Remarks from the Rev. Protopresbyter Iakovos Fitzpatrick in Windham, NY at the Conclusion of the Divine Liturgy
Glory to God in the Holy Trinity, who though we are here in the mountains of Windham — indeed, amongst “the least in the cities of Judea” — today, are gifted by the mercy of God to receive this visit from you, our chief shepherd and Archbishop.
Honestly, when I had heard that you had promised to baptize the young George-Nektarios — the fruit of the priest Neophitos and my daughter Catherine — I thought within myself, “what a wonderful gesture.“ But within myself I was also a doubting Thomas, thinking “with all that His Eminence has on his plate, how will he find time to come?” Yet, now, like Thomas, I must also exclaim that you are a man of your word, who though continually beset with great matters, leaves not aside the more humble, yet, stridently joyful moments in the lives of us your children begotten in Christ.
How much do I enjoy this lesson you teach us, dear Archshepherd, and how important it is for us to see and practice — we, who are called to be mothers and fathers, leaders and mentors...Though life presses us, and the trials that have befallen us create clouds of stress; though great matters of economy and leadership in uncertainty swirl around us; though authority be extended from North to South from the Atlantic to the Pacific; we must not lose touch with the simplicity of our life in Christ.
Peacefulness, through prayer, in the midst of turmoil, ever attentive to the outstretched hand of both child and elder, is our eternal aim...both for the dignitary and for the least of our brethren, wherein Christ Himself is found hidden — He who turns the universe with a quickening nod. Who placed upon Himself the garments of our humanity and walked in the midst of our humiliations. Who sought out the paralytic at the well of Siloam and disdained not the woman with the issue of blood. Who rebuked his disciples when thronged by the children saying “let the little children come to me...for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
My beloved Archshepherd, please permit me to say aloud publicly something that is personal. Sometimes, we, in our country, we, who have so much, can in fact be blinded to the subtleties of character in the person presented before us. I, too, must often catch myself and dispel hasty judgements — most especially the poisons of cynical thinking, which seem to be endemic in the modern age. Especially regretful are the many snowballs that have been hurled in Your Eminence's direction by both the super Orthodox as well as by the vacuous cynics and online bombasts. I personally feel deeply embarrassed. Why must we always poison the well that we drink from and speak unseemly and faithless words in the presence of those who believe in simplicity, corrupting the souls of the innocent? Why do we teach this also to our children? Why are our judgements so harsh and merciless, when we ourselves are in dire need of God's mercy and forgiveness in this sinful cancel-culture? And why do we even think we deserve someone to be perfect, when our own inflated sense of self is so delusional and shallow and void of Godly love?
Indeed, I myself am no one and of no importance. But only the least of the priests of the Lord and His Holy church. However, in spite of that, at least I can sling a stone at this giant and say to Your Eminence that I am truly sorry. Please forgive us, and don’t ever lose the heart that you carried from Constantinople to the shores of America, which spoke aloud to all: "My heart is ready, O Lord.” Thank you so very much for remembering my daughter, Presvytera Catherine, Fr. Neophitos and, of course, the newly-illumined George-Nektarios.