This is a guest post from George Iskaros – a senior at Rutgers Business School, majoring in finance, and a proud member of St. George & St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church in Jersey City, NJ.  In this post, George reflects upon the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from a unique perspective.  If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.

 

Jesus suffering

The Lenten Season – which concluded last Sunday as we celebrated Christ’s resurrection from the dead – is usually seen as one of the most sacred times of the year for us Christians. This season is at the core of our dogma and our faith, and epitomizes the beautiful story of Christianity, establishing hope for the eternal joy and peace as opposed to the earthly pain and distress. Because of its literally life-changing nature, we are called to engage in more intense daily exercises during Lent, both physically and spiritually.

Physically, we try to abstain from food for a prolonged amount of time, adopt a vegan diet and limit our tangible pleasures. Spiritually, we immerse ourselves in a mindset through which we simplify our daily lives in order to amplify our spiritual lives (i.e. reducing time spent on Facebook, watching TV and increasing time spent reading the Bible, praying, etc.)

All of these changes in our lives during Lent are centralized around the suffering, sacrifice, and eventual salvation our Lord and God established on the behalf of mankind; so that by participating in our Lord’s suffering and death, we may also partake in our Lord’s salvation and resurrection.

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Happy Easter everyone!  Christ is risen and THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING!  I hope you had a blessed Holy Week and Easter (regardless of when you celebrated it) and that you’re now living in the light of His glorious resurrection and viewing all things in light of that truth.

Last week was also special because it marked the FOUR YEAR ANNIVERSARY of STSA on April 28.  So in order not to let such a historic day pass, I am reposting some thoughts I put together last year as we celebrated the 3 year anniversary.  Enjoy!

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STSA plaqueI’m not usually one for nostalgia and I tend to squash most “this-reminds-me-of-the-good-old-days” moments; but this is different.

This is not about what I have done or we have done; this is about what God has done and that is worthy to be remembered and declared.

“Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.”  (Psalm 66:5)

This past Tuesday marked the three year anniversary of the opening of St. Timothy & St. Athanasius church (aka STSA, aka GREATEST CHURCH EVER!).  STSA first opened its doors on April 28, 2012 and it’s been an “awe-inspiring” journey in the truest sense of the word.

So I figured it would be fitting at this time to look back on the past three years and jot down some lessons learned.  There certainly have been plenty of them, for example:

All joking aside though, I wanted to share some real lessons learned – ones that God has specifically taught me over the past three years through His work at STSA.  Let me know if you agree or disagree.

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Just wanted to let you all know that I’ll be offline the rest of this week as we walk through the events and services of the holy week of Pascha.  But if you’re looking for a useful and productive way to pass some time this week and still remain in the Holy Week spirit, check out the HYMNS OF HOLY WEEK in English.  

Learning the hymns of the Pascha services is one of the best ways to transform your worship experience and go from a passive bystander to an active participant.  Highly recommend it to all!

Have a blessed Pascha week.

“O our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the cross,
conquer the devil under our feet.  Save us and have mercy on us.”

Coptic Hymns in English

This is a guest post from Sam Beshara – a good friend of mine who lives and works in New Jersey, but someone that I consider a virtual member of STSA because he’s always been there to support us when we needed it.  Below is a nice pre-Holy Week meditation to help you get you ready for the week to come.  If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.

lazarus

Has anyone tried to kill you recently?  I certainly hope not.

As Fr. Anthony wrote about earlier this week, we in the Coptic Orthodox Church are now preparing to enter Holy Week.  Believe it or not, it actually begins tomorrow with Lazarus Saturday. After that is Palm Sunday, then the events of Holy Week through Covenant Thursday, Good Friday, Bright Saturday, and what many church fathers call the ‘Feast of Feasts’, the Holy Resurrection.

On Lazarus Saturday, we read John 11 – the story of when Jesus Christ called Lazarus forth out of the tomb after he was dead for four days.  Understandably, the magnitude of such a miracle led many to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  That’s because He just raised someone from the dead!  That isn’t something that you see everyday is it?

Just a few chapters later, Jesus tells His disciples something encouraging but somewhat difficult to believe when He says “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).

What’s that?  Greater works?  Who…me?  What can I do that is greater than raising someone from the dead?

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day of atonement

If you’re not an Orthodox Christian, you probably read that title and thought “Hey Fr. Anthony, you’re a little late to the party.  Easter was a month ago!” 

That may be true for many, but for us Orthodox Christians, Easter is on May 1 this year.  And that means that we are now preparing to enter the most holy and sacred week of the year…HOLY WEEK!

Today I want to share my thoughts on what this week means and how we should be approaching it.  And oddly enough, my regular daily Bible reading just happened to take me to two passages which speak directly about this subject.  The passages come from what I’ve always said is my “least favorite book in the Bible” – the book of Leviticus.

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Surprise!  You thought that the Seasoning Life series was all done but we had a special BONUS message yesterday – courtesy of none other than my brother, Steve Messeh.

In this message, Steve talks not about the daily habits that can make us questionable, but instead about the big, fork-in-the-road type decisions that characterize so many of the great men and women of God who have gone before us.  He shares three highly questionable decisions and the outcomes for those who made them.

Check out and get ready to be inspired!

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Praise You in This Storm

April 15, 2016 — 4 Comments
This is a guest post from Anna-Simone Meshreky – a biology student with a minor in neuroscience and writing at Framingham State University. Anna-Simone is also a proud member of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox church in Boston, MA.  In today’s post, she shares a touching story about one of the “storms” of life that she went through recently and the lesson she learned from it.  If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.

praise-you-in-this-storm

Every time I go through a difficult situation, I listen to the song “Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns. I always avidly recite the lyrics as if I actually mean what I’m saying. But I’ve come to realize that I really haven’t been praising God in the midst of storms. I’ve been mostly crying out for help, but not really praising.

I realized this because of a certain event that recently occurred. I was praying to God to reveal His will to me regarding something in my life. Although I told God that I only wanted His will, I don’t think I really meant it. What kept me close to God is that I believed His will matched mine exactly. I was so happy about this, and I kept praying about it thinking it was actually going to happen.

Then one day, out of nowhere, what I thought was God’s will perfectly coinciding with mine, turned out to be not His will at all. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe or understand why God had taken something I thought He wanted for me out of my life all of the sudden. Especially since I was praying about it so much and it seemed like it was right. I was confused and hurt, and to be honest, I was very upset at God.

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