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Greetings of Archbishop Spyridon in honor of Patriarch Ignatius

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Jul 15, 1999

Greetings Of His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon

Chairman of SCOBA

Read by His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Xanthos

 

in Honor of

His Beatitude IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch

 

July 11, 1999

 

Your Beatitude, Patriarch Ignatius of Antioch,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Reverend Clergy,

And Beloved Faithful,

 

On behalf of His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas and Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, I convey to Your Beatitude our warmest welcome on the auspicious occasion of this official visit to North America.

His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon cannot be with us today because of duties that require his presence at the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Therefore he has asked me to express to Your Beatitude his best wishes for this journey, along with his heartfelt condolences on the falling asleep of the beloved mother of Your Beatitude. The thoughts and prayers of all Orthodox Christians of America are with Your Beatitude at this time.

His Eminence has also requested of me that I deliver these remarks to Your Beatitude and this august assembly at this time, which he offers in his capacity as the chairman of SCOBA.

The significance of SCOBA for the Orthodox communities of America is enormous. For through the actions and consultations of this Conference of Canonical Bishops, the Orthodox communities in the Americas express visibly and emphatically, both to ourselves and to the society around us, that we are one in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. SCOBA is our living and personal affirmation that our unity in Christ is predicated above all else on our membership in the body of Christ through the Divine Mysteries of the Church, as we have received them in Holy Tradition from the hands and mouths of the Apostles, and through them from our Lord Himself.

Your Beatitude will witness on this journey around North America that SCOBA is a living testament to the fruitfulness and vitality of Holy Orthodoxy in the New World.

For Orthodoxy—"right worship," "proper glory"—is realized first and last through our reception of and participation in the one True Eucharist.

We as the Orthodox hierarchs of the Americas jointly affirm this foundational truth of our Church—in the words of the contemporary theologian Christos Yannaras—the "truth which defines and manifests the Church, that the Church is the gathering in the Eucharistic meal.

Not a foundation, not a religious institution, not a governing hierarchy, not building and offices and organizational arrangement. It is the people of God gathered in the breaking of the bread and the blessing of the cup." (Elements of Faith, 122)

The Eucharist is, has been, and will always be the one true existential realization of our unity with another and with the Orthodox Church throughout the world.

SCOBA, therefore, is in the truest sense a brotherhood. It is a brotherhood that is grounded in our continuity of faith and worship with all of Orthodoxy through our living links with the Mother Churches. For this reason we rejoice to behold Your Beatitude. For the entire history, antiquity, timeless message, martyric witness, and spiritual maturity of the Church of Antioch are brought into our midst through the visit of Your Beatitude. For what we learned first from the Scriptures, we understand now through our own experience—that it was in Antioch where the royal priesthood, the chosen people of God, the new sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah, the disciples of the Lord, were first called Christians.

Herein lies the integrity of SCOBA. Together we are striving to come to a communal realization of what it means to be a Christian in the complex society in which we live. Our integrity is to be found, not in any mere administrative arrangement, but in our mutual interdependence on one another through the loving exercise of the charismata, the spiritual gifts that have been granted to all of us individually and jointly.

The value of SCOBA is precisely in that it provides a vehicle by which the various Orthodox communities which have sprung up in the fertile soil of the Americas can interrelate, cooperate, and share our God-given goals and ministries in order to serve the common interests of all Orthodox Christians in this place.

While the value of SCOBA cannot be measured by worldly standards, it can indeed be gauged by the love which is expressed through one of its pre-eminent ministries—the Inter-Orthodox Christian Charities. Through this charitable and benevolent arm of SCOBA, the Orthodox faithful of the Americas have reached out in love and compassion to their brothers and sisters in Yugoslavia, Africa, Russia, and around the world.

SCOBA also provides a forum for fellowship and dialogue, for the mutual exchange of our common ideas, for the expression of our common vision, and for the resolution of our mutual challenges. In a land as vast, complex, diverse, dynamic, and fluctuating as ours, SCOBA constitutes the common ground and the terra firma for the Orthodox communities to provide support and strength to one another. Each one of the multiple jurisdictions here must serve the needs of its flock according to the special measure of pastoral insight and experience that are appropriate for each community of the one Faith. In this context, SCOBA also provides a means by which the broader societal issues that face our communities can be addressed effectively by the Church.

Although SCOBA may not have a "formal canonical standing," it nevertheless represents the standing canonical order for Orthodox Christians in the Americas, and therefore provides admirably for the good order of the Church to be maintained and ministered in the Apostolic manner—which is to say, in truth, in love, and in unity.

SCOBA manifests the essential unity of the Church, for SCOBA continually follows the order—the taxis—of the undivided Church as is has been established and is manifested throughout the world. Through SCOBA, our communities can aspire for and grow towards the maturity in Christ which we seek, the fullness of the measure of our faith.

In a land which is predominantly Christian but not Orthodox—one with a relatively short history as compared to the rest of the Orthodox world—the needs of our faithful are best met by preserving and adhering to the Church's good order in all things.

This fundamental reality of SCOBA is necessary for the healthy, proper, and faithful development of Orthodoxy in the New World. We are still relatively recent plantings of the Lord in this place. In terms of the parable from the Gospels, the seed of the Word is still being sown in our land, it is just now beginning to take root, and will, by the grace of God, in time bear good fruit for the harvest.

In terms of another parable, SCOBA serves as the branches which connect our faithful to the True Vine, the Lord Himself, to Whom we have been grafted through the ministry of the divinely inspired Apostles, who went forth from Jerusalem to Alexandria, Antioch, Byzantium, Thessalonica, Athens, and whose work has now reached even to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Your presence, therefore, Your Beatitude, is a priceless reminder to all of us who, enjoy the fruits of our fellowship and brotherhood in SCOBA, of the inestimable value of the ancient centers of our Faith. We know that the spiritual maturity and fruitfulness of the ancient Sees of the Church have been achieved through countless times of trial and suffering and martyrdom. Living as we do in a land where even the smallest minority can enjoy the greatest freedoms, we can only begin to comprehend the sacrifice and the dedication of our Mother Churches.

Your continued commitment and faith are truly an inspiration for all of us. Please accept our love, our admiration, our filial dedication and devotion. Our hearts and our doors are open to you. We welcome you with joy.

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