(as delivered by His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia)
October 17, 2019
Your Eminence, Metropolitan Antony,
Your Eminence, Archbishop Daniel,
Most reverend Hierarchs, Beloved brothers and sisters,
I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is and ever shall be among us. In spirit and prayer, I am also with you as you assemble for your 22nd Regular Sobor at the Metropolia Center. While I am regretfully unable to be with you in person, I have asked His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia to attend and present my heartfelt message and sincere greetings.
The theme of this year’s Sobor – “Lord, I love the Beauty of Your House and the Place where Your Glory dwells” (Ps. 26:8) – is unique and timely. It is unique insofar as it highlights the importance of personal presence and particular place in the context of a boundless and eternal God. For us as Orthodox Christians, as we pray the words of this psalm, we acknowledge and affirm our presence in the context of liturgy, where we stand physically in communion with one another and spiritually in communion with God and the Saints. In this respect, we find ourselves in the beauty of heaven on earth and in the temple of divine glory.
In other words, the theme of your Sobor confirms the necessity of being together – united as human beings in a specific place – in order to participate in the union and communion of the Body of Christ. Such unity is impossible and inaccessible when we are not gathered together in one and the same place. This is why we are assembled this evening. And this is why we concelebrate the Divine Liturgy as Orthodox Christians under the spiritual care of the Mother Church of Constantinople. We are called to love one another so that with one mind we may confess: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity consubstantial and undivided.
However, as I have already mentioned, the theme of your Sobor is not only unique; it is also very timely. For, even as we celebrate together in this joyful banquet, what is foremost in our minds is the precious unity that we share as Orthodox Christians here in the United States of America. In this regard, we are obliged to call to mind the growth and development of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, which was founded ten years ago at the recommendation of His All-Holiness our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and with the endorsement of the Primates of all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.
Your Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel have proved vital members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America since its establishment. The Assembly has truly great potential, but it needs our ongoing support and nurturing in order to realize this potential. And I am not referring to material or financial support, which is obviously critical to the implementation and success of any vision. I am talking about the need for all of us Orthodox Christians – and for all of our Orthodox Churches and jurisdictions here in the United States of America – to be and to work together. I am speaking of the responsibility to persist in our efforts for greater unity, despite any and all external temptations or challenges. We cannot allow what is happening elsewhere to distract us from what is in our hands.
This is precisely why your Sobor’s theme is opportune. For if we truly “love the beauty of the Lord’s house” and if we genuinely desire to be in the same “place where His glory dwells,” then we cannot permit politics and nationalism – what our Church has historically and repeatedly condemned as “ethnophyletism” to separate us from one another and ultimately from the love of Christ. Instead, we must instead be like Jacob, who “woke up from his sleep and said: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it! … How wonderful and beautiful is this place! For it is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.’” (Genesis 28:16-17).
Dear friends, the unity of the Orthodox Church is in our hands. What will we do about it? The unity of the Orthodox Church here in the United States is in your hands. What will you do about it? Because if we respond to our call and mandate to work for greater unity, if we realize our duty and obligation to present a united witness to the world around us, then we shall truly experience the beauty and glory of God in our midst and in all places of His dominion.
May God bless all of you in your deliberations. And may God bless you and your families all the days of your life.