December was filled with tidings of great joy at St. George Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia. We welcomed home for the holidays His Grace, Bishop Thomas, who served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Nativity and was in attendance for several of our holiday presentations.
On December 5th, after Divine Liturgy, our teen group served their annual pancake breakfast with all the toppings. On December 6th, 8th, and 10th, the Antiochian Women/Ladies Guild, St. Ignatius, and the Young Adults held their Christmas Dinners and end of year meetings.
HARK! The voices of angels were heard on Sunday, December 12th, and fourteen members of our Junior Choir performed solos and duets of traditional Christmas carols for the congregation, after Divine Liturgy. Under the direction of our choir director, Lexie Damous, and accompanied by Michael Barnhouse, this was truly a gift of the season.
The Theophany celebrations of Holy Apostles Mission in Bowling Green, Kentucky were recently featured in the local newspaper, the Bowling Green Daily News:
A centuries-old ceremony was performed in Bowling Green on Thursday as members of the Holy Apostles Orthodox Mission gathered on the banks of the Barren River to participate in the Blessing of the Waters.
“We come here today to celebrate the Blessing of the Waters and in so doing, we join with our brothers and sisters around the world,” said the Rev. Michael Nasser, pastor of Holy Apostles....
“What we’re celebrating is the baptism of Jesus,” Nasser said. “For us, it’s not just an event that happened 2,000 years ago. It still affects us.”....
“This beautiful service reminds us that as Christ was a blessing to the waters of the Jordan and to the whole world, we should also be a blessing to our planet and not a curse, and especially to that part of the world right around us,” Nasser said.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13: 34-35.)
St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church is located in Berkley, MI. We are a small community known for welcoming others. We are a family, and as a family care about each other, and are very supportive of one another. For the past fifteen years St. Mary's has been blessed with the ministry of Father George Baalbaki and his wonderful wife, Khouriye Iman. During their ministry the church has grown and been energized.
Immediately following Bishop Basil's visit in late October, a team of five Russian artists, led by Dmitri Shkolnik, arrived at Holy Trinity Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin work on the temple's iconography. Working all day and into the night six days a week, the team managed to complete the church's dome and apse before returning to their families for the holidays three weeks later.
The choice of icons in the apse was driven by the parish's history and patronal feast. Fr. John Bethancourt has long felt a special guidance from the Mother of God in his efforts to build a mission and grow a parish community over the years. Therefore, the icon of the Mother of God Platytera, "More Spacious than the Heavens," was chosen to preside over the altar space. Above the altar is the icon of Pentecost, Holy Trinity's patronal feast. Towards the ceiling is the icon of the Annunciation, divided by the Holy Trinity at Abrahams table. Together with Pentecost, these icons depict three manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Fr. John also points out that the unusual juxtaposition of the Holy Trinity and Annunciation icons is full of meaning. This icon of the Trinity depicts the visitation of Abraham and Sarah, when the Lord promised to Abraham that he "shall surely become a mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him" (Genesis 18:18). This promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Annunciation, through which Jesus Christ comes into the world to save all.
"ALF MABROUK! A THOUSAND BLESSINGS! The central dome was raised today atop the new church temple being built by the congregation of St. Anthony the Great Church in Spring, Texas where Fr. Anthony Baba is proistamenos."
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Orlando, Florida was founded in 1968. During the V. Rev. Fr. John Hamatie's thirty-seven year tenure the parish purchased and remodeled their church building, and also bought the office building and parking lot behind the Church. The parish has been a presence downtown since 1974, when the community established the annual tradition of Diving for the Cross in Lake Eola Park. Then in 1976 the parish celebrated their first liturgy in the church downtown, on the Fourth of July.
In 2009 in conjunction with the Ephraim Project, Fr. John began to put St. George's parking lot to good use during the week, when he established a weekly feeding for those he calls "our homeless brothers and sisters." Volunteers arrive earlier in the day to prepare food for between 150 and 200 people every Friday; meals are served in the outdoors in the same place that parishioners park on Sundays. "The Blessings deriving to us for over the last year of feeding 200 homeless men, women and children every Friday behind the Church is perhaps one of our greatest spiritual 'highs.' To be actually fulfilling a command of the Lord to love those closest in proximity is a wonderful thing."
DETROIT, MI [COCC] -- A fall benefit concert sponsored by the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches of Metropolitan Detroit [COCC] raised more than $5,000.00 for International Orthodox Christian Charities [IOCC].
The concert of "Music from the Twelve Great Feasts” was presented by the Orthodox Choir of Metropolitan Detroit on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Troy, MI.
The choir was conducted by Artistic Director Vickie Kopistiansky, who also conducts the choir at Holy Trinity Church [OCA], Detroit. Archpriest Paul Jannakos of Saint Mary Magdalene Church [OCA], Fenton, MI, provided commentary.
On October 30-31, 2010, the congregation of St. Raphael of Brooklyn Orthodox Church, located in Chantilly, Virginia, and its priest, Fr. Thomas Palke, gratefully received His Grace Bishop Thomas. Bishop Thomas' visit was his first to the mission since the mission's move to Chantilly from nearby Centreville, Virginia, where we had met for four years. Sayedna Thomas presided at Great Vespers on October 30, during which he offered words of instruction, admonition, and encouragement to the congregation. Afterward, the congregation enjoyed dinner and a mini-concert from violinist Michael Munayer, a member of St. Raphael's. Over dessert, Sayedna spoke briefly and opened the floor for questions from the faithful. Among other topics, he discussed with the faithful the prospect of administrative unity among the Orthodox churches in America. Joining the mission for the evening's events were Fr. John Anderson, attached priest of St. Raphael, Fr. Patrick Cardine of St. Patrick's Orthodox Church in Warrenton, VA, Fr. Nicholas Aflord of St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church in Washington, D.C., and Deacon Peter Maris of Holy Cross Orthodox Church of Linthicum, Maryland.
His Grace Bishop Thomas recently visited St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York on the occasion of their patronal feast. Sayedna arrived in New York on Friday, December 3, 2010 and served liturgy for the feast of the Great-Martyr Barbara and St. John of Damascus on December 4 at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. The seminary hosted a lunch for His Grace together with the Antiochian students and staff. On Sunday, the feast of St. Saba, Bishop Thomas celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral and also celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas that day, followed by a dinner and dance in the Cathedral hall.
On November 13, 2010, the parish of St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania warmly welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas on the occasion of their annual patronal feast day celebration. Sayidna Thomas began the weekend festivities by attending a dinner with the parish council members and their spouses on Friday evening.
On Saturday morning, His Grace presided at the Divine Liturgy concelebrated by the Very Reverend Fr. Peter Pier, pastor of St. John Chrysostom and Reverend Stephen Vernak of Christ the Savior OCA Church in Harrisburg. Following Divine Liturgy, Sayidna enjoyed breakfast and interaction with the children in the parish hall. In the afternoon, the Teen SOYO met with Bishop Thomas for a session of “Ask Sayidna.” Great Vespers was then concelebrated by Fr. Peter and Fr. Nicholas Alford of St. Gregory the Great Church in Washington D.C., with Bishop Thomas presiding. Following Great Vespers, a gala banquet was held at nearby Heritage Hills Resort.