In Our Little Church in the Mountains
By: Father Iakovos Fitzpatrick
Upon the first Hierarchal Visit of His Eminence Toni Assumption of the Theotokos in Windham, New York
On this blessed day let’s thank the Lord our God, the Holy Trinity, and the Most Holy Theotokos “who’s little church in the mountains” we are blessed to serve in before the Lord, and here, in “the least amongst the cities of Judah” we are honored with a visit from our new and already beloved Archbishop and Father Elpidophoros, the bearer of hope.
How did an obscure and far away church hidden in the beautiful Catskill Mountains receive a visit on this most Holy Feast of Pentecost? Thank God, who hears the prayers of His children from the least to the greatest, from the more humbled and obscure, to the more famous and magnificent. Thank you, Σεβασμιότατος (Your Eminence), for coming here, and especially in the midst of this great and very lonely struggle that we have endured of late. We were in the desert, but now have found a wellspring of water.
Ευχαριστώ, Σεβασμιότατος (Thank you, Your Eminence), also for coming to serve here in the land of America. From day one when you said, “My heart is ready,” you applied yourself to travel this vast land, to know your flock personally, to embrace the whole of the Orthodox Christian people in your care and under the omophorion of His All Holiness, our Patriarch Bartholomew, unique among all Patriarchs and ecumenical.
From day one you struggled to run the race and keep your promise while we marveled at your stamina.
We marveled at the philoxenia, and largeness of heart, which lovingly sought to meet with each of your priests over a meal in your house and to be asked penetrating questions to unlock the character of heart.
We also marveled that you continued this pastoral journey during our present time of pestilence, and putting yourself at risk for your flock, like the good shepherd.
We also marveled that your love, first for your own family - the Greek Orthodox - doesn’t stop there, but arches over all, as you met and established respectful relations with both Jewish and Catholic, and other faith communities, in this pluralistic and most diverse land of many creeds and ethnicities, where we live side by side in tolerance. But you won also my heart personally, Σεβασμιότατε,, to march with our African American fellow citizens in their struggle to be treated with equality and dignity in a country, which is founded on equal justice under the law. We remember, with holy nostalgia, when Archbishop Iakovos, the son of Imvros, bravely marched with the great Martin Luther King Jr., always ahead of his time.
A child of Constantinople, of which Syrians, and Armenians, Europeans and Slavic races, all combined as kings and patriarchs in our glorious past, ecumenical and unique among the Patriarchates.
Looking out your window now upon the vestige of Rome here, and where the eagle yet flies, amongst her far off children in Manhattan and the New York area, where more than any other country, we live the symphony of pluralism, of the many one,
“e Pluribus unem,” as much as of our fallen human nature could, with its stubborn flaws and self centeredness. And we marvel with glory, that God has chosen you, not just to preside over us, but that you could love us with all our flaws and failings and idiosyncrasies, and some virtues also.
May God give strength to thy right hand to steer the ship of the εκκλησία (Church) and may the Holy Spirit guide us as we sail into the future.
Thank you, Your Eminence!