To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Day and Afternoon Schools, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and all devout Christians of the Holy Archdiocese of America
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice."
I greet you with paternal love and with fervent prayer for your peace, welfare, and unity on the occasion of the completion of my first month as your Archbishop. As I begin, by the grace and the will of God, my sacred ministry among you, entrusted to me by our Ecumenical Patriarchate, I call to mind the words of the Apostle Paul, who commends us at all times to the evangelical calling to rejoice. His two-fold injunction"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice"defines the life of faith that we now live by the grace of the Son of God, a life of blessings multiplied through the fellowship with God and our fellow man that we experience in Christ.
These apostolic words, "Rejoice in the Lord," are an immediate reality for me, moreover, because of the overwhelming reception that you gave me upon my arrival as your new Archbishop. In truth, I was deeply impressed by the kindness that you demonstrated. Your cards and letters and embraces, your loving words and deeds have moved me deeply, so that I cannot find words to express my gratitude. Glory be to God for the joy and grace He constantly bestows on us! As I assume the weighty responsibility of this diakonia in your midst, I am constantly encouraged by your positive disposition, your willingness to be of assistance, and your spirit of Christian charity and reconciliation. May the Lord our God richly reward you for your kindness towards me and towards one another.
This inaugural month of my pastoral ministry has been occupied with many important matters of administration. At all times, though, it is necessary to carry out the work of the Church with a view to the future-not just to the coming month or year, but to the new millenium that lies ahead. For it is not enough to think about our plans and aspirations only in terms of the immediate future, because everything we do has consequences that extend unto time unknown. We must be mindful of the great potential that we havewith every deed and wordto affect the lives of those who come after us.
Our capacity to influence the future is neither limited nor predetermined. At this critical juncture in human history, we daily hear various kinds of forecasts about the future. Some predict doom, while others project a bright future full of promise. The fact of the matter, however, is that our destiny is a book waiting to be written. Each day that lies ahead is like a blank sheet, one whose contents depend on the quality of our works, our prayer, and our willingness to receive the grace of Almighty God. Let us then put aside all unprofitable prognostication about the future and commit ourselves to the labor of the Gospel.
Let me repeat my plea to all of you to strive for the further cultivation and growth of our Orthodox faith and for the preservation of our precious cultural heritage, to extend the range of our love for our fellow human beings, and earnestly to maintain our God-given unity in the body of Christ, which is the Church. Joined together by the threefold cord of faith, philanthropy, and fidelity to the One Holy Church, we shall never be separated from the God Who has called us to bear the sacred name of "Orthodox Christians."
Marching forward together in this dynamic faith, unlimited love, and unbreakable unity, we cannot help but chant hymns of praise and adoration to the Triune God, Whose grace has saved us and blessed us so richly. Thus shall we fulfill the Apostle's saying, rejoicing in the Lord and again rejoicing evermore, until the day that we join the song of the angelic throngs (Rev. 7:12), saying: Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever. Amen.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America