by Fr. John W Fenton, Assistant to the Vicar General
For all Orthodox Christians, the Holy Season of Lent begins on the First Sunday in Lent (4 March in 2012), and the Lenten fast begins a few days prior. For Byzantine Orthodox Christians, the First Day of the Great Fast is on the Monday before the First Sunday in Lent; and for Western Orthodox Christians the Lenten fast begins on the Wednesday before, commonly known as Ash Wednesday.
While both traditions observe a 40 day fast, the different starting dates for the fast are related to how the fast is calculated. Early on in the West, the Lenten included every day including Saturdays but never included Sundays. Therefore, in order to achieve 40 days, since the 7th century the Western Orthodox have fast not only for six fully weeks (i.e., 36 days) but also four additional days. Hence, for about 1400 years the Lenten fast in the West has begun on the Wednesday before the First Sunday in Lent.
It is not clear when the Wednesday beginning the Lenten fast began to include the imposition of ashes. Originally, the imposition of ashes was one of several public rites required of those penitents who wished to be restored to the church. As early as the 4th century, these rites were associated with a 40 day fast. Most likely this fast was the Lenten fast, but the evidence is too thin to be conclusive. What does seem clear is that, by the end of the 10th century, it was customary in Western Europe (but not yet in Rome) for all the faithful to receive ashes on the first day of the Lenten fast. In 1091, this custom was then ordered by Pope Urban II at the council of Benevento to be extended to the church in Rome. Not long after that, the name of the day was referred to in the liturgical books as “Feria Quarta Cinerum” (i.e., Ash Wednesday).
by Fr. Paul N. Tarazi
from The Word, April 1983
The Sunday of Orthodoxy is a gathering of commemoration, a commemoration of a bright victory, the victory of the Orthodox Faith at the 7th Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea in 787. Yes! A festivity of victory! This is after all what Orthodoxy Sunday is all about. However, it is to my eyes highly symbolical that, already since its inception in 843, this festivity has taken place on the 1st Sunday of the Great Lent.
In the eyes of the world any feast without meat, eggs and dairy products cannot be a full scale festivity; it is indeed puzzling — if not insane — to celebrate a great victory in such a meager way. But for us, this celebration is held at the beginning of Lent as an ever reminder that it is Pascha (Easter) —the Feast of Feasts, our only ultimate Feast — which is the fulfillment of Orthodoxy. Any other festivity or celebration is by the same token wanting and incomplete until our eyes have seen Jesus Christ, the Joy of our hearts, risen from the dead, smashing down forever sin, sickness and death, and bestowing His Life upon all those who have lost life.
by Fr. David Barr
from The Word, February 1991
Once again we will enter into Great Lent, the season of fasting and preparation for the Feast of Feasts, our Lord's Resurrection from the dead. As Orthodox Christians, Great Lent is an important time of the year, for this is when we make an even greater effort to pursue the spiritual life. It is the time when our attention returns to repentance and self-denial. We have additional Church services, and they tend to be longer than normal. Kneeling and prostrations become a greater part of our liturgical worship. In order for you to participate in this important time of the year, perhaps it is good to look at the origins of Great Lent and how it developed into what we experience today. Knowing why we do things is often helpful in participating in the life of the Church.
One of the most revered contemporary Spiritual Fathers of the Eastern Church, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (1924-1994), gives an insight that can be applied to a tragic event that is fresh in the minds of many around world today. The Elder counseled us to have well-disposed thinking toward those around us. He told his spiritual disciples to see the "good things" around them and not focus on the evil people do.
In the spirit of the counsel of Elder Paisios I want to focus on the report of the good done by one of the Chaplains on board the severely damaged cruise-liner that went aground and partially sank off the coast of Italian Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy in January 2012. The horror of the plight of those passengers who were trapped was well documented by the media in text and video. As the ship was sinking the Chaplain radioed his headquarters, the Apostleship of the Sea, whose function in part is “to promote the spiritual, moral and social development" to those at sea, that it was his intention to "stay close to the crew and the passengers to comfort them at this moment of great confusion." The Chaplain also shared his thoughts at the very beginning of the disaster "There were so many children, I took a little girl in my arms. I asked that she be sent first with her mother and her evacuation took precedence." [http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/chaplain-costa-concordia-crew-showed-personal-sacrifice/]
The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and International Christian Charities (IOCC)
In the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:1–23), Jesus explains to His disciples that the one “who receives the word on good ground is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Each year the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch makes a grant to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). This annual grant of $25,000 is much like the seed or word which falls on good ground. IOCC uses this “seed money” and leverages it with grants from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and churchbased charities to bear fruit in abundance. Here are some examples:
SURPASSING HUMAN JUSTICE: ENTHRONING DIVINE JUSTICE.
IN CHRISTIANITY, MERCY TRUMPS JUSTICE.
"Compassion and justice in one soul are as a man adoring God and idols in one house." -St. Isaac of Syriai
The cry for "justice" is heard around the world. But what "justice" is cried out for? A casual overview of the media clearly indicates that the cry for worldly justice is very often accompanied by cries for retaliation, retribution and vengeance. Such 'justice' is often attributed to third world nations or countries that have been in constant conflict. For example, a British newspaper article headline about a recent Libyan incident read, "The car was armoured like a tank. But that wasn't enough to save Gaddafi's son Khamis when the rebels took their vengeance."ii History books recount incidents of murderous atrocities against individuals, nations and entire peoples, committed in the name of revenge, since the dawn of recorded time.
by Judy Yentzen
from The Word, March 1993
I would like to quote from THE SPIRITUAL COUNSELS OF FATHER JOHN OF KRONSTADT, Select Passages from MY LIFE IN CHRIST, edited and introduced by W. Jardine Grisbrooke. “The Christian has great, spiritual, divine enjoyments. Carnal delights must always be subjected to these higher delights; and when they hinder the latter they must be checked or suppressed. It is not to afflict man that food and drink are at certain times and seasons forbidden him by the Church, not to limit his freedom, as worldly people say; it is done in order to afford him true, lasting and eternal delights;. . . “. The Gospel reminds us how we are to fast, “. . . when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
I have only been in the Orthodox Church a short time — two years now and this will be my second Lenten season as an Orthodox. Because of that, I would like to share with you my first real introduction to fasting, the preparation, and how it affected my life.
I grew up in a protestant faith and, therefore, knew nothing about fasting. In my late thirties, I started going to the Episcopal church where I first read and heard a little about fasting — but only for the Lenten season, There was little said about it and even less importance placed upon it.
. . . For as the best physicians bring back those who are far gone in sickness with careful treatment to a state of health, not only treating them according to the laws of the medical art, but sometimes also giving them gratification: even so God conducts to virtue those who are much depraved, not with great severity, but gently and gradually, and supporting them on every side, so that the separation may not become greater, nor the error more prolonged.
And the same truth is implied in the parable of the prodigal son as well as in this. For he also was no stranger, but a son, and a brother of the child who had been well pleasing to the father, and he plunged into no ordinary vice, but went to the very extremity, so to say, of evil, he the rich and free and well-bred son being reduced to a more miserable condition than that of household slaves, strangers, and hirelings. Nevertheless he returned again to his original condition, and had his former honour restored to him.
by Archpriest Steven Rogers
from The Word, February 1999
On February 2, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This great feast, which commemorates that event at which Mary presents herself and her child in the temple for purification prayers forty days after the birth of her Son, is the culmination of the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Once again, this feast reminds us of the Incarnation of God. As a man, Christ is submitting Himself to the Law that all might be fulfilled. We are confronted again with the amazing truth of the Incarnation —that God lowered Himself to become a man so that man might be lifted up out of his sin. Christ was truly a man, “like us in all respects save sin,” says St. Paul.
While remaining fully God, He submits Himself to the Jewish law as a man, “For I come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” Upon their arrival at the temple, Mary presents the Christ Child to the Elder Simeon. It is this “meeting” that the feast celebrates. The second person of the Trinity “meets” his people as represented by Simeon, allowing mankind to embrace its creator and the author of its salvation.
Simeon knew it was his salvation he embraced and for him, life was now complete. “Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou has prepared before the face of Thy people; a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
by Carole A. Buleza
This article is the second in a series based on Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton (Oxford University Press, 2005. The book received the 2006 Christianity and Culture Book Award. The first article, “Christianity’s Mis-begotten Child” appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Word.
I knew that I would be writing more articles based on this book, which I consider exceptionally insightful and valuable. Soul Searching is the project report of professors at the University of North Carolina who received a grant to investigate how important faith is to American teenagers, why, and in what ways. The book received Christianity Today's 2006 Christianity and Culture book award.
The data for the report was gathered from 3,290 teenagers in the United States. The majority of the teenagers categorized themselves as Christian (82%); Protestants comprised the majority (52%) and Catholics were second (23%). The third largest category, those who considered themselves not religious, accounted for 16% of the respondents (31).
The book offers not only statistics but excerpts from the many interviews that were conducted, and the reflections of the authors. From my experience of working with teens and having two of my own, their analyses are correct, and their reflections are extremely valuable. Furthermore, they believe the beliefs held by the teenagers reflect those of the baby boomer generation, making the book valuable not only for youth ministers but also for pastors.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)
In previous articles on parenting I have emphasized the importance of making connections between Christ, His Church and the issues and problems that make up modern life (Morelli, 2010). Jesus entry into his public life is recorded by the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. It was at His baptism in the River Jordan by St. John who is called the Baptist. This event is called the Theophany in which Christ's Divinity was proclaimed by His Father as told to us by St. Matthew: "And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Mt 3: 16-17) The spiritual-theological significance of the Theophany is noted in the beautiful Apolytikion of the Feast:
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.
In mid-September 2011, various news outlets reported a ban on relatives and friends of wounded service personnel bringing bibles and other religious reading materials into Water Reed military hospital. The offensive statement reads: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” [i] Due to an outcry from various religious groups, this egregious policy was rescinded by December 2011. Thank God for that! But the fact that such a policy was even thought of, let alone promulgated, is an affront to God and Country.
Religious freedom is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of the United States itself. The first amendment of the Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The operative term in the amendment regarding religion is making no law "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In thinking up and initiating the now rescinded hospital policy, someone took it upon themselves to unilaterally interpret the words of the Constitution to impose on all 'freedom from religion' - which actually amounts to a prohibition of religion. An affront to our country and its religious tradition.
by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, January 1986
I am frequently asked, “Why?” Why does the Church believe in the intercession of Saints? Why does the Church have confession? Why this and why that. Of course, while we always try to provide reasonable and intelligent answers, I am impressed by the need of certain individuals to know everything by their tendency toward a Roman jurisprudence mentality that needs to put every theological concept into a capsule, identify it and put neat little tags on it so that whenever they needed an explanation they could go right to the proper file box, take it out and use it as desired.
Such a concept is foreign to those of us of the East. We who come from the Holy Lands on which Christ set foot, have a concept of mysticism that is foreign to the Occident. It has never been necessary for us to reduce God to our size and it has never been necessary for us to reduce Truth to the level of our own intellectual capacity to understand. This is not a new concept (lest anyone believe that it is, so I would like my message to be essentially a meditation on the passage of Ecclesiastes 1:4-9).
by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, February 1967
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (St. Matthew 6:34)
How many of us spend precious time on this earth inside a dark cloud of anxiety, worrying about things over which we have no control? Do we really believe in God?
If we say we believe that God exists, we should know that He is in command of our destiny. True believers live with an inner peace, because they know that God is the Ultimate Lord of history. If we doubt God’s Plan, we begin relying on our own scheme for the future.
Too many of the brief days of our lives we spend in worrying and planning. It is enough to be afraid of what we have really to fear. Anxiety is a nebulous fear, an irrational state of mind, leading to more serious mental breakdown.
If it were told us that we are trying to be little gods, doing what only God can do, we would deny it. Yet, that is what we do when we put our trust in our own ideas. Even more, when what we had desired doesn’t come about, when we have to abandon our own ideas, we blame God for rejecting us, or else we deny His Omnipotence.
Our age is an age of anxiety, because nearly all people in our world are agnostics. We cannot see God at work in our world, so we do God’s worrying and planning for Him. Only because we have no faith, can we ask all the fruitless “What if” questions that lead eventually to alcoholism, depression, or worse. Such questions are:
“What will happen if I should become ill for a long time?”
I taught medieval history at Wichita State University, Kansas, and I am a translator. When I get stuck in a stubborn paragraph, I say a short Latin prayer to the Holy Spirit: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus; et emitte coelitus lucis tuae radium. Veni, pater pauperum; veni, dator munerum; veni, lumen cordium." “Come, Holy Spirit, and send a ray of your heavenly light. Come, Father of the poor. Come, Giver of gifts, Come, Light of the hearts.”
In this article, I will first deal briefly with my own life, and then with one key aspect of patristic theology that continues to attract me. After discussing the practice of translation, I will answer questions that may arise.
I was a tenured member of the faculty, but my life lacked a sense of direction. And then, mindful of the words of Socrates (c. 469-399 B.C.E.) in Plato’s Apology that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” I concluded that I had not really used the gift God had given me, that of languages. I had studied ten. Instead of going to church on Sundays, I listened to classical music, or read poetry by the German poets Rilke or Hölderlin. Then, unexpectedly, a former student invited me to Pascha at St. George Orthodox Church. I converted to Orthodoxy in 1981.
I translate books out of a deep respect for Tradition. I know that various definitions may be given for that venerable word Tradition, but the one I like best is offered by the fifth-century French monk Vincent of Lérins in his renowned Commonitorium (c. 434). Using Latin, the language of his day, Vincent writes: “Id teneamus quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.” In translation, “We use the greatest care to hold what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” (Documents of the Christian Church, ed. by H. Bettenson , 84).
By V. Rev. Fr. David J. Randolph
From the Word magazine, January, 2012
The term postmodern culture is used in many different ways, and cannot be grasped except in contrast to its predecessor, modernism, to which it is in reaction. Modernism displayed a high level of confidence in the abilities of humanity. Rooted in the Enlightenment, modernists attempted to rid themselves of the mystery of religion and things spiritual so as to focus purely on the empirical facts of science. Some believed that humanity could build a perfect society founded on human principles and structures. The movement was idealistic, and its breakdown was painful to the generation that experienced it.
This reaction took different forms. For many people of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, pop culture became a kind of rebellious religiosity. Many were from broken families, and they concluded that all commitments are fragile. Some also experimented with different “spiritualities,” having a distinct distaste for “institutional religion.” Theirs was a time of political turmoil, growing up amid the anxiety of the cold war, and through the period of Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the war in Iraq. The results for many were confusion, depression, and loneliness.
Postmodernism is the cultural reaction to the perceived failures of modernism. Youth ministers today face five challenges related to the postmodern stance.
First, postmodern young people give primacy to personal experience.
On Sunday, December 11, 2011, three new auxiliary bishops were consecrated for the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, in Balamand, Lebanon. Their Graces John (Abdalah), Anthony (Michaels) and Nicholas (Ozone) were consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop for Worcester and New England, Auxiliary Bishop for Toledo and the Midwest, and Auxiliary Bishop for Brooklyn and Assistant to the Metropolitan in Englewood, New Jersey, respectively.
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." 1 Timothy 1:15-16
The favors of God so far exceed human hope and expectation, that often they are not believed. For God has bestowed upon us such things as the mind of man never looked for, never thought of. It is for this reason that the Apostles spend much discourse in securing a belief of the gifts that are granted us of God. For as men, upon receiving some great good, ask themselves if it is not a dream, as not believing it; so it is with respect to the gifts of God. What then was it that was thought incredible? That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. "This is a faithful saying," he says, "and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
by Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Ziton
from The Word, June 1960
TIME, that precious gift of God . . . how wisely do we use it? How well do we apportion it? How much do we appreciate it?
Time is so precious a gift that God dispenses it but sparingly as if He were fearful that we waste it or hoard an excessive supply of it. Only the time present belongs to us along with its reserves of potential happiness and joy. We would prove ourselves guilty of ingratitude were we to ignore the value of time and put an ever unrequited hope in the future over which we have little or no power.
Set time aside . . . to enjoy the gift of life. Because so many people fail to appraise the time present, they complicate their lives and deprive it of its natural spontaneity in trying to pry into the future. Do you suppose that He Who gives us our daily bread is at the mercy of the weather or of man’s malice? Should we learn to tread the path of life with our eyes focused on Him, never would our soul age; our eyes would meet incessant marvels upon witnessing His evident solicitude on our behalf. Indeed, life would prove a thrilling spiritual adventure if only we took time out to truly enjoy it.
by Eleutherious Vorontsov, Late Metropolitan of Leningrad
from The Word, December 1960
Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
I salute you, dear brothers and sisters, with the great feast of the Birth of Christ—with this radiant, joyous, and solemn day! This day is truly a day of especial joy: it was called this, as you have heard, by the Heavenly Angel who appeared to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. And it is such in actual fact. How can not that day in which the Lord Himself descended from Heaven to earth but be radiant and joyful?
Who of the Orthodox Christians can greet this day with a feeling of coldness? Who will not rejoice in his soul, hearing that “a Saviour is born today, who is Christ the Lord?” It is for this reason that one of the Church hymns sung so joyously today, says: “Let Heaven and earth rejoice today in prophecy: let Angels and men exult . . . the whole of creation danceth because of the Saviour and Lord being born in Bethlehem.
My January Chaplain's Corner article last year called New Year resolutions a “useless waste of mental and spiritual energy." More than ever, I want to make the same point. However, I want to substitute a more functional alternative: making a commitment. The word ‘commitment’ brings up notions such as a ‘binding’ course of action, allegiance, dedication and loyalty. What better way to start the new year than by re-committing ourselves to respecting the personhood of others by overcoming any ways we have slipped into unthinking habits of rudeness. The word respect derives from the Latin word rēspicere, which means, “to look back, pay attention to.” In this case, to pay attention in a Godly way to the person with whom you are interacting.
The highest value of what it means to be a person is told to us in Sacred Scripture in the Book of Genesis (1: 26), a book that is sacred to Christians, Hebrews and Moslems alike. We read, "Then God said, "Let us make man according to our image and according to our likeness."" The person, therefore, is an icon of God, a consequence of His creative act in making us a finite mirror of His Divinity. Our Eastern Church Fathers would consider the meaning of personhood to be in our relationship with both God and mankind. To make this practical, the more we become committed to respecting others, to really paying attention to them as persons, the more we become like God.
by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip
from The Word, December 1968
It is easy to lose sight of the miracle of Bethlehem in our modern world of pressure politics and commercial Christmas. This annual reminder of the continuous presence of the Divine in our wayward world is a necessary thing for us all; nothing is more usual, nothing is more miraculous than the birth of a child: every child’s birthday is a reminder of the presence of God in the world.
The atheist forces of the world try to tell us that God does not exist, that there is no connection between man and the eternal cosmos, the eternal mystery; they tell us that we are slaves of the world and of the material forces of existence. And yet, our experience tells us that GOD IS: too many aspects of our life clearly reflect the presence of the divine, the presence of God, among us. The birth of a child tells us this truth; the birth of the Divine Child sums up the common experience of all mankind.
The present troubles of our world seem overwhelming; the sorrow, the injustice, the poverty, the wickedness of war, the inhumanity of man to man, the distortion of the divine image which we cause, is everywhere; we have lost sight of God, and we suffer; the renewal that comes with the birth of our Lord can restore us, if we perceive it with the eyes of faith, and the simplicity of a child.
The blessing of our incarnate Lord be with you all, this Feast of his Nativity, and throughout the coming year!
The presentation below was given to the Clergy Retreat of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, November 08-11, 2011, in Scottsdale, AZ. An in depth discussion of many of the Retreat topics can be found in the articles I have written, which are posted on: Orthodoxy Today [www.orthodoxytoday.org/archive/morelli] and the Antiochian Archdiocese [www.antiochian.org/author/morelli] website. The high technology, secularist society we live in today poses many challenges to living Christ's teachings, being committed to His Church, and living a Christ-like life family life. Even greater challenges are faced by the successors of the Apostles, the bishops and priests who are called to shepherd Christ’s Church in the modern world. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, may this resource be of some assistance to all called to minister to our communities in Christ.
by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, December 1978
Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jefta, David, Samuel, Isaac, Jacob, Zerah, Tamar, Amminadab, Boaz, Obed, Jessica —Who are all these people? I am sure that when we read the 1st chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which begins with the genealogy of Christ, most of us skip over it and don’t bother to read it. That is so sad. That’s like a person who looks at the leaves on a tree but doesn’t appreciate its roots and trunk. And so it is with us. Our lives in Christ are not just now, today, but have been in the past and shall be for all eternity and unless we understand that we are rooted in the past, our present and our future cannot have the fullness of meaning that God intends for them to have. Who are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going?
Each of us has an identity that extends itself to all those around us, our father, our mother, brothers, sisters, wife, husband, sons, daughters, our past, our present and our future. And those who have no such extension of themselves suffer from such a depth of loneliness that their lives are difficult for them. I am who I am, because I can identify with people who love me and who shared with me the highest values of life that they understood, my father and mother, our parents, our grandparents. All of those with whom we had the good fortune to come into contact from our past tried to contribute to us those good things of life which they knew were essential to our understanding of how to live and get along with God and with our neighbors. Those people of our present, our brothers and our sisters, strive to relate to us lovingly and with compassion in order that our lives might be enriched as well, and we strive to relate to them in the same way. Our children symbolize for us our future and we strive to pass on to them those ennobling characteristics which were preserved also for us as members of the Body of Christ, that we understand that our present and our future are somehow dependent upon our past.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV))
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
These promises are truths that have never been as evident in my life as they are today. I would love to take this opportunity to introduce myself and to share with you the wonderful beauty of God fulfilling his plans in my life, giving me hope and a very bright future.
I am Odeese M. Ghassa-Khalil, an Antiochian Orthodox, Arab-American parishioner blessed to be a member of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am also blessed to be the very proud mother of two wonderful young boys. As an Arab-American family, it is very important to us that we stay in touch with the Arabic world, our roots and history. It is also my desire one day to see and hear my two wonderful sons read the Holy Bible in Arabic. Because of my family and my church family, who have supported me and encouraged me to pursue and enjoy the many blessings and fruits the Lord had in mind for me, I currently hold a position at California University of Pennsylvania as the program coordinator and instructor of a new bachelor’s degree program in Arabic Language and Culture.