Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SOYO Fundraiser: St George Sweatpants on SALE

Ladies & Gentleman, Boys and Girls, check out the latest fashion of St George Houston apparel: SWEATPANTS!

Going on sale this weekend through Christmas, make sure you purchase your pair before we sell out!

Only $25 per pair (sizes S-XL available), these sweatpants have some awesome features including J. Navy color, the "o" in George is the logo for our Church, open-bottom pant leg, and pockets.

All proceeds help with travel costs to Winter Camp 2012 at Camp St Raphael in Oklahoma; please help support our Teen SOYO at St George and get your very own St George sweatpants!

Sweatpants will be on sale on Sundays following Divine Liturgy starting this weekend or contact Paul Fuller (paulf518@yahoo.com) to place an order TODAY!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Saint Nicholas Secret: Book Recommendation

We have a Teen Advent Retreat coming up in a few weeks, themed "St Nicholas: The Gift of Giving." I've been preparing to speak about St Nicholas, his life and the societal transformation into Santa Claus for so many around the world. I needed to do some research on this subject, so I began looking in the St George Houston Library: I scrolled the shelves looking through "Lives of the Saints," "Church History," "Spirituality" sections, but to no avail. Across the room on the lower-level shelves (eye sight for children) was the Children's books section. Would a book be there to help me with my research?

I laughed to myself - I'm going to check out the Children's section; literally having to sit down on the floor to browse the titles - yep, a very odd site!

But I came across the following book: The Saint Nicholas Secret: A Story of Childhood Faith Reborn in the Heart of a Father written by Dennis E. Engelman and published by Conciliar Press. This work can be purchased through Amazon.com HERE.

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A  small book, but very informative. Not written for a child, but actually for a parent. The author gives his own childhood experience of learning that there was no Santa Claus and explains that most children experience some degree of emotional and spiritual trauma. The short narrative continues with the author as a father worrying about that same experience for his own children. But while on a business trip in Europe he learns that St Nicholas was indeed a real person - he discovers his life and how fiction came from fact. The author describes his experience of regaining that lost hope for the miraculous stating that "a world without miracles is a world without anything to hope for or to believe in (p. 24)" and that "faith requires the miraculous (p. 35)."

This book offers insight into the approach by parents of teaching their children about St Nicholas rather than Santa Claus in the hopes of keeping them focused on the real meaning of this Great Feast of Christmas (the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus Christ).

I highly recommend it for all, not just parents. I've made my own notes from this book to include in my talk with our teens during the SOYO Advent Retreat in a few weeks that I believe will be very beneficial for them. It's not just all fantasy and make believe at Christmas time, not just all fairy tales for little children. The real story of St Nicholas can help keep us focused on the Feast of the Nativity: "St Nicholas convinces us that miracles are a natural part of life, something one has every reason to expect and depend on (p. 21)."

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"Some people have a very sad time at Christmas being busy and thinking only of themselves and this world. They get no joy from either giving or receiving gifts because they have forgotten heaven (p. 69)."

I'll end by describing the subject of my research: St Nicholas himself. "As a bishop [Myra in Lycia], he was meek and forgiving of others while bold in defense of Christianity." "To orphans he was a father, to the poor a merciful giver, to the weeping a comforter, to the wronged a helper, and to all a great benefactor (p. 46)."

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Saturday, November 12, 2011

St John the Golden-Mouthed

On November 13, in the Life of the Church, we commemorate our Holy Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople.

St John Chrysostom
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The Life of John Chrysostom is well recorded through his own writings and orations and the writings of numerous Church Fathers. Because many of these writings have been translated to English in the past century, great interest has been shown in this prominent Father. Saint John was surnamed Chrysostom ("Golden-mouth") because of his eloquence. He made exhaustive commentaries on the divine Scriptures and was the author of more works than any other Church Father, leaving us complete commentaries on the Book of Genesis, the Gospels of Saints Matthew and John, the Acts and all the Epistles of Saint Paul. Numerous teachers of the Church have written homilies of praise in his honor. Besides his feast today and on January 27 (Translation of his Holy Relics), he is also commemorated on January 30, together with Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian on the Synaxis of the Ecumenical Teachers & Hierarchs.

The Service of Divine Liturgy celebrated on most Sundays and on special feast days throughout the Church Year is ascribed to Saint John Chrysostom.

This has a great deal of influence upon modern Orthodox Christians, while many denominations either attempt to turn to traditional styles or get "modern" and "fresh" in their style of worship, as Orthodox Christians, we have a practice of worship that dates back to the time of John Chrysostom in the 4th century A.D.

This rich history of Holy Tradition is what many Protestants and other forms of Christianity seem to miss out on. Some Protestant Christians make great strides to attempt to relive or recapture the "Spirit" of Christianity in the early Church, simply by reading the Bible and making their own understanding of Church Life fit in their current way of living.

For Orthodox Christians, the early Church is OUR current Church; we have the "Holy Tradition" passed on from the Apostles of Christ to the Bishops (leaders of the Church), one of whom is John Chrysostom. The practice of worship, the written works of the Bible, and Christian living was worked out and codified during the instrumental years of the 4th century during the times of such masterful teachers, preachers, and shepherds as our own John Chrysostom.

St John Chrysostom
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What we believe as modern-day Orthodox Christians is the same as what our Church Fathers learned from the Apostles and taught to their flocks; that succession of belief and faith is what allows us as followers of Christ to proudly state on the first Sunday of Great Lent during Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers:

"This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the Universe!"

Saint John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily is one of the great orations of the humility of the soul and desire to receive Christ. For centuries, all Orthodox around the world proclaim this as they celebrate Pascha, the Feast of Feasts - the Resurrection of our Lord.

Our Holy Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom has made a major impact on Orthodox Christianity, as the Apostle Paul and Emperor Constantine the Great did before him. Not only do we look back on his life as inspiration for living our own life, but as we gather for worship with our parish community, we are constantly reminded of the love John Chrysostom had for his Church, his flock, and his God.

Troparion (Tone 8):

Grace shining forth from your lips like a beacon has enlightened the universe. It has shown to the world the treasures of liberality; it has revealed to us the heights of humility. Teaching us by your words, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede before the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls!

Through the prayers of our Holy Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom, intercede with Christ our God, that our souls may be saved!

- A Day in the Life of Youth Director

Thursday, November 10, 2011

St George Food Pantry Drive

At St George Houston, did you know:

There is a Food Pantry?
Where the Food Pantry is located?
Who the Food Pantry helps out?

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Right now, we have a competition going on with our Church School program to assist with participating in the ministry of stocking the St George Food Pantry!

Each class is asked to collect items for the Parish Food Pantry; there's a competition for the next few weeks between the classes. It is a wonderful and simple ministry that our parish community offers to those in need. Please look through the following list and bring items to participant this Sunday and the next few Sundays:

Breakfast Items        Lunch/Dinner Items 
Cereal                      Peanut Butter
Granola Bars             Jelly
Instant Oatmeal         Crackers (cheese, peanut butter) 
Pop Tarts                  Saltine Crackers
Shelf-Stable Milk        Macaroni & Cheese (pre-made)
Juice                        Can Vegetables
                                Can Chunky Soups
General Items           Can Meat/Tuna
Bottled Water            Can Meals 
Hand Sanitizer           Instant Rice
Paper Towels             Instant Potatoes
Kleenex                     Pasta
Toothpaste                Spaghetti Sauce
Toothbrushes             Can Fruit
Deodorant                 Can/Jar Gravy

Join us in participating in this worthy ministry!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, November 7, 2011

Holy Archangels & Angels: Feastday

The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers: Archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea, which met several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration.

Synaxis of the Holy Archangels & Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers
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A Feastday (November 8th) was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the Holy Fathers of the Church. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then "the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him" (Mt. 25:31).

The Angelic Ranks are divided into three Hierarchies: highest, middle, and lowest.

The Highest Hierarchy includes the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones; the Middle Angelic Hierarchy includes Dominions, Powers, and Authorities; the Lowest Hierarchy includes Principalities, Archangels, and Angels:

ARCHANGELS (1 Thess 4:16) are messengers of great and wondrous tidings. They reveal prophecies and the mysteries of the faith. They enlighten people to know and understand the will of God, they spread faith in God among the people, illuminating their minds with the light of the Holy Gospel.

ANGELS (1 Pet 3:22) are in the lowest rank of the heavenly hierarchy, and closest to people. They reveal the lesser mysteries of God and His intentions, guiding people to virtuous and holy life. They support those who remain steadfast, and they raise up the fallen. They never abandon us and they are always prepared to help us, if we desire it.

Over all the Nine Ranks, the Lord appointed the Holy Archangel Michael (his name in Hebrew means "who is like unto God"), the faithful servitor of God, as Chief Commander. He cast down from Heaven the arrogantly proud Lucifer and the other fallen spirits when they rebelled against God. Michael summoned the ranks of angels and cried out, "Let us attend! Let us stand aright before our Creator and do not consider doing what is displeasing unto God!" According to Church Tradition, and in the church services to the Archangel Michael, he participated in many other Old Testament events.

My home parish in Louisville, Kentucky is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. I was baptized, grew up serving as an altar boy, participated in Church School and Teen SOYO, read and chanted at St. Michael's. It is truly a blessed parish community, known as one of the largest Pan-Orthodox communities in North America.

Feastday information taken from OCA Feasts & Saints.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are You Smarter Than an Orthodox 5th Grader?

In September of 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published their U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. This 15 question quiz spaned all sorts of religious beliefs for Americans. After taking the quiz myself HERE, I got to thinking about certain facts about Orthodox Christianity that some may not know, and others take for granted. 

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This is a basic quiz that I presented twice to the teens of St George Houston.  I won't divulge the results of any individual teen, but let's just say there was great variety in the number of correct answers, and more telling, of which questions most teens failed to find the correct answer.

Try to take this brief quiz "honestly" and hopefully regardless of your personal results, we can all come to the same conclusion:  We can all learn more about our Faith and how this knowledge should affect our lives!

1. Who is the 1st Christian martyr?

a. Peter                    b. Stephen
c. David                    d. Mary Magdalene

2. When did Christianity become legal in the Roman Empire?

a. 33 AD                    b. 70 AD
c. 313 AD                  d. 1054 AD

3. Who is the first follower of Christ to see him risen from the dead?

a. John the Beloved Disciple       b. Apostle Paul
c. Mary Magdalene                     d. Mary, His Mother

4. Who is referred to as the “new Adam” in some Liturgical texts within the Orthodox Church?

a. John the Baptist                            b. Jesus Christ
c. Emperor Constantine the Great      d. Prophet Moses

5. What is an icon?

a. an image depicting a holy person or holy event
b. picture of a famous person
c. a warrior or fighter
d. written text from a Holy Father of the Church

6. In reference to Mary, what does “Theotokos” mean?

a. God-bearer                   b. Giver of Jesus
c. Righteous woman          d. Mother of Humanity

7. Who is the first called of the 12 Apostles of Christ?

a. Peter                         c. Matthew
c. Andrew                      d. Judas

8. What was Peter’s occupation before becoming a “follower of Christ?”

a. tent-maker                b. carpenter
c. farmer                      d. fisherman

9. Why do Orthodox Christians gather on Sundays to worship during Liturgy and celebrate the Eucharist OR what do we commemorate every Sunday throughout the year?

a. the Creation of the World
b. the Escape of the Israelites of out Egypt
c. the Resurrection of Christ
d. the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ

10. As Orthodox Christians, we say “God is the Trinity: three ________, one God.”

a. Spirits                  b. Persons
c. Gods                    d. Angels

11. Which prophet is commonly ascribed as the author of the Book of Psalms from the Old Testament?

a. David                     b. Solomon
c. Moses                     d. Abraham

12. Which city is NOT considered to be one of the first five patriarchates (important centers) of Christianity?

a. Rome                     b. Bethlehem
c. Jerusalem               d. Alexandria

13. What Great Feast in the Life of the Church is celebrated on November 21st (New Calendar)?

a. Transfiguration of our Lord             
b. Entrance of our Lord into the Temple
c. Nativity of the Holy Theotokos       
d. Entrance of the Holy Theotokos into the Temple

14. What is Communion (Holy Eucharist)?

a. Bread & Wine                                                  
b. Body & Blood of Christ
c. Symbolic of the Body & Blood of Christ    
d. Any meal shared together with family

15. What does “Liturgy” mean?

a. work of the people           b. gathering together
c. worshipping God               d. listening to God

The Answer Key is below, please highlight to view:

Answer Key:
1. B       6. A      11. A
2. C       7. C      12. B
3. C       8. D      13. D
4. B       9. C      14. B
5. A      10. B     15. A

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director