Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Indiction is a term given to identify an era or epoch of years of the calendar that was first used in the late third century to date agricultural and land tax cycles in Roman Egypt. By the late fifth century the indiction became widely used throughout the Mediterranean. Its use is still reflected in the Christian church calendars. The indiction in the Orthodox Church is on September 1.

While the measure of a day and year have been labeled, and changed over the years, for time immemorial, the tagging of a period of years has varied throughout history. Eras or epochs of years have been measured from various starting points have been based on various events. These measures have included counts based upon the cycle of Olympiads, epochs starting from the founding of Rome, on the reigns of monarchs such as used today in Japan (the Meiji or Showa eras), from the formation of earth, and so on. In much of the world today the enumeration of years is based on the birth of Christ, although this practice, or epoch, did not become common for centuries after Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, established this starting point in 527.

In the third century in the Roman Empire an epoch measurement became popular called the Indiction. When indictions began to be used about 287, it originated as a cycle of five years. By 314 an indiction cycle of fifteen years appeared which became the common measure at the same time that the Emperor Constantine the Great recognized Christianity. The use of indictions for dating documents not related to taxes began in the mid-fourth century.

Each indiction itself was not distinctly identified, only the year within the indiction. Thus, an indiction may need reference to some other event to identify a specific indiction. Additionally, different systems of calculating the indictions came into use of which the following are most common:

In the eastern Roman Empire, in the Greek or Constantinopolitan Indictions the first day (of the new year) of the indiction year was established initially as September 23, which was the birthday of Augustus. This date also became the start of the Eastern Orthodox Church year. By late in the fifth century the start of the new year, however, shifted to September 1, which is the present day beginning of the Church year.

In the west, the Imperial or Western Indictions September 24 was adopted as the beginning of the year, apparently based upon calculations under the authority of the Venerable Bede. 

Later, in the ninth century Roman or Pontifical Indictions were introduced in the west that began the year on either December 25 or January 1.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Saint Moses the Black and Saint Augustine of Hippo

It was a joy this evening to commemorate these two Saints at our monthly healing Vespers.

Troparion — Tone 1

You abandoned the Egypt of the passions, O Father, Ascending the mount of the virtues with fervent faith, Taking the Cross of Christ upon your shoulders; And being glorified in godly works, You proved to be a model for monastics, O summit of the fathers. Pray unceasingly with them that our souls may find mercy!

Kontakion — Tone 3

Your mind was filled with a holy inspiration from God, Turning you from the lust and pleasures of the flesh, Bringing you to the height of the city of God! O Holy Father Moses, intercede with Christ God that He may grant us great mercy!

Troparion - Tone 4

Let us acclaim the sublime Augustine, the holy bishop of the Church of Christ; The wise writer of the City of God; You are good, blessed Augustine and you served the Savior in sanctity as a wise and divinely inspired priest; Father pray to Christ our God to grant our souls the grace of salvation.

Kontakion - Tone 3

We praise you with resounding voices O heavenly trumpet of wisdom; You are the harmonious organ of theology O most blessed father Augustine; You have given us rich knowledge of Christ's faith, and you have increased the flock of the Church; You now take rest with the angels and still pray unceasingly for all of us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos

Troparion (Tone 1)

In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Kontakion (Tone 2)

Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Church Growth Done Right, a follow-up

To further my point in my last post, I offer this from:

Top 13 reasons the unchurched choose a Church:

  1. 90% – Pastor/Preaching
  2. 88% – Doctrines
  3. 49% – Friendliness of Members
  4. 42% – Other Issues
  5. 41% – Someone at Church Witnessed to Me
  6. 38% – Family Member
  7. 37% – Sensed God’s Presence/Atmosphere of Church
  8. 25% – Relationship Other than Family Member
  9. 25% – Sunday School Class
  10. 25% – Children’s/Youth Ministry
  11. 12% – Other Groups/Ministries
  12. 11% – Worship Style/Music
  13. 7% – Location

So the next time your pastor tells you the worship style and music must change in order to reach the lost, feel free to tell him his preaching must change first.  And since doctrine is second on the list, we might as well make sure the preaching changes are doctrinally correct.  Apparently worship style and music are very low on the list.  Something some of us have been arguing for a while now.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Church Growth Done Right

Every year Father Andrew calls all of the students and teachers to the front of the parish the Sunday before school begins to give them a blessing and say some words to them about the coming school year, the culture, and how they are expected to behave as Orthodox Christians in a decidedly non-Orthodox culture. Every year, I am stunned at how many come forward. There are a couple of teachers and college kids in this photo, but most of those pictured are elementary, middle and high school kids.

It shouldn't surprise me. After all, one of the reasons we joined this parish is that kids are encouraged from the very earliest age to be in the Divine Liturgy, as I noted several years ago in this post. I should report as a follow-up that Emily is much better behaved after nearly 4 years of consistent attendance. We also pack up a bunch of those kids every year and send them to Camp St. Thekla to spend a week having fun and learning about the faith from some wonderful priests, deacons and bishops who devote their time to our youth. But it still surprises me how quickly the chairs empty when those kids go to the front of the Church when school starts.

One of the sad things I encountered in our previous traditions is the rise of the so-called "Church Growth Movement." We were told that youth do not appreciate traditional forms, and so we must change up the Church's worship practices and even her theology in order to "reach the lost." What I see, however, does not square with that claim. What I see is a bunch of baby boomers who tailor the worship service to their whims, their tastes, their wants and desires. And predictably, those traditional parishes that switch to this type of model end up as revolving doors, where a lot of people come through but few stick. This was detailed a few years back when Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association did a study, and found that they were very good at getting people in the door, but not very good at leading those people to lead spiritually fulfilling lives. Hybels was quoted in Christianity Today summarizing the findings as follows: "Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn't helping people that much. Other things that we didn't put that much money into and didn't put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for." Well……yeah!

I still contend our parish model is the better approach. We don't grow a huge parish. We have maybe 100-150 people at most in a given service. But the thing is, if every little parish followed our model, we'd have a lot fewer rich and famous pastors, but a lot more faithful Christians. We have some who come and go, but most attend weekly. We have good participation in our after Church activities like our fellowship lunch every Sunday (most of our parish is at the Church for at least 3-4 hours on Sunday, and those who faithfully attend Matins before the Liturgy are there between 4-5 hours). We have great participation in youth events and special events like our Fall Festival and so forth. But what we have in abundance is people who stick. People raise their families here. They become Orthodox Christians and, with rare exception, they remain Orthodox Christians. And -- here is the Church Growth principle at work -- they raise their children as Orthodox, and again with rare exception, they remain Orthodox. Our college students come back when they are on break. They attend services. Holy Week is full of college students and children of members who have grown up and moved away. Nativity is as well.

We do other types of outreach. Most of it is organic, like the college student I spoke to this weekend before Vespers who keeps icons in her dorm room, or the parishioner I spoke to who is always presenting Orthodoxy to his frustrated Protestant friends in a welcoming, but not proselytizing way. But the single best way to reach the lost is to not lose the reached. That starts by having kids, raising them in a faith that is real, concrete, reliable, and stands the test of time. And then having those kids grow up into faithful Orthodox Christians who spread that light to the rest of the world, starting with their own future spouses and children. This is how the Church has always grown. She makes disciples, baptizing them (starting as children), and teaching them to obey all Christ has commanded. This is Church Growth. The rest is just marketing.