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DEPARTMENT OF STEWARDSHIP MINISTRY

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November, 1998

Reverend Father and
Members of the Parish Council
Greek Orthodox Church

As we quickly apporach the beginning of a new year, we wish to thank you once more for your support to our 1998 National Ministries. It has truly been a year of spiritual growth and developement in out holy Archdiocese of America.

The 1998 Clergy-Laity Congress, the first help under the spiritual guidence of His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon of America, emphasized the importance of religious education. A number of workshops were conducted in the "Educational Program" of the Congress. We have received many compliments from the Congress participants. In conjuction with this program, the Department og Internet Ministries taught us the benifits of using cyberspace as a tool to benefit the outreach of our Orthodox Christian Faith. Our ability to communicate with people of God, via the Internet, is proving to be a viable instrument for resources and enlightenment.

It is our pleasure to send you the1999 Stewardship Ministry Campaign "Stewardship: Fulfilling Our Image and Likeness." The program is designed to be used for bulletin inserts beginning with the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through Pentecost. We believe they will serve to enrich the faithful in the meaningfull messages depicted in byzantine iconography.

In addition to this material, one may access stewardship campaigns from previous years through the Archdiocese Website: www.goarch.org. We encourage you to use all the materials to benefit your Parish's stewardship outreach.

Once again, I wish to express my sincere appreciation for your commitment to the National Ministries of our Church. May out Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bless you to serve His Church with faith and love.

In Christ's Diakonia,
Very Rev. Archmandrite J. Gabriel Karambis
Director

 

The Nativity

Icon of the Nativity

of our

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

December 25, Christmas Day, is the Feastday that rejoices in the greatest gift offered to humankind - God humbles Himself and takes on flesh, it is the Incarnation of the Son of God, so that you and I may be saved. In commemoration of this day, we exchange gifts with one another.

Contemplating the icon of the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we realize the great love that God offers to His people through His Son. God loves us so much that He has sent His Son to show us a new way of life. The Birth of Christ is a celebration of joy, for we have been granted eternal life.

The truth that God became man and entered into history is seen in the icon of the Nativity. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger is the Christ Child. All the details of the icon relate to the Lord’s presence among us. The icon of the Nativity calls us to praise and glorify the Birth of Christ.

Orthodox Church Iconography and Hymnology teach us wonderful lessons about ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP. The following hymn, taken from the Vespers of the Nativity, invites us to recognize the offerings made in celebration of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We sing: "What shall we bring to You, O Christ, Who, for our sake, was born on earth as man? Every creature brings thanks to You: Angels their songs; the heavens a star; Wise Men gifts; Shepherds amazement; the earth a cave; the wilderness a manger; but we - the Virgin Mother."

All creation has acknowledged the Birth of the Redeemer of Humankind through the act of STEWARDSHIP. We, too, must offer our Time, Talents, and Treasure so that His Church may truly glorify Him and confess: Christ is Born!

See: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20

Adoration of the Magi

The Maji

Continuing the events of the Birth of Christ we recall the visit of the Wise Men to the Christ Child. Seeking the Newborn King they offer Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In the icon we understand the statement "kneeling before Innocence we see wealth prostrating itself before Poverty."

The Magi offer gold - an offering of obedience to the King; frankincense - bringing worship and reverence to God; and myrrh - an offering to the human nature of Christ. Their offering reminds the faithful that we too must present our gifts to the Lord.

The gifts we offer through good stewardship are our Time, Talents, and Treasure. Instead of gold, we present our heart to the Lord; rather than frankincense, we offer our soul illumined with love for God and for all humankind; and in place of myrrh, we give our mind so that our thoughts and actions may be free of sin.

The Magi traveled a great distance to meet the newborn King. They overcame many obstacles to meet the Savior of Humankind. Following the Star of Bethlehem, they were guided to prostrate themselves before the God incarnate. They understood what it meant to present their very best to the Lord of all. The Star of Bethlehem has been shining in the hearts of Christians for almost 2,000 years. We must continue to allow the star to guide us in acts of Christian STEWARDSHIP!

What cause can possibly be worthier than presenting ourselves to God so that the sacred mission of His Church might be fulfilled? We should not wait for the Church to ask for our support, we must step forward voluntarily to meet the Lord and present ourselves to Him by the giving of our Time, Talents, and Treasure.

See: Matthew 2:1-12

 

Presentation of the Lord to the Temple

The Mother of God, obedient to the teachings of the Old Testament, presents the Christ Child to the Temple forty days after His birth. The icon depicts St. Symeon’s encounter with the infant Messiah. Symeon had been promised that he would not see death until he beheld the "Anointed of the Lord." Upon seeing the Child Symeon praises God saying: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all people, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel."

The imagery of this event depicts Symeon as all that was good, all that was God-seeking in the Old Testament community. Thus, in the person of Symeon we see that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ! Now we are illuminated by the dawn of a new promise, the Age of Redemption and salvation in Christ our Lord.

The icon also depicts the Prophetess Anna who was in the Temple the day Jesus was presented in accordance with the law of Moses. She acknowledges the Infant Jesus as the Redeemer of humankind by telling everyone about the redemption of Israel. In some icons of this event she holds a scroll that reads: "This child has created the heaven and the earth!"

We continue to follow this example when presenting our children to the Church for a blessing on the fortieth day after their birth. This pious practice of the faithful enables us to rediscover Christ, to meet Him again, and to affirm Him as our Lord and Savior. It does not stop, however, at this forty day blessing of a child.

In the Presentation of our Lord to the Temple, two young pigeons are offered to God’s House by Joseph and the Theotokos. They thank God in offering their material goods. The promise to Symeon is fulfilled as he sees with his own eyes the Savior; the prayers of the prophetess are answered as she beholds the Redeemer because the Lord blesses those who follow Him. Faithful STEWARDSHIP is our acknowledgement that Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Pray with your family and beseech God to direct you in your participation in the holy ministry of our Church. Then give to your Church as God has prospered you.

See: Leviticus 12:2-4; Luke 2:22-38

The Flight into Egypt

Flight into Egypt

The New Testament teaches us that following the Birth of Jesus, Herod wanted to "destroy" the Child. Directed by an angel, Joseph took Mary and Jesus and left Israel, seeking refuge in Egypt. Once again we realize the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy when in Hosea 11:1 we read: "Out of Egypt I called My Son." In this passage the Son of God is Israel and Jesus is the true Israel. He reenacts in His own life the history of Israel, without falling into sin. The icon depicting this event in the life of our Lord reminds us that we must always preserve our precious faith in Him.

Christian Orthodox Stewardship is our opportunity to support the sacred mission of our Church. The Church is not a single parish, but the local Diocese, the Archdiocese, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the National Ministries we are developing. It is our privilege to preserve the Faith with the giving of our Time, Talents, and Treasure.

The safe flight of our Lord into Egypt occurred in the midst of terrible sacrifice. Herod was furious when he realized that the Magi had not returned to tell him where the newborn King might be found. In retaliation he ordered that all the male children in the area of Bethlehem, two years old or under, be killed. We remember the 14,000 children slain by Herod and acknowledge the sacrifice of their families to protect the Christ Child.

We may not face such terrible threats today for our children, but there is a concern we must have for their upbringing. Our young people are exposed to so many competing influences that they need a stable and supportive family and Church. It is in the Church that we establish and sustain the ministries that teach the family to be faithful to Christ.

The support you offer to your local parish enables the National Ministries of our Church in America to serve you! A few of the ways that the National Ministries serve you is by: preparing priests for tomorrow; developing Orthodox ministries on the Internet; preparing educational videos for the Church; supporting the Youth Office in each Diocese; and maintaining the Ionian Village camping program.

See: Matthew 2:13-15

 

Jesus in the Temple

Jesus Teaching

in the Temple

In this icon we see Jesus as a twelve-year old boy listening and asking questions of the teachers of Israel. It is at this point that Jesus Himself, for the first time, refers to God as His Father. Every stage of human life is sanctified by our Lord. Jesus is shown taking care of His Father’s house so that we may realize that He is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life!" The elders depicted in the icon with the twelve year old Jesus seem to be asking, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"

It has been said many times that the: "Young people are the Church of tomorrow!" It is disturbing to hear Orthodox Christians make this statement because nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact is that our "young people are the Church of TODAY!"

At a very young age our children participate in the Holy Mysteria of Baptism, Chrismation, and the Holy Eucharist. They are full members of the Body of Christ — the Church! In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism a person is established with the life of the crucified, resurrected, and glorified Christ.

We include our children in the sacramental life of the Church, but too often neglect to teach them to live the Faith in a holistic manner. Children, too, can be taught to be stewards of the Church by the giving of their Time, Talents, and Treasure.

As a young person grows from childhood to adulthood, and participates in the life of the Church, their personal response becomes crucial. Keeping our lives focused on Christ, we unite ourselves to Him through prayer and sacrament. In this manner we learn to give in return and become true Orthodox Christian stewards!

See: Luke 2:41-50; John 7:14-29

 

The Baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

The Lord's Baptism

Depicting one of the greatest days of the Christian year we see in the icon of the "Epiphany," the manifestation of God. Also known to us as "Theophany," meaning "God reveals Himself to us," we see the Holy Trinity clearly revealed for all humankind to know. The Icon of the Baptism of Jesus brings us visually and symbolically into the presence of the manifestation of God. In its presence, we know that God reveals Himself to us, and that through our own baptism, established in the Baptism of Christ, we are made new in the Lord.

Our Christian life begins with our own Baptism and Chrismation into the Orthodox Faith. Membership in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is based on our participation in the Holy Mysteria of Baptism and Chrismation. Our membership in the Church, however, does not stop once we are baptized. It is the beginning of our life in Christ! It is the means by which we become citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom! Holy Baptism has enabled us to become partakers in the gift of salvation!

Our first STEWARDSHIP offering comes during our Baptism. In thanksgiving for the gift of new life in Christ, we make a personal sacrifice. The tonsuring of the hair is a symbol that we give a part of ourselves to God. This act of the newly baptized member of the Church is done freely and cheerfully. By this act we declare that we will not only offer a part of ourselves to God, but will commit our whole life to Him!

Every Orthodox Christian household must again consider the reason for having been baptized into Christ. When we acknowledge the gift of eternal life offered through Holy Baptism, there is no question as to why we must develop and grow as stewards of the Faith!

See: Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-34; Romans 6:3-11;

Colossians 2:12

 

Jesus Changes the Water into Wine

Jesus at the Wedding in Cana

The first miracle of our Lord took place at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. By His presence at the wedding Jesus affirms that marriage is to be holy and honorable. The miracle performed of changing the water into wine symbolizes the blessing we receive when Christ is the center of our lives.

When a man and a woman promise to love and honor one another they are joined together in the community of marriage. The Holy Mysterion of Matrimony emphasizes that love is true and complete when Christ is in their midst. Standing before the Holy Altar the bride and groom make an eternal commitment to be faithful to one another.

An Orthodox Christian marriage is a celebration in which Christ touches the lives of the newly married couple. The presence of the Lord remains because this sanctified relationship is based on love. Christ’s life was a message of love and His love for those who enter into marriage is a model for their love to each other. The elements of love include forgiveness and faithfulness throughout their lives.

A household built on faith in Jesus Christ must develop a meaningful relationship with the Church. The Mysterion of Holy Matrimony in the Orthodox Church offers this prayer: "Let them know their children’s children. Preserve the sanctity of their home. Give them both of the dew from heaven and of the earth’s bounty. Fill their houses with grain and wine and oil and every good thing, so that in turn they may share with those who are in want…"

From the moment the bride and groom were united "…in one mind…" and crowned "…with glory and honor" they entered the condition that makes their marriage a Christian Orthodox marriage. This condition is the acceptance of the Gospel of Christ, the bearing of His Cross in order to participate in His triumph and entry into His Kingdom in order to partake of eternal life. Christ crowns them together with the martyrs and the saints as champions of the Faith!

STEWARDSHIP is the means by which a family manages its TIME, TALENTS, and TREASURE to the glory of God. To care for and to love one another often calls for sacrifice. As married couples work to fulfill their basic material needs, and in time those of their children, it is imperative that they keep in mind their spiritual lives as well. This must be a priority in the family for "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

See: John 2:1-11; Ephesians 5:21-33

 

Miracle of the Loaves and Fish

Jesus Blesses the Five Loaves in the Wilderness

Jesus is the Giver of Life! The miracle that feeds the five thousand tells us that Jesus is the Bread of Life. We receive the Bread of Life through faith and sacrament. The Church Fathers relate this miracle to the Holy Eucharist. Following the invocation by Jesus, the disciples distribute the food to the people. The miracle of five loaves and two fish feeding five thousand plus people demonstrates the power of God to provide for all. It is after the Lord’s blessing, and by His Grace that we are allowed to partake of the Holy Gifts.

The Holy Mysteria are the means by which we are united with God. By partaking of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we become one with Him. When we gather to partake of the Holy Eucharist we become what God intended us to be: united to Him in faith and love, and through Him, to one another. It is in love, faith, and worship that we are truly stewards of the Church!

The local parish fulfills its true task and is a most genuine expression of the Church when its ministries and activities center on the heart of true Christian STEWARDSHIP expressed in faith, love, and worship. This is the ideal and the goal that each parish seeks to attain and every Orthodox Christian strives to accomplish.

In the miracle of the five loaves and two fish we also have the remaining baskets of food. This reminds us that none of God’s gifts should be lost or forgotten. Any time we offer a service of the Blessing of the Loaves (Artoklasia), we celebrate this miraculous event. We are reminded of the multitude of blessings we receive and that we have much to share through the Church.

Within the context of this miracle there are things that define Christian living. Not the least of which is setting aside and giving systematically a percentage or proportion of what we earn and receive on a regular basis. We may even give beyond our measured amounts in order to share our blessings with the Body of Christ.

 

See: Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14

The Holy Transfiguration

The Transfiguration

of our Lord and God

and Savior Jesus Christ

The Feast of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor reveals the glorious light of Christ’s divinity. In describing this event St. John Chrysostom explains that Moses represents the Law and Elijah the Prophets of the Old Testament. Both had visions of God. Moses is symbolic of the dead while Elijah, having been carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire, represents the living over whom - both the living and the dead - Christ reigns in glory!

Also in the icon are the Apostles Peter, James and John. Christ appears to them, not in the form of man, the "suffering servant", but in the form of God! Church hymnology states: "For taking apart the three Disciples He has expressly chosen...He led them up into the mountain by themselves; and for a short time He concealed the flesh He had assumed, and was transfigured before them."

The Transfiguration of Christ is a theophany, a manifestation of God that displays His uncreated divine energy. In the Transfiguration we celebrate the divinity of Christ and the call for His faithful followers to allow God to live in their lives.

Orthodox Christian STEWARDSHIP is the response we offer when God lives in our lives. The participation of the three disciples, along with Moses and Elijah, reveal to us the entire Church: the disciples representing the Church on earth and the prophets the heavenly Church. God’s covenant in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. The testimony of these two prophets and three disciples is the revelation of God in Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We, then, become members of the body of Christ through Baptism and Chrismation into the Faith.

The STEWARDSHIP Program is the way for everyone to belong. We are expected to make an honest and sincere contribution to the sacred ministry of the Church. No matter what one’s income so long as one gives as an expression of faith and love the work of Christ’s church will grow and prevail.

See: Matthew 17:1-12; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36

 

The Raising of Lazarus

The Raising of Lazarus

Our Church commemorates the raising of Lazarus from the grave on the day before Palm Sunday. All of the details of the Holy Gospel referring to this event are related in the icon. These details are graphic and direct. In our Church Hymnology we sing: "Christ, the Joy of all, the Truth, the Light of Life, and the Resurrection of the world, appeared to those on earth; and by His goodness became also the Image of Resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all.

The icon gives us a glimpse of the symbolic value and deeper meaning which the Raising of Lazarus signifies. This last and greatest of Jesus’ signs is presented to the world so that the Will of God may be made known through His life-giving power. We see the truth of everlasting life presented through Christ Himself, the resurrection and the life!

This miracle of the Raising of Lazarus is greater than all the previous miracles of Jesus. Lazarus has been dead four days; Jesus prays to the Father and with a loud voice cries out: "Lazarus come forth!" This single command of the Lord fills Lazarus once again with the "breath of life." It is in the Name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that Lazarus is raised from the dead!

Jesus had great love for Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. It is this same love that we receive when we call Him Lord and obediently follow His ways. Many and glorious are the times we proclaim Jesus as the "philanthropos," the Lover of humankind.

Life is given to us through Christ. Our commitment to the STEWARDSHIP ministry reveals how we live our faith in the Resurrected Lord. It is in Jesus’ Resurrection that we receive eternal life and we express our hope in the life to come by our response as Orthodox Christian stewards.

See: John 11:1-45

Palm Sunday

The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem

The entry of Christ into Jerusalem is a celebration of triumph! This icon brings us to the moment of glory, coming at the close of Great Lent, at which time we receive a preview of the Paschal joy.

In the icon, our attention is focused on Christ. The people of Jerusalem come out to greet the Lord. Children can be seen in this icon representing the Biblical reference: "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have fashioned praise" (Psalm 8:3). In the Palm Sunday Vespers we sing: "Wherefore, like babes, rejoice, carrying branches in your hands, and praise Him, singing, ‘Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He Who comes, the King of Israel’."

We see in this icon Christ’s journey to His voluntary passion and death. At the same time, it gives us a preview of His installation in the Kingdom of His glory, the Kingdom of the New Jerusalem, a confirmation of the resurrection of all into the Heavenly Church.

In remembrance of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the priest distributes palms, shaped in the sign of the cross, to the faithful attending the Divine Liturgy. The palms are a symbol of victory. Taking up the palm cross we must follow the Lord into the coming days of His passion.

Entering Holy Week we are stirred emotionally: we see the joyous entry into Jerusalem; we encounter the moment of betrayal; we partake of the Last Supper; we deplore the arrest, scourging, and mocking of Jesus; agonize at the Crucifixion of the Lord; lament at the Tomb; and celebrate the glorious Resurrection! It is a reaffirmation of our baptism where we die with Christ and share in His Resurrection.

STEWARDSHIP is the means by which we express our Orthodox Christian Faith by bearing the cross with Christ. Our whole life is centered in Him as we commit ourselves from today to the last breath we take as members of the earthly Church. Without the Cross, without a commitment to sacrifice, we cannot enter into the joy of Pascha. Our STEWARDSHIP participation is the Christian reality of love, sacrifice, and eternal life!

See: Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-18

Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

The icon depicting our Lord washing the feet of His disciples is a beautiful example of love and humility. We are taught by the hymns of the Church: "The Savior and Master, ever leading us to divine exaltation, in His actions revealed to us the humility that raises us on high. For with His own hands, He washed the feet of the disciples."

As Jesus washes the feet of His disciples, we have both a symbol of baptism and an example of service. This becomes more profound when we realize that in Jesus, God in the flesh renders humility as an expression of stewardship. As Christians, we are bathed and cleansed by Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Periodically, throughout our lives, we have "foot-washings" by our Lord through the Sacrament of Holy Confession.

The only way for God to assist us in actualizing the likeness we have in Him is to guide us in developing His unselfishness in us. Giving is not for God’s benefit, but for our own. He waits patiently for us to learn to give. Humankind may be transformed into His likeness by the process of STEWARDSHIP.

We need to be honest with God. Like our Time and Talents, our Treasure is also a gift from God. He makes it possible for us to acquire such treasurer. Obtaining what we believe to be our own material possessions, our treasures are actually entrusted to our care by God. As Orthodox Christians, we have the responsibility to our Lord to support and make possible the perpetuation of the ministry of His Church in the world. Our response to this call is by giving in an open, direct, and honest manner.

The Lord puts forth many examples of humility and love. As in the example of our Lord washing the feet of His disciples, Church leadership must also set the example of ministering with humility. It is our STEWARDSHIP obligation and privilege to serve God and our fellow humankind. This is the life of the Church in all Her mystical, catechetical, and pastoral expressions.

See: John 13:1-17

The Mystical Supper

The Mystical Supper

The icon of the Mystical Supper portrays Christ and the Apostles seated around a table. The respective gazes and positions of the figures portray the story to the viewer. Jesus reveals that He has been betrayed. Christ Himself meets the eyes of the disciples that are directed toward Him. Other disciples are bewildered about the meaning of the words of the Savior: "Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke."

We also have the institution of the Holy Eucharist (the Divine Liturgy) during the Mystical Supper. The icon depicts the sanctified bread - the Body of Christ - as already broken and distributed to the Apostles. The cup of the sanctified wine - the Blood of Christ - on the table, awaiting passage to them, so that in the words from the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, all may be united who become partakers of the one Bread and Cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit."

Once again, we learn a valuable lesson in STEWARDSHIP. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ becomes the sacrifice through the offering of bread and wine. Today, the faithful people of God bring forth the bread and wine as an offering to the Lord. The offering is not only personal, but communal, as everyone attending the Divine Liturgy is called to be united in Christ.

We are united by the Holy Eucharist with one another and with all the saints of the Church Triumphant. It is at this moment that we realize the purpose of the Church. As the people of God, the Body of Christ, we become mystically what God intended us to be: united to Him in faith and love, and through Him, to one another. It is in love and faith and worship that we are truly a member of the Church!

Once we understand this we can more clearly see how a local parish lives up to its true task. In this way the parish becomes the most genuine expression of the Church. When its activity and life center on the heart of the matter, true STEWARDSHIP, is expressed in faith, love, and worship. This is the ideal that each parish, and each Orthodox Christian strives to accomplish.

See: Matthew 26:17-35; Luke 22:1-23

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

The event of the Crucifixion leads us into the greatest expression of the divine mystery of love. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends" (John 15:13). We contemplate the Crucifixion and approach with awe and amazement God’s awesome condescension. "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philip. 2:8).

The icon of the Crucifixion depicts God’s great sacrifice. The city is seen in the background, and at the foot of the cross is a dark place representing "the place of the skull," the tomb of Adam. All creation was moved by Christ’s death. Holy Scripture reveals that the sun and the moon were darkened at the time of our Lord’s death. Above our Lord’s head was placed the inscription, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

The icon strives to depict the deeper spiritual reality of triumph over death, rather than the human emotions of saddness. Whenever we refer to the Crucifixion we never see it apart from the Resurrection of the Lord. For this reason we sing: "We bow to Your cross, O Lord, and we praise Your holy Resurrection."

Following the examples of the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist we are to be present at the foot of the Cross. Orthodox Christian STEWARDSHIP expects us to remain faithful and obedient to Christ and His Church. We must confront all situations with faith, love, and patience so that we may persevere and anticipate greater joy in blessings to come.

During our life we face moments of hardship. The obstacles before us test our faith, we too often have a cross to bear. We become like one of the two thieves crucified with our Lord: either we are impatient and demanding or we remain faithful and obedient to God and His teachings. The faithful Steward is wise and patient awaiting His guidance and instruction. The Cross of our Lord is testimony to the courage and strength we too must possess as we "…take up our cross and follow" Christ.

See: Matthew 27:32-44; Mark 15:21-32; Luke 23:26-43; John 19:17-37

The Epitaphios

The Epitaphios Icon

As an act of piety, Joseph of Arimathea seeks permission from Pilate to remove the body of Jesus from the Cross. Hastily, and without adequate preparation of the body, Jesus is wrapped in a linen shroud for his burial. From a hymn on Holy Friday we sing: "Woe is me, sweet Jesus, Whom but a while ago, when the sun beheld suspended upon the Cross, it was shrouded in darkness, the earth quaked with fear, and the Veil of the Temple was rent asunder. Albeit, I see that You willingly endure death for my sake. How then shall I array You, my God? How shall I wrap You with linen? Or what dirges shall I chant for Your funeral? Wherefore, O compassionate Lord, I magnify Your Passion, and praise Your Burial with Your Resurrection, crying, Lord, glory to You!"

The death of our Savior was for the salvation of all humankind. In this icon of the Lord’s burial we become the witnesses to the Holy Gospel. The face of Christ bears no bitterness, but rather expresses a feeling of total inner peace and tranquility. The Virgin Mother of God embraces the body of her Son with extreme tenderness. This is her moment of grief and yet, it is also one of acceptance. St. John the Evangelist leans over the body of Christ, as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus begin to place the body into the linen shroud. Christ has encountered death and we await the announcement of His victory over death. We await the celebration of His glorious Resurrection.

We learn valuable lessons in STEWARDSHIP from the events of Holy Week. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, secret disciples of Jesus, knew that if they had publicly acknowledged Jesus they would have lost their positions in life. Immediately following the events of the Crucifixion, however, they make a new commitment to the Lord. They are no longer worried what the Jews might say as they take Jesus down from the Cross. Joseph of Arimathea sacrifices the tomb prepared for his burial and gives it to his Master. He sees the burial as an opportunity to commit himself to the Lord with unending love.

What a beautiful tribute it is when one gives of his possessions to benefit another. This is exactly what Christian STEWARDSHIP offers — an opportunity and privilege to be faithful to our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

See: Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42

The Descent of Christ into Hades

Christ is Risen from the dead and by His death He has trampled upon death and to those in the tombs bestows life!

The Resurrection

All Orthodox Christians know and chant with enthusiasm the triumphant hymn of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The icon of Christ’s descent into Hades is the visual expression of this most beautiful hymn. Christ is seen as the Life-giver as He tramples on the gates of Hades, taking Adam and Eve by the hands, raising them to life.

Through our Lord’s entrance into Hades, death and sin have been vanquished. The radiant halo that surrounds Him depicts the radiant energy of His glorious Resurrection. He fills the darkness of Hades with the brilliance of His light. Standing upon the broken gates of the kingdom of Death, He demonstrates His victory over sin and Death by His own Crucifixion and Resurrection.

This event reveals the promise to each of us, that we too will be raised to enjoy the Divine Life in the Heavenly Kingdom. In liberating our first parents, Christ also frees those who put their faith in His coming. This truth is seen in the presence of Kings, David and Solomon, vested in royal robes and crowns. They stand together with John the Baptist at Christ’s right. Moses and the Prophets of the Old Testament stand at His left and with them, all of humanity is raised.

On the night of Pascha, the church is calm and dark. The priest comes out from the Holy Altar inviting the faithful to "…receive the light from the unwaning Light; and glorify Christ, Who is risen from the dead." We "enter into the joy of the Lord" and announce to the world: "It is the Day of Resurrection: Let us be glorious in splendor for the Festival, and let us embrace one another. Let us speak also, O brethren, to those that hate us, and in the Resurrection, let us forgive all things, and so let us cry: Christ is Risen from the dead and by His death He has trampled upon death and to those in the tombs He bestows life!"

See:?Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10;

Romans 5:15-17

The Myrrh-bearing Women

The Myrrh-bearing Women

Another icon depicting the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shows the women disciples going to the tomb on the first day of the week. On that Sunday morning, the first witnesses of this amazing event are the women who found the tomb empty! The angel of the Lord asks, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee..." The news of great joy, announcing the Resurrection, resounds throughout the entire world.

We see the courage of the women who went to the Tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. It is a courage that is expressed by faith as they consider how they might roll the stone away from the Tomb.

What a beautiful expression of STEWARDSHIP — to move forward without any expectation of the outcome, regardless of potential obstacles. The myrrh-bearing women have no guarantee of success, yet they are motivated by their faith to do what is right and proper. The result is that they became the first to preach the Good News of the Resurrection.

We, too, are witnesses of the Resurrection when we live a life centered in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Managing our Time, Talents, and Treasure as stewards of the Resurrected Lord puts forth the message of our precious Orthodox Christian Faith. We are the Church of the Resurrection and we have the responsibility to preserve the true Faith and "proclaim the glad tidings" to all people.

Christ is Risen from the dead and by His death He has trampled upon death and to those in the tombs He bestows life!

See:Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18

The Doubting Thomas

Doubting Thomas

The first Sunday after Pascha is dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle. The name comes from the Holy Gospel that is read on this Sunday. The Gospel begins with Jesus appearing to His Disciples on the evening of His holy Resurrection.

Thomas was not present when Jesus first showed Himself to His Disciples. When they told Thomas of the Lord’s appearance, he said that he would not believe until he saw the Lord himself. Eight days later, Jesus again appeared and called Thomas to Him and showed him His hands and side that Thomas might believe.

In the icon, Christ shows Himself to Thomas. Christ is the dominant figure at the center, initiating the movement in the icon as He bends toward Thomas and shows him His side. Thomas is called to see, touch and believe. The remaining Apostles stand as witnesses to the Risen Lord.

This icon is also depicts the Resurrection. We remember this gathering of the Disciples and celebrate Thomas’ confession on the eighth day after the Resurrection. It is a witness to us and a call to believe and profess our faith by crying out to our Redeemer together with Thomas: "My Lord and my God!"

Christ said, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." These words were not spoken only for His Kingdom to come, but also for our daily lives. Christ completed His redemptive work through His person, teachings, Passion, and Resurrection. Believing in Him enables us to enjoy the fruits of new life — true communion with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our STEWARDSHIP commitment is a pledge to be faithful to both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. The Apostles, Martyrs, Church Fathers, Ascetics, Saints, and countless Christians, empowered in this new life, testify to it as a dynamic reality so that we might join them and confess as does St. Thomas: "My Lord and My God!"

See: John 20:19-29

The Ascension

The Ascension of our Lord into Heaven

"...He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight..." This verse from the Book of Acts records the Ascension in a simple statement. Our Church celebrates Christ’s glorification forty days after Pascha. It commemorates all that Christ has done and accomplished for us! We sing on this day: "When you fulfilled the plan of salvation for us and united all things on earth to those in heaven, O Christ our God, You ascended in glory, never leaving us but remaining ever-present. For You proclaimed to those who love You: ‘I am with you and no one else has power over you’."

The icon of the Ascension is one of joy and celebration. On each side, the Apostles gaze towards Heaven as they watch the Lord ascending. Present, also, is the Mother of God, she who had once carried the Christ within her and was therefore the temple of the Incarnate Son of God. She is shown as the personification of the Church, the Body of Christ, whose Head is the ascending Savior. Uplifted in faith and prayer, she depicts the role of the Church, ceaselessly interceding for the salvation of the world. Everything in this icon is focused upward: toward the Source of the Life of the Church Who abides in Heaven.

Included in this icon is the Apostle Paul who historically would not have been present at the Lord’s Ascension. The iconographic purpose, however, is to show that the entire Church witnesses to this event through him.

Our commitment to the Church today is to be a witness of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." We are the descendants of the Apostles and Saints of every generation. It is our responsibility to maintain the Faith into the new millennium pure and undefiled.

Christian STEWARDSHIP is the means by which we pass the gift of faith in Jesus Christ to the next generation. We must be faithful to the Lord’s commission to the Apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

See: Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-11

The Pentacost

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

The festival of Pentecost has its roots in the Old Testament. Our Christian celebration of Pentecost is commemorated on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Christ. It was this event that revealed to the world the knowledge of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial, undivided, and yet distinct.

The icon of Pentecost depicts the Apostles with serenity and composure. All of them are seated, some gesturing as if in subdued conversation with one another. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the inner life of grace. The Pentecost gives birth to the Church and is the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

We see in this icon the great event of sanctification that took place in the apostolic community. At the same time, it is an expression of the sanctification of our lives in the Church by the Holy Spirit Who is constantly glorified: "Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life..."

The Orthodox Church continues to be the true Church of the New Testament. The Church of today is of the same essence and spirit with the Church described in the Book of Acts. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles continues to be felt within the Mystical life of the Church through Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation, Holy Ordination and the Holy Eucharist.

Having inherited the Church of the New Testament we have the responsibility to preserve the Orthodox Faith until the Second Coming of the Lord. It is the Lord Himself Who has built the Church and "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." Our STEWARDSHIP to the Church is an awesome charge, but as stewards of the Faith we may be confident that the Holy Spirit will guide us in love and faith.