Wednesday, February 29, 2012

DOWAMA Winter Camp 2012: Teen Reflection

I'm very excited to present our first-ever guest blogger: Hibbah K. of Dallas, TX. She is kind enough to share a reflection about her experience from DOWAMA Winter Camp 2012. Many thanks to Hibbah for putting her experience into words and sharing with us!

Over President's Day weekend (February 17-20, 2012), 90 teens from across the Diocese of Wichita & Mid-America (Antiochian) gathered at Camp St Raphael (YMCA Camp Takatoka) in Wagoner, OK. It was a truly blessed weekend for our teens to spend quality time with their friends, while learning about the importance of active participation in their Faith in their daily lives. Our speaker for the weekend, Mr George Hazlaris of NY (Greek Archdiocese) spoke about "Christ as the Merciful Judge" connecting with the Gospel lesson for this Sunday of preparation of Great Lent (Meatfare Sunday - Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46).

Participants of Winter Camp 2012 @ CSR
Our Retreat Speaker, Mr George Hazlaris of NY
Below is Hibbah's Teen Reflection scattered with photos from the weekend; please enjoy!

"A retreat is defined as an act of moving back or withdrawing, and this is exactly what I did last weekend at WAMP. I was blessed to spend four days with my brothers and sisters in Christ, away from all the chaos of the world. I had the opportunity to retreat into a weekend of bliss with people who had the same religion and morals as me, and after spending so much time surrounded by such a materialistic world, last weekend was a dose of Heaven on earth that I didn’t realized how much I needed.

Teen SOYO of Dallas, TX

Smiles with Fr James Shadid

Our 2nd attempt at a Bonfire
This weekend at WAMP was an opportunity to clear my head of everything society has been telling me is important. As I got on the bus, and saw all my friends from Houston, and as we drove to Oklahoma, I truly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The best thing about retreats is that you can truly be yourself. You don’t have to worry about what other people think about you and you don’t have to worry about what you’re supposed to do or say in order to be accepted. You are already accepted by everyone around you. Throughout the weekend, I was able to focus on what was truly important in life: Christ and my friends who were taking this journey with me. After being constantly bogged down by my cell phone and TV and Facebook, Camp Takatoka was truly a breath of fresh air (pun intended). 

Smiles with Andreea Balan, Youth Director of Dallas, TX

St George Houston, TX

We were blessed to have George Hazlaris as our speaker, who came all the way from New York! Of the many things he spoke about, his talk about the end of the world and the time we have stood out to me the most. There are all these theories about when the world is going to end, most of which are nonsense. Every so often, a new person claims to know the exact date of when the earth is going to explode and many people react in different and crazy ways. But in the end why does it matter? Life expectancy is about 90. If the teens at the retreat were about 15 and up, then that means the world for us is ending in 75 years or less. We think we have time, but we don’t. That is what I got most out of the retreat and is what I hope to change as I go into Lent and life in general. None of us have as much time as we think we do. We have to enjoy what we have with the people that matter, doing what is really important. Last weekend, that is exactly what I did. It was a weekend well spent with people I love as we all got closer to Christ together, and it is a weekend that I will remember as I go through the remainder of my 75 or so years, hoping to make every weekend count in Christ’s eyes."

This reflection was written by Hibbah K. of Ss Constantine & Helen Antiochian Orthodox Church of Dallas, TX. She is currently a high school senior and serving as President of her local chapter of Teen SOYO.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Modern Day Prodigal Son

Country music proclaims the gospel?? Well, with this song, it surely does! Artist Jason Michael Carroll's "Hurry Home" is a modern day story of the prodigal son (or daughter). This week we continue to prepare for our own Lenten journey and the gospel of the parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us to change our stubborn ways and "hurry home" to the Father (GOD).

The lyrics are below and music video at the bottom; be sure to listen:

He's been sitting by the phone since she left
But it's time for work and he just can't be late
So he grabs his old guitar
And he plays a couple bars on the machine
And then he softly sings


It doesn't matter what you've done, I still love you
It doesn't matter where you've been, you can still come home
And honey if it's you, we've got a lot of making up to do
And I can't hug you on the phone, so hurry home

Well the message light was blinking when he got back
It was an old friend calling cause he just heard the news
He says Man I hope you find her
If I see her I'll remind her that her dad is worried
And want her to know


It doesn't matter what you've done, I still love you
It doesn't matter where you've been, you can still come home
And honey if it's you, we've got a lot of making up to do
And I can't hug you on the phone, so hurry home

Well the days dragged by without a word from her
And it looked like she might not be coming back
People said man don't you think it's time to take that old message off
He said no, you never know when she might call

She was just outside a bar in New York City
Her so-called friends had left her all alone
She was scared he wouldn't want her
But she dialed up that old number and let it ring
And then she heard him sing


It doesn't matter what you've done, I still love you
It doesn't matter where you've been, you can still come home
And honey if it's you, we've got a lot of making up to do
And I can't hug you on the phone, so hurry home

He walked in just in time to hear her say
Dad, I'm on my way

Lyrics taken from HERE

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Man in the Mirror: Publican OR Pharisee

This past Sunday and every year, the Gospel lesson of the Publican & the Pharisee is presented to Orthodox Christians as means of preparation for the season of Great Lent. This parable can be found in the Gospel according to St Luke 18:9-14; the lesson ending with the words of of Jesus: "...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

"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

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.

Publican & Pharisee
 Image Source

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

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 hearts and eyes filled with judgment towards others. This Gospel lesson always makes me think of the Michael Jackson song "Man in the Mirror." The late Michael Jackson may not be your favorite, but if his song reminds me of the gospel, I'm all for it!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Do We "Church" a Baby?

Like many have witnessed on Sunday, either before, during, or after the Divine Liturgy, the priest walks towards the Narthex and meets a mother and new-born 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 back into the Life of the Church. 

The Great Feast of the Presentation of our Lord into the Temple is celebrated on February 2nd in the Life of the Church as described by the Gospel according to St 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
Image Source

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.

Cited Source

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