Nowhere is the mystery of the three-in-one Godhead more clearly grasped than in St. Andrei Rublev's icon of the Trinity. Also known as the "Hospitality of Abraham," this icon is based on the Old Testament story in Genesis 18, where Abraham is visited by three young men (later identified as angels) presaging Trinitarian doctrine. It has become the image par excellence of the Holy Trinity for the Church.
Nancy Holloway: How would you describe your experience growing up in a Greek Orthodox family in the first half of this century?
Helen Theodoropoulos: Thank you for graciously agreeing to share your experiences with the St. Nina readership. Presbytera Gallos, what was your earliest experience of Church life and how did you become involved as such an active participant?
There is a story told in the Gerontikon, the sayings of the desert Fathers, about a visitor who goes to see three monks. And they talked all the afternoon. Suddenly the visitor realizes that the sun has set. "It is time for vespers;" says the visitor, "it is time for us to pray together." And the monks answered, "But we have been praying together all the last four hours." Prayer, in their experience, was not just occasional but continual; not just one activity among others, but the activity of their entire lives. It was a dimension present in
"Prayer and silence, faith and obedience, purity and maturity, family and celibacy, building and responsibility, and most especially and most excellently, the way of love, are for every human being. This is the teaching of Christ. . . ."
- Fr. Thomas Hopko, Foreword
Living in Christ is a collection of insightful essays on the Christian life. Written by Mother Raphaela, Abbess of the Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in Otego, New York, the book is excellent material for reflective reading.
How do we begin to know God using all of our faculties, intellect, body, and heart? Does questioning reveal a lack of faith? Are secular intellectual pursuits devoid of Truth? We are sometimes told that we should not think in church; that somehow it is not pious or shows a lack of faith. Yet we know that many of the saints of the Church were great thinkers, often trained in such secular disciplines as philosophy and science. Our bodies, especially womens' bodies, so often used as objects to sell products, are sometimes thought to be unclean or to provide a distraction. How can they be used to serve God? As women, we are unsure sometimes of our place in the community, whether within our own family, in our relationships with our spouse, children, parents, and loved ones or in the worshipping community. We are called to bring our whole selves before God, intellect, body, and heart. The challenge lies in how we are able to maintain a balance of these parts of the whole.
The World Council of Churches celebrated its jubilee anniversary at the eighth assembly, held this past December in Harare, Zimbabwe. The theme of the assembly was "Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope." Members of the WOMEN's network and the St. Nina Quarterly board were invited to participate in the padare - a forum for dialogue that ran concurrently with the assembly.
A recent news story in the prestigious science publication Nature documented a survey performed by their own editorial staff that demonstrated that over half of scientists do not believe in God -
O handmaid of the Word of God, who in preaching equaled the first-called Apostle Andrew, and imitated the other Apostles, enlightener of Iberia and reed pipe of the Holy Spirit, holy Nina, equal to the Apostles, pray to Christ God to save our souls. - Troparion
The story of St. Nino [the Georgian form of Nina], Equal to the Apostles and Illuminator of the Georgians, has had an interesting history.
Today we give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for the holy icons that fill our churches with His beauty. But this is part of a larger celebration. In this feast we celebrate the triumph of Orthodoxy over all heresies. So let us consider why this is important. In a world where people believe so many different things, why does it matter what we believe?
One of the most inspiring experiences of my chaplaincy occurred when I met a young man of Greek descent with lupus, a potentially fatal disease that can attack multiple organs in the body.
In October of 1993, while making rounds through the hospital, I observed the name Papanickolas written across a piece of paper taped to the door of a family room reserved for the intensive care unit. When the young woman inside learned I was a Greek Orthodox chaplain
That they may have life and have it abundantly.
- John 10:10
In these words the Lord speaks of what He desires for all of us; indeed of what He desires for the whole of His creation. What means has He given us to gain this life? He has given us the fruits of His own life, passion, death, and resurrection. But how do we make these our own? How do we enter into the mystery He holds out for us?...
Leonie Liveris, a well known Greek Orthodox social historian, author, and public speaker from Perth, Australia, will speak on Friday, November 12 at 7:00p.m. at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 7701 Bradley Blvd., Bethesda, Maryland, inaugurating the Women's Orthodox Ministries and Education Network (WOMEN) annual meeting to be held the next day in Washington, DC.
It was amazing for me to read the Fall 1998 issue of the St. Nina Quarterly. It was fascinating to learn there are so many women out there in the world using their gifts and talents to glorify God. I grew up in a very ethnocentric environment and getting all my news from Greek papers and Greek-American magazines. Thus, it was thrilling to know there are so many dedicated women that my daughter can now have as role models.
The Holy Synod of Antioch (patriarchate) made several liturgical decisions:
The Synod affirmed the God-given value of women in the Church and ordered that liturgical texts which imply otherwise be corrected.
I have been living in Jerusalem for the last three years. I live twenty minutes outside Jerusalem in one of the very few Christian villages that are left in the Holy Land - Taybeh. We moved there because we wanted our children to grow up with traditional values towards the family and society and to be close to their extended family.
The editorial board of the St. Nina Quarterly invites you to enjoy our premier issue and challenges you to examine the role of women in the Orthodox Church. Published seasonally, each issue is constructed around a broad theme. The first issue highlights gifts and ministries. Each of us has been given a gift of the Spirit, a talent which we are to use and multiply in the service of God. The discovery of these gifts and their cultivation create a thread that runs through the Winter 1997 issue.
Worshipping God with our whole intellect, body, and heart means putting our faith into practice. How can we best use our talents and gifts to serve Christ? As we have seen throughout the pages of the Quarterly, women have given and continue to give in many ways to build up the body of Christ.
In our Church School here at St. John of Damascus Church, our emphasis is on a comprehensive religious education for all students. There are three facets to our program - standard Orthodox doctrine, modern-day moral responsibility, and the importance of stewardship in daily living. We strive to meld these three components at all age levels.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well (Romans 16:1-2).
St. Phoebe is recognized as the first woman deacon, although we know little about her life. She is honored as being the prototype for female deacons just as St. Stephan is the prototype for male deacons. In her book Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church [See book review in this issue.], Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald suggests that St. Phoebe is an example of faith and service for female deacons.
Teva: First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time for this interview and for sharing your thoughts with the readers of the St. Nina Quarterly. You grew up in the Church. What in your experience sparked your interest in theology?
In every Divine Liturgy after the sacrament of Holy Communion, Orthodox Christians throughout the world sing some version of the hymn, "We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, by worshipping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us." Cleansed and fortified as one community of faithful, our minds and strength renewed and reoriented once again to our spiritual center, we travel back onto the pathways of our daily lives, seeing with spiritual eyes, and giving each other and our communities the best of ourselves as we go about our activities. The sense of community as being the natural environment for our faith and our praxis (practice) is presupposed in our Church.
I was the eldest of four daughters of a priest, Fr. John Gerotheou, and, although it was a challenge to be a priest's daughter because the community had very high standards for us, it also meant that I have always been involved in Church life. At about the age of six, my father took me into the altar to act as altar server.
Among other legacies, Judaism bequeathed to Christianity the sacred number forty. In the Old Testament we read that after Noah built the ark, the heavens opened, raining hard forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:12). Moses remained on Sinai for forty days and nights, receiving from God the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28). To reach the Mountain of God, Elijah walked forty days and nights (1 Kings 19:8). The same sacred number determined the date for women's purification after the birth of a male child (Leviticus 12:1-5).