Thanks to the work of Theoria, we are happy to present this short video featuring our pastor that briefly answers the question “What is the Task of Orthodox Christians Living in America?”
Thanks to the work of Theoria, we are happy to present this short video featuring our pastor that answers in about two minutes the question “What is the Orthodox Church?”
Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He rose from the dead. Humanity can therefore be saved.
Those three sentences constitute the core narrative of the Gospel, the good news according to the Orthodox Christian faith. Orthodox Christians have affirmed this story as a sacred history for twenty centuries, and entering into this story is what constitutes the spiritual life for us. The following is a basic outline of this sacred history.
In the beginning, God created the universe, including mankind, whom He placed at the center of the creation. He created us to live forever, without sickness, suffering and death and in perfect, ever-deepening communion with Him. But because Adam and Eve, the first parents of mankind, chose to sin—to miss the mark of God’s design for them—corruption and death entered into man. And because mankind was chosen by God to act as the priest of this world—offering up the creation to God and then receiving it back as a means of blessing—the creation itself fell away from the harmonious peace that God had designed for it. This happened because God is the Giver of life and the Creator of order, so when humanity cut itself off from God, death and chaos were introduced into humanity and through us into the rest of the world.
Over time, as corruption and death touched everything that mankind did, the world came to be ruled by violence and oppression. God began a process of revealing to humanity the way out of this corruption, to reconnection with the life of God, first through a man chosen especially for this task, Abraham, and then by giving a way of life to Abraham’s descendants, who were first called Hebrews and then later Jews. God spoke to these chosen people first through the Prophet Moses and then through other prophets.
To Moses God revealed that He was to be known to them as Yahweh, which means “I am,” showing that the way of life He was revealing was for knowing Who God is, not just intellectually, but in a true and personal way. This way of life revealed through Moses had only one purpose: to teach the Jews and the nations around them how to get back in connection with God so that they could truly know Him. And He showed Himself to Israel not only as their deity, but as their Father, which spoke of His desire for an intimate and close connection. Over the centuries that followed Abraham and Moses, the nation of the Jews, called Israel, was sometimes faithful to God but often lost its way.
About 2,000 years ago, a young virgin named Mary, a descendant of the greatest of the kings of the Jews, David, was betrothed to an old, pious man named Joseph, also a descendant of David. Because of her purity of heart and her willingness to do as God asked her to do, she was chosen by God to give birth to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. She willingly assented to this pregnancy, announced to her by the Archangel Gabriel, and the One born of her was called Jesus, which means “Yahweh saves.”
Jesus was not only the Son of the Father, but was also God Himself, and He revealed that God is the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three divine Persons Who share one essence, one God in three Persons. And when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb miraculously without any earthly father, He was not only fully God but also fully human, taking His humanity from her. Because of Who Jesus was (and is), both God and man, humanity has the possibility of having full communion with God restored. Through His humanity, we can access His divinity. The gap opened by Adam and Eve has been bridged.
During His ministry on Earth, Jesus taught the way God wants people to live, healed them of their physical and spiritual sicknesses and forgave them of their sins, especially focusing His ministry on twelve disciples, who were not members of the religious or intellectual classes, but mostly fishermen. When His mission drew to a close, He was betrayed by Judas, one of the twelve, and arrested by the Roman authorities who were acting on behalf of the religious leadership of the Jews, who saw Jesus as a threat to their established order. Although He had done nothing wrong, He was convicted as a blasphemer and crucified—nailed to a large wooden cross to suffocate to death—by the Roman imperial government on behalf of the Jewish leaders.
Jesus died on a Friday, the day before the Jews’ greatest annual holy day, the Passover, a day which commemorated the freedom of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. He rose from the dead on the third day, Sunday, and was seen alive by many after that, including the eleven disciples (Judas, in his remorse for betraying Christ, had meanwhile committed suicide) and many others. He spent another forty days on Earth, further instructing His eleven disciples to help them become Apostles, a word which means “one sent out on a mission.” After those forty days, He physically ascended into Heaven while the Apostles watched.
The Apostles, following the instructions Jesus gave them, began to travel throughout the known world, preaching the Gospel everywhere, telling anyone who would listen the good news and baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This good news is that, by repenting of sins (turning away from all the ways we miss the perfection God created us for) and being baptized into membership in the Church—which Jesus Himself called His “Body”—it is possible for humanity to conquer death just as Jesus did, to make the passage into death a passage into resurrection, because incorporation into the ongoing life of the Church is participation in Christ. This is what it means to be “saved.”
Someday, Jesus will return again, and time as we know it will end. Everyone will be resurrected at the end of time, but only those who are “in Christ” will be raised to a resurrection of life, but those who reject Christ and do not partake of what He offered will be raised to a resurrection of judgment. This judgment is essentially a continuation of existence cut off from the life that God gives—dying eternally instead of living eternally.
Jesus therefore is the fulfillment, the full revelation of all that God began through Abraham and Moses, showing a way of life that made possible direct communion with God. The Church is therefore also the fulfillment of the chosen community that was ancient Israel, a real community of people called to live in harmony together, communing with God and each other through the primary means God provided for His presence to be among His people, the holy mysteries, also called sacraments.
The Apostles were the first to administer these mysteries in the Church, and part of their ministry was to ordain the next generation of Christian leaders as bishops, who in turn ordained presbyters (priests) and deacons to help them with the work. As the Gospel spread throughout the world, new bishops were ordained by the Apostles and their successors to lead the Church, which will continue its work until its fulfillment when Jesus returns at the end of time.
Jesus founded only one Church to be His Body, not the multitude of competing Christian denominations we see in our own day. Only one Church has maintained that continuous existence through all the centuries since the Resurrection of Christ, teaching and believing and living the same Christian life throughout history. That Church is the Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Christians do not know what the fate is of those who believe in Christ yet belong to groups that have broken away from the historic Orthodox Church. We only know that we must be faithful to what we have received so that we may pass it on to the next generation, to anyone who will hear and believe.
Dear in Christ,
God bless you!
It’s that time of year when we begin to assess ourselves as we begin new things this Fall, such as school, changes in our jobs, etc. And like all things in our spiritual lives, one of the things we need to assess is our giving. We will begin our stewardship emphasis in several weeks, but I’d like us to begin thinking about this now — and even acting.
First, a note about standards:
Tithing is the minimum Biblical standard — that’s giving 10% of your income.
Some of our families are tithers — including mine. I would never ask you to do anything in the spiritual life I’m not willing to do myself.
Did you know that, if every family in our parish made the Lehigh or Northampton County median household income — $53,541 and $58,762, respectively — and then tithed on it, our annual parish pledges would be well over $500,000? Is that really possible? Yes.
While you consider tithing, remember the pledge that you made last Fall. How are you doing? Overall, some of us are falling behind. If you need to know how much you’ve fallen behind (if at all), contact Joanne Hancharick (let us know if you need her contact info), who keeps our confidential giving records.
Why is giving so important? Isn’t being a Christian about “spiritual” things?
God wants our whole person, not just a part of us. That means everything — including everything we own. He rightly has claim to everything we are and everything we have. And a good beginning to giving ourselves to Him fully is to give what perhaps may come hardest — our money. Spiritual life is about both immaterial and material things.
Yes, it’s true that our parish has a lot of big expenses over the past couple of years — big repairs and replacement items — and our reserves are considerably drained.
But this is not the first time that we’ve been called on to increase our Christian stewardship — both in amount and in consistency. We’ve been emphasizing this message both in good times and in bad. But especially when times are tight, which they are a bit at the moment, we have an opportunity to step forward in faith.
Difficult times are given to us to stretch us and increase our faith.
What proves our faith to God is our faithfulness. It has nothing to do with who gives the most or the least. We are only in “competition,” so to speak, with ourselves.
Am I tithing? Am I stretching myself? What am I doing to help us reach the goal of full tithing by every family?
Jesus has given and continues to give us so much. Our faithfulness to Him is our response, and it is how we participate in His gifts to us.
God bless you while you consider your faithfulness to Christ today — and remember that our faithfulness is not only — and not even primarily — about money. We also should assess our faithfulness in prayer together at church, in educating ourselves and our children, in receiving all of the sacraments, etc.
I will be happy to speak with you on how to assess your family’s faithfulness and how you can move forward in spiritual progress.
God bless you and grant you all good things!
Yours in Christ,
Starting with the first Sunday of the Triodion, Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick has been releasing weekly installments of a 10-part sermon series on evangelism and the Lenten Triodion. The meditations are available in audio form through his Roads from Emmaus podcast, or as posts on the blog of the same name.
Father Andrew, who serves in the Antiochian Archdiocese, says in his introduction, “For the next ten weeks, from today through Palm Sunday, we will be discussing evangelism. Each Sunday of the Triodion has a different theme to it, usually based in the Gospel reading, and all of them have something to say about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. The Gospel is like a great jewel with many facets, each sparkling with its own light, and each drawing us into the depths of the beauty of this most precious gift. So from now until Palm Sunday, we will be looking at different facets of this gem of evangelism.”
The pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Fr. Andrew is the author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and An Introduction to God (available at Ancient Faith Publishing). He is also the host of the Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and Roads from Emmaus podcasts, both hosted on Ancient Faith Radio.
Read the text and listen to the recordings of the Lenten evangelism sermons here:
- The Publican and Pharisee (podcast)
- The Prodigal Son (podcast)
- The Last Judgment (podcast)
- Forgiveness and the Expulsion from Paradise (podcast)
- “Come and See” (The Sunday of Orthodoxy) (podcast)
- St. Gregory Palamas and the Paralytic (podcast)
- The High Priest on the Cross (podcast)
- Renunciation of the World and Evangelism (podcast)
- The Journey of Mary of Egypt to the Cross (podcast)
- Palm Sunday and the City of Man (podcast)