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August 2010 Newsletter: "The Devil Made Me Do It." Is Sin Nature An Acceptable Excuse Before God?

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

An idea often heard is that when man fell and was cast from Paradise, his God-created good nature, became changed into what is referred to as “sin nature”. Sadly for some, this becomes a convenient scapegoat of, "Don't blame me, it's not my fault. Blame Adam." This view all but makes the words of John the Baptist spiritually fruitless – Luke 3:3. A Baptism of Repentance for what?

See the attached PDF file for this month's full teaching.

Bishop Antoun Honored for 50 Years of Priesthood

Bishop Antoun Speaks at the 2010 Clergy SymposiumBishop Antoun Speaks at the 2010 Clergy SymposiumDuring the 2010 Clergy Symposium at the Antiochian Village a banquet was held in honor of Bishop Antoun for his 50 years of priesthood.

The evening was chaired by Economos Antony Gabriel. Following are his remarks. There was also a slide presentation by Rt. Rev. John Abdalah and remarks by both Very Rev. Joe Shaheen and Very Rev. George Rados.

Your Eminences,

Metropolitan Philip and Metropolitan Ephraim

Hierarchs of the God-protected Archdiocese

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This evening I was tempted to recall all the humorous episodes in our life that we shared with you. 

However, it is “serious” business to salute you on the occasion of your 50 consecrated years in God’s holy Priesthood.  Few among this audience know of the Antoun we met in 1959 and the suffering you endured in your early years in North America, miles away from family and friends in a different culture and attending St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York City with professors who at times were difficult to understand with their various accents, living with complete strangers who barely spoke English.

Archdiocese Clergy Symposium Convenes at Antiochian Village

Bishops, priests and deacons from across North America, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, are gathering the week of July 19 at Antiochian Village for the Sixteenth Biennial Clergy Symposium. The time of communal worship, fellowship and education brings great renewal to our clergy. Fr. Joseph Allen, Symposium Chairman, opened the gathering with an introduction to the meeting's theme: "The Priesthood: Diakonos, Presbyteros, Episcopos."

In addition to a range of electives, the clergy will hear from three featured speakers over the course of the week: Fr. Dn. John Chryssavgis, on the Diaconate; Fr. Nicholas Apostola, on the Presbyter; and His Grace Bishop Michael Dahulich, on the Bishop. Also giving a special presentation is His Eminence Metropolitan Ephraim Kyriakos, on The Mission of the Church Today: The Priest and His Service.

Recordings of all the major presentations are available on Ancient Faith Radio.

A Symposium photo gallery is available for viewing here.

July 21, 2010 + But You Are A Chosen Race, A Royal Priesthood

By Fr. John K. Teebagy, The Word, February 1991

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)

As this quote indicates, all in the Church are members of the royal priesthood of Christ and His Church. On the day of our baptism, chrismation, and first eucharist, we received entrance into the Church through the ‘laying on of hands,’ in baptism and chrismation, but more importantly in the eucharist. As John Zizioulas says, “The theological significance of this (receiving communion) lies in the fact that it reveals the nature of baptism and confirmation as being essentially an ordination.” The result of this ordination, as Hippolytus tells us, is that the person takes his particular ‘place’ in the Eucharistic assembly . . . he becomes a member of a particular ‘ordo’ in the Eucharistic community.” Ordination initiates members into a community which is rooted in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. We are all called to be members of this body and the Spirit is given to all. “Humanity, therefore, like divinity, is a community of coequal, coessential persons united together in exactly the same nature, whose essential spiritual freedom makes it reflective and expressive of God.” Thus all in the community of God strive, by virtue of their baptism, etc., toward perfect communion (theosis) with God, and try to be by grace what God is by nature.

Pictures from Diocese of Los Angeles Parish Life Conference Order of St. Ignatius Dinner

His Grace Bishop JOSEPH is presented an Icon of our Lady of Saidyna for his 15th Anniversary as Diocesan BishopHis Grace Bishop JOSEPH is presented an Icon of our Lady of Saidyna for his 15th Anniversary as Diocesan Bishop

July 2010 Newsletter: In Answer to a Protestant Asking About Baptism and its Importance to Christian Faith

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Faith founded in love, is a gift from God. We give ourselves to Him, soul and body, and in return, He grants us the gift of faith. This gifting is dynamic, on-going and beyond man’s understanding. It begins in a daring trust in Him Who guides us to repent and be baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. In baptism, we are given the opportunity to be born from above as renewed and adopted children of God, while He gently washes away our sins, bathed in His kindness and mercy.

See the attached PDF file for this month's full teaching.

July 14, 2010 + From Homily XLIX

From Homily XLIX: The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel according to St. Matthew

"And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals."  Matthew 14:15

"But Jesus," so it is written, "said unto them, "They need not depart; give ye them to eat."

He said not, "I give them," but, "Give ye them;" for as yet their regard to Him was as to a man. But they not even so are awakened, but still reason as with a man, saying,

"We have but five loaves, and two fishes."

Wherefore Mark also saith, "They understood not the saying, for their heart was hardened."

They continuing therefore to crawl on the ground, then at length He brings in His own part, and saith, "Bring them hither to me." For although the place be desert, yet He that feeds the world is here; and although the time be now past, yet He that is not subject to time is discoursing with you.

But John saith also, that they were "barley loaves," not mentioning it without object, but teaching us to trample under foot the pride of costly living. Such was the diet of the prophets also.

"He took therefore the five loaves, and the two fishes, and commanded the multitude," it is said, "to sit down upon the grass, and looking up to Heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat and were filled, and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

Featured Parish: St. Mary Church + Iron Mountain, MI

Fr. Thomas Begley offers this account of the community of St. Mary Church in Iron Mountain, MI.

Recently, I traveled to Iron Mountain, Michigan for the deanery meeting with the clergy. Our Father in Christ, Bishop MARK, was there as well. His Grace has been with us for at least one of the two deanery meetings we have each year. Having the bishop present was an honor. His wisdom helped guide our discussions giving support to our clergy and our churches. What stood out, however, was His Grace and the clergy came for an additional purpose, which was to bless the soccer field the church built for the community.

St. Mary’s is a small parish in the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is an economically depressed area with city and county budgets stressed to the limit. Their priest, Fr. Mark Hagan, saw their parish losing members and unknown in the community. His answer to their dire situation was to reach out in Christ’s love to their community. Fr. Mark looked for a serious need that his church could help address in their community.

Fr. Mark discovered that there were 2,500 kids in and around Iron Mountain who were signed up for soccer. However, there were not enough soccer fields. The fields they used were in poor condition. Some of the kids played on a field given by a local company that had to have toxic gas vented out from beneath the field. Other fields were filled with rocks and had little or no grass. The church’s solution was to give property owned by the church to be leased by the soccer foundation for one dollar!

Antiochian Village Bookstore and Giftshop Goes Online

Mother Alexandra and Paul Finley, Director, at the the Antiochian Village Bookstore and GiftshopMother Alexandra and Paul Finley, Director, at the the Antiochian Village Bookstore and GiftshopWe are pleased to announce that on June 19th the Antiochian Village Bookstore and Gift Shop went “live” with its new online store.  Our ability to offer this has been made possible in large part by the efforts of Mother Alexandra of the Convent of St. Thekla, and fulfills a vision for our store which has been discussed for the past few years.  Through her efforts, and with the help of Adam Henderson (a parishioner at St. Mary Church in Johnstown, PA), our store has entered the 21st century.  Applying their computer expertise and hard work, all the product in the “brick and mortar” store at the Heritage and Learning Center is being managed and maintained by a retail management software program thus making the launch of the online component possible.  Many hours went in to writing descriptions, photographing and weighing product for display on the store website.

Good Marriage XX: Avoiding the Ultimate Manipulation

By Fr. George Morelli

“…and grant that this Thy handmaid may, in all things, be pleasing to her husband; and that this Thy servant may love and cherish his wife; that they may live according to Thy Will.” (from the Marriage Service Prayers of the Orthodox Church)
The ideal of Christian marriage is well known: “that they may abound in every work that is good and acceptable unto thee.”[i]  A marriage that is blessed by God is one that interiorizes the Love the Persons of the Holy Trinity have for each other, as well as the Love they have for their creation. Thus a husband and wife’s relationship will manifest Christ’s instruction to his Apostles:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn 13: 34). It will also demonstrate the words of the Father, said of our ancestral parents, “ . . . male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it . . . .”  (Gen 1: 27-28).  In other words, they will produce, and will love their offspring in emulation of the creative loving act of God Himself.  (Morelli, 2008). At times, faulty cognitions and the ensuing dysfunctional and behavioral barriers get in the way of actualizing Divinely enlivened spousal love. Ultimatum is one such roadblock.

Chaplain's Corner: Maintaining Our Moral Compass

By Fr. George Morelli

The foundation of "synergy" (the cooperation of man with God) is recorded in the book of Genesis: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over all the earth ..." (Genesis 1:26). McGuckin (2004) noted that several Greek Fathers defined the term "image" to mean "mankind's dominion over the created order." St. Maximus the Confessor, for example, understood intellect as an attribute of the image of God in man. "Naturally endowed with the holiness of the Divine Image, the intelligence urges the soul to conform itself by its own free choice to the divine likeness" (Philokalia II). St. Maximus’ understanding is that grace builds on nature and that we are made in God’s image and are required to use our intelligence in maintaining our moral compass, healing our infirmities and diseases and enhancing our spiritual health. (Morelli, 2006).

St. Isaac of Syria (Wensinck, 1923) presents us with an image of life hazed over  by the absence of God: “…just as the radiance of the sun is hidden from the earth by thick clouds ... and an unusual darkness falls upon his spirit.… For, as the face of the earth is gladdened by the rays of the sun when the dense atmosphere is torn asunder, so the words of prayer are able to tear away and to remove from the soul the dark cloud … and illuminate the spirit…which is born in our deliberations.”  The term ‘deliberate’ means: “To think carefully and often slowly, as about a choice to be made, to consult with another or others in a process of reaching a decision,  to consider (a matter) carefully and often slowly, as by weighing alternatives.”

July 7, 2010 + A Parent's Prayer

By Fr. James Meena, The Word, May 1978

O Heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer all their questions kindly. Keep me from interrupting them or contradicting them. Make me as courteous to them as I would have them be to me.

Forbid that I should ever laugh at their mistakes or resort to shame or ridicule when they displease me. May I never punish them for my own selfish satisfaction or to show my power.

Let me not tempt my children to lie or steal. And guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate by all that I say and do that honesty produces happiness.

When I’m out of sorts, help me, 0 Lord, to hold my tongue. May I ever be mindful that my children are children and I should not expect of them the judgments of adults. Let me not rob them of the opportunity to wait on themselves and to make decisions.

Bless me with the bigness to grant them all their reasonable requests and the courage to deny them privileges I know will do them harm. Make me fair and just and kind and fit me, O Lord, to be loved and respected and imitated by my children.


Bishop THOMAS Extends Condolences to Family of West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd

June 28, 2010


The Family of

U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd

300 Virginia Street, E.

Charleston, WV 25301


Dear Ones,

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Senator Robert C. Byrd into life everlasting earlier this morning.

The members of our diocese residing in our three West Virginia parishes, St. George Cathedral of Charleston, St. Nicholas Church of Beckley and Holy Spirit Church of Huntington, join with all West Virginians in sending our condolences. We join with West Virginians everywhere not only to lament his passing but to also celebrate his unequaled tenure and service to this great state and to our whole nation. His memory will long be remembered for many years to come.

Our commitments this week to be present with our Metropolitan Archbishop at our Eastern Dioceses Conference in Allentown, PA, through July 4 prevent us from personally delivering our condolences to you.

Our prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition is, “Christ our God, grant rest to Thy servant, Robert C. Byrd, in that place of brightness, that place of repose, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.”


Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS

Bishop of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic


The Very Rev. Olof H. Scott, Dean

St. George Cathedral, Charleston, WV


The Rev. Fr. Stephen De Young, Assistant Pastor

St. George Cathedral, Charleston, WV


cc: Governor Joe Manchin, III

State of West Virginia

Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion Announces November Conference

The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion has announced that their annual conference will be held on November 5th and 6th, 2010, at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New York City. The title of the conference is Orthodox Practice and Clinical Practice: How Our Faith Informs Our Work. Featured speakers include Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Archimandrite Meletios Webber, Dr. Herman Tristram Engelhardt, and Dr. Stephen Muse.

Click here to download the conference flyer (PDF format), for details on logistics, speakers and events.

Click here to download the conference registration form (Word format).

Click here to visit the website of the OCAMPR.

June 30, 2010 + From Homily XXIX

From Homily XXIX: The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel according to St. Matthew

"And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city. And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee."  (Matthew 9:1-2)

By His own city here he means Capernaum. For that which gave Him birth was Bethlehem; that which brought Him up, Nazareth; that which had Him continually inhabiting it, Capernaum.

This paralytic, however, was different from that one who is set forth in John. For he lay at the pool, but this at Capernaum; and that man had his infirmity thirty and eight years, but concerning this, no such thing is mentioned; and the other was in a state destitute of protectors, but this had some to take care of him, who also took him up, and carried him. And to this He saith, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee," but to that He saith, "Wilt thou be made whole?" And the other He healed on a sabbath day, but this not on a sabbath, for else the Jews would have laid this also to His charge; and in the case of this man they were silent, but in that of the other they were instant in persecuting him.

And this I have said, not without purpose, lest any one should think there is a discrepancy from suspecting it to be one and the same paralytic.

8 Inductions to the Order at Diocese of Worcester Parish Life Conference

On June 20 at the Diocese of Worcester Parish Life Conference in Sturbridge, MA, His Grace Bishop Thomas inducted 8 new members in to the Order of St. Ignatius. Pictured left to right are Marc El Houssan, Nicholas Kean, Marlene Houssan, George Matook, Miriam Hyder, Nicholas Kourey, Stephen Barber, and Lauren Barber.

June 2010 Newsletter: Jesus Goes to Jerusalem to Heal a Sick Man

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

We now have available CHAPTER 5 OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN – PART I. Chapter 5 begins with Jesus going up to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. While there, we read and gain spiritual insight about the healing of the sick man at the Pool of Bethesda – the House of Grace. For Orthodox, this is a foreshadowing of Baptism in which God's grace in the goodness of salvation is poured out abundantly on the baptized. It reveal its power to cleanse sins, restore the relationship between God and man, and make people alive.

See the attached PDF file for this month's full teaching.

June 23, 2010 + My Long White Plume

By Fr. James Meena, The Word, March 1983

I have preserved my integrity intact, O Lord, and I have not submitted to the temptations that have been placed before me.

This statement is a paraphrasing of the content and purpose of the teachings of most of the “Wisdom Books” of the Old Testament. While the New Testament is filled with admonitions to love one another, the Old Testament is filled with examples of integrity and self-respect. The influence of those ancient teachings probably motivated our Lord to condense it all in that which we call the Golden Rule, “Do unto others that which you would have others do unto you”.

Integrity is important in business, in government and especially in how we relate to each other. If we can just put ourselves in the other person’s shoes for a moment and ask those questions which Christ always requires that we ask, “What would I want done if I were in that person’s place? How would I want to be treated? How would I want to be thought of?” Then we would treat that person with respect which reflects our own measure of self-respect.

In the death scene of Cyrano de Bergerac, the mortally wounded hero says to his friends, “I have preserved my panache”. That long white plume, worn by the cavaliers, was indicative of honor and integrity. Cyrano, who would not compromise with immorality, with disrespect or with dishonor, died having preserved his integrity. That was the most important thing in life to him.

St. Athanasius Academy Prisoner Education Project

The Prisoner Education Project / Correspondence Studies Program for prisoner-students at St. Athanasius Academy are offered to any prisoners seeking to come home to the Lord. We maintain about 85 student with a waiting list. We offer the program as a free Scholarship Program. Since 1996, we have studied with over 1,000 students. A prisoner-student in good standing needs to submit one lessons every other month. Our current pace is over 120 lessons per month. Our questions are not true / false but essay with probing questions to bring their lives and answers together in an interactive way. We provide detailed responses to correct or complement their efforts.

The need is great and growing. We thank Fr. Jack Sparks and Fr. Duane Pederson for helping meet this need. We offer our students a Diploma in Orthodox Christian Studies as well as Certificates of Completion. Eight prisoner-students have obtain diplomas while 5 others have been tonsured monks. Our efforts are to orient them toward the beliefs, practices, and lives of the Orthodox Church. It is a great joy to see and participate with them, as they begin to accept a living faith in our Lord’s love for them and their salvation.

We rejoice in every student who comes to and decides to stay the course. It is hard work and they have shown great determination to understand and answer the questions. By the grace our Lord Jesus Christ, our program is successful in turning lives to the Orthodox Christian faith.

Your servant in Christ our Lord,

Paul Goetz, Director of Prisoner Education Project

Attached below please find the Course Catalog for the Prisoner Education Project.

Seven Characteristics of Orthodox Christian Spirituality

St. Athanasius Academy seeks to bring students into direct and personal contact with the sources of traditional Orthodox spirituality. This spirituality has been described as "Living Doctrine."


1. TRINITARIAN: I believe in one God, the Father All mighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified ... " [Nicene Creed]

2. INCARNATIONAL: 'Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man ... " [Nicene Creed].

3. EUCHARISTIC: This is My Body" ... "This is My Blood" [Mark 14:22, 241. The Eucharist brings us into the one joy. "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Mt 25:21). The Eucharist is our means of entering into this.

4. SCRIPTURAL: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned. He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” [John 3:16-18].

5. ECCLESIAL: "And I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." [Nicene Creed]

Crowned with Glory and Honor: Guidelines for Orthodox Marriage Preparation

This brochure presents readers with a set of helpful guidelines for Orthodox marriage preparation, including such concepts as the meaning of crowning, and the purpose of the Betrothal Service. Department Director Khouria Maggie Hock encourages all parishes, couples and families to make use of this valuable, free resource.

Holy Matrimony is a sacrament of the Orthodox Church in which a man and a woman agree before Christ, the priest, and the Church to be loyally united together for life. Christ blesses their marriage through their sacramental union in the Church. God’s grace is imparted through this ceremony to help the couple live together in His love, mutually fulfilling and perfecting each other. A sacrament is a mystery in which the heavenly and earthly realms are brought together by the Holy Spirit. We are joined in Holy Matrimony with Christ, as He is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride.

Click here to download the brochure in full.

A Guide to Church Etiquette: How to Show Proper Respect and Reverence in Church

This brochure lists everything parishioners need to know about respectful and reverent behavior while in liturgy. Department Director Khouria Maggie Hock encourages all parishes, couples and families to make use of this valuable, free resource.

The Holy Orthodox Church is perhaps one of the last social institutions where dignity, protocol, respect, and reverence are maintained. This is primarily because when we come to the church and its services we are entering the Kingdom of God on earth, His habitation, and we choose to honor this sacred place by our attentiveness to what is proper and ordered. We have the opportunity to reflect the image of Christ within us by our actions. “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

This guide is meant for personal reflection, not as a means of judging others. Keep in mind that there are different traditions even among the Orthodox faithful. We come to church to pray and worship God above all else, and that should be our only focus.

Click here to download the brochure in full.

Customizable Souvenir Wedding Brochure

In the midst of planning for your wedding, or as you plan the wedding of your loved one, here is a helpful tool provided by the Antiochian Department of Marriage and Parish Family Ministries. Oftentimes weddings are the only Church service which non-Orthodox family and friends will ever attend. Orthodox brides and grooms need a way to explain to their guests what is happening in the ceremony. Those attending Orthodox weddings are struck by the rich symbolism, but they are also curious and perhaps even critical of the wedding, not understanding why it is so different from other weddings they’ve attended.

For your convenience, you may download and print this souvenir brochure, which you may customize with your names, your attendants’ names, and your wedding date. The download is in PDF format. Some may have the software and technical skills to customize this brochure on their own, but we recommend simply taking this file to a local printer for customizing and printing.

This brochure provides a helpful take-away explanation for your guests as to why the priest is doing what he is doing and what the parts of the wedding such as the dance of Isaiah mean. 

Christians View Syria as Haven in Unstable Region

Alistair Lyon, special correspondant for Reuters, has published this interesting analysis of Christians in Syria.

"Many Muslims feel they own the truth. Many Christians do too," said Mayssa Rumman, who runs a tiny, lovingly restored hotel in Bab Touma, a Christian quarter of the Old City.

"But we don't fight about it and it doesn't stop us from being neighbors or from working with each other," she said.

Syria's dwindling Christians coexist with their Muslim compatriots in a country many of them see as a safe haven, in a region where religious minorities often struggle for survival. ...

Syria remains a relatively benign place for Christians, who nevertheless fear any spillover of regional conflicts and the rise of Islamist movements that might restrict their freedoms.

Muslims and Christians enjoy equal rights here, apart from a constitutional stipulation that the president must be a Muslim.

Click here to read the piece in full.

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