Prez to Prez

Prez to Prez was created in November 2006 to encourage and support Presvyteres of the Holy Orthodox Church in faith, in love, and in relationships with their husbands and families. After a hiatus from January 2012 through September 2015, we are very happy to announce that Prez to Prez is once again being offered. We welcome your feedback. Feel free to write with your comments or ideas.

Your sister Presvyteres in Christ ~ 
Stacey Dorrance, Donna Pappas, Pat Tsagalakis, and Joy Corona

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Click here for archived issues of Prez to Prez.



APRIL 2017

Thought for the Week: The Journey (by Presvytera Harriet Pepps Wilson)

Christ is Risen!! We have just passed the finish line of our 2017 Lenten Journey…the journey that brought us to Pascha…the most important time of the year! St. John Chrysostom says of in his Catechetical Homily read at the Liturgy of the Resurrection: “Let all of you enter into the joy of our Lord…. The table is richly laden. All of you, fare sumptuously on it,” let’s take a moment to reflect on the journey that has gotten us here.   As Orthodox Christians, we travel this road annually but each time it is different. It is like the annual vacation trip. Each year we see there are new things to discover on the road and because it has been a year, even the old things are new again.  It is supposed to be that way.  Our journey through Great Lent should be fresh and new each year.  Like Lamentations 3:22-23 says: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning: great is Your faithfulness.”  God does not change but we do. 

Depending at what season we find ourselves in will determine a lot of how our journey goes.  As a single woman, I often enjoyed a more focused and disciplined Lenten journey and had time to participate in services and read spiritual books and meditate on spiritual things.  Later when I married and was blessed with children the Lenten season changed.  I couldn’t be as focused on services and had no time to read books, yet the journey was still there for me.  My focus was more on my young children. I found that for the “mommy” season of my life, my job was to help my girls experience their personal Lenten Journey along with me.  You and I also have another job, one that does not end and one that impacts our journey.  That is the role of Presvytera.  Though each of us may treat this role differently it still is part of us and still makes a mark on our journey.  In thinking back over my many journeys to Pascha, I now realize those “mommy” years were just as important in my spiritual growth as the ones when I was single. Of course, many years and even now, I felt and feel like a failure.  I struggle maintaining my fast and disciplines and to tell you the truth, I was and still am a failure… but the journey wasn’t and isn’t a failure.  Each year is new and different and fresh and regardless of my poor attempts of maintaining a spiritual discipline, God still reveals Himself to us! 

We are constantly learning about ourselves and God’s mercy, maybe more so in the failure years. It is at the end of these difficult journeys that we cherish even more the words of St. John Chrysostom: “You who fasted, and you who did not, rejoice today. The Table is richly laden. All of you, fare sumptuously on it.  The calf is a fatted one; let no one go away hungry.  All of you enjoy the banquet of faith.  All of you enjoy the riches of His goodness.”   I am now, again, at a new and different season of my life.  My girls are grown and gone. My journey now is more of what I had when I was single.  I have more time.  However, I am a different person today than I was then.  We grow through all the nuances that the seasons of our lives bring. 

Yes, each of us experience a personal journey depending what season of life we are in. Yet, we also share this journey.  We share it as women and as Presvyteres.  Let us walk beside each other.  Let us be there for one another.  Let us support and help each other.  Remember the journey is not for our awesome God … He doesn’t need it, but WE do and often we need each other’s help to find our way to the destination.

Rejoicing with you, as a fellow traveler on this journey to Pascha where we eat together from the richly laden Table of Life! Christ is Risen!!!

FEBRUARY 25, 2017
Scripture for the Week:  
“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans 15:5-7
 
 Quote for the Week:
“If at some time you show mercy to someone, mercy will be shown to you.  If you show compassion to one who is suffering (and of course, this is not a great deed) you will be numbered among the martyrs.  If you forgive one who has insulted you, then not only will all your sins be forgiven, but you will be a child of the Heavenly Father. 
If you pray from all your heart for salvation – even a little – you will be saved. If you rebuke yourself, accuse yourself, and judge yourself before God for your sins, with a sensitive conscience, even for this you will be justified.
 If you are sorrowful for your sins, or you weep, or sigh, your sigh will not be hidden from Him and, as St. John Chrysostom says, ‘If you only lament for your sins, then He will receive this for your salvation.'” + St. Moses of Optina 
 
Thought for the Week:  Compassion (by Presvytera Roxanne Louh)
We are all equipped with the innate ability to feel compassion and altruism toward others, right? If that is the case, why is it so hard to feel this supposed natural emotion when someone hurts us, or someone that we love? It’s as if compassion can be turned off in our hearts just like a switch, the moment we get offended. Although, this is has been a controversial issue, it is generally accepted by scientists that we are born with benevolence. But as we age, and gain an increased awareness about people and their motivations, we make assumptions that we don’t even realize we have made. We learn that everyone doesn’t always have our best interest in mind and, with this realization, it becomes increasingly more difficult to express these types of positive feelings. It almost feels threatening! Try attempting to feel compassion towards someone this week when you don’t feel that compassion and benevolence is being reciprocated towards you. It’s hard, right?

When someone is hurtful toward us, our minds seem to naturally get stuck on negative thought patterns that leave us reasoning that the person who hurt us simply doesn’t deserve our compassion. What is the result? We fight (or hurt) back or we distance ourselves emotionally as a means of protecting ourselves from those who hurt us. But is this defensiveness really protecting us? Does fighting back to teach someone their wrongs really help? Do we actually feel better? Do others who have wronged us really see that their ways are flawed?

Researchers and spiritual leaders assert that violent, aggressive or otherwise offensive people are really just people whose compassion and benevolence was never developed. Compassion, they say, is really no different than language acquisition. We are all born with the propensity to learn and develop this skill, if placed within an environment that nurtures its development. It would seem then, that people who offend us and/or act with aggression and hostility are people whose sense of compassion was never nurtured and therefore lays dormant, just waiting to be activated.

Ghandi said it best when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in this world.” Offer compassion even when it is not being received. Set your mind on good things when it’s going down a dark path. Practice compassion with the same kind of discipline that you use to accomplish other challenging goals in this life.

To cultivate compassion when you are having trouble feeling it, set your mind on positive thoughts. “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). Let your attention be drawn toward other positive aspects of your day, other positive relationships in your life, other positive aspects of that person and/or other positive moments that exist in your life. Unstick your mind from the righteousness you feel that really only serves to keep you feeling bitter. It is not your job to make others see their wrongs and change their ways. Sometimes, practicing compassion can have more of an impact in this world than any other response you might give in the hopes of seeing change. Most people change when they gain self-awareness. Self-awareness occurs for most, when other people don’t add to the mix. In this way, others may see themselves and we may maintain the peace that has been granted to us by the almighty Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-6
 
Question for the week:  To whom in my life do I have difficulty showing compassion?  Am I willing to cultivate compassion towards them as part of my Lenten journey this year?  How do I think it will impact my life and the lives of those around me?
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OCTOBER 2016Scripture for the Week:  “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.  Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans 15:5-7

 
Quote for the Week:  It seems that we do not understand one thing: it is not good when we return the love of those who love us, yet hate those who hate us. We are not on the right path if we do this. We are the sons and daughters of light and love, the sons and daughters of God, his children. As such we must have His qualities and His attributes of love, peace, and kindness towards all. Elder Thaddeus
 
Thought for the Week:  Compassion by Presvytera Roxanne Louh
We are all equipped with the innate ability to feel compassion and altruism toward others, right? If that is the case, why is it so hard to feel this supposed natural emotion when someone hurts us, or someone we love? It’s as if compassion can be turned off in our hearts just like a switch, the moment we get offended. Although, this has been a controversial issue, it is generally accepted by scientists that we are born with benevolence. But as we age, and gain an increased awareness about people and their motivations, we make assumptions that we don’t even realize we have made, we learn that everyone doesn’t always have our best interest in mind and with this realization, it becomes increasingly more difficult to express these types of positive feelings. It almost feels threatening! Try attempting to feel compassion towards someone this week when you don’t feel that compassion and benevolence is being reciprocated towards you. It’s hard, right? 
When someone is hurtful toward us, our minds seem to naturally get stuck on negative thought patterns that leave us reasoning that the person who hurt us simply doesn’t deserve our compassion. What is the result? We fight (or hurt) back or we distance ourselves emotionally as a means of protecting ourselves from those who hurt us. But is this defensiveness really protecting us? Does fighting back to teach someone their wrongs really help? Do we actually feel better? Do others’ who have wronged us really see that their ways are flawed?
 Researchers and spiritual leaders assert that violent, aggressive or otherwise offensive people are really just people whose compassion and benevolence was never developed. Compassion, they say, is really no different than language acquisition. We are all born with the propensity to learn and develop this skill, if placed within an environment that nurtures its development. It would seem then, that people who offend us and/or act with aggression and hostility are people whose sense of compassion was never nurtured and therefore lays dormant, just waiting to be activated.
I think Ghandi said it best when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in this world.” Offer compassion even when it is not being received. Set your mind on good things when it’s going down a dark path. Practice compassion with the same kind of discipline that you use to accomplish other challenging goals in this life. 
To cultivate compassion when you are having trouble feeling it, set your mind on positive thoughts. “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). Let your attention be drawn toward other positive aspects of your day, other positive relationships in your life, other positive aspects of that person and/or other positive moments that exist in your life. Unstick your mind from the righteousness you feel that only serves to keep you feeling bitter. It is not your job to make others see their wrongs and change their ways. Sometimes, practicing compassion can have more of an impact in this world than any other response you might give in the hopes of seeing change. Most people change when they gain self-awareness. Self-awareness occurs for most, when other people don’t add to the mix. In this way, others may see themselves and we may maintain the peace that has been granted to us by the almighty Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-6
 
Questions for the Week:  Who is one person in my life with whom I struggle to show compassion?  What does it "cost" me to withhold compassion from this individual?  How could extending compassion to this individual affect me?  Am I willing to be a tool of God's compassion for this person?
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September 7, 2016

Quote for the week:  O my Christ, rekindle my little lamp, and shine on me once more. - St Gregory the Theologian

Scripture for the week:  Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1

Thought for the week:  This summer, we had the opportunity to travel to Greece.  As a priest and presvytera, it is always a joy to visit churches and attend services in new parishes especially in an Orthodox Christian country.

While on the island of Naxos one evening, we drove by a beautiful church and stopped when we saw crowds of people gathered around the entrance. We found out that they were celebrating the feast day of St. Nicodemus (July 14) who is from the island of Naxos and canonized in 1955.

When I walked into the glorious church covered with spectacular iconography and many people praying together, I was overtaken by the smell of beeswax and the hundreds of candles lit by the faithful who had entered the vespers service before me.  I began to reflect on all the candles I had lit in my years as a presvytera.  Countless prayers have been lifted up, inviting Christ to fill me and those in my church family, with His peace and light. 

My husband is always the first to enter the church and light the first candle.  Often times, when I walk in through the doors of Holy Apostles Church on Sunday morning to sing Orthros, there is just one lone candle ablaze. I stand grateful that my husband faithfully leads me and others along this journey of faith. I know it is sometimes a thankless and difficult job to be priest.  I am able to "receive the light" because he first, has ignited the initial flame.

Being a clergy couple, we are often called upon to diligently keep the flame of faith lit and to encourage others to follow and seek the light of Christ. At times, we can feel alone and unsure. Yet, as the faithful enter one by one, to light their candles the blaze grows bigger and bigger.  We are a community - who together, walk this sacred path towards salvation. We are not alone. Each candle lit, reflects our common need for Christ and our willingness to show up and seek Jesus together.

Next time you enter the church, say a prayer and light an extra candle for your priest "who offers the light of Christ to all. May you - a beloved diakonessa or presvytera, be encouraged to stay faithful, bright and strong, together we can all strive to be "radiant as the stars in heaven" ablaze with joy so to become shining examples of love and peace in this broken world. 

Question for the Week: If I had a candle that represented the fervor of my faith right now, how would I describe the strength of the flame?  Is it fully ablaze? Is it struggling as the winds of life buffet it or the shadows threaten to overtake it?  Has it been snuffed out?  If so, how can I allow the Lord to re-ignite me with His perfect fos

 

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