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Holy Week, Camp Nazareth, and the Mercy of God

 Each summer our church sends 40-50 children from our parish to Camp Nazareth for a week-long spiritual retreat of prayer, recreation, and forming bonds with other young Orthodox Christians throughout the      Metropolis of Pittsburgh.  When we ask our kids why they desire to return to Church Camp year after year, they often give the following responses:

  • A week at Camp Nazareth helps them to feel closer to God.
  • They get to spend a whole week with their closest friends who share their Orthodox Faith.
  • They leave “the world” behind for a week (by disconnecting from technology/social media and physically removing themselves from the distractions of the world). 

When you think about it, a week at Camp Nazareth is very similar to Holy Week!  If we participate in Holy Week the right way: We grow closer to God; we spend hours each day praying with people whom we love dearly in the Church; and we leave “the world” behind as we enter into the spiritual reality of Christ’s     Passion, Death on the Cross, and glorious Resurrection.

 Another similarity between the two is that our young people often lament that they cannot keep the fire of faith, which had been cultivated during a week at Church Camp, burning within their hearts once they return home from camp.  Likewise, we also can quickly lose the grace we received during Holy Week and Pascha if we simply return to “the world” and neglect the good habits of prayer and spiritual discipline we had    cultivated during Lent and Holy Week. 

 The spiritual theme for the Camp Nazareth program this summer is “Mercy.”  The purpose of this           curriculum is to help our young people (1) define God’s mercy; (2) accept God’s mercy in their own lives; (3) witness God’s mercy in the lives of the Saints; (4) proclaim and show God’s mercy to others; and (5)   appreciate God’s mercy and not take it for granted. 

 This theme of showing gratitude and accepting God’s mercy is a prominent theme in the Holy Week hymns.  On Holy Thursday evening we chant the following hymn, presented through the perspective of Christ, which shows that the Lord’s only desire is to give mercy to His people:

 Thus says the Lord to the Jews: My people, what have I done to you. Or how have I offended you? To your blind I gave sight, your lepers I cleansed, the     paralytic I raised from his bed. My people, what have I done to you, and how have you repaid me? Instead of manna, gall: instead of water, vinegar; Instead of loving me, you nail me to the cross. I can bear no more. I shall call the      Gentiles mine. They will glorify me with the Father and the Spirit, and I shall give them life eternal.

 We pray that our children will learn about, receive, give, and appreciate the mercy of God as they come home from their blessed Camp Nazareth experience this summer.  Likewise, after Holy Week, as we bask in the glow of our Lord’s Resurrection, let us share the grace of our Lord’s Resurrection with the people around us by showing them the mercy God has so richly bestowed upon us.  Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
64 Hershey Avenue
Lancaster, PA 17603

Phone: (717) 394-1735
Fax: (717) 394-0991


Weekday Office Hours: 8AM-4PM

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