Message of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
to the Opening of the 44th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
(Boston, MA July 2, 2018)
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, our dear brother and concelebrant in the Holy Spirit, Your Eminences and Graces brethren metropolitans and bishops, reverend clergy, honorable parish and community representatives, esteemed Archons of the Mother Church, representatives of major institutions of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and all participants comprising this 44th Clergy-Laity Congress:
Grace be unto you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the sanctification of the All-Holy Spirit, together with our loving Patriarchal blessing and prayer.
In a world trapped by many impasses, “when the time had fully come” (Gal. 4:4), goodwill proceeded from heaven through the son and Word of God, Who assumed flesh, in an act of extreme philanthropy, showing us the Father and saving us from the fatal journey towards death through His Passion on the Cross and Resurrection. Until the second coming of the Lord, life in Christ provided the characteristics of faith, hope and love, of which, ultimately, only “the greatest of these, love,” remains an absolute and indisputable expression of our “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12) communion with God.
In the Church’s earthly journey, though, until that cherished time, we journey in faith and with faith, declaring our steady and steadfast destination toward the encounter with our hearts’ Beloved, our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. We Christians are “the ones who believe” (see 2 Thess. 1:10). Faith is, as aptly said. “a challenge, gift, talent, struggle and product of ‘sensory discipline’” (cf.Heb. 5:14), a “dynamic experience ,” not a “static assurance.” It is constantly tested; it is perfected at a moment when everything appears impossible; it is fulfilled at a time of fertile doubt; and, it culminates – with God’s inexpressible goodwill – in moments of temptation. In no way does it constitute an opportunity for idle rest and illusory or sentimental relations with God; but on the contrary, it encourages us to expend ourselves for the sake of the Church and Gospel to our last ounce of strength and blood, captivating our desire and guiding in faith and through faith to love. Finally, faith in Christ is never experienced without personal spiritual struggled and Christian labor; instead, it raises our hands in supplication and prayer toward God, even as at that very moment we are completely convinced that our entire struggle begins with God, is extended toward our neighbor as love, is blessed and returned to God in glorification, just as we witnessed and touched in His earthly life and were taught in the gospel words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Commander and perfecter of our faith.
Sadly, we often ascertain that this sacred understanding of faith is greatly challenged and arbitrarily interpreted by various trends in the spiritual life, ending up either as individualistic spirituality and indifference for the ecclesiastical community, or as a tool of fundamentalists who use faith selfishly to impose themselves to others. By contrast, authentic faith according to Christ generates creative powers and bears fruit in the lives of the faithful and in society. Faith is union with God and simultaneously union with our neighbor through “love from a pure heart”. (1 Tim. 1:5). Faith and love comprise an integral existential reality in the life of the Church, which constitutes the “miracle of the New” in the world.
The Mother Church of Constantinople – of which the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, together with its Metropolises in the United States, form a select Eparchy – has an inviolable obligation at all times and on every occasion to minister to Christ’s Truth that bears no innovation, as well as to promote and teach the genuine and unadulterated ecclesiastical ethos. At the Phanar, we learned how to walk and experience the Mystery of the Church in accordance to the faith transmitted to us by the Fathers, who preceded us in the practice of this God-given virtue. The faith of the Phanar and of its vigilant guardians of our ancestral tradition essentially constitutes a silent prayer of the heart, but at the same time a struggle, everywhere and always, for the witness of Christ, the Resurrection and the expectation of the “Kingdom of all.” The miracle of faith constitutes the core of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s witness, as well as the continuous and timeless desideratum, the “charming mystery” and the “foundation of love,” especially in times when even miracles resemble utopia to minds enslaved to rationalism.
This is why we fraternally congratulate Your Eminence, beloved Archbishop Demetrios of America, for selecting at such a critical moment in the journey of this Eparchy, which, the Mother Church entrusted to you with propitious hopes, a topic that is particularly fruitful for theological discussion, but also for practical application in the life of our God-fearing faithful. For faith without visible application and actualization in the daily arena is more like a philosophical attitude, a theoretical approach, but not a gift of divine Grace, such as faith that is authentic. Everything brought into the Church as if belonging to it, that is unable to find fertile ground in our spiritual and broader lives, is either wrongfully expressed or not derived from the Church, since the Church’s teaching is a way of life, a relationship, a life-giving communion with the Son and Word of God, who was incarnate our of love for the world.
As Patriarch of the faithful in America as well as throughout the sacred canonical jurisdiction of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, we cannot conceal our earnest concern for the unfortunate occurrences in this Eparchy of our Throne. We are not indifferent to these, but as we have been taught by God’ mercy, we are confident in a favorable outlook and better days, exercising our holy faith with discernment and patience, while standing with the holy clergy and the people of God, who – respectfully, lovingly, devotedly and gratefully – know how to relate to their Mother Church, which caringly and compassionately nurtures and protects their spiritual struggles and ecclesiastical integrity, while constituting a safety valve for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Therefore, from the martyric Phanar, this unwavering workshop of authentic faith in Christ, of “faith through love,” (Gal. 5:6) through our beloved representatives, the most reverend Metropolitans Apostolos of Derkoi and Maximos of Selymbria, we bless the deliberations of this Clergy-Laity Congress of the Holy Archdiocese of America and wish you every godly success and decisions grounded in Orthodox ecclesial tradition towards the healing of any aggrieved consciences and the relief of the Mother Church, which rejoices in seeing her children always journeying in faith, unity and love, for the glory of the Triune God, whose Grace and abundant mercy we pray with be with all of you.
Peace be with you and with us!