Patriarchal Message to the 41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
Jul 2, 2012
Prot. No: 398
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, beloved brother and concelebrant in the Holy Spirit; Most Reverend brother Metropolitans – members of the Holy Eparchial Synod; Right Reverend Bishops; reverend Presbyters and Deacons; honorable Archons; distinguished members of the Archdiocesan council, presidents and members of the Greek Orthodox communities, the National Philoptochos, and delegates all at the 41st Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: Grace and Peace from God and our personal prayers and blessings.
“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). We offer glory and gratitude to the Lord, above all, that He has deemed us worthy once again to address these fraternal and paternal words of love. Moreover, we convey to you the blessing and prayer of the Holy and Great Mother Church of Christ, whose clergy and chosen members you are blessed to comprise in order to serve the Orthodox flock in the United States of America, under the pastoral responsibility and vigilant care of your Most Reverent Archbishop Demetrios, our beloved brother and concelebrant in the Lord, as well as his colleagues, the Metropolitans, Bishops, presbyters, deacons, and all other community leaders and lay members in the holy territory of the sacred vessel of America within the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Your Eminence, beloved brother Archbishop of America, we address to you – and through you to the entire Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – our whole-hearted greeting and fervent patriarchal blessing for the diligent organization and realization of your 41st Clergy Laity Congress. This significant assembly of the community provides the forum to offer, in one spirit and one heart, prayers and thanks to our Lord, the giver of all good things, for all that He bestows upon us in His goodness and mercy. At the same time, it is an opportunity to study, examine, and consider, the various issues and matters that concern this Holy Eparchy, its faithful people, the individual Communities, and numerous Institutions, particularly the Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston.
Beloved brother Archbishop, the established institution of the Clergy Laity Congresses, organized by your wise predecessors, and especially by our predecessor, the late Patriarch Athenagoras, and afterward by the late Archbishop Iakovos (Coucouzis), with whom we shared the same birthplace and who proudly honored the Throne of this Eparchy for over three decades, contributing immensely to the ministry of unity, organization, and progress, in many areas of this great Eparchy of our Ecumenical Throne.
The theme of your clergy laity congress is “Chosen and Appointed by God to go and Bear Fruit”, based on the words of our Lord: “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and to bear fruit” (John 15:16).
Our mission and obligation as Christians to bring fruit worthy of our calling should rouse us to search for many and diverse fruits. There are two distinct directions of work that lye before us. First, we must seek fruits in depth: fruits of spiritual cultivation and virtue, fruits of love toward God and humanity, fruits of holiness, wisdom and all virtues. Second, we must seek fruits in breadth: by attracting our neighbors to Christ, who either know nothing about Him or else have been insufficiently and wrongly informed about Him.
The fruits in depth are cited by Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians (Chapter 5:22-23), “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” In order to bear such fruits, our effort and struggle should be constant. For without these we are not good Christians and, therefore, are unable to attract our brothers and sisters to Christ, as we are called to do.
Our Holy Orthodox Church has always been missionary. It has always preached and continues to preach our Risen Lord Jesus Christ as the savior and redeemer of the world, always welcoming in its embrace and always opening its gates to all people of other faiths.
As you will know from the history of our Orthodox tradition, our Holy Mother Great Church of Christ of Constantinople, the Church of Christ’s Poor, the martyric Phanar, brought Christianity to the Slavic peoples through Saints Cyril and Methodios, Equal to the Apostles, who were born in Thessalonica. The same Church also offered the Christian truth, way and life to all peoples and continues its missionary endeavors to this day in all corners of the earth, including the countries of Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia, and Europe.
In this sense, your Holy Archdiocese of America, which is comprised of large organized Communities, with magnificent properties and Churches, with abundant facilities and community centers, as well as numerous charitable Institutions, constitutes and indeed is the appropriate body to attract to Christ and to His Orthodox Church the people of this vast and affluent American continent, many of whom may have heard and learned about Christ, but nevertheless remain indifferent to Him.
Of course, we do not overlook the efforts of the other Orthodox Communities established in America. However, we emphasize once again that all the members of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America must pay close attention to their obligation to open the gates of your hearts to all those in America desiring to know Christ and His Orthodox Church. This would be an immense missionary achievement, which as a wholesome fruit will nourish the Church. If we do not produce good fruits in this domain, we run the risk of being characterized as a fruitless fig tree which would die for lack of bearing fruit. Introversion is good when it relates to self-criticism; but it is illegitimate and unacceptable when it overly preoccupies and prevents us from opening our Church to those desiring to know and enter it.
All of us in the most Holy, Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne are certain, while we personally are aware – in as much as we are familiar with the Orthodox community affairs in America, as well as lovingly and proudly follow the continual progress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese under the illumined spiritual guidance of the worthy and abundantly charismatic and gifted, virtuous and venerable brother Archbishop Demetrios – that all of you understand and appreciate that the bearing of fruit, with which your clergy laity congress is concerned, must indeed be two-fold: in depth and in breadth.
If we consider both of these dimensions of bearing fruit in Christ, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be abundantly bestowed upon us, and we shall see this local church revived and rejuvenated as it advances toward new successful achievements.
Our troubled world, particularly in the United States of America, expects much from you because it considers your mission as heavenly and divine. You can readily see that, on a global level, political and social structures and ideologies are crumbling, leaving peoples’ souls in despair and hunger with regard to truth of divine knowledge. Since, by the Grace of God, all of you have been blessed to be honorable members of the Orthodox Church, many of you dressed with the garment of Archpriesthood and Priesthood, do not disappoint those who look to you with great expectation.
Most reverend and most honored beloved brother, Archbishop Demetrios; most reverend and right reverend brother Hierarchs; beloved Fathers and children in the Lord; “Holy partners in a heavenly calling” (Hebrews 3:1):
Unfortunately, we do not have the spiritual joy of physically participating in the deliberations of your clergy laity congress. However, we are sending you, as our Patriarchal Representative, our dearly beloved brother and concelebrant, His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto, who will personally convey the blessing and positive sentiments of the Mother Church and ourselves to all of you collectively and individually. As for us, we whole-heartedly, fraternally, and paternally express the thanks, gratitude, satisfaction, and deserved praise of the Mother Church for all that has been accomplished in this vineyard of the Lord from the very beginning and especially during the last two years since the convocation of your previous congress. We shall pray for your daily spiritual progress and rejoice as we learn about this from your Most Reverend Archbishop.
May our Lord, who rose from the dead, deem you all worthy of sharing the heavenly and spiritual table of sacrifice in the Heavenly Jerusalem, with all the Saints.
May the Grace of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, through the fervent supplications of our Lady Theotokos, the Honorable Forerunner John the Baptist, as well as Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, protect all of you, granting you health in body and soul, as well as illuminating you always to do that which is pleasing to the Lord.
“Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have and undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen” (Ephesians 6:23-24).