OF HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
THE DELEGATES AND PARTICIPANTS OF THE
36TH BIENNIAL CLERGY LAITY CONGRESS
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Protocol No. 507
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Supremely Honored Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, beloved brother in the Holy Spirit, and concelebrant of our Modesty: Grace be to Your Eminence and peace from God.
It is with much love, affection, joy and honor that we address the wholehearted salutation of our Modesty and of the Mother Church, the Great Holy Church of Christ, to you, to their Eminences, the Hierarchs of your Holy Archdiocese, to the Clergy and the Laity who participate in its 36th Clergy Laity Congress, and to all its people who bear the name of Christ and are represented in it.
We express our deep satisfaction for the main theme chosen for this Congress, "Offering Our Orthodox Faith to Contemporary America," because it reveals the high sense of responsibility which imbues the body of the local Church in offering to all their fellow human beings in America the treasure of the Orthodox Faith, which the Providence of God has entrusted to you.
Indeed, according to the Orthodox Faith, the personal salvation of each individual presupposes his desire and care for the salvation of the whole world. The Orthodox Church, faithfully following the will of the Lord our God who loves and wishes that all human beings be saved and come to the realization of the truth, has always been, from the first days of its inception to the present, a missionary Church open to all.
The Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea and of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople named the One and Holy Church of Christ "catholic" and "apostolic," because it has the intent and the possibility to include completely all human beings, it is based on the Holy Apostles and the Apostolic succession, and it continues the Apostolic work. An example of this, well known to all, is the Christianizing of the Slavs by St. Cyril and St. Methodios who were commissioned by the Mother Church of Constantinople. There are, of course, many more innumerable missions to most of the peoples that were accessible at that time, some of whom responded positively, whereas others rejected the preaching of Christ. This missionary offering of the Orthodox Church, in general, is continued today to the peoples of Asia, Africa and Australia, who are geographically far from us; and the peoples of Europe and America, who are closer.
More particularly, with regard to the offering of Orthodoxy in America, i.e. in the land of tremendous freedom of movement of ideas and of religious creeds, and also of toleration of every personal religious perception, your experience is most useful and must be worthily utilized. Nevertheless, it should not be overlooked that such an offering is the work of God, though it takes place through human beings, and, therefore, God should have the first and the last word in everything that is connected with it. He should be its inspiration and its purpose and not another personal or corporate aspiration. Unselfishness, then, on the part of those who offer the word of God is the supreme prerequisite of the divine blessing and of the success of such an endeavor. This is innate, of course, in the notion of offering.
Such being its theme and such also its disposition of offering, the 36th Clergy Laity Congress that has been summoned is in harmony with the spirit and ethos of our Orthodox Faith and Church and has the complete prayer and blessing of our Modesty and of the entirety of the Holy and Great Church of Christ for every success and good accomplishment in its proceedings.
It is certainly the case that all its participants have come to it in the name of Christ and with the purpose to seek His Holy Will and not to impose their own views. Therefore, there will be no winners and no losers, but only winners, if indeed the Will of God, that is being sought by all, is found and prevails.
God's primary will, as we all know, is our sanctification, for only by being sanctified we will truly see Christ (cf. Hebrews 12:14) and will enjoy eternal life even in our present earthly condition. Eternal life does not begin after death. It begins in the present life and, to be exact, at the moment when the believer is united with Christ, the source of life and immortality. This is why our Lord assured us that he who hears His word and believes in the One who sent Him has eternal life, and he is no longer subject to judgement, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
Viewed from this angle of the eschatological perspective, the problems and events of our life take on their real dimensions. The problems of everyday life, those of ever-changeable legal relations and arrangements, those of ever-fluid economics, those of health which are in constant alteration, and all others similar to the above, reveal their earthly and temporary meaning. It is certain that they are not deprived of significance, but also that they do not require the full dedication of all our powers. They are evaluated in a positive way and take their proper position in the list of our interests.
Correspondingly, the matters of our spiritual grounding, of the practical application of love, of meekness, of peace, of goodness, of respect for our neighbors, of our interest in the difficulties of our fellow human beings, of prayer, of participation in the sanctifying sacraments of the Church, of the study of God's law, of self-understanding and self-control, of forgiveness and of our sanctification in general, are not overlooked, but take their proper and foremost position in our life.
In this way, by being sanctified and living a life of irremovable joy, peace and eternity in Christ, we find ourselves filled with living water, which we offer to our fellow human beings, and, in this way, our zeal in contributing to the lives of our fellow citizens in America as members of the Orthodox Church is materialized. Without this direct experience of the Divine Grace we simply speak about it, but are not able to transmit it to our fellow human beings who thirst for it. As Abba Isaac says, the water in a painting does not quench the thirsty people. We must offer the living water, concerning which the Lord spoke to the Samaritan woman, which the Lord gives only to those who have for it a strong desire. Such people are those who are not all wise themselves, who do not rely on their own knowledge, but seek, in the exercise of virtue, the knowledge of God and His illumination through His Church.
We are confident that all of you realize the priority of your sanctification, and that no one will sacrifice this sanctification for the sake of selfish aspirations. We are certain that the Holy Archdiocese of America, which is most beloved to us, will offer Saints from her bosom and that it has undertaken in God's Providence the duty to evangelize our fellow human beings in America. It has already made much progress in the cycle of its growth, organizationally, liturgically, staff-wise and educationally; and the signs of its autonomous growth are hopeful. They offer the possibility of predicting that the remaining stages for its development will be followed with thoughtful and prudent utilization of the possibilities which have been granted and which will be granted to it. The Ecumenical Patriarchate does not have either the possibility or the intention to interfere in the self-governing of the Holy Archdiocese of America and of the Parishes and Communities or Institutions that are under it. Neither does it have the intention to restrict the autonomy of the above that has existed for some time. On the contrary, it strongly desires and envisages the Holy Archdiocese growing in all respects - especially spiritually - so as to take more responsibilities and to engage in a more important role in offering the Orthodox message to the people of America.
It should not be forgotten, however, that the work of offering the truth and salvation in Christ is, as we already said, the work of God and not the work of us human beings, whom God is well pleased to use as instruments. Thus, let us repeat once more that we must become worthy bearers and re-transmitters of the Divine Grace and of the pure Orthodox truth and not of our personal ideas about it, as it happens with preachers who belong to other Christian Confessions. Our Orthodox Church has a radiant, holy and spiritual tradition and experience of holiness, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has only this single duty towards the Holy Archdiocese of America, to care with paternal affection and love for the preservation of this pure, holy and spiritual tradition and experience. All other matters of local concern ought to be responsibly met within the framework of the Orthodox Tradition by the local responsible agencies of the Orthodox Church under the spiritual oversight and guidance of Their Eminences and Their Graces, and the Most Reverend Archbishop Demetrios of America, who is worthy and a peace-maker in every way, and who steers in a God-loving manner, the vessel of the Holy Archdiocese of America.
Hence, we wholeheartedly wish that our Lord Jesus Christ sends His All-Holy Spirit upon all of you, so that in peace, concord, unity and love you may delve into the depths of this most important theme of your present Clergy Laity Congress and find the God-favored ways of realizing the offering of the Orthodox Church to the American People.
Thus, we bestow upon all of you our wholehearted paternal prayer and our Patriarchal blessing, wishing you health, long-life, peace, progress in every good work and sanctification in Christ, the giver of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of blessedness, of eternal life and of every good and perfect gift.
May His Grace and His abundant Mercy be with you all, most beloved brethren and children. Amen.
A.D. 2002, June the 23rd
Your beloved brother in Christ and fervent supplicant before God,
Archbishop of Constantinople
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