Holy Nativity of the Lord
Orthodox Church in America
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Welcome to Holy Nativity Mission - 318-455-4219

God is With Us!

Holy Nativity of the Lord Mission is a community of the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America under the omophorion of His Grace, Bishop Alexander, Bishop of Dallas and of the South. The faithful of Holy Nativity gather on Saturday nights at 5pm for Great Vespers and Sunday mornings at 10am for the Divine Liturgy and Wednesday night at 5:30pm for daily vespers. All services are held in our new church building located at 2155 Southern Loop Rd in Shreveport, LA (71106). There are two Orthodox Christian parishes in Shreveport, LA – St. George Greek Orthodox Church and St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church. Together, the Mission and the other two sister parishes are part of the greater Orthodox Church that is made up of over 300,000,000 Christians around the world. As one, we seek to bring the ancient faith and tradition of Christ and His apostles to the people of Shreveport and Bossier. In doing so, we pray that those who join us will experience the fullness of life in Christ and His Church.

Holy Nativity is an eclectic mix of people from various backgrounds. Some are ‘cradle’ Orthodox, while others have converted to Orthodoxy as the result of a spiritual journey. Our former backgrounds include but are not limited to Southern Baptist, Methodist, United Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Charismatic Non-Denominational, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and various Reformed faiths. Until recently, the majority of Orthodox Churches in the United States were made up of immigrants who brought the treasure of the Apostolic Faith with them from the Holy Lands, Greece, Turkey, Russia and other areas that once made up the Byzantine Empire and beyond. Fortunately, the theology and liturgy of the Church is now accessible to all as the original writings, like the New Testament, have been translated from Greek and other languages into English. Although the Mission uses English as the common language for teaching and worship, we still value and cherish the cultural traditions that protected, preserved and passed on the historic faith of the undivided Christian Church and seek to incorporate them in our liturgical life in order to enrich our experience together. 

We welcome all people to visit the mission. Also, because we understand worship to be a family affair, our older children, toddlers and infants join us in all services. If you are planning to pray with us one Sunday or attend another gathering during the week, please contact Fr. Jason so he can make sure we prepare a special guest packet for you. This will help you learn more about the Mission, and give us the opportunity to show you how much we appreciate your visit. 

We pray your journey of faith continues to move you more and more towards the likeness of Christ. Please know the heart, mind and hands of the Mission are available to assist you as needed on your pilgrimage. Our desire is show the people of Shreveport-Bossier the same love we continue to receive from God and, by His grace, demonstrate to each other.

Nativity (Christmas) Season Services Schedule

Please view our calendar to see the Nativity (Christmas) Season service schedule. 

All are welcome to join us! 

St. Basil's Home School Co-op

St. Basil's Homeschool Co-op

Registration for St. Basil's Homeschool Co-op is now open until August 15th. The cost is $100 per family per semester. School begins on September 6th. Classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30am to 2:30pm at the new church location. Field Days and special events will take place each friday during the fall semester. To learn more about St. Basil's, please contact Presv. Ashley. 

Hub Ministries

Great day seving our friends a the HUB! Join us the first Sunday of each month at 5:30. Location is 605 Cotton St in downtown Shreveport. 

New Church Building Update

South Entrance
South Entrance
South Entrance
Inside Nativity Night
Inside Nativity Night
Inside Nativity Night
Parish Hall/Rec Area
Parish Hall/Rec Area
Parish Hall/Rec Area

We are getting closer to formally moving into our new location at 2155 Southern Loop Dr in Shreveport. Following are a view pics of where we are in construction process!

All American Council Diocese of the South Video

DOS Video

At the All American Council in Atlanta, the following video of the various parishes, missions and ministries of the Diocese of the South was presented. It contains pictures and interviews from Holy Nativity. Take a few minutes to watch it and see what how the Church is growing and minstering to people throughout the south! Glory to God! 

OCA News Daily Scripture Readings

OCA News
OCA News

SVOTS 2019 Doctor of Ministry Cohort completes initial courses
2 Dec 2016 at 9:00am
CohortD.Min. Cohort of 2019 with instructors, Fr. Joseph Purpura and Fr. Gregory Edwards (photo: Mary Honoré).

During fall 2016 semester, students in the newly formed “Doctor of Ministry Cohort, Class of 2019” met on the campus of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary here for their first onsite intensive.  The eight students in the Cohort enthusiastically engaged in two core courses in their program:  “Youth Ministry,” taught by Archpriest Joseph Purpura, and “Missiology,” taught by Priest Gregory Edwards.

In addition to parish clergy, the Cohort includes a foreign missionary and a hospice chaplain.  Students in the Cohort — representing six Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in the US, Canada, Albania, and Finland — favorably commented on their first-semester D.Min. experience, noting that the program exceeded their expectations and offered knowledge that could be practically applied in their given fields of ministry.

Priest Ian Shipley of Saints Cyril and Methodius Mission, Chico, CA, said the D.Min. program has provided him with the “unique opportunity to engage with top-notch professors and fellow students about topics that are of immediate concern to the work of ministry in today’s world.”

Hospice Chaplain Sarah Byrne-Martelli remarked, “The D.Min. has pushed me to think theologically about my work in new ways, and to reflect on how I hope to continue to serve the Church,” and added, “I am enjoying the peer interactions as well; it is very enriching to engage in dialogue with Orthodox colleagues from different jurisdictions and ministry backgrounds.”

Priest Teo Merras of Finland attested to the program’s intensity and depth, saying, “If you ask my colleagues [back home], you would probably get an answer that I wasn’t ‘present in this world’ because of my constant reading and thinking!”

Students in the D.Min. Cohort of 2019 will resume their on-line studies after Pascha 2017 in the summer term.  They will be studying “Ministry in a Secular Age,” taught by Archpriest John Jillions, and “Liturgical Life and Pastoral Ministry,” taught by Dr. Grant White.  They will be back on campus July 16–22 for the summer term onsite intensive.

Meanwhile, students in the D.Min. Cohort of 2017 — slated to earn their degrees in December 2017 — are working on their final projects, which will combine doctoral level research with critical reflection on the practice of ministry.  The main objective of their final projects is to provide concrete resource material for others in ministry.

Details about their projects will be announced at the Doctor of Ministry Commencement, which will occur on the occasion of the Annual Father Alexander Schmemann Lecture in early 2018.

“I’m overjoyed by the work being done by both Cohorts — those just beginning their doctoral research and those involved in the highly creative process of their final projects,” said the Priest J. Sergius Halvorsen, Director of the D.Min. Program at Saint Vladimir’s.

“Every time I observe them interacting in the classroom and with each other, I have confidence that they will enrich parishes, chaplaincy settings, and the wider Church, through their newly gained knowledge and skills in applied pastoral practice.”

Learn more about some of the students in the D.Min. Cohort of 2017 and Cohort of 2019 by reading their student profiles.

Learn more about the Doctor of Ministry Program and need-based scholarships funded by the Danilchick Family Endowment for Pastoral Studies.



Metropolitan Tikhon interviewed by Interfax news agency
30 Nov 2016 at 5:59pm
Met Tikhon

In the midst of an unusually intense agenda during his recent visit to Moscow for the celebration of the 70th birthday of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill II, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon still found time to offer an interview to Interfax news agency.

Metropolitan Tikhon and a delegation representing the Orthodox Church in America that included His Grace, Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa—see related story—returned to the United States on Wednesday, November 23, 2016, the eve of Thanksgiving Day.

In the interview, Metropolitan Tikhon was asked for his opinions on a number of topics, ranging from his personal background and conversion to Orthodox Christianity and his opinion on the recent US presidential elections to his impressions on the celebrations of which he and the OCA delegation were a part.

With regard to Patriarch Kirill, Metropolitan Tikhon spoke of “his great ability as an Orthodox Christian leader to exemplify this sense of unity.  I would like to wish him many years of health, strength to continue that work of unity, continue to be an inspiring spiritual leader for the Russian Orthodox faithful.”

On a somewhat lighter note, Metropolitan Tikhon also was asked if any celebrities were of the Orthodox Christian faith.  “Stars or not, when they come to the church, they are all the same,” he quickly responded.

Upon their arrival in Moscow on Friday, November 18, Metropolitan Tikhon and the OCA delegation were welcomed at the Patriarchal Residence at the Danilov Monastery.  After he and Patriarch Kirill venerated the altar in the Patriarchal Chapel, they engaged in a cordial meeting during which a number of matters of mutual concern were discussed.  Metropolitan Tikhon presented an icon of Saint Herman of Alaska and a custom-made book featuring the front pages of The New York Times for each year of the Patriarch’s life.  In return, Patriarch Kirill presented a set of vestments and an archpastoral staff to Metropolitan Tikhon.  During their meeting, English and Russian language editions of a collection of the Patriarch’s writings, titled Patriarch Kirill in His Own Words, were presented by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion [Alfeyev] and Archpriest Chad Hatfield, CEO of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, who oversaw the book’s publication in conjunction with the current celebration.

“I extend to Your Holiness the warm greetings of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America and the fervent prayers of our monastics, clergy and faithful throughout North America on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of your birth,” Metropolitan Tikhon said in greeting Patriarch Kirill.  “The Orthodox Church in America, the youngest among the Orthodox Churches, is honored to participate in this historic event and to take her place in the company of the Primates and representatives of the ancient Patriarchates and Churches that have gathered in Moscow.  Much like the glorious celebrations in 2013, marking the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, the present ceremonies are a testimony to Your Holiness’ concern for the unity of the Churches and initiative in facilitating a spirit of conciliarity.

“Your Holiness’ fraternal care for the Orthodox Church in America and your personal witness as a good and wise shepherd are well-known throughout North America,” Metropolitan Tikhon continued.  “Our clergy and faithful have seen your dedication to the pastoral task of service to God and your labors in fulfilling the apostolic work of the Church in your roles as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, as Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and as a humble monastic.

“It is often forgotten that monasticism plays a central role in the apostolic and missionary work of the Church and your Holiness has always been a champion of this path, even as recently as this year, when you convened an International Conference commemorating 1,000 years of Russian monasticism on Mount Athos,” Metropolitan Tikhon noted.  “The millennial witness of the Holy Mountain bore fruit in both the monastic labors of Saint Sergius of Radonezh and in the travels of the monastic missionaries to Alaska to plant the seed of the Holy Orthodox faith in the new world.  For these reasons, it is fitting, on the occasion of Your Holiness’ 70th Anniversary, to present You with this icon of the Venerable Herman, Wonderworker of Alaska and All America.  May this icon serve as a reminder both of the life of prayer and repentance that you embraced in your youth and of the love and respect that you have earned from the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America.  May the intercessions of St Herman, the first saint to be glorified by the youngest of the autocephalous Churches, continue to inspire Your Holiness in your faithful service to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ as the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Later the same day, Metropolitan Tikhon and the OCA delegation visited the Donskoy Monastery, where they were welcomed by the monastery’s Abbot, His Grace, Bishop Paramon of Bronnitsy.  After celebrating a Service of Intercession before the relics of Saint Tikhon of Moscow in the monastery’s main cathedral, Bishop Paramon welcomed Metropolitan Tikhon on behalf of the brotherhood and hosted him and the delegation members at lunch, during which they discussed a variety of matters related to monasticism and Church life.

As previously reported, Metropolitan Tikhon presided at the Divine Liturgy at the OCA’s Representation Church of Saint Catherine on Saturday, November 19, after which 40-day memorial prayers were offered for repose of the newly departed Archimandrite Alexander [Pihach], the late Dean of Saint Catherine’s and OCA Representative to the Moscow Patriarchate.  Among those in attendance was the Canadian Ambassador to the Russian Federation, John Kur, with whom Metropolitan Tikhon spoke at the reception that followed.

On Sunday, November 20, Metropolitan Tikhon and the Primates of the Sister Orthodox Churches or their respective representatives concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow’s massive Christ the Savior Cathedral and attended the reception that followed.  Over 300 hierarchs from across Russia and elsewhere served at the Liturgy, which was attended by numerous religious and political officials.  See related story.

The following day, Metropolitan Tikhon and the members of the OCA delegation attended a solemn convocation honoring Patriarch Kirill in the hall of Christ the Savior Cathedral.  Patriarch Kirill opened the program, which was attended by the delegations of the Local Orthodox Churches and hundreds of other hierarchs, clergy and faithful.

“In the Orthodox understanding, unity and conciliarity find their source in the Holy Trinity, and they are most clearly expressed through prayer and communion,” Metropolitan Tikhon said in his public address.  “It is in this spirit of prayer and communion that Your Holiness has gathered us together this week for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and for brotherly fellowship.  These are not simply external acts, but serve as an inspiration for us to accomplish the apostolic work of the Church, and for this we are grateful to Your Holiness.

“Your Holiness is well known throughout the world for your leadership as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and before that, for your labors as Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations,” Metropolitan Tikhon observed.  “But the foundation of these labors, and the many other ministries you have undertaken, is your heart, which is the heart of a humble monastic.  It is often forgotten that monasticism plays a central role in the apostolic and missionary work of the Church, but Your Holiness has always been a champion of this path, and in this, you continue the long tradition of missionary and monastic activity in the Church of Russia.”

Metropolitan Tikhon went on to recall that “the very first missionaries to North America were monastics who traveled from Valaam to Alaska, bringing this same spirit of prayer and communion.  Although North America is not experiencing the level of violence, war and persecution that we find throughout the world, we nevertheless rely on prayer to both strengthen ourselves and to bring enlightenment to those darkened hearts which initiate such violence against Christians and non-Christians alike.

“The United States has just elected a new President,” Metropolitan Tikhon continued.  “Whether or not he can accomplish great things in the world remains to be seen.  Nevertheless, we are hopeful that there remain some traces of the Orthodox spirit of prayer and communion, as expressed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his First Inaugural Address on January 20, 1953: ‘Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.’  Towards this end, the faithful of North America place their hope, not ‘in princes or sons of men,’ but in prayer which purifies the heart.  As Saint Theophan the Recluse writes, ‘Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything….  If prayer is right, everything is right.’  May the intercessions of Saint Herman, the first saint to be glorified in North America, and all the monastic saints of Russia and all the world continue to inspire Your Holiness with this spirit of prayer in your faithful service to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ as the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church for many years.”

Before returning to the US, Metropolitan Tikhon was received at the US Embassy by Honorable John Teft, US Ambassador to the Russian Federation, and Mr. David Horn.  Ambassador Teft offered his condolences on the repose of Archimandrite Alexander and discussed prospects for the appointment of his successor.  After discussing with Ambassador Teft a wide range of topics, including the US presidential election, the current role of religion in American life, and related topics, Metropolitan Tikhon presented a copy of the recently published book, Saint Tikhon of Moscow: Instructions and Teachings for the American Orthodox Faithful, and an icon of the Mother of God to Ambassador Teft.

“Our visit made it possible for me to meet and speak with the Primates and representatives from the Sister Churches—a rare yet highly welcomed opportunity,” said Metropolitan Tikhon upon his return to the US.  “I was especially happy to speak with His Beatitude, Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland about the possibility of organizing a pilgrimage of OCA faithful to the relics of Saint Maxim Sandowicz in southeastern Poland and others who extended similar invitations.”

See related stories and galleries:

  • Part 1 of 2
  • Part 2 of 2


  • Metropolitan Tikhon addresses Church World Service annual meeting
    29 Nov 2016 at 9:02am
    CWSMetropolitan Tikhon with Orthodox participants at CWS annual members’ meeting.

    In a reflection delivered at the annual Members’ Meeting of Church World Service [CWS] at Saint James Episcopal Cathedral here in late October, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon spoke of Orthodox Christianity’s monastic tradition and its relationship to the Church’s outreach to the hungry, the poor and the displaced.

    Accompanying him was His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest. Also present were representatives of the Orthodox Church in America, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Coptic Church, and several non-Orthodox Christian traditions.

    CWS was established in 1946, in the aftermath of the Second World War, as the relief, development and refugee assistance arm of the National Council of Churches of Christ, with a mission to feed the hungry and help those in need. In the late 1940s and 1950s, CWS was instrumental in the resettlement of countless Orthodox Christian refugees in the US, especially those from central and eastern Europe. The Orthodox Church in America, as Metropolitan Tikhon noted in his reflection, has been a CWS partner since 1950.

    Highlights of Metropolitan Tikhon’s reflection appear below.

    The Face of Christ:  A Missiological Reflection by Metropolitan Tikhon
    Church World Service Member Meeting
    Chicago, Illinois
    October 28, 2016

    What a joy it is to be with you this morning for the Annual Members Meeting of Church World Service and to gather in this wonderful place of prayer. We live in such a fast-paced, complex, confused and confusing world that it is very refreshing when we have the opportunity to be in church, to quiet our thoughts and to rediscover that all human hearts were created to be in communion with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that it is especially through prayer that we can most directly hear Him and reach that deep place of the heart to truly be with Him.  And so I greet you with our traditional Orthodox greeting, “Christ is in our midst!” and its response, “He is and ever shall be.”

    I was humbled when I received a letter from your President and CEO, Father John McCullough, with a request to offer this year’s missiological reflection. I had earlier met Father John when he came, along with Father Johncy Itty, to meet with me and the Officers of our Church at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America.  We gladly received from them a word about the important work that is being accomplished by Church World Service in the challenging mission of overcoming world hunger, of combatting poverty, and of addressing the increasingly urgent issues of global displacement.  We also shared some ways in which our Church has, in the past—and might more effectively in the future—cooperate with CWS in fulfilling our common goals.

    The Orthodox Church in America has been a partner with CWS since 1950—not quite the fullness of your 70 years of exemplary service—but throughout those years, CWS has been instrumental in helping the Orthodox in many ways, such as the resettlement of Orthodox Christian war refugees and providing the model and inspiration for some of our sister Orthodox organizations, including International Orthodox Christian Charities, which accomplishes much work in terms of global disaster relief and aid; the Orthodox Christian Mission Center; and the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve, which recently has established a strong footprint in North American cities as a means of addressing homelessness, poverty and hunger.

    We also are pleased to have some good representation from the Orthodox Church in America today, particularly His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Diocese of the Midwest. Our Church’s connection with CWS has more recently been strengthened through the active personal participation of Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, our Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations, and Mrs. Arlene Kallaur, who also is with us today. Arlene, in particular, has not only faithfully attended CWS annual meetings, but has served on the Board of Directors of CWS. She continually offers her talents and service throughout the year in promoting the work of CWS and encouraging our parishes to participate in Crop Walk events and other CWS activities, such as the preparation of “Gift of the Heart” hygiene kits. Through this, our clergy and faithful have been drawn to employ their talents and to partner with CWS in doing the work that you do so well.

    Doers of the Word

    Like many of us here, I come from a family of refugees and immigrants. My father came to these shores from France to attend graduate school in Boston, where he met my mother. My mother’s family immigrated to this country in 1638, sailing from Ipswich, England to Hingham, Massachusetts on the good ship “Diligent.” My great-grandmother kept a family history and related many of her own personal stories from her days at the Dorchester Parsonage, at which the family custom was, at every meal, to have each member of the family recite a verse from the Scriptures. She relates the following story.

    One of our friends, a Presbyterian minister, told Father about his little boy who had been teasing for a watch. He was told that he was too young for one and that he must stop talking about it, so the subject was dropped. Came Sunday morning and the good little boy had his verse all ready: “And what I say unto you I say unto all: watch!”  I share this little story because it is always good for us to be reminded of that watchfulness our Lord asked of His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane—and of how difficult it sometimes is for us to remain close to our Lord.

    It is humbling for me to stand before so many of my colleagues who have observed this watchfulness and attentiveness to our Lord Jesus Christ, have taken to heart the commandments, and have truly become “doers of the Word,” as the Holy Apostle James reminds us his epistle [1:22-25]: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” [James 1:22-25].

    We can see the importance of repentance in this passage, and repentance in the Orthodox Christian understanding speaks of a deep change, a transformation, a transfiguration of the person. The Apostle James characterizes those who are merely “hearers of the Word” as those who behold their natural face in a glass and then go on, without changing their ways.  But he characterizes the “doers of the Word” as those who continue in the perfect law of liberty—that is, those who live their lives in conformity to Christ, the perfect giver of that law of liberty, and have been changed in a profound way.

    If we follow the imagery of the Apostle James, we could say that the difference between the “hearers” and the “doers” of the Word is like the difference between a naturalistic portrait of a saint and an icon of a saint, such as those that adorn our Orthodox churches. In a naturalistic portrait, the person depicted often seems lifeless. In fact, we are normally amazed and impressed when a portrait appears life-like. In an icon, on the other hand, there is a certain sense of movement and of life because an icon reflects the movement of repentance in a saint, the movement which turns a vessel of clay into a living fountain that reveals the glory of God.  This is our Orthodox understanding of sanctification—something that first takes place in the heart and later revealed in our actions, in our words and on our faces. The face is very important, isn’t it?

    The Face of Christ

    We live in a world that is very diverse and complex, often very ugly and frightening. It is not my intention to mention anything specifically about the global tragedies that are erupting not only in the Middle East and Africa, but in many other places of the world. Neither is it my intention to mention anything about the current presidential election in our own country. However, I did want to share with you a brief sentence that, to my mind, summarizes all of these things. It is a phrase from an advertisement in supporting the right to carry a gun. The person speaking gave many arguments in support of this, but it was when he said the following that I was greatly saddened. “I carry a gun because there are two types of creatures on this planet – predators and prey.”

    I come to you today after attending, for several days, a gathering of the superiors of the monastic communities of the Orthodox Church in America at the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, at which we had an eclectic group of monks and nuns. Some are from Alaska, the place where the Orthodox Church first took root on this continent. Others were from the hills of Pennsylvania, where immigrants from eastern Europe settled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some make candles or paint icons, while others teach in our seminaries, and still others raise German Shepherds and make cheesecakes. But all of them represent a bouquet of flowers, varied in their appearance and fragrance, yet each striving to become an image of Christ.

    I was once told a story by a nun from one of our Orthodox monasteries in England, which was founded and guided by a venerable and wise man, Father Sophrony. She related to me how, at the conclusion of the solemn service at which she had taken her vows and had been clothed in the angelic habit, Father Sophrony called her into his office to offer her a word. Now, if you are familiar with the habit of our Orthodox nuns, you will know that it is similar to what our Orthodox monks wear, very similar to what I am wearing today. But there is one difference between the habit of the monk and the habit of the nun, and that is that the head of the women is covered so that only the face is shown. So Father Sophrony called this nun into his office, he said to her, “Now you are a real human being because only your face is shown, and that face is the face of Christ.”  So it is not only important for us to always seek the face of Christ, but also to become like Christ ourselves, to change our own heart so that our very face reflects His glory….

    The Church’s Mission

    Saint Tikhon served as bishop in America from 1898 until 1907. He later became Patriarch of Moscow during the Russian Revolution, and he died as a confessor for the faith in 1925. He was a tireless missionary at a time of explosive immigration from Eastern Europe. At the same time. he was aware of and engaged with the surrounding American culture. He also understood how the Orthodox Church was viewed on the American religious scene. Many acknowledged its faithfulness to ancient Christian teaching. Yet, as Saint Tikhon himself observed in a sermon delivered at San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Cathedral in 1899, there were many who felt that “the Orthodox Church has become introverted, secluding itself from everything else, coming to a standstill at the freezing point; that life has come to a halt in it; that indeed it has become a lifeless church. At the least, some say, it does not possess the most important sign of vitality—namely, the spirit of missionary activity.”

    On the surface, said Saint Tikhon, these judgments might appear to be true. But then he went on to speak about the humble spirit of Orthodox mission, which contrasts with much of the noisy activism and self-promotion sometimes associated with mission. “The most important fact,” Saint Tikhon continued, “is that the Orthodox Church conducts her missionary work quietly, with humility and reverence, being conscious of the powerlessness of man and the strength of God.”

    Monastic Prayer and Charity

    Our gathering in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, held to consider how the monasteries might contribute to the Apostolic work of the Church, was inspiring for me, as the head of our Church. I have spent some time over the past several years praying and thinking about this question: what is the Apostolic work that we must undertake in our own day and age? How do we best fulfill this work The monastics remind us of the importance of being and of prayer.

    If I were to offer a missiological prayer in the briefest form, it would be the following from a contemporary Orthodox saint, Silouan of Mount Athos: “I pray Thee, O merciful Lord, for all the peoples of the earth, that they may come to know Thee by the Holy Spirit.” Does this not contain the fullness of all that we hope to do as Christians or as organizations such as CWS?

    In our liturgical hymns, Christ is often referred to as the Philanthropos—the “Lover of mankind”—or even as the “Only Lover of mankind.” This title for the Lord is the basis for our word “philanthropy.” I would like to speak about one particular saint who was known for his philanthropy—Saint John the Almsgiver, the Patriarch of Alexandria who lived in the first half of the seventh century. His biographer, Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem, writes that he “received that exceptional and glorious title [of Almsgiver] from his exceeding great goodness, which took Christ for its model.” Saint John was well known for his generosity and his wisdom in discerning the hearts of his flock. The following is but one of many stories that reveals both his generosity as well as his discernment.

    One day, a stranger, noticing Patriarch John’s remarkable sympathy, decided to try him, so he put on old clothes and approached him as he was on his way to visit the sick in the hospitals.  “Have mercy upon me for I am a prisoner of war,” he said to the Patriarch, who responded by asking his purse-bearer to give him six gold pieces. The man then went off, changed his clothes, and met John again on another street.  Falling at his feet he said, “Have pity upon me, for I am in want.” The Patriarch again told his purse-bearer to give him six gold pieces. As he went away, the purse-bearer whispered in the Patriarch’s ear, “By your prayers, Master, this same man has had alms from you twice over!” But the Patriarch pretended not to understand. Soon the man came again for the third time to ask for money and the purse-bearer, carrying the gold, nudged the Patriarch to let him know that it was same man.  “Give him twelve gold pieces,” said Patriarch John, “for perchance it is my Christ, and He is making trial of me.”

    This is a simple story, but it reveals that his actions went beyond the rational thinking of his purse-bearer, which is perhaps the same type of thinking that we have when we refuse to give alms because we think that the one who is asking will spend the money on drugs or alcohol or cigarettes. It should be something that informs us as we engage in the difficult work of looking into the faces of those who are displaced, those who are hungry, those who are in prison and those who are broken.

    Saint Herman of Alaska—one of the original eight missionaries who began their ministry in Kodiak, Alaska in 1794—was an example of this. Concerning Saint Herman, a contemporary ascetic of our own day, Archimandrite Aemilianos of Simonos Petras Monastery, wrote the following.  “[Saint Herman] knew that if he wanted to spread Orthodoxy, and if he wanted himself to become rich, he would have to make himself small. If he wanted to become rich in the good things of God, then he himself would have to become poor. If he wanted to be first in the Kingdom of Heaven, he would be last here below. And thus, precisely for these reasons, he became a missionary and chose as his plan and method of missionary work not programs, not learned arguments nor worldly standards, but instead silence and the desert, silence and prayer. He had learned this from the Apostle Paul who, when Christ called him to go bring the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles, disappeared for almost eleven years in the deserts and in seclusion in order there to absorb the Holy Spirit and so have something to give to people. His prayer was his mightiest weapon. Fellowship with God was its result.”

    Therefore I encourage you to remember that Church life and our mission involves two things: Orthodox Christian persons and an Orthodox Christian community, and these two components are inextricably linked. We are all persons, created in the image and striving to be in the likeness, of Christ. But we are only true and authentic persons when we are within a community. If we are not tied to a community, we are alone.

    Monastic Witness

    Among the saints commemorated today—October 28—on the Orthodox calendar is Saint Arsenios of Cappadocia, who lived from 1848 until 1924. He himself was a refugee, removed from Turkey with his Greek parishioners and compatriots in the 1923-1924 exchange of populations under the Treaty of Lausanne. (Incidentally, he was known for the power of his healing prayers and for helping everyone who came to him, including many Muslim Turks.) Many Greek immigrants in the United States trace their roots to this era, being refugees from Asia Minor. Many other Orthodox Christians in the US also look back to the difficult times their parents and grandparents faced as displaced persons, refugees and immigrants, coming to America after the Bolshevik Revolution, the First and Second World Wars, and most recently the violence devastating the Middle East. They know what it means to be a “stranger in a strange land” [Exodus 2:22].

    In 1900, Saint Tikhon, to whom I referred earlier, was preaching at the ordination of a new priest in the San Francisco cathedral. He emphasized that missionary work is rooted in the spiritual life. “Remember that the success of pastoral labors does not depend so much on external activities,” he said. “Rather, it is the result of spiritual struggles and labors…. You will not inspire more good in someone else than you have in yourself’.” Saint Tikhon travelled tirelessly across the US and Canada, gathering the faithful of Orthodox immigrant backgrounds—Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Syrian, Bulgarian, Greek and others—and establishing missions. He defended the native Alaskan Orthodox population against the encroachments of Protestant missionaries who were dismissive of their language, culture and Orthodox Christianity in general. He also supported immigrant workers on their rightful claims for living wages and decent working conditions. In the California coal miners’ strike in 1902, many of the strikers were Orthodox Christian immigrants, and he advised them and their fellow parishioners to come together to assist each other. In an open letter he wrote, “The strike is still going on, our parishioners endure everything and become poorer…. But the saddest part of it is that even if an accord is reached… still it will be only temporary…. This means it will again become necessary to resort to a strike, and suffer again, and continue to live in poverty…. Why not establish a special fund specifically for the purpose of helping during strikes…? To start this good undertaking off, I am sending 100 dollars from myself to the Board of [the Mutual Aid Society]. May God grant it will be successful!”

    Saint Tikhon knew that the immigrants often faced a hostile reception and had to endure prejudice and discrimination. Ten years after he had left the United States, Russian Orthodox parishioners were still being targeted. During the infamous East Saint Louis race riots of July 1917, the violence against blacks spilled over to immigrants.  A priest reported that a band of those rioting against Russian workers had shot at the church and parish house.  They had broken into the house, beat up the priest, stolen valuables, and having threatened him with murder, threw him out.

    Saint Tikhon was equally conscious of Christian divisions. He was especially encouraged at that time by relations with the Episcopal Church. In November 1900, he attended the consecration of a new Episcopal Bishop in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “It would be unnecessary to say to this honorable gathering how the division of Christians is unpleasant to Christ, yet pleasant to non-Christians—and how much it weakens our strength and our achievements,” Saint Tikhon said. “It is unnecessary to say this since the importance and holiness of the unification in Christ is deeply felt by all of you. And we, brethren, must not only pray for the desired hour when all of us would be one flock with One Pastor, Christ, to come as soon as possible, but we must ourselves make every effort and labor for this holy undertaking.”

    Another example of ministry flowing from a transfigured heart is the current Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, who labors in a country that had suffered one of the world’s worst persecutions under its former communist regime. When Archbishop Anastasios first came into that devastated country, there were only eight priests left, and the the Church had been completely marginalized from participating in any kind of liturgical worship or charitable activity. He came in as a foreigner, being Greek, and initially he was even marginalized by the Church in Albania. It took him many years to gain the population’s trust and acceptance.  But his love and compassion in rebuilding the Church in Albania became a shining light as to what can be done. He concentrated on building churches, schools, monasteries. Even now, Albania’s main monastery in Shen Vlash sponsors an orphanage in which abandoned children are taken in and given a new life. He also has overseen the building of health clinics and camps for refugees. This presents quite a remarkable vision of Christian love in action for all God places before us.

    I wish to share with you Archbishop Anastasios’ words about the global vision of proclaiming the Gospel: “The global vision is the correct Orthodox framework for everything that we do or transmit on the local, parish level. No correct understanding of the living Orthodox tradition can exist when this perspective of universality is missing. This is not a vision we observe as spectators, but an area of existence, of thought, of activity within which we live. Whoever looks with a sense of doxology at the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Almighty God, the ‘Creator and Keeper of all things,’ is concerned with ‘all things.’ Whoever has become one body with Christ tries to think, feel and act like Him. Whoever receives the Holy Spirit becomes inspired from the universality of His activities. We address ourselves to the All-Holy Spirit in the beginning of each Orthodox prayer service and ask Him to come and live ‘in us.’”

    Monastic Food

    I would like to conclude with a final note regarding that which concerns us very much here today, and that is food. But I would like to offer a perspective within the context with which I began my reflection—monastic life. Many pilgrims through the centuries have come to monasteries and have enjoyed some wonderful hospitality, including some wonderful food. Most of those pilgrims will tell you that the food of which they partake in the monastery is particularly tasty and satisfying. In fact, family members will enjoy foods that they normally would not even try at home.

    Mother Christophora, who is the Abbess of the monastery at which we held our recent monastic gathering, offers these words of explanation: “Food in a monastery is made with a blessing and with prayer. Every job done in a monastery requires the blessing of the superior – the abbess or abbot – and is to be carried out in humility, love and prayer as though the direction came from Christ Himself. He is, after all, the Master of the house, the Host of the feast and the provider of every good gift. ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights’” [James 1:17].

    This is a reminder to us of the importance of the spiritual life in all that we do. Monastic food is simple but good, as is the monastic life when lived in love and humility. “Better is a dinner of herbs with friendship and grace than a fatted calf with hostility” [Proverbs 15:17]. Thus, love in the monastic community sweetens the meal, just as strife and enmity can make food taste bitter.

    So, if we want to make an impact on the world through our good works, and if we want to make our programs and undertakings more effective, it is helpful to remember these small contributions from the Orthodox Christian monastic tradition that point us to the reality of Christ’s presence within the whole world, for “when two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, He is in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20].

    Conclusion

    As we continue our work in this worthy organization and in all the other venues in which we strive to become doers of the word, let us remember to discern the faces of our neighbors—and even of our enemies. Let us see in their faces the face of Christ.

    May we make our own the words of the Apostle Paul, who writes, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…. Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind…. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” [Philippians 1:27-2:4].







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