Your Eminence and Beloved Brother in Christ,
Archbishop Spyridon of America,
Your Grace Bishop Alexios of Troas,
Beloved children in the Lord,
We are overjoyed to be with you here in the Cathedral Church of Atlanta. Here in this city that has built a reputation for justice and equality in a new South, the Diocese of Atlanta has flourished. We celebrate your accomplishments, and we celebrate them in recognition of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Archdiocese of America. The Greek Orthodox Christians of this Diocese have been an integral part of the Church’s growth and progress. We are overjoyed to be with you at this most special time, beloved spiritual children. We bring you the love and blessings of the Apostolic Throne of the First Called Disciple Andrew.
This Church, named for the feast of the Annunciation, recalls the good news the Theotokos received from the Archangel Gabriel. This news echoes in all places and times, especially in the lives of faithful Orthodox Christians. It is the good news that God has come to man, that man may return to God. It is the news that God has become man, that man might become God. He has transformed the world: he has shown us the way to our transfiguration. We give thanks to Him, at all times and in all places, that in Him, the victory of life over death is assured for all who desire to follow the Lord.
As Greek Orthodox Christians, we are in a unique position, for we are able to proclaim as did the Archangel, the good news and we do so, secure in the knowledge that we live our lives centered in the true faith. We know that the faith of the Apostles, the faith of the fathers, the faith of our ancestors, is a living tradition that is unbroken in authority and practice since the time of Jesus Christ Himself. The world over, all Orthodox Christians share this unique pearl of great price. They have guarded it, they have struggled to keep it safe and unharmed and they struggle still. They have given their lives for the preservation of this treasure. And you my children, are the inheritors of this rich legacy.
Here in America, Orthodox Christians of many backgrounds and cultures, we share the ineffable majesty of Christ’s living presence. We worship Him together, we share the common cup of His Body and Blood. We are the continuing legacy of the Apostles charge, to preach the Word to all the world. We do this in the diversity of our cultures. We proclaim Christ in worship, Greeks as Greeks, Slavs as Slavs, Americans as Americans, and all the rest of our rich diversity.
As we have honored the memories of the holy Saints Artemas and Cleopas, the Apostles of the Seventy, we commemorate–we remember–that we, too, are the Apostles of the Apostles–an unbroken line leading directly to the person of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The essential meaning of Orthodoxy is the simplest, purest thing: standing aright in true worship. If we are truly standing aright, then we are called to act on our Faith. For this, we stand here this evening–to stand as more than witnesses to our Faith, to stand and to act. This evening, with thanksgiving prayer as our focal point, we can see clearly what our priorities are: God first, and then ourselves in relationship to Him. So it is never ourselves, but Christ in ourselves.
We encourage you to be like Saint Peter who, in the boat assailed by storms, amidst his fellow disciples in great fear, saw His Savior walking on the waves. He heard His Voice and trusted enough to let go of his fear, to stand aright on the water, and walk toward the Lord. We must have that measure of faith to be able to do likewise. We must simply let go and be led to Our Savior, led by His voice. If we do this, as we are surely called, we will stand together as Orthodox Christians, united in faith by focusing the eyes of our hearts on Jesus Christ.
In the contemporary world, it is easy to make the mistake of looking to our own brilliance, our own genius. We look to our own wondrous inventions, rather than the Lord’s deep truths. All we can do is ask our Father in heaven to help us harvest the light of Christ’s truth that the eyes of heart may be illumined.
This is why we come first to thanksgiving. This is why we commemorate America’s dedication to freedom, by recalling that this country is founded on the precepts of religious liberty. We come here now, to exhort you to keep straight the path, keep alive the dream, live in the love and the light of God around us. Do this that we may grow and flourish all the more in the coming century. Do this that we might proclaim in love and act in truth to make the next century, the century of Orthodoxy.
Our evidence of God is the love of God. His love is an ever-flowing spring. From the most impoverished land to the most opulent country, there is always the wellspring of God from which we may drink. We will gather before the Holy Altar of God. We will give thanks in an abundant land. The Lord will speak to us saying: enter into the kingdom prepared for you, rejoice in the abundance of Christ’s love. This is the never-ending source of Orthodox Christian witness.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we pray that your life-long journey to becoming one with our Lord will be filled with His infinite love and mercy. Amen.