Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not Just a Famous Quote, but Words to Live By

Short, simple, and straight to the point...thats how we like our words to be.  People love little sayings and quotes, whether we put them on our refrigerator, in our offices, or on the bumper of our cars.

Little reminders to help us get through the day, describe our personality, explain our reasoning. Whether it be a single word or a short sentence; just get straight to the point!

We love inspirational thoughts, famous quotes, and slogans.

Well, here's one of my favorites:  "I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior." 

These words spoken by John Newton, the former slave trader turned Anglican clergyman in England during the 18th century.  After experiencing a religious conversion, he became a minister, hymn-writer, and later a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery. He was the author of many hymns, including "Amazing Grace."

This quote, or as I like to think, words to live by, is not one society would like us to place great importance upon.  These words call for great humility and faith, which is obviously not an easy task. 

To me, its the Protestant version of the Orthodox "Jesus Prayer:" the ascetic practice of reciting, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner."

I'd also like to take this opportunity to offer a movie recommendation.  Amazing Grace (released in 2006) tells the story of the antislavery pioneer, William Wilberforce, who, as a Member of Parliament, navigated the world of 18th century backroom politics to end the slave trade in the British Empire.

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Its an amazing film (excuse the pun) that entertains with an all-star cast, while telling the true story of the movement to abolish slavery in the British Empire (of course, taking certain liberties with historical facts), and offers the viewer a sense of moral responsibility with their own life.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What I Learned in Bible Study This Morning

Quote of the day, from Bible Study this morning: "Everything you do in life is a learning experience, you either learn to repeat it or avoid it again." -Fr. John

Of course, I learned a great deal more...we are studying St Paul's Epistle to the Romans at St George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, TX led by the Very Rev. Fr. John Salem.

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Join us on Tuesday mornings at 10:00a for a lively discussion, coffee/tea, and sweets; although we are a party-hard bunch, we do actually learn some great things!

Orthodox Study Bible
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- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ss Constantine & Helena, Equal-to-the-Apostles & Outdoor Shrine

On May 21st in the Life of the Church, we commemorate Ss Constantine & Helena (Emperor and his Mother).  These two saints of the Orthodox Faith are extremely important due to their great influence of spreading Christianity throughout the Roman Empire in the 4th century.  Great "mythology" follows their lasting legacy upon the Christian Church and impact of Roman society.

Ss Constantine & Helena
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Constantine the Great is a polarizing figure in history; there are many questions regarding his status as a political leader, influencial personality, and Christian.  Many historians question his Christianity, especially due to the fact that that he was only baptized on his deathbed (although this was common practice during this time), as well as his stance during the great theological debates of his time.

During his struggle to gain power of the Empire as its sole ruler, he prayed to God to give him a sign which would inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord showed him a radiant Sign of the Cross in the heavens with the inscription "In this Sign, conquer."

After Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. In 323, when he became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their Faith without fear.

Renouncing paganism, the Emperor did not let his capital remain in ancient Rome, the former center of the pagan realm. He transferred his capital to the East, to the city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople.  The new emperor was deeply convinced that only Christianity could unify the immense Roman Empire with its diverse peoples. He supported the Church in every way, recalling Christian confessors from banishment, building churches, and showing concern for the clergy.

His mother, Helena provided great influence over her son as he became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire and its transition from paganism into a Christian Empire.  She traveled to Palestine in search of the Holy & Live-Giving Cross of our Lord.  While in Palestine, the holy empress did much to benefit the Church. She ordered that all places connected with the earthly life of the Lord and His All-Pure Mother, should be freed of all traces of paganism, and she commanded that churches be built at these sites.

Because of their great service to the Church and efforts in converting the masses to Christianity, the emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena are called "the Equal-to-the-Apostles."

At St George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, TX, we are blessed to have an Outdoor Shrine dedicated to Ss Constantine & Helena.  This Shrine with a large size icon, as well as surrounding beautiful landscape and large water fountain is a wonderful addition to the parish community.

Outdoor Shrine of Ss Constantine & Helena
Icon of Ss Constantine & Helena
Last year on their feastday, OCF of Greater Houston held a Supplication Service led by Rev. Fr. Joseph Huneycutt.  It was a unique experience to worship God and ask intercessions of Ss Constantine & Helena in an outside setting.  Please join us again this year on Friday evening (May 20th) at 7:00p for services at the Outdoor Shrine of Ss Constantine & Helena.

Enjoy some pictures from last year's service:

Rev. Fr. Joseph Huneycutt leading our service

Who let that guy chant?
Big smiles!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, May 9, 2011

St Christopher, the Dog-Headed Traveler?

In the Life of the Church, on May 9th we commemorate St Christopher (lit. Christ-bearer).  He is the patron saint of travelers due to one of the many legends associated with his life.  Besides the popular medallions of St Christopher, there are two famous types of icons: one as a strong, tall man, but with the head of a dog (some historians believe that he was descended from the Canaanites, while others say from the "Cynoscephalai" [literally "dog-heads"] of Thessaly); the other as a strong, tall man carrying a Child across water. 

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He lived in Lycia during the third century and suffered martyrdom about the year 250, during the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251). Although little is known of his actual life, there are a great many legends and traditions associated with this Saint. 

Christopher once made a vow to serve the greatest king in the world, so he first offered to serve the local king. Seeing that the king feared the devil, Christopher thought he would leave the king to serve Satan. Learning that the devil feared Christ, Christopher went in search of Him. St Babylas of Antioch told him that he could best serve Christ by doing well the task for which he was best suited. Therefore, he became a ferryman, carrying people across a river on his shoulders. 

Christopher carried a Child Who insisted on being taken across at that very moment. With every step Christopher took, the Child seemed to become heavier. Halfway across the stream, Christopher felt that his strength would give out, and that he and the Child would be drowned in the river. As they reached the other side, the Child told him that he had just carried all the sins of the world on his shoulders. Then he recognized Christ, the King Whom he had vowed to serve.

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I particularily enjoy the story of Christopher carrying the Christ-child across the water.  Its a story of intrigue, that compels us to think of our own relationship with Christ.  His story should encourage us as Christians to use our God-given talents to offer service to mankind in whatever capacity available to us.

O Holy Martyr Christopher, pray unto God for us!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things - Blessed Pascha!

As kids are concerned, you couldn't find a cuter pair than the "Fuller twins" (I'm not biased - if ya don't believe me, just ask our Mama)!

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I have a very distinct memory from my childhood, and luckily its an experience of my youth while in Church.  In line during the Dismissal, we kept seeing and hearing a dialogue between each person with our priest - the same dialogue.  We turned to ask our mom what they were saying.  She expained that the priest was saying, "Christ is Risen" and we should respond back with, "Truly He is Risen."

Obviously, as children we didn't know what those sayings meant, but everyone was doing it and what kid wants to be left out of all the fun?  It was our turn in line, and much to our delight, he was handing out a gift to everyone in line - a red egg (real egg)!

He handed us each an egg, as he proclaimed, "Christ is Risen!"  And our reply, apparently not what everyone else was saying (Truly He is Risen), but something much more to our liking as a child.  My sister and I loudly exclaimed:  "Truly He eats raisins!"

Everyone had a nice laugh.  My sister and I continued to say to one another and others:
"Christ eats raisins!" "Truly He eats raisins!"

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Cute kids, right??

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director