Saying “So long” for the very first time


by Brian Scarpa

Routine is good. Good, established routines have a unique way of making the rough patches of the day pass like a distant memory. After a long day of work, my children run to the opened door and greet me with bright smiles on their young faces, followed by big hugs and kisses. Having two daughters so close in age is a sweet dream for this father of four. My wife often reminds me “Little girls soften their daddy’s heart”. True indeed, Christeen, so very true!

Flash back to May 2006, this young father held the hand of Sophia Marie, brand new to the world and lying so peacefully in her hospital bassinet. As usually happens when deep in thought, I began speaking to myself. Is it possible to experience any greater joy than where I am right now, with a sweet little hand wrapped tightly around my pinkie finger? It was just a few days ago when the subtle kicks could be felt; now, a small hand holds tight to my heart. Life took on a completely new meaning that warm spring morning.

Right about the time when being a parent of a precious little girl started to establish a bit of its own routine, God blessed us with a little crib-mate for Sophia. Julia Katherine jumped right into the mix of things, with a jelly bowl of laughter and noise- lots and lots of noise! Noise and chaos became the new routine, and we could not have been happier.

As the pages of the calendar turn, and precious memories fill the days, we tend to look back on the small, simple things, and smile. It is funny how often we hear the catchphrase “Enjoy these moments of their childhood, because they go by so very fast”. I can now confirm the truth of that statement. The young, carefree days of youth do go by fast, perhaps sometimes a bit too fast. Time does not change; it is pretty much the same as it has always been. 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year; it is not really a matter of the value of time, it’s about the good times, the memories that make up the dash in between the years. I have learned that a good Orthodox life will reward you, as long as you hold steadfast to Faith in Christ and allow Him to guide you along the way.

Raising young children in the Orthodox faith has no parallel. Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Communion help to form that needed foundation for the young, if you allow it to be. Society gives you a guarantee: it will tack on the heavy weights that will burden many an aching shoulder. Yet, with two feet firmly planted on the bedrock of His Church, anything to which you put your mind becomes a possibility!

The legacy of Metropolitan Philip lives on in the lives of many Orthodox Christians today, especially with his former and current campers of the Antiochian Village. After nearly 40 years, the Village continues to bring a sense a peace and joy to over 1,000 campers every summer. Two weeks of organized fun, camaraderie, fasting and prayer become a needed routine for the young minds and hearts. The Village gives children that opportunity to close the door on the ‘noise’ of the world and for that brief moment in time, actually find peace. It gives them a voice as it opens their ears. The decision to send our girls this past summer was not without hesitation, as any doting parent would feel a bit nervous giving up their kids for 2 weeks with no formal means of contact. Yet, after careful thought and consideration, it became obvious. This is not about us as parent saying so long, this is about the children and giving them a new chance say, “Welcome home”.

Perhaps it is only through good, established routines can these ‘hellos’ be made. Family Camp, annually held during the Memorial Day weekend, offers parents the opportunity to spend time with their children in the Camp setting. Cabin time, enjoying quiet dinners, playing “AV Ball”, and scaling the ropes course together and as a family, makes for an easier transition. We were most glad to enjoy that weekend together, as an Orthodox family. It proved to be a perfect lead-in to the summer sessions.

It’s end of July and Session IV begins to roll around on the calendar. Yes, nerves were high and a bit of the unknown still lingered. It was time to let those hands go, those same very hands held tight 10 and 9 years ago, for the very first time. Yes, the hands have grown a bit, but so has the love. The love of God and family allows you to let go, so that they can begin to say their new hellos to the Village and to their own lives. I guess it takes a little bit of letting go to allow them to say, “Welcome home!”

PS: Those 2 weeks passed by so quickly, as so often is the case with anxious times. When Sophia and Julia arrived home, we asked them how they felt and what were their impressions of the Village? Their response was simple and to the point: “Mom and Dad, we love you so much … but we have to, we just have to go back to the Village next summer! We will miss you of course, but it’s the Village, Mom and Dad – it’s a must!” Rest well Christeen, the children have spoken!

Proverbs 22:6 says, ”Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” A new summer routine has now been established, and we smile, for it is good!

hands 2


In Tribulations, in Needs, in Distresses

by Subdeacon Nicholas Nagorny

Times can be tough, and Saint Paul noted in his second epistle to the Christians in Corinth how difficult his ministry was. Saint Paul prefaced his comments about nightmares of tribulations, needs and distresses with necessity of “much patience” (II Corinthians Chapter 6, verses 1-10).  The Church proclaims this dire section of II Corinthians with the reading of the miracle of Jesus raising from the dead the only son of the widow in the town of Nain. The widow was crushed by the loss her only son, and faced a life of lonely tribulations as a widow. The response of Jesus was direct and powerful. Her son was brought back to life.

Times of tribulation and needs and distresses were mentioned by my parents when I was very young. My father grew up in the terror of the 1930s Soviet Union. In 1938, sixteen members of the Nagorny family were eliminated in the genocide in the Ukraine. Yezhov was head of the secret police. During World War II, my father was in Germany as a hard-pressed worker. He had to wear a badge on his chest, entitled “Osten”, an easterner, or a slave worker. One day he took it off, and was beaten by the Gestapo, the Nazi police. My mother lost two brothers in the war. She worked in Frankfurt, Germany, and the city was devastated by Allied bombings. The end of World War II did not stop the tribulations in Germany. My father was a “DP”, a displaced person. He was trying to escape Soviet police roaming in the American occupied territory. These times were of survival, and also of doing something more.

From this tumultuous time, I had a window- a small one inch by one inch photograph: a photograph of my father and mother before a fog-enshrouded Russian Orthodox Church in a park like setting. I knew the photograph was taken when they were newlyweds. I did not know the date of marriage, nor location. There were no wedding pictures, just stories of a place called Bad Homburg. I started with the one by one inch picture. I found the highest rated photo restorer on Yelp in Manhattan. Months later the photo was masterfully sized two and half times larger and was digitally cleaned of the photograph’s scratch marks. A master frame-maker in Hoboken was chosen. This restored framed photograph was now more than a window, for I saw the faces of my parents. My mother was happy and fashionable in dress, and my father was tall and athletic in bearing. The times caused great distress, but a new beginning was starting.

Another mystery remained, the befogged image of the church in the park behind my parents. The Russian Orthodox Synodal jurisdiction website directory of Russian Orthodox Churches in Germany was scrutinized. There is a Russian Orthodox church in Bad Homburg, Germany! The church was named Church of All Saints and it was really a chapel in a public park: a chapel of just monthly services and with an assigned priest, Fr. Dmitry Ignatieff. I fretted how to communicate with the priest, but the website noted he understood English, and I rushed off an email. Days later Fr. Ignatieff responded and said we were, “lucky”. On Sunday September 22, 1946 Andrey Petrovich Nagorny married Hermine Katherina Blum with Fr. Leonid Kasperski presiding. This was the eighteenth entry in the 1946 parish registry, and there were two groomsmen. The groomsmen were my uncle August and an unknown, Mr. Michael Manshun.

The All Saints chapel was now so clear to see. From Google aerial views and from digital stock photos in high resolution color, the chapel revealed a nineteenth century fairyland embellishment of the Russian Orthodox style church. So jewel-like was the outside decorative work that the Internet tourist sites, Expedia and TripAdvisor gave it high ratings. Czar Nicholas II was at the consecration and the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky attended this chapel. Why did this little chapel have such a famous attendee at the consecration? The “Bad” in Bad Homburg was the answer. Our English word bath is related to the German word Bad. Bad Homburg was a spa town, and a destination spot for the Russian aristocratic nobility to relax at therapeutic mineral springs. My parents married in a “spa chapel”!

I noted in my email to Fr. Ignatieff that someday, God willing, I will be in Bad Homburg, Germany and walk in the public park to attend a church service in the chapel of All Saints. My mother and father in that tumultuous time of 1946, in the house of God, started a new household of God. The restored photographs of my newlywed parents and the chapel of All Saints represent moments in our household of God that need to be handed down. My daughter Nicole will receive the framed photographs as her bequest to her children’s children representing the stories of our family in times of necessity.

The discovery our parents, grandparents, ancestors having had times of tribulation, distress and calamities are reminders of the power of endurance. Those spiritual events molded their lives and can be guideposts to our children’s children. Below are the restored pictures of my parents and the chapel of All Saints, Bad Homburg, Germany.

Nagorny Bad Homberg 11-21-1946 P 8x10 PRINT proof Bad Homberg Church 4.75x4.5 BW P 8x10 PRINT proof


A Journey to the Order

by Ed Assile

We all have different talents.

It was a beautiful day in March, 1993 in Fort Lauderdale.  My brothers, sister and I had flown in to be with our mother during my father’s operation. Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was to undergo the Whipple procedure that would take 8 hours.

We were fortunate that our cousin, a surgeon at Holy Cross hospital where the surgery was taking place, would observe the surgery and come out every hour or so to give us an update. Our family was clustered together as were other families waiting to hear about their loved ones undergoing surgery that day. I watched as doctors came out of surgery and spoke with the families. I remember thinking these doctors come to work every day to save lives.  I go to work and sell textiles, how meaningless when compared to saving lives.

That got me thinking, what are the noblest professions? I concluded it was those that work at saving souls, educating the minds and healing our bodies. The clergy, the educators and those in the medical field. I know I could not be a priest, I have no voice (I was asked to mouth the words in the choir).   My wife is a teacher and I know I do not have the patience to teach and I get queasy when I see blood.

So how could I help with the talents that I have? Everyone has different talents, it’s what we do with them that counts. All of us can help our church and archdiocese with our time and resources. It was during that day that I decided to recommit my efforts and continue working on the governing council of the Order of St Ignatius, the philanthropic arm of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

It was after I became a member that I really learned the value of the Order. Our late Metropolitan PHILIP of thrice blessed memory founded the Order in 1975. His hope was that individuals could help the Archdiocese with an annual life time commitment. Over these last 40 years, the Order has grown to over 5000 members, it has contributed over 30 million dollars and has touched many, many lives.

  • The retired clergy had a very meager housing allowance, but now supported by the Order, the allowance, although still not enough, has become critical to many retired priests.
  • The Order has sent camp scholarships to thousands of our young children. We now have 7 camps throughout the country and the Order supplies two scholarships to every parish every year.
  • The Order helps IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities), charities in the Middle East as well as numerous charities in the USA.
  • The Archdiocese receives about a third of its budget from the efforts of the Order.

I could go on and on about the many beneficiaries of the Order and our Archdiocese would not be what it is today without the work of the Order.

For a mere $1.37 a day, less than a cup of coffee, the annual contribution of $500 a year touches many lives. Something individuals may not be able to do on their own but collectively the impact is huge.

I have been on the governing council for 26 years and am continually amazed at the good the Order does and how gratified I am to be part of this giving. I encourage all Orthodox Christians to seriously consider being part of this wonderful, giving organization.

You can learn more about the Order by accessing the Archdiocese website and clicking on Departments and Organizations and going to the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

The Teen SOYO Advisor

By Robert C. Scarpa

I can remember the date well, July 3rd, 1998. I was sitting in the audience at the Parish Life Conference, Talent Show. It had been a difficult year for me due to the recent passing of my grandfather, a few months prior. Every year, my brothers and I would attend the PLC with my grandparents. On this occasion, my heart was saddened. I found myself reminiscing about wonderful memories, not knowing that my future was about to change in a most profound way at that moment.

Dino Mavropoulos, had just concluded his masterful performance on the violin. As the crowd stood in applause, I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder. I turned around to see Somaya Watkins, with a warm, caring smile on her face. We began a conversation about the youth in the parish and she proceeded to ask me if I had any interest in becoming the next Teen SOYO advisor.

I have always believed that God has always directed my path in life but not until years later would I realize the life changing significance of accepting this request. I nervously said, “Yes.”, not knowing what I was about to get myself into. I have never had any experience dealing with teenagers, on a leadership level, as I was just 22 years old myself. At this time in my life, I was someone who never liked to take any risks. This role was “not in my personality.” I was just beginning graduate school and was anxious on how I was going to divide my time and provide the attention required to be a SOYO advisor.

Over the next 6 years, my life was blessed ten-fold with the experiences that I encountered , by being surrounded with the love of our St. Anthony’s SOYO. Our first event, was a “Lock In” that included 5 teens alongside myself and my brother, Brian.

That night, not knowingly at that time, served as a foundation in which our service ministry would be built upon. Initial, delicate bonds were Continue reading “The Teen SOYO Advisor”

Salvation is Created – by a Marantz Stereo Receiver


By Subdeacon Stratos J Mandalakis

It was August 2, 1979…. in the Macy’s Audio Dept. – I will always remember the date because while there, we heard the sad news that Thurman Munson had died in a plane crash. You see, we were there to make a purchase that would change my brother, Ted’s, and my life…

It was a Marantz receiver with speakers, that we had mustered up enough money to purchase with our respective summer jobs. Mom & Dad threw in the last few bucks and we were finally going to have a real “stereo”, a  “component system” in our room.  Our purchase, coupled with a Sony Turntable & Pioneer cassette deck we acquired from an Uncle who dabbled in audiophile equipment, brought high end stereo sound to our lives!

Of course, it is here where Ted and I diverged… in the output of sound….

Like most generation X’ers, POP and ROCK sounds were no strangers to us and Ted was happy to blast his share of Boston, Billy Joel, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, and the like.

I, on the other hand would begin exploring more eclectic sounds.  The sounds of Orthodoxy.

The ability to play high quality LP’s and Cassettes opened to me not only a world of Classical Music which was also a passion, but also allowed me to explore the sounds of my ancestors’s past.  The other-worldliness of some famous Greek Orthodox Chanters like Theodore Vassilikos, whose expertise and artistry had begun to make him a celebrity in the worldwide Greek Orthodox Church, was accessible via a cassette that could be found Continue reading “Salvation is Created – by a Marantz Stereo Receiver”

Between the Offices and the Coffee Shop: Walking Down the Hall, Thinking

By Father Joseph Allen, ThD

Director, AHOS

     I’m walking down the hall, past the bookstore, noticing through the glass panel wall so many beautiful items  – icons, incense, book covers, etc.- having just left a meeting in the library of the Antiochian House of Studies (AHOS).  It was a meeting with the staff regarding some of the new and critical theological education programs.  Who will teach what? Where will it fit in our curriculum? Will it be as effective in such a “school without walls?”

father joe

It gets one thinking, gets one pondering: how did all this happen? How did we get to this advanced position of offering the various “tracts” in the AHOS curriculum?

As I walk into the main lobby -offices on one side, coffee shop on the other- I run into a crowd of about 50 students on a break between classes.  There are about 50 other students still meeting in another class at the Ajar Auditorium; they have not reached the point where their “break” begins.  Tonight at Vespers, however, all 100+, along with about 15 faculty members, will stand together in the Chapel: “Let my prayer arise, Oh Lord, in thy sight as incense…”.

It all started 35  years ago.  Thirteen students -thirteen!- made up the first class.  I never thought it would be more than that.  Thirteen. That’s all.  Who else except those few would be interested in Orthodox -or Eastern Christian- Theology, but for various reasons did not -and now could not- attend a seminary?  They had various careers: some were physicians, some CEOs of companies, some educators, some business owners, etc. But there were only thirteen.  They didn’t know each other,  Continue reading “Between the Offices and the Coffee Shop: Walking Down the Hall, Thinking”