Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meet & Greet with the OCF Executive Board

Join us at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, TX on Monday, February 28th at 7:00p for dinner and presentation information on OCF and its vital ministry towards our college students and young adults in the Life of the Church.

Bring your family and friends!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Publican & Pharisee: A Look into the Hearts of Men

"Let us not pray, brethen, like the Pharisee; for he who exalteth himself shall be abased.  Wherefore, let us humble ourselves before God, crying by means of fasting, with the voice of the publican, saying: God forgive us, sinners." - Sticherion of Vespers for the Sunday of the Publican & Pharisee

Publican & Pharisee

Two men went up to pray, One was a Pharisee, a respected member of his religious community; one who did all the right things - externally. And yet, when he stands before God, he stands before a mirror. Because, if you noticed, the Gospel says to us “and he prayed to himself thus.” So he wasn't praying to God - he was justifying himself. He was justifying his own existence. He was trying to make himself look good, He was trying to convince himself that he was superior to others, and why did he do that? Simply out of pride. Often we try to convince ourselves that we are something beyond what we are, not only because of pride, but often because we don't have what is good and fruitful self-esteem.

The other man in the parable is a tax collector. He was an outcast, the Jewish community considered him a traitor. Now, this tax collector goes up and prays; and he doesn't stand at all close to the altar, He stands far away. Then he beats his breast and he wouldn't even look toward the heavens. He doesn't have to convince himself of anything because he knows who he is; and so he talks to God. And he asks God, out of the sincerity of his heart, a simple request that is intimately related to how he sees himself. He says, "Lord God, have mercy upon me a sinner.”

So, to stand like the tax collector before God (but not to stand there trying to convince ourselves we're something we're not) is the hardest thing to do in life - it's easy to say, but it's the hardest thing to do. And what should you say when you stand before God? Say what the prophets of the Old Testament always said to God who called them by name, "Here I am, Lord!"

Reading courtesy of Fr. Dimitri Tsakas, parish of St. George, Greek Archdiocese of Australia

The Gospel lesson offered for this week is a story of humility vs. pride.  It helps prepare us for our journey during Great Lent towards the Resurrection of Christ.  The Saints of the Church are our personal examples of those who have "fought the good fight" in order to attain salvation.  Hopefully, we can use this Gospel lesson in our daily struggles to keep remembrances of our own sinful nature and offer prayers to our loving and forgiving God, instead of eyes and hearts filled with judgment towards others.

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- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Veneration of a Holy Relic: Hieromartyr Blaise of Sebaste

Join us in Houston for a wonderful experience: Vespers and veneration of the holy relic of Hieromartyr Blaise (Vlassios) of Sebaste.

On Thursday, February 10th at 6:30p at the Menil Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, Orthodox Christians in the Houston area are invited to participate in a Vespers service commemorating the Hieromartyr Blaise of Sebate and venerate his holy relic.

Hieromartyr Blaise of Sebaste

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral hosts services at the Menil Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum on the 2nd Thursday of each month.  St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church received a holy relic of St. Blaise from His Grace, Bishop BASIL of Wichita, KS and had an icon commissioned to house the holy relic.

Hieromartyr Blaise (Vlassios) was a bishop of Sebaste (modern day Armenia) in the 4th century.  He is one of the most-venerated holy healers in both the East and the West. He is called upon for protection from wild beasts, and for the healing of every kind of ailment.

The life of St. Blaise can be found HERE.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Churching of a Baby - Great Feast of the Presentation of our Lord

Like many have witnessed on Sunday, either before or after the Divine Liturgy, the priest walking towards the Narthex and meeting a new mother and child.  This "churching" is beloved by all (really, who doesn't love seeing a new baby and the smiling faces of their parents?)!  But its not just a "grand" appearance for the family's sake; there is a deep meaning for one's life in this service.  It is an offering unto God who bestows all blessings and gifts upon us (i.e. the birth of a child) and the readmittance of a mother into the Life of the Church. 

Today the Church commemorates an important event in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:22-40). Forty days after His birth the God-Infant was taken to the Jerusalem Temple, the center of the nation's religious life. According to the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a male child was forbidden to enter the Temple of God for forty days. At the end of this time the mother came to the Temple with the child, to offer a young lamb or pigeon to the Lord as a purification sacrifice. The Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, had no need of purification, since she had given birth to the Source of purity and sanctity without defilement. However, she humbly fulfilled the requirements of the Law.

Presentation of our Lord into the Temple

At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he should behold the promised Messiah. By inspiration from above, St Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and St Joseph had brought the Infant Jesus to fulfill the Law.

The God-Receiver Simeon took the divine Child in his arms, and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32). St Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).

At the Temple was the 84-year-old widow Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel (February 3), "who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. She arrived just when St Simeon met the divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:37-38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: "This Child has established Heaven and earth."

Before Christ was born, righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous people of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet the Savior in the Temple.

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Wishing you and your family a blessed Great Feast of the Presentation of our Lord into the Temple!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director