or her religious belief or national identity. Following the words of Christ "Blessed are peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Mt. 5:9), we proclaim peace and respect for the human dignity and rights. Every human being is an object of Divine Compassion; it is because of God's love that the Incarnation took place and that the Holy Spirit continues to work in our midst. This basic principle inspires the two sister Churches in their actions, service and cooperation.
Let all who love their words come together and honor with hymns the three luminaries of the light-creating Trinity: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and renowned John of golden speech, who have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines, and are mellifluous rivers of wisdom who have watered all creation with streams of divine knowledge; they ever intercede with the Trinity for us.
-Troparion, Tone 1
Thou hast taken the sacred and divinely inspired heralds, the crown of Thy teachers, O Lord, for the enjoyment of Thy blessings and for repose. For Thou hast accepted their sufferings and labors above every burnt offering, O Thou Who alone dost glorify Thy Saints.
-Kontakion, Tone 2
His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East Visits His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
Meetings are underway in Russia between His Beatitude Patriarch John X and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. In addition to the general report below, a joint statement has been issued appealing for peace in Syria.
The Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church reports:
On 25 January 2014, at the Patriarchal and Synodal Residence in St Daniel's Monastery, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, who is currently visiting the Russian Orthodox Church.
The delegation accompanying His Beatitude Patriarch John X on his visit includes Metropolitan Basilyos of Akkar; Metropolitan Ephrem of Tripoli; Archbishop Niphon of Filippopolis, representative of the Patriarch of Antioch to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; archimandrite Philip (Yazegi); archimandrite Parthenius (Allati); archdeacon Gerasimus (Kabbas); and a number of lay people.
Orthodox Christians from around the U.S. and Canada traveled to Washington D.C. on January 22, 2014 for the 41st March for Life, marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all fifty states. His Grace Bishop John of the Diocese of Worcester and New England represented His Eminence Metropolitan Philip and the Antiochian Archdiocese at the March. After the peaceful march and rally, he wrote:
Only our fingers and toes were chilled; yet our hearts were warmed by the fervor of the crowds, which were not frightened away by the extreme cold and snow. It was an honor to stand and march for life with Orthodox hierarchs including Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Archbishop Nathaniel, and Bishops Michael, Melchisedek, and Mark, and Bishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. It was also a joy to walk with the banners and students from St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's Seminaries, and many Orthodox faithful who chanted hymns to the Theotokos as we marched.