Thursday, March 29, 2012

Anonymous Monk Finds Salvation

One of my favorite "stories" is from The Prologue of Ohrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich (a collection of lives of the saints). Its a brief story about an anonymous monk commemorated on March 30 in the Life of the Church.


This monk was lazy, careless, and lacking in his prayer life; but throughout all of his life, he did not judge anyone. While dying, he was happy. When the brethren asked him how is it that with so many sins, you die happy? He replied, "I now see angels who are showing me a letter with my numerous sins. I said to them, Our Lord said: `do not judge and you will not be judged' (Luke 6:37). I have never judged anyone, and I hope in the mercy of God that He will not judge me." And the angels tore up the paper. Upon hearing this, the monks were astonished and learned from it."

Story Source

For a more in-depth reading about this story and the importance of not judging, please read HERE.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rejoice, the Lord is with Thee: Annunciation

On March 25th in the Life of the Church, we celebrate the Great Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord. This Feast is described in the Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38. Luke tells the story of the meeting between the Archangel Gabriel (being sent by God) to visit with Mary in the city of Nazareth.

To read more about this Great Feast, please go HERE.

Great Feast of the Annunciation
Mary hears the words of the angel Gabriel: "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" She is troubled at his words and presence, but the angel Gabriel continues by saying, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus." Mary is even more confused at this encounter and replies, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" The angel Gabriel offers her this explanation, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

The laws of nature are suspended, for a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. This great Mystery reaffirms the love of God for His creation. Truly God becomes truly Man! Our Lord will take upon himself our humanity in order to renew our blessed opportunity towards His Divinity.

Here's a little personal note from last year about this Great Feast: While researching for this blogpost I came across an awesome footnote. My whole life I've honestly hated my middle name, which is "Evan." I never used it, rarely told anyone what it is, etc. But I found out today, that my middle name of Evan is of Greek origin (which totally changes my outlook)! It comes from the Greek word "evangelion" or its English translation of "good news" as in the Christian gospels or this Great Feast of the Annunciation (Archangel Gabriel telling of the "good news" to the Virgin Mary).

Blessed Great Feast of the Annunciation to all & blessed Name's Day to those bearing the name of Evan!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lenten Psalter Reading Group

During my Lenten journey this year, I've been blessed to participate with a group of Orthodox Christians who are daily reading the Book of Psalms. The concept is pretty awesome and simple, and has truly made a big effect on me during this Lenten season. You gather a group (dedicated) and break up the Psalms to assign different ones to be read by each person daily. You end up reading through the entire Book of Psalms twice throughout Great Lent, but the really amazing idea to keep in mind is that as a group, the entire Book of Psalms is read each day!
Prophet David, composer of the Book of Psalms
Image Source

During Great Lent, most people associate the negative concept of giving things up or not eating certain foods. However, the main reason for "fasting" during this season of preparation is to focus on our dependance on the mercy of God. While limiting certain aspects of our daily life, whether it be food, entertainment, selfish acts, etc. is not the goal of participating in the Lenten season, it allows for the oppportunity to increase in other aspects of our life. We are called to increase our prayer life (individual and communal), charity towards others, especially those in great need, and draw closer to the knowledge of our merciful God.

One tool for this drawing closer is to read more, not necessarily a spiritual work, but it certainly can't hurt. That's why I think joining this "reading group" during Great Lent has been so beneficial for me. It "forces" me to take time out of my day and focus on the Scriptures. I have to plan my day to include time to participate (I certainly don't want to be the person who becomes lacking in my reading, as I said earlier, if all participate the entire Psalter is read daily).

Many thanks to the parishioners of St Joseph Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, TX for notifying me about this opportunity during my Lenten journey; it has truly been helpful!

If you're continuing your Lenten journey, keep going; if you've stopped for a rest, move forward; if you haven't begun, start your journey: Have a blessed Great Lent!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy St Patty's Day!

From my Irish family to yours: Happy St Patrick's Day! Most people celebrate this day with some crazy behavior, especially for the feastday of a saint and don't realize that St Patrick is a saint in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Saint Patrick was an ascetic and missionary in the land of Ireland during the 3rd & 4th centuries. His feastday is celebrated on March 17th, the day of his repose in the Lord. While this day has been transformed into a modern secular holiday associated with Irish culture, such as green clothing and beer, as well as parades, it is important to remember Who the celebration should focus on - GOD!

St Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland
Image Source

St. Patrick traveled and endured much hostility as he preached the "good news" of the Christian Faith in the Irish land of pagans. The life of St. Patrick can be found HERE.

St. Patrick is often depicted holding a shamrock. He used the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Its three leaves growing out of a single stem helped explain the concept of one God in three Persons.

Image Source

Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) has set up a program for local chapters to spread the word about the "real" St. Patrick; find out more HERE.

Our Holy Father among the Saints, Patrick, pray unto God for us!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Five Facts About the Orthodox Church in the United States

Recently published is a report breaking down by numbers church membership for local Orthodox churches in the United States commissioned by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. Assembly of Bishops Research Coordinator Alexei Krindatch has released a new 40-page report titled, Five Interesting Facts About Orthodox Church Geography and Demography in the United States. The report includes the following sections:
  1. Orthodox Church Membership in America
  2. Orthodox Church Geography in America
  3. Orthodox Church Attendance in America
  4. Ethnic Culture in American Orthodox Churches
  5. Orthodox Monastic Communities in America
Find the report HERE.

In the 2010 national census of US Orthodox Christian churches sponsored by the Standing Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in Americas each Orthodox parish was asked two questions:

*How many individual persons total are associated with the life of your parish: including adults and children, regular and occasional attendees, paid stewards and persons who do not contribute financially?

*Approximately, how many persons – including both adults and children – attend liturgy in your parish on a typical Sunday?

I have yet to read the entire report, but plan to do so. Please take some time to look through this work; it is helpful to show "Orthodoxy in numbers" to better understand our need to witness in the land we live in.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director