Protocol 144/12

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Feast of the Holy Unmercenaries, Saints Cosmas and Damian, commemorates the Apostolic ministry of these two champions of faith and love and calls each of us to follow the exhortation of Christ in our service to others.  When our Lord sent out His disciples early in His ministry, He said to them, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:7-8).  The disciples had received the grace of God.  They had been given the power and ability to do miraculous deeds.  With these divine blessings, our Lord directed them to go and give freely to anyone in need.

This foundation of true ministry in the name of Christ has been the mission of the Church and her faithful down through the centuries.  In following the command of our Lord, Saints Cosmas and Damian cast out demons and healed the sick by the power given to them through the Holy Spirit.  They gave freely, regardless of the wealth or standing of the person in need.  Their care extended to all of God's Creation, even to animals, and through their offering souls and bodies were healed, and many found comfort through faith.

The witness of the Apostles and of these Saints guides our response to the Lord's command, Freely you have received, freely give.  As our Creator, He has freely given to us life and great potential.  As our Redeemer, He freely offered Himself so that we might be victorious over sin and death.  As our Lord, He freely gives to us the power to offer a witness of His grace and to see the blessed fruit of faith produced in the lives of others.  As Christ freely gives to us, we freely offer to others without hesitation, without conditions, but with a deep and genuine love for their life and well-being in relationship with God.

This offering of service and the focus on bringing healing and comfort to others is the mission of the philanthropic ministries of our Ecumenical Patriarchate.  In a very challenging environment the Ecumenical Patriarchate, our Mother Church, cares for the needs of the elderly, the sick, the poor and orphans through the Baloukli Hospital and elder center and through other ministries and programs.  This vital work is supported by our National Ladies Philoptochos Society through a special appeal, and on Sunday, November 4 our local Philoptochos chapters will lead our parishes in collecting an offering for the philanthropic ministries of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  This is a blessed opportunity to offer freely of the material blessings we have received from God, so that others may receive the spiritual and physical healing they need.  I ask you kindly to give generously in response to this appeal.  Through your offering of love and assistance, the Apostolic witness of our Ecumenical Patriarchate will be strengthened and the level of care will be expanded and enhanced.

May your answer to this specific call always reveal your willingness to give freely just as Christ has given so much to all of us.

With paternal love in Him,

Archbishop of America

Archive: Archbishop Demetrios' Encyclicals