Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christ centered Life - WAMP 2011

WINTER CAMP @ Camp St Raphael

January 14-17, 2011 (MLK weekend)

Join teens from across DOWAMA at WAMP 2011 for a fun-filled experience!

Registration form available at the website for DOWAMA Teen SOYO and cost is ONLY $90 for teens and ONLY $45 for advisors/chaperones.

Participants from the Greater Houston & Dallas/Ft. Worth areas are invited to use the transportation services provided by St. George Houston.  A charter bus ride costs ONLY $100 and seats are limited, so contact the Youth Director of St. George Houston immediately to reserve your spot TODAY!

WAMP Registration and Transportation deadline is Friday, January 7th, 2011!

Enjoy some photos from WAMP - Texas Style (February 26-28, 2010) hosted in Huntsville, TX by St. George Houston Teen SOYO:

WAMP counselors

Teens during Speaker session

Small groups are the best!

His Grace, Bp THOMAS

Great Entrance during Liturgy at WAMP

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Psalms: Hidden in the Liturgical Life of the Church

Ever attended Vespers, Compline, Matins (Orthros), or Divine Liturgy?

Ever read or heard the words from the Book of Psalms?

If you've answered YES to the first question, then its a definite YES to the second question!

I've never done the math to be precise, but I would venture to guess that about 70% of the words used during services either quote directly from the Psalms or relate to themes within this marvelous work ascribed to the great King of Israel, David

At St. George Houston, TX we hold a weekly Bible Study class on Tuesday mornings at 10:00a led by one of our knowledgeable and talented clergy.  This class, usually between 10 and 20 participants, has been one of the great blessings for me since coming to St. George as the Youth Director in the late summer of 2008.  I must admit and please forgive me, I was highly suspect in my requirement for my new job to be in attendance.  Much to my extreme delight, I was horribly WRONG!

The past few months, we've been working our way (slowly and surely) through the Book of Psalms reading from The Orthodox Study Bible, but heavily relying upon the commentary provided by the Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Reardon, pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, IL.  His book entitled Christ in the Psalms offers context and insight while reading through and studying the Book of Psalms.

My main focus for this post is simply to provide you with the lightning bolt that idiotically struck me:

When I attend the Orthodox services at Church, I am reading, listening, chanting, and praying the Psalms!  This book of the Old Testament has been called the "Song Book of the Church;" the words provide us with a great deal of insight into our own humanity.  While going through the range of emotions and struggling to find the exact words to describe how you feel, please rest assured that it can be found within the words ascribed to the great King and Prophet David.  When you are feeling joyful, excited, cared for and any other positive feeling OR very opposite the spectrum, feeling sad, angry, abandoned and any other negative feeling OR anywhere in the vast middle, you are not alone! The Psalmist David has found the words to help you describe, understand, or work through that feeling. 

David's own words truly penetrate the heart, mind, and soul of us all, most especially with our interactions with others and our worship of God.  The examples of too numerous to go into great detail and length, but here are a few:

- "Bless the Lord, O my soul..." (Psalm 103) is read at the beginning of every Vespers.
- Daily & Great Prokeimenon are all taken from the Psalms, such as "Who is so great a God as our God..." (Psalm 76).
- "Have mercy upon me, O God..." (Psalm 50) is read during Matins as the people venerate the Holy Gospel Book.
- "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered..." (Psalm 67, vv. 2-4) is sung or chanted throughout the Paschal season with the refrain (Christ is risen...).
- "Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens and Thy glory over all the earth" (Psalm 107, v. 6) is said by the priest after Holy Communion has be served.
- "God is the Lord who has shown us Light; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord..." (Psalm 117, vv. 27a, 26a) sung with verses during Matins.
- "Blessed be the name of the Lord, henceforth and forever" (Psalm 112, v. 2) is sung at the close of Divine Liturgy.
- "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever..." (Psalm 135) along with Psalm 34 are known as the Polyeleos or "Many Mercies" and form the core of Matins for the great feast days of the Church.  This psalm has also become widely popular among Orthodox children and teenagers at Church Camps, such as the Antiochian Village and Camp St. Raphael, sung during Holy Communion and as a processional hymn.

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- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, December 13, 2010

"'Tis the Season"...Yes, You were Saying?

It's that time of year again, ya know, for Christmas and all the joy it brings, such as Santa Claus and his reindeer, snow-falling, presents, hideous festive sweaters, caroling, decorations, work parties, Christmas bonuses (well maybe not so much in this economy), etc.

With all that joy, what's an Orthodox Christian to do during such a season?  What's that you say Church, you want me to not eat certain foods (Nativity Fast), donate more to my parish community, wrap presents for kids that I don't know, avoid Christmas parties and dancing?

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I don't know how to respond to such nonsense.  All my friends are at the mall shopping, my family is busy decorating our Christmas tree and house, and I'm a little preoccupied making my Christmas "wish list" for Santa!

'Tis the Season...Yes, You were Saying?  There's another "reason for the season" you claim?  Well, don't keep me in suspense, let's hear it!

Put Christ back into Christmas!  Remember the real reason for the season is that Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, came into the world and dwelt among men, taking on Himself the sins of the world so that we might have life in Him.

“God is with us! Understand O nations and submit yourselves, for God is with us!” (Isaiah 8:9)

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Young Adult Ministries (YAM) of Houston Christmas Dinner & Toy Drive 2010

Join us for our Annual YAM Christmas Dinner & Toy Drive on Thursday, December 9th hosted by Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral from 6:30p till 8:30p.

It will be a great evening, so bring your friends and families (especially the little ones)!

Dinner, Fellowship, Lecture, and Toy Drive to support the Children's Assessment Center (CAC).  This organization provides professional and compassionate treatment of sexually abused children and their families.

Christmas Tree @ AGOC

Toys collected for the children of CAC

Group photo time!!

Visit the CAC website HERE for more information.

Contact Fr. Nicholas Hadzellis, associate pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral for more information regarding our YAM Christmas Dinner at OR visit our YAM Fellowship website HERE.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, December 6, 2010

Who is Your Patron Saint?

A patron saint is regarded as a heavenly intercessor of a person, nation, occupation, organization, or activity.  As Orthodox Christians, we should have a patron saint (usually its your first or middle name which you share in common with a Saint of the Church). 

A great article was posted internationally with The National Post concerning Orthodox Christians and their patron saints.

Apostle Paul, my patron saint

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Recently, in our High School Sunday School class I asked our teens if they knew who the name of the patron saint, his/her feastday on the Church calendar, any information about the life of this saint.  The variety of response was astonishing!  Some easily responsed, like answering correctly in school, others simply recited their first name, but knew nothing else, and yet some were completely lost at the question.

Our Life in Christ is a very tangible.  While in Church, we smell the incense, hear the words read, chanted, or sung, see the icons, liturgical "tools," and colorful vestments, hold in our hands a bulletin or prayer/service book, and so much more.  Our knowledge of a personal patron saint is very tangible in a sense.  We learn about his/her life; how their struggles relate to our own and can receive special guidance when dealing with temptation.

Examples of Patron Saints:

Your Parish Community bears the name of a Saint (St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church Houston, TX)
Teen SOYO (St. John Chrysostom)
Orthodox Christian Fellowship (St. Catherine of Alexandria)
Fellowship of St. John the Divine
Order of St. Ignatius
Chefs or Cooks (St. Euphrosynos)
Physicians (St. Panteleimon)
Iconographers (St. Luke)
Soldiers (St. George)
Travelers (St. Nicholas)
Singers (St. Romanos the Melodist)

If you have a patron saint, increase your knowledge about his/her life and make an effort to include this saint in your Liturgical Life.

If you don't have a patron saint or don't know of one, discuss with your parents, godparents, and parish priest.

There are numerous traditions associated with having a patron saint, such as attending services on their feast day, having their icon in your house, and reading/singing their troparion in your daily prayers.

For more information regarding patron saints, visit HERE.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

OCF Orthodox Coffee House 2010 - Revisited

On Thursday, November 18th St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, TX hosted its Annual OCF Orthodox Coffee House.

We began the evening with Daily Vespers in St. Elizabeth Chapel commemorating the Holy Prophet Obadiah & Martyr Barlaam of Caesarea (November 19th) with over 40 college students and young adults "actively participating" in the service by taking turns reading the Stichera during "O Lord, I have cried" and the Aposticha, as well as singing the responses.  It was truly a blessing to witness!

Following Vespers, we listened to talks on the Advent Season and the Icon of the Nativity of Christ by Rev. Fr. Nicholas Hadzellis, associate pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral and Rev. Fr. Symeon Kees, associate pastor of St. George.

We then headed to the Church Fellowship Hall for our Orthodox Coffee House to enjoy delicious sweets/desserts, an assortment of fruits, flavorful coffee and tea, lively conversations, and fun-filled games. 

Many thanks to our area clergy for their support and all those who attended!

Enjoy some pictures courtesy of Ivette Mekdessi, President of OCF at the University of Houston:

Fr. Nicholas discussing the Advent Season

Smile Timmy...

Like these guys are smiling!

George obviously enjoys the evening - two big thumbs up!

Happy Birthday Monica...

Anddd Joseph, Happy Birthday!

Making sure the game is fair - I'm a competitive Taboo player

Our Game Moderator for the evening - some people
can't handle the pressure apparently

Who gave them a knife? - Yikes!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director