His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Archpastoral Exhortation to the Metropolis of New Jersey Clergy Laity Assembly and Philoptochos Convention
May 15, 2023
The Venetian – Garfield, New Jersey
Your Grace, Bishop Apostolos of Medeia,
Father Christoforos Oikonomidis, Chancellor of the Metropolis,
Father George Chioros, President of Clergy Syndesmos,
Archon Peter Arbes, Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Council,
Mrs. Eleni Constantinides, of the Metropolis Philoptochos,
Esteemed Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Honored Members of Leadership 100,
Dear Sisters of the Metropolis Philoptochos,
Esteemed Delegates to the Clergy Laity Assembly,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
Once again we are assembled for the Clergy Laity Assembly of the Holy Metropolis of New Jersey. I have just returned from a pilgrimage to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and I would share some of the inspiration that all of the pilgrims – received, from His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore, from the faithful clergy, and the lay leaders we encountered.
For this ancient and venerable Church – founded by the Apostle and Evangelist Mark himself, has embraced a healthy and positive zeal for mission throughout Africa, despite the many and arduous challenges She faces.
As we engage today on behalf of our Metropolis, with many reports and useful information, I will uphold the example of our Alexandrian brethren, to inspire our labors to even greater heights. They serve an entire continent, and for their fidelity to the canonical order of the Church, they have endured an uncanonical invasion of their rightful ecclesiastical domain by the Russian Church. This unfortunate state of affairs speaks to the righteousness of the Alexandrian cause; for they suffer for standing with our Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate, by supporting the independence and autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Against such pressures, our problems cannot loom very large, for we are blessed to live in a country of freedom and prosperity. And the Metropolis of New Jersey is a network of successful communities who receive great benefits, merely by being American.
Therefore, today as we consider all the items on our agenda, I want all of us to keep our Alexandrian brothers and sisters in mind. They do not allow a paucity of resources to keep them from ministry. They not only make do with what they have, they multiply the effects of their ministries through their love and devotion. They take the little, and they turn it into the great. Much like our Lord Jesus Christ did when He fed the Five Thousand.
Everyone remembers the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the only miracle to occur in all Four Gospels. There are two ways to look at it. First, we can easily say that for the Lord, Who created Heaven and Earth, to multiply five loaves and two fishes to feed the thousands, would have surely have been simple. But there is another way to think about this miracle.
Perhaps, when the young boy offered all that he had – and I note here the detail from the Gospel of John, that the boy’s loaves were of the poorest quality – perhaps the people who witnessed his pure offering were inspired. Perhaps many of those thousands had brought food with them, that day, but were keeping it hidden only for themselves. When they witnessed the generosity, and the Lord’s blessing, their hearts were freed to be generous with others. I am not saying that one version is better or worse than the other. But I think you will all agree with me. We can consider them both miracles.
Therefore, when I consider the wonders of community building, of missionary activity, and all the superb efforts of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on behalf of all Africa, I see a similar miracle. They are doing so very much with so very little. And here in the God-saved Metropolis of New Jersey, we are no different, except our resources are certainly more abundant. What is needed is to maintain and augment our generosity of spirit, our capacities to love and forgive, our commitment to philanthropy and compassion. The blessings of this Metropolis are self-evident: outstanding clergy and lay leadership, established communities, and a desire to live the Gospel.
Let us then, my beloved sisters and brothers in the Risen Lord, take inspiration from our brethren across the sea. And let us apply ourselves at every stage of Church life with the same passion and the energy that is transforming Africa.
We have every advantage. We have every opportunity. With God’s help, and through the intercessions of His Holy Mother and those of the Metropolis’ heavenly patron, Saint John Chrysostom, we shall succeed.