Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blessed Birth of Christ!

Dear Students and Friends,

Merry Christmas! Blessed Nativity! Christ is Born! Rejoice!

Read the Christmas story.

Read some of the Christmas Scriptures.

Troparion — Tone 4
Your Nativity, O Christ our God, / Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! / For by it, those who worshipped the stars, / Were taught by a Star to adore You, / The Sun of Righteousness, / And to know You, the Orient from on High. / O Lord, glory to You!

Kontakion — Tone 3
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, / And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! / Angels with shepherds glorify Him! / The wise men journey with a star! / Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

May your day and the coming year be full of Our Lord's Life and Holiness!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Podcast: What does it mean to Repent?

Dear Students and Friends,

During the Nativity Fast, we are called to contemplate our lives. This may lead to confession and repentance...but what does it mean to repent?

Author and priest Fr. Steven Ritter is back on the Orthodox Christian Network today talking about repentance. What does it mean to repent? If we truly repent, why do we need confession? Is repentance about our relationship with those around us or with Christ? Tune in to hear the answers to all these and more! But first, as our heterogeneous American communities try their hardest to pull Christ out of the Christmas holiday, hear from award-winner director and author Norris Chumley and read about why God is still cool.

Listen to the podcast now.

You can receive one credit for listening to the podcast. Simply listen, fill out the Podcast worksheet, and email it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Other White-Bearded Saint of Christmas

Dear Students and Friends,

I love this title, which I borrowed from Orthodox Christian Network's article. We celebrate the repose of St Herman of Alaska on December 13.  His life and works are worth contemplating during this season. Here are some resources for you.

For each activity, complete the Article worksheet, then email it to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for credit.

The life of St Herman will bless and encourage you this Christmas season!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Read Along With Us: Ancient Paths--Updated!

Dear Students and Friends,

Here at St Luke Church, we've begun a mini read-along in the book, "Ask for the Ancient Paths" which I've offered here before.

Our teacher, Lee, has also prepared a weekly lesson guide for this book. You can work on the lesson here.

Read along with us! You can receive 2 credits for reading the book and completing the lesson . Simply read, complete the lessons as offered on this website, and email your work back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Halfway through the Nativity Fast

St Nicholas surrounded by the saints
Dear Students and Friends,

We are halfway through the Nativity Fast! Here are some activities to keep you going until that Blessed Birthday:
  • Listen: Fulfilling the Prophecies--Frederica Mathewes-Green is back on the show to talk about the many Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Christ's birth, as well as the need to understand the entirety of the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus. Listen now.
  • Listen: Worship in the Nativity Season--On Worship in Spirit and Truth, Dr. Demetrios Katos discusses the prayers and services of the upcoming Nativity Season. Listen now.
  • Read: Fasting as an Ecclesiastical Notion. Read now.

And if you haven't yet, read/listen about some of the Saint Days we've celebrated so far during this Season:
Earn one credit for each activity you complete. For podcasts, fill out and return the worksheet for podcasts. For readings, fill out the article worksheet. Both worksheets are available from the Lessons tab at the top of this website. Email your work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. May your learning be blessed!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Read: Three Books for the Nativity Season

Dear Students and Friends,

Now that we are in the Nativity season and fast, let us set our minds on the incarnation of the Lord on a daily basis. Here are my recommendations for three books that will help us keep this blessed mindset!

For daily use, the book, "Daily Meditations and Prayers for the Christmas Advent Fast and Epiphany" by Emily Harakas and Anthony Coniaris is really good. I have personally used this book for many years. Each day, there are Bible readings to do, an excerpt from the liturgical services for the season, a prayer to the Theotokos, key Scripture verses and a meditation to read--all on two pages! Starting the day with this book is a good way to stay focused.

A new book for this year, "Meditations for Advent: Preparing for Christ's Birth" by Vassilios Papavassiliou is organized around the Sundays in Advent (the Nativity fast) and related material such as Scripture, the icons of the season, and the meaning of the Incarnation. The fifteen chapters could easily be read--three per week--during the almost six weeks of the Nativity fast. The author truly points us in the right direction when he says in Chapter 1:

"The Church's invitation to prepare for the Nativity is above all a command to us to open the gates of repentance, that Christ may enter our very being and be born anew in our hearts, and to offer our virtues to the newborn King."

The third recommended book is called "The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth about the Humanity of Christ" by Father Patrick Reardon. This book is amazing. For anyone who wants to truly learn about and reflect on the incarnation--on Jesus' humanity--this book is for you. Using Scripture, tradition and his vast knowledge of the Bible and the ancient languages, Father Pat shows us the human Jesus we may have missed or never thought about. Very easy to read, heart-warming and heart-moving, this is the perfect book for the Nativity season, to keep our minds set on Him, to remind us that Jesus was made like us.

My friends, I hope you will consider doing some serious spiritual reading this season. Keep a journal of your thoughts, share them with others, witness of the glorious work of our Lord and His incarnation. The world needs Him so much.

You can receive credit for your work. You can earn two credits for each book above that you read. Simply read, fill out the General Worksheet for books (available from the Lessons tab) and e-mail your work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. May your reading--and your Nativity fast--be blessed and holy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Featured Book: "At the End of Time"

Dear Students and Friends,

I am currently leading a discussion group on the book of Revelation at St Luke Church (which sponsors this website). One of the books I've found helpful in learning and thinking about Revelation is called "At the End of Time: The eschatological expectations of the Church," by Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos.

This short work (only 94 pages) is a different sort of Revelation book. It is not a commentary, it is not a book trying to decipher the symbology. It is, instead, a thoughtful look at the overall message of Revelation and what it means to our personal history and to the history of the world. It is "His-story"--God's story of how he will deal with mankind within time. Yes, Bishop Abydos does talk about the Apostle John and his mystical visions, but above all, Bishop Abydos asks us to see Revelation as a comfort and as a guide to how we will live in eternity and the choices we make.

I highly recommend this book. It is so sensible and straightforward. It is practical and makes us realize the part we play in the big picture. I think that Bishop Abydos really hits on what's really important in Revelation. I recommend the book to you all.

You can receive two credits for reading this book. Simply read it, fill out the General Worksheet for books (available from the lessons tab), and e-mail your work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for credit. May your reading be blessed!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Learning about Angels

The Angel Gabriel

Dear Students and Friends,

Do you ever wonder about angels? Along with us, angels are part of God's kingdom. Here are some resources to help you learn more about these remarkable and heavenly persons.

On OCN's Theologically Thinking podcast, Fr. Stanley Harakas presents a reading entitled “Angels are Everywhere.” Listen now.

On the Mystagogy blog, read an article on "On The Angelic Orders and Their Role," by Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas. Read the article now.

And also on the Mystagogy blog, read a second article on "On The Creation of The Angels" by St Nektarios. Read the article now.

You can receive the following credits for these three activities:
--one credit for listening to the podcast. Complete the podcast worksheet from the lessons tab.
--one credit for reading each article, for a total of two credits. Complete the article worksheet from the lessons tab.

As always, e-mail your completed work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. May your learning be blessed!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Read-Along: the last lesson in St Luke

Dear Students and Friends,

And now we come to the last lesson in our Read-Along on the Gospel of St Luke! It has now been posted to the Read-Along tab. Many thanks to teacher Lee for leading this class!

Remember, you can always go back and do a Read-Along on your own. Simply buy one of the books (several are featured on the tab), do the lessons, and e-mail them to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. You can earn 1 credit for each lesson you complete.

So check out our past Read-Alongs! You'll be blessed by the books and the lessons.

Listen: The Long Road to Orthodoxy

Fr. Brendan Pelphrey
Dear Students and Friends,

On Come Receive the Light, join us for another inspiring conversation about the spiritual journey to Orthodoxy. Fr. Brendan Pelphrey talks about his long and winding road to our historic Church and Faith.

Listen to the podcast now.

You can also read about Fr Pelphrey's journey in his article, Reflection of an Orthodox Pilgrim.

You can earn two credits this time: one for listening to the podcast, and one for reading the article. Simply fill out the Podcast and/or Article Worksheet (available from the Lessons tab, above) and e-mail your work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for credit.

May your listening and reading be blessed!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Listen: St Brendan the Navigator

The Celtic saints are also Orthodox saints, and St Brendan is one of these. 

On OCN's Theologically Thinking, Terry Mattingly and Fr. Chris discuss St. Brendan and his significance to the Universal Church.

Listen to the podcast now.

You can earn 1 credit for listening to this podcast. Simply listen, fill out the Podcast worksheet (available from the Lessons tab, above) and e-mail it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for credit.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Read: The Heart of the Scriptures

Frederica Mathewes-Green (Source: PBS)
Dear Students and Friends,

Frederica Mathewes-Green has written a wonderful essay on what is meant by our "heart." What is it? What part does it play in the Christian life? How does Orthodox Christianity define the heart?

Read her essay now.

You can receive one credit for reading this essay. Simply read, fill out the Article Worksheet (under the Lessons tab, above), and e-mail your work to else10(at)gmail(dot)com for credit.

May your learning be blessed!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Resources and Prayer for Halloween

What should we make of Halloween?

This blog post on Mystagogy says:

"Halloween originated as a medieval Christian celebration that was part of the Triduum of All Hallows, or Hallowmas (All Hallows Eve, All Hallows Day and All Souls Day lasting from October 31 - November 2), and in the 19th and 20th centuries it acquired Western European and North American cultural traditions that established it as an annual celebration of these societies.

Hence, from this summary we learn of Halloween's Christian origins and its evolution as an annual cultural celebration. What we don't learn from this summary is the negative perspective of the holiday, which demonizes it and condemns it as pagan and satanic. The reason for this is that from a Christian perspective, there is no reason to demonize it nor condemn it as a pagan or satanic holiday. Here's why..."  

You can also find additional Halloween resources here, also by the author of Mystagogy, John Sanidopoulos.

Fr Andrew of St Luke Church offers this prayer for Halloween:

Let us Pray to the Lord. Lord have Mercy!
O Lord, You are our God who is the God of the living, all those who died believing in You are living and waiting for Your return. We pray for the departed on this All Hallows Eve. Remember them when you come into your kingdom. Let us not forget them as we ask them to pray for us. May we do works of charity in their name and bring joy to a child who knocks at our door and says: "Trick or treat." Amen.
You can receive credit for reading the blog post on Mystagogy and answering the following question: Do you think Orthodox Christians should commemorate the departed on Western All Souls Day? Why or why not?
Send your answers to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for 2 credits! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Read-Along Continues

Our Read-Along in the commentary on St Luke: Good News for the Poor is still going strong! Nineteen lessons are now posted. You can earn 1 credit for each lesson completed. Follow along with us! You can see all the information you need about our Read-Along by clicking the "Read-Along" tab at the top of this webpage.

Questions about this activity? Email else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Article: What is worship for?

Dear Students and Friends,

Today I received an e-mail with Orthodox author Frederica Matthewes-Green's answer to the question, What is worship for?

A pastor in the UK wrote me [Frederica] asking, “What is worship for?” He said that his denomination was encouraging pastors to make worship more “user-friendly” in order to attract new members, and that this initially seemed to him a reasonable evangelistic strategy. A scripture cited in support of this approach was Acts 15:19, “We should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.” But as he read this scripture in context, it looked to him like it was written of people who were already Christian believers, and would not be required to accept Jewish practices. It didn’t address the case of people entirely outside the faith. He wrote to ask, “Who are church services for? Believers or unbelievers?”

This is a question we may all ask ourselves sometimes as we see how others who are not Orthodox conduct their worship services. We all need the reminder now and then that worship is about God--not ourselves. This is our greatest witness.

Read the rest of the article now.

Thought Questions

  1. Why do I worship?
  2. How can I help others understand what worship is about?
  3. If worship is holy, what should my conduct be in church?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Read: Sermon on the Nativity of the Theotokos

Dear Students and Friends,

This week we continue celebrating the birth of Mary, the Mother of God. But why do we celebrate? What is so remarkable about this woman?

Alexander Schmemann has written a brief sermon on Mary's nativity that answers these questions and more. Now you can read the sermon and receive credit for answering some questions about it.

Read the sermon now.

To receive one credit for reading this sermon, answer the three questions below and e-mail your responses to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. May your reading be blessed!

Questions on the Sermon
  1. When considering Mary, what is the Western Church's focus? What is the Eastern church's focus?
  2. Why is Jesus' humanity important, and who does He get it from?
  3. How is this feast a "general celebration of man's birth"?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

And the School Year Begins! Podcast

Dear Students and Friends,

Welcome to another year of the School of the 70!

I was delighted to find a podcast to start off our new school year. Titled, "Surprised by Christ," with Fr James Bernstein, author of a book describing his journey from Judaism to Orthodoxy. We've featured this book for credit before, but I think it's nice to hear directly from this author.

Listen to the podcast now.

About the book, Amazon says:

Raised in Queens, New York by formerly Orthodox Jewish parents whose faith had been undermined by the Holocaust, Arnold Bernstein went on his own personal quest for spiritual meaning. He was ready to accept God in whatever form He chose to reveal Himself and that form turned out to be Christ. But Bernstein soon perceived discrepancies in the various forms of Protestant belief that surrounded him, and so his quest continued -- this time for the true Church. Surprised by Christ combines an engrossing memoir of one man's life in historic times and situations from the Six-Day War to the Civil Rights Movement to the Jesus Movement in Berkeley with an examination of the distinctives of Orthodox theology that make the Orthodox Church the true home not only for Christian Jews, but for all who seek to know God as fully as He may be known.

You can earn credits for listening to the podcast (1 credit) and/or for reading the book (2 credits). To earn podcast credit, simply listen to the podcast, fill out the podcast worksheet, and e-mail it to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. To earn book credit, simply read the book, fill out the General Worksheet for Books, and e-mail it to the same address.

Learning about how others find Orthodoxy encourages us and gives us fodder for witnessing to others. Don't miss this book!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Reading Homework due now!

Long Room - Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
Dear Students and Friends,

If you've been participating in the Summer Reading Program, your worksheets for all your reading are due by midnight, September 1 to receive 10 credits for three books. Please send your worksheets along so I can note your accomplishments. And if you weren't able to read three books, don't worry. You can receive credits for individual books you read.

Send your worksheets to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. All credits will be counted towards your 2013-2014 school year tally.

Also, don't forget to re-enroll now! The new term starts September 1. You may enroll using the form or by e-mailing else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

New 2013-14 School Term Begins September 1!

St Herman's Chapel, Spruce Island, Alaska

Dear Students and Friends,

It's time! Time to enroll for the coming new school term! The 2013-2014 term of the School of the Seventy begins September 1. You can start enrolling now by filling out the enrollment form or by sending and e-mail to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

The School is a great opportunity for spiritual learning and reading, and for earning credits and recognition while you do so! The student with the most credits at the end of the year (around June 1) will receive a school prize. But more than that, you will grow in Christ.

Consider studying a specialist area this year (see the Specialist lists on the Booklists tab, above). By reading all the books on a list, you can concentrate your study in one area and become more expert in it.

Or, follow along during the year as we post activities once or twice a week, offer books for reading and earning credits, and much more, including our annual Read-Alongs and other activities from St Luke Church in which you can be a "virtual" participant by following along on this website.

So what are you waiting for? Grow spiritually with us! Enroll now! Simply e-mail else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. You can also send your questions to this e-mail. I'll answer you promptly.

God bless you this school year. I look forward to hearing from you!
In Christ,
Else Tennessen
School Director

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Exciting New Books in Print!


Dear Students and Friends,

Looking to the new school year, which begins on September 1, I encourage you to put two new books on your reading lists. These come to us from Ancient Faith Publishing (formerly, Conciliar Press).

The first book, Ask for the Ancient Paths, by Fr James Guirguis, is the perfect book for those exploring Orthodoxy, or for us to give to non-Orthodox friends when they ask about the Faith. Read an excerpt from the bookAncient Paths is very acessible and will make you think. It is a great evangelism tool! If you choose to read this book after September 1 and fill out the general worksheet for books (available from the Lessons tab at the top of this website), you can earn 2 credits.

The second book is called A Patristic Treasury: Early Church Wisdom for Today by James Payton, author of Light from the Christian East. This 400+ page tome brings together a collection of writings of the Church Fathers, specially selected and accessible for those who have never "dived in" to the Ancients before. This is an exciting collection and makes these wise writings available to all audiences. Read an excerpt here. If you choose to read this book after September 1 and fill out the general worksheet for books (available from the Lessons tab at the top of this website), you can earn 4 credits for your work.

I hope you will consider these books, read them, and pass them on to interested friends. Reading and passing books along is also a form of witness to our Faith. Try it! May your reading be blessed.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Following our Alaskan Missionaries

Fr. Andrew of St Luke Church at St Herman's Seminary, Alaska

Dear Students and Friends,

Here at St Luke Church, our mission team has departed for week of service on Spruce Island, Alaska, USA, the ancient home of St Herman of Alaska. Here they will minister to the Island dwellers (about 200 in number, with a majority 25 years old and under), teaching a Bible school and being available for ministry and friendship.

In order to follow along with their mission, I've been reading Orthodox Alaska: A theology of mission, by Fr. Michael Oleksa. In this volume is the history of Orthodoxy in Alaska--the birthplace of Orthodoxy in America! From here, all our American Orthodox churches originated through the ministry of three Russian priests: Herman, Juvenaly and Macarias. The book begins with a succint but very nice summary of the Orthodox faith, and follows with the story of the first Alaskan mission.

A second book, Alaskan Missionary Spirituality, also by Fr. Oleksa, contains a collection of writings by the Alaskan saints and missionaries of that age, where you can read their own words.

What is so wonderful about Orthodox missionary spirituality is the great love reflected by the missionaries for the native American peoples. Orthodox missionary movements are the only ones that, instead of forcing native peoples to be assimilated into western culture, come to the people where they live, reaching through their own beliefs to show them the reality of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Paul said in First Corinthians, Chapter 9: " 19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

It is so inspiring to read about the origins of Orthodoxy in our country and the particulars behind the Alaskan missionaries. I encourage you to read these volumes--they will encourage you so much.

To learn more about blessed St Herman, here are some wonderful videos to watch (there are only 2, not 3):
May your learning be blessed this summer!

St Luke Church missionary team in front of
Ouzinkie, Alaska church where the mission will be held.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spiritual Reading Each Day

Dear Students and Friends,

A daily devotional is often the only spiritual reading we might get in a busy, harried day.

Here is a devotional that promises to be thoughtful and encouraging, by one of the great Spiritual Fathers, St Theophan the Recluse:

Thoughts for Each Day of the Year
by St Theophan the Recluse 
ISBN: 9781887904223
Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894) was one of the most prolific and beloved spiritual writers of nineteenth-century Russia. His works, which comprise over twenty volumes, include such classics as The Path to Salvation and A Commentary on Psalm 118, as well as many volumes of letters. Although he lived the last twenty-eight years of his life as a hermit, his impact on his homeland was immense. His articles appeared in the popular spiritual journals of his time, his books were in great demand, and he personally replied to an average of thirty letters daily. In the present book, Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, St. Theophan takes us through the yearly cycle of Gospel and Epistle readings, humbly and reverently offering us brief but powerful daily meditations on the word of God. He also addresses the problems of his day—lack of faith, coldness of heart, trust in the rational mind rather than in the revealed Truth of God—which are problems of our day as well. Contemplating the sacred texts together with St. Theophan, the reader will learn to penetrate more deeply into Holy Scripture, and will receive answers to many dogmatic, moral, and spiritual questions which touch upon our salvation. Thoughts for Each Day of the Year can help us to more closely connect our lives with the life of Christ in His Holy Church, and to gain a better knowledge of how to fulfill His commandments. By reading St. Theophan’s daily exhortations and taking them to heart, one can be changed by the grace-filled power of our Savior, in accordance with the teaching of the Apostle Paul: Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).

Available from Holy Trinity Monastery, here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Reading Program Begins!

Dear Students and Friends,

The term may be over, but summer is here and that means--summer reading! As usual, read 3 books and receive 10 credits (after completing and returning the General Worksheet for books for each title).

This year's books are:

  • On Social Justice, by St Basil the Great
  • Everyday Saints, by Archimandrite Tikhon
  • Ages of the Spiritual Life, by Paul Evdokimov
  • Good and Faithful Servant, edited by Anthony Scott
  • Mother Maria Skobtsova: Essential Writings, by Maria Skobtsova

Download the summer reading flyer to read more about these books. Summer reading begins NOW and ends on September 1, 2013.

Any summer credits earned go towards your total for the 2013-2014 term.

Questions? E-mail else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for more information.

Grow spiritually this summer--read!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

School Prize Announcement

Dear Students and Friends,

Heartiest congratulations go out to Staci in Colorado, our school prize winner this year. Staci accumulated 33 credits during this year's term--almost one per week, by reading books and listening to podcasts.

Staci will be receiving an Orthodox icon as her prize. Way to go, Staci!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Holy Friday

Ancient Hungarian prayer manuscript showing the Shroud.

Dear Students and Friends,

At St Luke Orthodox Church today, we have three services:

At each of these services, we meditate and reflect on the Lord's death and burial in preparation for the Resurrection.

Join with us by attending your church today. May your Holy Friday be a blessed time of reflection and holy waiting.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Passion Gospel Service on Holy Thursday

Fr Andrew Harrison of St Luke Orthodox Church
processes with the cross on Holy Thursday.

Dear Students and Friends,

We celebrate the "last" supper on Thursday of Holy Week, and in the evening, we have a Passion Gospel Service, one of the most importent and solemn Holy Week Services. It is a remembrance and an entrance into the suffering and death of Christ. The priest, standing in the center of the church, is surrounded by twelve candles and reads the words of the Apostles who witnessed the events. As each Gospel is read, one candle is extinguished. During the fifth reading, the priest processes with the Cross over his shoulder as he chants, "He who hung the earth upon the waters is now being hung on the cross." At the point of the sixth Gospel when Jesus yields up His Spirit, the priest places a wreath of red flowers over the Cross. The service concludes with the veneration of the Cross.

The twelve readings are:

Please join us in reading the Gospels, and if you can, don't miss this sacred service. May your Holy Thursday be blessed!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Holy Wednesday: Holy Unction

Christ heals.

Dear Students and Friends,

On the Wednesday of Holy Week, we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Unction.

The Sacrament of Holy Unction is offered for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins. At the conclusion of the service of the Sacrament, the body is anointed with oil, and the grace of God, which heals infirmities of soul and body, is called down upon each person. 

Read more about this service »
Read about Holy Unction on the Mystagogy blog »

This is a very thorough and helpful article about Unction and the history and biblical basis of this sacrament in our church. I personally find it to be one of the most meaningful services of the week, as it reminds me of the healing I need to be part of Christ's Kingdom.

I hope this information will be helpful to you today and throughout the rest of Holy Week!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Bridegroom Services

Parable of the 10 Virgins
Dear Students and Friends,

Today is the last Bridegroom Service of Holy Week. I found an excellent resource explaining the service and the Holy Icon.

Read about the Bridegroom Service »

Bridegroom Service Texts

I hope this will be a blessing to you, and that Holy Week will be especially meaningful to you this year!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The First Three Days of Holy Week

Dear Students and Friends,

It's here! Holy Week is upon us. Here are some podcasts to help us this week, to set the tone and prepare our souls for Holy Pascha.

The Orthodox Christian Network is offering a six-part reflection on the first days of Holy Week, hosted by Fr Thomas Hopko of St Vladimir's Seminary.

View the podcast list and listen now.

You can earn one credit for each podcast you listen to. Simply fill out a Podcast Worksheet (available from the Lessons tab, above) for each podcast and e-mail your work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for credit.

May your Holy Week be blessed!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Timeline of Church History

Dear Students and Friends,

One of the things I found most helpful when I was first exploring Orthodoxy was to acquaint myself with church history and where the Orthodox Church fit in.

A helpful pamphlet by Conciliar Press, "A Timeline of Church History," was my first introduction. I've added a pdf of the pamphlet to the "New to Orthodoxy?" tab, above.

In the beginning, we ALL were Orthodox! However, several events are pivotal in the creation of the various denominations we see today:

1054: The Great Schism. This is where the Roman church broke off to form the Catholic church. The pamphlet describes the issues.

1517: The beginning of Protestantism. Again, the pamphlet describes the event. To give Martin Luther credit, however, he was not protesting Catholicism per se, but the corruption that had entered the Catholic Church.

1529: The formation of the Church of England by King Henry VIII. Although the pamphlet does not go into this in detail, the formation of this church was due entirely to the fact that Henry wanted to divorce one wife and marry someone else. He had no ecclesiastical power except the one he believed he had as his right by kingship.

And finally, one more event that does not make this timeline.

1525: Zwingli, a humanist, challenges the belief that the liturgical gifts of bread and wine are the actual Body and Blood of Christ. This paved the way for Protestant churches to change the Eucharist into a Communion, merely a memorial service of the last supper where Christ is present only as a remembrance, not in actual fact.

Learning how the various churches came to be is quite helpful in examining what we believe and why. For a more thorough treatment of the development of the Orthodox Church, I recommend the book, "The Orthodox Church" by Kallistos Ware as a readable and lively introduction to this history.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Prayer of the Week: Hebrews 9:11-14

Dear Students and Friends,

As we travel towards Pascha, won't you join us in occasional Prayers of the Week? These are weekly e-mails from Fr Andrew Harrison of St Luke Church where a prayer is offered, plus a question to answer.

This week's prayer:

Let us pray to the Lord--O Lord You will return with the sound of the trumpet. You will reveal to us Your Holy city which we only experience as a shadow, a copy, each time we attend the Divine Liturgy. You are our high priest who has entered the more perfect tabernacle with Your own precious body and blood as a sacrifice for us. Grant that we may see through our spiritual eyes this more perfect tabernacle which you made present in Your Holy Church. We pray in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible verse: Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is not of this creation. Heb 9:11

Bible question: What does Christ's Sacrifice do for us?

You can earn one credit for answering this question--e-mail your answer to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com. In addition to earning one credit, your anonymous response to this question will be posted on the St Luke website. Visit the website each week to see more questions and answers.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Podcasts to end Lent

Dear Students and Friends,

Today ends a week celebrating St Mary of Egypt, and now we process with our Lord to Jerusalem. Here are some podcasts for reflection.

St Mary of Egypt. On Harmony of Thunder, Fr. David Smith shares thoughts on St. Mary of Egypt. Listen now.

The Liturgy of St Basil. Throughout Lent we have been celebrating the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. But who was this man? We can learn more about him from Paula Kerifides on Theologically Thinking. Listen now.

You can earn one credit for each podcast you listen to. Simply listen, complete a Podcast worksheet (available from the Lessons tab, above) and e-mail it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

Read-Along resumes after Pascha

St Luke, physician of our souls!

Dear Students and Friends,

Our Read-Along in the Gospel of Luke resumes after Pascha; however, lessons 8 and 9 are now posted on the Read-Along tab so you can read and complete the lessons. Answers to some of the lessons are also posted to assist you.

View lessons here.

You can earn 1 credit for each lesson you complete. Simply complete the lesson worksheet and e-mail it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

The Read-Along is a perfect way to study and spiritually grow in the Faith, as the commentaries by Father Farley are from the Orthodox perspective. The lessons also help you read and engage with the Bible. Won't you join us?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Podcast: St Mary of Egypt

Icon of St Mary of Egypt. Photograph by Jim Forest.

Dear Students and Friends,

As we get closer to Pascha, our Lenten efforts may seem harder to accomplish! We can find encouragement in the story of St Mary of Egypt, who fled her passions into the desert to practice repentance and to more closely follow God.

This week on Come Receive the Light podcast, you can listen to a podcast about St Mary, one of two examples of Christians who struggled in this world but found peace in Christ. We’ll hear first about one of Orthodoxy’s most beloved Saints - Mary of Egypt - from Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. Then, we’ll hear from Hieromonk Calinic Berger about a Romanian priest who died just twenty years ago. Fr. Dumitru Staniloae is recognized as one of the leading Orthodox theologians of the 20th century, and spent 5 years in a Communist prison for his faith. We’ll hear about his life and his thoughts on prayer, humility, and repentance.

Listen now.

As always, you can earn 1 credit for listening to this podcast. Simply listen, fill out the Podcast worksheet (from the Lessons tab, above) and e-mail it back to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com.

Wishing you Lenten peace!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: Everyday Saints

Dear Students and Friends,

One of our students, Staci, offers this review and insights into the book, "Everyday Saints," by Archimandrite Tikhon. The book sounds perfect for encouragement during the Lenten season, as I'm sure you'll agree. Thank you, Staci, for allowing me to print your review.


Everyday Saints is a collection of stories of monks and other people that Archimandrite Tikhon has known throughout his life.  He begins with the story of his own conversion to Orthodoxy (being raised in the Soviet Union he did not have religion or a knowledge of God in the early part of his life).  The stories are about the monks at the monastery (Pskov Caves Monastery in Pechory, Russia) and other people that Archimandrite Tikhon has encountered in his life.  Some of the stories are really poignant, others are quite funny, and all are wonderful examples and lessons on Orthodox Christianity and the presence of God in our lives. 

This has been one of the most impactful books I have read.  I can’t wait to read it again.  This book teaches lessons through the lives of the monks about how to be more spiritual, how to be more selfless, how to be more connected with God.  One of the strongest themes in the book was that there are no coincidences.  The hand of God is constantly in our lives, and we don’t always pay attention to that, but things would go better for us if we did.  There are lots of examples in the book of people deciding what is best for themselves and then having LOTS of reminders about what they would be better off doing instead.  I am hardly able to put into decent words how much of a blessing it is to read this book.  This is one of the best books I have read.

I don’t know that I found any of it difficult to understand.  The book itself is very relatable.  With all monastic stories, the hardest thing to understand or apply is total obedience to God and giving up our own whims and desires.  The book does not make this sound crazy though; in fact, we see the monks struggle with so much of their own humanity--and these are people that the rest of us would say totally are on track with being close to God--that they seem to be struggling even more than any of the rest of us.  It is a reminder of the constant struggle, but the great reward. 

Here is a random-ish list of what will stay with me:

The monks--throughout this book I feel like I got to know them personally.  I cried when some of them died. I miss them now that I am done reading the book.  Archimandrite Tikhon creates them so fully for us, through little stories here and there, that it is as though I know them personally. 

The monks as warriors--My dad always taught me that this life is a battle waged against evil in the world.  The battle is won through God, and God knows how it all plays out, but we have to fight the battle.  Fr. Tikhon constantly refers to the monks as warriors for our spiritual salvation, fighting ina  true war against evil. 

The vast forgiveness the monks demonstrate--people spit on them, steal from them, persecute them, deny their religions freedom, you name it.  And through it all they demonstrate forgiveness (although not in a Polly Anna way--they get mad too!) and they pray and turn things over to God.  And God delivers.

Prayer--the monks pray all the time.  When things go wrong, they pray, and they get help.  When things go right, they are thankful.  There is no end to the importance of prayer. 

The vastness of Russia--this may not seem important because it’s not part of the spiritual elements of the book, but it just is so interesting such a large and endless place.

The oppression of the Communists--We just have no idea.  It is amazing to me what these poor people had to endure for all of those years.  Horrid.

Listen to God--the messages are there, and apparently if we stop overriding them with what WE think is right, we will hear them and actually get somewhere in our lives.

I could go on...

I loved this book.  I am so thankful I got to read it.  I am loaning it to my mom, and then I want to read it again.  I miss it already. There is a website for the book too: What a great book!