Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good Things Come in Threes

We've got the Three Musketeers, Peter, Paul, and Mary (the band, not the early Apostles), Big Three in Boston, Three Stooges, Three Little Pigs, and Three Amigos, but for Orthodox Christians, its all about the Three Holy Hierarchs (Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom), bishops in the 4th century, whom we commemorate on January 30th in the Life of the Church.

Three Holy Hierarchs

Image Source

These men great in knowledge, piety, and charity offer unto us the example of Christian teaching and more importantly, Christian living.  A great many of their works have been preserved and can be found HERE.

The Orthodox Church teaches about the creation of this Feastday (January 30th) of the Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs and Great Ecumenical Teachers, as follows:

"Disputes raged in 11th century Constantinople about which of the three hierarchs was the greatest. Some argued that Basil was superior to the other two because of his explanations of Christian faith and monastic example. Supporters of John Chrysostom countered that the "Golden Mouthed" archbishop of Constantinople was unmatched in both eloquence and in bringing sinners to repentance. A third group insisted that Basil's close friend, Gregory the Theologian, was preferred to the others due to the majesty, purity and profundity of his homilies and his defense of the faith from the Arian heresy. All three have separate feast days in January: Basil on January 1, Gregory on January 25, and Chrysostom on January 27. The Eastern Churches teach that the three hierarchs appeared together in a vision to St. John Mauropous, bishop of Euchaita, in the year 1084, and said that they were equal before God: 'There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another.' As a result, a January 30 feastday commemorating all three in common was instituted around 1100 under the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos."

Cited Source

Through the prayers of the Three Holy Hierarchs and Great Ecumenical Teachers: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom, O Lord, Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, January 24, 2011

Against Abortion: "Before you were born, I sanctified you..."

Today, January 24th is the annual March for Life held in Washington, D.C. and Orthodox Christians will be participating again this year. The March for Life is an annual "protest" by U.S. citizens against the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade (1973) which legalized the practice of abortion. 

It is a wonderful concept to actively participate in such causes as free citizens of this great land, especially in regards to your Faith and beliefs. While the controversy of abortion is but one of many social and morals issues facing us today, it's understanding from an Orthodox Christian perspective is greatly needed.

During Sunday School yesterday, our class discussed at great length the issue of abortion. I began the class by stating the following:  "I'm no expert on moral issues, especially such that have numerous  perspectives with regard to the medical field, science, technology, sociology, and ethics. But its important to research subjects and have informed opinions."

An article which I found to be extremely helpful is "An Orthodox Perspective on Abortion" written by Fr. Joseph O'Brien and can be found HERE.

Orthodox Peace Fellowship offers a great deal of articles and helpful information on the issue of abortion and numerous other issues.

Visitation of Mary with Elizabeth

Icon Source

"Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, and entered into the house of Zachariasand greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there shall be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord'" (Luke 1:39-45).

"Thus the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you.  I established you a prophet to the nations'" (Jeremiah 1: 4,5).

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Thursday, January 20, 2011

For all the Spanish-speaking viewers...Espero que disfrutes:

This past Monday, January 17th, the Cathedral of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Mexico was consecrated and dedicated to Ss Peter & Paul.  Participating in the consecration was Metropolitan Antonio (Chedraoui) along with many Antiochian hierarchs - Metropolitan Sergio of Chile, Metropolitan Damaskinos of Brazil, Metropolitan George of Homs (Syria), Metropolitan Paul of Australia and New Zealand, Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo (Syria), Metropolitan Silouan of Argentina, Metropolitan John of Western and Central Europe, Bishop Antoun of Miami, Bishop Ghattas - superior of the Balamand monastery in Lebanon, as well as Bishop Alejo of Mexico (OCA).

Website for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Mexico is HERE in Spanish.

¡Espero que disfrutes la pelĂ­cula!  I hope you enjoy the film!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lesson from the Gospels: Give Thanks unto God

This past Sunday, January 16th the Gospel lesson is short, but in my opinion, offers a precious truth for our daily lives.

The Gospel reading according to St. Luke (17:12-19) is as follows:

"At that time, as Jesus entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us.'  When Jesus saw them he said unto them, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.'  And as they went they were cleansed.  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and fell upon his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks.  Now he was a Samaritan.  Then said Jesus, 'Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?'  And Jesus said to him, 'Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.'"

Its a lesson for the ages: don't be found ungrateful for all the gifts God has given you!

Visit HERE for simple instruction on how to apply this Gospel lesson into our own lives.

We all have major events, milestones in our lives that we can certainly recognize as important and worthy of praise and thanksgiving to God:  making a sports team or joining the choir, getting your driver's license or your first car, graduation, marriage, job/career, passing a huge test or exam, and the list goes on and on as you get older.

But do we offer praise and thanksgiving unto God for the gifts or blessings most often overlooked, but most necessary:  starting a new day, being able to eat a meal, talking on the phone with a friend or family member, earning an income, or learning something in school.  Be thankful for the people in your life, and share that thankgiving with one another by worshipping together at Church and participating in the Eucharist (Holy Communion) which literally means "thanksgiving."

"Be attentive to the many blessings God bestows upon us!"

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's in a name?

This question may seem simplistic in nature, but while discussing our God (divinity), it takes on a whole new meaning.  The name of God is more than a distinguishing title; it represents the concept of the divine nature, and of the relationship between God and His people.

There are numerous names used to refer to an ultimate deity, such as God, Lord, First Cause, Divine Nature, etc.  When studying Judaism and Hebrew Scripture, one comes across the often used, yet misunderstood name:  YHWH (Yahweh).

For more information visit HERE.

The story of the conversation between Moses and the Divine in the "burning bush" told in the Book of Exodus is filled with deep theological meaning.  Its a story of the relationship between the One True God and his people, Israel, whom Moses was to lead out of captivity and slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land:

"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (Exodus 3:13-15).

The concept of YHWH, which means "existence or being" is unique to the One True God.  His "name" is not pronounced but read as Adonai, "my Lord." This is done out of hesitation to pronounce the name due to its holiness.

This use of the name of God is awe-inspiring, while constrasting that with how sadly we "take the Lord's name in vain." Guilty as we all are in this injustice to our One True God, cursing has become second nature to some. Its a sad reality we must all face, and do our part (preach by example).

Image Source

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, January 10, 2011

For Mama...

This past week, my parish priest and boss-man made a shocking statement!  While meeting with someone, I overheard the following:

"Look, I'm not perfect, I make mistakes; you're not perfect, you make mistakes; Paul [Fuller] isn't perfect, he makes mistakes."

It may seem like a no-brainer to ya'll; people aren't perfect. 

Later on, as he was sitting in his office, I walked in to discuss some Church matters.  After we finished, I sarcastically asked, "Hey Father, what do you mean I'm not perfect?"  He laughed and responded, "boy, you must have spent too much time with your mama while home during Christmas!"

Mama's visit to Houston in Nov. 2009

This past Saturday, January 8th my mother celebrated her birthday, along with the "King" Elvis Presley.

Happy Birthday, Mama Fuller...God grant you many years!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great Feast of Theophany (Baptism of our Lord) in the Life of the Church

On January 6th in the Life of the Church, we celebrate the Great Feast of Theophany (Epiphany) - the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River.

Theophany icon

For a great reading on this Feast, please visit HERE.

Troparion (Tone 1) of Theophany:
When Thou, O Lord was baptized in the River Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee
And called Thee, His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, Who has revealed Thyself
And enlightened the world, glory to Thee!

Wishing you and your families a blessed Feastday! 

May our Lord who deigned to be baptized by John in the River Jordan for our salvation...have mercy upon us and save us!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, January 3, 2011

Who's the LOGOS champion?

During the weekend of December 17-19, 2010 a group of 30+ teens gathered for the SOYO Advent Retreat hosted by the teens of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, TX.

Our weekend retreat theme was a verse taken from the Gospel according to the Apostle Matthew 2:2:  "For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."  Retreat discussion lessons led by Rev. Fr. Symeon Kees, associate pastor of St. George Houston, TX and Paul Fuller, Youth and Young Adult Director of St. George Houston, TX and small group sessions focused on the Magi (Wise Men) who came from the East at the Nativity of our Lord in the Flesh bringing gifts and worshipping the One True God.

Adoration of the Magi

The SOYO Advent Retreat allowed for a wonderful opportunity for Orthodox teens to enjoy quality time among their peers to share in worship, fellowship, witness, and fun!  We spent time in liturgical services (Vespers, Evening Prayers, Morning Prayers, Divine Liturgy, and the often overlooked communal prayers before meals); lessons discussing our retreat theme, as well as my personal favorite, small group sessions discussing the lessons and sharing your own thoughts and questions; a special service project of making gift bags (more accurately termed "necessity" bags) for a Luncheon hosted later in the week at St. George for over 350 poor elderly sponsored by the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS); outdoor games of Angleball (Yaboy!), Ultimate Frisbee, and Football; an exciting and fun game of Orthodox Trivia modeled after our Diocesan Bible Bowl; and during free time which truly took on a life of its own, continous games of LOGOS (Orthodox Taboo game) filled with tough competition, Orthodox knowledge, playful banter (apparently some teens think they know more than the Youth Directors and chaperones LOL).

A special thanks to our young adult chaperones for the weekend:  Andreea Balan, Youth Director of Ss. Constantine & Helen Antiochian Orthodox Church of Dallas, TX, Elise Namee, Andrew Treckman, Julia Mekdessi, Ivette Mekdessi, and George Katrib.  It is truly a blessing for teenagers to see such active college students and young adults offering their talents in ministry!

A special thanks to the Sackllah Family for their generous donation of our Friday evening "feast" of Lenten dishes!

A special thanks to our sister parish, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Houston, TX for allowing the use their gym and shower facilities (no one likes a smelly teenager!).

Congratulations to our Orthodox Trivia Game winners of Mary Catherine H., Kathrine S., and Hibbah K. who each received beautiful icons of our Lord's Nativity!

Please enjoy a few photos from the weekend courtesy of Samantha R.:

SOYO Advent Retreat participants

Some smiling ladies!

Ss. Constantine & Helen Dallas, TX Teen SOYO

Kathrine made me a UK cookie!

Teens hard at work during our assembly line!

SOYO Service Project - Assembly Line

More workers!

I even offered to show the teens how its done!

You're not cool without a hoodie on - chillll bro!

Sunday School lesson - yes, you there, let's hear it!

Leading my Discussion Session

Trying emphatically to make a point - I think!

Apparently someone needed some help figuring
out what the bell was used for during LOGOS!

Thanks to all our teen participants and hope to see ya'll next year! 

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director