Sunday, September 30, 2018

November 1, 2018 Book Discussion: I Live Again by Princess Ileana

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA. The monastery was founded by Mother Alexandra (the former Princess Ileana of Romania) whose dream it was to provide a place for American Orthodox women from all ethnic backgrounds.

 I Live Again, a memoir, was re-printed this year with contemporary annotations. It offers an engrossing first hand account of the personal trauma experienced in World War II and the path of recovery. 

From the bookseller:
Princess Ileana wrote this memoir shortly after relocating to the US in the 1950s. It tells the story of a life full of suffering, tragedy, (divorce), and exile, but all is suffused with the author's deep faith, hope, love, and even joy. This reprint includes additional material collected by the nuns of her monastery that sets the memoir in the context of Mother Alexandra's later life.

After she was exiled from Romania by the Communists…
”Yes, to live again, because after I left home,…I was as one dead. Not circumstances alone were hard to bear, but the need to live at all. I did not doubt for a moment the physical necessity of my presence for my six children; my love for them was as strong and potent as ever. But inside, the “me” that was me independent of the mother, the wife, the friend—the essential “me” upon which all the rest is built—suffered a mortal shock when my life was severed from my people.”
            “My parents’ early training of me has been of great value, as has been the gift of cheerfulness and natural love for people that has blessed my nature. But the real strength to carry on my life, to face disappointment, and strangers, and loneliness, to be determine to “ live again,” comes from something much deeper within me—from the inner force which absolute faith gives.”

 In October, 2008 we discussed the Royal Monastic, Princess Ileana's biography. Visit:

We will be meeting November 1, 2018 in the Family Life Center, Lancaster) at 7:00 P.M. The book is  available in the church bookstore and library.

Monday, June 11, 2018

August 13, 2018 Book Discussion: Thirsting for God

Beginning in the street ministry days of the Jesus Movement, author Matthew Gallatin devoted more than 20 years to evangelical Christian ministry. He was a singer/songwriter, worship leader, youth leader, and Calvary Chapel pastor. Nevertheless, he eventually accepted a painful reality: no matter how hard he tried, he was never able  to experience the God whom he longed to know. IN encountering Orthodox Christianity, he finally found the fullness of the Faith. In Thirsting for God, Gallatin expresses many of the struggles a Protestant will encounter in coming face to face with Orthodoxy: such things as Protestant relativism, rationalism versus the Orthodox sacramental path to God, and the unity of Scripture and Tradition. He also discusses praying with icons, praying formal, prayers, and many other Orthodox traditions.

Join us for discussion of this fascinating book August 13, 2018 after the 6:00 p.m. Paraklesis Service to the Mother of God. Thirsting for God is available in the church bookstore and library.

Please Note:  In accordance with the wisdom of the Church mothers and fathers, we strongly encourage discussions of spiritual material with your father confessor or spiritual mother or father.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lent Book Discussion: Bearing God: The Life and Works of St. Ignatius of Antioch the God-Bearer

Join us each Wednesday during Lent after the 6:00 P.M. Liturgy of Presantified gifts for a Lenten pot-luck dinner in the taverna. Following dinner, Father Christos will lead a discussion of a few chapters of Bearing God: The life and works of St. Ignatius of Antioch the God-Bearer.

From the bookseller:
St. Ignatius, first-century Bishop of Antioch, called the “God-bearer,” is one of the earliest witnesses to the truth of Christ and the nature of the Christian life. Tradition tells us that as a small child, Ignatius was singled out by Jesus Himself as an example of the childlike faith all Christians must possess (see Matthew 18:1–4). In Bearing God, Fr. Andrew Damick recounts the life of this great pastor, martyr, and saint, and interprets for the modern reader five major themes in the pastoral letters he wrote: martyrdom, salvation in Christ, the bishop, the unity of the Church, and the Eucharist.

The V. Rev. Andrew Stephen Damick is pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and author of multiple books from Ancient Faith Publishing. He is host of the Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and Roads from Emmaus podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio.

We will be meeting February 21, February 28,  March 7, March 14, and March 21.  The book will be available in the church bookstore and library. 

Please note: It is strongly recommended that spiritual literature is discussed with your father confessor, or spiritual father or mother

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 28, 2017 Book Discussion:The Truth of Our Faith

New Time for the Next Book Discussion!
Saturday, December 2, 2017, 10:00 a.m.
 From the bookseller: 
Ever wonder why Orthodox Christians venerate Holy Relics? Venerate Holy Icons? Venerate Angels? Elder Cleopa of Romania answers these questions  as well as:  the veneration of the Virgin Mary, and the True Cross, the offering of prayer for the dead, the Second Coming of Christ, speaking in tongues, and the keeping of the Lord’s feast on Sunday instead of Saturday. The Truth of Our Faith includes more than 30 photos and icons and a scriptural index. This book is an ideal introduction to the truth of our Faith for every seeker of Christian Orthodoxy.

The Truth of Our Faith is available in the church bookstore and library. 
Please note: It is strongly recommended to discuss spiritual literature with your father confessor, or spiritual father or mother.

Monday, June 26, 2017

August 2, 2017 Book Discussion: Becoming a Healing Presence

Our next book discussion will be on Becoming a Healing Presence  by Albert S. Rossi, PhD.  The discussion will follow the 6:00 P.M.  Service of the Paraklesis on August 2, 2017  in the Church courtyard.
To get a good sense of what this book is about, we have posted here the powerful foreword by the late Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko. Fr. Hopko was the Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir's Seminary:
Al Rossi  and I can’t recall exactly how I became his and his wife Gay’s spiritual father and confessor. It happened when Gay was diagnosed with breast cancer that soon metastasized into bone cancer. Their spiritual father, who was also one of their closest personal friends, thought it would be best for me to take over his pastoral service at this crucial time. But how it actually worked itself out still remains a bit of a mystery to both of us.

I had seen the Rossi family many times at liturgical services and other events at St. Vladimir’s Seminary (their home was a five-minute walk from the school), but my wife and I had not come to know them more than casually. I was serving a church in New York City around that time, and was also often away from the school, especially on weekends, attending to other duties.

It also happened about this same time that I was in charge of a retreat for young people at the seminary. Al had been invited to lead several sessions. At one of them he had the ­participants answer some questions and do certain exercises about their extended families, their childhood, their upbringing, their experience in the Church, their favorite films, books, music, etc. They did this in writing, just for themselves, to serve as a springboard to their discussions. They were not obliged to share with Al what they had written.

Being at the retreat, I decided to do what Al asked the participants to do. When I thanked Al at the end of the day for his good work, which I saw had a powerful impact on the young people, I handed him what I had written. “Have a look at this,” I asked him, “and, if you wish, tell me what you think of it.”

A few days later, I met Al on the seminary campus. He told me that he’d read what I wrote and thought it would be helpful for us to talk about it, adding with a tantalizing smile, “but this time on my turf.” I eagerly agreed and began visiting Al at his office once a week. Our regularly scheduled meetings went on for more than a year. Since then we have continued to meet, speak, work, and pray together in countless ways. We were each in dire need of what the other had to offer, and still are. And so was Gay. But little did we know at the time how much the two of us needed her, and still do, in our spiritual lives.

The compelling tasks facing us from the beginning of our work together were Al and Gay’s marriage and Gay’s struggle with excruciatingly painful bone cancer. Their family life was in dreadful condition. Gay was indescribably angry and unhappy, and so, in turn, was Al. Their kids were caught in the middle of it. Their history, individually and together, was the most complicated and painful story I ever encountered. It was also, for me at that time, the most incredible. I had virtually no understanding of almost anything that either of them had been through from their childhood and youth and life together, both before and after they found themselves a married couple with two beautiful children in the Orthodox Church—which situation, despite its many graces and joys, was itself hardly an easy, smooth, or painless experience.

The one thing that bound Al and me together in the most intimate spiritual communion was our devotion to God’s Gospel in Jesus Christ as witnessed in the Church’s Scriptures and offered by God’s grace to our living experience (fragile, flawed, and sinful though we be) by Christ and the Holy Spirit in the liturgical worship, sacramental life, doctrinal teachings, and spiritual counsels of the saints of the Orthodox Church.

Gay Rossi’s agonizing journey, and ours with her, by which we were purified and illumined by God’s grace, was in every way a perfect example of the truth of the psalmist’s exclamations: “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I keep Thy Word. . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes. . . . If Thy law had not been my delight, I should have perished in my afflictions. I will never forget Thy precepts, for by them Thou hast given me life. I am Thine, save me!” (Psalm 119:67, 72, 92–94).

This book, Becoming a Healing Presence, tells a vivid story of going into one’s heart to find Christ, and then going out from one’s heart to allow Christ to heal others through us. I am grateful to have been part of the healing of Gay Rossi and the subsequent impact her healing had on Al and the writing of this little book. I would say that every word in the book you, the reader, are holding in your hands could have an impact on you to become more of a healing presence. If you read the book, you will come to see it for yourself—if you have eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind willing to understand, and a heart ready to obey.

As Gay was progressively being cleansed, illumined, and saved by God’s grace through what she was suffering in flesh and spirit, she began to say, “I’m determined to die healthy.” Because she achieved her goal by the Lord’s power, she and Al became the healing presence they now are for those desiring to be healed who are ready to count the cost and pay the price for this precious gift of God in His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Church.

In our last conversation before she died, I asked Gay the most important questions. “Gay,” I asked, “What do you now say about God?”

She replied simply, “I worship God.”

And I went on, “And why do you do so?”

She responded, again so simply, “Because I have come to know love.”

I then said to her, “And what about Al?”

Her answer was firm and clear: “I see Al veiled in light.”

I was present when Gay fell asleep in the Lord. She was breathing laboriously, as dying people do. We were reading psalms. Or simply standing in silence. Sometimes someone said a few words. Then, without warning, I suddenly began to cry. This was not at all like me, as those who knew me then would surely testify. Shortly after I stopped weeping, which took some time, Gay breathed her last and gave her life to God.

Later Al said to me in regard to this unexpected incident at her deathbed, “You know, Father Tom, I just bet that Gay decided not to die until you wept.”

I responded, “You know, Al, it would be just like her to do so.”

I drove home from the hospital after Gay’s death listening to Nana Mouskouri singing that it is only love that changes everything. How true this is! Yet we must all come to know by experience what, or more precisely, who, this Love is. Al and his Gay help us here to do so. How grateful we should be to them, and to our Lord, for the invaluable gift of this little book.

 Please note: It is strongly recommended to discuss spiritual literature with your father confessor, or spiritual father or mother

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekly Lent Book Discussion: Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives & Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece

Orthodox Book Discussion

Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives & Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece

Weekly Lent Book Discussions Beginning March 1, 2017

In an age obsessed with psychology, medicine, and human solutions to spiritual problems, the ancient ministry of the god-bearing elder is a divine gift to contemporary man. Termed the "golden chain" by St. Symeon the New Theologian, this life-giving ministry of the Church is a precious inheritance passed down from Christ, through the Apostles, from one generation to the next, to our own day. The lives and counsels contained in this volume attest to the continued vitality of this ancient ministry and to the importance of its preservation for the life of the Church today. -from the back cover

From the Bookseller:
This volume presents the lives and counsels of eight contemporary Elders of Greece: Amphilochios of Patmos, Epiphanios of Athens, Iakovos of Evia, Joseph the Hesychast, Paisios the Athonite, Philotheos of Paros, Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, and George of Drama. The text includes extensive commentaries on the lives and counsels, detailed maps, and a glossary of theological terms, making it an invaluable source of spiritual orientation and enlightenment for every seeker of Christian Orthodoxy.
Each Wednesday during Lent the church community will meet after the 6 P.M. Liturgy of Presantified gifts for a Lenten pot-luck dinner in the taverna. Following dinner, we will discuss a few chapters of Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit, available in both the bookstore and church library.
Our first meeting will be March 1. Join us for evenings that are sure to deepen your Lenten experience!

Please note: discussions of spiritual material with your father confessor, spiritual father or mother are strongly encouraged.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

January 17, 2017 Losing Susan --Author Presentation and Book Signing

Orthodox Book Discussion
January 24, 2017 7:00 P.M. Church Parlor
Losing Susan --Author Presentation
The Annunciation Library Book Discussion Group is pleased to  announce that it is hosting author Rev. Victor Lee Austin  for a presentation and book signing for his memoir, Losing Susan.

From the bookseller:
The Story of Brain Disease and the Priest's Wife

This is the story of Susan--a wife, mother, Christian believer, lover of children, writer of stories, and woman of extraordinary intellect. Susan was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her late thirties. Although it was successfully treated, the process led to her slow, unending decline.

In this personal story of love and loss, Rev. Victor Lee Austin shares how caring for his wife during her painful struggle with brain cancer and its aftereffects brought him face-to-face with his God and with his faith in unsettling ways. God gave Rev. Austin what his heart most desired--marriage to Susan--then God took away what he had given. Yet God never withdrew his presence. Weaving together autobiographical details and profound theological insights, this powerful narrative shows that we are called to turn to God in the face of suffering.

The Rev. Dr. Victor Austin is serving the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas as Theologian-in-Residence. Rev. Austin is a priest-scholar with background in both the parish ministry and the academic world. As a priest in the diocese of New York, Austin has served since 2005 as Theologian-in-residence at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Prior to that, from 1989 to 2003 he was rector of the Church of the Resurrection, Hopewell Junction; and before that, he was curate of Zion Church in Wappingers Falls--all in New York. He is a graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the General Theological Seminary, New York City, and he earned his Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University in 2002. 

In the academic world, Austin was assistant professor of religious studies, philosophy, and theology at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania. He has also taught on the adjunct faculty of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York; Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh, New York; and Fordham University and the General Theological Seminary.
His theological interests are wide-ranging, but his particular focus is in Christian ethics. 
Losing Susan is now available in the church bookstore and library.