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Weekly Sunday Bulletin – Sunday Before the Nativity

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On the Sunday that occurs on or immediately after the eighteenth of this month, we celebrate all those who from ages past have been well-pleasing to God, beginning from Adam even unto Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos, according to genealogy, as the Evangelist Luke hath recorded historically (Luke 3:23-38); we also commemorate the Prophets and Prophetesses, and especially the Prophet Daniel and the Holy Three Children.

Parish Council on duty:

Peter Angelakos, John Argiropoulos, Anna Merkel, Medon Michaelides, Chris Nichols, Peter Synoyannis, Eleni Varvoutis

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Weekly Sunday Bulletin – St. Ignatius of Antioch

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The divine and brilliant day of thine illustrious contests doth proclaim to all mankind Him that was born of a Virgin; for it was for Him that thou didst thirst to delight in, and didst haste to be devoured by beasts in thy longing. Hence, O glorious Ignatius, the name God-bearer was rightly given to thee.  ~St. Ignatius, December 20

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The Nativity in Our Lives – Joy

Fr. John Codis
December 16, 2012

Book Reference
Lifesigns
Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

“I have told you this, so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

“Ecstasy for all Christians is a struggle to move from the house of fear to the house of love.” Pg. 71

Joy is the reward of an intimate and fruitful life in the house of God. Ecstasy is this realization and experience of joy and is not for the mystics but for all believers. Joy is a deeper, more intimate, more “normal” condition than sadness and pain, and therefore harder to articulate. It is for some reason, much more difficult to express joy than sadness.

Humanity has experienced the ultimate joy, that is the incarnation of the Word, God manifested in the flesh, born as none other than a baby. The nativity impacts us when we allow that joy of the birth of Christ to enter into ourselves and make it manifest in our daily lives.

Fear Makes ecstasy, a real experience of joy, impossible

Fear keeps us clinging to the familiar place, or, in the case of acute anxiety, makes us dissipate ourselves aimlessly. When we are stricken with fear we often exude two reactions – routine and rootlessness.

Routine is developed by all people to some degree. Many of them are helpful ways of ordering our lives and communicating with others. However, it is when routine behavior begins to dominate our daily lives, and suggestions of change call forth violent resistance, “fear has begun to position the roots of our existence.” Pg. 76

With an experience of rootlessness and lack of direction we become fearful and often delve into those routines that are familiar to us.

The stronger our fear is the more rigid our routines become. When our environment causes us great anxiety we often cling to familiar ways of thinking and acting.

True joy comes from the house of Love – Chris’s own joy-filled presence

True joy cannot be found in the house of fear where routine and rootlessness dwell. We make attempts to produce joy: happy hours, receptions, and surprise parties. These “productions” are only attempts to alter the present for a moment of artificial bliss.

True joy is the joy Christ offers when he enters into the world. It is the joy he offers his disciples that being his own joy-filled presence, which flows from his intimate communion with the One who sent him.

“Community is the place where God completes our lives with his joy.” Pg. 90 Every word Jesus spoke was spoken to share his joy with us and thus make our joy complete. Please see John 15:11.

Conclusion

We must continue to move towards a shared life and disregard the static living because it separates us and turns us into isolated individuals fighting for our own individual survival.

The nativity, the incarnation of the Prince of Peace, is not only in our lives once a year as media and society makes us think, it is in our lives every day through every word and encounter. We are so caught up in our consume-or-be-consumed society of self-indulgence of the Christmas gifts we give and are given. Why don’t we become consumed with joy? We don’t need to continue our routine lives to feel safe and protected. We need to live our lives in the expectation and fullness of the Joy of Christ, who has promised what no one can ever promise…His Joy.

Weekly Sunday Bulletin – The Conception of Anna

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Today the world rejoices in the conception of Anna, wrought by God. For she bore the One who beyond comprehension conceived the Logos.   ~St. Anna, December 9

According to the ancient tradition of the Church, since Saint Anna, the Ancestor of God, was barren, she and her husband Joachim remained without children until old age. Therefore, sorrowing over their childlessness, they besought God with a promise that, if He were to grant them the fruit of the womb, they would offer their offspring to Him as a gift. And God, hearkening to their supplication, informed them through an Angel concerning the birth of the Virgin. And thus, through God’s promise, Anna conceived according to the laws of nature, and was deemed worthy to become the mother of the Mother of our Lord.

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The Nativity in Our Lives – Fecundity

Joseph Olas
December 19, 2012

Book Reference
Lifesigns
Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

Have you ever felt worthless? What helped you to overcome this feeling?

Fecundity and Fear

Identify some of the forces in our world that lead to feeling useless and sterile. How do these forces relate to fear?

What is the difference between productivity and fecundity? How does an overemphasis on productivity diminish the spiritual dimension of life?

Do you tend to emphasize doing over being? Recall a time in you life when you simply allowed yourself to be.

Fecundity and Love

Why is vulnerability necessary to a fruitful life? How does the life of Jesus manifest this vulnerability?

Do you consider yourself a grateful person? When do you find it difficult to be grateful and what can you do to regain a sense of gratitude?

How does care differ from control? What enables people to be caring instead of controlling?

Fecundity and Mission

In what ways is mission more than merely improving the physical lives of the poor?

Conclusion

How can you find new life in the concept of fecundity as Henri has evoked it?

The Nativity in Our Lives – Intimacy with God and Others

Fr. Christopher
December 2, 2012

Book Reference
Lifesigns
Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

We need new eyes to see and new ears to hear the truth of our unity, a unity which cannot be perceived by our broken, sinful, anxious hearts.

Negative power of fear and the liberating power of love

Which questions guide your life? Which do we make our own?

Once fearful survival questions become the guiding question of our lives we tend to dismiss words spoken from the house of love as unrealities.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” says St. John in the first letter.

There is no reason to fear anymore. “It is I; do not be afraid.” (John 6:21)

The house of love is not simply a place in the afterlife.

1. Jesus spoke of Himself as the vine and a disciple as the branches- John 15:4

2. Invitation to intimacy- a call to productivity- John 15:5

3. Have joy in your life and you may be complete- John 15:11

Intimacy

When you contemplate the word home what do you think of? “Make your home in me as I make in you”

A sense of belonging, cared for, protected and loved.

Christian faith calls us to experience life “as going home, and death as “coming home at last”.

Fear and Intimacy

Fear makes us move away from each other at a safe distance. Fear does not create a home.

Intimacy and Love

If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its true friend.

Intimacy is not a happy medium. It is a way of being in which the tension between distance and closeness is dissolved and a new horizon appears. Intimacy is beyond fear.

Prayer leads us to intimacy with love with God. In and through God we can be fulfilled to each other: in friendship, marriage and community.

Intimacy and Solidarity- Nativity

“The Word was made flesh and pitched his tent among us. (John 1:14)

The mystery of the incarnation reveals to us the spiritual dimension of human solidarity. All of humanity is taken up into God through the incarnation of the Word.

Christians are called to bear witnesses to the truth that God has gathered all people into one family.

In God’s House we are consecrated to the truth.

We Are Witnesses for Christ – Discipline

Fr. John Codis
November 18, 2012

Book Reference
The Selfless Way of Christ
Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

Our vocation as Christians is to follow Jesus on his downward path and to become witnesses to God’s compassion in the concrete situation of our time and place.

If we allow ourselves to become consumed by our “needs” and “desires” we lose our true vocation. It is within this tension that provides us with the necessity of spiritual formation.

To be witnesses or disciples of Christ we must be disciplined. Discipline in the spiritual life differs from discipline in other areas of our lives.

Three forms of Discipline

1. Discipline of the Church

2. Discipline of the Book

3. Discipline of the Heart

The Discipline of the Church

The discipline of the church is the way we remain in touch with our true story of God in history. This story is alive through the sacramental life of the church especially the celebration of the Eucharist.

The events of Christ’s life is realized among us in and through the church. It is Advent, Christ is coming; it is Christmas, Christ is born; it is Lent, Christ is suffering; It is Holy Week, Christ is dying; it is Easter, Christ is risen; it is Pentecost, Christ is sending his Spirit. All other events – personal, social, or political – derive their meaning from the life of Christ.

The Discipline of the Book

Reading the Scriptures is essential for anyone who wants to follow Christ on the road of downward mobility.

By the Word of God we are formed into living Christ, and this formation goes far beyond information, instruction, edification, or inspiration.

Reading and studying are often part of our attempts to be more relevant, spectacular, and powerful. We must however be mindful that even reading the Scripture itself can become dangerous for our spiritual life.

The Discipline of the Heart

“The discipline of the heart is the discipline of personal prayer. In the context of the liturgical life of the church, and supported by an ongoing meditation on the Word of God, personal prayer leads us to not just our own heart, but to the heart of God.” Nouwen pg. 82

Prayer as a spiritual discipline is necessary because it opens us to the reception of God, it prevents us from being filled by the world, and it allows us to pray and for God to pray through us.

The Witness of the Church

One way the church witnesses Christ is through the placements of Holy Icons. Icons are used throughout the church because they are associated with worship. The icon becomes a “window into heaven” and helps us direct our attention to divine things which go beyond the merely physical appearance.

Conclusion

“We will never be without struggle. But when we persevere with hope, courage and confidence, we will come to fully realize our innermost being that through the downward road of Christ we will enter with him into his glory. So let us be grateful for our vocation, resist our temptation, and be ever committed to a life of ongoing formation.” Nouwen

 

We Are Witnesses for Christ – Temptation

Joseph Olas
November 11, 2012

Book Reference
The Selfless Way of Christ
Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Lure of Upward Mobility

1. In what circumstances have you encountered the temptation to be relevant? How can we resist this temptation?

2. How does the desire to be spectacular show our insecurity, as well as a lack of faith in God?

3. Why is the experience of God’s unconditional love the basis of all ministry?

4. According to Henri, what is the role of contemplative prayer? What role does this kind of prayer play in your spiritual life? What disciplines does Henri see as necessary for attaining communion with God?

5. Henri sees the desire for power as the most seductive of all temptations. Describe your own experience of this temptation.

6. Why does Henri see power as an illusion? Why is power incapable of giving us security?

7. Discuss the relationship between powerlessness and compassion.

8. Henri states “that in serving God we find our true self which no longer needs social affirmations but is free to offer a powerless ministry” (p. 65). How does the life of Jesus illustrate this kind of ministry? What might such a ministry look like in our world today?

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

We Are Witnesses for Christ – Mirroring Christ

Fr. Christopher Metropulos
November 4, 2012

Book Reference
The Selfless Way of Christ
Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

Something which existed since the beginning, that we have heard and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands; the Word, who is life–this is our subject. (1 John 1:1)

1. To be a witness for Christ you must first know him. What ways can you employ in your life to do this? In what ways do you see yourself as a Christian witness?

2. How have you experienced the “pervasive drive for upward mobility” in your own life? “There is a profound difference between the false ambition for power and the true ambition to love and serve”. Henri Nouwen.

3. In what ways does our society punish those who can’t or won’t keep up with the quest for upward mobility?

4. How is downward mobility manifested at the center of Christian faith?

5. What does it mean to live as a disciple of Jesus?

6. Why does a simple imitation of how Jesus lived represent a misunderstanding of the truth revealed in Christ?

7. What is the spiritual life? In what sense is this a gift rather than something we achieve by our own efforts?

Conclusion

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self control are indeed the qualities of our Lord himself and reveal his presence in the midst of a world so torn apart by idolatry, envy, greed, sexual irresponsibility, war and other sin. (Gal. 5:19-23)