Posts Tagged ‘Ancient Faith Radio’

Orthodox History

November 17, 2009

There’s a much over-used expression, “You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been”.   Trite, but so true, and it could easily be applied to the history of the Orthodox Christians in the New World. 

For a couple of months I’ve been reading an excellent, and the first of its kind, website devoted exclusively to the history of Orthodoxy in the US, Canada, the Americas .  It is sponsored by the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA), and headed by Father Oliver Herbel, but the list of names associated with the Society is an academic ‘who’s who’ of Orthodox theologians and historians.  You will simply not believe how much information can be found on this site; most of which is not widely known outside the academic study of American Orthodoxy.   And SOCHA doesn’t just present the nice, pretty stuff either.    They want the rest of us to understand that the Orthodox Church isn’t simply what it is in this country because of the good that was done by the early Russian missionary saints, but was shaped just as profoundly by the prideful,  the spiritually deluded, the ineffective, and some just plain whack jobs.  

This is what makes our history so interesting and so suprising.   I think we Orthodox underestimate just how far we’ve come in the past 200 years.   Orthodoxy has managed to become securely established, albeit in a demographically small size, but still recognizable as an American Orthodox Church.   All we need to do is finish the job.   We must put aside the jumbled bird’s nest of administrative disunity to establish a truly unified American Orthodox Church.

To hear these stories brought to life, check out the companion podcast  on Ancient Faith Radio by SOCHA’s Associate Directory Matthew Namee.

Orthodox Conference on Missions and Evangelism 2009

September 17, 2009

Now posted on Ancient Faith Radio are the talks given at the recent Conference on Missions and Evangelism sponsored by the Antiochian Archdiocese.   This has been a very succesful, enthusiastically attended conference, attracting a Who’s Who of Orthodoxy, particularly well known converts.  The frank, heartfelt responses of Metropolitan Jonah to a variety of questions about Orthodox unity, missions and relations with the Oriental Orthodox churches are very edifying.  Every word I’ve  heard from Metropolitan Jonah has the power to move me in so many positive ways.   I always come away with a renewed sense of commitment and love for Orthodoxy and the Church in this country.  What a blessing he is for American Orthodoxy.

Orthodox Internet Radio Ministries In the News

April 23, 2009


It’s been my belief that the newly emerging Orthodox Internet radio ministries of Ancient Faith Radio  and Orthodox Christian Network  are one of the most dramatic and relevant forces for change, growth and unity in American Orthodoxy today.  Here’s a very nice piece by Amy Rogers  at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the phenomenon of Orthodox Internet media.  Poor Amy seems to have been knocked around a teeny bit  over her one sentence history of Orthodoxy when she boiled down the Great Schism to “Orthodoxy developed in Eastern Europe and Asia when Christianity split into Orthodoxy and Catholicism in 1054, primarily due to conflict over papal authority”.   Well, I’ll take exception to the characterization of the Orthodox Church “developing” only after the split.  I think we were pretty well formed in  AD 33 and only improved with age, but really, it’s nothing we all haven’t done trying to give the condensed version of Orthodoxy to an inquirer.  If we’re Orthodox, though, I think our take on it is that ‘the Roman Catholic Church split from us primarily over the issue of papal authority’.    Amy does what a good journalist should do – she tries to relay the story with a minimum of bias.   If she was writing about Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, she couldn’t very well say “founded on false historical premises by nut jobs” or “not Christian despite their claims to the contrary”. 

Whoever left whom, that’s what makes a schism.  As a very devout Roman Catholic friend and former co-worker told me on more than one occasion, “You’re not a heretic, you’re just a schismatic”.   Woohooo!  I love being a schismatic.

Go listen to some good Orthodox Internet radio today.  And while you’re at it, if you feel it’s done you some good and you can help financially with their ministries, please think about making a donation.  For the good of the American Orthodox Church, these are resources we can’t afford to neglect.


Orthodox New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2008
San Antonio New Year's Celebration

San Antonio New Year's Celebration

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions, usually because they are doomed to failure and really seem a bit unrealistic and almost superstitious.  The only one I seem to fall into is the “loose 10 pounds” resolution.  Ironic that I’ve been gaining and loosing the same 10 pounds for 20 years.

If I was to make a list of resolutions I’d like to commit myself to Fr. Thomas Hopko’s 55 Maxims on the Christian Way of Life that have been circulating around for a while.  If you want to hear them click here  and scroll to the bottom of the page.

  1. Be always with Christ, and trust God in everything.
  2. Pray as you can, not as you think you must.
  3. Have a keepable rule of prayer, done by discipline (every day).
  4. Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day.
  5. Repeat a short prayer when you mind is not occupied.
  6. Make some prostrations when you pray.
  7. Eat good foods in moderation, and fast on fasting days.
  8. Practice silence – inner and outer.
  9. Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day.
  10. Do acts of mercy in secret.
  11. Go to liturgical services regularly.
  12. Go to confession and Holy Communion regularly.
  13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings.
  14. Reveal your thoughts and feelings to someone regularly.
  15. Read the scriptures regularly.
  16. Read good books, a little at a time.
  17. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  18. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  19. Be polite with everyone, first of all family members.
  20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
  21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  22. Exercise regularly.
  23. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  24. Be totally honest, first of all with yourself.
  25. Be faithful in little things.
  26. Do your work, then forget it.
  27. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  28. Face reality.
  29. Be grateful.
  30. Be cheerful.
  31. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  32. Never bring attention to yourself.
  33. Listen when people talk to you.
  34. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  36. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  37. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis, figuring things out.
  38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.
  39. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  40. Don’t seek, or expect, pity or praise.
  41. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  42. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  43. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  44. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  45. Be defined and bound by God, not be people.
  46. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  47. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  48. Do nothing for people that they can and should do for themselves.
  49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.
  50. Be merciful with yourself and with others.
  51. Have no expectations, except to be fiercely tempted until your last breath.
  52. Focus exclusively on God, and light, and never on darkness, temptation and sin.
  53. Patiently endure your faults and sins peacefully under God’s mercy.
  54. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  55. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.

This is the kind of list we all think we cannot possibly fulfill.  I could quote the famous passage, “with God all things are possible”, but do we always believe this promise?  I’m more inclined to fall into the doubting category.  Experience has shown me that humans are either pathologically cynical or hopeless defeatists – traits of our fallen nature which fuel so many failed New Year’s resolutions.  And it’s for that reason I suspect Fr. Hopko puts in #54 – “When you fall, get up immediately and start over”.   The Apostle James didn’t see failure as an impediment to our “success” as Christians, but as a spiritual aid.  In Chapter 1:2-3, of his Epistle he advises,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [temptations in the King James version], knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

You can and should spend a lifetime following Fr. Hopko’s Maxims, but most importantly, our faith gives us an opportunity to fail and keep trying.   It’s not an excuse to live a life of conscious sin, but for many of us it won’t be our perfection that’s a testament to our faith, but our willingness to keep getting up and trying again when we do fall.   My prayer then is ‘God give me the strength and desire to keep getting up’.

Happy New Year!  Prospero año nuevo!  Prost Neujahr!

Illumined Heart Interview With Metropolitan Jonah Part 1

December 27, 2008


In anticipation of Metropolitan Jonah’s consecration tomorrow, Ancient Faith Radio has posted a new Illumined Heart podcast.   Host Kevin Allen asked many background questions the average layperson has probably been wishing he could ask, particularly about his Beatitude’s  conversion to the Orthodox Faith.  It’s a voyeuristic curiosity among converts that we never get tired of listening to these stories.  Not to compare our faith with another believer, but as a reminder of where we came from.  I think it’s a way of renewing our zeal for the faith.

I loved the questions about Metropolitan Jonah’s favorite movies and books.  I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they read (Met. Jonah cites Edward Abbey among others), the movies they like and their childhood hobbies and interests.   For the record, my 8 year old thinks our new Metropolitan is officially cool.  Anyone, even a hierarch, who lists Star Wars among his favorite films is ok with him.

During the early 80’s as a college student studying wildlife science and parks and recreation, I think reading Edward Abbey, particularly Desert Solitaire, was as close to a spiritual experience as I’d ever had at that point.  To this day, a hike through the desert Southwest can feel like a second baptism.   It wasn’t until I became Orthodox years later that I got the same “religious” feelings from any other writer.  Some people think of Abbey as an eco-terrorist, a liberal radical, an anarchist.  Well, he might have been all that but he was also a philosopher.  The man who could say “Love implies anger. The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing”, can’t be totally without a spiritual core.

Two things really struck me about Metropolitan Jonah’s interview – one,  just how calm,  easy-going and sensible he sounds.  This is someone who knows people and how to deal with them; that is the strength that made him a good abbot and also what being an abbot taught him about dealing with people.

The second was how the Holy Spirit was working in his life even as a college student and Orthodox newcomer.   In the Orthodox college fellowship  that he founded, at least eight persons went on to become  priests, priest-monks, a nun, deacon and matushka.   That is a remarkable number considering most average parishes can count on one hand the number of priests, deacons or monastics ever produced during the community’s entire history.

I’ll post Part 2 as soon as it’s out on Ancient Faith Radio.  In the meantime, please keep praying for our Metropolitan.

Fr. John Peck, Nostrodamus?

November 14, 2008


I’m beginning to believe Fr. John Peck has got some kind of cystal ball under his riassa.  It seems that every week brings some new revelation or finding that supports his beliefs about the present state and future life of the Orthodox churches in America.  In reviewing the list of predictions and speculations in his now infamous article, The Orthodox Church of the Future, I realized we’ve got several more to check off:

  • More (and younger) bishops – Well, Metropolitan Jonah was a bishop, albeit briefly, but I think a young Metropolitan will do just fine.  This is not to denigrate the wisdom and experience of an older hierarchy, but in the present times we need someone with the vigor, energy and time to see a renewed vision through in the long run.
  • Publicly renowned Orthodox media and apologetic ministries – Only three words are necessary:  Ancient Faith Radio.  I’d like to expand on this in another post, but is there any doubt about how important it was to provide the faithful with contemporaneous downloads of the proceedings of the 15th All American Council?   Their professionalism and expertise provided the link that made all of us feel that for once, we were a part of the proceedings.  We didn’t have to wait for word-of-mouth or gossip, some uninformative pastoral announcement or a month old article in The Orthodox Church magazine.  This is the power of an effective Orthodox media.
  • A different demographic of clergy – i.e. converts.  This could also read ‘a different demographic of hierarchy’.  There are quite a few convert hierarchs, our beloved Vladyka Dmitri, for example.  But can anyone name me a convert Metropolitan prior to his Eminence Jonah?  This is the ultimate example of the convert shift in Orthodoxy. 

And this may be the most compelling evidence for Fr. Peck’s prophecies – hope.  The events of this past week have given me such a renewed sense of hope and joy, an expectation that just around the corner is greatness.  Not material wealth, not esteem and secular laurels, but the fulfillment of the Orthodox Church’s potential in this country.  As Fr. Peck predicts

Orthodoxy is about to take flight on new beautiful wings.  These are the birth pangs of a new era for Orthodoxy.   God is giving us a time of freedom and light.

News Article on Metropolitan Jonah

November 13, 2008

As promised, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has put out a more detailed news article  today on Metropolitan Jonah, that not suprisingly, highlights his status as a convert.  It’s a great article, I just wish they’d interviewed more ‘ordinary’ folks.  Come on.  Out of 700 people in that ballroom, Mark Stokoe of Orthodox Christians for Accountability is not just your average “Joe layman”.  Listen to Ancient Faith Radio’s coverage of last night’s banquet at the All American Council; Fr.  Alexander Garklavs’ has a great ‘gotcha’ for the Accountability site’s ‘news’ reporting.

Archbishop Lazar On The Parish As Family

November 6, 2008


Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green has done the most wonderful interview with Archbishop Lazar Puhalo on the role of the parish in family life and how it can actually help to restore the traditional, supportive aspect of the extended family that has been lost in our time.   You can hear so clearly the wisdom and pastoral care that lies underneath Vladyka’s words.

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, is a retired hierarch  of the Orthodox Church in America and the founder of the All Saints of North America Monastery in Dewdney, British Columbia.  He has had a long career as a prolific writer, theologian and speaker, but not always a quiet life.  Considerable controversy came out of his persistent disputations against the late Fr. Seraphim Rose’s teachings on the aerial toll houses, which he views as almost gnostic.  But that’s a discussion for another day.

Vladyka is a long ago convert to Orthodoxy, and has at various times been part of the  Russian Church Outside of Russia, and the vagante groups of the Milan Synod, the Free Serbian Church and one of the Ukrainian groups, before landing in retirement with the Orthodox Church in America.   Some strongly criticize his jurisdiction hopping, but it’s not my place to judge his pastoral history.  It’s enough for me to know that he is a godly man, he’s been found to be in good standing and accepted into communion with canonical Orthodoxy, and preaches the Gospel with passion and purpose. 

I met Archbishop Puhalo once back in the mid-90’s when he was invited to San Antonio by a member of my parish.  During a gathering at someone’s home I spent a couple of hours eating dinner and listening to him talk about the spiritual life.  He never mentioned toll houses or anything that wasn’t traditionally Orthodox and canonical.  My impression to this day was of someone who was prayerful and kind, and a strong shepherd of Christ.  During that trip he went out to Junction, Texas, about 120 miles west of San Antonio on Interstate 10 to visit the family cemetery.  I believe he’d lived there for some time during his childhood and had family buried there.  I would love to read an autobiography of his life, especially his journey to Orthodoxy.

Enjoy the podcast and please pray for Vladyka Lazar that God grants him many more years in his service!

Breakfast South Texas-Style

October 24, 2008


What could be better?  Today is a beautiful, cool fall morning – our first real one of the year.  I’m eating a taco and drinking coffee while listening to the hours prayed on Ancient Faith Radio.  Then I get started with a very hectic day.

On most days Ancient Faith Radio streams for 8 hours or more over my office PC, playing Orthodox music and podcasts while I’m busy working.  It connects me to the Church and to my Orthodox brothers and sisters in a way no print media can.  No matter how distracted I get, there will always be something, a hymn, a saying of the Fathers, that will suddenly make me pay attention and remember God. 

John and Tonya Maddex are the visionary founders and modern missionaries of Ancient Faith Radio.   (Listen to the story of John and Tonya’s journey to Orthodoxy and the dreams that became Ancient Faith Radio.)  They are godly people whose ministry has touched millions of listeners and brought many to Christ and his holy Church.   Ancient Faith Radio has become well known for gathering some of the most respected and knowledgeable Orthodox clergy and laity to podcast teachings and commentary on the faith and its relation in particular to American life.  It is an unapologetically Orthodox message, respectfully and knowledgeably presented.

I’m encouraging everyone to click on Ancient Faith Radio, give it a listen, and pass on the link to others.  If you’ve never listened before, drop John and Tonya an email and tell them what you think.  If you’re a regular listener they’d still love to hear what the station has meant to you.  (And if you feel so inclined, please pass on a few $$$ to Ancient Faith Radio’s on-line donation page.  God’s work is beyond riches, but the bills still have to get paid.)

God bless Ancient Faith Radio and those called to do His will.   So many of us, me included, are counting on it to be there 24 hours a day.  Breakfast tacos and coffee help, but it’s really Ancient Faith Radio that gets me through a tough day.