Orthodox Observer - February 5, 1998



By Archbishop Spyridon

Beloved in the Lord:

The 34th Biennial Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress is fast approaching with the promise of renewing our commitments to our Greek Orthodox faith and to each other. This year, our theme — "One Faith, One Family, One Future to the New Millenium" reminds all of us that our unity in Christ is the prerequisite for the privilege of being the Church.

Our faith is one, because our God is One. He has revealed to us the mystery of our faith through His Church. He freely grants us this faith through the power of the All- Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22). When our lives are lived according to His commandments and we walk by faith, we realize "the unity of the faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit," as we pray in the Divine Liturgy. To live such a life is a great calling, even in a free and open society. Perhaps especially in a society such as ours, where almost everything is possible, but certainly not expedient, such faith is difficult to attain. It requires sacrifice and the willingness to pursue righteousness, to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and place our own desires aside. But with such faith, any obstacle can be overcome, even unto moving mountains.

Our family is one because our faith is one; there are no denominations within the Holy Orthodox Church. As the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians: "One Lord, One faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of us all." Each person in the Body of the Church plays a special and unique role in the family of God. Recognizing our roles, living in the fullness of our unique membership in the Church is truly an experience of grace, and an awesome responsibility.

One of the purposes of the Clergy-Laity Congress is to bring the family of our Archdiocese together, for together, we will find the solutions to the issues that confront us. In any family there are differences of opinion and judgment, yet in every family where love abounds, all the members know that they are valued and important to the whole. It is my fervent prayer that in our upcoming Clergy-Laity family gathering, the love of Christ, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, will abound even to overflowing.

Our future is one and only one, for only with unity can we bear witness to the everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and prove ourselves worthy of the sacred parakatatheke of the Orthodox Faith. On the night in which He gave Himself up for the life of the world, the Lord said: "By this shall all people know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

As we approach the year 2000, the New and Third Millenium of our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith, let us seek out together the vision that God has ordained for us. Let us hope in the future of our Holy Archdiocese here in America, and expand that future to embrace one another. Let us rejoice in the blessings of this land, and share our faith with all our neighbors, opening our hearts and minds and yes, even the doors of our Churches to let in whomever God is calling! And let us always be mindful of our Orthodox Family members in other lands, and struggle with them through prayer, fasting and making a conscious effort to know them and their needs.

My friends, I see a bright future for our Church, and this brightness has its source in the gift of faith and the practice of true agape. Although we are scattered "from sea to shining sea," although we now reflect the diversity that America embodies to rest of the world, we are one family. May the love of God so empower us, and the faith of the Orthodox Church so enrich us, that this coming Clergy-Laity Congress may be revealed not only as a warm family reunion where we celebrate the past, but a marshalling of all our powers, in order to re-dedicate ourselves as a united family to the mission and purpose of our Church for the future, the New Millenium.

[ Orthodox Observer - February 5, 1998 - p. 8 ]