November 1, 2011
Feast of the Holy Unmercenaries Saints Cosmas and Damian
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,
On this feast of the Holy Unmercenaries Saints Cosmas and Damian, we commemorate two great healers and preachers who offered a faithful witness of Christ and the Gospel. This is evident when we read the Holy Scriptures and see how many references are made to the healing and preaching ministry of our Lord. In Matthew we read that Jesus went about all the cities and villages…preaching the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease among the people (9:35). Luke the Evangelist writes, He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who had need of healing (9:11).
This is why the ministry of the Holy Unmercenaries was the ministry of Christ. As they preached the Gospel and healed the sick, they did so with hearts of compassion for those in need. They gave of their gifts and abilities freely, seeking only the glorification of God and the response of faith in Christ. Their words and their touch were filled with the compassion of our Lord, bringing peace, comfort, and grace to the lives of those they served.
This same ministry of compassion is offered by our Ecumenical Patriarchate through its philanthropic programs to those in need. In the grace of God, the hierarchs, clergy, and parish and ministry leadership serve through the Baloukli Hospital and elder center and through other institutions and programs that assist orphans and the poor. Each day the needs of the elderly, sick, abandoned, and homeless are seen with compassion, and they are touched by hands offering healing of body and soul.
We are called to offer this same ministry of compassion in our parishes and through the programs and institutions of our Holy Archdiocese. We are also blessed to be able to support this vital work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate through the efforts of our National Ladies Philoptochos Society. Each year they lead us in assisting this philanthropic work, and on Sunday October 30 all of our parishes are asked to conduct a special collection for this purpose. This work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the leadership of our National Philoptochos Society and local chapters offer a faithful witness of the compassion of our Lord and emulate the beautiful service of Saints Cosmas and Damian. They also inspire all of us to see the multitudes around us who are in great need, both spiritually and physically, and to be filled with compassion through the presence and power of Christ in our lives. As the people of God, this wellspring of compassion should lead us to offer the healing and saving touch of the grace of God.
May we prayerfully consider a generous gift for the philanthropic ministries of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. May we continue our support for the ministries of our National Ladies Philoptochos Society and our local chapters, and may we be vigilant to respond in compassion to those in need, binding their wounds, offering comfort to their troubled souls, and guiding them to assurance in presence and love of Christ.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America