Page 1

Fall 20 07

VOL. 7, Issue 1 Catechumenate $4.95

Adult Catechumenate

All four Gospels contain the story of the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-34). The icon consolidates them into one image, adding visual details to enrich our understanding of the event. Saint John the Baptist, dressed in his camelhair garment, stands on the bank of the Jordan River and baptizes Jesus. St. John looks heavenward toward the location of the voice of the Father (the semi-circle at the top), who bears witness to Christ as His Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove. The presence of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit reminds us that the Baptism is a manifestation of the Holy Trinity. At St. John’s feet is a tree with an axe in it, recalling the Forerunner’s preaching: “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). On the other side of the river stand three angels, holding towels so that Jesus may dry himself. Christ stands in the Jordan, blessing the water with His right hand and through His physical presence in the water; this action is re-enacted in the Blessing of Water at Theophany, when the celebrant blesses the water with his right hand and places a cross into the water. The Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Theophany of the Lord, commemorating the Baptism of Christ, on January 6.

From the Fathers N

The deification of the soul is achieved in Baptism, the deification of the body through the Eucharist. Both are needed for the salvation of mankind… Full redemption involves no less care than rescue. St. Gregory of Nyssa

When You, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness to You calling You the beloved Son: and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed His word as sure and steadfast. O Christ our God who has appeared and enlightened the world, glory to you.

Be purified in water, and then you will have a share of that purity which is most perfect in God. Observe how simple it is in its beginnings, how easily accomplished - just faith and water: faith which is a matter of our own choice, and water which is so natural to our own lives. And what blessings spring from these? – nothing less than the Kinship of God himself.

New converts should be examined as to their reason for embracing the Faith and they who bring them shall testify that they are competent to hear the word. Inquiry should then be made as to the nature of their life.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Hippolytus of Rome

We are called Christians on this account, because we are washed and anointed with the Oil of God.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

St. Theophilus of Antioch

Galatians 3:27

Let no one then think that Baptism consists only of the grace of the remission of sins, or again in that of adoption, as the Baptism of John conferred only the remission of sins; since we know certainly that as it avails to purge away sin and confer the Gift of the Holy spirit, so too it is the representation of the suffering of Christ.

Holy Baptism was imparted to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ through word and deed. Through deed by receiving Baptism from John in the Jordan; through word by charging his own disciples to go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Apolitikion of Theophany

Patriarch Jeremias of Constantinople

St. Cyril of Jerusalem The water cleanses the body, the Spirit seals the soul…We are perfected by water and the Spirit. St. Cyril of Jerusalem

For this reason we baptize children, although they have no sins…in order to confer upon them sanctification, adoption, inheritance…that they may be members of Christ, and become the abode of the Holy Spirit. St. John Chrysostom

Fall 2007




“You therefore beloved… Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

† DEMETRIOS Archbishop of America


Fall 2007

The central topic of this issue of PRAXIS Magazine, touches upon a very important item: catechetical work for adults, not only for children. This is indeed a vital mission of the Church today, a mission that has to be methodically, wisely and passionately executed. Catechetical work, i.e. for catechesis (κατηχησιs) and teaching (διδαχη) has been from the very beginning a continuous reality within the Early Church. St. Peter, the great apostle of Christ, ended his Second General Epistle with a strong exhortation to the believers, “You beloved… grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:8). “Growing” and advancing in the knowledge of Christ presupposes a continuous catechetical and teaching activity in the Church. The knowledge of Christ, not only as a focus for any sound Orthodox catechesis or didache, but as a basic existential faith condition, has been beautifully presented by St. Paul in his moving personal confession to the Philippians: Indeed I count everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8). The transmission of the surpassing knowledge of Christ and His grace accompanying it, have been the heart of the preaching, teaching, and catechetical endeavors of our Orthodox Church throughout the past twenty centuries. Today, we have to continue the very same sacred mission of catechesis and didache, centered on advancing the superb and absolute knowledge of Christ among believers who want to be Orthodox and believers who are Orthodox already. There is today a huge open field, first, for a proper catechesis of non Orthodox people. The reality of the so-called interfaith marriages presents to us a terrific opportunity. There are thousands of people within the interfaith families who after thorough consideration, of their own free will and without any external pressure, decide to join the Orthodox faith. How quickly and effectively do we respond to such decisions? Then, secondly, there is a huge open field for catechesis and didache for people who are already Orthodox. They believe in God and in Jesus Christ. How much, however, do they grow in the real, full and precise knowledge of Christ, a knowledge that is integrally associated with the grace of Christ? The heroic Bishop of ancient Antioch, St. Ignatios (first century AD), in his old age as he was preparing himself for his martyr’s death, confessed: “Now I begin to be a disciple” (Epistle to the Romans, 5: 3). St. Ignatios was not afraid to declare that even after so many years as a Christian and a Bishop of the Church he was still at the beginning of his schooling at the School of Christ, like the newly initiated believers! The need for a continuous education in Christ, for a non-stop catechetical – didactic work for adult believers is obvious. The same need for an intense catechetical – didactic work is emphasized by the appearance of the recent phenomenon of an overt atheism that attacks the Christian faith, and by the ideological and philosophical confusion rapidly spreading in modern societies. Facing these challenges, or provocations, necessitates solid, clear, and a convincingly articulated knowledge of the truth of faith, a faith revealed by Jesus Christ the Lord, experienced and witnessed by the Fathers, the Saints, and the Martyrs of the Church, and being superbly alive today. Such a task is directly and organically related to the catechetical – didactic function of the Church as guardian, preserver and teacher of the absolute truth. The catechetical – didactic work for adults today is a formidable work. A work that does not allow delays or slow pace; a difficult, exceedingly challenging work. But the Church with the help of Christ our God and Lord, never hesitates, never stops. She faithfully follows the example of the Holy Apostles who in spite of the fact that “they were beaten up and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus” by the religious authorities in Jerusalem, “every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus the Christ.” (Acts 5:40-42)

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you… (Matthew 28:19-20)

These words of the Great Commission of Christ are directed to all members of the Body, the Church. We are all to become teachers—in words, in deeds—to those outside the Church. We cannot teach if we have not learned. Too often, we relegate “religious education” to the younger members of the Body of Christ (Sunday School) without realizing that the early Church worked in quite an opposite manner: reaching out to adults. The catechumens, those preparing for baptism, were generally adults; if children were included, it was because their parents were receiving the instruction of the Church to become Christians. This is not to deny a proper role for our Sunday School programs. Learning the faith is necessary at every age and, frankly, many parents are simply incapable of providing instruction for the children, which is why we must be so grateful for our Sunday School instructors. Still, this points to the necessity of instruction for adults as well. Thankfully, many of our parishes have made great strides in awakening our faithful in the need for ongoing instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet if we are to fulfill the Great Commission, we cannot neglect the duty to reach out to those who are not members of the Body of Christ. Whether non-Christian, or “unchurched,” or former Church members who have wandered away, we have a responsibility to not only welcome new members into the Church, but to call all persons to the Truth who is Christ Jesus. There is a great temptation to limit our life in the Church as for our own self-benefit without regard to the Commission and command of our Savior. We simply cannot claim to be Orthodox Christians who have seen the Light, who have learned the Truth, if we do not share the Light and the Truth of the Lord’s Salvation. We must, therefore, make a concerted effort to reach those outside the Body of Christ with an invitation to participate in Eternal Life. This requires cultivating the desire among individuals and throughout our community to welcome—with enthusiasm—new members in the Church. This requires training members of the parish to work with our clergy to welcome new members and to instruct them in the sacred tradition of Orthodoxy. But above all else, this requires the constant learning of our Christian heritage, traditions, customs, liturgy and life. As readers of Praxis, we pray that you will pray for such an endeavor, make efforts to fulfill the Commission of Christ in your local parishes, and continually learn in order to teach others. For in both learning and teaching, we observe all those things the Lord has commanded us to the glory of His Name!

With Paternal Blessings,

Metropolitan IAKOVOS of Chicago

Fall 2007



A publication of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, PRAXIS magazine is published three times a year. The subscription rate is $15 per year. Checks, payable to the Department of Religious Education, should be sent to:

PRAXIS Circulation 50 Goddard Avenue Brookline, MA 02445 (617)850-1218 SUBMISSION GUIDELINES Submissions should be 1,000-2,000 words in length and directly discuss education in the theology and tradition of the Orthodox Christian churches. Lesson aids or graphic enhancements may accompany the articles submitted. We also encourage the submission of photographs relevant to parish life (PRAXIS). Please also provide a biographical sketch of the author not exceeding fifty words. PRAXIS Magazine is seeking submissions of lesson plans based on articles from previous or current issues of PRAXIS. Submissions should use the article as the text/ background of the lesson plan. Lesson plans are welcome for any or several age groups. Please send submissions in a Word document with a length of 1,000-2,000 words to Material previously published or under consideration for publication elsewhere will not be considered without prior consent of the editor. We reserve the right to edit for usage and style; all accepted manuscripts are subject to editorial modification. Articles sent by mail should be accompanied by an electronic version on CD-ROM in Microsoft Word for Windows or for Macintosh. Articles in Microsoft Word may also be emailed as an attachment to Address submissions to: Anton C. Vrame, Ph.D. and/or Elizabeth Borch. CREDITS Executive Editor:

Anton C. Vrame, Ph.D.

Managing Editor:

Elizabeth Borch

Design and Layout:

Maria Diamantopoulos-Arizi

Front Cover

Fr. John Reeves baptizing Mr. Daniel Andresen, member of the Penn State Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Photograph obtained from Mr. Christ Kamages.

Inside Cover:

The Baptism of Christ Department of Religious Education, Brookline, MA

Back Cover:

Holy Spirit in the form of a dove - Taxiarchae Church, Watertown, MA. Photograph by Elizabeth Borch.


Atlantic Graphic Services, Inc., Clinton, MA

The color icons appearing in this issue of PRAXIS are available for purchase from the Department of Religious Education (800) 566-1088. Special thanks to Ms. Natalie Kulukundis for use of photographs that appear in this issue. Photographic images came from an Orthodox Youth Outreach project. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily the views of the Department of Religious Education. Š2007, Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. ISSN 1530-0595.


Fall 2007

Praxis Volume 7, Issue 1: Adult Catechumenate





Adult Catechumenate


Conversion and Community

Basil’ s Search for Miracles

Rev. Fr. Mark Elliot

Elizabeth Borch



Adult Catechumenate: Historical Considerations


Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know and D oesn’t

The Place for Adult Baptism…

Anton C. Vrame, Ph.D.

Christ J. Kamages, AIA


John Klentos

14 The Adult Inquirer: Practical Ideas for Parish Ministry

The Sign of the Cross: a lesson plan

Rev. Fr. James W. Kordaris

Presvytera Mary Hallick

for elementary students


20 The Eucaharistic Life as Lay Ministry : It ’s the Living End Allan-Gabriel Boyd

22 Harry Potter: J ust Another Story?

Sacred Symbolism in Modern Form

Teach Y our Children W ell

Eleni Poulos

Steven Papadatos




Rev. Fr. Aris Metrakos

Fall 2007



Letters Dear Dr. Vrame and Staff,

Dear Dr. Vrame:

In ministry, we strive to take the good work of those that preceded us and apply the gifts and experiences with which we have been blessed. Since inception, Praxis has been an excellent resource for the Orthodox Christian. It is a blessing to see that under your direction, Praxis will continue to offer high quality content with a focus on its practical application in the parish -- in your words, “...connecting our knowledge with our actions and actions with knowledge.” This was exemplified in the Spring 2007 issue with the feature on the Commitment Project, offering a summary article and four examples of this program being carried out in the parishes.

I was delighted to read the article, “Teens Committing to Grow in Faith” in the Praxis Spring 2007 issue. As you write, we are invited six times in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysotom to “commit ourselves, one another, and our whole lives to Christ our God.” How wonderful to learn that four parishes are putting these words into action, and have established programs for teens to go through a commitment program and then publicly make that commitment in their church communities.

May God bless your ministry. Yours in Christ, Fr. James W. Kordaris, Director Department of Outreach & Evangelism

While the four programs at St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, St. George Cathedral in Springfield, Massachusetts, Ascension Cathedral in Oakland, and Ss. Constantine & Helen in Cleveland, are all different, each has strong points, and can teach us about developing a national program. I urge the Archdiocese to develop and bless a national teen commitment program for our youth who would benefit greatly from the reaffirmation of their Orthodox faith and identity. Marilyn Rouvelas, Arlington, Virginia

Dear Ms. Borch, Greetings in the Name of our Lord! I was exceedingly pleased to receive Praxis and observe the new, refreshing and most educational content of this vital organ of our Religious Education. Our faithful, surely will be enlightened and nurtured in the Faith. Please accept my sincere congratulations and the prayer that the Lord may inspire you to continue your God-pleasing work. With Love in Christ, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco


Fall 2007

Adult Catechumenate

© Natalie Kulukundis

CONVERSION and COMMUNITY by Rev. Fr. Mark Elliott


n the eve of my reception into the Orthodox Church some twenty-five years ago, my father sat me down and gave me what is best described as a theological grilling. Little did I know, it was my first venture into the world of apologetics. Seated in his high backed red leather chair, my father, an Adult Sunday School teacher, now turned inquisitor and proceeded to pepper me with questions about the Orthodox Church. I found the experience to be at once intimidating, challenging, even invigorating. He essentially cast my whole religious upbringing before me, forcing me to articulate the reasons for leaving behind all that I had ever been and known in order to embrace what he himself had observed to be an ancient, but sensual and exotic expression of the Christian Faith. My father’s queries touched areas one would expect: Salvation, the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, the Fall, the Sacraments, and the Saints. A bit to my surprise, I believe I handled the barrage with ease, spouting back two years worth of personal reading and accessing the answers I received from the myriads of questions I had previously tossed toward my future Godfather. The truth be known, my responses were hardly the distillations of some sage autodidact but a substantial paraphrasing of huge chunks of Timothy Ware’s The Orthodox Church and Thomas Hopko’s four volume The Orthodox Faith. He appeared satisfied enough with my responses. He then asked the question my personal search for Truth failed to consider. “So, why are you joining a church in which you’ll never be anything more than a second class citizen?” I was dumbfounded. I could barely answer, much less comprehend where the question was coming from. My search for the Truth had been personal, all about me. My conception of belonging to a community centered on the Eucharistic Assembly, and basically stopped there. I wound up skirting his query entirely saying to him, with zealous self-assurance, that I simply wanted to join the Orthodox Church. This closed the matter for further discussion between the two of us. I was received into the Church the next day. My father had obviously raised a form of the ethnicity question that confronts virtually all who would enter the Orthodox Fall 2007


PRAXIS Adult Catechumenate

Church, but affixed to it his own editorial opener initially as I assumed all would-be world; and they set out to transform it opinion. This was a weapon of last resort converts were students of history looking at its very core. The oft touted ancient launched by a father who understood for the continuation of the Ancient catechism lasting upward of three years that the relationship with his son was Church just as I had been. Curiously, with guidelines including listings of about to be changed the lone seekers who professions deemed incompatible with forever. To his own “So, why are you joining a join catechism classes membership in the Church simply did not way of thinking, he church in which you’ll never often want to be materialize from out of a cloud, unless it had failed to keep Orthodox Christians was a “Cloud of Witnesses.” The Church be anything more than a me in the church but demonstrate little in Her wisdom clearly understood of my birth, and genuine interest in that the norm for membership, for the second class citizen?” thereby failed as a community life. Some, ones “called out”, required the leaving parent. He rightly perceived, however, however, cannot wait for a “Trinitarian” behind of a sinful past and becoming that the consequences of my actions immersion of language, dancing, and a new kind of person. In our so-called would be significant. If the Life of Faith cooking classes. Still others come post-Christian world, the challenge meant following the right doctrine it forward noting their observance of a for the Church when it comes to adult also entailed belonging to and being strong cohesion within parish families catechism has not really changed. If integrated into the community on a and wanting it for themselves, as well as we preach metanoia, it should not only social, even familial level. By default the grounding tradition provides. mean for the newly illumined to turn then, choosing Orthodoxy mandated a The draw of Orthodox Christianity from the life of sin, but to be “clothed change of identity too. He stood to lose may be The Truth to most, but finding in Christ”; that is to be wrapped, even a faith bond with his son, while I would a home, a place to belong must figure permeated, with the Tradition to the need, or be expected to, take on a new into the equation whether an individual extent it becomes not merely adherence identity. From his perspective, the latter concedes it as a factor or not. Often we to a body of information easily rattled was not really possible. He could see I are reminded of how broken American off when the theological play button came bearing no real point of connection society is when presented with a litany gets pressed by an inquiring mind, but to the community I was embracing, of depressing statistics citing divorce a basic reconsidering of how, and with let alone any real appreciation for why rates, domestic violence, teen suicides, whom one lives, works, prays, and even being woven into the tapestry of parish and the growth of gangs. Add to this plays. life was normal, let alone desirable. In his tossed salad a dressing of adolescent selfCritics may be inclined to argue estimation, this convert to Orthodoxy absorption from which too few really against such an approach as it suggests could never truly be a part of an ethnic grow out of, as well as a notable decline a total conversion without allowing time community. Looking across the broad in traditional (read: Biblical) morals, to shape the new Orthodox Christian. spectrum that is Orthodoxy in America and one begins to see Through the acquisition The draw of Orthodox of the Holy Spirit one today, the verity of this critique might the value of teaching does indeed work out still be debated with some intensity, but what it means to Christianity may be his/her salvation with fear sadly with a fruitless result. This is not belong, to be a part The Truth to most, but and trembling as part of the point. of a Christian family finding a home, a place the Body of Christ over That encounter ceased to be of any and community. It personal significance long ago, but it may seem to be a to belong must figure into a lifetime; but to not continues to inform my approach to bit uncharitable to the equation whether an instill a catechumen with adult catechism. The composition of my require those coming individual concedes it as a solid grounding in the Faith that touches upon catechism classes vary markedly from into the Orthodox a factor or not. the day to day living of year to year in terms of size, age range, Church to receive and gender. Some catechumens are closet instruction in something other than it is spiritually dangerous. Catechism theologians, a few begrudge the spiritual fundaments of the Way to Salvation, but that provides answers to the what, why home they came from, others seek an a catechist cannot make the assumption and how questions of the things we authentic Christianity, still others just that those coming to them arrive at the do as Orthodox has certainly done its want to become Orthodox so they can door grounded in the social structures job. However, if catechism becomes a breeding ground for spiritual aloofness share the faith of a spouse or fiancé. The he/she takes for granted. realization that there are no cookieOur ancient forbearers made no born of a zealous first fervor, fails to cutter catechumens was a bit of an eye such assumptions. Their’s was a pagan demonstrate the correlation between page 

Fall 2007

Adult Catechumenate

what one believes and one does, or else negates to assure and even reassure the would-be catechumen of her/his full membership in the community, an essential component is missing. The “newly illumined” are frequently a source admiration even inspiration for the cradle Orthodox. Indeed, their presence should be a source of encouragement for the building up the Body of Christ. Without some delicately presented teaching on humility to provide balance, catechists run the risk of forming Orthodox Christians who are never quite satisfied with where they have landed. The rest of the community never quite measures up and they begin a quest that a little too frequently winds up marginalizing them right out of canonical Orthodoxy. Further, if it is not demonstrated that one’s words and ways need to be in concert, a catechumen may enter the Faith unaware that he/she is living a lie, and perpetuating a sin. They must repent and chart their life anew, or else reconsider their decision to convert. Also, for those catechumens acutely aware that they potentially leave behind family, friends, and a way of life when embracing Orthodoxy, the catechist would do well to stress that their new

Church home is just that, a place of love wherein they can find fellowship. Potentially sensitive issues arising in a group setting indicate that serious and honest dialogue is taking place; which of course is a good thing. Still, such

When a committed Orthodox layperson speaks about the Spiritual Life to perked ears and receptive hearts, it moves the whole conversation about what it means to be Orthodox from bookish knowledge to real time and real life. conversation is better suited to a one-onone encounter, scheduled for a later date. In short, a catechism class that integrates an undercurrent deliberately designed to emphasize what it means to live Orthodoxy can become an opportunity to touch lives at a critical juncture. It must be borne in mind, however, that Catechism does not produce finished products, individuals somehow aglow with the uncreated light, but it can render servants of God ready to follow

the path of Orthodox Christianity, equipped with the same ethos as their fellow sojourners. The approach I advocate here does not toss the baby out with the bath water. The preparation of adults for entry into the Church necessarily requires certain topics to be covered. Teaching what Orthodoxy believes about God, the Church, the Sacramental Mysteries, The Tradition, Feasts and Fasts, the Liturgical Year, and the Spiritual Life remain the core of any catechism class. Texts suitable for presenting this material abound. Over the years I have discovered that catechists offer classes utilizing these in a variety of ways. Sometimes the catechumen is expected to teach him or herself. This approach might mean digesting a single text or even working through packets of materials. In other settings, book outlines and questionnaires, or creative audio visual presentations embellish a written text. Such courses vary in length from “whenever you finish” to a set program covering the better part of a liturgical year and perhaps culminating with a Holy Week entry into the Church. My approach to adult catechism resembles the latter. I would argue, however, that topics pertaining

© Natalie Kulukundis Fall 2007


PRAXIS Adult Catechumenate

to family and community life fruitfully others in the parish. The coffee hour, serve as bookends to this anchor material that sacrosanct parish institution, and therefore offer a comprehensive affords the usual setting for the weekly program reflecting the spirit of the Early re-connecting with friends, transacting Church. business, catching up on the latest Because the Ancient Church was very gossip, recharging ethnic identity, and careful to scrutinize those presenting perhaps the occasional engaging spiritual themselves to be made catechumens conversation, but it is probably not the and spent a certain amount of time ideal setting for a serious interaction of introducing the Christian Life before catechumens with other parishioners. presenting the Mystagogia (the When a committed Orthodox layperson Sacramental Life), today’s catechist can speaks about the Spiritual Life to perked accomplish similar goals by commencing ears and receptive hearts, it moves the with Bible basics such as the Ten whole conversation about what it means Commandments and Sermon on the to be Orthodox from bookish knowledge Mount before moving on to core topics. to real time and real life. Something These fundamental teachings lay out akin to a small panel discussion that how we are to live with each other, and places a few, dedicated parishioners how family and community life project together with the catechumens creates back toward the relationship established such a venue. So as to shape an orderly between God and His people. To further and constructive session, topics ought to craft a picture of family life a reading of be predetermined and include, prayer Tobit is time well spent. It is a marvelous rules, fasting, frequency of Confession, book about family, loyalty, living by the reception of Holy Communion, and principles, marriage, and hospitality. (The shaping children’s piety. Also, this sort book even broaches the topics of burial of gathering need not shy away from for the dead, unction, the an honest discussion of …most catechumens guardian angel, and a pet what it means to be in desire something more dog!) Life in a Christian an ethnic community. than embracing the parish comes through Catechumens simply with a reading of the Book Faith only to constitute need, and probably of Acts, especially the first a fringe element within desire, to understand six or so chapters. It is no something about the the Church. accident that the Church highly visible and prescribed this to be read in its entirety seemingly organic fusion of faith and for the “newly illumined” during the vigil culture so characteristic of Orthodox of Pascha, and still is in some places. All Churches. Coming at the end of a course of these texts present opportunities for of study, a laity driven session or two stimulating discussions that might lead of this nature might then serve as the to useful critiques of how life, in general, catalyst for establishing friendships or is presently lived, and hopefully lead even finding sponsors for the soon-to-be to helpful self-reflection on the part of Orthodox Christians. catechumens as to how their lives might As Orthodoxy claims to possess the be shaped as Orthodox Christians. fullness of the Truth, the presentation It is, of course, one thing to discourse of it needs to be as comprehensive as is about the necessity of a communal reasonably possible. Catechists would do perspective on the Christian Life and well to begin to take stock of the divergent to assure those coming into the Church types of people to whom Orthodoxy that they do indeed belong; it is quite appeals and why it is attractive. After all, another to actually connect them with today’s catechumens will be tomorrow’s page 10

Fall 2007

parishioners. Adults set on embracing Orthodoxy deserve, therefore, not only a clear presentation of the Faith but also the tools for a full integration into the richness of community life. While not everyone will readily admit it, most catechumens desire something more than embracing the Faith only to constitute a fringe element within the Church. They want to be woven into the whole tapestry, and thus stand with their brothers and sisters in Christ, and not stand out from them. It would be a great disservice to them and to the Church to offer anything less. Rev. Fr. Mark Elliott is pastor of Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Huntington, West Virginia. He converted to Orthodox Christianity in 1982.

Adult Catechumenate

Adult Catechumenate:

Historical Considerations by John Klentos

Acts 2 presents a model of apostolic catechesis in the Shifting Understandings of History Until relatively recently, teaching about the development Pentecost story. St. Peter addressed the crowd of bewildered of Christian liturgy has followed the “diversification of rites” people, using prophecy to teach about the last days (eschaton) theory beginning from the assumption that Jesus’s immediate when God’s Spirit would be poured out and salvation would disciples established particular rites (based on Jewish worship) come to all who call on the Lord’s name (Acts 2:16-21, cf. Joel and positing that over time liturgies evolved from pristine 2:28-32). His sermon explained the outpouring of the Holy uniformity to diversity. Liturgical history understood from Spirit that they had just witnessed by integrating prophetic this perspective generally follows a straight-line trajectory scriptures with the apostles’ own experience of Jesus as a way connecting modern Orthodox liturgy directly to Jesus and of proclaiming the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. his apostles who faithfully maintained traditions originally So powerful was this apostolic catechesis, that about three thousand people were moved to repentance and baptism then handed down from God as recorded in Exodus 25-31. and there. Modern historians have come to realize Modern historians A similar pattern appears in the conversion of the that, from the beginning, liturgical have come to realize Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). In the course practices varied greatly from place to place that, from the begin- of a single chariot ride, St. Philip proclaimed and shifted – sometimes radically – over time. According to this theory, the initial ning, liturgical practices the good news about Jesus by interpreting a diversity within the early Church evolved varied greatly from place short passage of prophetic scripture. When to place and shifted they came upon some water, Philip baptized the into more uniform “liturgical families” – sometimes radically Ethiopian without further ado, indicating that during the fourth century, resulting largely – over time. there was no requirement for a formal, let alone from the legalization of Christianity. It is, therefore, impossible to draw a single line back through time lengthy, catechumenate. Acts does not mention anything in an attempt to discover the historical origins of a particular remotely resembling catechism before the baptism of Saul/St. Paul (9:18). As St. Peter was preaching to interested people Christian practice. To understand catechetical formation historically, we must assembled in Caesarea, the Holy Spirit’s presence interrupted examine how particular local communities prepared candidates his catechetical preaching, and all were baptized immediately for initiation, and then try to make connections between the (Acts 10:24-48). Sts. Paul and Silas, freed from jail by a violent various traditions of different times and places, aware that not earthquake, instructed and baptized their jailer and his family every historical community contributed to the development of within the span of a few hours (Acts 16:25-34). “Catechesis” comes from the Greek verb katêcheô, meaning “to Byzantine practices. ring or echo in the ear,” and refers to pre-baptismal instruction of adults. During New Testament times, what echoed in the New Testament Practices The ministry of St. John the Baptizer, recorded in all four ears of those preparing for baptism was simply the good news gospel accounts, provides valuable information about the roots of Jesus Christ who fulfilled God’s promise of salvation. There of Christian initiation. It is clear that people were moved was neither a formal catechumenate nor established intellectual to accept baptism because of John’s eloquent catechetical or ethical prerequisites for initiation. preaching. He proclaimed the coming Kingdom of heaven (Mt 3:2) which would fulfill prophetic promises of restorative Early Christianity As Christianity spread and developed in a world hostile to it, the re-creation (Lk 3:5-6; cf. Is 40:3-5). He exhorted listeners to repentance and confession of sins, warning of impending process of forming and accepting new members became more judgement (Mt 3:7-10; Lk 3:7-9). He instructed his followers structured. For our purposes, the most important document to to live ethically, striving for charity, justice, and non-violence consider is the Didache, or The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, discovered in 1873 by Metropolitan Philotheos (Bryennios) (Lk 3:10-14).

Fall 2007

page 11

PRAXIS Adult Catechumenate

of Nicomedia. Itself a compilation of earlier writings, the of Jerusalem around the year 350 gives a good indication Didache was circulated widely and formed the basis of many of the organization and content of catechetical training in other church orders, suggesting that it harmonized well with Jerusalem, Christianity’s most important pilgrim center.2 the practices of other local communities. It was produced in In his introductory oration (Procatechesis), preached at the Syria no later than the middle of the second century, and some beginning of Lent, St. Cyril spoke of the enrollment of those scholars have argued that it may have been written as early as catechumens who were preparing for initiation that Easter. 70 BCE, making it roughly contemporary with books of the According to his terminology, these women and men were no New Testament. The first six books contain instruction about longer considered catechumens, but photizomenoi – those who ethical living composed of biblical admonitions combined are being enlightened through instruction in the theological with more modern directives that seem to be a rudimentary tenants of the faith. Throughout the course of Lent, he outline of pre-baptismal catechesis. Notably, there is still no preached a series of Catechetical Lectures that offered a detailed exposition of the Creed, spanning 13 of the 18 extant homilies. formal catechumenate nor dogmatic instruction. Most modern programs of adult catechism and initiation After the Paschal initiation, he continued with a series of five developed in non-Orthodox churches depend heavily on Mystagogical Catecheses explaining the actual rites of initiation: the Apostolic Tradition, wrongly attributed to Hippolytus of Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist. The Journal of Egeria, written by a Spanish nun visiting Rome.1 Until the late twentieth century scholars believed that this document faithfully preserved the practices of early third Jerusalem around 381-384 supplements Cyril’s account of century Rome. Recent studies indicate that it is actually a late catechetical formation.3 Egeria recorded that on the first day fourth century amalgamation of material from many different of Lent catechumens preparing for initiation submitted their geographical regions over a long period of time. The Apostolic names to the cathedral clergy. On the second day of Lent, each Tradition describes in detail an organized catechumenate candidate approached the bishop publically while friends and consisting of calling witnesses to testify to candidates’ neighbors were questioned about the candidate’s character; the morality in both the private and professional spheres, a three- bishop himself inscribed the names of those found acceptable. year period of instruction, and a final period of scrutiny and Every day after that, the photizomenoi were dismissed after exorcism just prior to their baptism. Orthodox, however, must Orthros for exorcism by the clergy, and then returned to the be careful in considering this pattern since the churches that main church to hear a three-hour catechetical lecture delivered this document describes had little impact on the development by the bishop. For the first five weeks he taught from scripture of the Byzantine tradition. about the history of salvation, beginning with Genesis; during During times of persecution, Christian communities were the final weeks he explained the Creed. extremely careful about admitting new members for fear of Antioch. While still a presbyter in Antioch (ca. 388-390), inadvertently welcoming informers. This led to an extended St. John Chrysostom instructed candidates for initiation catechumenate that emphasized moral on behalf of the bishop.4 As in Jerusalem, those As Christianity spread preparing for initiation at Easter were enrolled at the rectitude and demonstrable loyalty to the Church; candidates were expected beginning of Lent, thereby leaving the ranks of the and developed in a to became faithful Christians before world hostile to it, the catechumens and assuming a liminal identity marked being admitted to full membership process of forming and by frequent exorcisms and instruction. Chrysostom’s through Baptism and Eucharist. homilies are expansive in content, ranging from accepting new members condemnation of immoral entertainment to became more Post-Constantinian Developments discussions of Orthodox (anti-Arian) theology to structured. When Emperor St. Constantine exhortations to Christian charity. While he did legalized Christianity, the not present a systematic exposition of the Creed, catechumenate changed drastically. Communities, no longer he referred to other occasions when “teachers” offered such fearing nefarious infiltrators, decreased emphasis on screening instruction. candidates for initiation; this relaxation of requirements Theodore of Mopsuestia represents the practice of another allowed less-dedicated people to become Christians for region of Antioch between 383 and 392. Although he was social, political, or economic advantage. Since the Sacrament eventually declared a heretic, his catechetical homilies served of Confession had not yet developed, people remained as a textbook for catechumens of the Patriarchate of Antioch catechumens until late in life for fear of committing post- into the sixth century.5 Theodore’s series of orations include Baptismal sins that might endanger their eternal salvation. In eleven lectures on the Creed, one on the Lord’s Prayer, three either case, the formational dimension wained. explaining the rites of Baptism, and two dedicated to the Jerusalem. The collection of homilies delivered by St. Cyril Eucharist. page 12

Fall 2007

Adult Catechumenate

During this period much attention was given to explaining the newly-formulated Creed; the threat of Arianism Implications for Modern Catechists Throughout the history of catechesis, the emphasis has prompted Church leaders to emphasize the doctrinal aspects of catechetical formation. The basic sequence of topics had been proclaiming God’s salvation, predominately through become uniform, but Jerusalem preserved the tradition of explanation of the scriptures; dogmatic instruction, if there withholding discussion of Baptism and Eucharist until after was any, took place later in the process. But each historical initiation, while Antioch explained the rites before they period adapted this approach to fit their concrete situation. occurred. In both Jerusalem and Antioch, instruction did not In many ways, modern Orthodox are closer to tenth century end with initiation; the bishop continued to teach new members Constantinople in that people come to the Church from a about Christian mystery and morality. This post-baptismal variety of backgrounds and the formational needs of each instruction is called “Mystagogy.” are different. The catechetical syllabi of Jerusalem Recent research has revealed that prior to …people come to the and Antioch exemplify thorough, short-term the Council of Nicaea in 325, pre-baptismal Church from a variety introductions to the Faith. Looking at history we can see that, at core, the catechumenate is instruction lasted only three weeks. After of backgrounds and the simply proclaiming God’s saving acts in history, the Council established a universal date for Easter preceded by a forty day Lent, formational needs of nurturing a life of Christian virtue, and helping people understand Orthodox Christianity. This is pre-baptismal instruction was extended to each are different. 6 correspond with this preparatory period. facilitated by extensive use of scripture, connecting Vestiges of this older practice are still part of the Byzantine the candidates’ lives to the Gospel, tying them into the grand Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, where the litany and prayer story of salvation by baptizing groups in conjunction with a for the photizomenoi are included only during the last three major feast, and nurturing community among those who are weeks of Lent, after candidates for Paschal Baptism would preparing for initiation. There is no one way to prepare women and men for initiation have been enrolled in the fourth century. into the Orthodox Church, but history can provide ideas and patterns for renewing this tradition and revitalizing Constantinopolitan Traditions The tenth century Typikon of the Great Church (i.e., Hagia catechetical formation for the twenty-first century. Sophia) bears witness to initiatory practices during the apogee of Byzantine Christianity.7 While Baptism had become John Klentos is Associate Professor of Eastern Orthodox Studies at associated with Pascha following the Council of Nicaea, the Graduate Theological Union, and affiliated with the Patriarch in Constantinople it was still celebrated six times a year: Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, Berkeley, California. during the Easter Vigil (now observed on Holy Saturday morning), after Orthros on Holy Saturday (now observed 1. Paul F. Bradshaw, Maxwell E. Johnson, and L. Edward Phillips, The Apostolic A Commentary (Minneapolis: The Fortress Press, 2002). on Holy Friday evening), Epiphany, Saturday of Lazarus, Tradition: 2. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Pentecost, and Christmas. While Lenten catechesis may have Series, Volume VII: S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen (Reprinted by sufficed for some of these days, it probably would not have Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983). 3. John Wilkinson (ed.), Egeria’s Travels, 2nd edn (London: SPCK, 1971). been appropriate for those joining the Church on Epiphany, 4. Paul W. Harkins (trans.), St. John Chrysostom: Baptismal Instructions [Ancient Pentecost, or Christmas. Some scholars speculate that the Christian Writers, 31] (New York: Newman Press, 1963). older three-week preparation may have been employed for 5. Although Theodore’s works were destroyed, Syriac translations survived. For an English translation of these, see A. Mingana (ed.), Commentary of Theodore of those occasions. In any case, baptisms were still performed Mopsuestia on the Lord’s Prayer and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist for groups of photizomenoi, and catechism would remain a [Woodbrooke Studies, 5-6] (Cambridge, 1932-33). Maxwell E. Johnson, “From Three Weeks to Forty Days,” Studia Liturgica group experience. Somewhat earlier evidence suggests that 6. 20 (1990) 185-200. See also Maxwell E. Johnson, “Baptismal Preparation and newly illumined Christians continued to meet weekly with the Origins of Lent” in The Rites of Christian Initiation (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1999) 159-176. the bishop or a presbyter for mystagogical instruction. 7. Juan Mateos, Le Typicon de la Grande Église [Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 165By this time people joined the Orthodox Church from a variety 166] (Rome: Pont. Institutu, Orientalium Studiorum, 1962). of religious backgrounds: non-belief, pagan, Jewish, Muslim, 8. Canon 78 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. and heretical Christianity. This diversity among converts 9. John Klentos, “Rebaptizing Converts into the Orthodox Church: Old Perspectives on a New Problem,” Studia Liturgica 29 (1999) 216-236. required different types of catechetical instruction. Those with no familiarity with Christianity needed an introduction to God’s plan of salvation beginning with creation, while those coming from heterodox sects simply needed to learn the theological truths of Orthodox Christianity.9 Fall 2007

page 13


The Place for Adult Baptism …

as an Invitation to the Orthodox Church by Christ J. Kamages, AIA

T Figure 1. Sponsor Nikki with Catechumen Ian on the soleas with “Baptistry Kiddie Pool” in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

he decision of an adult catechumen to follow the path of Orthodoxy through the sign and seal of Holy Baptism is a huge and awesome threshold in one’s life. For those who require it, the importance of baptism in the life and discipleship of the believer mustn’t be minimized or trivialized. Although the Sacrament still assumes an adult being baptized, for centuries the demographic and cultural perspective of Orthodox Baptism has focused on infants. Because of this, our parishes today are often ill equipped to deal with the phenomenon of adults seeking the faith and requiring baptism. As the pinnacle of transformation, the environment surrounding this sacrament must represent a beautiful, sacred event...not an episode of divine comedy as witnessed in the wonderful movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when Ian (the catechumen), assisted by his Godmother, cousin Nikki, was baptized in a child’s swimming pool placed on the Church’s soleas (Fig. 1). Certainly it’s a memorable “snapshot” but not where we want to be in practice. In the early Church, baptisteries were an important structure. Being a separate building from the church complex, the baptistery was decorated with iconography and graced with beautiful architecture in its own right. Even today, we marvel at the beauty of ancient Byzantine baptisteries like Ekatontapliani in Paros (Fig. 2) and the Orthodox Baptistery in Ravenna (Fig. 3). So when considering the inclusion of an adult baptistery in a church structure today, we should ask, “what are the special needs of adult baptisms today...and what are the special needs and considerations that must be considered in the planning, design and implementation of an appropriate place and setting for adult baptisms?” In our experience, one must consider the following rudimental issues: • Enhancement and preservation of the sacrament as an event of dignity and celebration. • Location of the baptistery in relationship to the Church Naos (a part of...or separate) to the infant font and dressing area and providing a position of focus and dignity. • Functionality of entry, exit, area around and the relationship of the priest to the catechumen in anthropometric terms. • Technical considerations like water flow/control, heating, disposal to the holy drywell.

Figure 2. The separate Baptistery of the 6th century Church of Ekatontapliani on the Island of Paros, Greece.

Today 85% of our Church Temple designs include beautiful, dignified and functional Adult Baptisteries (Figs. 4 & 5). These areas, beyond serving as the appropriate portal or gateway for the catechumen, most importantly serve as a solid, permanent icon of the Orthodox Faith’s commitment and invitation to all who seek the True Faith. Christ John Kamages AIA. MArch, is President of CJK Design Group, a San Francisco based planning and architecture firm with a national practice focused on faith communities (over 100 past and 20 current projects.) Mr. Kamages has authored many articles and is a sought after speaker on the subject of Orthodox rooted architecture. In November 2000, he was honored by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, with the Offikion of Archon Arketekton. He serves as Chairman of the Board for the Patriarch Athenagoras Institute at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley.

page 14

Fall 2007


at the Department of Religious Education

Eastern Orthodox Christianity Figure 3. The Orthodox Baptistery in Ravenna, Italy.

Figure 4. The Baptistery Niche in St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Saco, Maine.

An insightful, fascinating survey of Eastern Orthodoxy from a western point of view, Clendenin introduces Protestants and Catholics to Eastern Orthodox history and theology in a clear, concise and engaging way. The book offers a western perspective of our Faith to “cradle� Orthodox while answering many questions about our faith to those from Western traditions. Figure 5. The Baptistery excedra at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Las Ve-



gas, which combines Adult and Infant Baptismal. Seven out of the last 36 baptisms at St. John the Baptist were of an adult.

Fall 2007

page 15



Practical ideas for Parish Ministry by Fr. James W. Kordaris


he adult inquirer has begun the journey to Orthodox Christianity long before entering the doors of our parish. It may begin with a sense of emptiness or a feeling that there exists something more than they are finding in their current faith tradition. Inquirers may come to the Orthodox Church from a faith tradition that has disappointed them in some way. Increasingly, inquirers are coming to the Orthodox Church through intermarriage, a phenomenon seen by many as our greatest opportunity for outreach. As the visible presence of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, each parish is called to witness to those within and those outside the community of believers. If we believe that in Orthodoxy we have the fullness of the Truth, then we have the great responsibility to share it with all people. Bringing people to Christ and strengthening their faith is a person-to-person process. First Impressions In the early days of the Church, pagans became Christians not because of what they read in the Bible – there was no Bible to read. People became Christians because of what they experienced in the Christian community. People will come through the doors of our parish for a variety of reasons. Their first impression is critical to their decision to come back. Will we be ready for them? We need to ask ourselves, if ours was the only Orthodox Church a person ever visited, or if I were the only Orthodox Christian that a person ever met, would that person want to become Orthodox? Outreach will require that we remind cradle Orthodox of the missionary nature of the Church, teaching them to welcome inquirers and converts, and to see them as a positive addition to our parish and our faith. Those who choose to become Orthodox will grow to appreciate our historical and ancient Christian roots and will inspire others as they embrace the Orthodox Christian faith. Because the Orthodox Christian worship experience is so unique – it fills the five senses – it may seem foreign to the inquirer. It is important that our parishes be ready for visitors. Remember that Zacchaeus was converted merely by Christ’s acceptance of him. Reaching out to those who enter our doors with a sincere handshake,

page 16

Fall 2007

greeting and a welcoming smile could be the most important missionary work we do. Ushers, greeters and all parishioners should be reminded of the importance of reaching out and making our visitors welcome. Friendliness can have eternal implications. Closed Communion: Problem or Opportunity? Inquirers innocently approaching the chalice may cause some awkwardness or embarrassment. This problem may be seen as an opportunity, if, prior to saying, “With the fear of God, with faith and with love draw near,” a friendly word of instruction is offered. This could be phrased as follows, “We welcome all visitors and guests who are with us today. We remind you that in the Orthodox Christian Church, Holy Communion is offered only to baptized or chrismated (confirmed) Orthodox Christians. All visitors and guests are welcome to come forward at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy to receive the antidoron which is bread that has been blessed.” At this time, the priest may invite those that are interested to attend Orthodox education/catechism classes at the church or to meet with him to discuss becoming full members of the Orthodox Christian Church. This information could also be included in the Sunday and mailed bulletin or newsletter. Respect for other Faith Traditions In reaching out to inquirers, it is helpful to find those aspects of faith that we share. One Jewish inquirer meeting with the priest to find if she would be able to reconcile her faith with that of her Greek Orthodox fiancé was visibly moved when the priest turned to his bookshelf and took down a copy of the Tanakh (Sacred Writings of Judaism). She gradually came to accept that these sacred writings, which make up what we call the Old Testament, are the foundation upon which Christianity rests. Over a year later she was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church. In all discussions, we must show respect for the individual inquirers and their faith, culture and tradition. Though they may choose to become Orthodox Christians, their faith, culture and tradition are an integral part of who they are. They will also have family and friends who remain faithful to their previous traditions. We bring others to Orthodoxy, not by criticizing their faith tradition, but by respecting that which is good in it, and pointing out those aspects of faith that we share. Education: Parishioners and Inquirers A good priest once asked “Doesn’t renewal have to come first before we can evangelize others? Don’t we have to be infected with Christ before we can be contagious?” This is why education is the key to bringing others to Orthodoxy – education of faithful Orthodox and education of the inquirer. Most Orthodox faithful preparing to intermarry are unable to explain aspects of the faith to their prospective spouse. Because those who were raised in the Orthodox Church are so familiar

with the Traditions of the Church, it is often difficult to explain them. This requires basic educational materials, well-crafted sermons, Orthodoxy classes and more, leading to a more personal participation in worship, a more personal faith and ongoing development toward theosis. Many of the actions we take to reach out to inactive Orthodox Christians and inquirers are also effective in revitalizing the faith of our active Orthodox. Mentoring Non-Orthodox Inquirers Fr. Charles Joanides of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Interfaith Marriage suggests that one method we can employ in our churches to welcome and integrate inquirers is to develop a mentoring program to help the nonOrthodox become more comfortable with the “…religious traditions, cultural idiosyncrasies and social life of our communities.” Fr. Charles describes mentors as resource persons who assume the responsibility of providing information to the non-Orthodox partner regarding any number of different questions and concerns of a religious, cultural or social nature. “You Shall be my Witnesses” (Acts 1:8) Forty days after His Resurrection, at the time of His Ascension, Jesus gathered His disciples with Him and promised that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. He called upon them to be His witnesses. This same calling is directed to each one of us. The front lines of Jesus’ army today are faithful men and women who live ordinary lives in the world, attending school, making a living, raising families, participating in the daily life of our society. “And the Lord added to their number daily…”Acts 2:47 (NIV) In Acts 2 we read, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” If we do the work of ministry, reflecting the light and the love of Christ, others will come. God will place you in situations to share your faith. As He called upon His disciples on the day of His Ascension, He has also called upon each one of us to be His witnesses “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Fr. Jim Kordaris ( is Director of Outreach & Evangelism for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America ( and pastor of Saint George Greek Orthodox Church on West 54th Street in New York City ( Contact the Department of Outreach & Evangelism for a copy of the booklet, OUTREACH & EVANGELISM: Some Practical Steps.

Fall 2007

page 17


Basil’s Search




Reviewed by Elizabeth Borch Pre-teens are a tough crowd when it comes to moralizing, they can sniff it out and recoil from miles away. This book does none of that! This story gently introduces real world situations, and along with Basil, the reader is drawn into the complexity of human relationships and his attempt to do the right thing under the circumstances. “I wrote Basil’s Search for Miracles because I think there is a great need for books that speak to young readers in a realistic way about the problems of this world while also appealing to their needs for spiritual exploration,” Zydek said. “ Most kids probably aren’t interested in hearing sermons in church—but they do have a longing for the supernatural that often isn’t filled. We have little to offer our 9-12 year olds that can fill their needs for a good story while stimulating their budding faiths, all the while speaking the language of today. I hope ‘Basil’ will fill that void.”


hristian fiction is not my favorite genre. Typically, this type of book is scrubbed and sanitized, so that there will be no topics remotely offensive to any Christian reader. The problem is that doing this often sacrifices any real, honest human struggles. Basil’s Search for Miracles is refreshingly not one of “those” books. Heather Zydek gives us a very sensitively written portrait that does not shy away from the realities of our world. Basil’s Search for Miracles is the story of a twelve year old student who encounters unexpected and difficult situations over the course of the school year. Basil is a gifted writer who is a new student at St. Norbert’s school. In an effort to get involved and make friends, Basil joins the school newspaper. Basil befriends a social outcast who is abused by his alcoholic, murderous father. In doing so, he discovers personally what real friendship entails. While he is researching his assigned topics for the school newspaper, he meets a gentle and accepting Orthodox priest who encourages and gently guides him. Over the course of the year, he grows to appreciate the task his struggling single mom carries in raising and supporting him. Through all this, Basil acts like a real kid who disobeys, gets into fights with his mom, and makes mistakes. Basil also models the Christian virtues of friendship and compassion.

page 18

Fall 2007

This book moves at an adequate pace to keep the pages turning. The reading level and content is aimed at middle school. This book would be an interesting read aloud or book group selection for a junior high group. For example, this story would get the conversation started about the sensitive topic of alcoholism and abuse. The love and forgiveness that belongs in the life of the church should also be a topic of discussion that arises from this reading. True miraculous stories are recounted as part of Basil’s school newspaper articles and this could launch into a lesson about miracles. This book is not exclusively Orthodox per se, but does introduce the Orthodox belief of miracles, icons, worship, and monastic life. Elizabeth Borch is managing editor for Praxis magazine, as well as the mother of two young teens. vBook Author: Heather Zydek vPublisher: Conciliar Press Ministries

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs Know And Doesn’t

t o

Reviewed by Anton C.Vrame, Ph.D. practices, scriptures, heroes, themes, and stories that are employed in American public life” (p. 13). This was not always the case, according to Prothero. In two chapters he outlines religious teaching in America, simultaneously providing a very good overview of American religious history. In “Eden (What We Once Knew),” Prothero describes how religion was very much part of the curriculum in schools in early American history, e.g. Noah Webster’s Speller in 1783, McGuffey’s Readers in 1836, or the Sunday School movement. He then goes on to show the decline of religious teaching in “The Fall (How We Forgot)” from the midnineteenth century with the “Bible wars,” when Americans disagreed over which translation should be read, which led to the creation of many Roman Catholic schools, and such movements as non-sectarianism and non-denominationalism to how in our own day of increasing religious diversity we have sacrificed religious knowledge for social tolerance.


ehind a number of very amusing stories reported from the author’s Boston University classroom, other serious studies, and tales being told by others, there lies a very serious message and proposal. The message is as Prothero writes (p. 26), “Americans’ knowledge of religion runs as shallow as Americans’ commitment to religion runs deep. Many cannot recognize the phrase ‘Hail, Mary’ except as the name of a football play; many are unaware that the pop singer Madonna was actually named after someone. In fact, most Americans lack the most basic understanding of their own religious traditions.” The proposal is that Americans can do a much better job teaching young people (and adults) about religion. This task can be accomplished at home for our families (we should also be studying for our personal edification), in our parishes, in our media, but especially in our schools, colleges, and universities. There can be no denying that religion pervades America, from the daily discussion of Sunni and Shiite Islam, the impact of the Christian Right on political life, to the annual debate about Nativity displays and Menorahs near public buildings. But study after study shows that Americans are religiously illiterate, not only about the religions of others, but their own as well. Prothero defines religious literacy as “the ability to understand and use religious terms, symbols, images, beliefs,

The most interesting chapter in the book, at least for me, was Chapter 5, “Redemption (What to Do?).” Here Prothero lays out his proposal for reintroducing biblical and religious topics into elementary, secondary, and higher education, including public institutions. He discusses the constitutionality and importantly the limits of teaching religion in schools, setting forth the distinction between studying religion “academically” and studying it “devotionally.” At the end of his proposal, Prothero acknowledges that a creative middle ground between the positions of the Secular Left and the Religious Right will have to be found for religion to be included in public education. As he writes (p. 147), “The middle path here – in both secondary and higher education – is teaching about religion that takes believers seriously yet refuses to plump either for or against what they believe. This path leaves responsibility for inculcating faith where it rightly belongs: in homes and religious congregations.” Dr. Anton Vrame is Director of the Department of Religious Education. vBook Author: Stephen Prothero vPublisher: Harper San Francisco, 2007

Fall 2007

page 19


The Sign of the Cross: a lesson plan

for elementary students by Presvytera Mary Hallick

There is not so great a sign of the love of God for mankind, nor heaven, nor sea, nor earth, nor the creation of all things out of nothing, nor all else beside, as the cross. -St. John Chrysostom Lesson objective: Materials: Plan:

To instruct elementary age students how and when to make the Sign of the Cross appropriately. Text following, pencils, copy of crossword puzzle for each student, Cross pins for each student • Read aloud or have students in turn read the following story • Ask and discuss each of the questions • Distribute crossword puzzle and pencil to each student • When crossword is completed, reward each student with a cross pin

Greg and Zach spent the warm autumn afternoon riding their bikes along the river bank and the bike trails through the city. Recently, Greg had moved to Centerville and the boys met at school. They discovered that they were both altar boys at All Saints Greek Orthodox Church and quickly became good friends. As they parted to go home, Greg said, “See ya tomorrow, Zach.” Zach didn’t answer immediately. He just nodded his head. At home, Zach’s mother asked him about his ride with his friend Greg. Zach was a bit hesitant to answer, and he finally said, “Mom, I like Greg.” He paused and said, “I think.” He paused again, “but Mom, he did some weird things today. I don’t know if I want to go bike riding again with him tomorrow.” “What do you mean, ‘Weird things’?” Inquired his mother. “Well, we stopped for a gyro sandwich and when we sat down to eat, Greg made the sign of the cross before he ate his sandwich. Yeah, I know I’m supposed to make the sign of the

page 20

Fall 2007

cross before I eat, but Mom, in public?” “ Now Zach, you know you have been taught at home to make the sign of the cross before meals to ask for God’s blessings. Are you denying God because you are ashamed to make the sign of the cross in a public place?” “Mom,” pleaded Zach, “I’m not denying God, but gee, I don’t like making the sign of the cross in a public place.” Zach’s mother was concerned. She reminded Zach of his Sunday School lessons of how the early Christians were persecuted. “Making the symbol of the cross means that we belong to God, like being a member of his family. Think of your baseball hat, it has a symbol on it that identifies you as a Red Sox fan. She added, we are blessed to be free to practice our religion and should never be ashamed to show we are Christians.” Zach hung his head and said, “Mom, I understand, I will make the sign of the cross every time, even in public. But Mom, Greg did something else that was weird.” “What was that, Zach?” “As we rode past All Saints Greek Orthodox Church, Greg made the sign of the cross again, Now that’s weird!” “Zach, that was not weird,” replied his mother in exasperation. “It is the custom to bless yourself when you pass God’s house. The Church is where we celebrate the life of Christ every Sunday during Divine Liturgy. Zach, I know that your Sunday school teachers taught you this, but I guess you weren’t paying attention. Maybe I should ask you some questions about this.

Making the Sign of the Cross 1



4 5




For example, name the times in the day when we make the sign of the cross.” Zach was thinking and then said, “Well, when we go to bed, before and after meals. Yeah, and when I’m in Church. There! I know when to make the sign of the cross!” Zach’s mother asked, “What about the times we take a trip? Don’t we make the sign of the cross for a safe journey?” Zach chimed in and said, “and when we get home. I guess we make it when we are happy and when we are sad. We make the sign of the cross quite a few times, don’t we?” His mom was happy that he knew when to make the sign of the cross. She thought that as long as Zach was talking about the cross, she should ask him one more question. “Zach, what does making the sign of the cross mean?” Zach looked at her for a moment and answered, “Well, it’s like talking to Jesus and asking him to protect us. I guess it’s a prayer. Yeah, and it lets everyone know you are a Christian.” “That’s right!” his mom answered. “Zach, in making the sign of the cross, we bless ourselves. Also, when we make the sign of the cross, we touch our forehead and we dedicate ourselves to the Almighty God. We dedicate our mind so that we are able to learn and understand the truths of our faith. As we continue the downward stroke of the sign, we dedicate our heart to show that our love to God is before anything else. And lastly, when we cross our shoulders, we dedicate our strength to work and serve Christ and the Church. Zach, one more important thing: Remember to make the sign of the cross slowly and with reverence. Do not make it as if you were playing a banjo or waving away flies! Even the position of our fingers reminds us

ACROSS 1 Jesus died on the _____. 5 We use ____ fingers to represent the Trinity. 6 The trinity is God the ______, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 7 When Christ was bapized, the ____ ____ came down in the form of a dove. DOWN 2 We use our ____ hand to make the sign of the cross. 3 When we make the sign of the cross, we ____. 4 ___ is the Son of God. 5 We call the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the ____. 8 We use ___ fingers to show that God was fully man and fully human.

about God. The three fingers that we touch together remind us of each part of the Holy Trinity. Our other two fingers on our palm remind us that Jesus was at the same time completely man and completely God,” his mother said as she turned and stepped towards Zach. Zach looked at his mom and said, “Wow, I forgot that it meant so much.” He hung his head and said, “I guess Greg wasn’t so weird after all. He was just being a good Orthodox Christian.” His mom put her arms around Zach and said, “You, too, are a good Orthodox Christian, Zach.” Zach turned to his mom and asked, “If it’s okay with you, Greg and I are going bike riding again tomorrow.” Questions for Discussion and Evaluation: 1. Describe how you make the Sign of the Cross and demonstrate. 2. What do we think/pray as we make the Sign of the Cross? 3. What does the position of our fingers remind us about God’s nature? 4. Should we make the Sign of the Cross in public? Why or Why not? 5. List the times and places to make the Sign of the Cross. 6. Challenge question for next Sunday: When did making the sign of the cross begin? Who was the first person to start it? (For more information, read The Sign of the Cross by Andreas Andreopoulos.) Mary Hallick, Ed.D. is the co-author of Sowing Seeds for Christ and many teacher’s guides in the Living Our Orthodox Faith textbook series. Fall 2007

page 21


The Eucharistic Life as Lay Ministry: It’s the Living End

by Allan-Gabriel Boyd

© Natalie Kulukundis The End For Christians, The End makes a perfect beginning. In fact, The End makes a wonderful middle too. And as for the end… uh…well…you know. The End is that point in the kingdom of heaven where all of creation finds its sum and its fulfillment in the glorified Person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, our Divine Liturgy has The End at its heart. Theologians say more precisely that it is “eschatological,” relating to last things, or what we have come to think of as The End of time. The End is chiefly the place to be when we approach the chalice. An authentic Eucharistic experience encompasses a whole way of life that has The End in mind. Ultimately, Christ intended for all Christians to be bringing about The End – as He taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s also important to keep in mind that the Greek word for “liturgy,” means work of the people (leitos meaning people, and ergos meaning work). This Liturgy, as a work of the people, was intended to encompass the whole of our lives as participants in Christ’s efforts to bring The End to fruition. The Sacraments as The End of Death I remember back in the early 1990’s when, as an inquirer into Orthodoxy, I was taught the simple distinction that Orthodox Christianity is not tied down to the mere seven sacraments – an idea which developed from the Roman Catholic dogmatic

page 22

Fall 2007

manuals of the Middle Ages. Instead, the Orthodox faith regards every aspect of life – every relationship that we participate in as a means of pointing to God – as a potentially sacramental moment. Our word “sacrament” comes from the Greek word for “mysteries.” These are mysteries hidden within creation that point to The End and to He who is the glorified Source of Life over death – mysteries which all followers of Christ are asked to divulge to the world. These are the mysteries that spiritually reveal our salvation. The Eucharist as The End of Injustice Later, as a catechumen, I was taught to think a little more outside of the box (or outside of the chalice) regarding the Eucharistic life of the Christian. That word, “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for giving thanks. For Orthodoxy, the Eucharistic life isn’t narrowed down to the mere Sunday morning chalice. Narrowing it that way would minimize it to magic and eliminate its Eucharistic character. Instead, we live the Eucharistic life when we link together our daily moments in participation with the body and blood of Jesus Christ that we received at the chalice. As St. Nicholas Cabasilas says, “the chalice is merely the first-fruits of human life.” We are living the Eucharistic life when we take each personal encounter in our lives as a gift from God, and offer that encounter back to Him in praise and thanksgiving. Thus, the Eucharistic life is our continuation of the prayer that the priest proclaims during the

anaphora, where he lifts up the gifts and says: “Your own from Your own, we offer unto You, on behalf of all and for all.”

the people we encounter are experiencing profound loneliness and struggle constantly with a loss of hope. All of these are among the ones whom Christ refers to as “the least of these.”

The Living End of the Eucharistic Look carefully and you will notice that in a round about way, Sacrament of Love Christ makes reference to this Eucharist life in His parable Some may find it surprising to discover that offering these of judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 – where He separates the folks a “sacramental” experience does not require one to sheep from the goats. It is a picture of The End – bearing be ordained as clergy. There is also no need for a degree in fruit in the present. Those sheep on His theology to look into a sick person’s eyes and see Jesus …anyone can right who took each encounter with the there. Neither does one need a degree in psychology to hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked, sick, listen carefully to their story and enter into their life as participate in and imprisoned as an opportunity to Jesus enters into ours. It is not necessary to have a social participate in Christ’s mission of loving Christ’s mission of services degree to gently squeeze their hand or give them mercy to the world are the ones that He a hug. One does not have to be related by blood to make says had His best interest at heart. In doing loving mercy to the them feel like a valued member of the family. It is not this, they participated in the King’s family last, the least, the essential to be incredibly good looking to offer a warm (vs. 40). By caring for His flesh and blood smile. There is no wealth requirement to offer someone – “the least of these,” they also participated lonely and the lost. a sense of hope. With very little training, anyone can in His flesh and blood – the Eucharist. We participate in Christ’s mission of loving mercy to the see in His parable, that only those who live the Eucharistic last, the least, the lonely and the lost. The only requirement life – where each moment is an opportunity to live out a for offering this sacrament is that one be a member of what sacrament of His loving mercy – are the ones that enter into St. Peter calls the Royal priesthood – mere Christians who God’s eternal Kingdom. On the other hand, Christ tells us, desire to live the Eucharistic life in its fullness, as faithful the ones who fail to live in this Eucharistic manner end up in participants in Christ’s flesh and blood. Thus the authentic the smoking section of eternity – if you get my drift. Eucharist (our giving thanks to God) in the manner that He intends for us to partake from the chalice, must encompass the Lay-people & The Living End of the unceasing sacrament of our offering Christ’s love and mercy to Eucharistic Life the world – The End. As a seminarian (and yet a layman) at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, I have had the good pleasure of taking a Hospital Ministry class this summer where we Allan-Gabriel Boyd is a seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox students (both men and women) visit with the sick. On the School of Theology. whole, our involvement in these visits has revealed just how urgently our Church needs to further develop and expand its Photos by Natalie Kulukundis lay-ministry to the sick. My own field assignment has been at a nursing home, visiting with the elderly. Many there are in long-term care because they can no longer take care of themselves and their needs have grown beyond what their family can provide at home. Some of these elderly are so aged that they have outlived their family and have no one left. Other residents there have been completely abandoned by their families. Some of my classmates (also laypeople) are assigned to low (or no) income hospitals, where there are drug addicts from the streets, dying AIDS patients, the mentally ill and other people that the rest of society tries very hard to forget. Other students have been assigned to what most of us would call “regular hospitals” – where often times many receive little or no spiritual attention because the clergy are too bogged down in large parish activities to make regular hospital visits. Many of © Natalie Kulukundis Fall 2007

page 23


Harry Potter: Just another Story? by Eleni Poulos


cholars say that all humans are “wired” to respond to “stories that reflect the greatest story ever told.” In this case, could millions of children, teens and adults be attracted to Harry Potter because it has something to do with Christ? The internet is filled with arguments on both sides and rightfully so, since many good questions are being asked. For example, could Harry Potter be a metaphor of the life we live today? Is there a spiritual warfare we fight against daily? What is our view of transformation and redemption?

John Granger (an Orthodox author) offers us a few worthwhile observations in his book, Finding God in Harry Potter. In the second Harry Potter book, Chamber of Secrets, Harry begins the book as a prisoner, of both the Dursleys (his relatives) and of his own self-doubts and self-pity. At the heroic finish, he risks his own life to liberate a young girl and vanquish the villain, who is an incarnation of selfishness and self-importance. In the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry is burnt up, broken down or dissolved, and bled until everything that he thought he was is taken from him or revealed as falsehood. His whole identity, star Quidditch player, pet of the headmaster, lover of his school, son and spitting image of a great man, hero and man of action in time of crisis is challenged. If you have ever experienced this sort of struggle, either against pride or vanity, you may agree it’s necessary for humility, transformation, and ultimately our redemption in Christ. On the other side of the coin, the Harry Potter series uses a lot of dark imagery, sorcery, witchcraft and magic, which some Christian groups believe is a plot to poison Christian children with the evils of black magic. Bishop Auxentios of Photiki offers this response to parental concern regarding this matter. He says, “the approach to create a world of magical fantasy to page 24

Fall 2007

capture the imagination of children--is a pursuit as innocent and as old as Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, and the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm.” He did acknowledge however, that there may be better ways to teach Christian values than through literature that employs magical imagery and which reaches out to the youthful love of fantasy. In the case of Harry Potter, he said, “ Images of death, resurrection, and the triumph of good over evil are hardly the stuff of Satanism!” I believe it is important to clarify with our children that what they see in most films is indeed fantasy (and as children mature, they come to know the difference between fiction and non-fiction). Do not ignore the subject of magic or evil, but rather, if you choose, use Harry Potter as an opening to discuss how we as Orthodox Christians fight darkness. We do not put our faith in magic or spells. However, we recognize Satan as the father of all lies, who works day and night to deceive us (Ephesians 6:12). Lastly, beware of ways that Harry Potter becomes an idol in your household. It can serve as a teaching tool, but with moderation and ultimate discretion so that the focus is on our Risen Lord. Elenie Poulos Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Norfolk, VA Granger, John. The Hidden Key to Harry Potter: Understanding the Meaning, Genius, and Popularity of Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter Novels (Port Hadlock, WA: Zossima Press, 2002). Bishop Auxentios of Photiki. “The Harry Potter Phenomenon and Orthodox Reactions.”

Sacred Symbolism in Modern Form by Steven Papadatos

Fall 2007

page 25



orn out of an international design competition in 2001, which was sponsored by the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania under the spiritual leadership of His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ presents the world with a majestic example of an Orthodox Cathedral adopting many elements of traditional Byzantine architectural design within a thoroughly modern and inspiring way, yet without compromising any elements of the beauty and purity that characterize Orthodoxy theology in line and color. The architectural form and philosophical vision of the Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ is based on the shape of the cross, which is the central and essential symbol of the Christian life. (See Illustration 1) Thus, the four buttresses that surround the Cathedral are structurally connected to the dome, in the manner indicated by dotted lines, forming a cross that comprises the basis of the Cathedral’s design. These buttresses further coincide and intersect at the center of the dominant image of the Pantokrator that covers the interior face of the dome, thereby once again creating a monolithic cross, which extends from the earthly foundations below and reaches to the dome above, spanning the entire world while representing and reflecting the heavens. Furthermore, the outer walls of the Cathedral have been deliberately designed in a circular shape in order to represent the spiritual concept of infinity in a structural manner. Symbolically, this reflects the eternal life that follows human death, in accordance with our “expectation of the life of the age to come,” as Orthodox Christians declare in the Nicene Creed or Symbol of Faith. This belief is at the very core of Orthodox theology and spirituality while at the same time mirroring the name of the Cathedral itself, which is appropriately dedicated to the festive event of our Lord’s Resurrection. (See Illustration 2) The walls of the circular nave, or central part of the church, where the faithful enter and gather together in order to offer what our church calls “the logical worship of the Eucharist” are embraced and protected by the vertical and horizontal cross buttresses, bringing to mind the words of the Apolytikion from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross observed each year on September 14: “Lord, protect Your commonwealth, by the power of Your Cross.” With the sun’s direction fanning from East to West, these cross buttresses are further accentuated into heavenly shapes both by the brilliant rays of sunlight as well as by the silent shadows of sunset. Tradition dictates that all Orthodox Churches face toward the east, where the sun rises in expectation of the “Son of Righteousness” and where darkness is replaced with the “phos”, Light of Christ’s holy glory.” Accordingly, therefore, page 26

Fall 2007

the entrance of the new Cathedral faces westward, and it is from here that the faithful are invited to enter the church and embark upon a symbolical journey from the darkness of the west toward the Light of the Risen Lord in the east. Once more, however, this movement is more than merely symbolical inasmuch as it portrays a crucial element of our faith, namely that our lives must be a continuous pilgrimage away from the fallen, sinful world toward salvation through Jesus Christ. Signifying the womb of the Virgin Mary or Theotokos, the semi-circular apse is located on the east axis of the circular nave, again in accordance with the dictates of tradition. Mosaics depicting the Mother of God holding the infant Christ will be placed in the upper section of the apse. In the same axis, below the Theotokos as Platytera seven windows have been designed to signify the seven Holy Sacraments of our Church. (See Illustration 3) These windows have been planned with sufficient height so as to be visible to everyone within the entire 360 degrees spectrum of the nave, permitting the early morning sunrays from the east and illuminating the altar and solea that lies before the icon-screen (or, “ikonostasion”). In the renowned and historic church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, five windows were placed immediately beneath the mosaic of the Platytera, suggestive of the five wounds that were inflicted on the sacred body of Christ as He lay upon the Holy Cross. Preserving this tradition, within the Orthodox Cathedral of Tirana, five windows have been placed on the north and south axes, thereby bringing a profound sense of symmetry to the overall design plan while at the same time respectfully honoring the great church of Hagia Sophia which stands to this day as an architectural reminder of the glory of the Byzantine era and is truly one of God’s miracles and gifts to the world. In the formative years of the Christian Church, the Baptismal font was purposely placed outside of the church proper, reminding the faithful and catechumens that one must first be baptized in Christ prior to entering the nave in order to participate in the Divine Liturgy and partake of Holy Communion. To this end, then, at the personal request and recommendation of His Beatitude, the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ contains in its master design a separate chapel which will be erected immediately adjacent to one of Tirana’s most traveled streets. (See Illustration 4) This chapel will be open to pedestrian traffic and offer solace together with the opportunity for prayer and meditation to all local pedestrian traffic. On the lower level, the chapel will house a Baptismal font. Once a child or adult is baptized, they are able to ascend to the chapel above, whereupon they may enter the nave proper of the Cathedral as a full member of the Body of Christ, now professing the fullness of the Orthodox Faith. This chapel is in fact quite rare among modern ecclesial designs. For example, in the United States, with very few

Fall 2007

page 27


exceptions, baptismal fonts are usually placed on or near the solea. (See Footnote 1) Nevertheless, it is interesting to note the particular reason for which His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios requested this specific feature in the design. For, until very recently, Albania was governed for over forty-five years by the iron rule of a ruthlessly communist government, which formally persecuted and banned any expression of faith. Albania was thus proclaimed as the only atheistic state in the world, forcing the sacramental life of the church to persevere and persist in seclusion, concealed from the authorities and calling to mind the Christian catacombs during the Roman persecution of the early apostolic community. In this way, the Baptismal font to be placed below the chapel seems to be a critical and constant reminder of the stifling evils of 20thcentury communism and the restrictions of religious freedom. His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios, himself a Nobel peace prize nominee, has proved a significant force in the rebirth of Orthodoxy within this war-torn country, erecting and restoring hundreds of churches and numerous monasteries while at the same time struggling for the civil and human rights of all Albanians regardless of faith or ethnicity. The main entrance of the Cathedral is designed in such a way as to illustrate and state three fundamental and at the same time significant theological doctrines of the Orthodox Church. (See Illustration 4) First, there is one distinctive and supporting main arch, which architecturally and emphatically declares that there is only One God, who openly welcomes and lovingly receives all those who seek Him. Bordering this arch, there are two crosses, each carved out of stone, which remind the faithful that are present of the two natures -- both divine and human -- in the Person of Christ. Finally, the number three, symbolical of the communion of the Holy Trinity, is signified through three sets of double doors at the main entrance to the Cathedral, as well as through another page 28

Fall 2007

set of three doors leading from the narthex (or entrance vestibule) to the nave (or church proper). Thus, through the architectural design, the Triune God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- transforms the worshipping community from the earthly reality into the heavenly kingdom. Encircling the 26-meter diameter dome of the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, which reflects the very same proportions of the historic Hagia Sophia of Constantinople, (See Illustration 5) 52 windows are envisaged to represent the 52 weeks of the calendar year, a symbol of the fullness of earthly time that are called to be assumed and transformed in the eternity of the age to come. This concept, too, is borrowed from the magnificent Hagia Sophia where 40 windows adorn the dome. The windows of the cathedral will allow the sunlight to illumine the entire church throughout every hour of the day, and on every day of the year. Finally, the bell tower, situated on the opposite side of the Baptismal Chapel, has been personally designed by His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios. The unique design includes four Easter candles representing the four great prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah to the world for the salvation of all those who believed in Him and for the life of the whole world. This 38.5-meter bell tower will also house a portion of a bell tower from one of the churches that was originally destroyed under communist rule. In this way, the height of the bell tower will be raised to 148’-5� above the Cathedral’s plaza level. This increase in height will allow the tower to be seen from anywhere in and around the capital city of Tirana, once again clearly signifying the resurrection of the Orthodox Church in Albania. The Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ is, therefore, by its very concept and architectural design a modern Hagia

Sophia, an expression of sacred symbolism in modern form, an icon of the rebirth of Orthodoxy in Albania, with the entire construction and complex ultimately constituting a gift to the Almighty from His Own Gifts, glorifying Him now and forevermore. Steven Papadatos is founder of Papadatos Partnership LLP, a New York based architectural firm. Over 40 years as a licensed architect in 14 states, he has designed and restored countless Byzantine houses of

worship throughout the world. He is the Architect for the Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Tirana, Albania. 1. A rare example, of which I am aware in the United States and which upholds the ancient tradition in this aspect of its architecture, is St. George’s Basilica in Norwalk, Connecticut, where the Baptismal chapel was designed at the direction of the late V. Rev. Germanos Stavropoulos of blessed memory who was Rector at St. George’s Basilica through the period when the Church was designed and constructed from 1974 to 1977.

Fall 2007

page 29

Teach Your Children Well


by Rev. Fr. Aris Metrakos


ne of the surest paths to pastoral frustration and hurt feelings is to assume that the people whom we serve can read the priest’s mind. Many messages seem too obvious and we don’t preach them. Some friendly reminders might hurt the feelings of those around us so we convey them too obliquely. All too often we fear not being liked by individuals who don’t agree with us, so we speak in vagaries and metaphors—or worse yet don’t say anything at all—when correcting the behavior of the faithful. This type of non-communication-miscommunication can be found frequently when selecting Sunday School teachers, youth workers, and camp counselors. We recruit persons to fill these roles based on a wide variety of criteria: they teach in secular schools; they will have a son or daughter in the program; they’ve been teaching Sunday School for years; they have a pulse. We might even ask them to submit to a criminal background check—an extremely good idea. The most important set of qualifications and expectations is often brushed over or only tacitly implied. The adults who serve our youth must be living the life of the Church. Admittedly, we say these words when speaking to Sunday School teachers and youth workers, but all too often we then move on to the next bullet point of our presentation without stating clearly our expectations. Confession For two millennia the Sacrament of Penance has transformed people who believe in Christ into believers who know Christ. Priests who say that all of their parishioners must confess only to their own priest are outside of the Tradition of the Church, as are those people who claim that every Orthodox Christian must have a spiritual father at a monastery. But nowhere does the experience of the pious faithful teach us that Confession is optional. Anyone thinking about serving the Church as a religious educator needs to participate in the Sacrament of Penance. Those who already work in this capacity and do not confess need to make immediate arrangements to participate in this life-changing sacrament. Without this experience, even the most dedicated servant of the page 30

Fall 2007

Church will never move from theoretician to theologian. Frequent Communion The scriptural, patristic, and canonical witness is unambiguous: we come to Liturgy to receive the Eucharist. Yet at parishes around the country, many Sunday School teachers regularly absent themselves from the chalice. Since receiving the Risen Body and Blood of Christ is the central and defining act of the Church, persons who work with youth and do not commune regularly are quite simply unprepared to teach. And if a Sunday School takes place during the Divine Liturgy, the parish should find a way to change this practice. The subject of frequent Communion necessarily gives rise to a host of side issues: How often should I receive? How do I prepare for Communion? Aren’t people partaking too casually of the Eucharist these days? These questions demand discussion and a prayerful response. To whom do we bring them? The priest whom we see for Confession. “But I don’t go to Confession?” you say. Then what are doing going to Communion? And what on earth makes you think that you are even remotely qualified to serve the Church? Basic Morality Sure, we are all sinners. The older we get, we spend less time paying lip service to this reality and more time on our knees reflecting on the state of our soul. At the same time, the fact that all of us trample regularly on our relationship with the Almighty and His law through our transgressions does not somehow make people who live in habitual sin any less unqualified for Church work. Here is a short list of persons whose behavior needs to be reformed prior to assuming any leadership role in the parish. • Adulterers and persons sharing a home outside of wedlock • People engaged in criminal activity • Illegal drug users and active alcoholics (Recovering addicts and alcoholics are frequently more “together” than the average person.) • Gambling, sex, and other addicts • Persons with a proclivity towards sexual misconduct towards young people • Persons who think that sex before marriage is “OK, because everybody does it” • Practicing and open homosexuals • Individuals engaged in unsavory or illegal business practices I don’t believe the list needs to be much longer than that. Most people should be honest enough to disqualify themselves when presented with this list. Should Mr. Jones be excluded from Church service because he was busted last year for DUI and now repents of his actions? No way. What about Suzie Sorority who got caught up in the party scene as a sophomore but is now a sober senior preparing for the LSAT

and at Liturgy every Sunday? Sign her up too. Among our best teachers are faithful believers who fell hard only to be filled with God’s grace. Prayer, Fasting and Tithing How can we consider ourselves equipped for ministry if we do not pray daily? Where will we ever find self-control without fasting? What place does Christ hold in our value system when we do not tithe or at least give sacrificially to His Church? Children and teens can sniff out hypocrisy the way sharks smell blood in the water. When we stand before a group of young persons to teach them or lead them without committing ourselves to these basic elements of Christian living we are like the emperor without his clothes. The mean students will mock our nakedness. The nice ones will continue to color their pictures of Jesus and do their workbook assignments. All of them will eventually graduate from being clueless kids to lukewarm or non-practicing adult “Christians.” Grounded in Orthodoxy Only persons who are unsure of their own faith ridicule folks from other religions; therefore, showing disrespect to other faith traditions is always wrong. At the same time people dabbling in non-Christian religions should not be serving as Sunday School teachers or youth workers. Similarly, persons who prefer Protestant spirituality and theology have no business teaching in our churches. People who think that Confession is unnecessary, that the Theotokos is an add-on, and that monks and nuns are escapist religious fanatics need to reexamine their suitability to lead young Orthodox Christians. Virtually every priest has lived through the following fictional experience drawn from a variety of real life stories: The clergyman has just finished a 45 minute presentation on developing a deeper prayer life, covering areas ranging from a daily prayer rule to guarding the heart. As the question and answer portion begins a participant (not always a convert and very often a cradle Orthodox) “asks” earnestly: “Father, I’m very confused. You didn’t say anything about committing our lives to Jesus Christ. Don’t we have to accept Jesus as our personal Savior before we can really pray?” How do we answer that question? “Oy vey” is out of context. “No duh” is rude. And “talk to your spiritual father” has no meaning. As much as I respect Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Church should be read by all Orthodox who take parish work seriously), if he gives you more warm fuzzies than Father Arseny, Saint Nektarios or the Desert Fathers then you might want to re-evaluate your potential contribution to any Orthodox Christian parish education program. Knowing What You Don’t Know It’s OK not to know everything—nobody does. But why isn’t there more shame from those who want to teach without bothering to be learners themselves? Accepting the role of Sunday School teacher or youth worker means also taking Fall 2007

page 31

PRAXIS on the responsibility of learning about our faith and how it is taught. See your priest for a reading list and to find out about upcoming religious education seminars in your area. Recruiting is Difficult, But… Sunday School directors and parish priests can become so desperate for volunteers that they sell themselves short when recruiting teachers and youth workers. The average 300 family parish needs a dozen or so staff members each Sunday School year. Are we like Sodom and Gomorrah that not even 10 persons from among that pool of 500 adults can be found who are capable of standing before a classroom and saying “Confession is good, fornication is bad, and Orthodox Christianity will save your soul?” God forbid. Stop settling for the usual suspects

when signing up Sunday School teachers and a start showing some moral courage. And you might ask, “What about the rest of parish leadership? Shouldn’t the parish council be held to the same standards as the ones described in this article?” Sure, but first things first. Most priests would be content if the parish council would just stop talking in the narthex while the sermon is being preached. Rev. Aris Metrakos is a parish priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He is a frequent speaker and retreat leader at both youth and adult events.

The CANA High School Curriculum Grade 9, Unit 1 The Department of Religious Education is pleased to offer Grade 9, Unit 1 of the CANA Curriculum, the Department of Religious Education’s High-School curriculum. This publication is the first in the series that, when completed, will include three units each for grades 9 through 12. Each unit will contain a full set of lesson plans, easy-to-follow directions, and extensive supporting materials. To order, call (800) 566-1088 and request Item #901, $17.95.

This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:11 page 32

Fall 2007

Fall 2007

page 33

Yes! I would like to subscribe to PRAXIS Magazine! Please enclose your check along with the lower portion of this page and mail to:

For a single subscription (3 issues per year), please send a check in U.S. funds payable to: Department of Religious Education

PRAXIS Magazine Department of Religious Education 50 Goddard Avenue Brookline, MA 02445, USA

Subscription rates (US$): Within the U.S.:.....$15.00 Canada & Mexico:..$18.00 International:........$40.00

This subscription is (please check one): for me

a gift (paid for by: _ ________________________________________________ )

Name (on subscription): _ _________________________________________________________ Address:_ _____________________________________________________________________ City: _________________________________________ State/Province: _ ___________________ Country: ______________________________________ Zip/Postal Code:_ __________________ Phone number:_ ________________________________________________________________ Fax number:____________________________________________________________________ Home Parish Name & City:_________________________________________________________ E-Mail Address:__________________________________________________________________

PRAXIS Reader Survey Dear PRAXIS Reader, The Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is committed to providing the best tools for teaching and learning the Orthodox faith. In order to sustain this obligation, the editorial staff of PRAXIS will include a short questionnaire that will evaluate an aspect of the educational process in every issue. The following questionnaire invites our readers to provide input on the content of PRAXIS magazine. The data obtained from this survey will help the DRE to better serve your needs.

Evaluating the Issue Step #1: Please place a 3beside those articles you scanned or read. Step #2: Please rate those you scanned/read on a 1 to 3 scale (see below here). [1] Very useful and interesting [2] Not useful but interesting [3] Not interesting Letters _____ _____ _____ _____ _____

“From the Fathers” Letter from Archbishop Demetrios Letter from Metropolitan Iakovos Letters to the Editor Director Letter

Feature Articles _____ Conversion and Community- Rev. Fr. Mark Elliot _____ Adult Catechumenate: Historical Considerations- John Klentos _____ The place for Adult Baptism…as an invitation to the Orthodox Church- Christ J. Kamages, AIA _____ The Adult Inquirer: Practical ideas for Parish Ministry Rev. Fr. James W. Kordaris Reviews _____ Basil’s Search for Miracles _____ Religious Literacy Articles _____ _____ _____ _____ _____

The Sign of the Cross- a lesson plan for elementary studentsPresvytera Mary Hallick The Eucharistic Life as Lay Ministry: It’s The Living EndAllan-Gabriel Boyd Harry Potter: Just another Story?- Eleni Poulos Sacred Symbolism in Modern Form- Steven Papadatos Teach Your Children Well- Rev. Fr. Aris Metrakos

Please rate ________ ________ ________ ________ ________ ________ ________ ________ ________ ________ ________

________ ________ ________ ________ ________

Please rate this issue’s cover on the same 1-3 scale: _____

Background Data (Optional) Metropolis: _____ Age: _____ Male/Female (M/F): _____ Regular reader? (Y/N): _____

Please 3One: ____ Teacher/Superintendent ____ Clergy ____ Youth Worker ____ Other

Please fax or mail to: Department of Religious Education Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 50 Goddard Ave., Brookline, MA 02445 Fax: (617) 850-1489 Thank you!



the Adult Catechumen Dear Reader, In this issue of PRAXIS, we’ve attempted to highlight some of the issues and concerns related to the reception of adults into communion with the Orthodox Church. According to the Archdiocese Yearbook, there were 1,052 chrismations in 2005. There need not be 1,052 different programs for receiving “converts.” We hope that these articles will begin a larger conversation about the need for coherent educational practices related to conversion. The practices of the catechumenate from the first few centuries of the Church provide a basic model for receiving new members. Contemporary liturgical scholars, historians, and educators have studied these practices extensively. They have found a great deal of diversity in the early Church and through the centuries, especially in the East. The work of these scholars will be extremely valuable as we develop guidelines and programs for eventual implementation. Today, we find a similar diversity, but not from one historic center of the Church, for example Jerusalem, Antioch, or Constantinople, but from parish to parish and from priest to priest. Since most in the United States who convert do not require baptism (a determination that belongs to the hierarchs of the Church), but reception with Holy Chrism, the process today will be different than the page 36

Fall 2007

ancient catechumenate. A true catechumenate program for those requiring baptism can be implemented. Since most are already Christians from other communions, this set of practices can be adapted. There are two dimensions for receiving a new member into the Church: the informational and the formational. The informational dimension of acquiring the intellectual content will generally follow the model of the ancient Church: the study of Scripture and the doctrine of the Orthodox Church. Acquiring enough information to join the Church is fairly straightforward and may not take very long. And continuing to learn should remain an important dimension for all of us. The formational dimension is equally important, but it takes time. And all of us are continually formed by the life of the Church. Formation happens through involvement in the liturgical, social, and philanthropic life of the parish. Becoming Orthodox involves more than acquiring a new set of facts or teachings about Christianity. It also involves acquiring a way of life: of prayer and worship, of service, of practices like observing fasts and venerating icons. Finally, becoming Orthodox involves coming to know a new community and developing a new set of relationships. This places a great responsibility

on a local parish, clergy and laity alike. Responsibility – that is, the ability to respond, means being able to welcome visitors and strangers, new members, the non-Orthodox, non-Greek, spouses of so many parishioners. Once someone has embraced the Orthodox Faith, they cease being “converts” and we should cease reminding them that they were once outsiders. It is like reminding an adopted child of his or her adoption. There will be challenges of course. We should recognize this and learn from them when they occur. One is that many “converts” are informed because of their intentional study but not yet formed because they haven’t a lifetime of experiences in the Church, while “cradle” Orthodox may be formed, because of having grown up in the Church, but not informed, because of not having studied. This points to one of the great strengths of the ancient catechumenate, the need for information and formation. It is the recognition that each one of us is called to grow in knowledge and experience.

Anton C. Vrame, Ph.D. Director


AT THE DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION A wonderful supplement to your Sunday school’s middle and high school classes, What Do You Stand For? A Guide to Building Character for Teens and What Do You Stand For? For Kids describes, explores and makes tangible various Christian character traits i.e. honesty, caring and integrity amongst many others, we hope our kids develop in the course of their life. It profiles real kids who serve as examples of character in action. It also offers dilemmas, quizzes and activities meant to challenge them. Most importantly, it presents the teacher and student the opportunity to learn how to develop and embody our Orthodox ideals in our contemporary setting.

What Do You Stand For? A Guide to Building Character for Kids

What Do You Stand For? A Guide to Building Character for Teens





Non-profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Leominster, MA Permit No. 17

issuePDF (16)  
issuePDF (16)  

Fall 2007 V O L . 7 , Is s u e 1 C a t e c h u m e n a t e $ 4 .9 5