By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
At the Service of Great Compline
Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church
Sterling Heights, Michigan
April 12, 2022
Your Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit,
Beloved clergy and devout parishioners of Saint John,
It seems “meet and right” to close out my pastoral visit to the Metropolis of Detroit with Great Compline, the service of closing a day. But the end of this visit is not and ending, but rather a beginning – a beginning of a long relationship with the wonderful faithful of this Holy Metropolis, many of whom I have had the privilege to meet these past days.
This week before Holy Week – called Κουφή Εβδομάδα – has not been ‘empty’ at all for me. My heart has been filled with so many expressions of love and esteem. And I thank all of you for your warm and gracious welcome.
This centenary year of our Sacred Archdiocese of America – as the leading Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – is a time for us to renew our bonds of connection and friendship throughout our National Church. This is a time for us to not only be in solidarity with one another, but to feel that solidarity with one another. For we are one family in Christ, one Omogeneia that shares the mission of the Church.
And what is that mission? Nothing else than to be the Body of Christ, honoring all our members and being in communion with each other. When I think of the Church, and I remember my small Greek Orthodox Community of Constantinople, I call to mind the words of our Lord Jesus:
Μὴ φοβοῦ τὸ μικρὸν ποίμνιον.[*]
Let the little flock not be afraid.
Although we were few in number, we were one community in Christ, under the loving eye our father in Christ, the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Here in the United States – as true in Michigan as anywhere – we may be more in number than in the Queen of Cities, but we are still a very small percentage of the population. The truth is that Orthodox Christianity is a minority religion in the United States.
Yet, just as there could be no Istanbul without Constantinople, there can be no Christianity of any kind without the Orthodox faith. We are the keepers of the memory of the Church, of the text of the New Testament and of the constitution of Christianity – the Ecumenical Councils.
We have a national mission and a mission to the Nation, to be the light on the lampstand, and the city set on the hill.[†] Our Saint Nicholas National Shrine, which is preparing to open in time for the Centennial Clergy-Laity Congress, is a symbol of this mission. And to accomplish it with God’s help, we must be unified.
That is why I have stressed the themes of “Legacy, Renewal, Unity” in this One Hundredth Year Anniversary of our Archdiocese. We may be a small Church in America, but our legacy goes well beyond the first immigrants who came here to build churches in the nineteenth century. Our Church goes all the way back to the Apostles and our Lord Himself.
Our renewal is essential to our future; for we have a responsibility to convey the meaning of our Church to the generations alive now, but who will also be the leaders of tomorrow.
Of course, the necessary ingredient for everything to work together is unity – that is, a unity that allows for diversity of opinion, but holds us together in solidarity of purpose. And a unity that celebrates our oneness in Christ, and allows for everyone to feel welcome in our Churches.
Therefore, my beloved Christians,
Μὴ φοβοῦ τὸ μικρὸν ποίμνιον!
Our Church in America is strong and will prosper in its next hundred years as it has in its first.
And so, let us go forward into this Holy Week with hearts filled with deep gratitude, and celebrate the Holy Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ with great joy and much thanksgiving.
May we always be graced to do so. Amen.
Photo Credits: Mario Mihas - CameraAction