Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Time I Snuck Out of the Parish Council Meeting

I was stuck in (I mean attending) another Parish Council meeting last night. Don't get me wrong, in a large parish, there is so much going on (for the glory of God!), but the meetings can be overwhelming at times. At the same time as our meeting last night, our associate pastor, Rev Fr Symeon Kees, was leading an Intro to Orthodoxy class down the hall.

My confession is that I haven't had a chance to attend, but I hear its quite the mix of attendants: those inquiring about the Orthodox Faith, those preparing for their own reception into the Life of the Church, and Orthodox Christians (mainly young adults) seeking further understanding of their Faith.

Our meeting was getting to be a bit too much; I needed a break, so I snuck out for a brief minute and walked down the hall to eavesdrop on how the class was going. I couldn't stay long for obvious reasons: a delayed absence from our Parish Council meeting would seem odd AND I would look ridiculous to the few class attendants distracted by the stranger in the doorway. But I did get to hear a few remarkable words of Fr Symeon (I'm sure clergy love being quoted haha), but he told the class:

"If our view of God is off, then so to is our salvation."

These simple, yet profound words kept my attention, as I went back into our Parish Council meeting. That phrase got me thinking (not always a good thing, but I'll make an exception in this case). Three main things came to mind that I tell the teens at St George Houston (over and over again, they must be tired of me saying it, but oh well):

1. "This is must be our foundation: God is the Creator, and we are His creation." -I take credit for the quote, but I'm sure I stole it from someone, just no clue who

2. "If you're not struggling towards salvation, you're not doing it right!" -V Rev Fr Alexander Atty, my former parish priest and spiritual father, now Dean of St Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary

3. "I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior." 
-John Newton, Anglican clergyman of the 18th century and author of the hymn, Amazing Grace (For more info, read HERE)

Although I'm not expounding upon these three sayings now, I do hope you make your own assessment into their correlation. Anyway, this has been another installment of...

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ss Sophia & Her Daughters: Faith, Hope, & Love

On September 17 in the Life of the Church, we commemorate the Holy Martyrs Saint Sophia and her Daughters Faith, Hope and Love. I don't know many who like to hear stories of torture and suffering, but when these stories (or lives of the saints) are directed towards showing examples of those who love Christ, its a valuable lesson for us all! Even young children are martyred for our Lord; their example truly lives out their namesakes.

Born in Italy, their mother was a pious Christian widow who named her daughters for the three Christian virtues. Faith was twelve, Hope was ten, and Love was nine. St Sophia raised them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. St Sophia and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ, but openly confessed it before everyone.
Holy Martyrs Sophia, Faith, Hope, & Love
Image Source

An official named Antiochus denounced them to the emperor Hadrian (117-138), who ordered that they be brought to Rome. Realizing that they would be taken before the emperor, the holy virgins prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking that He give them the strength not to fear torture and death. When the holy virgins and their mother came before the emperor, everyone present was amazed at their composure. They looked as though they had been brought to some happy festival, rather than to torture. Summoning each of the sisters in turn, Hadrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The young girls remained unyielding.

Then the emperor ordered them to be tortured. They burned the holy virgins over an iron grating, then threw them into a red-hot oven, and finally into a cauldron with boiling tar, but the Lord preserved them. The youngest child, Love, was tied to a wheel and they beat her with rods until her body was covered all over with bloody welts. After undergoing unspeakable torments, the holy virgins glorified their Heavenly Bridegroom and remained steadfast in the Faith.

They subjected St Sophia to another grievous torture: the mother was forced to watch the suffering of her daughters. She displayed adamant courage, and urged her daughters to endure their torments for the sake of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens were beheaded, and joyfully bent their necks beneath the sword.

In order to intensify St Sophia's inner suffering, the emperor permitted her to take the bodies of her daughters. She placed their remains in coffins and loaded them on a wagon. She drove beyond the city limits and reverently buried them on a high hill. St Sophia sat there by the graves of her daughters for three days, and finally she gave up her soul to the Lord. Even though she did not suffer for Christ in the flesh, she was not deprived of a martyr's crown. Instead, she suffered in her heart. Believers buried her body there beside her daughters.

Life of the Saint taken from HERE. 

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Family Night 2012 at St George

Family Nights are BACK at St George this Fall. It is truly one of the highlights of the Parish Community of St George in Houston, TX. Every Wednesday, we worship together during Daily Vespers, followed by discussions/activities for all ages, and finish up the evening with a Lenten dinner and fellowship in our Church Hall. Our Teen Discussion Series continues this Fall; previous topics include: "We are a People of the Resurrection," "I'm Orthodox, My Friends are Not," and "Our Creed: Knowing What We Recite & Believe." Below is the flyer for our upcoming Teen Discussion Series:
Family Night 2012
Teen Discussion Series
"In the Beginning"...A Look into
the Book of Genesis
Join us on Wednesday Evenings beginning September 12 thru December 2012; Vespers at 6:30p at St George Houston followed by Discussion Series and Food/Fellowship
Orthodox Icon of the Creation
Everything goes back to Genesis - to know about ourselves and our own personal relationship with God. It is necessary to examine and understand the Church’s teaching on the Creation story, and God’s divine interaction with His chosen people. Vital facts and questions that we shall discuss:

God is the Creator; we are the creatures!
How and why were we created?
How do the actions of Adam & Eve truly affect us?
What is "original sin?"
Are we still in a “fallen nature” and how does Christ’s Incarnation affect us?
Discussion Series led by Paul Fuller,
Youth and Young Adult Director

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nativity of the Mother of God

As the Church New Year (September 1) has recently past, the first Great Feast in the Liturgical Life of the Church is celebrated on September 8 - the Nativity of the Mother of God (Theotokos).

This Great Feast is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Orthodox Icon of the Great Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos 
Image Source

The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since St Anna was barren.

Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God's mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Sts Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple.

Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Sts Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless.

St Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. St Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God's mercy on her family.

The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: "the East Gate... bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls" (2nd Stikhera on "Lord, I Have Cried", Tone 6).

The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion.

Feastday Source

For Orthodox Christians, the pinnacle of "freedom through obedience" is the Mother of God. The Queen of the Heavens, Mary the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, is a constant intercessor for all of us. Through her example of a life spent in purity and love, as well as her dedication and faith in the Lord (her Son), she is the vessel of our humanity having the ability to attain to the divinity of her Son.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director