First Called Apostle St Andrew
First Called Apostle St Andrew
Holy Cross Church, 1725 Holy Cross Lane, Williamsport PA 17701
See “The VOICE” for Sunday, December 1, 2013
includes weekly schedule, notes and details.
Photos: Alpha-Omega Scouting Award
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"What is impossible with men is possible with God."
IOCC Responds To Victims
Of Super Typhoon Haiyan
November 12, 2013
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Just four days after the most powerful tropical storm ever to make landfall blasted across the Philippines with wind speeds up to 195 miles per hour, the country is faced with the devastating loss of thousands of lives and millions of survivors across 41 provinces in a desperate search for food, water and shelter.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) emergency response personnel are assessing the urgent humanitarian needs for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which has left a trail of destruction affecting an estimated 9.8 million people in the Philippines. IOCC, an ACT Alliance member, is in communication with the Orthodox Christian Churches and ecumenical partners of the ACT Alliance member agencies on the ground to identify the most effective and appropriate responses to the catastrophe. Supported relief activities include shelter repair and cleaning up of debris through cash for work programs in the country, as well as the distribution of relief items such as clothing and hygiene kits. The need for emergency hygiene kits is especially great. Instructions on organizing a kit assembly drive can be found on the IOCC website at www.iocc.org/kits
More than 71,000 families have sought refuge at one of the country's 1,223 evacuation centers, but thousands of other families are still homeless. Residents of TaclobanCity, the hardest hit area, are without food or water or electricity. Communications networks have been badly damaged by the typhoon and debris blocking major roads from the airport to the city is making it difficult to reach vulnerable families in need of help.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan by making a financial gift to the Philippines Typhoon Disaster Fund, which will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift, please visit www.iocc.org, call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, Md.21297-0429.
Whose Gift List?
Preparations for the “holiday season” are already in full swing. And some of the colorful newspaper inserts suggest that, even though Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, the holiday gift-giving pressure’s on!
A study from ten years ago reported the average American maintains some 200 relationships. That's a substantial number including various circles of relationships: family, religious, social and professional groups, volunteer organizations, service providers, etc. Perhaps our holiday stress is due to the sheer number of people in our circles we want to remember through our gift-giving.
But the implications of this relationship study are more far-reaching. Obviously, because it's a secular study, there's no consideration of one's relationship to God. As people of faith who presumably strive to keep the commandment to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, every other relationship should be seen through the prism of our relationship to Our God. And we have the capacity to personally share this faith with about 200 souls!
There's more. When this relationship study was published a decade ago, it's purpose was to illustrate the increasingly detrimental effect various social media have on the depth of human relationships. The study's conclusion was, with all our advanced technology, our relationships are becoming increasingly "superficial, non-substantial and inconsequential."
This is a sobering indictment! In all our twitters, texts and tweets, there's little if any substance, quality, or "soul" in a majority of human relationships. They're deteriorating into "virtual" relationships, void of personal, human interaction and maintained largely by words, that, in case we need to be reminded, make up roughly seven-percent of effective communications. If we don't know the circumstances and struggles of the person behind the words, can't hear the intensity of their voice or read the body language that accompanies their words or are unaware of the "heart" from whence they emanate, words are just bits (or bytes) of data that show little if any respect to "personhood."
In Christian theology, the relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity is profound and instructive. "In the beginning," God's will regarding relationships is clearly revealed after the creation of Adam: "It's not good that man should be alone." The coming of Jesus Christ into the world is literally the "personification" of God's will: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The Gospels essentially document the myriad ways Jesus connected with people on the most intimate level and repeatedly note such connections were inspired by divine and redemptive love. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). There's absolutely nothing superficial, non-substantial or inconsequential in this relationship!
There's little argument that gift-giving is synonymous with Christmas. But are we concerned enough, caring enough, loving enough of the 200 or so souls precious to God among our circles of relationships to give them more than a crockpot, computer game or scented candle?
It's through real, deep, substantial human relationships that we move toward heaven and eternal joy: to the extent we acknowledge upon Whose gift-list WE are listed as beloved children of God. May we share the gift of some refreshing, cool water with someone today; to help satisfy their thirst for a truly meaningful relationship with the Living God.
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths" [2 Timothy 4:3-4].
In the course of our daily lives, we're often faced with circumstances that require us to determine particular courses of action to solve problems. When such decisions are not obvious, we usually seek the counsel of others who, we believe, have the knowledge and experience to help us make good and right decisions.
We seldom realize how often we engage in this process. For example, you drop your car off for its annual inspection. Later in the day, you get "the call" and learn that "our mechanic recommends a new exhaust, rear brakes and ball joints." Do you take the advice or not? It's decision time. What do you do?
There are people with experience in virtually every area of life. The internet is loaded with endless links to names, places, agencies and companies that specialize in sharing their expertise, eager to tell you how to solve any problem and fix most anything (of course, for a price). With the accumulated knowledge of an endless number of experts, consultants, and professional advisors these days, we should, theoretically, be making good decisions and choosing right courses of action all the time, in everything. Why, then, does it appear our world is such a mess, that our society is in a state of turmoil, and that we're not the happiest, most well-adjusted mentally, emotionally and financially stable and utterly content people on the face of the earth?
In these "ultimate" questions, suddenly the experts are silent. Social scientists and academia have few viable answers. Historians can review the past and try to predict the future, but they can't alter it's course. Perhaps, like the Magi, we should look to the stars for guidance and let horoscopes inform our decision-making. But why don't we ever see the headline, "Psychic wins lottery"? Then we have government legislators who, at our expense and presumably in our interest, try to answer "ultimate questions" by adopting more laws to enforce order, punish wrong-doing, impose justice, and protect our rights to be happy, secure, content and well-adjusted, even though we're not.
The only explanation for our modern turmoil is the most ancient one -- that nasty little three-letter word that seems more offensive, revolting, judgmental and obscene these days than any four-letter word. Dare I utter it -- SIN! Since Adam and Eve started the ball rolling, humanity has continuously been plagued by it.
Sin (amartia in Greek) literally means "missing the mark" and represents the myriad ways we fall short in living the abundant life for which we were created by God. (G.O.D. -- another three-letter word that seems increasingly offensive, revolting, judgmental and intolerant these days!). In our society, faith and religious belief are increasingly consigned to the same playing field as everything else: it's a matter of private choice, individual preference, a personal decision. Contrary to the approach we take to solve problems and fix things, in the realm of faith we don't necessarily want "sound teaching." Our ears itch for that which suits our own likings (see 2 Timothy).
When God becomes a matter of private choice and personal preference, it naturally follows that disobedience to God -- sin -- becomes likewise; it's "in the eyes of the beholder." It's because we've sidelined God from the experience of daily life that we no longer seem capable of understanding the consequences of disobedience to Him and -- here's the point -- why we make bad decisions and choose wrong courses of action. We have, in effect, created gods of ourselves!
In situations of daily life, there are consequences to all decisions and actions. If we don't put essential brakes on our cars, don't follow our doctors' orders, don't rely on the knowledge of trusted experts and follow the recommendations of those with considerably more wisdom and experience than we possess, what will happen? God does not call everyone to flee to the desert to live like hermits, battling our demons alone. In Luke 19, Jesus didn't tell Zacchaeus (the "vertically-challenged, government-enhancement officer") to quit being a tax-collector; rather, He inspires him to be an honest one, to make good decisions rather than abusing his position by cheating people. And it's when Zacchaeus makes that commitment that Jesus says: "Today, salvation has come to this house."
Whose advice should we follow in making the really important decisions in life? Whose expertise is paramount? Whose counsel is above reproach? Whose wisdom is far beyond the wisdom of this world?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only healing balm for itching ears! And His Holy Church, with thousands of years of accumulated experience (Holy Tradition!) stands ever-ready to apply it!
Lately I noticed an abundance of bird droppings on my Honda, not on the hood or roof but strangely on the side door panels. Finally one day, I caught the culprit in the act: a bright red cardinal that frequents a tree by my office. I observed him perching on the side-door window ledge and, seeing his reflection in the rear-view mirror, proceeded to repeatedly, almost violently, peck at the mirror; presumably thinking it's another cardinal and not an image of himself.
Doing a quick search, I learned a couple of facts about cardinals. One, they're extremely territorial, and two, they apparently mate for life. They'll relentlessly fight to protect their territory and their young. My little friend obviously sees his mirror-reflection as an unwelcome intruder: competition, a threat. And the reality of a life-long mate suggests a dedication and commitment many humans would do well to imitate.
The cardinal's cardinal qualities provide relevant lessons for us. We humans are all rather territorial creatures, some extremely so. Our "territory" has all kinds of little parts and parcels over which we are stewards; which is why we're often so busy. We work hard, try hard, even fight hard to defend our territory and protect what is ours: families, homes, cars, and stuff. We spend a great deal of time, energy and resources to do this, often at significant personal sacrifice. On a wider scale, we likewise defend and protect our personal opinions, values and beliefs like some sort of intellectual territory off-limits to potential intruders who may seek to impose some thought or idea on us we're not ready and willing to accept, tolerate or condone. Our time is often considered a commodity included in "our" territory. No one and no thing should be able to infringe upon our use of our time.
Now some questions: What is God's territory? Where is it? And how does He defend and protect what is His from external threats and potential intruders?
In our HolyChurch, all our teaching, scriptures, writings, services, rituals, beliefs, history, practices, prayers and everything else provide the answers to these questions in concise, unambiguous, crystal clear terms. God's territory is the universe He Himself created from nothing and called very good. And instead of asking where His territory IS, perhaps, in the tradition of the long-suffering Job, we would ask where His territory ISN'T! Are we not "of God:" created in His image and likeness, breathing with His breath, exercising dominion over His creation on His behalf, and "ransomed with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:15)?
Now if we think living the kind of life that clearly testifies to and manifests the omnipotence and sovereignty of God is utterly impossible, especially in this day and age, here come our countless, beloved saints to proclaim otherwise, teaching us that not only is such a life possible but desirable and essential ("cardinal")!
The Gospel proclaimed on All Saints Day issues a formidable challenge that ranks among the "difficult sayings" of Jesus with which each of us must grapple: "Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matt 10:32-33). To acknowledge Christ publicly -- to concede that we indeed belong to Him and therefore must always and everywhere have Him as our first love and His Kingdom our highest aspiration -- that's difficult. As if this isn't hard enough, listen carefully to what comes next: "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (vv 37-38).
Are we truly part and parcel of God's "territory;" are we not the sheep of His flock and His beloved children who call upon Him several times a day; "Our Father... Thy will be done." The "territoriality," commitment and life-long dedication of a little red cardinal will compel it to fight relentlessly to defend its territory and its young. How much more will our Living and Loving God protect and defend those who love Him and are confident in the promise -- "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor 2:9).
The saints are saints because they understood to Whom they belonged and the eternal implications of what that meant. They didn't allow any pressures, threats or possible consequences to dissuade them from bearing living witness to Christ. They spoke the truth because they lived the truth. Through the example and intercessions of this "great cloud of witnesses," may we all be dedicated and committed, inspired and encouraged, to do likewise.
"Nice Try, Ralph!"
Among various news reports leading to the recent papal election, there was one in particular, widely reported, that caught my attention -- because it was funny!
Apparently, as the cardinals were gathering on March 4 to prepare for their conclave, a man wearing a bishop's cassock and black fedora, girded with a purple scarf and accompanied by an entourage, tried to sneak into the closed session by presenting himself as a "Bishop Basilius" of the (non-existent!) Italian Orthodox Church! He successfully made it beyond the first level of security and was photographed with at least one legitimate cardinal but was stopped just outside the Sistine Chapel as Swiss guards observed... his cassock was too short! After further investigation, he was identified as "Ralph;" a self-appointed bishop from an apparently fictional German order called Corpus Dei. (I intentionally omit his last name as an internet search turns up some untoward results). He was consequently quickly escorted away.
One could say a lot of things about this imposter. We'll just say: "Nice try, Ralph!" Amidst the pomp and solemnity in Rome, his story provided some comic relief.
Yet Ralph's M.O. is not something to sneeze at. Indeed, it's characteristic of the behavior of many in the quest for recognition, power, esteem, privilege, favoritism and/or wealth; desiring to be "where the action is." The internet is loaded with photos of ordinary folks hobnobbing with celebrities, sports figures and politicians. (Remember the couple who crashed President Obama's first White House state dinner?!) And social media mixed with photoshop can depict any "friend" rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. It's about pretending to be something you're not!
Not as obvious and certainly not even on the radar of secular media is the spiritual dimension to such behavior. It is (dare we utter the totally intolerant and judgmental word) hypocrisy; by definition, "the pretense or affectation of having virtues, principles or beliefs that one does not actually have." The Greek root "hypokrisis" was a term historically connected to actors in the theater.
In case you missed it (or forgot), when Our Lord was on His way to Jerusalem and the Cross, He delivered some rather serious "woes" to those who pretended to be religious. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also out- wardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypo- crisy and iniquity" (Matt 23:37-38).
During Lent -- our school of repentance -- we get an annual refresher course in the Church on how to adjust our behavior to better conform to the Gospel of Christ. It begins by realizing where bad behavior originates: in the heart. As much as appearances seem so important to modern men and women, it's still "what's inside" that really counts: in David's words, a "clean heart and a right Spirit."
Jesus teaches clearly in Mark 7:21-23: "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man."
Lent provides the tools to help us redirect and strengthen our wills to resist and reject temptations; through enhanced prayer, fasting, almsgiving, confession, and forgiveness. These tools can't just hang idly over our toolbench! This requires much difficult, "heartfelt" work as it goes against the grain of the recognition, power, esteem, privilege, favoritism and wealth held in such high regard in contemporary society. But, in the Kingdom of God, the stakes are much higher and the goal more lofty than a celebrity photo-op or getting into a place where we don't belong.
During our Orthodox Holy Week, we pay considerable liturgical attention to the parable of the virgins anticipating the coming of the Bridegroom to the marriage feast (Matt 25:1-13). We even have a service named "Bridegroom Matins." Briefly, the wise virgins had sufficient oil for their lamps to keep them lit while waiting for the Bridegroom. The foolish did not (and were refused borrowing from the wise-- but that's for another lesson). While the foolish were gone to buy more oil, the wise enter the marriage feast with the Bridegroom Who then shuts the door. When the foolish return and knock, saying 'Lord, lord, open to us' He replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Ouch!
The parable, as Lent itself, reminds us that our "oil" is not just lamp fuel but virtue, spiritual fruits and good deeds that help keep the Light of Christ burning brightly in us (cf Matt 5:16). And it sounds like when we pretend all is well and there's plenty of time to do whatever we wish and thus fail to look ahead and run out of this "oil," the Light is extinguished and we've forsaken Christ: "I do not know you!" At that point, even crying "Lord, Lord!" and knocking our knuckles off to get into the locked door of the Kingdom won't work.
But maybe at least some eccentric angel will be amused by our futile effort and say: "Nice try, Ralph!"
If you look up the word "orthodox" in the dictionary, it says "conforming to doctrines or practices that are held to be right or true by an authority, standard or tradition." (Orthodox with a capital "O" specifically refers to our Church.) It's good to occasionally remind ourselves of this meaning.
Now, one need not have a PhD to realize that to suggest anything is "right" and "true" these days borders on sheer arrogance (at least intolerance) especially in a religious context. And whereas "orthodoxy", since the earliest days of Christianity, has been understood as a positive attribute and desired quality of faith, today it appears something to be attacked on every level as old-fashioned, boring, dull, quirky and/or irrelevant. Rather than wear "orthodoxy" as a badge of honor, today it's more like a scarlet letter!
I've heard several examples of this recently on tv. News analysts and political spinsters repeatedly denounced the views of certain congressmen as "unorthodox." An interview with a famous symphony conductor described a certain piece of music as "defying the orthodoxy" of classical composition. A "religious" channel featured a preacher vehemently condemning "all that outdated, orthodox stuff that Jesus came to put a stop to." There's even an infomercial promoting "an innovative and unorthodox diet plan" as the answer to significant weight loss.
We wonder why we Orthodox Christians sometimes seem to have an inferiority complex! Society has discovered the term and it's open season on us! But in an age of doctrinal relativism -- with accountability to no authority but self, no standard except what makes us happy, and holding only the traditions we make up as we go -- it's not surprising that anything labeled "orthodox" today scratches a place that doesn't itch for modern man for whom there are no absolutes; moral, legal, spiritual or otherwise. We've really got our work cut out for us!
This, of course, is nothing new. Since the fall of Adam, man has always been at enmity with God. The Old Testament patriarchs, priests and prophets faced the "unorthodoxy" of their times. In Judges 17:6 we read:"In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." Man has always sought to justify his own actions, rationalize his own sins, and look for loopholes, even in God's law. It just seems that now -- with instant, late-breaking news from around the world on countless cable channels all vying for ratings by delivering us the most sensa- tional and gruesome stories imaginable -- we're beginning to see the global results and consequences of the chaos caused by a rejection of "orthodoxy."
Today, everything is subject to debate, argument, personal opinion and challenge. Even sports now offer the opportunity to challenge and overturn an official's call by means of an instant replay. (Maybe at the Judgment, God will show us the instant replay of our life to justify His decision on our fate?!)
This also relates to the liturgical life of our Holy Church and our involvement in that divine life. Who, for example, will argue that prayer and fasting are not essential elements of the Christian life? In the Church, we pretty much stipulate this. Consistent with the meaning of the word "orthodox," we have a definitive Authority, Divine standard and long-standing Tradition on prayer and fasting that conform to doctrines and practices we hold to be right and true. This is, among other things, what the Church recalls for us in our annual approach to Great Lent.
The "orthodox" teaching on prayer begins "Two men went up into the temple to pray," (Luke 18+) then, by way of comparison between the two, incites us to ask ourselves "which one was orthodox?" Christ teaches that the publican's prayer was "justified" rather than the pharisee's. According to God's standard, prayer offered in humility, reverence and repentance is "right" and "true."
Likewise, the "orthodox" teaching on fasting that begins "And when you fast," (Matthew 6:16) then proceeds to detail the "right and true" way to fast.
Here's the Gospel truth! We can reject it, say we believe it yet act as though we don't, or accept what is right and true, and act accordingly. But the fact that we are free to choose our response does not negate the validity and "orthodoxy" of the teaching. Understand?
Beloved, our Holy Church calls us to do many things; especially during Lent. There are those who may denounce and reject some things as old-fashioned, boring, dull, quirky and/or irrelevant. We may ourselves be tempted to adopt such worldly notions.
Let us strive to resist such temptations and resolve to make a determined effort to truly BE "orthodox;" in doctrine and practice, in faith and life, holding and propagating that which is right and true -- to the glory of God.
"An Ever-Present Absence" and "A Never-Absent Presence"
It was a Friday about noontime when I cranked-up the computer to go online and check my email. I've become accustomed to getting a cup of coffee while the machine goes through its various warm-up exercises until it finally gets to where I want it to be. That's what I did.
Returning with coffee in hand, I was intrigued by the bright red "breaking news" homepage headline announcing "Massacre In Elementary School." These four connected words seemed utterly UNconnected to me. I initially thought to myself; "that must’ve been some kinda snowball fight in Connecticut!" As the day and the story unfolded, the harsh reality of what was impossible to conceive began to sink in.
The Apostle Paul refers to the "sting" of death. Some things sting worse than others. Likewise, some "deaths." This one stung big-time; to families, friends, communities and even nations. Those words which should never, ever have been connected indeed were. And the grief was, is and will continue to be great and deep.
While counselors strive to promote "closure" for those most directly affected by this horrible tragedy, another reality to be faced is that there can be NO closure. Nothing can restore the dead to life. The tragic loss of the victims of the massacre will be to all who know and love them "an ever-present absence." And in our modern society accustomed to finding answers to any question with a few mouse-clicks and curing every ailment with the latest therapy, the reality that physical life will indeed end is a bitter pill to swallow.
This event occurred over a month ago. But its aftermath remains timely and relevant to two observances this month.
First, many will participate in observances celebrating the Sanctity of Human Life. The memory of the precious souls of the innocent children slaughtered in Connecticut should inspire all of us to a more profound respect for every human life; pre-born and born.
Many this week will also participate in various programs and services in connection with the Annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that seeks to actualize the words of the Psalmist: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is, when brothers dwell in unity!" So many in our troubled world still urgently seek and desperately need the stability, comfort, consolation, faith, hope and strength that, historically, was to be found in the Christian church. We need to overcome economic, political and philosophical divisions to be able to provide a united prophetic witness to modern society as did Isaiah to the ancient world: "When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God..." (Isaiah 43:2-3).
Yes, we modern sophisticated Americans seem to be constantly walking about in the midst of a fiery furnace. And sometimes we're just too darn busy to realize that, even in the midst of "an ever-present absence," there is, with us, in the furnace, “a never-absent Presence" --- “like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25).
Holy Cross is the only Orthodox church in six counties of northcentral Pennsylvania and one of the most unique church buildings you'll find anywhere! The parish, founded in 1977, is part of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania (doepa.org) of the Orthodox Church in America (oca.org).
The Orthodox Church dates back to the day of Pentecost as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the eastern Roman Empire and exists to give glory to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, His Father and the Holy Spirit; to worship the Holy Trinity in spirit and in truth and to perpetuate the saving ministry of Christ through the faith once for all delivered to the saints. To this day, She remains unchanged in doctrine and order of worship and stands as a humble witness to the life and belief of the continuing Christian flock. She was and is the Church of the martyrs and the Holy Fathers who defended the divinity and humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the proper understanding of the Holy Trinity's revelation to It's creation.
Orthodoxy came to America through Alaska in the 18th century and, fed by immigration, spread across the continent, often appearing as an insulated sect open only to people of certain ethnic backgrounds.
This unfortunate image of the Church has changed dramatically in recent years as the Orthodox Church has turned Her attention to all Americans who are seeking the joys of fullness and continuity in their knowledge of God's revelation.
This transition is beautifully exemplified at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Williamsport PA, where all services are in English and people of all backgrounds are welcomed into Orthodoxy's life of communion with God and the Church's calm, pastoral, yet unflinching resistance to the tragic and seemingly unending compromise of truth and life in contemporary society.
The basic structure of Holy Cross Church is a former 200-year-old log barn of hand-hewn timbers, painstakingly dismantled, delivered and reassembled on site from a location some five miles away. Beginning in June, 1987, over the next 17 months, the pastor and parishioners volunteered their talents and tireless efforts in all phases of the construction process. The use of logs seemed appropriate for Williamsport, the one-time 'log capital of the world'. The distinctive 'onion domes' were built on site and hoisted into place as the crowning glory of the church, surmounted by hand-crafted crosses plated with gold leaf. The church was formally consecrated on November 12, 1988 (and has since become affectionately well-known throughout the region as "the little, wooden Orthodox church").
In 1997-98, a beautification project was undertaken including the construction and installation of a new icon screen and hand-painted icons. The church interior has been referred to as "something like heaven". Traditional stained glass windows enhance the incredible beauty of the timeless Orthodox iconography.
The parish opened its Orthodox Fellowship Center located directly behind the church in July, 2002 -- another parishioner-built structure. After its opening, the church basement was transformed into our education center with classrooms and a library. Next to the church is our rectory and parish office.
You are welcome to join us in worship:
SATURDAYS, Vespers at 6:30 pm
SUNDAYS, Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am
Weekdays as announced
Our worship is sung by the priest and people (no musical instruments). Though we usually stand in worship, we do have pews. Children participate in worship together with their families. We offer a host of ministries, weekly education programs and seasonal inquirers sessions.
Thanks for visiting our website!
Call us for further info at (570) 322-3020.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Orthodox Church was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ and is the living manifestation of His presence in the history of the mankind. The most conspicuous characteristics of Orthodoxy are its rich liturgical life and its faithfulness to the apostolic tradition. It is believed by Orthodox Christians that their Church has preserved the tradition and continuity of the ancient Church in its fullness compared to other Christian denominations which have departed from the common tradition of the Church of the first ten centuries. Today Orthodox Church numbers approximately 300 million Christians who follow the faith and practices that were defined by the first seven Ecumenical Councils. The word orthodox ("right belief” or “right glory") has traditionally been used, in the Greek-speaking Christian world, to designate communities, or individuals, who preserved the true faith (as defined by those councils), as opposed to those who were declared heretical. The official designation of the church in its liturgical and canonical texts is "the Orthodox Catholic Church" (gr. catholicos = universal).
The Orthodox Church is a family of "autocephalous" (self governing) churches, with the Ecumenical (= universal) Patriarch of Constantinople holding titular or honorary primacy as primus inter pares (the first among equals). The Orthodox Church is not a centralized organization headed by a pontiff. The unity of the Church is rather manifested in common faith and communion in the sacraments and no one but Christ Himself is the real Head of the Church. The number of autocephalous churches has varied in history. Today there are many: the Church of Constantinople (Istanbul), the Church of Alexandria (Egypt), the Church of Antioch (with headquarters in Damascus, Syria), and the Churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania and America.
There are also "autonomous" churches (retaining a token canonical dependence upon a mother see) in Czech and Slovak republics, Sinai, Crete, Finland, Japan, China and Ukraine. In addition there is also a large Orthodox Diaspora scattered all over the world and administratively divided among various jurisdictions (dependencies of the above mentioned autocephalous churches). The first nine autocephalous churches are headed by patriarchs, the others by archbishops or metropolitans. These titles are strictly honorary as all bishops are completely equal in the power granted to them by the Holy Spirit.
The order of precedence in which the autocephalous churches are listed does not reflect their actual influence or numerical importance. The Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, for example, present only shadows of their past glory. Yet there remains a consensus that Constantinople's primacy of honor, recognized by the ancient canons because it was the capital of the ancient Byzantine empire, should remain as a symbol and tool of church unity and cooperation. Modern pan-Orthodox conferences were thus convoked by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. Several of the autocephalous churches are de facto national churches, by far the largest being the Russian Church; however, it is not the criterion of nationality but rather the territorial principle that is the norm of organization in the Orthodox Church.
In the wider theological sense "Orthodoxy is not merely a type of purely earthly organization which is headed by patriarchs, bishops and priests who hold the ministry in the Church which officially is called "Orthodox." Orthodoxy is the mystical "Body of Christ," the Head of which is Christ Himself (see Eph. 1:22-23 and Col. 1:18, 24 et seq.), and its composition includes not only priests but all who truly believe in Christ, who have entered in a lawful way through Holy Baptism into the Church He founded, those living upon the earth and those who have died in the Faith and in piety."
The Great Schism between the Eastern and the Western Church (1054) was the culmination of a gradual process of estrangement between the east and west that began in the first centuries of the Christian Era and continued through the Middle Ages. Linguistic and cultural differences, as well as political events, contributed to the estrangement. From the 4th to the 11th century, Constantinople, the center of Eastern Christianity, was also the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire, while Rome, after the barbarian invasions, fell under the influence of the Holy Roman Empire of the West, a political rival. In the West, theology remained under the influence of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and gradually lost its immediate contact with the rich theological tradition of the Christian East. In the same time the Roman See was almost completely overtaken by Franks. Theological differences could have probably been settled if there were not two different concepts of church authority. The growth of Roman primacy, based on the concept of the apostolic origin of the Church of Rome which claimed not only titular but also jurisdictional authority above other churches, was incompatible with the traditional Orthodox ecclesiology. The Eastern Christians considered all churches as sister churches and understood the primacy of the Roman bishop only as primus inter pares among his brother bishops. For the East, the highest authority in settling doctrinal disputes could by no means be the authority of a single Church or a single bishop but an Ecumenical Council of all sister churches. In the course of time the Church of Rome adopted various wrong teachings which were not based in the Tradition and finally proclaimed the teaching of the Pope's infallibility when teaching ex cathedra. This widened the gap even more between the Christian East and West. The Protestant communities which split from Rome in the course of centuries diverged even more from the teaching of the Holy Fathers and the Holy Ecumenical Councils. Due to these serious dogmatic differences the Orthodox Church is not in communion with the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities. More traditional Orthodox theologians do not recognize the ecclesial and salvific character of these Western churches at all, while the more liberal ones accept that the Holy Spirit acts to a certain degree within these communities although they do not possess the fullness of grace and spiritual gifts like the Orthodox Church. Many serious Orthodox theologians are of the opinion that between Orthodoxy and heterodox confessions, especially in the sphere of spiritual experience, the understanding of God and salvation, there exists an ontological difference which cannot be simply ascribed to cultural and intellectual estrangement of the East and West but is a direct consequence of a gradual abandonment of the sacred tradition by heterodox Christians.
At the time of the Schism of 1054 between Rome and Constantinople, the membership of the Eastern Orthodox Church was spread throughout the Middle East, the Balkans, and Russia, with its center in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which was also called New Rome. The vicissitudes of history have greatly modified the internal structures of the Orthodox Church, but, even today, the bulk of its members live in the same geographic areas. Missionary expansion toward Asia and emigration toward the West, however, have helped to maintain the importance of Orthodoxy worldwide. Today, the Orthodox Church is present almost everywhere in the world and is bearing witness of true, apostolic and patristic tradition to all peoples.
The Orthodox Church is well known for its developed monasticism. The uninterrupted monastic tradition of Orthodox Christianity can be traced from the Egyptian desert monasteries of the 3rd and 4th centuries. Soon monasticism had spread all over the Mediterranean basin and Europe: in Palestine, Syria, Cappadocia, Gaul, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Slavic countries. Monasticism has always been a beacon of Orthodoxy and has made and continues to make a strong and lasting impact on Orthodox spirituality.
The Orthodox Church today is an invaluable treasury of the rich liturgical tradition handed down from the earliest centuries of Christianity. The sense of the sacred, the beauty and grandeur of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy make the presence of heaven on earth live and intensive. Orthodox Church art and music has a very functional role in the liturgical life and helps even the bodily senses to feel the spiritual grandeur of the Lord's mysteries. Orthodox icons are not simply beautiful works of art which have certain aesthetic and didactic functions. They are primarily the means through which we experience the reality of the Heavenly Kingdom on earth. The holy icons enshrine the immeasurable depth of the mystery of Christ's incarnation in defense of which thousands of martyrs sacrificed their lives.
--- from orthodoxinfo.com