Monday, November 12, 2012

Advent Psalter Reading Group

During our Advent journey towards the Nativity of our Lord, you're invited to participate with a group of Orthodox Christians who will bedaily reading through the Book of Psalms. The concept is pretty awesome and simple, and has truly made a big effect on me during my Lenten journey this past Great Fast. 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 Advent, most people associate this season with endless Christmas parties and shopping. 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 any fasting 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.

Image Source

One great tool for this drawing closer to our Lord 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 the Advent season will be very beneficial to those participating. It "forces" us to take time out of our busy day and focus on our Lord through reading 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).

If you are interested in joining this Psalter Reading Group during this upcoming Advent season, please contact me for more details!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Holy Great-martyr Menas

Today (November 11), in the Life of the Church, we commemorate the Great-martyr Menas of Egypt. St Menas was a Roman soldier who served in the 4th century under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. When the emperors began the fiercest persecution against Christians in history, the saint refused to serve these persecutors. He removed his soldier's belt (a sign of military rank) and withdrew to a mountain, where he lived an ascetic life of fasting and prayer.

Once he happened to arrive in the city of Alexandria during a pagan festival. At the climax of the games the saint's accusing voice rang out, preaching faith in Christ, the Savior of the world. At his trial before the prefect Pyrrhus, the saint bravely confessed his faith, saying that he had come to denounce the impious. The prefect was angered, and had Menas arrested.
Holy Great-martyr Menas
Image Source

Pyrrhus offered to restore the saint's former rank if he would offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. When he refused, he was put to cruel tortures, then he was beheaded. This occurred in the year 304. Christians gathered up the martyr's relics by night and hid them until the end of the persecution. Later, they were brought to Egypt and placed in a church dedicated to St Menas southwest of
The saint received grace from God to work miracles, and to help those in need. St Menas is noted for healing various illnesses, delivering people from possession by demons, and as a protector, especially during times of war. We also ask his help in finding lost objects.

Life of the Saint taken from OCA Feasts & Saints

The Great-martyr Menas has always been a special saint for intercession for me personally. My maternal grandmother's last name was Meena (hailing from Lebanon via Pittsburgh, PA). I'm sure many others can relate, but I always had a special relationship with my Sito. It's comforting for a grandson to know he could do no wrong in Sito's eyes. She's also the source for my deep faith; she's the one who taught me how to pray, especially turning to the saints for intercession.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love "collecting" Orthodox icons. But, for the longest time, I could never find one of St Menas (until this year - which now hangs in my office).

Through the intercession of the Holy Great-martyr Menas, O Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Angelic Participation

If you think that only we humans participate in the Divine Liturgy, think again? The heavenly hosts stand in attendance at the Throne of God, participating in the Divine Liturgy.

During the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy, the priest prays quietly the following:

It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks unto Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion...And we give thanks unto Thee also for this ministry which Thou dost vouchsafe to receive at our hands, even though there stand beside Thee thousands of Archangels, and ten thousand of Angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft, borne on their wings.

Then the priest aloud chants: Singing the Triumphal Hymn, shouting, proclaiming, and saying.

As the choir responds: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory: Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

We join the chorus in the angelic hymn, which the angels sing, who ceaseless attend to God on High.

The angels also have a Feastday in the Life of the Church (November 8), which is the reason for this latest blogpost. Enjoy reading more about the angels, as well as viewing icons which represent angelic participation (if ya can recall from Holy Scriptures the references to angels being present).

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 Heavenly Hosts
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).

Feast of the Ascension of
our Lord (notice the angels)

Myrrh-bearing Women at the Tomb
(notice the angel)
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.

Feast of the Nativity of
our Lord (notice the angels)

Feast of the Baptism of our Lord
(notice the angels)

For a simply amazing description of angelic depictions in Orthodox iconography, please take time and read this article HERE.

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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

You Know You're Orthodox If...

*To you, the Virgin Mary is not a contradiction.

*After the Nativity Liturgy your priest shuts the Royal Doors before the choir and congregation sing Christmas carols.

*You wear green for Pentecost, not just for St Patrick's Day.

*Your non-Orthodox friends think the icons in your house are family photos.

*When you greet your Church family, some you kiss on the cheeks twice, some three times, and sometimes its awkward when you don't know which.

*You don't give up things for Lent, except certain foods, the amount of food, TV shows, movies, etc. Okay, so you do give up things for Lent.

*You consider your Sunday bulletin a legal document: if its not included, it didn't really happen.

*On Sunday mornings, your pet gets to have breakfast, but you don't.

*On fasting days, "travel" rules apply even if only going to Sitti's (Yaya's) house.

*You stand during church services until the bishop or priest motions for the congregation to sit down.

*When you tell people you're Orthodox, you can relate to Pontius Pilate when he asks, "Am I a Jew?" (John 18:35).

*On Facebook, not just your parents, but also your priest has commented "inappropriate" on something you've posted.

*During Liturgy, your priest says, "Let us depart in peace." JUST KIDDING: there's still more praying to do.

*Troy Polumalu is your favorite athlete and the Pittsburgh Steelers is God's team.

*You eat (more accurately vacuum) the crumbs from the Holy Bread out of your hands like you haven't had a meal in days.

*Your priest comes over to your home yearly for an exorcism, you call it a home blessing.

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director