Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen!
During this Paschal season, our hearts are filled with the joy and light of our Lord’s Holy Resurrection. It is in this shared spirit of celebration that we continue our preparations for our 41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, which will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, July 1-5. It is also in the unity and communion that we share in the Risen Christ that we are strengthened and empowered to go and share with others a message of hope, renewal, and salvation, and to bear fruit in their lives as they experience the transforming power of God’s grace. This is what we are chosen and appointed to do, not only in the joy of Holy Pascha, but also each and every day of our lives. In our worship, teaching, and service, we are consistently offering the Gospel of truth and love, and we are following the command of God to go and bear fruit.
“We have been chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit.” To do this, the Gospel message had to be carried throughout the world, a sacred task we continue today. The primary means for doing this is through our worship. This is our priority as His children, people of faith who experience His presence, affirm divine truth, and offer a witness of the joy and peace we have in Him. Our worship is the greatest witness of God’s love. Thus, we are chosen and appointed by Him to go and bear fruit through our worship. When we combine this calling with the truth, beauty, and joy of our Orthodox services and with the sacramental life of the Church, our witness offers a complete and full testimony of the Gospel of salvation through Christ.
Our witness and our appointment by God to go and bear fruit are also fulfilled through teaching and our educational ministries. Our Lord directs us to go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). We are chosen by God to offer guidance for the spiritual growth and maturity of believers. We are appointed to engage with the critical issues of our times with instruction based on truth and on the priority of a relationship with God that sustains life. We are commissioned with the responsibility to teach our children and youth the ways of the Lord, the precepts and promises of Holy Scripture, and the vital traditions and practices of our faith—all of which bear great spiritual fruit in their lives and lead them to an abundant life in Christ.
We also bear fruit in the lives of others through the service we offer in the name of Christ. Our worship of God through the divine services and through the sacramental life of the Church leads us to go and offer compassionate service to any who are in need. The teaching and actions of Christ in the Gospel are a clear affirmation that we are chosen and appointed to respond to the challenges, suffering, tragedies, and struggles in our world. Around us we see the specific needs of the people in our communities. We know the burdens of others, and we have an opportunity to respond in a manner that will bring peace, assurance, healing, and hope. Together, we have the resources to offer dynamic and life-changing ministries that will bear spiritual fruit both now and for eternity.
The priority of worship, teaching, and service in our response to God’s calling to go and bear fruit should be the primary focus of our work as the Greek Orthodox Church in America. It also should be the focus of our Clergy-Laity Congress, so that we are able to plan, evaluate, and equip our Parishes, Metropolises, and National Ministries with the proper resources, staffing, and direction to accomplish the task God has given to us. Certainly, we are looking forward to a time of worship and fellowship when we gather in Arizona. However, we must also give careful consideration to how we are carrying out this divine calling in all of our work: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit (John 15:16). In the weeks before our Congress, I ask you to do this. Evaluate how through worship, teaching, and service we are accomplishing our commission to go and bear fruit. Consider what more can be done to reach lives and offer the grace of God. Pray for guidance and for our shared commitment to His work through our Church. And may we gather in a few months with an openness to God’s will, a resolve to increase our efforts, and a readiness to go and bear fruit that will bring life to others and glory to God.
With paternal love in the Risen Christ,
Archbishop of America