Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Perishable Vessels, Unperishable Hope (1 Cor. 4:6-18) - Part Two

Here is the second half of the homily that I preached on September 5.

The Hope that God Has Given Us (4:13-18)

13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

One thing that gets us through the trials that come our way is faith—not just faith in Christ (although this is crucial), but also faith in the Resurrection. For no matter how difficult our lives are, we know that our Lord Jesus has triumphed over death. And he has promised that if we live a life of faith in Him and if we are faithful to the end, we too will triumph over the dead. “He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus,” St. Paul says. No matter how bad the middle of the book of our lives can get, the end can be happy.

Another way we can triumph over our trials is by thankfulness. As St. Paul writes, all things—both good and bad—are for our sakes, so that thanksgiving will abound in our hearts to the glory of God. It is easy to give thanks to God when things are going well for us. When we are in good health, when we have a good job, when others show love to us, and so on, thanksgiving flows naturally. But when things go wrong, few things are harder than giving thanks.

And yet, this is exactly what God wants us to do. As St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “In everything, give thanks.” Notice that he did not say “FOR everything, give thanks.” We don’t necessarily have to thank God for illness, injury, loss of job, betrayal by loved ones, and so on…although later, we may do just that when we are restored. But we can nevertheless thank God that no matter what happens to us, He loves us and He has promised to take care of us. Few people have ever lost more at one time than Job. When Job had lost all, his wife urged him to curse God and die. But he refused, saying “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I return. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Finally, even though the lectionary reading for today ends with verse 15, I cannot help but continue on for a few more verses. Verses 16-18 are among my very favorite in all of Scripture. As St. Paul writes, despite all he had to suffer for Jesus, including mocking, beatings, stoning, hunger, thirst, shipwreck, threats on his life, and eventually imprisonment and beheading, he wrote “Therefore (that is, because of the his faith in the resurrection), we do not lose heart.” We too, must never lose heart. God will never leave us or forsake us! Sometimes we forsake him. Sometimes it SEEMS as if he has forsaken us. But he never has, and he never will!

St. Paul goes on here to remind us of something that we often forget. Even though outward person—our body, that is—is perishing (and which of us who is over 35 needs to be reminded of that?), our inward man is being renewed day by day. God has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, and the Spirit’s presence within us renews our spirit. Our bodies can only get increasingly weaker and more frail as we age, but our spirits can grow stronger. And what is more important? We cannot hold onto our bodies forever, but our spirits will live forever. This is why St. Paul told St. Timothy that “bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness with contentment is great gain.” There’s nothing wrong with taking care of our bodies; I try to do this myself. But it is even more important to take care of our spirits through fasting, prayer, worship, Scripture reading, almsgiving, and so on. These things help us to maintain our faith in Christ and our hope.

St. Paul then reminds us that our afflictions, in the perspective of eternity, are quite light and temporary. They certainly don’t feel like that at the time, but they really are. For as we have already seen, trials produce godly character in us, which in turn will lead to “a far more exceeding…weight of glory”—that is, eternal life. What we sow on this earth in tears, we will reap in heaven with joy.

Given all this, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us follow St. Paul’s example seen in verse 18. Let us not fix our gaze on the things that are seen. Let us not become trapped in our present trials, sorrow and heartache. Instead, let us look at what is unseen: God’s great love for us and for our parish, and his promise that pain, suffering, and death are not the end of our story. Let us fix our gaze on the hope we have through our faith in Jesus Christ. For “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

To him who is our life, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be all glory, dominion and honor forever, amen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Perishable Vessels, Imperishable Hope (2 Cor. 4:6-18)

"...we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."

Here is the first half of the sermon I preached at St. Joseph's three Sundays ago.

St. Paul originally wrote this passage to describe his own situation, including his own trials, especially in relation to his apostolic calling to preach the gospel to the Gentiles of the Roman world.  But its truths apply to us just the same.  We have received the same essential gifts that St. Paul had.  There are three in particular that I want to discuss:

The Light That God Has Given Us (4:6)
6For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Each of us has been blessed richly by God with a variety of gifts. God has given us our life, our health, our food, our drink, our possessions, our friends, and our loved ones.  Indeed, all that we are and all that we have are gifts from to us from God.  We would have nothing at all if not for God’s graciousness.  And even if we were to spend the rest of our lifetimes doing nothing else but thanking God for all that he had given us, we would still run out of time.

But the greatest gift of all is the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  As the famous passage in St. John’s Gospel (the one whose chapter and verse reference we see on cue cards in the stands at football games) says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son for us, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  Because of Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, we mere humans have the chance to escape the domination that sin has over us.  And for those who give their lives to Christ through faith and faithfulness, death and the grave are not the end of the story.

But it gets even better:  Not only has God given us the chance to be saved from sin and death, he also has given us a very glimpse of himself through his son Jesus.  As Jesus himself said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”  The Son reflects the glory of the Father to the world.  St. Paul speaks of this as shining light in our hearts.  The knowledge of Christ is light to a dark and weary world.  Just as physical light drives away physical darkness, so the light of Christ, if we allow it to come into us, drives away the darkness in our hearts.

We each have the treasure of the light of the knowledge of Christ in our hearts.  What a privilege!  What an honor!

The Limits That God Has Given Us (4:7-12)

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.

The ability to know God and have a relationship with our Creator is truly a great treasure.  But it comes with a “catch” (so to speak).  For being like we humans are, prone to egotism and self-centeredness, this treasure that God has given us can easily lead to pride.  It wouldn’t take us too long to start saying, “Well, I know God and you don’t!  That makes me really special!  Look at me – I’m really hot stuff.”  So God gifts us with something else, something that most of us would not choose to have, but something that we need none the less.  He gives us a variety of checks on our ego.

One these checks is our frail humanity.  St. Paul speaks of this in verse seven when he says “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.”  The earthen vessels he speaks of are our bodies, which are ultimately but earth and dust.  That doesn’t mean that our bodies are bad, of course; far from it.  God created humanity with a unified soul and body, and when he did, he said that it is very good (not just good).  Our bodies are unique, special creations, fashioned individually by God.  As the Psalmist writes, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

And at the same time, our bodies are under the curse of the fall.  They are subject to decay.  They break down.  They have aches and pains.  They aren’t what they used to be.  Those of you over 35 know what I’m talking about.  The rest of you, if you don’t believe me, check back with me in a few years.  And this weakness that we have all been given teaches us that we are not gods in and of ourselves.  We are not self-sufficient.  We need a higher power.  Our pain and weakness drives us toward our Creator.  It shows us, as St. Paul says here, “that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

Another check on our ego that God gives us is trials.  Few people whom have given their lives to God have ever encountered more trials than St. Paul.  As he writes in today’s epistle, “we are hard-pressed on every side…we are perplexed…persecuted…struck down…carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus…delivered to death for Jesus’ sake.”  Even more than the weakness that is inherent in our bodies, trials shake us up out of our complacency and our self-satisfaction and drive us to God in humility and desperation.  They help us to really see what is important in life: our relationship with God and a life lived in thankfulness and humility.

Far from despising trials, we should embrace them.  St. James even takes it a step further:  in his epistle, he tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

Once, when a little boy was playing outdoors, he found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it. The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.  The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress! The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand. But neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.

You see, struggling is an important part of any growth experience. This is no less true in the Christian life then it is in the physical world.  So the trials we encounter in life are not a curse, but rather a gift from God.  As St. Paul writes to the Romans:  we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  And it is to the idea of hope that we now turn.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

OCMC Missionary, James Hargrave Update

James on a recent trip to Zanzibar

Dear friends,

Furaha na amani! Joy and peace!

And greetings at last from Mwanza, Tanzania. I arrived here on Friday 17th September and am just settling in-- staying in temporary lodging and searching for a house at the moment. It's too soon to report news from here, as the dust hasn't yet settled. So instead I'd like to tell you some things about the thousand-year-old civilization I have just left behind: East Africa's Swahili Coast.

The Swahili Coast stretches for more than a thousand miles from southern Somalia southward across Kenya and Tanzania all the way to central Mozambique. It also includes the Comoros Islands. Many of the major towns were once city-states, sometimes independen and sometimes tributaries to each other or to the Omani empire. By the early 20th century British, German and Portuguese invadors had conquered all of the Swahili sultans and today the coastal cities are linked to various inland countries created in the colonial era.

While Swahili civilization shares a common language, the people differ from one another in many ways. The Swahili are of no single ethnic group but include many races: Goan, Gujarati, Punjabi, Shirazi (Persian), Arabic, Mijikenda and other Bantu peoples. Their religiouns are likewise diverse: Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Ismailism, Bohra, Sufism, and Shi'a are all well-represented. Sunni Islam is, however, the dominant faith.

Like Christians, Sunni Muslims practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Whereas historic Christianity has many fasting seasons throughout the year (Lent, Advent, etc) the Islamic faih has only one fasting season, which is the month of Ramadan. And while historic Christian fasting involves simplification of the diet and abstinence from certain foods for a season, the Islamic fast involves total abstinence during daylight hours followed by uninhibited consumption at night.

This means that, during Ramadan, Swahili cities come alive at night. Tables appear on the streets, and when the muezzin announces sunset people begin feasting together on dates, sweet ginger tea, an almond pastry called halwa, and many other foods. Mosques are decked in lights as the muezzin chants splendidly for hours on end.

Like Christians, Muslims fast as an exercise of faith. Fasting is a reminder that "man does not live by bread alone," but that we can depend only on God for true nourishment. By abstaining from food during times of plenty, one can learn to cope faithfully in times of famine. A soul that is freed from earthly cares can more easily fly heavenward.

Of course the differences are very real. Islam denies the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation; its understanding of God is as an entity distant and unknowable. In many parts of the world (though not, thank God, in Tanzania) Christians and Muslims live in mutual antagonism and fear. But all the same, I will not soon forget the experience of a Swahili city at Ramadan.

Ramadan ended on 10th September and was followed by the holiday of Idd al Fitr (called Eid in the United States). I had the good fortune to be on Zanzibar Island during part of the Idd celebrations. There were great festivals in the city parks, teeming with families and young children until late at night. It was fun to be in the midst of such color and excitement.

In a PS to this email I will reflect on possible Christian responses to this culture.

As always, I thank you for your friendship, encouragement, communication, financial participation and especially for your prayers. It is exciting to be in this place, seeing and learning all that I do. To have been sent here by all of you is a great privilege.

By your prayers,

James Hargrave

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Sacrament of Repentance in Orthodox Theology, part 3 (by Clint)

This is final installment of this essay. You can read part one here and part two here.

The reality of a Godly forgiveness is manifest in the physical arrangement of the Confession. While there is no hard and fast rules for whether Priest and Penitent stand or sit, etc. there are some general practices that are common and expected in most Orthodox parishes. Normally, the Penitent will face a desk or table that has a cross and an icon of Christ (or a copy of the Gospels), with the Priest standing to one side; this demonstrates that God is the one who forgives, with the Priest serving as a witness and minister.

Likewise, the Priest will say specific prayers at the Confession, acknowledging the reality of what is taking place. A short sampling of these prayers and admonitions further demonstrate:

…we sinners void of all defence, do offer unto thee…this supplication: Have mercy upon us…accept also this servant [name of Penitent], who repenteth him of the sins which he hath committed; overlooking all that he hath done, pardoning his offences, and passing by his iniquities… For thou art the God of the penitent…

And to the Penitent, the Priest says:
Behold, my child, Christ standeth here invisibly, and receiveth they confession: wherefore, be not ashamed, neither be afraid, and conceal thou nothing from me…and so shalt thou have pardon from our Lord Jesus Christ. Lo, his holy image is before us: and I am but a witness…[and after the confession] …thou has received a second Baptism…see to it, God helping, thou make a good beginning…may God, by his grace, aid thee to live honourably, uprightly and devoutly…I…through the power given unto me by [Christ], do forgive and absolve thee from all thy sins…

(Those quotes are from Hapgood's Service Book).

During the course of the Confession, the Priest may ask questions, probing for clarity when necessary. After the confession is complete, the Priest will give advice to help the struggling Christian overcome those temptations that have led to past sins. If the Priest believes that it is appropriate to do so, he may impose a penance, though it is not normally required. If penance (or penalties) is given, it is understood that they have no part in satisfaction or forgiveness. That forgiveness is freely given by God when the Christian repents. However, the penalty is used as a part of the aforementioned “therapeutic medicine” for the soul. There is no system of uniform penalties, but are left to the discretion of the Priest and are used to further the Christian in his virtuous living.

It also expected that Christians will participate in regular confession, in order to be acceptable to receive the Eucharist. Again, there is no steadfast system of rules concerning the frequency of confession within Orthodoxy. Different jurisdictions have different expectations in this regard. Some desire confession before each communion, while others desire monthly or quarterly confession. This is a matter for Christians to discuss with the local Priest, in conjunction with the expectations of their Bishop.

After leaving the Confession, the Christian must endeavor to accomplish what has been proscribed by the Priest, whether advice, counsel or penance. The things must be done whole-heartedly. The Christian must strive to leave all evil behind, trusting in the grace of God and in His guidance. He must understand that he is accepted of God. What God desires is for the Christian to realize and accept the fact that he is accepted.

The goal of Confession and Repentance is to cleanse the soul, adorning it appropriately for what and for Whom it was created. Regular Repentance and Confession has the same effect as a regular sweeping of a house – both are kept clean. The barrier of sin between man and God is removed and the forgiven Christian is able to experience the desired unity for which mankind was created. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered” (Psalm 31:1).

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Sacrament of Repentance in Orthodox Theology, part 2 (by Clint)

This is part 2 of this discussion. You can read part 1 here.

The Christian life is a life of Repentance and man must ultimately Repent if he is to be acceptable to God and be received into the Kingdom of Heaven. As stated previously, one who truly repents (redirects his outlook toward heaven) will strive to live virtuously. This is not an easy task, but one to which all Christians are called. St. John Chrysostom spoke of this need in his Homily X on the Gospel of St. Matthew. He taught that Christians must do more than just reject past misdeeds. They must also “show forth” good deeds, greater than the evils ones that preceded them. He encouraged those that had stolen to give to the poor. Those who had fornicated should withhold themselves, even from their wives, for a time. Those who had insulted others should bless everyone, including enemies. “For it sufficeth not for our health to have plucked out the dart only, but we must also apply remedies to the wound."

St. John Chrysostom’s words point to an important fact concerning the reality of Repentance. Repentance is healing for the soul. Through Repentance, Christians receive “therapeutic medicine” that helps with moral recovery and healing. The penitent sinner is encouraged to live virtuously and receives reinforcement for such a lifestyle. This differs greatly with the Western view of salvation and forgiveness. In the West, these things have a legal connotation, as sin is viewed as transgressing the law. In Orthodoxy, sin is viewed as a sickness of the soul, and therefore, forgiveness is seen as a healing from the sickness.

With this theological framework of Repentance as a foundation for understanding the need and importance of the Sacrament, let us focus now upon the practical application in the life of Christians. Understanding Repentance is not the same as practicing Repentance. How does the Orthodox Church provide for the practice of the Sacrament? To fully answer these questions, it is proper to consider what the Penitent should do before the confession, during the confession and after the confession.

Confession by itself does not save. Judas confessed his sin in betraying Christ (St. Matthew 27:4), but he did not redirect his focus heavenward and despaired of salvation. Consequently, he died by his own hands without reconciliation with God. St. Peter also confessed his sin of denying Christ (St. Matthew 26:74), but he did not despair of his salvation and returned again to Christ, trusting in God’s mercy. He died as a martyr of Christ, refusing to deny his Lord ever again. We learn from St. Peter’s example to not despair. We must trust in God’s mercy. We must leave our sin behind and seek after Christ, with a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 50:17). We are then ready to enter into the Confession, truly penitent.

Unlike in the West, where the Priest and Penitent are separated from one another during Confession (where Repentance takes place), in the Orthodox Church both are together in the same place, nothing separating them from one another. Yet it is not the Priest who actually absolves sin. Rather, it is God Himself who does this, with the Priest merely acknowledging and proclaiming the absolution to the penitent Christian.

to be continued...

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Sacrament of Repentance in Orthodox Theology, part 1 (by Clint)

In his Confessions, St. Augustine spoke to God, saying, “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it repose in Thee." These words teach that man’s greatest desire and need is to be united with God. Yet every person suffers from the same problem that keeps him from that union with God – sin. Both the scriptures and the Church Fathers teach that God created mankind in a sinless state – but man still possessed a free will. By choosing to look to himself as the center of reality (thereby claiming to be god), man disrupted the unity that had existed between God and man. Yet though the union between God and man was broken, man still seeks to be restored to that previous relationship. While this restoration is accomplished through the life and incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, man must participate in his redemption. He is not a passive receptacle of God’s grace, but rather must work together with God (Philippians 2:12). This work is called Repentance and is accomplished in the Sacrament of Confession.

When a person is baptized, he receives forgiveness for all sins committed prior to that baptism. But even after being received into the Community of Faith, Christians continue to struggle with evil desires and commit sins, regardless of whether baptized as infants or adults. Since there is no “re-baptism” recognized by Orthodoxy, God provided the sacrament of Repentance in order that Christians who sin may continue to be in union with Him. Through Repentance, Christians are reconciled to the Church, and thereby to God. St. Athanasius claimed that “sufficient repentance will absolve every sin". The wage of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but by being rejoined with God in Christ, man is made a victor over death (Romans 8:37).

It is through Repentance that grace is transmitted for the healing of both soul and body. Most theological discussion about Repentance indicates that it is only if one truly repents that sins are remitted. The person that does truly repent is the one who seeks after God’s Kingdom (St. Matthew 6:33) and learns to care about heavenly things, rather than earthly ones. It is imperative that man realizes that he is not saved or reconciled through Christ because of his virtues, but because of his willful decision to repent and cease from sin. By recognizing and acknowledging sinful behaviors and thoughts, the Christian demonstrates that he understands how far he has fallen short of the life to which he was called. There can be no attempted justification of sinful actions, but a declaration that sin was committed. Without this repentance, there can be no true life, no salvation or acceptance into the Kingdom of God.

Repentance is commonly understood to be a godly sorrow about sin. It may even be considered to be grief or guilt about past actions or thoughts. As true as these things may be, they are woefully incomplete as a definition of Repentance. In fact, at the heart of Repentance is not sorrow or guilt, though they may certainly be present. Rather, the heart of Repentance is a transformed outlook and redirection. Rather than looking to one’s self as the ultimate reality, a penitent Christian changes focus and redirects attention on Heavenly things. True Repentance is not to simply express sorrow over evil actions committed in the past, but to look forward to the potential reality of what one may become through the grace of Christ. The reality of Repentance is summed up in St. John 1:5: “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” The prophet Isaiah demonstrated this in his reaction to drawing near to God: “Woe is me…I am a man of unclean lips and…my eyes have seen the… Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Yet his Repentance was accepted, he was cleansed from his sin and worked together with God, serving the Lord wholeheartedly.

to be continued....

Friday, September 10, 2010

The St. Dimitrie Post - from OCMC Missionary Floyd Frantz

St. Dimitrie


Greetings, and I hope that this finds you well today, and in good spirits on this most blessed feast day of the Nativity of the Theotokos.

It has been a few days since my last post, and so I thought that I would share some thoughts with you about todays activities. Also, as a supporter of the St. Dimitrie Program I thought you would be interested in knowing that I will be doing some work in Alaska.

First of all, I was at the tuberculosis hospital in Savadisla today helping with the counseling group. My staff member, Ucu, was leading the group, as it is his responsibility. I just sort of help out when I can.

Actually, this staff member is a story in his own right. He was a former patient in this hospital, and had lived there for over 7 years as a patient before joining our program. Now he is one of our counselors. This would not be a big thing in America because "peer counselors" are pretty much a part of the treatment culture over there. Here in Romania, the only programs hiring alcoholics in recovery and training them as counselors are programs that we have helped to start, or have influenced in this direction. They accept our model, based on the "Minnesota Model" found in the United States, because it works.

What has been interesting this week is that we have had a psychologist sent to us from the diocese over in Salaj. She is receiving training in our program so she can help the Diocese of Zalau start a similar program as we have in Cluj. She was at the group, and shared that six months ago her uncle had died in a hospital like the one we in today. It was mostly because of alcoholism. She went on to share that she now understands that there is a way to help alcoholics, and that she will help the Church in Zalau to start a project once she goes back later this week. We will be doing more training in Zalau to help with this effort, and because of people like this young lady we are hoping for good results.

The other thing is that next month I will be going to Kodiak, Alaska, to teach some classes on alcoholism at the St. Herman Seminary. Please do pray for me about this trip.I believe that the Church can play a very important role in helping those in Alaska who are affected by alcoholism, and I hope to be of some small help in this effort. I do not know if I will extend our work there into next year, but will be praying for knowledge of His will for me over the next few months. Well, this is an ongoing process, a daily process, for me to seek His will. However, decisions are always best for me when I pray about them.

I'll close for now. Please know that we do need your financial support in order to continue our work. When you support our efforts you are indeed our partner, in prayer, and in our work.

One last thing, I typed the stdimitrie web page address incorrectly last month, and it was only now called to my attention. You may now click here,, and it will take you to our web page. I believe that you will find it interesting if you have not already been over there.

Thank you for your support, for your good words, and most of all for your prayers.

In His Love,
One day at a time,
Floyd & Ancuta

Please know that you can pass our postings on to others who you believe might be interested in our work.

If you would like to contact us please use:

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If you would like to make an online donation in support of our work in Romania please go to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center web site at After finding the Frantz Family page, you will need to log in, but it is a simple process and it is very important to us.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Week at Antiochian Village - by Clint

A little over a year ago, our beloved Fr. Matthew (Memory Eternal!) agreed that it would be a good idea for me to attend the St. Stephen's Course. So I began reading books, studying topics and getting ready for my "exams." These "exams" were basically essay papers on various topics. The course is 3 years long, with two units, or semesters, each year. Once per year, students are excpected to come for a residency week at Antiochian Village, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.

Since I completed my first year of the course, I received permission from my employer and registered for the appropriate week of my residency. Each year, the residential portion of St. Stephen's (and other Antiochian House of Studies courses) set aside a two week block of time around labor day. First year student and third year students typically come for week 1 and second year students come for week 2.

Obviously, I was in week 1, since I was a first year guy. I admit to being frugal (some say "cheap"), so I requested to share a room with two other participants (much cheaper than a loner room. Anyway, it turned out that one of our assigned roommates was unable to attend at the last minute, but I was able to share the room with a fellow classmate (he is actually a year ahead of me). I got to know more about him and his ministry, which was fascinating, since he comes from a Western Rite parish.

We attended lectures each day (all day), and had both Orthros and Vespers each day. During the week, both Bishop Thomas and Bishop Antoun were present, encouraging and uplifting the students. In addition, many priests came to share insights and learning with all of us. It was a wonderful week, with ecclesiastical topics to keep our minds busy, and great anecdotal stories to keep our funny bone sharpened.

Ultimately, though, two things really stood out to me. First, I had the opportunity to get to know fellow Orthodox Christians from across the country, and even the world. I have begun to develop relationships with my fellow Christians that will last a lifetime. I met elected politicians, judges, librarians, teachers, a handyman, etc. I felt blessed to be included in their number. These are all people, both men and women, who desire to learn more about their God and their Church. They are committed to service.

Secondly, I was able to worship at the tomb of St. Raphael. I have not been Orthodox long enough to have had this opportunity before. I have prayed to many Saints, but never at the tomb of one. It was a special moment when I was able to go to the burial place and offer my prayers. It was moving.

I really enjoyed my week - not so much for the content of the lectures, though they were very good. But really, the relationships with my fellow Christians, both living and departed were what really made it wonderful.

I can't wait until next year!