Your Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon of America,
Brother Hierarchs and co-celebrants,
Honorable Presbyters, Reverend Fathers and Brother Monks,
Beloved Presvyteres, our Daughters in Christ,
Our Modestyís beloved children in the Lord,
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. From the depths of our Modesty, we extend to you, our beloved children, our most heartfelt and paternal blessings. We remind you in the simplest of words, the most profound of commandments: ìLove one another.î We love and pray for you, beloved sons and daughters in Christ: we pray for the monastics, who have been deemed worthy to seek an angelic form and strive in this world as athletes for Christ. We pray for the clergy, who undertake the divine service and act as ministers of the New Covenant of Christ to His people. We pray for you, our beloved daughters, the presvyteres, partners in support of the priestly ministry.
The great Emperor Justinian wrote that the priesthood was one of the two blessings that God has entrusted to humankind. Being called to serve at the altar, or being called to make any special commitment to the work of Christ’s Church, is indeed a high honor and privilege. Our predecessor as Archbishop of Constantinople, the blessed Saint John Chrysostom, tells us that the “. . . work of the priesthood is done on earth, but it is ranked among heavenly ordinances. . . . anyone who considers how much it means to be able, in his humanity, still entangled in flesh and blood, to approach that blessed and immaculate Being, will see clearly how great is the honor which the Grace of the Holy Spirit has bestowed on priests.” This honor is shared, in part by all monastics, whether they are ordained to one of the ranks of the priesthood or not, and by the spouses of married priests as well.
Just as the priest reveals Christ made manifest in the Eucharist, you who have taken monastic vows strive, through the example of your lives, to reveal the saving power of Christ to all. You seek to act as guides, examples to all those struggling to live the Christian life.
You, the spouses and children of priests, share a great burden in supporting the priestly ministry of your husbands and fathers, but you also know great joy. If choosing to serve Christ and His Church brings with it great spiritual honor and reward, it follows that the Evil One, ever bent on subverting the Ark of Salvation, will pay special attention to those who have accepted this vocation.
Just as the Holy Martyrs faced physical beasts in the arenas of ancient Rome, so too the monastics, the clergy and their families must face the spiritual beasts sent to try their patience and their faith. Chrysostom tells us that these beasts include “anger, dejection, envy, strife, slander, accusation, lying, hypocrisy, intrigue . . . love of praise, greed for preferment, . . . fawning on the rich, absurd honors and harmful favors which endanger giver and receiver alike, servile fear fit only for the meanest of slaves, restraint of plain speaking.î
The contemporary world, attracted as it is to hedonism and materialism, does not understand nor comprehend the monastic way of life. The materially oriented culture pressures us to consider the priesthood, the ministry of the Church, as just another occupation or career. Beloved children, we are well aware that times have changed since the days of Justinian the Great, when to serve the Church was considered a great honor by society.
Today, you face constant criticism, pressure, and ridicule from all directions. We have come from New Rome to the New World, our dear children, to bring to the Orthodox faithful of this land the message of our pastoral concern and love for your spiritual welfare. We wish to convey to you, the faithful monastics of our Church, and to our dedicated clergy and their families, that we are constantly offering prayers to God for your well-being, for your health and safety and prosperity.
The difficulties of preserving the faith in a new land, whose values are antithetical to our Church may often entice you to adapt the faith to the culture. This compromises Orthodox Christianity. You must fully live out your faith, seek to transfigure the culture no matter how futile it may seem to you. Remember that we do not know how the Lordís promise will be revealed in the fullness of time.
Beloved children, by your labors you to act as beacons for Orthodoxy, you have built and maintained communities to minister to our faithful in every corner of this land. You have proclaimed the truth of Orthodoxyís treasures from bustling cities to the smallest of hamlets. You are the hands of our Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchates of your various jurisdictions. You have been charged by God with the responsibility for overseeing the well-being of global Orthodoxy.
You are our responsibility, and we pledge to do all that is in our power to support and sustain you. You, beloved children, represent us and our brother bishops to the faithful. On every altar in every church building, one finds the sacred antiminsion which contains the sacred relics of the saints, and the signature of the Bishop. This is the tradition of the ancient Church left to us, a holy and sacred inheritance of Godís promise to Man through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It recalls the image of the blessed St. Ignatios of Antioch, of a Bishop surrounded by his clergy and faithful laity.
As you represent us, therefore, beloved children, it is our duty to make your concerns and tribulations ours. We pledge to you, the monastics, the clergy and their families, that we and our brother hierarchs shall unreservedly and without hesitation, strive to extend all the necessary support and encouragement to you in your ministries.
By the power of the All-Holy and Life-Giving Trinity, in whose honor this Cathedral is dedicated, and through the intercession of all the saints, and especially St. John Chrysostom, the great support and defender of the priesthood, may you all be blessed and confirmed worthy in your vocation.