The Spirit May/June 2014

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The Spirit May/June 2014
The Spirit
July/August 2015 Issue
Rev. Philip Armstrong
St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church
2716 N. Dobson Rd., Suite 101
Chandler, Arizona 85224
Office: (480) 899-3330 Fax: (480) 812-9669 Website: www.st-katherine.org
Rev. Philip Armstrong,
Proistamenos
Office Hours:
Monday – Friday
9:00 am -4:00 pm
Closed for Lunch
12:00 pm–1:00 pm
Sunday Worship
8:30 am-Orthros
9:30 am-Divine Liturgy
10:45 am –Sunday School
Church Organizations
Altar Boys……………………………… Andre Gib
Bookstore…….. Michael & Chryss Danielek
Dance……………….………….Jackie Bafaloukos
Greek Festival………………. Vange Archuleta
Hrisi Parea…………………...…. Linda Kotsakis
Hall Rental………………...…… Natalie Lapiers
JOY/HOPE………………….. Fr. Phil Armstrong
Philoptochos……………………. Kathy Connell
Sunday School…..……………… Dean Argeros
YAL…………………………….. Stephanie Venetis
GOYA………………..……. Angela & Theodora
Armstrong
Weekly Bulletin Deadline
Wednesday, one week prior to publication.
Bookstore Hours
Sundays following Liturgy
(in the upstairs room adjacent to choir loft)
Church E-mail Addresses
Office: [email protected]
Fr. Phil: [email protected]
Stewardship – Gary Boyce
Parish Council
President—Demetrios Deliz
1st Vice President—Athena Light
2nd Vice President—Van Vandenberg
Secretary—Florence Bellecy
Treasurer—Elaine Hatupis
Assistant Treasurer—Evangelia Archuleta
Josephine Avaneas
Mena Bafaloukos
Zoi Benton
James DeDakis
James French
Tom Morden
Robert Norton
Fran Attwood
Andrew Magnus
Reminder to All Groups & Organizations
Deadline for articles or information for the Spirit:
Dec.19 (for January-February)
Feb. 19 (March-April)
April 20 (May-June)
June 19 (July– August)
Aug. 17 (September)-October)
Oct. 19 (November-December)
Please send your information to:
[email protected]
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You can download and print the Spirit at:
www.st-katherine.org/spirit.htm
SACRAMENTS AND OTHER SERVICES
Holy Baptism
May 2, 2015
Emmanuel (Emmett) Shuman
Parents: Derrick & Stephanie Shuman
Godparent: Elpiniki Pallas
May 16, 2015
Sophia (Zoe) Vandenberg
Parents: Daniel & Danielle Vandenberg
Godparent: Virginia Vandenberg
June 19, 2015
Esther Armfield
Nouna: Ekaterina Sakoulas
June 27, 2015
Michael Dubinski
Parents: Tom & Casey Dubinski
Godparent: Louisa Garrett
Holy Matrimony
May 30, 2015
Joseph Michael O’Conner and
Marie Nicki Bowen
Koumbara: Carol Bafaloukos
June 20, 2015
George Drakatos and Esther Armfield
Koumbara: Elizabeth Drakatos Sacripante
June 27, 2015
Thomas & Casey Dubinski
Koumbara: Louisa Garrett
Holy Chrismation
June 27, 2015
Anna Lynn Dubinski
Parents: Tom & Casey Dubinski
Godparent: Katherine Dubinski
Forty Day Blessing
May 3, 2015
Tina Batchelder & newborn son,
Adam
May 10, 2015
Nicholette Wright and newborn son,
Nathan Andrew
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MESSAGE FROM FATHER
“WRAPPED IN HIS PRESENCE”
Archbishop Anthony Bloom tells of one of the first people to seek his advice after his ordination. She was an elderly woman who claimed, “I have been praying almost unceasingly for fourteen years and I have never had any sense of
God’s presence.” Father Bloom discovered the woman’s prayer time consisted mostly of her talking to God, so he advised
her to set aside fifteen minutes a day to “sit and just knit before the face of
God.” Later, the woman reported that when she tried to converse with God she felt nothing but when she sat quietly, placing herself deliberately in the presence of God, she felt wrapped in God’s presence.
Recently, I read one author’s interesting suggestion on prayer which I think is particularly helpful. If you are going through troubled times in your own life, he suggests finding a nice easy chair, sitting down in a very relaxed fashion,
and then thinking about relaxing every muscle in your body, until you are completely relaxed. Then, thinking about the
promises of God—that He will keep you in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed
Upon Him: that He will work all things together for your good; that He will work all things together for your good; that He
will bless you; and claiming all those promises until they soothe and assuage your soul. Then having put your body at ease
and rest and claiming the peace of God for your soul, begin to ask Him for what-ever it is that is on your heart.
Carlos Carretto writes in his book “Letters from the Desert”:
Prayer is not so much a matter of talking as listening: Contemplation is not watching, but being watched by the
One who comes to us in love, and who is sovereign over all our encounters and works in
this world.
Romano Guardini wrote about placing ourselves in God’s presence each day:
“God turns His face to man and thereby gives Himself to man…to be seen by Him…(is) to be enfolded
In the deepest care...We are seen by Him whether we want to be or not.
The difference is whether we try to elude His sight, or strive to enter into it…None of the shortcomings and evil in
our lives are fatal so long as they confront His gaze. The very act of placing ourselves in His sight is the beginning of renewal…”
One of the aspects of prayer that is greatly emphasized by the Holy Fathers is the practice of the presence of God.
Theophan the Recluse writes:
“The essential part is to dwell in God, and this walking before God means that you live with the conviction ever
before your consciousness that God is in you, as He is in everything: you live in the firm assurance that He sees all that is
within you, knowing you better that you know yourself. This awareness of the eyes of God looking in your inner being…
searching your soul and your heart, seeing all that is there… is the most powerful lever in the mechanism of the inner spiritual life”.
Theophan continues:
“Prayer is turning the mind and thoughts toward God. To pray means to stand before God with the mind, mentally
to gaze unswervingly at Him, to converse with Him in reverent fear and hope… The principal thing is to stand with the
mind in the heart before God and to go on standing before Him unceasingly day and night, until the end of life… Behave
as you wish, so long as you learn to stand before God with the mind in the heart, for this lies the essence of the matter.”
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Notice that Theophan says three things:
First, prayer is to stand before God. Prayer is more than talking to God. It is waiting upon God. It is a
relationship, a personal encounter. It is being in His presence, basking in it.
Secondly, Bishop Theophan says that prayer is “to stand before God with the mind in the heart.” We
are present to God not just with the mind, but the mind descends into the heart to be completely and totally
present to the Lord. We are not to let Jesus remain in the mind and give Him only a cold intellectual allegiance. He descends in to the heart where we feel His presence and yield our will to Him. When the monks
pray they often tilt their head toward the breast to express what is happening in prayer, i.e., the mind is
descending into the heart.
Thirdly, Bishop Theophan tells us to “stand before God unceasing day and night until the end of
life.” In other works, prayer becomes the prime and constant activity that permeates all that we do in life.
To use the works of Bishop Kallistos Ware, “Prayer should be not something we do from time, to time, but
something that we are all the time… (we are) not just people who say prayers occasionally, but people who
are prayer continually.”
Father John Chrysavvgis writes in his book “Fire and Light “:
Theosis in Greek has the same root as “theomai” which means “I see.” The Fathers say that the food
of the angels is the sight of God. And in the Liturgy we speak of the many-eyed Seraphim. That is what Paradise is—the sight of God. In his cell, says Father Aimilianos, the monk should be motionless, because God–
the One Who sees and Who is seen—is there… (A Monk ) does not wear shoes inside his house but only
outside, because of his house, is cell, is an altar, a holy place where he stands face to face with God. In his
cell a monk embraces Christ. Prayer becomes a reciprocal kissing of Jesus. Prayer may only be spoken of as
a relationship with Christ that the monk sees, whether through prayer or through work.
Father Aimilianos once pointed through the window at a monk digging in the garden, and asked me
“What is this monk doing’? I said that he was digging. He replied: ‘When he is in the Church, it is Christ that
he desires. When he is studying, it is the word of God that he hears. The monks serve at the feet of Jesus.
The are not professionals: they do not work for a living but for life. The monk that is digging is running after
God.
(The above was excerpted out of Fr. Anthony Coniaris book entitled “Discovering God Through the Daily Practice of His Presence”. pp 7-10)
Yours in Christ,
Father Phil
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Thoughts from the desk of our President
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
As we move into summer, we remind ourselves that the Valley of the Sun is a "Dry Heat", at least that's what we tell
our family & friends... and living here takes a curtain persistent drive to continue to be in a place where "most of the
time", we have great weather.
It is almost like we can ignore what is going on around us.... As humans, we tend to rationalize situations to suit our
needs. One of the simple virtues of human personality is that we can say or do "anything we wish, simply because we
are free". Not so... To think about what you, as an individual, is going through, is meaningful to you. To think that another individual should have compassion for your needs is an expectation that all us have. And we should, being Christians! When you see that people around you are in need, talk to them, be friendly, say a kind word or just a smile, it is
our obligation as Christians to move into action! Yet, sometimes our expectation is what hurts us, because we don't get
what we thought we needed. Well, the fact is that God has compassion & love for your needs and cares about you.
Christ is the one to turn to in a time of need... Trust in God and all things are possible! Be aware of your surroundings,
of what goes into your ears and what comes out of your mouth... forgive others and Love one another.
If you have sorrow in your heart, you have a pain that only Christ will understand. We must pray, for in that prayer is
forgiveness, love and spiritual growth. The focal point of our Christian Life is the Cross. Here at Saint Katherine, there
are many Ministries, Services and down to earth Labor that we sometimes ignore. Perhaps we focus on our own personal homes and forget our Spiritual home... Out of Sight - Out of mind... We all know what our hearts tell us, now we
must do it, there is no turning back!
In this journey of ours, we all come across situations that seem out of our control. Yet, we see through the Cross of Our
Lord, what exactly our journey is about. And away from the Cross, we see forests on fire, mudslides & sinkholes,
droughts, floods in unexpected places, anger of mass proportions, killing of Christians, Unhappy humans Worldwide!
This is why we must pray! Love conquers hatred! We all must be as the Saints. Saint Katherine is our Hospital and
Christ is our Physician. This Journey is our salvation! Take a deep breath and say the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Fr. Seraphim Aldea wrote: “Pray by night. Pray alone. Pray using no book, no image, no thought. Just stand there in
the dark, and make no move or sound. Bring yourself before Christ as a humble offering: this is me; this is who I am;
THIS is who You must save.
Most of us have such terribly deformed ideas about what prayer is, that it is better to simply forget you are meant to
pray. Just stand there and look into the darkness outside your window. Other times, make a prostration and even close
your eyes while you are on the floor; and stay there; wait there. Keep your body in a state of tension, but your mind
empty. Say nothing. Think nothing. Imagine nothing. Do not pray. Do not move. Just wait for His presence. Wait for
Him to notice your silence, your stillness, your death. Wait for Christ, and He will come, because love forces Him”.
My Prayer is that each of us, Opens Our Hearts to the Love of Christ… and Each Other! Pray Always! Trust in the
Lord, Jesus Christ”.
Remember, Never feel alone when you walk through the
Doors of St. Katherine… For all are Welcome!
Be well,
May God be Yours In Christ,
Saint Katherine GOC
Parish Council President
Demetrios J. Deliz
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Christ Is Risen! Truly He Is Risen!
Dean S. Pappas Memorial Bookstore
In today’s society there is no shortage of unhealthy images wide-open to each of us
and our children through smartphones, computers, televisions, magazines, billboards, movies etc. Where are the Orthodox images in our homes? Where are the
Holy Icons? Where are the spiritual images to remind us of our beautiful Orthodox
Faith?
Why not put the images of our Lord and Savior, Panagia, Saints and Feast Days in our
homes, cars and pockets?
Placing Icons in our homes transforms them instantly into spaces for prayerful imitation as we reflect on what our Savior, Martyrs, Saints and Feast Days truly mean
and represent to Orthodoxy and our lives.
You are invited to visit the Dean S. Pappas Bookstore and take home beautiful religious Mounted Icons, Prayer Ropes, Standing Crosses, Hanging Crosses, Holy Pocket
Icon Cards, Icon Night Lights, Orthodox History, Incense Burners, charcoal & incense, Kandili (electric), Bibles, Religious Jewelry including Icon Bracelets and Gift
Certificates to give for birthdays, graduation, wedding gifts, baptisms and so much
more.
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In Loving Memory of
Anastasios “Tom” Chomokos
March 3, 1894 – July 21, 1986
Dad of Evangelia Archuleta and Nonda Chomokos
Papou of Adam Archuleta & Stacie Eskew
Stas & Laura Chomokos
Great Papou of Braden & Michael Eskew
Jett, Hawk, & Piper Archuleta
Wife Vasiliki Chomokos (Deceased)
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8:30am Orthros
9:30am Div Liturgy
26 St. Paras Kevi
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8:30am Orthros
9:30am Div Liturgy
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7:00pm Parish
Council Meeting
8:30am Orthros
9:30am Div Liturgy
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Fr. Phil on Vacation July 13—27th
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31
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Aug 1
25
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9
12
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INDEPENDENCE
DAY
4
Sat
3:00-5:00pm Confession
5:00pm Vespers
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6
5
3
CHURCH
OFFICE
CLOSED
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Fr. Phil on Vacation
Fri
Thu
Wed
8:30am Orthros
9:30am Div Liturgy
30
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June 28
Tue
Mon
Sun
July 2015
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30
8:30am Orthros
9:30am Divine Lit
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8:30am Orthros
9:30am Divine Lit
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7:00pm Paraklesis
8:00pm Parish
Council Meeting
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8:30am Orthros
9:30am Divine Lit
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Fr. Phil
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25
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7:00pm Paraklesis
4:15-5:45pm Joy/
Hope
7:00pm Paraklesis
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Wed
31
Fri
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3:00-5:00pm Confession
5:00pm Vespers
Sat
27
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7:00pm Paraklesis
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3:00-5:00pm Confession
5:00pm Vespers
14 Eve of the
15 Dormition of the TheDormition
otokos
6:00pm Great Ves- 8:30am Orthros
pers -at Assumption 9:30am Divine Lit
Church in Scottsdale
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6 Holy Transfiguration7
8:30am Orthros
3:00-5:00pm Confession
9:30am Divine Lit
5:00pm Vespers
7:00pm Paraklesis
7:00pm Paraklesis
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Thu
on Vacation 24 thru 30th
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7:00pm Paraklesis
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7:00pm Paraklesis
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7:00pm Paraklesis
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8:30am Orthros
9:30am Divine Lit
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Jul 26
Tue
Mon
Sun
August 2015
Philoptochos Corner
Congratulations to the newly elected Philoptochos Board members: Josephine Avaneas, Mena Bafaloukos,, Zoi Benton,Linda Blazev, Kathy Connell, Elaine Hatupis, Francis Katsiris, Diana Markakis, Maria Michalas, Patsy Morden & Maria
Morton. We look forward to the next two years under your leadership. Thank you to our outgoing Board members, Barbara
Georgousis, Eathel Pallas & Carol Stathopoulos for the many years of service they have given to Philoptochos. We know you will
continue to support our chapter. Thank you also to our Spiritual Advisor, Father Phil for his efforts on our behalf,
In cooperation with Phoenix Children’s Hospital & Cardon Children’s Hospital, Camp Agape Arizona 2015 was sponsored
by the Metropolis of San Francisco Philoptochos Society along with the Arizona Philoptochos chapters. Kids ‘N’ Cancer
Camp Agape offers an all-expense-paid summer camp experience to cancer afflicted children and their families from less fortunate
homes, regardless of ethnic background or religious affiliation. At Camp Agape, the families have the opportunity to enjoy four
carefree summer days away from the sights and sounds of doctors offices, laboratories and hospitals where they spend so much of
their lives. Children and families engage in hands-on group activities that provide a reprieve from their daily challenges. For the
children and their families, this is truly a therapeutic camp experience. Camp Agape gives our Philoptochos chapters the opportunity to reach out to families in need in our community and also gives us the chance to work together with the other Philoptochos chapters in the valley, as well as the Metropolis Philoptochos board.
This years’ theme was Stone Age Adventure, complete with the Flintstones, Dinosaurs & the Flintstone mobile, built by Daryl
Connell, campers were transported to Bedrock. They spent time swimming, horseback riding, creating arts and crafts projects,
participating in athletic challenges like archery and volleyball and just having fun! The weekend ended with our BedRock & Roll, a
dance where everyone dressed in costumes and had a great time dancing the night away with the Philoptochos volunteers. A special
thank you to Nick Bafaloukos for once again donating his time to DJ and create such a fun atmosphere for the parents and children! During the weekend, the moms were given a break at the on-site spa, with massages, manicures and facials. For the parents,
having the opportunity to talk with other families who have gone through or are dealing with similar situations is so therapeutic. They
are able to see that there is hope, and even find ways of treating their children that they might not have found, without this interaction. On our final day at Camp Agape, we held a memorial service for our departed campers, friends and family members. A tree
was planted in their memory and all the campers and volunteers took part in the planting of the tree by adding a shovel full of earth.
We concluded with a slide show of all the fun events of the weekend. The volunteers from our Philoptochos Chapter and Agape
Group will tell you what a rewarding experience it was helping make this ministry possible
This years’ theme was Stone Age Adventure, complete with the Flintstones, Dinosaurs & the Flintstone mobile, built by Daryl
Connell, campers were transported to Bedrock. They spent time swimming, horseback riding, creating arts and crafts projects,
participating in athletic challenges like archery and volleyball and just having fun! The weekend ended with our BedRock & Roll, a
dance where everyone dressed in costumes and had a great time dancing the night away with the Philoptochos volunteers. A special
thank you to Nick Bafaloukos for once again donating his time to DJ and create such a fun atmosphere for the parents and children! During the weekend, the moms were given a break at the on-site spa, with massages, manicures and facials. For the parents,
having the opportunity to talk with other families who have gone through or are dealing with similar situations is so therapeutic. They
are able to see that there is hope, and even find ways of treating their children that they might not have found, without this interaction. On our final day at Camp Agape, we held a memorial service for our departed campers, friends and family members. A tree
was planted in their memory and all the campers and volunteers took part in the planting of the tree by adding a shovel full of earth.
We concluded with a slide show of all the fun events of the weekend. The volunteers from our Philoptochos Chapter and Agape
Group will tell you what a rewarding experience it was helping make this ministry possible
With love in Christ,
Kathy Connell, Philoptochos President
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Hrisi Parea News - July & August
Hope you’re staying cool and drinking lots of water! Watch those high temperatures!
Congratulations to Dr . Andr ew Kar antinos on being honor ed by Tr i Cities Ahepa Chapter #454 at the Annual Distr ict
Convention at Wild Horse Pass Casino and Resort in June. Many Hrisi Parea members attended the Glendi and enjoyed the food
and music while celebrating Dr. Andy. Congratulations!
July 19, 2015 – National Ice Cream Day. Find an ice cr eam par lor near you and enjoy a cool tr eat dur ing our hot summer !
Hale Theatre Productions coming up:
Mary Poppins (October 15 – November 7, 2015);
The Andrews Brothers (January 18 – March 15, 2016);
Anything Goes (February 18 – March 10, 2016; and
Me and My Girl (May 19 – June 11, 2016.
Interested? Please let Linda or Car ol know of your desir e to attend one or mor e of these musicals. Other shows available
too – check out the Hale Theatre website. Ticket discounts are available for groups of 10 or more for any of the above shows. But,
let us know soon…by the end of August so we can purchase tickets early.
Chandler Symphony Pops Concert is scheduled for Fr iday, September 4, 2015. This is a fr ee concer t put on by the Symphony at the Chandler Performing Arts Center. Keep watch for more details.
Preparations will soon be underway for St. Katherine’s Annual Festival. Please be prepared to volunteer at the many workshops to
get food and pastries ready. Men can volunteer too….the ladies can teach you how to roll dolmathes and koulourakia!
Winners of our Pastitsio Contest wer e Mar y Michalas and Mena Bafaloukos. Mar y’s winning recipe is printed below. Congratulations Mary and thank you for sharing your recipe.
Pastitsio
1 lb. macaroni or ziti
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbls. olive oil
2 lbs. ground beef, pork, or lamb
1 small can tomato sauce
½ cup red wine
1 stick cinnamon
½ teas. nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 ½ stick butter
3 cups grated parmesan or romano cheese
6 eggs, separated
Cook macar oni in salted boiling water 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Toss with melted butter, 4 slightly beaten egg
whites and 1 cup grated cheese. Set aside.
Brown meat with salt, pepper and 2 tbls olive oil. Add onion and br own well. Add wine, tomato sauce, ½ cup water , cinnamon stick, pinch of nutmeg and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add ½ cup grated cheese and 1
-2 slightly beaten egg whites. Remove cinnamon stick. Set aside.
Bechamel:
3 cups whole milk
3 tbls. butter
3 tbls. all purpose flour
pinch of nutmeg
salt
white pepper
6 egg yolks, beaten
½ cup grated cheese
Put the milk into a small pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Melt the butter in a heavy, non-stick saucepan. Stir in the
flour and cook, stirring frequently for one minute. Remove from heat and gradually pour in the hot milk stirring constantly with a
whisk until the mixture is smooth. Return the sauce to medium heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 15 minutes until
thickened. Remove from the heat and season with salt, white pepper, nutmeg, 6 egg yolks, ½ cup grated cheese.
Assemble:
In a 9 x 13” baking pan, spread half the macaroni on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese over the macaroni. Next spread all the meat
sauce over the macaroni. Cover meat sauce with remaining macaroni and sprinkle with cheese. Pour cream sauce evenly over the
entire pan. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in a 350° oven for about one hour or until the top is golden brown. Let the pan stand for
15-30 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!
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The Agape Group
In May, our Agape Group took on the project of sorting and boxing children’s clothing donated
to us by a children’s boutique that was going out of business. The clothes will be distributed to several organizations that help women & children; UMOM, Maggie’s Place, Phoenix Rescue Mission’s
Changing Lives Center and others. Many of the mom’s and children who seek help at these shelters
arrive with only the clothes they are wearing. Our moms and children worked together to fill the
boxes with children’s clothes of all sizes. Their efforts will help these organizations continue their
ministry to families in need. Projects like this one help our children learn the importance of philanthropy while having fun at the same time. This is one of the focuses of the Agape Group, teaching
our children that Philanthropy can be fun and rewarding.
Some of our members also helped with Kids ‘n’ Cancer Camp Agape. You can tell by the photos
of the Camp, that their efforts were appreciated. Watch the Sunday Bulletin for information about
our Family Picnic membership event, coming in July. You can contact Lisa Bafaloukas or Maria Morton to find out more about becoming a part of the Agape Group. We have a dynamic group of
young women in our Parish and we look forward to helping this group move forward. Please join
us. For more information contact Kathy Connell: 602 524-1959.
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Camp Agape Arizona
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Camp Agape
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The Sacraments According to the Orthodox Church
An Orthodox understanding of the Sacraments
The Orthodox Church recognizes seven sacraments. Baptism, Chrismation, Communion, Confession, Marriage, Unction and Ordination. The Church sees the sacraments as a way to convey Grace from God to man. Through the sacraments one is healed both physically and spiritually. One acquires Grace and sanctity through partaking.
Baptism
Baptism is something almost every self-proclaimed Christian will experience in their life. The Orthodox Church sees
Baptism as the initial entrance into the life of Christ. The child or adult then is given a sponsor, an adult member of the
faith that will stand in support of the newly baptized. They are submerged three times in the name of the Father, Son
and Holy Spirit signifying the death of the old man and the resurrection with Christ.
Chrismation
Following the baptism of the individual they receive Chrismation. They are anointed with holy chrism, they are tonsured, and their hair is cut, signing their commitment to Christ. The holy oil of Chrism is reminisce of the acquisition
of the holy spirit at Pentecost. The person is filled and anointed with the Holy Spirit, they are said to be sealed by the
Holy Spirit. This is closely followed with the sacrament of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist
The Eucharist is the partaking of the body of blood of Christ. This is the primary sacrament of the church. The transference of grace and the sacrifice is of the utmost importance. For Christ says that if you do not eat of my body or drink
of my blood then you have no life in you (John 6:53-55). This is a powerful message to all. A lack of communion is
the lack of life itself. The Orthodox Christian recognizes this and takes great care in partaking. Fasting and prayer are
to proceed the taking of communion.
Confession
“Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer
of a just man availed much.” James 5:16. As it is stated in the New Testament we are to confess our sins to others that
we may be absolved of said sins. The apostles were given the power to bind and loose sins in the New Testament
(Mathew 16:19. The tradition has been handed down to our priests and bishops. It is important to confess to another
and not to God alone. To confide in another, a confessor priest that can discern the needs of the individual for spiritual
growth.
Marriage
To the Orthodox Christian Marriage is a sacrament between God, themselves and their spouse. It is not a ceremony
celebrating their love and commitment to each other but a commitment to God. The espoused are to guide and care for
one another in the light of the Church and Christ. They are promising to take a central role in the salvation of their
spouse and the children that may follow in their marriage.
Unction
The sacrament of unction goes back to the New Testament when James recommends anointing one another with oil
especially those that are ill (James 5:14). Orthodox Christians receive unction during holy week in preparation for
Pascha. This is yet another transference of grace and for the healing of both soul and body.
Ordination
The seventh and final sacrament is that of ordination. This is the key to apostolic successes ion. Every priest and bishop since the time of the apostles has been ordained by the previous generation. Every priest and bishop in the Orthodox
Church can trace their order back to the apostles. Generation after generation of a laying on of hands continuing the
faith in its full truth.
Many people in the modern world do not recognize or even know about the rich history of the Orthodox Church and
are unaware of the sacraments. The Orthodox Church sees the sacraments as the primary way to find salvation. By
partaking of the sacraments regularly the grace of God can heal both body and soul and bring one closer to communion
with God.
Orthodoxwiki.org,. (2015). OrthodoxWiki. Retrieved 24 June 2015, from http://orthodoxwiki.org/
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Progressive Christianity and the Orthodox Response
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
The truth of the Gospel has never been an easy one to live. To see that this is true, one need only to look at
the lives of our beloved saints. Whether it’s St. John the Forerunner, our own St. Katherine, or the many, often anonymous martyrs of our own time who have suffered under antichristian regimes such as the Ottomans, the Soviets,
and the Islamic State, the Faith “which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) requires much of us. Even
in our own lives, the disciplines of Orthodoxy – daily prayer, weekly fasting, and frequent confession of our sins, to
name but a few – and our commitment to “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) about hard moral questions,
can seem overwhelming when viewed with the demands that the modern world makes on our time, energy, and consciences. In short, the Faith of the Fathers is not, and has never been, comfortable.
It is no wonder, then, that many Christian believers, both in antiquity and in our own time, have opted out
of the difficulties of genuine faith to follow another, easier Gospel, one that conforms more to the ways of the world
and to the desires of our fallen human nature. The Gnostics of the early Church promised salvation by gnosis
(esoteric knowledge), without a change of behavior. In the late Middle Ages, the dual problems of indulgences in the
Roman church and the Protestant doctrine of “faith alone” both offered an easy way out of the problem of sin, the
first by making it possible to buy or merit time out of Purgatory, and the second by bypassing the need for struggle
against sin and the passions. Our present time is no exception to this rule. Proof of this is found in the burgeoning
movement in mainline Protestantism known as Progressive Christianity. The Progressive Church is yet another manifestation of the same human impulse toward easy religion. But in falling short of the truth of Christ, the movement
misses even the possibility of real salvation.
Before I offer my thoughts concerning the Progressive Christian movement, it would be beneficial to offer a
brief but non-exhaustive definition. Progressive Christianity is more an ideology than a single church or denomination, in that its beliefs vary from community to community and from person to person. In this way it would be difficult to analyze and critique the movement as a whole without occasionally painting with too broad a brush. There are
however a few major areas of agreement, especially on the basic tenets of their belief, to which the vast majority of
Progressives will submit. They are as follows: a rejection of the infallibility of the Church and the Scriptures; an
affirmation of the inherent truth of all religions; a strong emphasis on acceptance and inclusivity; a willingness to
embrace homosexuality, transgenderism, and other minority sexual practices as normal and acceptable for Christians; and a commitment to environmentalism and other left-wing social justice causes. With this definition in mind,
let us begin our investigation of Progressive Christianity and how Orthodox believers should understand and relate
to it.
In the mindset of the Progressive Christian, the Holy Scriptures have been proven by science and history to
be nothing more than a book of pious fairy tales. While they would not necessarily reject the Bible as completely
useless, they would not use it as a basis for doctrinal or moral teaching, since they regard its authorship as merely
human, and therefore subject to cultural and personal biases. Rather, in their view, “man is the rule of all things,”
and it is up to the individual to discern spiritual truth for themselves, independent of any external rule or standard.
For example, while many Progressives would affirm that “God is love,” (1 John 4:8) they would also claim that the
writers of the New Testament, especially Ss. Peter and Paul, were wrong in their judgments about homosexuality as
sin (Romans 1:24-27, 2 Peter 2), and that their statements were the result of their upbringing and not of divine inspiration. They would also generally posit that the life of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels is a mish-mash of real
history and mythical stories of miracles that were added to the tradition by later authors. Thus, they would likely see
the Sermon on the Mount as authentically Christian, while the accounts of the multiplication of the loaves and fish,
or the Transfiguration, or even the Resurrection of Christ as simple folk tales and not true history.
The problem with this view of Scripture is that it simply disregards the facts of history in favor of a popular
but incorrect narrative. Rather than being discredited by modern science, the Scriptures have been increasingly verified on multiple fronts. Whereas scholarship since the mid-1800s has claimed that the text of the Bible was deliberately changed from its original form, the science of textual criticism (the study of how ancient writings were copied
and handed on) has actually confirmed that the manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments retained the original
meaning of their authors more closely than any other ancient text. This means that copies from different time periods
and different places all said almost exactly the same thing, with the exception of a few small variations in wording or
phrasing. This is a truly remarkable fact, given the difficulty and limitations that hampered the transmission of the
Scriptures before the advent of the printing press, and that this is true casts doubt on the idea that the Bible was perverted by later generations.
(Continued)
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We also know that, instead of being overturned by history and archaeology, the Scriptures have been shown
to be reliable over and over again, as new sites are found and new pieces of evidence discovered. In terms of matching outside people and events, the Bible rates highly among other texts from antiquity, lending further credence to its
claims. In the same vein, the oral traditions that would later be written down as the Scriptures were passed along in
the very same places and among the very same people in and among which they took place. Therefore, if the Apostles were outright lying and saying things that were contrary to reality, other eyewitnesses to the events would have
been able very easily to contradict their teachings and prove them wrong in front of everybody. That obviously didn’t happen, and that Christianity took root and grew in these areas is further proof that the things that took place in
Scripture truly did happen.
Another major tenet of Progressive Christianity is its belief that all religions are valid ways to God. Since
the Bible cannot claim to be unique among other “holy books,” it follows logically that each scripture and each religion have the same fundamental capacity to bring one closer to God as Christianity does. After all, the Progressive
would say, aren’t there as many good Buddhists as there are good Christians? And aren’t there as many sincere Muslims as there are sincere atheists? Why, when the Bible is so full of holes, would we want to force our beliefs on
others? Why is Christ the only way to God?
While it is undoubtedly true that good, honest, sincere people exist in all faiths, the claim that all religions
are essentially the same and lead to the same God betrays both an ignorance of Christianity as well as a weak understanding of other religions. Having established the authority of the Scriptures, let’s look first at the idea that Christianity is only one of many ways to God. In the Gospel, Christ claims to be the unique and exclusive truth: “I am the
way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Rather than being but one way,
one truth, and one life, He claims to be the only Way, Truth, and Life. To reiterate this fact, He reinforces His claim
by saying that no one else, be they Hindu or agnostic or Jewish, can come into the Father’s presence unless they
come through Him. The exclusivity of the Christian message is repeated in Acts, where it is claimed by the Apostle
Peter that “there is salvation in no one else [but Christ], for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) It is the clear testimony of the Son of God and His Apostles that it is Christ
alone who saves. Either He and His followers are right and Christianity is the only true Faith, or they are wrong and
are arrogant fools or deliberate liars unworthy of serious belief. There is simply no reconciling the two opposing
views.
As mentioned briefly above, the claim that all religions are basically the same can be proven wrong by anything more than a shallow analysis of other religions and how their teachings compare to one another. If all religions
had essentially the same teachings and led to the same God, one could reasonably expect harmony among them, at
least at a basic level. Yet this is clearly not what one finds among the different world faiths. On such fundamental
questions as the existence of God, the right scriptures, the nature of the afterlife, and even the precepts of a moral
life, there are an abundance of different answers that cannot be reconciled.
Jews, Muslims, and Christians believe in one God, but Hindus believe in many gods, and Buddhists regard the question of God as irrelevant. Similarly, each faith has books it accepts as canonical and excludes others. For Muslims,
the Qu’ran is the only true book, while Jews only accept the Hebrew Bible. Teachings on salvation and the afterlife
are likewise varied. Hindus and Buddhists understand the afterlife as a series of reincarnations, wherein the soul
transfers from one bodily form to another until they are released. But even Buddhists and Hindus do not agree on
how to escape from this cycle! In the same way, Muslims and Christians believe that each person only lives once,
and that after death we will be judged for either Paradise of Perdition. And yet, Islam insists that one’s good works
(according to the Five Pillars found in the Qu’ran) must outweigh one’s bad works, while Christians of different
denominations have different views of the judgment, leading to disagreements among themselves and with other
religions.
Further, the realm of ethics demonstrates the irreconcilable nature of the world’s faiths. While there is some
agreement among most people about what is moral and what isn’t – i.e., murder, adultery, theft, etc. are bad and to
be avoided --, there still exist many different ethical systems. For example, Muslims base their morality on the
Qu’ran, and believe that drinking alcohol and eating pork are both forbidden. Christians, however, regard all food as
clean. Many Buddhists see premarital sex as permissible, while observant Jews understand that it is sinful. Thus, it
cannot even be claimed that there is agreement about morality among the different world faiths, and the claim that
all religions contain the same truths and lead to the same God is patently false.
There is much more to be said concerning Progressive Christianity, and I hope, God willing, to provide
further analysis in another forthcoming article. But for the time being it must be admitted that the Gospel of Christ
and the “gospel” of Progressive Christianity cannot be one and the same. Let us then continue to follow the example
of the blessed St. Paul, who admonished us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which [we] were taught,” (2
Thessalonians 2:15) recognizing that the same Christ who filled the Apostle with wisdom and virtue might also keep
us safely in the light of His truth. Amen.
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Suffering Our Orthodox Foundation
Suffering is foundational to Orthodoxy. You might not know Saint Peter’s name is really
Simon—his nickname was Peter, “Simon who is called Peter” (Matt. 4:18 RSV). Only after Simon’s confession of faith did Jesus switch his name. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living
God,” to which Jesus declares that Simon’s “flesh and blood” did not correctly interpret things
concerning Jesus, but that Simon’s understanding was divinely inspired, granted by the Father
(18:15-17). Then Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter [Petros], and on this rock [petra] I
will build my Church” (v. 18). Jesus’ play on words, Peter’s name change, show the Church is
established on the bedrock of two things. First, the Church is founded on the apostolic succession premiered by Peter. Second, the Church is founded on Peter’s inspired interpretation of
things concerning Christ—apostolic tradition. But what does this have to do with suffering?
Note Peter’s unfortunate follow-up confession. “From that time Jesus began to show his
disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…and be killed” (v. 21). Ever the
bold one, “Peter took him and began rebuking him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never
happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to
me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (v. 22-23). So, we discover that Peter had
two confessions alongside each other.
The Father inspires the first; the second—avoiding suffering and death—is inspired by “flesh
and blood,” being “on the side of men.” Ultimately, as Jesus indicates, Satan is always behind
the second one. The Church is founded on the first inspired confession, founded on enlightenment that reveals the truth of the Suffering Messiah. The Church is not founded on the second,
satanic and human-centered confession: avoidance of suffering and death, which is to just prize
comfort and ease in the spiritual life.
Directly following Peter’s first confession, Jesus began to teach about his own suffering
and eventual death for our sakes (v. 24). That is when Peter rebuked our Lord and received back
his most woeful rebuke. For the remainder of his ministry Jesus ramped up teaching on suffering
by extending it to everyone without exception. “If any man would come after me, let him deny
himself and take up his cross and follow me” (v. 24). Translated into modern concepts, we must
sit in Jesus’s electric chair as felony co-conspirators! In other words, following Jesus means suffering and death-to-self, no matter what stigma or hindrance a pleasure-prizing and secular society attaches to our Orthodox way of life. The world’s way runs opposite the way of the Cross.
Death must precede resurrection. This is not restricted to our bodies; it is especially true
of our spiritual self. Christ’s example is an ascetical one—but not just fasting from food! Our
Lord abstained from: little white lies, using people for gain, gossiping, angry outbursts, wanting
to control others, jealousy, binge entertainment, and even from irreverence in the Temple. This is
what death-to-self looks like, or at least where it starts. Peter’s first confession is what our Orthodox Church is founded upon. By emptying yourself, dying to all your own resources you
leave no human means whatsoever for your salvation. And we must be depleted of all resources;
otherwise there is always something to trust besides Christ alone! Only by taking on all manner
of suffering can true faith implant in the heart. Empty the suffocating fumes of ego, die to the
world’s ways so that Grace can ignite in you, and progress you toward resurrection.
Jesus right now asks you to confess, like Peter. Do you suffer with Christ now to later rise with
him in love? Or do you seek a comfortable spirituality and avoid Christ’s Cross? May the Theotokos and all the saints pray for us as we struggle together. Amen.
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