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Newsletter for April, 2002

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Again we continue our Journey through Lent -- that blessed time of the year which is a preparation, a journey to Easter Sunday. Adapting some of the hymnody of the season, we say:

The time for action now is here,
From sin and strife, our lives to clear;
For judgment stands outside our door,
And purity, we must restore.

So let us rise and fast and pray,
And let repentance have its way;
Then giving alms and crying tears,
Solution seek, for all our fears.

And let us raise, repentant cry,
Our breath expel in prayerful sigh,
Our sins are more than all the sand
Beside the sea of every land.

Forgive us all, Creator Lord,
By all the hosts above adored,
And grant that we, by grace profound
Be granted everlasting crowns.

In one of his Festal Letters (that for 331 A.D.) — those special letters written to prepare the flock for the season — St. Athanasius wrote:

Again, brothers and sisters, Easter day is coming! This day above all others should be given over to prayer and praise, as the Scriptures command. As your bishop, I dare not forget to give you a message for the season. Those who trouble us have tried to make it impossible for us to announce this season to you. Nevertheless, thanks to God, "who comforts the afflicted" (2 Cor. 7:6), we have not been silenced or overcome by the wickedness of our accusers. Rather, obeying the voice of truth, we join you in announcing the Feast.

The God of all has commanded, "Speak and the children of Israel shall keep the Passover" (Num. 9:2). And in the Psalm the Spirit exhorts, "Blow the trumpet in the new moons, in the solemn day of your feast" (Ps. 81:3). Similarly, the prophet cried, "Keep your feasts, O Judah" (Nah. 1:15). So I'm not sending this letter to you as if you did not know what is going on. I'm sending it to people who understand, so you will be aware that although men have separated us, God has brought us back together again. We come to the same Feast together and always worship the same God.

We do not keep the Easter Season as days having power in, of and by themselves. Such are the superstitions of cults and false gods. To this point, apostle Paul clearly chides those who maintain and have become prisoners to such nonsense when he said, "You observe days, and months, and times, and years" (Gal. 4:10). Rather, we consider the "day" to be special and holy because of the Feast. With that attitude, all of us who serve the Lord everywhere will be well pleasing to God. When the blessed Paul announced the nearness of this joyful time of the Christian year, he did not stress the day. Instead, he spoke of the Lord, because of whom we keep the Feast: "Christ, our Passover is sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7). He wanted all of us to turn our thoughts to the eternity of the Word -- the Son of God -- and draw near to Him.

For what, after all, is the Feast, but an act of serving Him with the soul?
And what is that service but extended prayer and continuous thanksgiving to God?
Of all the works we have undertaken in recent years, the Orthodox Study Bible: Old Testament Project is the most important. Our enthusiasm for this project is without bounds, for we know that the new Orthodox Old Testament will have a profound impact on the Orthodox Church - and, judging from the enthusiasm I hear - it will touch all Christianity everywhere. And still, the most frequent question I am asked is: When will the new and complete Orthodox Study Bible be published. Well, we have a schedule, and I am firmly convinced we will make it, for we intend to send it to the publisher in August 2004. But don't be afraid to keep asking for it helps to keep us on our toes.

At times like this, I'm reminded of an interaction between myself and my father when I was small. Excited to complete something I thought particularly important, I would ask, "When, Daddy, when?" And in his southeastern Kentucky twang he carried from his childhood in Laurel County, my father would answer, "Dreckly." Well, at five or six years of age I did not know what "Dreckly" meant, but from the way things went and the number of times I had to keep asking, I came to know this one-word answer did not mean the "now" I wanted to hear. Instead what it meant was "all in due time," because that was what was needed. It wasn't that he did not care about what I wanted. He cared but he also knew, being fast for the sake of just being fast was not the answer for without quality and patience, all the speed in the world was for nought and lead to nothing of lasting value.

Now, when it comes to our projects, we are truly working on all of them, but obviously not all at the same rate -- nor any given project at the same rate all the time. And, when it comes to the question of when we will get around to a given aspect of any one project, the answer is "Dreckly."

Never to fear, though, for things are moving along. All our other work keeps on rolling along as well. As my grandfather used to tell me, in another expression I never quite understood, "Rome wasn't built in a day, sonny."

God bless you for your continued gifts and prayers on our behalf.

In Christ our Lord,

Fr. Jack

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