Axios! He is Worthy! Congratulations to the newly consecrated Bishop ANTHONY, Bishop JOHN, Bishop NICHOLAS!

It will be impossible to fully describe the events of this past week, culminating in the Patriachal Divine Liturgy celebrated at Holy Dormition Church at the Balamand Seminary on Sunday, December 11, 2011, where three new auxiliary bishops, His Grace, Bishop JOHN Abdula, His Grace, Bishop ANTHONY Michaels, and His Grace, Bishop NICHOLAS Ozone, were consecrated to serve the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.

For Bishop ANTHONY the trip began in the Twin Cities on December 7 as we flew from the Minneapolis airport to Paris to Beirut.  This long night (and day) ended with our arrival in Beirut at 7pm local time where we met the rest of the United States delegation led by His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH of Los Angeles, and headed to our hotel in the ancient sea port city of Byblos on the northern coast of Lebanon.

There was much scheduled for this trip, eagerly planned by Mr. Fawaz El-Khoury, including seeing many wonderful sights: From the great Mediterranean Sea to the snow capped Mt. Lebanon with it’s great cedar trees, from the Balamand to monasteries to village churches to St. George Cathedral in downtown Beirut, a short trip to Tripoli and visits to the family villages of Bishops JOHN (Duma) and ANTHONY (Al-Hiat), and staying at the Byblos Sur Mer hotel overlooking the great Mediterranean, a hotel that is virtually built into the ruins of a 12th century crusader fortress.

Our first full day together took us to right to the Balamand to be greeted by and receive the blessing of His Beautitude, Patriarch IGNATIUS IV.  His warm and energetic welcome reminded us of our Christian unity with the Mother Church of Antioch.  His Beatitude, now 94 years old, is as vibrant as ever.  It was amazing to hear and see how he has advanced just the Balamand alone during his many years of service to Christ in the Holy Office of Patriarch of Antioch.

Of course, his warmth and enthusiasm translated itself to the main purpose of our trip and all the events relating to the consecration of our new bishops.  His Beatitude was surrounded by 12 other Metropolitans and Bishops, as well several priests (at least six sponsors for the newly elected bishops) and deacons, as chief celebrant of this blessed event.  Being at the altar with His Beatitude and all the men, and being directly involved in the liturgical service, was truly an indescribable experience.

I passed today on a trip to see the ancient Roman ruins at Baalbek in eastern Lebanon.  We’ve had an amazing experience in Lebanon but today, as we prepare for our departure for the states (a 2:05am flight out of Beirut,) I am honestly tired of sitting in a bus and hope to enjoy our last day in Byblos with a walk along the sea coast and maybe a little time spent walking the streets of this beautiful ancient city.  There certainly is much more to say about this experience but I will close by saying how deeply impressed I am with my first experience of international travel, and in particular travel to this place of such history.  My America is only 300 years old… a drop in the bucket to the stones upon which I am now standing.  I look forward to returning home, to my family, to my church, to celebrating the first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy of our new Bishop ANTHONY, next weekend (Dec. 18) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and to the rest of the Nativity Fast and all the celebrations of Christmas & Theophany.  This has been a wonderful experience.   I am so grateful to my parish and their generous gift which supported my travel to this once-in-a-lifetime event.

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Another Beautiful St. Nicholas Day Celebration at St. Ignatius

Each year on the Sunday nearest to the celebration of St.Nicholas Day (December 6) the parish of St. Ignatius holds a special coffee hour with parish entertainment and the singing of Christmas Carols.

In addition to a relaxing time we are also blessed with a visit from St. Nicholas who often tells stories of his past or is asked questions about his life in the service of Christ and the Church.

Prior to the start of the program the children of the parish are instructed to put their shoes in the foyer of the church where specially prepared St. Nicholas treats are placed in their shoes during the program.

As always, between the fellowship, food, and entertainment a good time was had by all. The full feast of St. Nicholas was followed the next day with an evening Vesperal Liturgy dedicated to the Great Saint!

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Fr. Patrick’s Meditation from Dec. ’11 / Jan. ’12 Parish Newsletter

  … Meditate On These Things                        Philippians 4:8

  “If there were less of what seems like ease in our lives they would tell more for Christ and souls… We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own, yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could.  I don’t wonder why apostolic miracles have died.  Apostolic living certainly has.”

Amy Carmichael, Missionary to India, +1951

      It has been noted to me that there is a specific definition of the word “Apostle” and what it means to be one.  It is an important teaching which defines the word’s meaning essentially as membership amongst our Lord’s twelve Apostles and the Apostle Paul.  Exploring this definition can help us understand the continuity of the Church’s apostolic ministry.  Each time we recite the Nicene Creed we proclaim our Church to be, “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.”  We proclaim to believe in the Church’s authority in the practice of Apostolic Succession, the authority of the Lord’s Apostles passed on from one bishop to the next in unbroken succession through the laying on of hands AND the spirit of sanctity accompanying the life of a true shepherd of the Church.

“An apostle is one who’s sent” says the refrain of a children’s song written by Kh. Gigi (Baba) Shadid.  This accurate definition of the Greek word “apostolos” (apostolos) brings to mind the notion of the apostolic spirit of “being sent.”  A more complete definition would also include that an Apostle is one who is sent by the risen Lord to “make disciples” and to “baptize” (Matthew 28:18ff).  This is the calling of the “Apostles,” but what does it mean to be “apostolic” in the 21st century and to have the spirit of the apostolic ministry present in the ministry of the Church and in the lives of each of Her members?

I  recently read that there are two fundamental characteristics of an Apostle’s life: 1) love for God; and 2) a truly tender care for one’s neighbor.  These characteristics are demonstrated clearly in the defining moments when the risen Lord thrice asked the Apostle Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?”  Upon Peter’s affirming response the Lord definitively commanded, “Tend my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

“Do you love me more than these?” is THE question that has resounded through the centuries, as it did when it was first asked of St. Peter, like roaring thunder.  For St. Peter it was the opportunity to free himself from the three-fold guilt he incurred when he thrice denied Christ.  For each of us it is a bold reminder of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, and the importance of our response in carrying on the apostolic ministry of the Church.

I find this to be one of the most trying facets of my life as an Orthodox Christian and Priest.  I suspect each of us, assuming one is even thinking about life and faith in this way, and no matter what his vocation, would agree.  How do we truly love and appreciate this life we have been given and yet not allow that love to eclipse the love we have for the One who has given us this life?  Fundamentally Orthodox Christians are challenged by this question at virtually every moment of our lives.  Starting with our love for God as expressed in the priority we make for worship, personal prayer, scripture and devotional reading, stewardship, and the turning away from every soul defiling influence; and finishing with our love for our neighbor as expressed in fellowship and in the way we serve others by putting first something other than ourselves (we can fill in the blank regarding the circumstances of our own life).

Amy Carmichael has made a very pointed observation here.  The ease of life that has permeated modern society, including the Church, has greatly diminished the apostolic image of Christ for the world, as the power of the apostolic message has been made lukewarm at best by men’s abandonment of the pursuit of heaven (or at best mingling a tacit pursuit of heaven with a vigorous pursuit of personal interest).  Probably one of the saddest developments of this failure is that some Christians even equate God’s blessings with the acquisition of material prosperity.  I especially grieve for our youth who, while being presented with a skeleton of faith, have also been allowed (and maybe even encouraged) to mingle with the false standard of living proffered by the materialistic and sensual images of American society.  Is it any wonder, as I mentioned in a recent sermon, that statistics show – even in our Orthodox churches – that only 1 in 10 of our children remain in the church (let alone take responsibility for the apostolic ministry of the Church) once they reach college age.  Why should they when they’ve been allowed (again, “encouraged”) to feel “quite at home” in the world and have been shown little by way of apostolic conviction for living as “strangers and pilgrims.”

If we are concerned about the witness of “apostolic living” in the world today where are we to begin but with ourselves?  There are many possibilities for change and many sacrifices to be made.  Beloved, this should be our joy as disciples of the risen Christ and should in no way be considered burdensome.  We are especially privileged to be recipients of the fullness of Christ’s apostolic Church, and we are responsible for what we have been given.  I do not believe that apostolic miracles and living have fully died; but if by chance we think we love God, and love not; if we think we tenderly care for our neighbor, and care not; if we think we have embraced the apostolic ministry, and embrace not; let us now rededicate ourselves to a TRULY apostolic way of life.

(Reprinted from January, 2008)

 

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Fall Midwest Diocesan Meeting – Flint, MI

October 28-30 marked the annual Fall meeting of the Midwest Diocese of the Antiochian Archdiocese.  This year’s meeting was held at St. George Church in Flint, MI, under the capable leadership of the V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Abud.  Highlighting the event was the presence of our Diocese’s new Bishop-Elect Anthony Michaels, the current pastor of St. John Chrysostom Church in Fort Wayne, IN.

While these meeting are generally geared for the organizations of the Diocese to meet to discuss the progress of their annual activities this year’s Fall meeting carried the excitement that soon we will not only have a new Bishop, but a Bishop whose warmth, enthusiasm, education and pastoral concern will inspire the energy and structures of the Antiochian Midwest Diocese.

Bishop-Elect Anthony spoke to the priests in attendance, the delegates, the youth and the young adults, and he delivered the homily at Sunday’s Divine Liturgy.  Among many topics he spoke about he started his talk to the priests with the duties and responsibilities of the Auxiliary Bishop; and to the entire delegation he emphasized not only the importance of our unity in Christ within our local churches but also with our Hierarchs (Bishops) and between sister churches across the entire Diocese, this face of our Church being significant in showing the world around us the Truth, wholeness and stability that God Himself has given through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

 

Bishop-elect Anthony speaks to the delegates

(Click Here) Exerpt from Fr. Anthony’s talk with the Priests

Another highlight of the weekend was the service project organized by Khouryia Leslie Abud for the Diocesan Teen SOYO to work at a local Soup Kitchen sponsored by Catholic Charities.   About 80 teens traveled to one of Flint’s impoverished areas to help organize a clothing give away scheduled for the following week and to help serve dinner to Soup Kitchen clients.  The Teens energetically finished their work a little early and was treated to an excellent talk on the history of poverty in the Flint area given by the Soup Kitchen coordinator.  It was an edifying afternoon which then ended with the celebration of Great Vespers back at St. George and preparations for dinner and an evening of joyful fellowship.

As a side note, Bishop-Elect Anthony and his good friend Fr. Patrick Kinder took an brief opportunity to sing a couple of their old songs from their days as KERYGMA: Best Friends, That Old Black Bible, and pretty much everyone’s old favorite, Coming Home.  Please click to hear Fr. Anthony and KERYGMA [including Fr. Michael (Alan) Shanbour] sing Coming Home: Coming Home  (For more KERYGMA songs visit http://www.conciliarpress.com and see The Best of KERYGMA available on Compact Disc.)

Thank you Fr. Joe & Leslie, and to your entire parish for hosting such a beautiful weekend.  Thank you Fr. Anthony for the great encouragement you’ve given us to embrace our lives in Christ and the greater Church more and more fully.  God be with you in your preparations for consecration to the Holy Episcopate.

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Monthly Meditation – November 2011

Prior to his death on December 13, 1983, Father Alexander Schmemann celebrated his last Divine Liturgy on Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day, at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. At the end of the Liturgy he called upon all of us to give thanks to God. It has been a few years since I last presented Fr. Alexander’s words to this congregation. Here, once again, are these most precious words from one of contemporary Orthodoxy’s most precious treasures:

     “Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy. Thank you, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which is offered to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts with “the joy, peace, and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.” Thank you, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and for giving us the foretaste of Your Kingdom. Thank you, O Lord, for having united us to one another, in serving You and Your Holy Church. Thank you, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, and temptations and for having restored peace, mutual love and joy in sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.
      Thank you, O Lord, for the sufferings you bestowed upon us, for they are purifying us from selfishness and remind us of the “one thing needed: your eternal Kingdom.” Thank you, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to worship You. Thank you, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed. Thank you, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially, children, who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and holy noise. Thank you, O Lord, for everyone and everything. Great are you, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate your miracles. Lord, it is good to be here! Amen.”

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