Introduced in 1983, the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival provides Greek Orthodox teenagers the opportunity to write and talk about their faith, according to Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Oratorical Festival Program begins at the parish level and is divided into three divisions:
- Elementary Division (local festival only) for students in grades 4–6.
- Junior Division for students in grades 7–9.
- Senior Division for student in grades 10–12.
The top speakers in the Junior and Senior Divisions advance to the district level. Two finalists in each district division represent the district at the Metropolis Oratorical Festival. The top speaker in each metropolis division is then selected to participate in the Archdiocese Finals, which is hosted by a different metropolis each year.
Northeast Cobb student Athena Eleftheriou entered and won the Junior Division of the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival at in March with the following writing:
Many times in the New Testament, Jesus is showed healing disabled people. Christ is an equal opportunity healer. He helped men, women, children, the elderly, and non-Jews, alike. Christ noticed people as whole beings. Jesus restored people to health, both physically and spiritually, regardless of it being the Sabbath or if the person was the enemy. As Christians, it is important that we follow in Christ’s footsteps by helping disabled people no matter who they are or what kind of disability they may have.
Sympathy, sorrow, and empathy are some emotions one might feel for someone who is handicapped. Although we recognize disability as a physical or mental condition, it can also be a spiritual one. Doctors may help us of our physical disabilities, but not our spiritual ones. Only Christ can because he is the physician of our souls. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, is a prime example of someone with a spiritual disability. One can be healed from a spiritual handicap through prayer, forgiveness, and redemption.
Men like Itzhak Pearlman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Andrea Bocelli are examples of men with physical disabilities. Itzhak Pearlman is a notable violinist, who had polio at the age of four. President Roosevelt also had polio, yet he led our nation through one of the worst times in American history. Most Americans never even knew that he was paralyzed. Andrea Bocelli has been blind since he was twelve years old and is an award-winning singer. What these men have in common is not their disability, but their amazing capability; to rise above expectation and be recognized as whole.
Kyle Maynard is an author, motivational speaker, athlete, and entrepreneur. Recently, he crawled to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Kyle was born with a condition known as congenital amputation, which means he was born without the lower half of all of his limbs. Most people would never consider climbing this mountain, even with all four limbs. This man had the determination to climb to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa. His beliefs in God and himself have allowed him to accomplish this feat. Christ heals people by telling them that their faith has healed them. It is quite obvious that without faith one is truly handicapped.
The following is a quote from Helen Keller, “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” This can explain how someone can touch without feeling and think without understanding. Helen Keller was alluding to spiritual handicaps. In current society, there are many obstacles that lead to our spiritual infirmities. Drugs, alcohol, violence and peer pressure are a few examples.
It is said that with God all things are possible but without God all things are permissible. You see, in Godless societies mass killings occur. For example, Stalin was noted for killing over 30 million of his own people. Mao Zedong was responsible for killing about 80 million of his own countrymen. Hitler was infamous for murdering 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians and about 1 million Gypsies. The total death count is 137 million people. What all these dead have in common are leaders who were spiritually disabled. If God were present in the lives of these leaders, the systematic murder of all these people would have been avoided.
We are our brother’s keeper. If our brother is spiritually handicapped, it is our responsibility to help heal him so tragedies like the previously mentioned never occur again. The physical existence of someone is roughly about 80 years but the spiritual existence is eternal. Therefore, it would behoove us to focus on our spiritual existence than a temporary physical existence and use God’s gifts to help our human family. It is easier to spot a physical disability than a spiritual one. To heal a spiritual disability takes compassion, patience and understanding. These are the tools that Christ gives us to work his miracles.