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How Do I Lent?

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Update: Lent started. Today is just a few days before the Sunday of St. John Climacus (aka the fourth Sunday of Lent), which means we’re more than halfway to Pascha. Some of us may have had the foresight to figure out specific goals for Lent going into it, while others may not have changed anything in their lives. Regardless of what boat we’re in, what do we do now?

In order to answer that question, we need to back up and figure out what Lent is. To fully understand that, we need to have some grasp on the state of humanity (my thought process tends to get really general really quickly, so stay with me). We are all spiritually sick. Whether or not we feel it, our souls experience sickness from disconnection with God. so how do we get healthy? Luckily, God provides us with a spiritual hospital: the Church.

The sickness that afflicts us prevents God from entering into our hearts. Our hearts are simply too hard to allow God to enter in, so we need to go to our mother, the Church, to chip away at it. Lent is a time for chipping away at that hardness of our hearts so that we can receive Christ to our fullest potential on the feast of His Resurrection.

So before we get to Paul’s monthly list, we need to remember why we do all of the things we do during Lent. Again, this is absolutely critical for two interconnected reasons: (1) if we go through the motions without realizing why we are doing it, the tasks become an end in themselves; in other words, we aren’t keeping ourselves from eating to grow closer to God, but because we feel like it’s this weird homework assignment we have to do; and (2) when we make the commandments of God an end in themselves, we become like the Pharisees, who outwardly did everything correctly but whose hearts were in the wrong places. And you can check out Matthew 23 to see how Jesus felt about them.

(Editor’s note: not a fan)

So back to the title: how do I Lent? Here are the things you can try:

1. Fast: Do something

As my spiritual father says, the amazing thing about fasting is that you can always do more or less depending on where you are. You can’t do the entire fast prescribed by the Church? That’s fine, do some part of it, like not eating meat. The fast isn’t challenging enough or spiritually beneficial to you? You can do more: skip a meal, don’t eat snacks, avoid adding salt or other flavor enhancers to your food, or avoid non-water beverages. The important thing is that you change what you normally do with food.

2. Cut something out

If you’re like me, chances are you’re doing a lot. The few seconds a day when you’re not either at a class or activity or have something to take care of, you spend figuring out how you’re going to get everything done that you need to do. There’s so much noise.

Find something in there taking you away from God, and get rid of it. I’ve done various things different years depending on what habits of mind are most destructive at the moment. This year it was deleting the Facebook app from my phone. Other years it has been not playing games on my phone during Lent. Find something that you are doing that is holding you back in some way from union with God, and get rid of it, at least until Pascha (hopefully beyond).

3. Go to church

Lenten services are where I discovered my love for the Orthodox faith. Many parishes have church on most nights of the week, so check your church’s calendar and try to make it to one, maybe two, or even all of them (that’s the recommended option). Part of Lent is adding prayer, and the church is supplying it for you. All you need to do is show up and participate.

4. Don’t worry if you slip

One of my past articles was about how you’re probably going to fail. Chances are, you are going to fall short of at least one of your goals (if you don’t, you may want to check to see if you’re pushing yourself hard enough). As someone who loves sports and is filled with useless sports stats, I have to ask you to do something that is very hard for me to do: don’t worry about your own Lenten statistics.

Read Paul’s article here!

I have wanted to be standing in the church on Pascha night, knowing that I attended every service in Lent, had not touched meat or dairy since Clean Monday, and had reached every goal perfectly. The problem with that mindset is that your whole motivation crumbles before you the second you make one mistake.

I offer this mindset as a replacement: starting right now, at this moment (be that as you’re reading this or when you think about it later), let’s strive to love God and do his holy will (citation: St. Herman of Alaska, see one of my past articles on that).

5. Talk to your spiritual father

I often think that I’m a bad judge of what is the right level to push myself in all of these categories, and I’m probably right. I have good judgment about how poor my judgment is. Don’t think about that too hard.

The good thing is, I have someone to talk all of this stuff out with, to say, “I want to do A, B, and C during Lent,” and he can say, “A and B sounds good, but you might want to consider tweaking C in this way to make it better for you.” And I have confidence that he’s right because he knows everything about my spiritual life, so he’s like a doctor giving me a specific prescription for my specific disease. What an incredible resource that we have in our spiritual fathers!

I pray that God will help us to keep all of these things in mind as we continue through our Lenten journey. May we fight our own battles while leaning on and strengthening one another. One of the beautiful things about the collective nature of Orthodox fasts is that we have our church communities and Orthodox friends all around us who are going through the same thing, and who can offer us strength and motivation to make that push to Pascha. It’s impossible for us on our own, but with God’s help and the help of the people around us, we can do what’s been laid before us this Lent.


Paul Murray is a senior psychology major and Spanish minor at Franklin & Marshall College, and he attends Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lancaster, PA. His home parish is St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in New Kensington, PA, and he has spent the past three summers serving as a counselor at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh Summer Camp and the Antiochian Village. In his free time, Paul ties prayer ropes and writes descriptions of himself in the third person for blog articles.

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FOCUS North America’s YES Program coming to Midwest April 28-30

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FOCUS NA

FOCUS North America’s YES Program is coming to the Midwest April 28-30, 2017.

YES — “Youth Equipped to Serve” — offers a wonderful opportunity for faithful ages 13 through college to serve and love the people of Chicago.  FOCUS — the “Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve” — is a national movement of Orthodox Christians, united in faith and joined by a desire to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America.  FOCUS has operations and offers youth volunteer experiences in more than 50 cities in the USA.  As an expression of Christ’s love, FOCUS North America serves the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned by providing food, occupation, clothing, understanding, and shelter.

Participants may register on-line.  Early registration is encouraged as the program will be limited to 35 participants, who will be lodged at All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church, Chicago.  The service learning weekend will come to a close following the Divine Liturgy there on Sunday, April 30.

A registration gift of $150.00 per participant will cover all program expenses, make it possible for YES to prepare and execute the program, and enable FOCUS’ service team to meet the needs of those who be served through the program.

Questions may be addressed to Katrina Bitar, YES Program Director, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Larissa Hatch, Trip Leader, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Save the Date! 2017 Summer Sacred Music Institute is July 12-16

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SAVE THE DATE!

What:  Summer Sacred Music Institute (SMI)

When:  July 12-16, 2017

Where:  Antiochian Village

For more information, please contact Paul Jabara at sacredmusic@antiochian.orgThe theme, preliminary agenda, schedule, and registration will be available April 1, 2017.

Read about the 2016 SMI at Antiochian Village

Real Break New Orleans | Quotes from the Workers

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It’s Thursday, Day 3 here in St. Tammany West. In the middle of our trip, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask the workers about their experience on the trip so far. So, this is Real Break New Orleans, as told by Eyvonnka Rizkallah, Maria Nasser, Meredith Ashton, Rose Ansara, James Jabbour, and Ben Solak.

“It’s a really good mix. You get to do service but you also get to learn about an area I feel like a lot of people Know about but not the extent that people should. I know I’ve learned a lot about Katrina and the people here and how it affected them even though it was so long ago.”

“You’re not going internationally. You’re helping people who are in your country who may have been hidden in the dark.”

“Seeing as though I don’t have an OCF at my local university, this was my opportunity to get involved.”

“It’s a nice time to reevaluate where you are in your semester, by serving someone besides yourself. You also have the opportunity to enhance friendships and create new ones through the dioceses. Meeting new people through our faith can be difficult—we only have a few events throughout the year. But this is a unique, intimate setting. The group is small and you’re serving where you are. It makes it different.”

“It’s really like eye-opening, because I had no idea. Like seeing pictures and hearing things are one thing, but if you come down and you see all the damage in person that’s still here…it’s ridiculous.”

“I really liked using the electric screwdriver. No, wait. That’s not what it’s called. I don’t know what it’s called. The screw thing.” (drill)

“It’s an intimate way to get to know a community that isn’t yours, and to be an Orthodox presence in that community is really cool, to share your faith. It’s much different than just going to New Orleans and going to restaurants and going to a party. You get to be directly in the neighborhood, be with the people who live here, get to know them and what matters to them. And that’s a really different experience than you’d get on a more traditional spring break trip.”

“The culture is so much different here from where I lived.”

“I thought it would take the mission trip aspect of things I’ve done in other places around the world and put it in my own country, so I could help people where I live, and I really liked that.”

“I was really excited about building homes for people who really need them. Putting our blood, sweat, and tears into everything we do. It’s a great way to bond with people who are from New Orleans. At the end of the day, you know that your hard work was going to contribute to something even bigger.”

“I’ve really loved eating the food. I’ve probably gained like ten pounds. But overall, great experience. I’d definitely do it again.”

“I wanted to go to Real Break New Orleans. It’s more fulfilling than going to Miami and partying. This is definitely real stuff. That’s why it’s called Real Break.”

If you want to follow Real Break NOLA, or any OCF event, be sure to follow OCF’s Snapchat @OCFMinistry. My caption game is fire.

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Keeping the Vigil at the Tomb of Christ on Holy Friday

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The Archdiocese’s Department of Youth Ministry announces that resources are available for the beloved tradition of keeping vigil at Christ’s tomb from the end of Holy Friday Vespers until the Rush Liturgy of Pascha. This year’s dates will be April 14 and 15, 2017, and teens and the faithful from our parishes from across North America will be signing up for times of meditation and Scripture reading. Participants will read from the book of Psalms in front of the tomb of Christ after Great Friday Vespers until the Liturgy of Holy Saturday morning, after which service they will read from the Book of Acts until the start of the Rush Service held on Saturday night for Pascha.

Great Friday Vigil Pamphlet as well as one sheet flyer, can be downloaded for use in parish communities. Please encourage your teens and faithful members to host and attend the Great Friday Vigil!

Keep the Vigil at the Tomb of Christ on Holy Friday

This post was originally published on this site

The Archdiocese’s Department of Youth Ministry announces that resources are available for the beloved tradition of keeping vigil at Christ’s tomb from the end of Holy Friday Vespers until the Rush Liturgy of Pascha. This year’s dates will be April 14 and 15, 2017, and teens and the faithful from our parishes from across North America will be signing up for times of meditation and Scripture reading. Participants will read from the book of Psalms in front of the tomb of Christ after Great Friday Vespers until the Liturgy of Holy Saturday morning, after which service they will read from the Book of Acts until the start of the Rush Service held on Saturday night for Pascha.

Great Friday Vigil Pamphlet as well as one sheet flyer, can be downloaded for use in parish communities. Please encourage your teens and faithful members to host and attend the Great Friday Vigil!

FOCUS serving others in “The Liturgy After the Liturgy” Featured in The Word Magazine

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FOCUS’ own YES leader Kamal Hourani was featured in The Word Magazine’s March issue. Click on the image blow to read the story!

An Orthodox House of Rejuvenation

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“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He

answered me.”
—Jonah 2:2

“There simply aren’t enough places for sober living in our community,” said Nathan Smith, the co-founder and director of FOCUS Columbus’ Jonah House. Columbus, Ohio is an epicenter of heroin abuse and addiction in the Midwest. This heroin epidemic has become increasingly visible as community after community has seen sharp increases in deaths caused by this dangerous drug.

Many people are battling every day to free themselves from their addictions, which result in situations such as homelessness, poor health, and financial instability. Nathan recognized that Columbus has one of the best shelter systems in the country. However, shelters can be horrible places for anyone recovering from addiction. FOCUS Columbus’ Jonah House will fill the gap that currently exists in the homeless service system for addicts.

Opportunity Meets Desire

The Jonah House, which is slated to open in the fall of 2017, will provide a critical transitional step for former heroin addicts to move from dependency to self-sufficiency. The house will be a safe, caring living space and will also arrange meaningful, daily work for residents. In-house professional partners will help residents with their mental and physical health, and provide guidance for everyday tasks.

Nicholas Chakos, Executive Director of FOCUS North America said, “The Jonah House will be bringing a credible solution to a dire need in Columbus. While FOCUS provides infrastructure and organization to centers around the country, the local folks in Columbus have done all of the groundwork and are stepping up to meaningfully impact their community.”

The goal is for Jonah House residents to be able to focus entirely on themselves and their recovery for six months or a year.  “There will be professional, volunteer, and spiritual help,” said Peter Gardikes, who is a Jonah House ministry team member and Parish Council Member at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Columbus. “Ultimately, we’d like to see people who have gone through Jonah House mentor those who come after them. We’re creating a community of people supporting one another.” Jonah House is successfully leveraging churches in central Ohio to create a network of support and opportunity to those who successfully complete the transition once leaving the Jonah House.

Jonah as a metaphor and method

In the Old Testament story, Jonah experiences incredible turbulence on a boat as he attempts to flee God’s command. Jonah’s knows it is his fault that the other passengers are in danger– and he also knows that a change has to take place. Jonah admits to those onboard that he has disobeyed God. Like Jonah, those who are addicted unintentionally cause pain to those they love. Similarly, these individuals must come to realize this, and take steps to come back into unity with those around them.

After being cast into the sea, Jonah enters into the belly of the whale. In our case, this time is likened to a period of rehabilitation. When an addict is taken away from his or her storm and entered into a period of distance from the cause of pain, they prevent themselves from causing damage to themselves and others. Just as Jonah emerged to deliver a saving message to the people of Nineveh, when the addict emerges, they are resurrected with the desire to contribute to a community and purpose greater than themselves. The parallels are unmistakable.

Just as Jonah’s three days in the belly of the sea monster transformed the way Jonah functioned as a messenger of God, FOCUS Columbus’s Jonah House will become a vehicle through which recovered addicts in the Columbus community discover their importance as individuals— and their ability transform others around them.

Please say a prayer for the Jonah House. If you wish to learn more and support the sustainability of this ministry, please contact FOCUS North America.

LUBA April: Keep America Beautiful

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Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
P.O. Box 495;
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880
732-356-0090 (Phone) / 732-356-5556 (Fax)

Offices:
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Metropolia Center
135 Davidson Avenue; Somerset, NJ 08873

Email:
consistory@uocofusa.org
webmaster@uocofusa.org

Holy Synod Spring Session to open March 28

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synod

The Spring Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America will be held at the Chancery here from Tuesday, March 28 through Friday, March 31, 2017.

According to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, the meeting will open with the address of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon.  Reports from the OCA’s Officers — Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor; Melanie Ringa, Treasurer; and Father Eric — will be presented, as will updates by Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs; the OCA General Counsel; and representatives of the Church’s boards, departments, commissions and other offices.  Especially highlighted will be the work of the OCA Department of Christian Education and the Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid, while an update on the OCA’s communications efforts and web site also will be presented.  In addition, the Board of Theological Education will present the list of ordination candidates through the Diaconal Vocations Program.

A key agenda item will be a review of the work of the Preconciliar Commission, charged with organizing the 19th All-American Council [AAC], slated to convene in Saint Louis, MO in July 2018.  Among the AAC-related matters to be reviewed will be the Council theme, logo, preliminary agenda and associated events.

Also slated to be presented is a report on the progress of the Holy Synod’s Standing Committee for Canonical Procedure, which is examining the process of spiritual courts and the work of the Spiritual Abuse Working Group, based on the initiative from the 18th AAC.  The reestablishment of the Canonization and Bioethics Commissions also will be under consideration.

Initial plans for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska and the autocephaly of the OCA, both of which will be observed in 2020, and this year’s 100th Anniversary of the election of Saint Tikhon as Patriarch of Moscow, also will be reviewed.

On Wednesday evening, March 29, members of the Holy Synod will meet with graduating OCA students from Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA and Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, who will sing the responses at the celebration of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

The Holy Synod of Bishops is the supreme canonical authority in the Orthodox Church in America.  Chaired by the Metropolitan, the Synod includes as voting members all diocesan bishops.

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