An Accessible World For All

Urbanization is among the most impactful global trends of the past century, resulting in a growing share of the population living in urban areas. This transformative force impacts both the developed and developing worlds, and it is estimated that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will be living in cities.[1] This will affect the quality of life for all who choose to live in this environment, but for persons with disabilities, this change presents accessibility challenges that cannot be met without proper cooperation from governments and private industries.

 

Each year on December 3rd, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year is ‘Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want;’ the ultimate function of these goals is to create a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.[2] There are approximately 1 billion persons with disabilities around the world and for many, urbanization presents unique challenges to daily life. There are many poorly planned and developed cities, which present functional barriers to infrastructure and other physical facilities and services, resulting in a cycle of dependency and general discrimination. These inadequately planned and constructed cities continue to have serious consequences for persons with disabilities, and without greater oversight and regulations the problems will persist.

 

What is accessibility in the context of persons with disabilities, exactly? Broadly understood, accessibility is about equality of opportunity to access certain places, services, and goods.[3] The United Nations describes it as providing flexibility to accommodate each person’s needs and preferences,[4] meaning individuals must have access to products and services, as well as physical and virtual environments in the manner in which they are capable. This means a ramp into building that is not at ground level, or audiotext functions on websites, among many others. Creating an accessible urban space is not necessarily about providing charity to persons with disabilities, but giving them the tools that enable to live their life independently.

 

Ultimately, creating accessible cities is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. Disability is mentioned eleven times throughout the seventeen goals through references to broad topics such as sustainable growth and the accessibility of human communities, among others.[5] While not referenced in each goal, they are all relevant to persons with disabilities because of the premise on which they were founded: ‘leaving no one behind.’[6]

 

As it currently stands, many persons with disabilities are being left behind in the growing urban centers around the world. In many of these places, they lack access to public transportation facilities, safe road conditions basic services such as water and sanitation facilities, and appropriate technologies that allow them to communicate with others.[7] To combat the general issue of urbanization, but to also address specific policy-related questions such as the impact it will have on various populations, the UN recently put on a Global Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development. There, the conference reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to persons with disabilities:

 

“We commit ourselves to promoting appropriate measures in cities and human settlements that facilitate access for persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment of cities, in particular to public spaces, public transport, housing, education and health facilities, public information and communication (including information and communications technologies and systems) and other facilities and services open or provided to the public, in both urban and rural areas.”[8]

 

This conference was an important start to addressing the critical issue of urbanization and its impact on persons with disabilities. While not a legally binding body, the outcome of this conference was to provide information and guidance as countries move forward with the Sustainable Development Goals. The enforcement mechanism is based primarily through voluntary action as well as various states’ mutual expectation that others will act as they do, serving as a ‘peer pressure’ of sorts. Through bodies like this, the UN is able to monitor progress, and encourage action from other states to provide an urban world consistent with the UN’s overall sustainable goals for the future.

 

As Christians, we have a duty to ensure that no one is left behind from the world. Disabilities are daily, and arguably, natural occurrences. Oftentimes, they exist without of the person having them, and we are all vulnerable to disability, whether by circumstance, family history, or time. With that in mind, we are reminded that many persons with disabilities are only handicapped when there are barriers in place preventing them from living a full life. “God shows personal favoritism to no man.” (Gal. 2.6). We are called to love one another unconditionally, to look past outward appearances and physical traits, and to find the person inside reflecting Christ because each of us, despite our shortcomings, are made in His image. As the world changes structurally and culturally, we must not forget to make it an accessible place for all.

 

 

Anthony Balouris is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org)

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ESOSCO). It has been actively working at the UN for 30 years.

 

 

 

 


 

[1] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/forum-disability-inclusive-and-accessible-new-urban-agenda.html

[2] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-3-december/idpd2016.html

[3] http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/disacc00.htm

[4] http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/disacc00.htm

[5] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030.html

[6] http://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2016/leaving-no-one-behind

[7] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/resources/disability-accessibility-and-sustainable-urban-development.html

[8]https://www2.habitat3.org/bitcache/99d99fbd0824de50214e99f864459d8081a9be00?vid=591155&disposition=inline&op=view

 

Writing History With H.A.H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Writing History With H.A.H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Rev. Dr. Nicolas Kazarian

History is a process which starts from an event, entering memory before being written down through a painstaking effort of abstraction. In the case of Fr. John Chryssavgis’s book, the event is a person, the memory is an inspiration, and history is the global destiny of H.A.H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to whom this biography is consecrated. A quote from Churchill used in the book - “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see” – echoes a central aspect of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s identity: he stands at the crossroads of past and future, leading the Orthodox Church into the third millennium, reminding the world of the eschatological nature of the Church: at the crossroads of time, but also of space, “being in the world, yet not of the world.”

Twenty-five years after his election and enthronement in the See of the Church of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew allows readers an entry into his life through the writing of one of his closest advisors. The concept evokes the long and beautiful conversations between French Orthodox theologian Olivier Clément and Patriarch Athenagoras, and decades later with Bartholomew himself. But the goal of Fr. John’s biography is different, and I would say complementary. The narrator is the author himself, and his proximity with the Phanar and the Patriarch creates a sense of intimacy than no one else could have put into words. This biography does not follow a diachronic path, from the Patriarch’s childhood to the present day. Instead, it is a succession of pictures; each one sketching the lines of Bartholomew’s legacy, completing the complex mosaic of a life dedicated to the service of the Orthodox Church, and through her to all mankind. This is why Fr. John wrote in his introduction: “It is my honor and privilege to compile these biographical pages of a man who has guided the Christian East with dedication and conviction for the last twenty-five years.”

Event as a Person

No one could dare say that he or she knows Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew perfectly. Even his family and friends share only a part of who he is in reality. To read Fr. John’s book is to enter the Patriarch’s personal life as a child on his Turkish island of Imbros during the Second World War and its aftermath, which reshaped the global balance of power; as a student in Halki and as a young clergyman in Rome and Germany; as a religious leader offering to his Church his talents despite the oppression and hostility under which the Ecumenical Patriarchate has survived for centuries in Istanbul, also known as Constantinople. Progressively, his life unfolds a vocation, driven by the spiritual mentorship of Ecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras and Dimitrios, but also, or perhaps especially, Metropolitan Meliton who noticed at an early age the numerous skills, openness and faithfulness of this modest son of the modest Archondonis family from a modest island. His longevity as a Patriarch is also due to the precocity of his election to the throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, when he was only in his early 50s. In this biography, we also discover some characteristics of his personality: simplicity and care for others, an incredible intellect and memory.

Memory as inspiration

The transition from event to memory requires witnesses. One of the strengths of this book is that it offered a variety of famous personalities the opportunity to reflect on the influence that the Ecumenical Patriarch has had on their lives. Remembering his first meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis writes: “I felt that I was meeting a man who ‘walks by faith’ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7), who in his person and his manner expresses all the profound human and spiritual experience of the Orthodox tradition.” Pope emeritus Benedict writes that, “Patriarch Bartholomew fulfills an essential aspect of his priestly mission precisely with his commitment to creation.” On the political side, Vice-Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore agree. For the first: “But what impressed me most is the way His All-Holiness embodies our Christian faith — thoroughly and completely.” The latter writes that “Time and again Patriarch Bartholomew’s words and actions have demonstrated to us that concern for the environment is not a political or ideological matter, but is— in its essence— a moral and spiritual imperative.” This biography offers some insightful reflections about the Patriarch’s legacy from spiritual, political and cultural leaders, creating a true dialogue between life and destiny that goes beyond the limits of the Orthodox Church and finds a crucial echo in global society.  In that regard, Fr. John offers a unique articulation of internal and external representations of the Patriarch’s own leadership.

Writing as History

The author has also gathered an incredible number of sources bridging memory and history. The reader will find some important pages offering the very first synthesis of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s theology. The book not only tackles the challenges of ecumenical and interreligious dialogues from an Orthodox perspective, it also reflects on the issue of primacy and conciliarity. It looks at ecclesiology in practical terms, defending the central position of the Diaspora in the life of the Orthodox Church today. It explains Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s decades-long personal commitment to the environment. As the “Green Patriarch” said himself: “The environment is not a secular or fashionable issue. It is at the very heart of what matters for the God who created our world and who assumed flesh to dwell among us.”

Most importantly, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will soon be known as the Patriarch of the Holy and Great Council. He fulfilled the mission started by his predecessor Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, despite all the difficulties and all the resistance inspired by spiritual isolation and geopolitical concerns. As Fr. John shows, since the very beginning of his patriarchal tenure Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has advocated for pan-orthodox unity through the experience of conciliarity. Conciliarity is what allows the Orthodox Church today to think of herself as a global Church creating a renewed “culture of communion.”

***

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is one of these rare people whose destiny merges with the history. At the turn of the century, at the turn of two millennia, he inspires his contemporaries from the seat he has held for twenty-five years now, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the first among equals of the Orthodox Churches, enjoys a primacy of love and service, signaled by the daily witness he bears to Christ and to his Church in the face of the world. Unfolding the mystery of his life as an Apostle and Visionary, Fr. John Chryssavgis’s book is a powerful experience of an inspiring encounter.

Click here to order Bartholomew, Apostle and Visionary.

Greek-American Hierarchs Put HGC into Perspective

One of the things I will be thankful for during Thanksgiving dinner is being able to witness the historic gathering of Orthodox hierarchs and other representatives of our Faith at Holy and Great Council (HGC) last summer. Everyone I spoke with felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and expressed what a privilege it was for them to be there – I felt it was truly a gift from God.

The island of Crete is a joy to visit anytime. Pictures help convey the enchantments of the manmade and natural beauty and the stories tourists take with them will delight friends and family for decades, but while neither words nor images can do justice to the experiences of those who participated in the HGC, hearing them talk about it is inspiring. 

While I was there, I had the chance to speak to participants from the Archdiocese of America. It’s strong presence included administrators who helped make the event possible and hierarchs led by Archbishop Demetrios who participated in the discussions that were the substance of the HGC.  

The hierarchs included Metropolitans who were serving their rotation as members of the Endemousa Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including. Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, and Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanellia.

Their heavy schedules did not permit me to speak to each of them, but I was grateful for some time with Metropolitans Isaiah and Nikitas while they were still in Crete about their experiences as members of the Council and about the important aftermath which includes communicating and discussing its work with clergy and laity.

All the hierarchs noted that although rooted in ancient Orthodox tradition, the HGC was a completely new reality for its approximately 200 participants.

Metropolitan Isaiah told me in the middle of the week-long gathering “Initially I felt there was no concern on the part of some to work together, and to have unanimity in the subject matter….I did see some confusion when I got here…but I now see an intense desire to bring clarity and understanding and agreement in regards to what we are talking about.”

“Until recently geopolitical realities made it very difficult to bring people together in an environment of peacefulness in order to understand each other, he reminded, and added “I thank God that I am here.”

I had the feeling all of us on Crete continually thanked the Lord and felt His presence.

“I have to say that during the last two sessions I feel very comfortable saying that the Holy Spirit is guiding us because I see a very peaceful consensus in regard to finding in clarity and what the truth is in regard to what these documents will say not only for us, the hierarchs, but to the people in the outside world,” including the non-Orthodox. 

Communication after the council is important because it is easy for people who are not experts to misinterpret the Council’s documents, Metropolitan Isaiah told me, and added that he believes that the Holy Spirit is at work in the process. 

The Ecumenical movement was a major topic at the HGC and Metropolitan Isaiah told me of the excitement he began to feel 50 years ago when he started “to notice statements made by people about how we who call ourselves Christians can come together not to become one church but to work together as Christians - as far as we Orthodox are concerned we are the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

I was only able to catch up with Metropolitan Gerasimos after he returned to the U.S. He shared some preliminary thoughts with me by phone, and I heard him elaborate upon them when I attended the Archdiocese’s Clergy-Laity Congress in July. 

“I am still trying to tease out the importance of this event” he told me. “Of course, I was blessed and honored to be together with so many other hierarchs in this historic event. And this is the most crucial point of this gathering: convening all together, under the guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the blessings of the Holy Spirit, in order to discuss and dialogue about our faith today and tomorrow,” he said. 

All the people I spoke with emphasized that the HGC was an important first step. I had the honor of hearing His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew declare that more Councils will follow – the next one may he held as soon seven years from now. 

 

Metropolitan Gerasimos said to me, “I feel that we had a good beginning with this Synod, in making ourselves a little more open to others' opinions and ideas…Our journey as the Orthodox Church of the 21st century however is full of challenges, some of them more serious than others. Therefore, the substance of this gathering is that it is an unprecedented gathering of so many different Churches with so many different opinions, yet united over the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith!”

 

“And here is the wonder of this Synod,” he continued, “we might have differences of opinions in substantive matters, but at the end we were able to convene together and agree on issues that will shape our spiritual lives and those that we shepherd throughout the world.”

 

The Metropolitan believes that eventually, the success of the Synod, beyond of what was discussed there, will depend on the hierarch rising to the challenge of “taking this event and making it real throughout the world by implementing our decisions. I pray that our Lord will be kind and merciful to us all as we begin working for the realization of the Synod's implementation tasks.”

 

 

Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanellia is the Director of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, CA. He told me “I think the first and most important thing is to see the wisdom, the guiding hand of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the courage to convene not only this Holy and Great Council but to overcome challenges and difficulties, the confrontations and different problems - which takes a man of thought and vision.”

In addition to the intellectual capabilities a spiritual leader requires to preside over a Council, Metropolitan Nikitas noted Patriarch Bartholomew’s “Compassion, and embracing attitude” that was needed to reinforce “the idea of being inclusive rather than limiting.” 

The Metropolitan used an example from everyday life to demonstrate that a Council’s challenges are not unique: “A family that has a dozen children has its own problems at the dinner table. Not everyone likes the same food, some like salt and others don’t, but still they sit together and at that table they discuss and talk - they share – and that’s the spirit of this Council.”

He continued, “The Church has a space for everyone, and this Council  and the challenges and the discussions are a part of that everyone and everything. The question was, are we able to come to some conclusions and resolutions, some statements? I think we were able to because of the wisdom and the vision of the Patriarch.”

And because the spirit of the HGC will be conveyed to those who were absent, the process of the reception of the decisions on Crete, which is “part and parcel of the work of the Council,” moves forward and will fuel discussions around the world as Fr. John Chrysavgis told me.

“Councils are never frozen in time,” Metropolitan Nikitas said. “They are ongoing events because they are lived by the Community and the Church…the decisions are lived, and we have to see that and remember that.” 

 

Finally, A Blog Post About Zelda - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

The other night, I found myself with a little bit of time that I normally don’t have. My wife had some stuff to do, and both kids were sleeping soundly, so I decided to play some video games. As a married father of two, I haven’t had time to do this in years, but I was so excited as the beginning credits of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword began.

I quickly hopped into the mode of being in on some sort of epic quest to leave the floating island of Skyloft in order to descend to the Surface to rescue Zelda and to begin establishing the Kingdom of Hyrule.

Dorky. I know.

But silly animations and annoying cinematic scenes aside, I was completely wrapped up in the story, and I was eager to make my way through the clouds and begin battling baddies with my trusty sword and less reliable wooden shield.

My wife has never really been into video games, but she caught a glimpse of my game-playing and very graciously asked me what I liked about this particular pastime.

I quickly explained to her that I primarily loved the story. It was epic. I was an English major in undergrad, largely because I love stories. I wasn’t the best English major in the world, but I always felt that if my imagination could be captured by something worth capturing it, then my heart might be changed.

Secondly, I explained, I loved that this story wasn’t something I merely observed (like a book or film), but that the story was something in which I participated. Indeed, this was the same reason I minored in Theater in undergrad. The stories I enacted had already been written, sure, but I was able to help bring them about.  

As I responded, it began to dawn on me that the very things I love about playing a game like Zelda are actually some of the very things that make being a Christian so incredible. We, too, are part of a story in which we are invited to participate.

God has written an incredible story, a story in which He is the author and the main character. His story has to do with the creation and redemption of the cosmos, inviting all human beings into a living and eternal relationship with Him in His Kingdom.

It is a story with great twists and turns, a Hero that dies, appearing defeated, and Who returns from the land of the dead having undone death itself! And while we may look at our own lives and see them headed for the grave, we know that because of God’s Story, death is not the end.

What’s more, we know that God’s Kingdom is coming. A Kingdom in which there is no more death, no more mourning, no more pain nor suffering. A Kingdom in which death has no say, but only life.

We know the end of the story, but we are called to participate in that story today.

We are on an epic quest toward the Kingdom of God, the story having already been written and completed in Christ. Knowing that Christ wins, we can bravely enter the dark world. We can go boldly into the unknown suffering of the poor, the need of our neighbors, trusting that God is at work to bring forth redemption.

Knowing that we cannot ultimately be defeated, we can risk our lives (after all, Resurrection is the promise in Christ) for other people, living for others as we battle the forces of death and Hell in our own contexts.

Of course, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that we can make the end of the story come about. Only God can bring forth the Kingdom in God’s own time. But we can incline ourselves toward the Kingdom, and we can commend one another and our whole life toward that end.

In God’s Kingdom, for example, there is no more mourning. Never.

As far as I can see, in this life, our experience of grief is something here to stay. But we can sit with people who despair. We can undo the bondage of the loneliness of mourning by offering our presence in the middle of someone’s deep sadness.

We may not be able to fix this problem for someone, but our presence in the midst of someone’s pain bears witness to our belief that a Kingdom is coming in which mourning will ultimately be powerless. By sharing in the suffering of another, our action says, “Hey, I’m not scared. Your suffering can’t defeat me, and that’s how I know it can’t defeat you. Let’s get through this. Together.”

We have been invited into an epic quest. I’ll admit that I think it would be super cool if our weapons were things like swords, mirror shields, and grappling hooks, but I suppose that the weaponry of love and service is pretty good, too. Especially for a Kingdom that is not of this world, but of the world to come.

Photo Credits:
Depositphotos
Resurrection Icon photo by Steve Christoforou

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Giving Thanks Even During the Holidays

As the weather is getting colder, we enter into that period known as “the holidays”: that mix of secular and religious feasts of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Theophany. And in the midst of the hectic fervor of Christmas preparations, we stop for a moment and give thanks. Thanksgiving that secular Pascha of Autumn is a chance for everyone to be together once again, gathered around a spread of delicious food.

 

But for many people, the holidays can be a challenge. They are a reminder of what has changed and those we have lost. We remember the good old days and how things have changed, we remember our losses, we remember our differences with family members, and we remember our resentments. And then comes the predictable question from our family of why we’re still single or when we’re getting married.

 

And just as we start thinking we’re so different from our family, during the holidays we realize we’re slowly…becoming…our parents.

 

So how do we give thanks during the holidays when we just want to escape them?

 

1. Walk in love

 

One of the hardest things for many of us during the holidays is to walk in love. We have so much on our minds, so many things to do, so many places to go to see this or that family member, that we can easily get frustrated and short-tempered.

 

But we have another model to follow. "Be imitators of God, as beloved children,” St. Paul writes, “and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2). The way we live out the Holidays should be modeled by Christ’s own sacrificial love. So how do we walk in love during the Holidays?

 

Well for starters, St. Paul doesn’t say to walk in fear or to walk in resentments. We are to walk in love. So the first thing we need to do is leave behind our fears and our resentments, to leave behind our family feuds and our political differences. We need to walk in love, and love requires sacrifice.

 

What can each of us offer to our family and friends? We can offer them grace and patience, we can offer them our serenity and our listening ears. This can be our offering, our fragrant offering, this holiday season. And we might even find that it’s easier to be thankful when we walk in love.

 

2. Make the most of the time

 

Time is one of those things we tend to wish away, and then wish we could get back. We take for granted the time we have with those we love. We think we’ll be able to make those amends later, we’ll be able to listen to them later. But if we are to walk in love, we need to “look carefully then how [we] walk,” says St. Paul, "not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time" (Ephesians 5:15-16).

 

When we make the best use of the time, we will be aware of all that we have to be thankful for. When we are wishing the time away, we might try to escape our present situation by going to our phones to text, tweet, snap, or scroll through Instagram. Our instinct to escape our uncomfortable situation keeps us from connecting, it disconnects us from those around us, and it is certainly not making the most of our limited time with our loved ones. We need to be present with our family and friends during the holidays, not trying to will the time away.

 

Something we can all do is to take a break from our phones when we are together with family. We can practice being more fully present by joining in conversation with family members, by engaging with those people we haven’t spoken with in a while, or to get to know our family better than with surface level conversation.

 

Do you have old-timers left in your family? Ask them family stories, ask about your family history. Usually, people don’t think anyone would be interested in these stories, so they don’t share them. But these are the stories we will never know if we don’t ask. And plus, storytelling is a way to grow closer to and to connect with family.

 

3. Discern what is pleasing to the Lord

 

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to be patient with strangers, or with your boss, than it is to be patient and loving to your family members? We are able to discern what is the right action with those we know we have to be nice to, but we struggle with our family, especially during the holidays when tension seems to run high. What we need in these moments is to “discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).

 

Discernment involves being able to sort through all of the noise we encounter, and find some sense of order or music in it all. Discernment is being able to find the good when we want to focus on the bad. St. Paul tells us that “at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5: 8-9). So instead of being a source of darkness (being argumentative, or worse, non-communicative) we could try to be a source of light, to try to be pleasing to the Lord in all of our interactions with family during the holidays.

 

In discussing giving thanks, St. Paul frames it in contradistinction to a lack of sobriety. Instead of giving into the temptations of impurity, covetousness, foolish talk, crude joking, and drunkenness, we are to give “thanks always and for everything” (Ephesians 5: 4, 20). Being thankful and discerning what is pleasing to God are the sober actions that we choose to take during the holidays. And being with family during the holidays is the soil where we grow in our faith, perhaps the place our faith is tested the most.

 

*****

 

The holidays are as full of feasts as they are of opportunities to test and grow in our faith. When we are so wrapped up in the stresses that these occasions bring us, we can look past the little blessings, we can miss the beauty of life as we focus on its imperfections.

 

But as we prepare for our family get-togethers, we can prepare by remembering to walk in love. We can be aware of each moment so that we can make the most of our time. And we can approach our time with family in sobriety and thankfulness, with a discerning mind and by doing what is pleasing to God.

 

How are you going to walk in love during the holidays? Do you struggle with being present with family; do you find yourself escaping into your phone? How can you show your thanks to your family and make the most of this time?

 
 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Anthony Constantine Balouris
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Rev. Dr. Nicolas Kazarian
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Constantine Sirigos
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Christian Gonzalez
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Sam Williams
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Maria Pappas
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Andrew Romanov
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Family Care
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John Chryssavgis
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Melissa Tsongranis
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