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Memory Eternal! + Nabiha (Iqal) Rayan

Sun, 2017/04/23 - 10:21pm

Father Nicholas Dahdal writes:

Memory Eternal! Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Cicero, IL, offers her sincerest condolences to the Rayan Family on the loss of the handmaid of God Nabiha (Iqal) Rayan, who passed into eternal life on Bright Monday April 17, 2017. Condolences are extended to her children Yacoub (Baha), Rayan (Fayrouz), Saliba (Janan), Archdiocese Board Member Mansour (Wafa), Jad (Pam), Ida (†Jiries) Mufarreh, Ghada Rayan, and their families.

Likewise, we extend condolences to her siblings Issa, Boutros, Nasr, Kamel, Widad, Huda, Julia, Offa, and Suad.

Nabiha now joins in eternal life her beloved husband †Oudeh Rayan, and her siblings †Daoud and †Saeed. The Paschal Funeral Service and Burial was held on Bright Thursday, April 20.

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The Dept. of Homeschooling Announces 2017 St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference

Sun, 2017/04/23 - 4:22pm

With us everything should be secondary compared to our concern with children, 
and their upbringing in the instruction and teaching of the Lord.  
- St. John Chrysostom

Did you know that homeschooling is becoming more and more popular? It might be the best educational option for your family, or a family you know.

If so, we encourage you to look into the annual St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference, scheduled for April 27-30, 2017 at the Antiochian Village Conference and Retreat Center outside Ligonier, PA. The conference offers workshops for both experienced and beginning homeschoolers alike, with simultaneous activity sessions for children ages three and up.

Our weekend is both educational and retreat-like, with many opportunities for worship and fellowship with other Orthodox homeschooling families. Workshops cover topics of interest to inquiring, beginning, and veteran homeschoolers, as well as to supporting spouses. If your entire family cannot attend, we welcome solo attendees as well!  It will be a blessing and we hope that you will join us.

In our most humble and loving Lord, the Trampler of death, Jesus Christ,

Archpriest Noah Bushelli, Director
Department of Homeschooling

About the Department: Created in 2015, our department is staffed by volunteers who are grateful for the Metropolitan's support for this growing educational option. The primary goal of the Department of Homeschooling is to promote and support and unite homeschooling throughout the Archdiocese. Secondarily, we seek to remind all parents that their children's education is their responsibility, whether or not they outsource this task.

For more information see: http://www.antiochian.org/department-homeschooling

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Feast of the Holy Great-Martyr George

Sat, 2017/04/22 - 9:32am

Blessed Feast Day to our many St. George parishes!

As the deliverer of captives and the protector of the poor, as the physician of the feeble and combatant of kings, holy champion and great martyr George, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.
+ Troparion of St. George, Tone 4

Thou wast cultivated by God and didst become a most wonderful cultivator of piety, and didst harvest for thyself the sheaves of virtue, for having sown in tears thou didst reap in joy and having withstood to death thou art garnered for Christ. By thy intercessions, O Saint, thou dost obtain for us all remission of our sins.
+ Kontakion of St. George, Tone 4

Read the life of St. George

Access liturgical resources for the Feast of St. George

(If April 23 falls on or before Great and Holy Pascha, the Feast of St. George is translated to Bright Monday.)

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Mother of God of the "Life-Giving Spring"

Thu, 2017/04/20 - 8:35am

Mother of God of the Life-Giving Spring by Vasiliki Oldziey of St. Elias Church, Austin, TXThe Feast of the Life-giving Spring which is kept on the Friday of Bright Week has its origins in the 5th century.  It is the feast that commemorates the consecration of the Church of the Life-giving Spring outside of Constantinople.

The very large and beautiful church named in honor of the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring was built about the middle of the fifth century by the Emperor Leo the Great (457-474 AD), outside of Constantinople.  Emperor Leo was a pious man (he is commemorated on January 20th) and before he became Emperor, he had encountered a blind man, who being tormented with thirst asked him to help him find water. 

Leo felt compassion for him and went in search of a source of water, but found none.  As he was about to cease his search, he heard a voice telling him there was water nearby.  He looked again, and found none.  Then he heard the voice again, this time calling him "Emperor" and telling him that he would find muddy water in the densely wooded place nearby; he was to take some water and anoint the blind man's eyes with it.  When he had done this, the blind man received his sight.

After Leo became Emperor, as the Most Holy Theotokos had prophesied, he raised up a church temple over the spring, whose waters worked many healings, as well as resurrections from the dead, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. From this, it came to be called the "Life-giving Spring."

Justinian the Great (527-565 AD) was also cured by the waters of “The Life-giving Spring” and in gratitude built a new church temple, larger than the first. It was destroyed by earthquakes  and rebuilt by grateful emperors. 

The Life-giving Spring as it exists today in the crypt of the church in the Istanbul suburb of BalıklıAfter the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, this church temple was razed to the ground and the materials from it were used for building the mosque of Sultan Beyazıt.  Nothing remained of that church’s ancient beauty, except for a small chapel, almost completely buried in the ruins.  This chapel had twenty-five steps going down into it, and a transom window on the roof, from which it received a little light.  Toward the western side of the chapel was the holy Spring, fenced about with a railing. 

In 1821 even that little remnant was destroyed.  The sacred Spring was buried with it and disappeared altogether. But in the days of Sultan Mahmud, when those subject to him were rejoicing in their freedom to practice their religion, permission was sought by the Orthodox Christian community to rebuild at least the chapel.  Permission was granted to build a church temple and it was consecrated on Bright Friday in 1835. But on the night of September 6-7, 1955, it along with 73 other Orthodox churches in Istanbul, was desecrated and burned to the ground by the Turks.  The church has been restored yet once again, but not anywhere its former magnificence.  O Most Holy Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring, save us!

Apolytikion: Third Tone, Awed by the beauty

A life-giving fount, thou didst conceive the Dew * that is transcendent in essence, O Virgin Maid, * and thou hast welled for our sakes the nectar of joy eternal, * which doth pour forth from thy fount * with the water that springeth up * unto everlasting life * in unending and mighty streams; * wherein, taking delight, we all cry out: Rejoice, O thou Spring of life for all men.

Kontakion: Plagal of Fourth Tone, To thee, the Champion Leader

From thine unfailing fount, O Maid supremely graced of God, * thou dost reward me by the flow of the unending streams * of thy grace that doth surpass human understanding. * And since thou didst bear the Word incomprehensibly, * I entreat thee to refresh me with thy grace divine,* that I may cry to thee:* Rejoice, O Water of salvation.

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Metropolitan Joseph's Paschal Greeting, 2017

Tue, 2017/04/18 - 12:49am

PASCHA 2017
All creatures have been filled with light, the heaven and the earth, and all that is below the earth. Let all creation, therefore, celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, in which it is strengthened.
Paschal Canon, Ode 3

Beloved in Christ,

CHRIST IS RISEN!
INDEED HE IS RISEN!

Having struggled together through the Fast, we have arrived at the Tomb of Christ and joyfully find it transformed from a place of gloom into a source of brilliance that permeates all the regions "in heaven and on earth and under the earth". (Phil. 2:10).



In accord with His will, God has called us to be shepherds of His people in challenging times. It seems that, in so many corners of our contemporary world, the darkness is deepening and the reign of death is expanding. But as we now stand together before the empty Tomb, we receive a light "never overtaken by night" which dispels every shadow. We receive a new life that shatters the power of death. Darkness flees and death is slain! In this new light and life, we—and indeed all creation—are strengthened, confirmed in our zeal to proclaim glad tidings of the triumphant Resurrection, which has liberated the universe from the tyranny of corruption.

My brothers and concelebrants, as we partake of Christ in the "Kingdom's day, which setteth not," let us renew our bonds of faithfulness and unity in the Risen Christ, in whose High Priesthood we have been deemed worthy to share.

+JOSEPH
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America

AttachmentSize Paschal Greeting From His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph (PDF)106.98 KB
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Bishop Thomas to Offer Commencement Address, Receive Honorary Doctorate at St. Tikhon's Seminary

Mon, 2017/04/17 - 5:29pm

His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Board of Trustees of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and St. Tikhon's Rector His Eminence Archbishop Michael, have invited His Grace Bishop Thomas to deliver the Commencement Address at the Seminary's graduation on May 27, 2017. In his letter of invitation, Archbishop Michael cited His Grace's "faithful, tireless and yeoman service to the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States, and Holy Orthodoxy throughout the world, as well as to theological education in particular." Bishop Thomas will also be awarded an honorary doctorate by the Seminary.

Saint Tikhon's has graciously invited all the faithful to attend the graduation exercises, as well as the entire weekend of festivities that mark the Annual Pilgrimage to St. Tikhon's Monastery. Pilgrimage services begin Friday afternoon, May 26, continue Saturday, and Sunday, and culminate with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Monday morning, May 29.

AttachmentSize Bishop Thomas Invitation: STOTS Commencement Address and Honorary Doctorate, 4.6.17 (PDF)413.5 KB
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Send Us Your Photos From This Holy Season!

Sun, 2017/04/16 - 12:09pm

V. Rev. Fr. Gregory Lazarus Murphy, St. Michael Church, Geneva, NY (photo: Matthew Owen)Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Christ is risen! The team at Antiochian.org is issuing a call for photos from your parish's Holy Week and Pascha celebrations. Send all photos to editor@antiochian.org as JPEG attachments. Please send a maximum of three photos, include a caption for each photo you send, and tell us the name of the parish and priest represented by the photo. Read our submission checklist here.

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The Pascha Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Sun, 2017/04/16 - 8:32am

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in no wise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.
And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. 

You rich and poor together, hold high festival.
You sober and you heedless, honor the day.
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.

He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave!
For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

About St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom ("The Golden Tongue") was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military-commander, spent his early years studying under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians and was ordained a deacon in the year 381 by the bishop of Antioch Saint Meletios. In 386 St. John was ordained a priest by the bishop of Antioch, Flavian.

Over time, his fame as a holy preacher grew, and in the year 397 with the demise of Archbishop Nektarios of Constantinople - successor to Sainted Gregory the Theologian - Saint John Chrysostom was summoned from Antioch for to be the new Archbishop of Constantinople.

Exiled in 404 and after a long illness because of the exile, he was transferred to Pitius in Abkhazia where he received the Holy Eucharist, and said, "Glory to God for everything!", falling asleep in the Lord on 14 September 407.

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Memory Eternal! + Chafica Chamoun-Cohlmia

Sat, 2017/04/15 - 7:28pm

Mrs. Cohlmia with her sons Dr. Samir and George.Memory Eternal! + Chafica Chamoun-Cohlmia, 82, mother of Dr. Samir Nouhad Cohlmia, Diocesan Protopsaltis for the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, reposed on the evening of Great and Holy Friday, April 14, 2017. She was preparing to attend the divine service. The Paschal Funeral will be served at St. George Cathedral in Wichita, KS on Bright Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., with interment followed by a meal of mercy on Bright Wednesday beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Condolences may be sent to Dr. Samir and his brother George at SamCohlmia@yahoo.com.

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Great and Holy Saturday

Fri, 2017/04/14 - 5:04pm

Today hell groans and cries aloud: "My power has been destroyed. I accepted a mortal man as one of the dead; yet I cannot keep Him prisoner, and with Him I shall lose all those over whom I ruled. I held in my power the dead from all the ages; but see, He is raising them all." Glory to Thy Cross, O Lord, and to Thy Resurrection.

Read about Great and Holy Saturday, "The Forgotten Feast", and visit our Pascha pages.

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Great and Holy Friday

Thu, 2017/04/13 - 9:52pm

On Great and Holy Friday, the Orthodox Church commemorates the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross. "Today He Who hung the earth on the waters is hung on the tree," sing the solemn worshippers. Beginning with the Orthros of Holy Friday on Thursday evening, and ending with Vespers on Friday afternoon, the day is one of solemn observation and strict fasting. The richness of the liturgical actions and hymnography on this day, are unsurpassed.

We worship Your passion and Your burial,
for by them, You have saved us from death!

For more reflections and resources, please visit our Holy Week section. And for more material dedicated to the pinnacle of the liturgical year, visit Antiochian.org/Pascha.

Read more about Great and Holy Friday
St. Theodore the Studite on Holy Friday
Fr. John Finley shares portions of St. Nicholai Velemirovic's homily on Great Friday

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Spring 2017 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

Thu, 2017/04/13 - 2:35pm

The Spring 2017 issue of DIAKONIA is now available online. This issue highlights the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. The issue contains:

  • A greeting from His Grace Bishop Basil
  • A message from Spiritual Advisor Fr. Christopher Morris
  • A message from the Diocesan President Deana Bottei
  • Profiles of diocesan officers
  • Chapter reports, photos and happenings

...and more! Download (PDF) here.

AttachmentSize DIAKONIA Spring 2017 (PDF)3.68 MB
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Reflections for This Sacred Week

Wed, 2017/04/12 - 12:14pm

 




Today the Holy Passion shines forth upon the world with the light of salvation; for Christ in His love hastens to His sufferings. He who holds all things in the hollow of His hand consents to be hung upon the Tree, that He may save mankind.

-Orthros for Holy Monday

Visit our Holy Week page for thoughtful reflections on this sacred journey.

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Holy Tuesday: The Hymn of St. Kassiane

Mon, 2017/04/10 - 2:01pm

Listen to the Hymn chanted by the St. Romanos Choir of Beirut

At Bridegroom Orthros on Great and Holy Tuesday, the Church sings the following hymn by St. Kassiane:

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. 'Woe is me,' she said, 'for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the love of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline to the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my heads, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgments, O Saviour of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure.

Hymn of St. Kassiani sung by Grace Atherholt, Holy Week 2015 + St. John Chrysostom Church, York, PA

St. Kassiane the Hymnographer was born between 805 and 810 in Constantinople into a wealthy family and grew to be exceptionally beautiful and intelligent. Three Byzantine chroniclers claim that she was a participant in the "bride show" (the means by which Byzantine princes/emperors sometimes chose a bride, giving a golden apple to his choice) organized for the young bachelor-emperor Theophilos. Smitten by Kassiane's beauty, the young emperor approached her and said: "Through a woman came forth the baser things," referring to the sin and suffering coming as a result of Eve's transgression. Kassiane promptly responded by saying: "And through a woman came forth the better things," referring to the hope of salvation resulting from the Incarnation through the Most Holy Theotokos. His pride wounded by Kassiane's rebuttal, Theophilos haughtily passed her by and chose another to be his wife. We next hear of Kassiane in 843 when it is recorded that she founded a convent in Constantinople, becoming its first abbess and devoting her life to asceticism and the composing of liturgical poetry. The best known of her compositions is the Doxastikon on the Aposticha of the Bridegroom Orthros for Great and Holy Wednesday (which service is, in parish churches, chanted by anticipation on the previous evening). Tradition says that in his later years the Emperor Theophilos, still in love with Kassiane, wished to see her one last time before he died, so he rode to the monastery where she resided. Kassiane was alone in her cell, writing her now famous hymn, when she realized that the commotion she heard was because the imperial retinue had arrived. Being now devoted to God in her monastic life, Kassiane fled from her cell and hid, leaving the unfinished hymn on her writing desk. Theophilos was directed to her cell and entered it alone. Not finding Kassiane, he turned to leave when he noticed papers on the desk and read what was written upon them. When he was done reading, he sat and added one line to the hymn; then he left - never to see Kassiane again. The line attributed to the Emperor is "those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise and hid herself for fear." When the emperor and his party departed from the monastery, St Kassiane returned to her cell, discovered what Theophilos had written, and finished the hymn now popularly known as "The Hymn of the Sinful Woman."

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His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph Convenes Second Gathering of Archdiocesan Department Leaders

Fri, 2017/04/07 - 1:16pm

His Eminence leads the meeting of department and organization heads.

Following on the success of last year's first-ever exclusive gathering, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph again convened the leaders of the Archdiocesan departments and organizations at the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center in Bolivar, PA, April 5–6, 2017. Together, they examined their ministries and set immediate and long-term goals aimed at building up their ministries, in order to bring the clergy and faithful closer to our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, and His Orthodox Church.

Joining His Eminence were His Grace Bishop Thomas of Oakland, Charleston and the Mid-Atlantic; His Grace Bishop John of Worcester and New England; His Grace Bishop Anthony of Toledo and the Midwest; members of the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees; and more than twenty-five department chairpersons and leaders. Each leader reported on his or her current mission and vision for the next several years, accomplishments of the previous year, and any issues that were particular to the specific department in question. Each department head also fielded questions, addressed the audience's concerns, and welcomed new ideas to enhance the work.

Separate one-on-one meetings in which financial projections for the next three years were reviewed were also held between each department head and the Archdiocese finance team, headed by Mr. Salim Abboud, CFO.

The hierarchs, clergy, and lay leaders started each day in Ss. Peter and Paul Chapel with Lenten Daily Orthros, and they partook of Holy Communion on Wednesday night at the Presanctified Divine Liturgy. His Eminence expressed his gratitude to all of the attendees for sacrificing their time to attend this gathering, and he thanked them for all of the good work they do throughout the year.

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Kontakion on the Raising of St. Lazarus

Thu, 2017/04/06 - 10:51am

by St. Romanos the Melodist

O Christ, Thou who knowest all things,
Thou hast asked to learn where the tomb of Lazarus is,
And arriving there, Thou hast raised him up on the fourth day,
O All-powerful One,
Taking pity, Merciful One,
On the tears of Mary and Martha.

The Master, checking the lamentations of Mary and Martha,
Immediately stilled them when He raised up their brother.
It was possible, then, to see marvel of marvels,
How the lifeless suddenly was seen to be alive.


For when His voice descended,
It caused the bolts of the gate of Hades
To shake; and it broke down the bars of the door of Death;
And on the fourth day, He raised up the dead; as the Merciful One,
He took pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha.

Let us all, with love, hurry to Bethany to see Christ there,
Weeping for his friend.
For wishing all things to be ordained by law,
He controls all things in His dual nature.
He suffers as son of David; as Son of God,
He redeems the whole world from all the evil of the serpent,
And on the fourth day, He raised up Lazarus, taking pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha.

Together sustained by faith,
The two announced to Christ and God the death
Of their brother, saying,
"Hasten, come, Thou who art always present in all places,
For Lazarus whom Thou dost love is ill: if Thou come near,
Death will vanish, and Thy friend will be saved from corruption,
And the Jews will see that Thou, the Merciful One,
Hast taken pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha."

The Creator of all spoke on behalf of the disciples, saying:
"Friends and companions, our friend has fallen asleep."
He was secretly teaching them in advance,
Because He knows and care for all things,
"Let us go, then, let us advance and see the unusual tomb,
And let us cause the mourning of Mary and Martha to cease
As I raise up Lazarus from the tomb,
And as the Merciful One take pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha."

When the heard these words, the apostles
As with one voice cried out to the Lord,
"Sleep exists for man for his safety
And not at all for his destruction."
And so He spoke to them openly: "He is dead.
As mortal I am away from him; but as God, I know all things.
If we truly arrive at the opportune time,
I shall resurrect the dead, and cause to cease
The tears of Mary and Martha."

They all, then, arrived together,
When Mary and her sister came to meet them, crying bitterly,
"Lord, where wert Thou? For he whom Thou lovest has departed,
And lo, he is not here."
As they cried out these words, He, himself, wept.
But he asked, "Where is the tomb of my friend? Now
I am going to release him from the chains of Hades,
Since as the only lover of mankind, I take pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha."

When they arrived at the tomb,
He who is in the bosom of His Father, called out:
"Thou hast sent me into the world
That I might bring life to the dead.
I have come, then, to raise up Lazarus
And to reveal to the Jews that I am going to arise from my tomb
On the third day, I who after the fourth day resurrect my friend And now
take pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha."

In order that He might bring an end to the mourning of Martha,
The Savior of all spoke to her and addressed
These divine words to her:
"I exist as the Light of the world
And the resurrection of all from the dead;
It was for this end that I appeared in order to resurrect Adam
And the descendants of Adam
And on the fourth day to resurrect Lazarus
Taking pity, as a Merciful One, on
The tears of Mary and Martha."

When the command was given with a nod of His head,
Hades was made to totter,
And also the power of Death and the arrogance of the Devil.
With the sound of His voice,
He raised up from the depths of the earth
The one who was four days dead.
When they saw this, Abraham and all the righteous cried out:
"Now, take courage, since the resurrection of all has come.
He has delivered from the bonds of death
The one whom He loves, as He, the Merciful One, takes pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha."

Hades, now a prisoner, sees himself despoiled of this Lazarus,
Whom a short time ago he held enchained below;
For when the King of angels came against him,
The strength of demons was destroyed;
And the serpent who trails over the earth on his stomach,
Now, pierced in the mouth by the Wooden Spear, appears as dead.
But Adam rejoices when he sees Christ,
In His goodness, take pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha.

Rising from the tomb, the friend reveals his eyes
And hands bound by a cloth;
They release him — those who have their hearts
Bound by the ill will of slander,
Those who, as they plug up their ears like the adder,
Prepare their hands for most wicked slaughter,
That they may pour out
The harmless and innocent blood of the One
Who raises up the dead, and checks
The tears of Mary and Martha.

Having heard the words of the children,
Which came from pure hearts and innocent lips,
They were all filled with fear
Saying to one another, "Who is this man?"
O madness and complete stupidity!
A short time ago they saw raised from the dead
A corpse who had become fetid,
And they do not know who resurrected him,
And who destroyed with His voice the power of Hades,
And in accord with His merciful nature checked
The tears of Mary and Martha!

O Thy unspeakable compassion, all merciful Jesus!
Who didst consent to come for me and to me,
How didst Thou calmly ride upon the ass
And advance into the city of God-slayers?
Foreseeing their terrible lack of faith, Thou didst command them
To release the bonds of Lazarus, that they might see
The One whom in a short time they wish to put to death
With no pity for
The tears of Mary and Martha.

O Savior, all came with palms on the occasion of Thy arrival,
Crying, "Hosanna!" to Thee,
Now all of us bring hymns to Thee out of piteous mouths,
As we wave the branches of our spirit and cry out:
"O Thou, truly among those on high, save the world
Which Thou hast created, Lord,
And blot out our sins, just as formerly Thou hast dried
The tears of Mary and Martha.

O Lover of mankind, the Holy Church holds a high festival,
Faithfully calling together her children;
It meets Thee with palms and spreads out garments of joy
So that, with Thy disciples and with Thy friend,
Thou mayest advance and legislate a deep peace for Thy servants,
And release them from oppression, as formerly Thou hast checked
The tears of Mary and Martha.

Incline Thy ear, O God of the universe, and hear our prayers,
And snatch us from the bonds of death,
For our enemies who always surround us, visibly and invisibly,
Threaten to have us put to death, and besides,
To deprive us of our faith.
Arise, and quickly let all be destroyed and let them know
That Thou art our God and dost pity us as Thou didst have pity on
The tears of Mary and Martha.

Let us, who are dead because of our sins, and who dwell in the tomb
Because of our knowledge of evil,
Imitate the sisters of faithful Lazarus as we cry to Christ
With tears, in faith and in love:
"Save us, Thou who didst will to become man.
And resurrect us from the tomb of our sins, Thou, alone immortal,
Through the prayers of Thy friend, Lazarus,
Whom Thou didst raise up, O Lord, in checking
The tears of Mary and Martha."

Let us depart the mere material world, which is always in a state of flux,
And hasten to meet Christ the Savior in Bethany.
Let us then dine with Him
And with his friend Lazarus and the apostles
So that we may, by their prayers, be delivered from our past sins.
If we cleanse every stain from our hearts, we shall see perfectly
His divine resurrection, which He offered to us when He took away
The tears of Mary and Martha.

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Lent, 2017: Bishop Anthony's Talks at St. George Orthodox Christian Church

Wed, 2017/04/05 - 7:45pm

Recently, His Grace Bishop Anthony gave two talks at St. George Orthodox Christian Church in Fishers, Indiana, pastored by Fr. Nabil Hanna. The two talks are titled, "The Second Coming of Christ," and "We are made in the image of Christ."

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Fidelity in the Life of Christ: A Lenten Reflection by Bishop Thomas

Wed, 2017/04/05 - 4:27pm

by Bishop Thomas (Joseph) and Peter Schweitzer
April 5, 2017

In my last article, I wrote about the notion of the Orthodox Church as the Ark of Salvation whose mission concerns the salvation of its members. In so doing, I dismissed the notion that the Church functions as a corporation concerned with the smooth administration of an institution. The corporate mentality has no place in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. This affirmation leads to the next issue--what does it mean to be a member of the Church?

At first glance, one could reasonably assume that membership requires a fidelity to the Church’s teachings and, on the local level, participation in the life of the parish. Of course, this is true and a necessary first step but it doesn’t capture entirely what membership in the Orthodox Church implies. Just as a child who is initiated into the Church through the mysteries of baptism, chrismation, and Holy Eucharist must continue to be nourished throughout life by the regular and consistent participation in the Mysteries and the services of the Church, adult members can’t claim fidelity to Christ and His Church without the same.

Since fidelity to the Church and its teachings is a determinative factor for all those who claim the mantle of Orthodoxy, it’s imperative to examine in concrete terms, how fidelity is manifested in the daily life of an Orthodox Christian. Since holy Orthodoxy is not a religion among many but a way of life in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic faith, uniting oneself to the life of the Church through regular and frequent attendance at church services is a necessary requirement of fidelity. This cannot be emphasized enough! One need only look at the words and witness of our holy fathers to realize this is true. Saint John Chrysostom emphatically notes:

Very few have come here today. Whatever is the reason? We celebrated the Feast of the Martyrs, and nobody comes? The length of the road makes them reluctant; or rather it is not the length of the road that prevents them from coming, but their own laziness. For just as nothing stops an earnest man, one whose soul is upright and awake, so anything at all will stand in the way of the half-hearted and the lazy.

The Martyrs gave their blood for the truth, and you are not able to think little of a brief stretch of road? They gave their life for Christ, and you are reluctant to make a small journey for Him? The Martyrs’ Commemo­ration, and you sit in sloth and indifference! It is but right that you should be present; to see the devil overcome, the Martyrs triumphant, God glorified, and the Church crowned with honor.

But, you will say to me, I am a sinner. I cannot come. Then if you are a sinner, come, that you may cease to be one! Tell me, who is there among men without sin? Do you not know that even those close to the altar are wrapped in sins? For they are clothed with flesh, enfolded in a body: as we also who are sitting and teaching upon this throne are entangled in sin. But not because of this do we despair of the kindness of God; and neither do we look on Him as inhuman. And for this reason has the Lord disposed that those who serve the altar shall also be subject to these afflictions: so that from what they too suffer they may learn to have a fellow feeling for others.[1]

Saint Macarius of Optina writes, “Concerning prayer in church, know that it is higher than prayers at home, for it is raised by a whole group of people, among which many are most pure prayers, offering to God from humble hearts, which He accepts as fragrant incense. Along with these our prayers are also accepted, even though they are feeble and worthless.”[2]


When Elder Barsanuphius was asked if there are clear signs to know whether a soul is drawing closer to God, he replied by referring to the words of Saint John Climacus who wrote, “A sure sign of the deadening of the soul is the avoidance of church services.”[3]

Saint John of Kronstadt, who served the Divine Liturgy every day of his priestly life in spite of a very heavy pastoral schedule, is perhaps the most contemporary witness to the importance of immersion into the spiritual life of the Church. He wrote in his “My Life in Christ”, “The Church, through the temple and Divine service, acts upon the entire man, educates him wholly; acts upon his sight, hearing, smelling, feeling, taste, imagination, mind, and will, by the splendor of the icons and of the whole temple, by the ringing of bells, by the singing of the choir, by the fragrance of the incense, the kissing of the Gospel, of the cross and the holy icons, by the prosphoras, the singing, and sweet sound of the readings of the Scriptures.”[4]

There is no substitute for attendance at church services for those who seek union with God (theosis). One can’t substitute “church work” such as cleaning, preparing meals in the trapeza, or serving on committees for the divine services. While these are necessary and laudable works, they are not a substitute for Church services. This includes recreational activities such as playing cards, sharing a drink with friends or attending and participating in church bazaars, bake sales, and fundraisers. It’s been my experience as a priest and a bishop that these activities do not benefit the spiritual life but rather increase the opportunities for idle talk, gossip, and petty quarrels. There is a spiritually qualitative difference between being at church rather than being in church.

Once one makes the decision to forgo these activities and enter into the life of the Church, another set of obstacles will be present. As Saint Theophan the Recluse writes,

Everyone knows that a church calls for reverence, for a collecting of thoughts, for deep thinking about God, and for standing in the presence of God, but who fulfills this? People go to church with a desire to pray, to stand in it for a while with warm fervor; but then thoughts begin to wander, and bargaining begins in one’s head even louder than that which the Lord found in the Jerusalem temple.

Why is this so?

Because the way one stands in church is a reflection of one’s entire life. As people live, so do they behave in church. A church influences and somewhat supports spiritual movements; but then the usual course of one’s spiritual constitution takes over.

Therefore if you want your time in church to consist of worthily standing in the face of the Lord, prepare for this in your ordinary life; walk, as much as you can, in a prayerful frame of mind.

This labor will bring you to the point that in church also you will stand reverently all the time. This reverence will inspire you to be reverent in your ordinary life as well. Thus you will walk ever higher and higher. Say, ‘O Lord, help’ —and begin!”[5]

The Gospel of Saint Luke provides us with the proper disposition once inside the holy temple of God. The cry of the publican in contrast to the Pharisee, should always be our goal. The publican focuses his prayer on his relationship to God and begs for mercy. The Pharisee, on the other hand, notices others in the temple and compares himself to them, thanking God he is not like them, but superior in every aspect. The Lord Jesus instructs His disciples that the Publican went away justified and received mercy.

As we enter our temples, we too are often confronted with the temptations and distractions of others around us. The most effective tool we possess to combat these temptations is to cry out with the Publican, “Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner.” There are practical tips to assist in recollecting yourself properly once you enter the temple for divine services. First, prepare at home for the service through the recitation of your prayer rule. If the service is a Divine Liturgy, pray the pre-communion prayers which can be found in good Orthodox prayer books or online. Secondly, carry your prayer rope with you to church. After you’ve venerated the holy icons and found your place in the temple, pray the Jesus Prayer continuously. I know some pious Orthodox faithful who will stand in the front of the temple in order to avoid visual distractions. Others may keep their eyes fixed on the iconostasis or simply shut their eyes as they pray. Whatever method you choose, know that you will be confronted with temptations once you enter the church.

Being prepared is being forearmed. This is spiritual warfare, make no mistake about it. However, you are not alone; the Lord Who sees and knows all things, will see your ascetical efforts and reward you with abundant spiritual fruit over time. All too often, sincere people will tell me they’ve given up because they can’t seem to overcome the distractions and the many thoughts that enter their mind once they enter the church. In response to such complaints, Saint Paisios once remarked, “Thoughts are like airplanes flying in the air. If you ignore them, there is no problem. If you pay attention to them, you create an airport inside your head and permit them to land!”[6] The key is to return to the Jesus Prayer as soon as you notice your mind wandering, asking the good and merciful Lord Jesus for mercy. In the Gospel, the Lord reminded His disciples, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

In commenting on this Gospel passage Saint John of Kronstadt notes, “If you only pray when you are inclined to, you will completely cease praying; this is what the flesh desires. The Kingdom of heaven suffers violence. You will not be able to work out your salvation without forcing yourself.” This is particularly true regarding frequent attendance at church services.

The holy fathers often remark that the life of heaven and hell begin right here on earth. A true sign that we are on the heavenly path is our regular and frequent participation in the holy services of the Church. Gradually, our lives are transformed. We no longer mark the passing of days and weeks by secular standards but rather enter into the mysteries presented to us in the Church’s rich liturgical calendar. Even the routine of our daily lives can be transformed by the pious observance of saints’ days, the fasts, and the Great Feasts of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos. Such pious observances keep our routines and problems in proper perspective. Suffering, illness, and difficulties take on a new meaning for us when we are fully engaged in body and spirit in the life of the Church. This is precisely how the holy fathers were able to respond to illness and misfortune by exclaiming sincerely and full of joy, “Glory to God for all things”. This is why Saint James is able to write in his epistle, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” (James 1:2)

[1] Taken from http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/respect.aspx
Patrologia Graeca 63, Cols. 623-32. Taken from The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, trans. and ed. by M.F. Toal (Swedesboro, NJ: Preservation Press, 1996), pp. 137-145.

[2] Elder Macarius, Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina trans. by Archim. George Schaefer (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2005).

[3] http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/elderbars_talks1.aspx From Elder Barsanuphius of Optina (Platina, CA: St. Herman Press), pp. 439-450. Copyright 2000 by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California.

[4] Saint John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ Verlag: Jordanville, Archimandrite Panteleimon, Erscheinungsdatum: 1971, p. 401.

[5] St. Theophan the Recluse, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California.

[6] Priestmonk Christodoulos (Aggeloglou), Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mount Athos, Greece, 1998), p. 31.

AttachmentSize Fidelity in the Life of Christ (PDF)83.45 KB
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Metropolitan Joseph Presides at Fifth Annual Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service

Tue, 2017/04/04 - 4:14pm

Read the article in the Post-Gazette.

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph presided at the fifth annual Syrian Relief Dinner and Prayer Service, held this year at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA. His Grace Bishop Thomas was in attendance, along with other Antiochian clergy and hierarchs and clergy from other jurisdictions. The International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Pittsburgh Metropolitan Committee organized the service and dinner. 

The money will be distributed to programs that aid displaced Syrians internally, as well as to relief efforts that assist refugees in Lebanon, Greece and Jordan, said IOCC spokeswoman Kristen Fianni.

“We have a good cause,” journalist Paula Reed Ward quoted His Eminence as saying, in her article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, titled "Orthodox churches join together to raise money for Syrians." “We are here to praise God," the Metropolitan continued. "We are not here to judge our brothers. Those who are doing violence, everywhere, they are judging.”

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The Christopher Elias Memorial Scholarship Now Available to High School Seniors

Tue, 2017/04/04 - 10:43am

Applications for a new Antiochian scholarship, The Christopher Elias Memorial Scholarship, are now available to qualified applicants. To qualify for consideration, the applicant must:
1) be a graduating high school senior
2) a member of an Antiochian Orthodox parish in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America  
3) accepted by an accredited institution of higher learning and
4) entering as a freshman in the fall of 2017.

To request an application, email Dr. Anthony Bashir at: anthony_bashir@emerson.edu, and an electronic copy of the application will be sent. The completed application is due by June 15, 2017 in hard copy, and sent by regular post. Recipients will be announced and awards made during the 53rd Antiochian Archdiocesan Convention in Miami, Florida, on July 23–30, 2017.

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