Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 
Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
email - doccolie@yahoo.com

YOUR TASKS AS COORDINATOR

The coordination of a parish catechetical program, of whatever size, has a number of dimensions Each of these aspects utilizes different skills and presumes different abilities. They may all be done by one individual, in which case that person is probably a paid church staff person. In communities where these tasks are done by part time or volunteer ministers, several people may assume various parts of the supervisory role. In either case, the goal of parishes committed to strong catechetical programming should be to se that all these tasks are the responsibility of someone in the community.

A catechetical program coordinator's responsibilities are often seen in terms of: direction, formation, and management.

By "Direction" we mean decision-making in the program: who determines what will happen on the various levels of catechesis in the parish. By "Formation" we mean, besides the implementation of programs directed at general parish membership, those aspects of teaching done by the supervisors themselves, eg. The training of catechists. Finally, by "Management" we mean the attention to logistics which can be expected in any program.

The individual tasks are many. An overview of the aspects in coordinating a program follow. A fuller treatment of these topics will be given in future chapters.

On the Level of Direction

Program Planning
The determination of programs needed in the community, both regular ongoing programs (such as the church school, sacramental preparation, adult enrichment, etc.) and special programs (such as retreats, feastday observances, end of year celebrations, etc.)
Curriculum Design
The selection of materials for use in church school programs, from pre-school through high school levels as well as family programs. Note: The use of certain materials is mandated in the diocese.

On the Level of Formation

Catechist Recruitment, Training, and Support
Working with your catechetical personnel is the most important aspect of program coordination. It involves communicating a sense of ministry, providing the spiritual and pedagogical resources needed for the work at hand, and supporting the catechists in their commitment to the Lord in the catechetical ministry.
Working with Parents
It is essential to the success of your programs for children and youth that parents develop a commitment to the values and goals you are promoting. Organized programs (such as orientation days, open houses, parenting programs), church school parents' associations, or pastoral visitations help to involve the entire family in the effort of catechesis.
Working with Persons with Special Needs
Every program has some students who do not fit into the average categories (catch-up students, language problems, erratic attendees). Special approaches may have to be taken in these circumstances.

On the Level of Management

Class Design and Scheduling
The placement of catechists and students in appropriate groupings, the combining of classes, and the involvement of substitutes should follow standard patterns to insure consistency.
Records
The development of efficient systems of record keeping, registration, and calendar formation for your programs
Promotion
Keeping your program highly visible to the parish at large through written communications, displays, and presentations helps make the entire community feel a part of what you are doing
Facilities
The selection and arrangement of facilities appropriate to your program helps provide a supportive atmosphere to catechists and student alike.
Resources
Your program should include a library stocking the various supplementary resources called for in your curriculum and the equipment necessary to use them as well as items for the personal enrichment of the catechists.
Finances
What you should expect from the parish as a whole in terms of financial support and what the parish should expect from you in terms of an appropriate budget and accountability.

Questions for Reflection

Based on the tasks indicated above, write your own job description, listing those tasks for which you accept responsibility.

Go through the list again. Determine who is to be responsible for the tasks you do not undertake

 

The Face of God

by Fr. Joseph Hallit


Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
Email - doccolie@yahoo.com

THE FACE OF GOD
By Fr. Joseph Hallit

The icon of the Holy Face is the symbol of the great mystery of God's graciousness towards us. God is grace: that is, an inexhaustible and ceaselessly abundant self-giving Source of goodness, Giver of life, sustaining, strengthening and communicating His gifts. And the greatest of these is to be His image, His face. Therein is the great meaning of the Incarnation.

To be the face of someone is to be that someone. In effect, the face is the meeting point of the person. It is the person. It is at once that which sees and that which is seen.

Our icon is a face: it is the Face par excellence. God is face. He sees, He foresees, He provides. The glance of God is tied to His creative Word right from the beginning of Scripture. The divine Word creates. His face looks and sees that it is good, that it is beautiful. "How great are Your works, O Lord; in wisdom You have wrought them all. Bless the Lord, O my soul." (Psalm 103)

Before this image of the Incarnate God, we must pause for a moment to recall the theology of the face. The face-to-face of human encounters symbolizes and enkindles the interior meeting of hearts, for the face is the mirror of the heart. In effect, "A man's heart molds his expression, whether for better or for worse." (Sirach 13:25).

To seek the face of God was the obsession of the Psalmist, expressing himself in the name of his people. They were convinced that this divine face lived in the midst of Israel. Invisible, it was nonetheless full of the extraordinary vitality of the living God. Also, this presence of the divine face is the strength of its people (Ex 33.14: Is 63:7): it gives rise to the cultic aspiration to see the face of God (Psalm 42:3) and to seek the face of God (Amos 5:4). But because the face of Yahweh is that of God, holy and just, only "the upright will contemplate his face" (Psalm 11:7).

Always in the Old Testament, that contemplation would remain something exceptional. a favor granted to Moses and Elias. Moses himself would be allowed to see only the back, after God's passage (Ex 33:20-23), although he longed to see God face-to-face. No one could see the face of God and live, because of sin.

With the Incarnation, the face of God is found in ours, and ours in that of His Son. In the face of Christ, God showed His own face, in effect. We can see on that face the glory of God who shone there (2 Cor. 4:6). The glory of the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:2). is the sign that, in Jesus, God Himself took on a face (Rev. 1:16) and that in Him is seen the face that "no one has ever seen" (Jn. 1:18): "He who sees me sees the Father" (Jn. 14:9).

All of this is summed up in the icon of Christ Pantocrator. it is a theological and historical coming together as well as a recapitulation of all the elements of nature: wood, stone, sun, water, air, colors, the elements which directly or indirectly enter into the iconographic composition. This icon stands in the tradition of the Holy Face "not made by human hands." It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Further, for the Fathers of the second council of Nicea in 787, "the Holy Spirit is the first iconographer."

A harmonious blend of colors, lights and shadows, our icon "of Beauty and Light" naturally appears to the believing and loving contemplator as an invitation to come to know the prototype it represents: "Of all men you are the most handsome. Your lips are moist with grace". (Psalm 45:2)

To tell the story of the Icon: The gold nimbus surrounding the head is circular in form. svmbolizing incarnate perfection. Often the nimbus reaches to the edges of the icon, indicating the unlimited and uncontainable fullness which emanates from Christ. The merciful fullness of Christ, the Lover of Mankind, is abundantly communicated to his members, that is, to us.

In the two upper corners of the icon we read the monogram of Christ, IC XC, formed from the first and last letters of the two words making up the name of Jesus Christ in Greek (Ihsous Christos). The inscription of this name is very important in iconography, containing in effect the entire theology of the name. To give a name to someone is to create him, to situate him, to know him, to possess him, to communicate with him, to seize him. And in the case of the icon, the inscription gives a spiritual dimension, a holy character. Thanks to that, the icon is linked to its prototype in such a way that, for whoever looks into it, it becomes the place of a celebration of love between two beings. In it they mutually contemplate each other and the means by which heaven is found within our reach, and our earth sees itself captured by heaven. Thus the icon is justly titled "a partial presence of heaven on earth".

On the inside of the nimbus one may see the discreet shadow of a cross, a clear reminder of the mystery of redemptive love which is seen on the face of Him who died for our salvation. The cross signifies that it is the loving kindness of God, incarnate in Jesus, which holds first place. The cross is simply an external proof assumed by love in witness to divine Love.

The wide brow in this balanced face symbolizes the great vision of the God-- Man in the history of our creation - redemption. Truly, God sees on a large scale. He confronts our reality with courage, indeed insistence, for therein is the privileged place of His epiphany of goodness and love.

The eyes, open wide on the infinite and on the totality of our history, are all-seeing, all-embracing, all-present, all-knowing. The look is penetrating and fascinating, visible and seeing, seized as well as seizing, loved and loving. Turned towards the Infinite, it is at the same time turned to the interior. Because of that look, we feel ourselves immediately in the "inner depths" of Christ, meek and humble of heart. We feel ourselves adopted, loved, cared for, redeemed, saved, inspired, illumined, adorned, sanctified, christified, deified. That look is truly the resumé of the theology of Beauty and Light of which we spoke before.

Dostoyevsky once wrote, "There is not and cannot be anything more beautiful than Christ". However, the contemplation of beauty, a contemplation purely aesthetic, even of Christ, is not all-sufficient. It demands an act of faith, an active participation in and incorporation into the transforming beauty of the Lord.

The beauty of the Son is the Image of that of the Father, source of Beauty: it is also the example and cause of our own beauty, which is contained therein. Because where the Son is, the Father is, and there also are the brothers of the Son, sons of the same Father: "Who has seen me, has seen the Father".

Physionomy of peaceful serenity, photogenic, eloquent testament of a silent yet efficacious divine presence, living communion with the Distant-yet-Near and Invisible- become-Visible, mystical yet real integration with the Incorporeal-become-Corporeal: this icon is a reflection of the Light of Tabor. Thus we may, through it, say with certitude: "Emmanu-el" ( "God is with us").

"A theologian is one who knows how to pray," said Evagrios of Ponticus and St. Gregory of Nyssa. And we may add: "A contemplative is one who knows how to see and discover the Beautiful and the Divine." It is not a question of knowing how to speak, to analyze, to discourse. More simply, it is a question of feeling that "God dwells there among us", with a dwelling that is beautiful and, because it is beautiful, ravishes souls and bears them to the heights of understanding and love.

Thus, what the Word proclaims, the icon shows silently. It is that experience which caused the Fathers of the Second Council of Nicea to explain, concerning icons: "What we have heard spoken of (in the Gospel), we have seen". Hence for us the vital relationship between reading the Gospel daily and contemplating the icons. The Gospel leads us to the icon, and from the painted icon to the icon which is our neighbor, and from there back again to the Gospel.

A saint is not a superman, but rather one who lives his truth as a liturgical being. That is to say, he is a being "of the Holy One" in communion with the angels who, in an "eternal movement around God, sing and praise with triple blessings the one God" (St. Maximos the Confessor). Further, it is for this that we are created. The psalmist again: "I will sing to my Lord as long as I last" (Psalm 104: 33).

"When grace sees us aspire with all our strength towards beauty, it grants to us the gift of resemblance". Thus, in becoming capable of seeing the glory of the face of Christ. Christians, through the Holy Spirit, which dwells in them, remain illumined and transformed with the light of life and salvation. "And we, [unlike Moses, whose transformation was passing] with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect: this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

It is that "glory of God" on the face of Christ, which makes shine on each of the faithful the grace of contemplation.

 

The Feasts of September

By Archbishop Joseph Tawil


Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
Email - doccolie@yahoo.com

The Feasts of September By Archbishop Joseph Tawil

The month of September marks the return of our children to their schools and studies and, for the rest of us, the resumption of our normal routine after a vacation break. Time is God's gift to us to experience His loving and mysterious Presence in His creation and in each one of us. ‘For if our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day," (2 Cor. 4:16) "until we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God's Son and form the perfect man who is Christ come to full stature." (Eph. 4:13). "For in Him, the fullness of Deity resides in bodily form." (Col. 2:8) The month of September also marks the beginning of the liturgical year and is illuminated by two Major Feasts: the Nativity of the Theotokos on the 8th and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the 14th. Let us pause a moment with each of them so as to uncover their rich meaning for our daily lives.

The Nativity of the Theotokos

Mary's figure appears in the second chapter of Genesis "crushing the head of the dragon, representing Satan (v. 15). She is the ‘‘Predestined Woman whom God has selected from all eternity to be the shining dawn introducing Christ, the Sun, into the world." (Acathist). "For God who rests upon the spiritual thrones, has made ready for Himself a holy throne upon the earth. He who has made firm the earth in His Wisdom has pre­pared a living heaven in His love for man." (Vespers). "She is the prologue of the pleasure of God and the first announcer of salvation to mankind. According to the Eastern tradition, Mary was born in Jerusalem, in the house of Joachim and Ann near the Pool of Bethsaida, the ruins of which have been unearthed, and where Our Lord healed the paralytic. St. John of Damascus, who lived in St. Saba's Monastery in the Judean Desert which still exists, wrote in one of his homilies, "I will enter this house and I will cover with kisses the walls which are so dear to me, the walls which sheltered the Mother of God." Since there is no distance for those who love, let us go, in turn, and enter in spirit and cover with kisses the birthplace of the Theotokos, the Queen who gave birth to the King of the Universe, and our Mother.

So, God entered our human history through a woman: "when the designated time had come, God sent forth His son horn of a woman... so that we might receive our status as adopted sons." (Gal. 4:4). He became one of us to make us one with Him. He took what we are and gave us what He is. He took our infirmities and gave us His Divinity. All that we have received from Him was lavished upon us through the "Woman full of grace,'' whom all genera­tions shall call blessed forever. And if the Lord, who promised the sinful woman who washed His feet that "wherever the Gospel is preached, what she did for Him will be told in her memory', ‘ (Mark 14:9), how much more will He not do for His Mother "the All-holy and Ever-Blessed Virgin." Indeed, whoever honors the Son, honors the Mother who gave Him birth and, whoever honors the Mother, also honors the Son. They are so intimately associated in the Mystery of Redemption that they cannot be dissociated, as is shown in Byzantine iconography which always requires that the Mother be represented with the Child and never without Him. This is the eloquent picture on our iconostasis, where the Mother of Light is always associated with the Author of Life, Christ the Redeemer and Savior of mankind. This teaches us that, while our worship must be Christ-centered, we can not forget that it was the fiat of Mary which made it all possible.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

This feast commemorates the return of the Holy Cross to Jerusalem after it had been taken away by Chosroes, king of Persia, who invaded the Holy Land and defeated the Romans in 614. It took fifteen years for the Cross to be returned by Herac­lius, the only Roman Emperor ever to visit the Holy Land, who replanted it on Calvary in the midst of the tears of joy of the inhabitants of Jerusalem (629). There is a local tradition that Calvary is located in the center of the world and which gave the name to the adjacent church. The Psalmist says, "Our God is a great God and He wrought salvation in the midst of the earth." (Ps. 73:12). The Church has added to it the following, in speaking to Christ, "When You extended Your arms upon the Cross, uniting all the nations crying out to You, ‘Glory to you, O Lord.'"

The Mystery of the Cross is the Mystery of Mysteries. How can the Source of Life die, the Maker of all be annihilated and exclaim, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" This is the kenosis of the Son of God, who emptied Himself, took the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross. The human mind, which is accustomed to asking why, is completely lost. The Mystery of the Cross is the Mystery of Atonement and wonder: "Let every creature remain silent and adore." For the message of the Cross is complete absurdity for those who are heading to ruin, but to those who are experiencing salvation, it is the Power of God." (1 Cor. 1:18). If we ask why, the only answer we receive is that of St. John, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish, but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16). Up until the sixth century, Christians were forbidden to depict Christ on the Cross, because the Cross was the punish­ment of slaves. The first time it appeared was through some Syrian monks living in Narbonne, France, and from whence it spread.

No one is exempt from the cross; not even the Blessed Virgin, who carried her cross from Christ's birth in Bethlehem to Golgotha, where she stood at her Son's side, as He hung on the Cross. The closer we are to Christ, the heavier is our cross for, as St. Paul says, "Those whom He foreknew, He predestined to share the Image of His Son, so that the Son might be the first-born of many brothers." (Rom. 8:29)

The Mystery of the Cross, itself, is not the end. Behind it lies another Mystery, a glorious Mystery of which St. Paul also speaks, "The present burden of our trial is light enough and can earn for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. We do not fix our gaze on what is seen, but on what is unseen. - What is seen is transitory; what is unseen lasts forever." (2 Cor. 4:17-19). We have been created for life and not for death. We have been created for glory since, in God's wisdom, the world did not come to know Him through "wisdom." it pleased God to save those who believe through the absurdity of the preaching of the Gospel. (1 Cor. 1:21). This is why the Church proclaims, "Behold, through the Cross, joy has come into the world." Christianity is the announcement of joy, the announcement of hope and the reason for our joy and hope is that Christ is risen and lives forever and is at work in the world, through the Holy Spirit, living in the Church and in us. "Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad with the whole universe visible and invisible, for Christ, our Eternal Joy is risen." (Paschal Liturgy) This is what we must live and inculcate into our children. We thereby give the world the reason for out hope, for Christianity is Christ—and Christ risen—and, since Christ has risen as the Firstborn, we too shall rise in Him and share in His Glory.

 

Catechist Formation

Office of Educational Services


Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
Email - doccolie@yahoo.com

Overview

Since the rise of Protestantism in the West religious education has been more and more considered the task of the school, whether it be a day school or Sunday school format. As a result our model of catechesis is too often assumed to be the classroom and the model catechist is the classroom teacher.

While professional teachers are indispensable to our programs because of their group management and communication skills, we still must recognize that our model catechist is not the classroom teacher but the pastor. The task of the classroom teacher is often seen as communicating a knowledge of this or that subject. The task of the catechist is more than that. Like the pastor, the catechist is a leader of worship, both the prayer sessions in the class and - as role model - the regular liturgical life of the parish. Children know when their catechist is at Liturgy, at vespers, at other services and whether they are participating actively or not.

Like the pastor, the catechist may be drawn into the lives of the students—their joys, their problems, their home life—both to share and sometimes to counsel. Like the pastor, the catechist may find special moments outside the formal class time to witness their faith to both the students and their families. Like pastors, catechists have been given a "charge": a group of people to whom they minister and for whom they are responsible to the Lord. The parish priest may have 100 families in his charge while the catechist has three. Still, there are more similarities between catechist and pastor, than between catechist and public school teacher.

CATECHISTS' SPIRITUAL FORMATION

Which model we follow has consequences as to how we view the formation of catechists. If our model for catechesis is the classroom, we will stress classroom techniques; if we follow the pastoral model suggested above, our formation will have a different emphasis. It will stress the interior conversion and growth to which every serious Christian is called and which is particularly expected of anyone serving the Church in ministry. No one can help others grow in the Christian life without living it themselves.

Related to this is the fact that, at this time and place in the life of our Church, we have come to realize that we do not know our spiritual heritage as we ought. Most of us were not raised in a living experience of authentic Eastern Church life. We need to rediscover what is authentically - Eastern Christian, sometimes from scratch. The number of catechists who freely admit that they did not know anything about the contents of the books they are teaching from bears witness to this.

These needs have determined the structure of the Interdiocesan Catechist Formation and Adult Enrichment Program sponsored by the ECDD (see Section 6, below), which also publishes most of the materials used in our parish programs. The program concentrates on raising awareness of our Eastern spiritual heritage and applying this awareness to discern the vision of our catechetical curriculum. The basic theology, liturgy, spirituality and ethics of the Christian East become the focus for reflection and application to the catechetical session.

The ECDD program presents this material in a number of courses listed below, each of which consists of six topic sessions. The course texts, indicated in italics, are available through Theological Book Service.

  1. Introduction to Catechist Formation — An exploration of the fundamentals of service as a catechist: the call, the tasks, the background of catechesis in general and the importance of personal formation (text: Discerning Your Call).
  2. Elements of Holy Tradition — A look at Tradition as the ongoing operation of the Holy Spirit; an examination of various outward forms of this Tradition (Scripture, Church Fathers, creeds and councils, liturgy and iconography) and how the Spirit works in them (text: Stream of Living Water).
  3. Introduction to Eastern Theology — A reflection on the basic teachings of the Nicene Creed: the mystery of God, God's self-revelation, Christ as the fullness of that revelation, and the Spirit as the presence of God with us now. The Church, the Body of Christ, and the life of the world to come are also discussed (text: With Eyes of Faith).
  4. Introduction to Eastern Spirituality — The Byzantine approach to faith, worship and prayer along with the place of asceticism community and service as our personal response to God's self revelation are considered (text: The Face of God).
  5. Introduction to Eastern Liturgy — The spirit informing our liturgical tradition, the daily and yearly cycles n Byzantine worship, liturgical space and the roles of the liturgical ministers in our tradition are presented, along with a basic exploration of the Divine Liturgy (text: Life and Worship).
  6. Catechesis: Forming a People — Exploration of what constitutes a total parish formation program, including catechesis for adults, children and youth. (texts: The Parish Catechetical Program and A Vision of Youth Ministry).
  7. Introduction to Eastern Christian Moral Thought — The Eastern approach to this subject relates righteousness of living to the holiness of life which is ours through baptism (text: Shown to be Holy).
  8. The Old Testament — Topics for these sessions include how the Eastern Churches see the Old Testament, its place in Christian life, and how its types are fulfilled in the New Testament. (text: The Old Testament: a Byzantine Perspective).
  9. Aspects of Eastern Catholic Church History — Major periods considered include the apostolic Church and the age of the martyrs, the golden age and monasticism, the missionary period and adaptation to culture, the pluralism, fragmentation and movements to unity in the Church, and the Church in America (text: To the Ends of the Earth).

Other courses projected will cover the following topics: the Holy Mysteries: the Sanctification of Life, The New Testament, Prayer, The Divine Liturgy, Deification: Main Theme of the Church Fathers and Spirituality and Personal Growth.

These courses are given in a variety of formats in centers serving Byzantine parishes throughout the country. In areas where there are several parishes in geographical proximity, courses are offered on an inter-parish basis. Such a model enables catechists to become acquainted with their counterparts in other Byzantine parishes and to share ideas with them. Where such cooperative offerings are not possible, courses may be offered for an Individual parish. In either case the six sessions may be held in all day seminar, half day or evening formats.

 
Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
email - doccolie@yahoo.com

Planning Your Program

Eight Principles for Designing Parish Programs

Planning is an essential part of any serious organizational effort, and the parish catechetical program is no exception. While many aspects of Church life are a given (there will be a Christmas, whether we plan for it or not), we need to determine how and where to deploy our energies so that the growth of our community in the Lord will best be served. The following eight principles suggest a way of discerning an appropriate course of action when planning a catechetical program.

First Principle – Plan Regularly and Early

Often in parishes there is very little, if any, long term planning. People plan one event at a time without regard for the wider picture of the Church's ultimate purpose, or the integration of individual projects into the total effect of church life.

Some aspects of your program, such as your basic calendar, or beginning and ending procedures, may be planned a year in advance. Other elements, such as special programs may be scheduled three or six months in advance, depending on the success or failure of similar programs earlier in the season. In any case, basic planning should be done at least six months in advance. Thus planning for the fall should be done the previous spring.

Goals should be reviewed regularly with a view to changing or extending them, depending on how effectively they have been implemented or how impractical they hay have turned out to be. Just because a goal was once set, that does not mean that it was automatically implemented or can be. Thus some churches schedule a major planning session in to spring to set their schedule for the next fall and the entire next year, whenever possible.

Second Principle – Plan Through Prayer

Undergirding any church planning, for Christians, should be prayer. Is this project in harmony with what the Lord is asking of His people? Do we have any indication that this is or is not according to the mind of the Church? Where do we see the Lord in this action? Christian planners need to ask these questions at every step of the planning process, especially at the beginning. Include a significant prayer time in your planning sessions.

Third Principle - Recall Your Essential Mission and Major Objectives

Every specific goal in program planning must relate to the basic aims of the Christian life. Thus, for example, we would not imagine giving door prizes to encourage church attendance; this runs counter to the spirit of the gospel call to give oneself to the Lord. Accordingly, we need to keep before our eyes the relationship of any individual program to the more basic purposes of the Church.

In our Tradition we take it as given (a) that the aim of Christian life is theosis, the sharing in the divine nature; (b) that theosis is fostered through participation in the life of the Church, particularly the mystical life of the liturgy; and (c) that the general objectives of catechesis are to affect believers' behavior, knowledge and attitudes in such a way as to dispose them to share in this life.

The specific programs in the Church must be designed with this aim in mind: to so dispose the participants that they will be motivated to deepen their sharing in the sacramental life of our Church.

And so in every step of planning we need to look at all sides of an idea in relation to these given principles. What are the positive effects in relationship to the Church's basic goals? What are the negative effects? What might be the long term consequences? What other perspectives might be considered?

Questions for Reflection
How might the following programs dispose or detract students from deepening their commitment too the life of our Church?
A Teaching children all prayers in Arabic,
B Introducing rock music in the liturgy;
C Incorporating prostrations, incense and changing into the classroom prayers.
What do you think would best dispose teenagers to participate in our Church's liturgical services?
Having an exclusive teen liturgy
Insuring them action roles in the regular parish Liturgy;
Conducting a church school class on the history of the Liturgy
Would any of the suggestions above run counter to the Church's basicviews on liturgy?

Fourth Principle - Assess the Needs of the Community

Before planning any specific program, you must determine what needs you are trying to meet by gathering and analyzing data about the community. This means determining the background, knowledge, values, expectations, concerns, pressures, and cultural environment of the people involve. Effective planning must be people-centered since, although there is such a wealth of spiritual riches in our Church's Tradition to be shared, people can only interiorize what they are ready to absorb.

Besides people's individual needs, the church planner must consider in the life of the community as a whole; where are they in their life together, in their journey of faith. Usually there are many sub-groups in a parish – the descendants of the founders, new immigrants, converts- and each group has a different set of expectations as to what Church is supposed to be. Perhaps you will need to run a different kind of program for each group, while still challenging them to accept one another and see the value in each other's approach.

Data gathering is the approach by which we collect the information needed to design an appropriate program for any given group. The chief methods, each with advantages and disadvantages, are (a) by written instruments, (b) by interviewing, and (c) by observation and memory. Some may be more appropriate in some situations than in others.

Written Instruments (questionnaires) are especially useful for gathering date from large groups of people who do not come together at any one time (such as the congregation in a parish with several Sunday Liturgies). They are also important as a follow-up to a general discussion, as many people are reluctant to speak their mind in gatherings lest they offend some of their fellow parishioners.

When designing a written instrument remember that the sharpness of the question determines the usefulness of the answers. Thus avoid questions to be answered "Yes" or "No", unless you add "why" or "explain your answer". At the same time you need to check the tone of your questions: do they imply which answer is "the right one"? Finally, you must also decide how anonymity or asking for signatures will affect the answers you get.

Remember that many people don't take questionnaires seriously unless they have evidence that some action will result to their advantage.

In any case, be aware that data collected by such a written instrument is only part of what is needed to plan a program.

Questions for Reflection
Which of the following questions is the most effective/least effective in gathering date preliminary to planning?
A. "Would you attend a youth group if we began one at St. X's? ( )Yes; ( ) No; ( ) Maybe
B. "If a Youth Group were begun at St. X's, would you be more likely to join if:
( ) you had transportation
( ) the group met on Sunday evening
( ) The group met on a school night
( ) My friend (name) wanted to join
C. "If you could pick the person who would be your group advisors, whom would you pick (choose three parishioners, please)?

Interviewing – Conducting personal conversations with individuals gives the data gatherer another side of the picture. Personal interviews can give you an insight into the other's experience of Christian formation, the parish, or relationships with certain groups in the parish. On the other hand, sincere there is no anonymity, the person may attempt to please the interviewer. Group discussion may get people thinking about topics which they had not thought of before, especially if it follows upon an engaging presentation. Another commonly used technique to stimulate such thinking in group settings is brainstorming. Everyone identifies, without discussion in detail, the needs, objectives, or procedural steps which they envision. The facilitator compiles a list of these suggestions. Brainstorming is not for the purpose of discussion or decision making, but for generating data and helping participants get a clearer idea of the directions in which they might proceed.In either case, face to face discussion is useful if it enables people to freely share their experiences and helps build a climate of mutual trust Beginning attempts to facilitate such discussions should always be followed by the opportunity to put in writing things people would be reluctant to say aloud.

Observation and Memory - You too have a past experience with these people if you have been their fellow parishioner for any length of time. You will have your own reactions to what they say. Use what you know,but be another person should interview certain people with whom youhave had previous experience. Once you have gathered as much data as you can throughconversations, questionnaires, group discussion, and the like, you mustanalyze it. In this process you will collate the information you have gathered, analyze it for trends and priorities, then narrow the field to determine which specific needs to address at this time. The following four steps are helpful:

  1. Collating – Here you put all the answers to the same question together.
  2. Seeking Trends – Now you compare the responses, looking for similarities and differences. If you detect a trend in the responses, try writing a summary "answer" for each question which reflects the trend (s).
  3. Analyze trends – What is underlying these answers? Does the trend ofresponses to one question explain the answers to another? Does the questionnaire indicate real concerns or problems?
  4. Narrow Down – Are there several possibilities? Do you need to choose one? Will your choice be based on the number of possible participants or the importance of the issues to some persons' lives?

Going through this process works best when it is a group effort. In this way you have the insights of several persons analyzing the input. You may also need to issue a second questionnaire after you begin narrow down the options. Here the questions must be even more specific than in the first questionnaire.

Fifth Principle – Identity Specific Objectives

You can now design a program with a specific focus based on the input which you have generated. Begin by writing a statement of purpose which spells out your aims for this particular activity

This statement of objectives should:

  1. Identify the problem, based on the analysis gathered above;
  2. Specify "the who" – a definite target group (if you are planning for children, a specific age group should be indicated);
  3. Specify "the what" – the desired behavioral goals your program is meant to generate, the desired action which should result to enable persons to do something more effectively;
  4. Be realizable in a specified period of time ("the when");
  5. Be measurable as much as possible so that we can know when the objective has been attained (Note that, while our ultimate spiritual objective, theosis, is not measurable and is ultimately dependent on ourprayerful response to the grace of the Holy Spirit, other objectives, such as interiorizing a specific attitude or learning a specific behavior, are measurable.)
  6. Be clear and concise so that all participants can have a concrete understanding of the program's aims;

Thus, after a parish questionnaire has determined that people want to learn some new liturgical hymns, your statement of objectives for a new music program might be: "To help the bulk of the congregation learn onenew chant each month". You have determined the who, the what, and the when.

Having a clear objective enables the planners themselves to maintain a clear focus for their activities. Coming to a clearly understandable objective helps prevent participants from developing contrary expectations and resulting frustration. It also gives us a basis for evaluation after the stated time so that we can know whether or not we succeeded.

Sixth Principle – Design A Strategy

Once you have determined your measurable objective, your next step is to agree on how that objective will be carried out in actual events. Thus in terms of the above objective, we might decide to realize it "be rehearsing for ten minutes at the end of each Divine Liturgy".

To achieve the most practical strategy the following criteria are often suggested:

a) Is there enough time to prepare and/or present it?

b) Does it utilize the appropriate human resources in the community?

c) Are any materials needed available and/or affordable?

d) Does the strategy maximize participation and creativity on the part of the participants?

Seventh Principle – Spell Out the Procedural Steps

In this phase you detail all the steps of your program – what happens when, who does what, etc. – to organize the efforts of those involved. Ordinarily procedural concerns include:

Time (date and time period)

Place (space use and arrangement)

Group Dynamic (ice breakers, interest centers, etc.)

Program Design (techniques)

Materials and equipment

Publicity (advance notice, recruiting and registration)

Leadership functions (specific descriptions)

To apply these steps to our music program, we would address issues such as, How would the music be made available? Who would duplicate and distribute it? Who would do the actual teaching? Would various choir members take turns demonstrating the chant while others were placed strategically throughout the congregation? How long would the choir need to master these pieces themselves before introducing them to the congregation?

Eighth Principle – Review and Evaluation

The last step in the planning process is to determine whether you achieved your objectives, whether the program was successful in terms of what you were hoping to achieve. Thus the evaluation looks at accomplishment and effectiveness. It is possible, however, that a program may positively accomplish a change of behavior but negatively affect attitudes. This is often the case when children are obliged to learn or act in a certain way: we achieved our goal of getting them to participate in vespers, but they have come to hate it! Thus evaluation must assess both the behavioral and attitudinal effects of any program.

Evaluation can be made in a number of ways, such as:

a) Interviews of participants;

b) Observations by program leaders;

c) Involvement of selected participants with planners in an evaluation meeting.

In planning any program each planning step should be summarized in writing in as much detail as possible. This is of great importance for future programs. If you choose to repeat a successful program, you have an excellent basis from which to work: you need not start from scratch each time. If elements in the program did not work and need to be revised, you will have an accurate record of that as well. Perhaps most importantly from a Christian perspective, you have something concrete to pass on to a successor rather than obliging him or her to start from scratch.

Implementing Your Strategy

The following procedural steps are common to most events. The planner should expect to record these steps and then determine who will be responsible for implementing them. Use this page as a checklist in helping others prepare events and programs:

Beforehand:
Contact all necessary people committed to participation (teachers, students, parents, clergy, guest speakers)
Set the date. Maker sure that you avoid conflicts with others activities, avoid crowding one or another time of year with activities while leaving other times empty, and insure that activities are appropriate to the season and the needs of the parish.
Select and reserve the location of program, class or meeting.
Arrange for publicity (printed, mailed, the pulpit, bulletin board).
Secure needed supplies (audio visuals, tables and chairs, stationary goods, classroom supplies, name tags, registration blanks, handouts, etc.)
Determine who will perform basic tasks, eg. Open up, set up, register, conduct the opening and closing prayer, and start the session.
During:
Insure that the program begins on schedule.
Arrange for introductions, announcements
Be available for problems
Continually evaluate the course of the program and the participants' response
After:
Secure participants' evaluation (teachers or facilitators and students).
Put the facility in order and lock up
Set a time to reflect on the evaluations and implement findings into the next session of this type

Program Planning Guide

Method of Assessing Needs-

Writing and Objective –

Identify the problem

Identify the What:

Identify the Who:

Identify the When:

Identify the Measure Desired:

Stated Objective: - TO

Strategy: - BY

Procedural Steps:

Time –

Place –

Dynamic –

Design –

Material Needed –

Publicity –

Leadership Functions –

Method of Evaluation-

Suggestions for New Program -

 
Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
email - doccolie@yahoo.com

Antioch

"It was at Antioch that the disciples were first given the name of Christians". (Acts 11:26)

There is a great deal of talk today in the Churches about evangelization: the bringing of the Gospel to the men and women of our world. Evangelization certainly lies at the very heart of the Gospel in that it is a direct expression of the love of God for all His creatures. However, in the average Christian circle, evangelization sometimes is more a matter of bringing more people to our church which may be something quite different.

The two concerns need not be unrelated, however, if ‘our church' is in fact a community of faith. It is no secret that many of our parishes are primarily social communities, serving either recent immigrants and their descendants, who see the church from an ethnic bias, or the old cliques who grew up together and are more interested in maintaining their social and power structure rather than Christian living. At best they may be liturgical communities which maintain a good Sunday morning experience for a community whose members have little to do with one another the rest of the week.

And so the first challenge in evangelization is in forming a Christian community in the parish which is centered on living the Christian life and which is welcoming to others. It is, after all, unjust to invite people into a parish which has little or no use for the Christian Life.

In some parishes people have little or no previous exposure to the broad vision of Christian life, much less an ongoing experience of Christian community. Their Christianity is on the level of milk, not solid food, in the imagery of the New Testament. As a beginning resource for developing such communities, we at Educational Services have adapted elements of the Antioch Weekend, an initiatory weekend program long used in some circles of the Western Church.

The Antioch Weekend was developed at the University of Notre Dame in the early 1960's to help Catholic college students live a more complete and dedicated Christian life. Itself based on Cursillo techniques applied to the YCS Study Weekend format, it has since been adapted for use in parishes, prisons, youth groups and many other circumstances where people desire a fundamental experience of Christianity. The version promoted by our Office adapts it to the particular circumstances of the adults in our Byzantine parish communities and builds on it to provide for an ongoing experience of Christian community.

The program may be used in a number of ways, with diverse audiences. The first use of the Antioch in a parish should be with the ‘regulars', in the attempt to create a basis in faith to the existing community and to initiate small groups. The weekend may be repeated several times during this preliminary period affording as many people as are willing the opportunity to participate in this program.

Subsequently the weekend could be held once or twice a year, depending on the size of the parish (or group of parishes), as an initiation program for new residents, converts, marriage partners, etc. as a way of introducing them into both the doctrinal and communal sides of the Christian life. People unable or reticent to commit themselves to a full weekend program may be invited to participate in an ongoing group and then attend a weekend when they are ready. The Initial Weekend The Antioch Weekend was envisioned as catechesis in the best sense: as communication of life. Knowledge is involved, but it is not the kind of knowledge that can be contemplated in a detached way, like a formula describing a chemical reaction. It is knowledge of the living God which must have immediate implications for life in that it is a call to repentance, that change of mind and heart which marks the Orthodox believer of every age.

The presentation of an integrated Christian vision from the Gospel and the basic core of patristic Christianity is at the heart of the Antioch Weekend. The talks aim at proclaiming and personalizing the basic aspects of the Nicene Creed (the Trinity and the Christian Community) and the individual Christian life. God's fatherly love is presented in the context of His Old Testament promises that He will be with Abraham and His descendants and that He will make of them a great people. This first promise is seen as fulfilled beyond expectation the incarnation, where the Son of God becomes present to us by becoming one of us, and at Pentecost, where the Spirit takes up His dwelling in us forever. The second promise is realized in the Church, the numberless descendants of Abraham by faith. The personal prayers (praying with icons, Morning Prayers, prayers in the groups) and the liturgical services (Akathist, Confession, the Liturgy, and the Panagia) attempt to express these basic beliefs in the dynamic of worship. The individual Christian life is seen as our response to the mystery of God's love thus proclaimed and celebrated.

One of the reasons weekends work is that they bring people into a new, though temporary, social environment. Many participants will have heard already what they will hear in the course of the weekend program. But the weekend takes them ‘out of their ordinary environment—where the Gospel is not taken seriously and where they are surrounded by temptations, distractions, and lack of faith—and creates a climate that facilitates encounter with the Lord.

The team's faith can be contagious. The gospel both requires and promises radical change, and a weekend can help participants believe that such change is possible for themselves by demonstrating it in the lives of the team members who are men and women like themselves.

The Ongoing Program

The first page of the original Antioch Weekend leaders' manual warns: "Do not bother putting on an Antioch Weekend without also forming a follow-through program. The weekend itself is designed to be only an invitation into a program." The Antioch Weekend is designed to be only a small part of an overall effort. For growth in Christianity, continued participation in some sort of follow-through program is more important than making an Antioch Weekend.

Hence to the original Antioch Weekend we have added a design for an ongoing program utilizing the small-group process so effectively used by many churches. Such programs basically consist of opportunities to pray together, to share the experiences of living a Christian life, and to study some appropriate elements of that life. In our Church this would presume opportunity for liturgical worship and for exposure to Eastern spirituality. Accordingly a basic follow-through program might consist. of bi-weekly or weekly meetings with:

  • a) Vespers or other appropriate service
  • b) A time for informal sharing of personal Christian experience
  • c) Presentations and discussions on the various chapters of Archbishop Joseph Raya's The Face of God (McKees Rocks, PA, God With Us Publications, 1987), a basic introduction to Eastern spiritual themes, such as wonder at the mystery and economy of God,the response of the Church as personified in the Mother of god, prayer, the mysteries, repentance. This work is useful for people who know the externals but need to be introduced to the spirituality which underlies them.

Subsequent Steps

The growing Christian should expect to move beyond this milk to more solid food. This is the Theosis Program, described below, a further development of Christian growth experiences based on a deeper level of the good news: the concept of deification or sharing in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4). This, in turn leads into the next segment of the program, leadership training,, which revolves around the maturing of Christians in ministry and prepares them to take more significant roles in the community.

Theosis

A combination of factors prompted the Office of Educational Services to develop what it calls the Theosis Program. The first of these is the spiritual condition of our parishes. Up until now the principle of adhesion in many parishes has been a mixture of social, familial and ethnic ties among people who really had not yet come to be at home in the wider society. The Church was our ‘reservation': a place where we could be comfortable in the company of our peers and thus fulfill our religious ‘obligations' in a relatively painless environment.

All that is over. We can purchase hummus and tabboule in supermarkets. We can socialize in the wider society more comfortably. We can take part in non-ethnic civic groups or fraternal organizations without feeling out of place. We no longer look to the church to be our social center. Those who have seen the primary function of the Church as a place to be with ‘our own kind' while simply tolerating its spiritual identity or even the Christian life itself, will identify with the Church less and less. Their descendants have no need of these ‘non-church churches'. People will look to our Church only because (or if) they find a vibrant spiritual life there. Once more, as in its earliest years, the Church has no other purpose than to live the life in Christ!

As individuals within our congregations come to realize, through various means, that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:19), they need to be brought together in groups where they can freely and easily speak their faith, in groups where they can share their lives as Christians and hear with their "new ears" the teaching of the Spirit that their own commitment to the Lord may be dëepened. When this happens, the liturgical life flourishes, people get involved in the life of the community, even the collection goes up! These committed believers; become the nucleus of faith, which can gradually spread its influence throughout the worshipping community and involve others in the following of Christ. Unless such communities develop in our parishes, we cannot in conscience encourage people to join our Church. We will be promoting a spiritual heritage which has no contemporary expression, which is found in the pages of books but not in the local congregation.

The first goal of the Theosis Program, then, is to assist in the development of spiritual life groups in our parishes. The name we have given this program is the Greek word for deification, the Eastern Churches' key understanding of what the Christian life is all about. The program aims to arouse within us a deeper awareness of what God is doing in us, so that we can grow in the Christian life ourselves within the framework of our Eastern Christian tradition.

A second factor influencing the design of this program is the existential situation of our diocese. Although we have had a hierarchic jurisdiction for over thirty years, most of our parishes are functioning much as they were before we received a bishop. Each parish functions on its own with little if any reference to other parishes in the diocese. The geographical distances involved accounts for some of this, but there is also the reluctance we all feel to change. In response to this situation we felt the need to enable our communities to experience a further dimension of theosis: what the Fathers called the ‘community of the Holy Spirit.' For this reason the program includes interparish weekend retreats and days of prayer, leaders meetings and conference calls as we seek to link together people of faith in parishes throughout the diocese in a common experience of our Eastern spiritual tradition. The Theosis Program would thus be a vehicle through which this eparchy could move from being simply a canonical entity to a discernible community in the Holy Spirit.

The first stages in the program, reflecting these two factors, include:

  • a) A Weekend Retreat bringing together members of all our Melkite parishes in a given area;
  • b) The formation of Ongoing Study and Support Groups back home in each parish;
  • c) Periodic Days of Prayer bringing weekend participants back together for prayer and sharing.

Christ has promised us a life full of adventure: "1 came that they might have life and have It to the full" (Jn 10:10). His coming has as its purpose to bring us to a fullness of life, to energize us in a way that sets no limit to our potential by making us sharers in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4). The Theosis Program seeks to bring us to a deeper perception of this reality and, by a greater experience of the community in which He has placed us, to give us a richer experience of that life here and now.

To schedule a Theosis weekend or for more information, contact the Office of Educational Services.

 

Formation &

Adult Enrichment

Workshops

Office of Educational Services

Melkite Eparchy of Newton

Saints Peter and Paul

Catechist formation and adult enrichment workshops are available to teach our Byzantine tradition and to enable people to enter fully into the life of our church through its proper expression of Holy Tradition.

Using exclusively Byzantine resources the Office of Educational Services with the support of Archbishop Bustros seeks to make Melkites more aware of their heritage, to be nourished by it and to witness to it in spiritually alive communities.

The early church was built up as a community of worship. of learning and of service. We have a Christian responsibility to learn, grow and teach as well as worship and praise God. In the Acts of the Apostles the Christian community is described as a worshipping people and also a people who adhere faithfully to the teachings of the apostles. It is a community devoted to the passing on of the Apostolic Tradition. While the handing on of the Tradition may be done in the liturgy, we need to be catechized in order to understand the presence of God hidden among us in the Liturgy.

To help achieve our goals, all our courses are accompanied with a text, facilitator's guides, handouts, activities and self tests. The design of the workshops are lecture, group dynamics and interactive participation.

COURSES

Introduction to the Catechist Formation Program
Text: Discerning Your Call
This course focuses on the vocation of a Catechist, a brief history of catechesis, the Total Eastern Christian Formation and Development Program and the task of the catechist.
The Elements of Holy Tradition
Text: A stream of Living Water
This course will examine the sources of our catechetical content (the scriptures, the Fathers, the Liturgy, Iconography, Creeds and Councils)This course will examine the meaning of Holy Tradition. The format of the Bible, the Fathers of the Church, the Creeds and Councils, Liturgy and Iconography are also discussed.
Introduction to Eastern Theology
Text: "With Eyes of Faith"
A basic introduction to the major dogmatic themes of Eastern theology as expressed in the Nicene Creed and presented in the Church Fathers and liturgical texts.
Introduction to Eastern Spirituality
Text: The Face of God"
A synopsis by Archbishop Joseph Raya of the doctrinal themes pervading Eastern Christian spiritual life: God's inner life (theology), God's love revealed (economy), the Church, and our response in worship.
The Holy Mysteries in the Byzantine Churches
Text: "Inexhaustible Delights"
The work of Christ in His Body, the Church, as experienced through the Holy Mysteries, Christ the Victor over death, the living Bread, the Physical of souls and bodies is seen transforming those who participate in faith in these rites.
An introduction to Eastern Catholic Church History
Text: "To The Ends Of The Earth"
This brief survey of Eastern Catholic Church history touches upon the following historical epochs: the Apostolic Period, the Ecumenical Councils, the development of the Byzantine Tradition, division and reunification of the Churches, Eastern Catholics in the West and in the modern period.
The Old Testament – A Byzantine Perspective
Text: "The Old Testament – A Byzantine Perspective"
This course will examine the Old Testament text used in the Byzantine Churches, and the place of the Old Testament in our Liturgy and Spirituality. It will examine how the Church sees the Old Testament, why we as Christians study it and the style of writing within the various books. It will explore five themes prominent in the life of the church: creation, covenant, Passover, temple, and the Kingdom of God
Morality and Contemporary Moral Issues
Text: "Shown To Be Holy"
An introduction to Eastern moral thought. Based on biblical rather than philosophical roots, Eastern moral thought rests on the understanding of our creation after the image and likeness of God, the restoration of that image in Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Introduction to Eastern Liturgy
Text: "Life and Worship"
Explores liturgical worship, with insights into the Divine Liturgy, the daily cycle of praise, the feasts and fasts of the year, architecture and iconography, and the role of the various ministers in Eastern worship.
The Apostolic Writings
Text: "The Apostolic Writings – A Byzantine Perspective by John Custer"
An overview of the Acts of the Apostles, the New Testament Epistles and the Revelation to John. A companion to the Holy Gospel: A Byzantine Perspective, this course seeks to be useful both as preparation for studying the Apostolic Writings or as a commentary to be consulted while reading the biblical texts.
The Holy Gospels
Text: "The Holy Gospel: A Byzantine Perspective by John Custer"
This introduction to the study of the Gospels employs the perspective of the Greek Fathers and the liturgical usage of the Byzantine churches with reference to some conclusions of contemporary scholarship.
Catechesis Forming a People
Text: "Catechesis, Forming A People"
This course presents an overview of catechesis in today's parish and a look at appropriate goals for adult catechesis, youth ministry and children's learning experiences in the church.

ONE DAY WORKSHOPS ARE ALSO ARRANGED UPON REQUEST.

 

Caretakers of Creation


Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue - Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 - Cell 201-417-3804
Email - doccolie@yahoo.com

Caretakers of Creation - "Priests of Creation"

Today we hear much talk about saving the earth. Do we really need to save the earth? Saving the earth is not an exaggeration when we consider the crisis facing ecology that has implications for all humankind; .flooding due to global warming that threatens vast areas of coastland, irreplaceable forests vanishing by the acre every second and great rivers that no longer reach the sea because their water is taken for irrigation, industry, or to water lawns.

The abuse of modern man of his position in the creation and of the Creators order to him "to have dominion over the earth" (Gen 1,28) has led to the edge of destruction either in the form of natural pollution which endangers all living beings or in the form of extinction of specie of the animal and plant world. Scientists are warning us now of the danger, and speak of phenomena which threaten the life of our planet, such as the "greenhouse effect" whose first indications have already been noted.

In all of this destruction of our creation, have we lost sight of our noble vocation to participate in God's creative action in the world? Unfortunately, today, under the influence of extreme rationalism and self centeredness, we have lost the sense of sacredness of creation and act as rude violators of creation.. Instead of the ascetic spirit of our Eastern Church regarding our role as caretakers of creation, we have been caught up in an atmosphere that violates nature for the satisfaction, not of basic human needs, but of our endless and increasing desires encouraged by the prevailing philosophy of the consumer society.

The global environment is squeezed on two sides by over-consumption and waste by the affluent and by the pressing needs of the poor, often forced to deplete their land for the sake of food or fuel. Equitable sharing with other people does not only involve using less of finite resources, it also precludes enjoying conveniences for which others are having to pay the hidden environmental price of living with the toxins used in their manufacture and pollution caused by their use and disposal.

We worship as a community, not as individuals, our liturgical ethos is also one of sharing. We stand before God together and we hold in common the earthly blessings that He has given to all creatures. St John Chrysostom reminds us "not to share our wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life. We do not possess our own wealth but theirs."

According to Christian teaching, the moral relationship of humanity to nature is included in these words:

"Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. . . I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. "l(Gen 1:28-29)

Through these words humanity is given a relative authority to rule over nature throughout the cosmos. The whole of creation, the heaven and earth were made our subjects to serve and work for us.

" The creatures of God minister not to God, nor to angels, nor to themselves, but only to man." Prof. N. Zabolotsky

It is becoming more and more apparent that humanity, both individually and collectively, no longer perceives the natural order as a sign and a sacrament of God but rather as an object of exploitation. It is too easy to place responsibility and blame collectively on agencies and authorities, but we stand before God as individuals that have been charged with the "Priesthood of Creation" and will be held accountable for our mandate.

We must be more fully conscious of our duty as Priests and Caretakers of Creation. Creation "groans and labors in all its parts" (Romans 8:22) and is now beginning to protest at its treatment by human beings. We cannot infinitely, and at our pleasure, exploit the natural sources of energy. The price of this superior attitude will be our self-destruction.

The ethos of the Church means reverence for matter – the world around us, other creatures and or own bodies. A Eucharistic ethos means, using natural resources with thankfulness – offering them back to God.

There is no one that is not guilty of disrespecting nature, for to respect nature is to recognize that all creatures and objects have a unique place in God's creation. When we become sensitive to God's world around us, we grow more conscious also of God's world within us.

We cannot expect to leave no trace on our environment. We have to choose to either make it reflect greed and ugliness. or to use it in such a way that its beauty shows God's handiwork through ours.

Beginning to see nature as a work of God, we begin to see our own place as human beings within nature. The true appreciation of any object is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.

It is time to thank our Maker for the great gift of Creation and to teach the ethos of our church regarding creation. We caution all the faithful to admonish themselves and their children to respect and protect the natural environment and to pray for those entrusted with the responsibility of governing the nations to take the necessary measures for the protection and preservation of the natural creation.

As parents and teachers we cannot remain unmoved. We need to address what constitutes a fundamental dogma of our faith that the world was created by God the Father, who is confessed in the Creed to be "maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible."

In the words of Dimitri Staniloae, The role of humanity as the priesthood of creation we are able to reshape and alter the world We put the seal of this understanding and of our intelligent work onto creation. "The world is not only a gift, but a task for man" (Staniloae)

Catechetical Resource: The Earth is the Lord's, OCA, (available through the Office of Educational Services/TBS)

 

Exploring Eastern Christianity

Four Segments on Aspects of the Byzantine Heritage

For Senior High School Students

Office of Educational Services

- Melkite Eparchy of Newton

Saints Peter and Paul

Overview

One of the changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council was the new appreciation of the integrity of the various Eastern traditions. The Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Decree on Ecumenism both indicated that our tradition included much more than liturgical variants. The council taught rather that each historic Church tradition included its own proper liturgy, discipline, theology and spirituality which were to be preserved and developed only in an organic fashion.

How to Use These Courses

The present guide is arranged for those parishes with established high school catechetical programs. The contents are very clearly intended as study courses, but to insure that the students experience the Church as more than a "Sunday School', they must be integrated into a wider perception of Youth Ministry. Teens need to experience prayer and worship, fellowship and service as well as study group meetings to develop a balanced picture of Christian life. More importantly, they need to have experienced a conversion appropriate to their own age level in order for them to be interested in worship at all!

The material can be used in several ways. First of all, the original sequence of chapters in Come Let Us Worship; can be followed, providing for a 26-class year in harmony with the regular Church School cycle. In this approach the lesson order in Come Let Us Worship would be followed sequentially.

Secondly, the text can form the basis of one or more mini-courses according to the following topics:

A. The Church – 13 Lessons

B. Worship – 10 Lessons

C. Icons – 6 Lessons

D. The Church Building – 7 Lessons

Thus this material can be spread over a four year period, integrating it each year with topics of guidance and practical teaching. This is the format followed in this guide.

The Design of Each Lesson

Each lesson segment in this guide has a significant part to play in attaining the course objectives. No more than 10- or – 15 minutes should be spent on any one part.

Preliminaries - The first session sets the tone for the course by allowing time for personal interaction, then describes the content and dynamics of the rest of the course. In subsequent sessions, personal interaction is followed by a time for reviewing the previous lesson.

Opening Discussion – This prepares the way for the presentation by introducing the lesson topic and the student's direct or analogous experience of it.

The Presentation - Here the catechist presents the Church's faith Tradition and the experiences through which the Spirit of God led to this insight..

Response - For interest to be maintained, teenagers must see their own personal experience mirrored in the life and experience of their Church, and so this segment attempts to integrate the opportunity to share personal experience and vision where appropriate. Here the catechist should assist the students to articulate their own understanding of a particular question and to pinpoint the experience which brought them to that understanding.

Summary – Here the catechist summarizes the main ideas of both the presentation and the response.

Action - Even experiential catechesis can be abstract for young people whose personal experience or ability to reflect on experience is limited. Without being able to articulate it, they sense that Christian life is incomplete without action. Accordingly, each mini-course focuses on an action project which flows directly from the concepts studied so that Christian faith not be seen as simply a mental exercise. Each lesson contains a time for reflecting on the project and evaluating its progress to help students make the connections necessary if they are to draw the fullest benefit from the experience.

Course Segments and Outline

(Note: The links are to Word Documents for ease of printing and distribution)

The Story of Our Church
Chapter One - Section One
Chapter One - Section Two
Handout A - Handout B
Our Call to Worship
The Meaning of Icons
The Church Building
 

Christian Education

Books and other Resources

Office of Educational Services

Melkite Eparchy of Newton

Saints Peter and Paul

For Adults

Marjorie Corbman, A Tiny Step Away From Deepest Faith (Paraclete Press, $9.95) - Written when she was a high school senior, this is a remarkably articulate analysis of the author's journey from moderately observant Judaism to atheism, Buddhism, Wicca and ultimately Orthodox Christianity. She found her quest for intimacy, antiquity, infinity, and community fulfilled in the Church's tradition.

For Youth:

David Lynn, High School Talk Sheets and More High School Talk Sheets (Zondervan/Youth Specialties, $14.99 each) – Each volume contains lesson plans and handouts on fifty topics for single session situations such as youth group meetings. Guidance topics include decision making, sexuality, values, popular music. Social concerns are also treated such as the consumer society, social justice, war and world hunger. Specifically religious topics (basic Christianity, the Bible, worship, etc.) are treated from an evangelical or generic Protestant perspective and do not reflect the priorities or positions of the Eastern Churches. Also available on the Junior High-Middle School level.

For Children:

Peggy Augustine, Abingdon's Bible Maps for Children (Abingdon Press, $14.00) – Eleven simplified map-posters of the Holy Land, Abraham's journey and Jerusalem for younger children as well as more detailed maps of the Holy Land in Old and New Testament times, the northern and southern kingdoms, the Mediterranean world, and a current world map. Meant to be taken apart and displayed in corresponding lessons.

Orthodox Liturgy Posters (OCEC, $12.00) – Four scenes from the Divine Liturgy (the preparation of the gifts, the Gospel, the oblation – "We offer You Your own…" – and the final blessing), each on an 11x17" poster. The photos, taken from OCEC's popular Teaching Pics are ideal for classroom display.

Elizabeth White, Walking in Wonder (Conciliar Press, $8.95) – A long-time Montessori teachers presents vision and suggested activities for nurturing Orthodox Christian virtues (wonder, awareness, stillness, goodness, practicing compassion) in children under the age of eight as well as introducing the Scriptures, icons and Church prayer. Simply written and useful as a resource on parenting for young families.

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