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Church Bulletin: February 16, 2014

posted Feb 16, 2014, 2:08 PM by Saint Raphael of Brooklyn Antiochian Orthodox Church
February 16, 2014- The Sunday of the Prodigal Son
This Week's Services and Events

February 17, Monday
        + Teen SOYO Movie Night, 6:30PM

February 19, Wednesday
        + Akathist, 7PM

February 20, Thursday
        + OCF dinner at Van Dinter's home, 6:30PM

February 21, Friday
         + Matins, 8:30AM
         + Office Hours, 9:30AM-11:30AM

February 22, Saturday
        + Choir Rehearsal, 9AM-Noon
        + Intro to Orthodoxy Class, 4PM
        + 9th Hour/Great Vespers, 6PM
        + Teen SOYO Board Game Night, 7:30PM
February 23, Sunday, Sunday of the Final Judgment (Meatfare Sunday)
        + Matins, 8:45AM
        + Liturgy, 10AM, followed by Sunday School and coffee hour
Upcoming Events and Announcements  

Two Weeks Left for House Blessings!-
       Fr. Ignatius is available to come to your home to bless from now until the beginning of Lent (March 3).  A sign-up sheet is posted at church.  Please suggest a date and a time and Fr. Ignatius will confirm with you. 

Upcoming Teen SOYO Events-
       Movie Night is February 17 at 6:30PM. Board Game Night has been rescheduled to February 22 at 7:30PM.  Prayer and Fellowship meets at 7PM on February 26.  On Saturday March 1 at 10AM, Teen SOYO is touring the Journey to Freedom exhibit on human trafficking (see below for details.)

Upcoming OCF Events-
       On February 20, OCF is invited to the Van Dinter home for dinner at 6:30PM.  The Orthodox Christian Fellowship meets on February 27 at 7PM for compline. 

Pray for the Orthodox Church in Pakistan-
        On February 6th, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Konstantinos of Singapore and South Asia, Annunciation Orthodox Church was opened in Pakistan - the first in this predominantly Muslim country. Under the pastoral care of Fr. John Tanveer, this community has grown over the past several years to include approximately 150 people. Please pray for our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters in Pakistan, that they may be given continued courage and strength to grow in the Faith and serve as living witnesses to the love of Christ.

Do You Sometimes Wonder...
       ...If God is a God of love, then why did He destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and order the Israelites to destroy the Canaanite and Amalekite civilizations?  If God is a God of love, then how can there be such a thing as hell?  Why does God seem so angry sometimes (especially in the Old Testament) if He is a God of love?  Does God punish us when we disobey Him?  These questions are commonly asked by Christians and non-Christians alike.  For some enlightening answers to these questions, take some time to learn the Orthodox patristic approach to these issues by listening to author and podcaster Matthew Gallatin in this series of podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio.  Each episode is about 15-20 minutes long.

The Work of FOCUS North America Featured in New Video-
       The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve is an effort by Orthodox Christians in over 20 North American cities to work to find solutions to alleviate poverty.  To see some of their work in a new, 3-minute video, go to: http://www.antiochian.org/new-focus-video-features-inner-city-food-program

Raising Lazarus Project- Confession-
       Over the next few weeks in Sunday School, one of the topics that the students will be learning about is the Sacrament of Confession.  On Saturday, March 1 at 1PM, which is the day before Forgiveness Sunday and the start of Lent, all Sunday School students and their parents are invited to come to church to have a time of confession with Fr. Ignatius.  By the time they reach ages 7-8, many children are ready to make their first confession.  Some are even ready before.  This is called the "Raising Lazarus Project: Unbinding our Souls through the Mystery of Confession." 

Archdiocesan Church Camp Scholarships Available-
       Through the generosity of the Order of St. Ignatius, our church has the opportunity to utilize up to $700 in scholarships to help our children attend any of the Archdiocese-sponsored church camps this summer. If you have a child ages 9-17 who would like to attend a camp, and you would like to apply for a scholarship, please let Fr. Ignatius know before the February 23rd deadline. We are blessed to have Camp St. George only about one hour away.  The camp session dates are August 10-16.

College Scholarships Available-
       Applications for two scholarships administered by the Department of Philanthropy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America are now available to Orthodox Christian students connected to parishes in jurisdictions of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. The Malta Scholarship is for undergraduate studies and the Paleologos Scholarship is awarded for graduate work in all areas of study except theology.  Applications can be downloaded from the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: www.goarch.org. For more information, please email scholarships@goarch.org or call 212-774-0283. The deadline for submitting an application for these scholarships is April 25, 2014.

Raise Your Awareness of Human Trafficking-
       Genesis Church is hosting a free, experiential walk-through exhibit called Journey to Freedom, at The Big White House (1246 12th Ave., Coralville) from February 17- March 1, (M-F, 12PM-8PM; Sat. Feb. 22 10AM-8PM; Sat. Mar. 1 10AM-4PM).  Note: the exhibit is rated PG-13. Parents please use discretion when deciding whether the exhibit is age appropriate for your children. For more information, go to: http://www.bigwhitehouse.org/bwh/JOURNEYTOFREEDOM/tabid/93/Default.aspx and to see a promo video, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U__eY9ErKUo

Lent is Coming-
Lent begins with the beautiful service of reconciliation called Forgiveness Vespers at 6PM on Sunday, March 2.  Following, is the schedule of services for the rest of the first week of Lent.
Monday, March 3- Compline with Canon of St. Andrew, 7PM
Tuesday, March 4- Compline with Canon of St. Andrew, 7PM
Wednesday, March 5- Presanctified Liturgy, 6PM
Thursday, March 6- Compline with Canon of St. Andrew, 7PM
Friday, March 7- Compline with Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, 7PM

       It is time to begin thinking about modifiying your diet for Lent.  Plan your grocery shopping accordingly.  Next Sunday February 23, Meatfare Sunday, is the last day to eat meat until Pascha.  On Monday, March 3, the full Lenten fast begins. The Church asks us to abstain from meat (with the exception of fish on March 25 for the Annunciation and April 13 for Palm Sunday) until Great and Holy Pascha, April 20. Shellfish are permitted.  The full Lenten fast also includes abstention from dairy, eggs, oil and wine (oil and wine are permitted on the weekends).  Fast as you are able with these standards being the goal.  Exceptions can be made for those who are very young, very old, ill, pregnant, nursing, or infirm.  If you have any questions about fasting, please ask Fr. Ignatius.  May our fasting from certain foods help us to find some humility as we struggle to fast from sin.

Wednesday Nights During Lent-
       Come midweek on Wednesdays at 6PM for the Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts, a unique and beautiful Lenten service.  Stay afterward for a simple soup supper.  We need volunteers to sign-up to bring a simple Lenten meal such as a pot of soup and bread and perhaps some fruit for about 15 people.  Look for the sign-up sheet posted in narthex and please consider signing up.

Please Bring Food for Pan-Orthodox Vespers on March 9-
       We have the honor of hosting visitors from several other Orthodox churches in Eastern Iowa on Sunday March 9 for vespers at 5:30PM.  Following the service, we will serve our guests a meal.  Please look for the sign-up sheet posted in the narthex and plan to bring some Lenten food to share.

Pan-Orthodox Vespers-
       Yes, it is true, Lent is approaching.  Once again, the Iowa Orthodox Christian Clergy Association is sponsoring Pan-Orthodox Vespers at 5:30PM on Sundays during Lent.  After each service, the host parish will provide a meal.  Following is the schedule:
March 9- St. Raphael Orthodox Church
March 16- St. John the Baptist Church (501 A Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids)
March 23- St. George Orthodox Church (3650 Cottage Grove Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids)
March 30- St. Elias the Prophet Orthodox Church (1075 Rockdale Rd., Dubuque)
April 6- St. Demetrios Orthodox Church (613 W. 4th St., Waterloo)

Almsgiving (Food For Hungry People Program)-
       Along with fasting, prayer and repentance, almsgiving is one of the pillars of the Lenten time.  Look for ways to be generous with others and let your giving be as anonymous as possible.  One easy way to give something to those in need is to participate in the Archdiocesan Food For Hungry People Program which collects money for all of the Antiochian parishes and gives it to various programs that serve the hungry.  Look for collection boxes at church in the narthex next Sunday

Shelter House Used Book Sale-
       All proceeds benefit the Shelter House-
Saturday, March 1st from 10:30am* - 4:30pm
Sunday, March 2nd from noon - 4:00pm
*Early Birds 10:00am for $10 entrance fee
Iowa City Marketplace (formerly Sycamore Mall)

St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference-
       The St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference will be held at the Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania from March 27-30.  Our own Lori Peterson Branch will be one of the presenters.  To learn more, look at the poster in the narthex.  Links to the schedule and everything you need for registration can be found by scrolling to March at the following link:  http://antiochianvillage.org/center/special_events/upcoming.html
Save the Date!-
        On Friday, April 4 at 7PM, we will pray the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos in front of a large copy of the ancient and revered "Our Lady of Czestochowa" icon, also known as the Black Madonna.  As part of the "From Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage" this icon has been travelling around the world and has appeared in hundreds of Orthodox and Catholic churches.  To learn more about this icon and pilgrimage, go to: www.fromoceantoocean.org

Thoughts on Stewardship and Giving-
         "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come."  I Corinthians 16:2  

Next Sunday's Gospel Reading-
        St. John Chrysostom urges Christians to preview the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading so that it may be fresh in your minds when you hear it next Sunday.  The reading for Sunday, February 23 is:   The Lord said, “When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will place the sheep at His right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at His right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee, or thirsty and give Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome Thee, or naked and clothe Thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Pray for our Catechumens-
      Please keep our catechumens: Ilya Buchkin, Rachelle Naridze and Tyson Humphrey in your prayers as they prepare to be sacramentally joined to the Orthodox Church.

Men and Boys, Would You Like to Serve in the Altar as Acolytes?-
       At Saturday evening vespers, Sunday morning matins and Liturgy, it is helpful to Fr. Ignatius to have altar servers (acolytes) to assist him with the various liturgical actions that take place during the services.  For several years, Todd Wiblin and Bill Spencer have faithfully served in this capacity and will continue to do so.  Any male (ages 8 and up) who desires to serve the church in this way is encouraged to speak with Fr. Ignatius or Bill or Todd.  At Liturgy, we could have as many as 4-5 serving at one time. 
An Opportunity to Serve, Be a Greeter-
       The greeter's main responsibility is to make newcomers feel welcome by warmly greeting them, asking them to sign our guestbook and/or newcomer information card, making sure they know bathrooms and coatroom are downstairs and ushering them into the nave of the church.   If you are interested in signing up to be a greeter for a Sunday, there is a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board just outside of the bookstore.  On the sheet, is a complete job description for this important position. 
Keep Praying for Kidnapped Orthodox Bishops, Priest, Nuns and Orphans in Syria-
       Since April 22, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, Metropolitan Paul, and the Syriac Metropolitan of Aleppo, Youhanna, have been in captivity and have not heard from.  Please pray for their well being and release and also pray for their captors as well. Since December 2, 12 nuns and three orphans have been removed by force from their convent and held captive.  One priest is also missing, having been kidnapped. 
Do You Have a Prayer Request?
        Please give it to Fr. Ignatius and he will distribute it by email to all those on the Prayer Chain. If you wish to join the Prayer Chain, please let Fr. Ignatius know.

Holy Bread-
       On Sunday February 23, the holy bread will be provided by the Padath family.  Thank you in advance.

Coffee Hour-
        On Sunday February 23, the food for coffee hour and the clean-up of the fellowship hall will be provided by the St. John the Baptist food team. 

Food for Thought-

The exilic nature of sin

The Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the second Sunday of the Triodion, contains what are perhaps the Church’s chief texts on the nature of sin, and the effects of sin in human existence. It is one of the great deficiencies of modern Christian discussion, that Orthodox do not more readily turn to these texts in addresses of sin, for they set out the paradigm of the sinful condition as one of exile, more powerfully than almost anywhere else in the Church’s sacred corpus.

One of the most potent images of this exilic nature of sin comes in the first exapostilarion at matins. Having completed the Canon, the reader proclaims:

The wealth of grace that Thou hast given me, in my wretchedness I have wasted sinfully. All to no purpose I have left my true home, and as the Prodigal I have scattered my riches deceitfully among the demons. But now on my return accept me as the Prodigal, merciful Father, and save me. First exapostilarion from the Triodion.

A number of characteristics, common to the language and style of the Triodion overall, but especially relevant to this day and theme, are notable in this hymn. Firstly is its use of the first person. The Prodigal Son is a paradigm of me, and in the hymn it is I who speak. I have wasted what God has given; I have left my true home; I have scattered my riches. The parable told by Christ is assumed into the life of the faithful, so that its story becomes my story—and this is central to its testimony. Above all else, usage of the parable in the Triodion is meant to confirm that it is, in some sense, a ‘universal autobiography’ of every human person, bound up in sin, seeking redemption in Christ.

A second characteristic is the hymn’s focus on the imagery of departure, exile, and return. The lot of the Prodigal, which I am told is my lot, is one of blessedness that has been wasted, departed from. The gifts of the Father have been squandered, and the embrace of His grace discounted as I move on to other things, preferring to ‘scatter my riches’ among the demons, among the world, among my own passions, rather than maintain them in His embrace. The imagery here speaks of blessings, not withdrawn or removed, per se, but wasted; and a condition of estrangement from the Father not wrought as a punishment or condemnation, but as my own departure from Him.

Yet, as a third characteristic, this same hymn stresses that the state of estrangement from the Father and His blessings is unnatural. ‘All to no purpose have I left my true home’. The true lot of human life is union with God: the departure into sin remains always and ever unnatural, counter to the authentic state of creation. This is stressed in a hymn from the matins Praises:

As the Prodigal Son I come to Thee, merciful Lord. I have wasted my whole life in a foreign land; I have scattered the wealth which Thou gavest me, O Father. Receive me in repentance, O God, and have mercy on me. Sticheron at the Praises, in the Fourth Tone.

Life lived in sin is life lived ‘in a foreign land’, far from one’s ‘true home’. To live in sin is to live as a stranger—not to God, for none is a stranger to God, but to one’s true self. One lives as a stranger to the creature God has fashioned him to be, and to the cosmos God has fashioned for him; and so the very earth that God fashioned as a paradise, a haven, becomes a strange, foreign, barren place.

The ‘wasting’ of the grace of God causes one to become a foreigner in a foreign land, not because the land has changed, but because I have changed. My squandering of the Father’s gifts effects me above all else, so that I am found to cry out:

Ruled by corrupting thoughts, I am full of darkness and separated far from Thee, and I have lost all possession of myself, O merciful Lord. Therefore save me as I fall before Thee in repentance. Matins Canon, troparion from Canticle 8.

I have ‘lost all possession of myself’. Created, called and blessed as ‘good’, I have been handed the whole creation—this is the human story in Adam, placed in Paradise, receiving and naming the creatures of the earth as their ‘lord’. Yet this I have rejected, not by forcibly, in some single fiat, dismissing it, but by squandering, wasting, misusing. So the troparion from Canticle 1 of the matins canon: ‘The divine wealth that once Thou gavest me I have sinfully wasted. I have departed far from Thee and lived as the Prodigal, O compassionate Father. Accept me now also as I return.’ And the troparion from Canticle 6: ‘I have wasted in evil living the riches which the Father gave me, and now am brought to poverty. I am filled with shame and enslaved to fruitless thoughts. Therefore I cry to Thee who lovest mankind: Take pity on me and save me.’  I have allowed thoughts of love to become thoughts of lust, thoughts of proper lordship to become lusts for power: and so I find myself ‘ruled by my corrupting thoughts’. God charged Adam first of all to be lord over his own will: to submit it to God and His guidance, and only then to exercise it in creation. But I ‘have lost all possession of myself’. Like the Prodigal who, for his time, preferred the mire of the pig stall to the warmth of his true home, I have become so consumed with my own corruption that I prefer darkness to light. In this condition I fulfil the word of the Gospel, that the Son ‘came unto His own, but His own received Him not’ (John 1.11).

This is the condition of sin, described by the parable of the Prodigal Son. While it has its origin in disobedience (and sin is always an act, never a thing: this is the testimony of its advent in Genesis), its effect on human life is to foster a misuse of that which God has given. Grace is ill-received and ill-spent, though never ill-bestowed. One demands the Father’s inheritance, and squanders it among the swine. And the more this takes place, the more the human person looses sight of what is true: of the very reality of his being. He begins to see the darkness as preferable to the light, lost to himself. He is separated from his Father, not because of the Father’s anger or retribution, but because of his own departure from the Father’s embrace; and he remains ‘separated far from Thee’, not because God wills or demands that he remain afar off, but because he elects to be there by his own will. And so the chief characteristic of the exiled child is not his punishment, but his foolishness.

Foolishly have I run away from Thy glory, O Father, wasting in sin the wealth that Thou gavest me. Therefore with the words of the Prodigal I cry unto Thee: I have sinned before Thee, compassionate Father. Accept me in repentance and make me as one of Thy hired servants.{footnote}Kontakion of Matins, in the Third Tone. The thought is similar to a troparion of Canticle 1: ‘O Jesus my God, as the Prodigal Son now accept me also in repentance. All my life I have lived in carelessness and provoked Thee to anger.’

Humanity does live under a ban as the result of sin, but it is the ban of its own foolishness. It is foolish to waste the gifts of God; foolish to turn from his presence; foolish to debase oneself with the passions. When the Prodigal Son at last ‘comes to himself’, when he sees his true condition amongst the swine, what he beholds above all else is the utter foolishness of his lot. He is here not because of his Father’s wrath, not because of some oppressive legal constraint, but because, in his foolishness, he has chosen to make these his own surroundings.

Nonetheless, foolishness has real consequences. It may be foolish to depart from God, but it is also deadly. Freedom allows tremendous power, and freedom misused brings tremendous loss. And so the consequences of human foolishness are dramatic. They are hymned as such in the matins Canon:

I am wasted with hunger, deprived of every blessing, an exile from Thy presence, O Christ supreme in loving-kindness. Matins Canon, troparion from Canticle 6.

And more potently still in vespers, where the hymns on Lord, I have cried… speak of the truly Orthodox sense of exile and fall:

Of what great blessings in my wretchedness have I deprived myself! From what a kingdom in my misery have I fallen! I have wasted the riches that were given to me, I have transgressed the commandment. Alas, unhappy soul! Thou art henceforth condemned to the eternal fire. Doxasticon at Lord, I have cried…, in the Second Tone.

The sinful wasting of the blessings of God, ultimately serves to deprive the human person of those blessings. These are not withdrawn by God, but by the person himself: ‘in my wretchedness, I have deprived myself’. These hymns disclose genuine exile—that state of departure and deprivation from God’s presence. They speak, too, of an authentic understanding of a ‘fall’: not as the loss of some perfect state or perfected condition, but the fall from a kingdom. I have run from my Father’s house, departed the Kingdom that is my own. I am condemned by my evil deeds, an outcast from the Kingdom of God by my own acts. I have ‘fallen’, not as a condition of my being, but as a state of my exiled living. I live not the life God has fashioned for me. And so I am charged to hymn:

O loving Father, I have departed far from Thee; yet forsake me not, neither reject me from Thy Kingdom. The evil enemy has stripped me and taken all my wealth; I have wasted like the Prodigal the grace given to my soul. But now I have arisen and returned, and to Thee I cry aloud: Make me as one of Thy hired servants. For my sake on the Cross Thou hast stretched out Thy sinless hands, to snatch me from the evil beast and to clothe me once again in my first raiment, for Thou alone art full of mercy. Doxasticon at the Praises, in the Sixth Tone.

It is Christ, with His arms outstretched on the Cross, that reveals the true condition of human exile in sin. It is the sinless hands of the Lord that reveal the true sin of my own hands—the sin of my own making. The enemy is at work, he has ‘stripped me and taken all my wealth’, yet it remains I who have departed far from God.

The Orthodox Church perceives man’s sinful state as this condition of exile. It is not by chance that the Sunday dedicated to the Prodigal Son, who is the chief image of our exile, also sees in the liturgical singing of Psalm 136: the great hymn of Israel’s exile in Babylon. These words, too, like those of the Prodigal in the Gospel, are meant to become our words. It is significant that they are sung after the verses of the Polyeleos at matins, itself a great and triumphant hymn of God’s mercy. This is the moment when, in many monasteries, the corona and hanging lamps are set in motion, swaying in the Church above the heads of the faithful, a visual reminder of the angelic orders joining in the hymn of God’s faithfulness. ‘He giveth food to the hungry… he remembered us when we were in trouble… his mercy endureth forever!’ This is the nature of God. Acknowledging this, the season leading to Lent then causes us to look at our own state before Him: seeing and hymning God’s unfailing mercy, we then sing—in solemn tones—of the nature of our exilic estrangement from Him. It is a condition that, as the Polyeleos has just made clear, cannot be one that ascribes evil or our sorrow to God, but which is born of our departure from him, our abiding exile. So the great psalm, which is familiarly set in the first person:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
But how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, ‘Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.’
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed: happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Our exile is born of our departure from God, and makes us foreigners to ourselves, foreigners in a ‘strange land’ of sin and disunion. We may pretend, for a time, that this is our true home and that we can go about life as normal within it; but eventually we come to ask, ‘how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ This exilic existence strives to seem ‘normal’: it makes demands of song, of joy, of contentment and pleasure. It entices. In its spell, we treat it as home, and attempt to wring joy out of its darkness—just as the Prodigal took fleeting pleasure in a lavish life, and even in the muck of his pig stall. But eventually, like him, God gives grace to ‘come to ourselves’, and we remember our homeland. ‘And then we sat down, and we wept when we remembered Zion’.