Farewell Remarks of Archbishop Iakovos Upon His Retirement in 1996

Grand Banquet, Clergy-Laity Congress, July 3, 1996

The beautiful Day which lasted almost 37 years has reached its end. The sunset is brilliant, as I can read it in your eyes. The night will be short, as are the nights of the summer. And the dawn will rise tomorrow upon another Day. It is for this day that I pray together with you. I want you to be happy, to enjoy the light, to walk in it. I will be terribly unhappy if you ever lose the sight of tomorrow.

Finish your each day with the reassuring truth that tomorrow is another day. A day unsure as it may be, but a day which is yours with all the brilliance of its sun, with all its flowers and birdsongs, and all the uncertainties, the fears, the anxieties and the hopes, as well. Remember, that you also have to make it easier to accept each day, to dissipate any clouds that may threaten to darken the sun. Do not allow the darkness to envelop your soul. When you see it approaching, you keep it at a distance with your Christian courage and determination. There are so many blessings surrounding you every day. Enjoy them; rejoice in them all. The Heavens above are always blue for those who can turn the eyes of their soul towards them. And the nights for those who believe in God will be adorned with silver rays.

And now, after these general paternal reminders and remarks, walk boldly toward the third millennium, reassured by your Orthodox faith. As you pass its threshold, look at the sun; let it take care of the shadows that follow you. The Sun of righteousness will guide your steps towards the values of Christianity: The hope, the life and the love that will enable you to hold fast on what is yours: Your faith!

Orthodoxy is a religion and theology that places no boundaries or barriers along the way of those who search for happiness in unity, in peace, and in justice. Orthodoxy will one day, and hopefully soon, rediscover its essential oneness and disavow hunger for power, ethnic superiority and secularism which leads it to unchurchly ambitions. Orthodoxy must definitely identify itself as a religion that leans over all people with genuine compassion and declare that its chief concern is to gather and unify all those who drifted away from Christian truth.

Christianity in the light of the upsurging of religions must become once again a robust religious movement capable of touching all human souls. Missionary orders that look for the increase of numbers alone, owe it to themselves to place their mission in the hands of Christ who has said to care "for the least of my brethren" (Matt. 25:40).

We, in the Americas, strengthened by the martyrdom and martyria of the Great Church of Constantinople and the ancient churches of the East, as well, will continue to grow in the truth and beauty of the Christian spirit, as truly ecumenically minded, being concerned and committed to peace with all religions and to the eradication of bigotry, discrimination, injustice, violence and racial hatred.

The march in Selma, Alabama, will continue to pave the way from which we shall never deviate along with the frontiers of unity and social justice. Ours is a commitment to true Christianity, to true justice, to the liberation of people still oppressed, and to true peace, the one founded upon respect of life and of each other, as we declare in our Pledge of Allegiance.

And so, my beloved, unafraid, armored with all the spiritual weapons of legitimate opposition, we will march forward to a new millennium and a new world, having rolled up our sleeves and ready to rebuild our human society. True, we will find critics, even opponents, even enemies, even faults and errors in our own thinking and the way we understand the immensity of our task, but nothing should ever discourage us or turn us into deserters of the new front. We are called by our Church and country to bravely stand and combat whatever is untrue, dishonest, unchristian or inhuman. So let us march forward, boldly and with definite resolve to win. The moral victory and the new century will be yours.

Archbishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America