Praying that God may grant eternal rest to those who perished, and that He may comfort the grieving hearts of those who have lost loved ones, I remain,
Praying that God may grant eternal rest to those who perished, and that He may comfort the grieving hearts of those who have lost loved ones, I remain,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we begin this blessed time of Holy and Great Lent, we are invited to enter into a period of intense prayer, fasting and service, so that we may draw closer to God, commune with Him, and experience His grace as we reflect on our lives, our relationship with Him, and our journey to salvation. In doing this we are challenged—challenged to face what separates us from God and His will; but we are also shown the way to overcome this separation both now and for eternity.
Great Lent is most certainly a challenge as we have experienced in the weeks of preparation for this season. We have reflected on the parables of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee and the Prodigal Son. We have considered the true nature and impact of repentance and humility. We have heard the words of our Lord concerning the Last Judgment and the manner of life and service that leads to eternal life. As we enter into this holy season, we will continue to be challenged as the truth of the Gospel and the presence of God lead us to examine our lives. We are challenged to address anything that separates us from Him and that prevents us from revealing His grace to others through our lives.
We know that as we enter this solemn season we will be equipped to meet these challenges. It is a time that provides us with more opportunities to worship, more times during the ebb and flow of our daily lives to gather together to commune with God. We are called to more frequent prayer, to dedicate time each day to speak to God and to listen, and to live each moment prayerfully, affirming that He is present and guiding us. We are guided by the Church in fasting, abstaining from excess and from certain foods, as a means of living measured and discerning lives that place holiness and the will of God above all things.
These disciplines of our faith equip us to reveal God’s grace in all that we do. Through our repentance, we are prepared to offer forgiveness to others. Through our contrition of the heart, we show the power of complete surrender to God. Through our dedication of our time to prayer and worship, we affirm the true purpose and goal of life. Through our obedience to His will, we are led in service to those in need. Through our commitment to Him, Great Lent prepares us to overcome anything that separates us and others from the love of God.
This holy season is also a guide, leading us on a spiritual journey. It is a journey that leads us to joy and light; and at its inception we sing, “Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His holy Pascha!” (Hymn of Vespers). It is also the journey of our lives into the blessedness of eternal life and communion with God. As we enter this solemn and sacred season, my prayer is that you will be filled with strength and grace for the Lenten journey. May this journey continue to equip you with all that you need to complete this journey in our celebration of Pascha, and ultimately, unto the blessed condition to be eternally united to God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
I recently discussed the following quote from C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity with a group of high school students, “Wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong… Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.”
The resulting conversation was spirited as they wrestled with this idea. What became apparent was their concept of good and evil was pretty black and white – some people are inherently good and others inherently evil. However, this is not the Orthodox view of the world. God did not create evil people, instead he created each of us in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). So how then is there so much evil in the world?
In Lenten Spring Father Thomas Hopko explains, “[…] By rebelling against God ourselves. We listen to the serpent, the spirit of evil, instead of God. We do things in our own way. And we experience evil for ourselves, by our own volition, and bring corruption to our total being: mind, soul heart, and body. To the extent that this wickedness is in us, we pass it on to those who come after us, and they too become infected by evil from their very conception.”
We experience evil voluntarily as we rebel against God’s will and make our own will the authority. And one of the greatest temptations is to justify our actions, to say to ourselves, “What I am doing is good.” However, none of us has any authority to make that call, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is where we go wrong. This is how goodness becomes spoiled. As we continue down this path of separating ourselves from God through sin, we infect and are infected by those around us. The bottom line is that even if we were able to follow the law to perfection we would still be lost because without Christ we are subject to the death and corruption of this world.
So it is no mistake the pre-Lenten period begins with the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. As he prayed “I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (Luke 18:11), the Pharisee’s mistake was believing that he had no sin, that he was immune to the corruption of this world. Unable to recognize his own sin he continued to wallow in it and become infected by it. The Publican’s posture is a recognition of the wickedness in the world and our complete separation from God. In complete humility he beats his breast and cries, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)
It is unsettling to think that even our most pure thoughts and desires, left to our own devices, can become corrupted and wicked. The Church tries to awaken us to this fact, not that we may despair, but that we may thirst and hunger for communion with the only One who is good, Jesus Christ. When we abide in His goodness, we are filled with His gifts and able to share them with those around us.
“Let us flee the vainglory of the Pharisee, learning instead the true humility of the Publican, so that we may ascend to God and cry to Him: forgive us, Your sinful servants, O Christ our savior: you were born of the virgin and willingly endured the cross for us, raising the dead by Your power as God!”
–From the Triodion for Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America affirms the sanctity of life based on the firm conviction that life begins at the moment of conception. The Assembly remains steadfast in its conviction that any interference in the development of life is a serious issue, and therefore it regularly participates in a variety of relevant events and also releases pertinent statements on the topic.
While recognizing that there are rare but serious medical instances where mother and child may require extraordinary actions, the Assembly of Bishops is deeply concerned that the taking of innocent life through abortion has become an acceptable cultural norm. This phenomenon – increasingly prevalent throughout contemporary societies – was exacerbated by a recent law of the New York State Senate (Bill S.240). The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America categorically denounces these adverse developments that allow for abortion, under certain unjustifiable circumstances, even within the third trimester of existence.
The Assembly of Bishops further reminds the faithful that Christ is a beacon of hope in this challenging world. Accordingly, the Church is always prepared and willing to support women who are considering abortion to find alternative avenues to alleviate any burden, physical and spiritual. The Church is ever a mother – loving, understanding, nurturing, praying, and protecting all human life.
St George Greek Orthodox Church presents the Konvets Quartet, a male vocal ensemble from Saint Petersburg, Russia, who will be performing a concert on Tuesday, February 19th, beginning at 7 pm. The program offers harmonic brilliance in the rich tradition of Russian Choral Music, and includes sacred music. All are welcome! Click on the link below to see the flyer for the event.
+ B A R T H O L O M E W
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and
To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace, Mercy and Peace from the Savior Christ Born in Bethlehem
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Venerable brothers and beloved children in the Lord,
We glorify the Most-Holy and All-Merciful God, that we are again deemed worthy this year to reach the festive day of Christmas, the feast of the pre-eternal Son and Word of God’s Incarnation “for us and for our salvation.” Through the “eternal mystery” and “great miracle” of the divine Incarnation, the “great wound,” namely humankind sitting in darkness and shadow, is rendered into “children of light and day,”while the blessed road of deification by grace is opened for us. In the theandric mystery of the Church and through her holy sacraments, Christ is born and takes shape in our soul and existence. Maximus the Confessor theologizes that “the Word of God, though born once in the flesh, is ever willing to be born spiritually in those who desire Him. Thus, He becomes an infant and fashions Himself in us by means of the virtues; indeed, He reveals Himself to the extent that we are capable of receiving Him.” God is not an abstract “idea,” like the god of the philosophers, or an unapproachable God enclosed in absolute transcendence. He is “Emmanuel,” “God with us,” closer to us than we are to ourselves, “more akin to us than our very own selves.” 
Faith in the inaccessible and fleshless Divinity does not transform our life; it does not remove the polarization between matter and spirit; nor does it bridge the gap between heaven and earth. The Incarnation of the Divine Word is the revelation of truth regarding God and humankind, which saves the human race from the dark labyrinths of materialism and anthropomonism, as well as from idealism and dualism. The Church’s condemnation of nestorianism and monophysitism signals the rejection of two broader tendencies of the human soul: on the one hand rendering anthropocentrism absolute, and on the other idolizing an idealistic understanding of life and truth, both of which are especially widespread deviations in our age.
Contemporary “nestorianism” is expressed as a spirit of secularization, as scientism and the absolute prioritization of utilitarian knowledge, as the absolute autonomy of economy, as self-saving arrogance and atheism, as the “non-civilization” of individualism and eudemonism, as legalism and moralism, as the “end of decency” and identification of sacrificial love and repentance with the so-called “morality of the weak.” By the same token, “monophysitism” is today represented by tendencies to demonize the body and natural man, by puritanism and the syndromes of “purity,” by fruitless introverted spirituality and various mysticisms, by disregarding the intellect, art and civilization, by denying dialogue and rejecting differences, with the dangerous expresser—supposedly in the name of the “one and only truth”—namely a religious fundamentalism nurtured by absolutism and rejections, while feeding violence and division. It is evident that both a nestorianizing deification of the world and a monophysitizing demonization of it leave the world and history, civilizations and cultures, exposed to the powers of the “present age,” cementing their autonomy and impasses.
Christian faith is the certainty of our salvation by the God of love, who graciously assumed our nature and once again granted us “the likeness” lost through the fall, making us worthy of true life in His Body, the Church. The theandric mystery is expressed throughout the entirety of life in the Church. The Incarnate Savior received “the flesh of the Church” and showed, “first and alone,” “the true man, who is perfect on account of both character and life as well as all other aspects.” The Church of Christ is the place of “common salvation,” “common freedom” and hope in the “common kingdom.” It is the way of living the liberating truth, the core of which is expressing the truth in love. This love transcends the boundaries of mere human action, because its source and prototype lie in divine philanthropy, which transcends human reason. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us … Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” God is present wherever love exists.
This saving truth must also be expressed in the way we celebrate the sacred Nativity of our Savior, who visited us from on high. A feast is always a “fullness of time,” a time of self-knowledge, of thanksgiving for the magnitude of divine philanthropic love, of witness to the truth of the theandric mystery and of freedom in Christ. The Christ-pleasing celebration of the Divine Word’s Incarnation is an act of resistance against secularization, against discoloration of the feast and its conversion into a “Christmas without Christ,” as well as against a celebration of Having, of consumerism and vanity—indeed, into a world filled with social tensions, reversal and confusion of values, of violence and injustice, where the “Jesus child” is once again faced with the inexorable interests of numerous, multifaceted powers.
Honorable brothers and beloved children,
Generations come and pass, while forthcoming developments are difficult to foresee. Genuine faith, though, does not face dilemmas. The Word became flesh, the “truth has come” and “darkness has subsided.” We already participate in the Kingdom while still on our journey toward the completion of the incarnate Divine Economy. We possess the unshakeable certainty that the future belongs to Christ, Who is “the same yesterday and today and forever;” that the Church of Christ is and shall remain a place of holiness and godliness, a renewal of man and world, a foretaste of the glory of the Kingdom; that it will continue “to give the witness of the Gospel” “to distribute the gifts of God in the world: His love, peace, justice, and reconciliation, the power of resurrection and expectation of eternity.” The contemporary ideology of some “post-Christian” age is baseless. “After Christ,” everything is and remains “in Christ” to the ages.
We humbly kneel before the Divine Infant of Bethlehem and His All- Holy Mother, who holds Him in her arms, while venerating the Incarnate “most perfect God,” and bestow upon the children of the Holy and Great Church of Christ throughout the world—from the ever-vigilant Phanar—our Patriarchal blessing for the Holy Twelve Days of Christmas, wishing you a healthy, fruitful and joyous new year in the Lord’s favor.
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God