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Tag Archives: Orthodoxy

Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed herein are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ancient Faith Radio or Orthodox Christian Fellowships.

Note:  I rarely say bold things in a public forum.  Therefore, I’m slightly nervous about posting the following.  However, I feel this to be absolutely true, and a terribly vital point of conversation.  So, I ask that you read on and prayerfully consider what I have to say. —Jonathan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the OCF Podcast (for which I am the coordinator, host, and producer).  Where it is.  Where I want it to be. Where it’s going, where it’s been…you know, basic introspection type stuff.  And, I have to say that I’m really pleased.  The fact that the podcast is doing well is enough to make everyone at OCF HQ and those involved with the show fill with excitement.  Though, along with excitement, it fills me with questions.  Good questions.  Necessary questions.  Hard questions.

The primary thought that enters my mind is this:  Why is the OCF Podcast so lonely?  Why are there only a handful (2-4, by my estimation) of podcasts targeted toward students?  Why is it that, with all the data about the growing influx of converts, and with the knowledge that an increasing number are aged upper-high school to twentysomethings (I hate that term, incidentally), why are there not more resources being poured into producing audio and even video programs to match even half the caliber and ubiquity of the programs which already grace the Orthodox landscape, primarily geared toward people 30 and older?  Why is more not being done?

Let me pause and say that I love these shows that I kind of indirectly (and unintentionally) just slammed.  I listened to practically the entire archive of Our Life In Christ when I got my first iPod back in 2006, shortly before my Chrismation. (I still like to randomly listen to entire series.) Half of the podcasts I currently listen to are from AFR.  And they’re wonderful; they do endless good toward helping me to understand and reflect on the Faith.  Still…I feel like something is missing.

And this is where this podcast comes in.  Originally, the podcast began as an idea to help keep us students connected with each other within the OCF world…to keep up-to-date with things that were going on, to hear each other’s stories, and to drop in on retreats halfway across the country. It is beginning to fit in to that mold, glory to God.  At the same time, it serves as a small step toward filling the gap I mentioned earlier.

OCF Executive Director Fr. Kevin Scherer once told me that the number one problem facing student ministry in the American Orthodox Church is a lack of curriculum.  Now, two years after that conversation, I fully believe it.  And, I would venture to guess, he’s not simply talking about Sunday School or Bible study.  Now, this is simply my opinion.  But, where students are concerned, I see an utter void of anything in any consumable media (save a few books and the podcasts mentioned above) which strikes me as engaging and relevant to today’s Orthodox young adult.  This ranges from student devotional books to conference materials, from t-shirts to CD’s and DVD’s of student-oriented teaching.  Yes, there are strides being made.  But, more could and should be done to assure that the Church in America offers more and more to the generation which is rising in service and devotion to Her.

I, for one, am dedicated to exploring this topic and seeing what can be done.  I will seek to enlist the help of John Maddex of AFR, Fr. Kevin Scherer, some of the clergy near and dear to OCF, and, of course, you.  The only reason I bring this up at all is because I feel it would be a huge service to Orthodox students to have these things.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m more right than I realize. Whatever the case, the only way to find out is to hear what students have to say.

I’ve heard it said that the Orthodox Church is thirty years behind the curve in the area of student ministry.  I, for one, want to see us catch up.

I ask that you please pray for this effort, for it is only with God’s grace that any of this chatter will ever lead to thoughts, plans, and actions.

Through the prayers of the Holy Apostle Timothy, who was encouraged to be bold in his young age and to set an example for all of the Faithful, may our great God and Savior Jesus Christ have mercy on us as we journey with Him to His glorious Pascha.  Amen. +

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When I met my girlfriend Tiffany back in September, she could best be described as a melting pot of religious views, with the primary views flipping back-and-forth between agnosticism and atheism, as far as I could tell.

Today, almost 8 months later, she became a catechumen in the Orthodox Christian Church.  And it’s funny, really. After Pascha, she was talking to me about how she had started to feel something that she’s never felt before but has always wanted to feel. She also explained that she had started to fight her doubts against faith which linger in spite of this new feeling. I explained that St. Thomas had a situation where he dealt with a bit of doubt, and that, as a result (long story short), Christ said that those who don’t see and believe are even more blessed than Thomas was.

And, then, we get to church, she gets enrolled into the catechumenate, and I look down at the bulletin to find out that, lo and behold, it’s Thomas Sunday.

God is cool. 🙂

O Lord, our God, Who dwellest on high and regardest the humble of heart; Who hast sent forth as the salvation of mankind Thine Only-begotten Son and God, our Lord Jesus Christ; look down upon Thy servants, the catechumens, who have bowed their heads before Thee; make them worthy in due season of the laver of regeneration. Unite them to thy Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church, and number them with Thy chosen flock. That they also with us may glorify Thy most honorable and majestic Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

You know, it’s funny how you can hear something several times and be moved by it. Then, there is that one time you hear it, and it just knocks you down.

Very early this morning, this officially became the most moving sermon I’ve ever heard.

+++
If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.

Amen.
+++

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Last night, as I attended the service of Holy Unction, most of my attention was on the service itself and related things: the readings, the hymnography, how joyfully relieved many people looked after being anointed with the Holy Unction, how happy my non-Orthodox girlfriend was after being anointed with oil from the shrine of St. Panteleimon at the Holy Mountain, how it was nice to have _two_ priests instead of just one this year….you get my point.

But, then, as Fr. Stephen began to deliver his reflection on the night’s events, I glanced forward and looked at the icon that we’ve been seeing a lot of this week: the Bridegroom.

I saw Christ, with the reed in his hand, the crown of thorns on his head, the look of sorrow on his face (yet, still glowing with love, somehow), and everything else about it. And I began to choke back tears.

As Fr. Stephen slipped into making announcements about a youth retreat, egg hunt, confessions, post-Pasha BBQ, etc., all I could do was fix my moist eyes on that icon and think, over and over, “My Lord….my Savior….what are they going to do to you?”

They will betray Him. They’ll arrest Him. They’ll flog Him. They’ll hurt Him so much that He’ll lack the strength to carry His own cross. They’ll label Him “King of the Jews”, nail Him to a tree on top of a hill, and leave Him there suspended for all to see and to mock. They’ll cast lots for His garments. They’ll watch—some in sadness, some in joy—as He cries out to the Father and takes His last painful breath.

And we’ll be there, in the crowd, as we continue this “walk through eternity” called Holy Week.

God’s blessings as you continue on the journey toward our Lord’s Pascha.