May 7, 2008
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS` REFLECTIONS on THE MYRRHBEARERS
Christ is Risen!
Just all the Sundays before Pascha have important lessons to teach us, so the Sundays after Pascha leading to Pentecost continue to teach us.On the Sunday of Thomas we learned how doubt can lead to tremendous faith, and by St. Thomas` example, we see that faith empowers us to serve Christ in ways we can scarcely believe possible. On the Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing women, we learn about faithfulness. The Sunday of the Paralytic teaches us that Christ is the source of life, healing us of our sickness and sin. On the Sunday of the Samaritan Women, we learn about the living water as Christ not only heals us and renews us but calls us into His service.
This Sunday is dedicated to the Myrrh-Bearers, the Myrofores, and the wonderful miracle that they witnessed early in the morning on the first day of the week, as these faithful women went to fulfill their last obligation of love and service to the dead body of their Teacher. Because of their faithfulness, they were the first to see our Risen Lord. Then their Teacher gave them an order to go and tell the others of His Resurrection, and that He would be with them.
Our Lord chose these women to communicate the good news of His Resurrection to the disciples, as they were hiding in the locked upper room, from fear of the authorities. It was to this locked room of fear, grief and defeat that the women brought the astounding news that their Teacher was not dead, but alive! Our Lord brings His grace to the locked rooms of our own lives, releasing us from our pain, anger and grief, setting us free from sin, death and the power of evil, to receive His abundant blessings of love, life and hope.
Yet this Sunday we also have the opportunity to celebrate a special day dedicated to our mothers. I wish all our mothers Χρονια πολλα and a blessed and joyous Mother’s Day! May the joy and the peace, the love and the hope that God bestowed on us through the glorious Resurrection of His Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ find a home in your hearts all the days of your lives!
On the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers, and on Mother`s Day, I honor all our beautiful women of faith, who are faithful and courageous, setting an example for all of us.
Let us resolve then, as we commemorate and celebrate the faithfulness of the Myrrh bearers, to emulate their example and, in humility and love, “Go and tell the others.”
May 2, 2008
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS` REFLECTIONS on BRIGHT WEEK
My dearly beloved,
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
It is with a jubilant heart and glad spirit that I greet you in the name of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! At this wonderful and glorious time of celebration and renewal, I extend to you my Hierarchical blessings and best wishes for blessed and joyous Paschal season.
We give thanks that our Almighty God through His Divine Love and Mercy has bestowed His Grace on us so that once again we may experience the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and His Victory over sin, death and the power of the Evil One. This is not merely a commemoration of an historical event, but a shining reality in our own lives and hearts.
Our Holy Orthodox Church has set aside times both for feasting and fasting, so that this week we observe “Diakaimsimos”, “Bright Week” or “Renewal Week”, named for the spiritual renewal and joy brought to the world by the resurrected Christ. Because all things are renewed by Christ as “a new heaven and a new earth.” During this blessed Week, the Royal Doors into the Sanctuary remain open, fasting is forbidden, and at funerals, we do not sing the customary Funeral Service but sing of the Resurrection. The light of Pascha illumines this week, as each day we celebrate the glory of His Resurrection in the Divine Liturgy. We greet each other joyfully "Christos Anesti! Christ is risen!” The time of sorrow is over; the whole creation sings and glorifies the Lord!
Also during this glorious week, we commemorated the name days of the great St. George, Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene, the Prophet Jeremiah, the nun-martyr Pelagia, Irene the Great Martyr of Thessaloniki, and the Feast of "The Life-Giving Fountain," the Zodochos Peghe.
The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation and cornerstone of our Orthodox Christian faith. As St. Paul tells us: "If Christ be not risen, then our preaching is empty, and your faith is also empty" (1 Cor. 15:14). As we experience the joy of Pascha, we also enter into that Heavenly Kingdom, the beginning of the endless joy of Heaven.
My dear ones, I ask you to join me in giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for this great gift that He bestowed upon us all. Let us also beseech Him to strengthen us as we strive to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, loving and assisting one another, even as the Apostles did. So that we may remain faithful in the service of our Risen Lord and Savior, proclaiming and testifying always to His Resurrection, as St. Thomas did: “My Lord and my God!”
May God keep you and your loved ones under His Protection always and may you be spiritually uplifted with the love, freedom and peace that our Lord’s Holy Resurrection offers to us all. As you are always in my thoughts and prayers and in my heart, I pray that I will remain in your hearts and prayers also.
April 16, 2008
PASCHAL LETTER OF HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS
“Many indeed are the miracles of that time:
God crucified; the sun darkened and again rekindled; for it was fitting that the creatures should suffer with their Creator; the veil rent; the Blood and Water shed from His Side;
the one as from a man, the other as above man;
the rocks rent for the Rock`s sake;
the dead raised for a pledge of the final Resurrection of all men; the Signs at the Sepulchre and after the Sepulchre,
which none can worthily celebrate;
and yet none of these equal to the Miracle of my salvation.”
St. Gregory the Theologian, Second Paschal Oration
My dear Metropolis of Atlanta family,
I greet you with love and joy in my heart in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we prayerfully anticipate His Passion and glorious Resurrection, and I extend my paternal blessings and love, with best wishes for a joyous and blessed Holy Pascha. My beloved ones, come; let us adore the Holy Resurrection of Christ, for, behold, through the Cross joy has come to the world
As we look forward to Holy Week and prepare ourselves for the Resurrection of Christ, let us adore the all-Holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. Let us bow in worship before His Cross, praying that we may truly open our hearts to His Divine Resurrection and proclaim with one mind and one heart, Christ Is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
During this season of light, I ask you to remember me in your personal prayers, as I will remember you. May the blessings of the Lord be with you always and may you walk in peace and love in the new light of His Resurrection! Wishing you and your loved ones Καλὸ Πάσχα, I prayerfully remain,
Paternally yours with love in our Risen Lord,
Metropolitan of Atlanta
April 16, 2008
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS on HOLY WEEK
My dearly beloved in the Lord,
“Nevertheless we, according to His promise,
look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things,
be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”
2 Peter 3:13-14
I greet you today with sincere affection in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in anticipation of His Passion and Resurrection. With great joy in my heart, I give thanks and praise to our Almighty God Who has once again granted us the opportunity to experience this sacred encounter with our Savior through the worship services of our Orthodox Church during Holy Week and Holy Pascha.
Both the Passion and the Resurrection have an important impact on our personal life. Although from different perspectives, both focus on the same reality.
With His Passion, we see the love that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, has for all of us. In His suffering and death, we see that God’s Love is so powerful, that it overcomes suffering, pain and even death itself. Indeed Love is all-powerful, for if we let ourselves embrace and be embraced by God’s Love, all our actions and our entire life and being will be God-directed and God-oriented. “For God is Love” (1 John 4:8)
The other aspect of the Holy Season is the Resurrection. Through this event, we receive the promise to live in eternity. We see, we touch, we feel the joy of being connected with real life, that abundant life that our Lord promises us. We are blessed to participate in the glorious Resurrection of our own lives, as well. And we have the eternal hope of salvation, from the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray that we are able to open our hearts to experience His Passion during Holy Week, so that on that Feast of Feasts, that Holy Day of Holy Days, Holy Pascha, we are truly able to receive Him as He comes, the victorious Lord of All! May we all experience the abundant grace and bountiful blessings of our Living Lord and with one mind and one heart, proclaim,
Christ Is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
April 11, 2008
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS - THE SUNDAY OF ST. MARY OF EGYPT
We have spoken before that each Sunday during Lent has a particular focus, or lesson to be learned. As you know, this coming Sunday is dedicated to St. Mary of Egypt, the last week of Great Lent, for the following Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.
St. Mary was of course a great sinner, especially because her sins involved others in sin, a very grave and evil thing. However the grace of God is greater than any sinful life. Because she recognized her sin and opened her heart to receive that wonderful grace, St. Mary changed her whole way of life to be close to Christ, to devote herself to Him and bring herself nearer to God.
No matter how wicked, no matter how sinful we have been, there is always hope for us, for, like the loving Father in the parable of the Prodigal, God is always and eternally seeking our reconciliation and return, welcoming us with open arms. So we always have the opportunity to come and find peace in our hearts’ true home.
Let us all pray that we, like St. Mary of Egypt and the Prodigal Son, will come to our senses - even now it is not to late to ask forgiveness of God and each other. I am the first one to ask for your forgiveness, and I pray for all my flock that God has entrusted to my care, to be forgiven, so that we may truly experience the joy, the freedom and the healing that comes with His glorious Resurrection.
April 2, 2008
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS on ARCHBISHOP IAKOVOS
My beloved ones,
It hardly seems possible that already three years have passed since the passing away of our beloved Archbishop Iakovos. Here in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, we have been blessed with many able leaders. One of the greatest of these was Archbishop Iakovos, who faithfully served the flock God had entrusted to his care for 37 years.
Like many of us, Archbishop Iakovos was not born in the United States but came here when he was a young man, a deacon, on the day before his secular name day, Oct. 25, 1936. Thus our Archbishop’s story was not only our own story, but also our common American story of immigrants coming to a new land. Archbishop Iakovos came to America with a vision and a purpose, to serve our Lord with all his heart, soul, strength and mind. I believe he fulfilled that vision and that purpose.
Along the way, he was able to lead the Greek Orthodox Faithful from a marginalized ethnic church to the highest prominence. For example, not so long ago, when our children served in the military, they had to choose the designation of “Catholic” or “Protestant” or “Jew.” Thanks to the efforts of Archbishop Iakovos, today our sons and daughters serving all over the world in the noble cause of freedom and democracy, may proudly proclaim that they are Orthodox Christians.
Sometimes his decisions put him at odds with others, as in 1965, when he marched side by side with the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because Archbishop Iakovos also believed in the power of freedom and democracy against the forces of oppression and injustice. As a true Orthodox Christian, he firmly believed in the equality of all God’s children, and was courageously willing to act in accordance with those beliefs.
He never forgot and indeed always honored his heritage as an Hellene and an Orthodox Christian, and proudly presented our faith to the leaders and authorities of the world at large. His vision of the Orthodox faith transcended jurisdictional boundaries, and he brought together all the Orthodox under the umbrella of what we now call SCOBA. He opened a dialog with all faiths and was the first to open the doors to the Vatican, by representing His All-Holiness Athenagoras.
Three years ago, we, his spiritual children, lost a leader, a visionary, a faithful servant of God and our Holy Orthodox Church. To me, it was an especially personal loss, as I regarded him as my spiritual father and hero in the faith. In honor of his life, faithful service and leadership to our Church and our Nation, and at the direction of His Eminence Archbishop Demetri, I ask you all to join this Sunday April 6 after the Divine Liturgy in a memorial service to our beloved Archbishop Iakovos.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little,
I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master”
May his memory be eternal!
April 2, 2008
ENCYCLICAL FROM HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHO DEMETRI
Three-Year Memorial Encyclical of Archbishop Iakovos
March 27, 2008
Three-Year Memorial Encyclical
Upon the Falling Asleep in the Lord of Archbishop Iakovos
Former Archbishop of North and South America
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On behalf of our Holy Eparchial Synod, I write to you on the third year anniversary of the passing away of our deeply beloved and respected Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America. Our memory of Archbishop Iakovos remains alive after three years since his falling asleep in the Lord. We remember him for his tireless efforts and intense passion for promoting the truth of the Gospel. He had been a visionary who championed civil liberties and the growth of Christian unity, and a great ecclesiastical leader of our Church and Omogenia for decades.
In honor of his life and in honor of his leadership to our Church and our Nation, all parishes of our Holy Archdiocese are hereby directed to conduct a memorial service at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, April 6, 2008. As we pray for the repose of the soul of our deeply beloved and respected Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory, let us keep him in our minds and hearts as a source of strength, particularly during this season of Holy Lent, and let us strive toward that standard of virtue that he set as a stalwart servant of Christ and His Holy Church.
May his memory be eternal.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
March 28, 2008
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS` REFLECTIONS ON THE SUNDAY OF THE HOLY CROSS
This Sunday of the Holy Cross is a special occasion for all Orthodox Christians and plays an important role in our lives. Because Orthodoxy is not only a set of dogmas and beliefs that we assent to intellectually – it is a style of life, at once pragmatic and spiritual. Through it, we have the ability to enjoy life, because Orthodoxy gives us the gift of understanding ourselves and our relationship to our Creator.
Through Orthodoxy, we receive a different understanding or dimension of life, leading us to theosis and salvation, and the understanding that we are not just human beings. Through divine involvement, through a miracle, we have the opportunity to be united with God.
This miracle began with one man, who possessed no degrees or diplomas, no wealth or temporal power, no armies and no worldly recognition. Yet somehow He managed to convey His message of the miracle of divine involvement throughout the world, using simple and flawed men such as fishermen and tax collectors. Thus the central message of our Faith is profoundly irrational, in worldly terms. As St. Paul tells us, "but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness." (1 Cor. 1:23)
True, the first followers of our Lord witnessed miracles and heard wonderful stories, but they had heard all that before from prophets and religious leaders, so that they, like we today, did not necessarily understand the truly radical nature of Christ`s mission on earth.
It is through the Cross that we learn the truth. It is through the Holy and Life-giving Cross that we understand we are participants in that miracle of Divine Involvement and Love.
We are now halfway through our shared journey to Holy Pascha and His glorious Resurrecton. On the Sunday of the Holy Cross, we realize that we are going to have to take up our own cross, struggle and strive to overcome the obstacles that the devil places in our path. We must struggle to resist evil and temptation, to do what is against our conscience. Our Church offers us the tools of prayer, fasting, and increased opportunities for worship and service in order to "fight the good fight."
March 14, 2008
MESSAGE OF HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS ON GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY
My dearly beloved,
On this blessed and glorious Day of Independence, I greet you with love and joy in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, giving thanks and praise for all the abundant blessings in our lives, especially the great gift of freedom and independence. Because our Hellenic Orthodox culture and faith teach us that the real source of freedom is Almighty God, "the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).
During the dark years of the Turkokrateia, thousands were killed or tortured for their faith, or for simply teaching the children our culture, history and language. They were sustained and strengthened by their Orthodox faith. The celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25th draws inspiration from one of the great Feast Days of our Church, the Annunciation of the Theotokos, for on that blessed day, Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the banner of revolution, in an act of defiance against the Turks, marking the beginning of the War of Independence.
As Greek Orthodox Christians and citizens of the United States of America, we are sustained and inspired by our belief in individual rights, in the rule of law and in the freedom to live without fear, to speak our own minds, to practice our religion, and to participate in our government. These are not only the ideals that strenthen and motivate us, as Hellenes and Christians, but more importantly they are the values that we share with all people who cherish freedom, equality and the rule of law.
It is this legacy we honor as we celebrate Greek Independence Day, and I thank God for this special occasion to pay tribute to the courage of our forefathers and to celebrate with friends and neighbors the beauty of freedom. May we never take for granted the freedoms we enjoy, and never forget to use these freedoms for the good of others and in the service of our Lord.
May Almighty God bless us and keep us free of tyranny, so that we might worship Him and serve Him with joy and gladness, as we strive always to be disciples of Christ in the world. May God grant us liberty, prosperity, and peace, and may our celebration of Greek Independence Day be a symbol of liberty for all enslaved peoples around the world.
Zeto i Ellas, zeto i eleftheria!
With faithful commitment to His service, I remain
Prayerfully yours with paternal love in Christ,
Metropolitan of Atlanta
March 14, 2008
CATECHETICAL ADDRESS OF ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF HOLY AND GREAT LENT
CATECHETICAL ADDRESS OF ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF HOLY AND GREAT LENT
Protocol Number 293
ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF
HOLY AND GREAT LENT
+ B A R T H O L O M E W
BY THE MERCY OF GOD
ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE
NEW ROME AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH
GRACE AND PEACE FROM OUR SAVIOR AND
LORD JESUS CHRIST,
AND FROM US BENEDICTION
BLESSING AND FORGIVENESS
During this period of Holy and Great Lent, our Church calls us to repentance. Doubtless, as contemporary man hears this invitation to repentance, he does not feel comfortable, because he has accustomed himself to a certain way of life, and does not wish to question his own rectitude. Calling one’s own rectitude into question produces feelings of insecurity, because the ideological structure within which you have sure and certain refuge is clearly risked.
However, a deeper examination of the issue compels us to accept that people’s convictions do not conform to objective reality, on the basis of reasonable judgment. Rather, they create a justification that is pleasing to self, namely: "excuses in sins" (Psalm 140:4). When a person justifies his or her actions and self-vindicates on the basis of erroneous values, significant harm happens, because inevitably, the moment comes when the truth emerges, and we find ourselves without excuse. Moreover, there may be no more time to adjust our convictions: that is, to repent of our sinful deeds and erroneous beliefs, through which we have tried to justify our behavior.
Now as Christians, we are used to both hearing about and practicing repentance, and we do not feel a conflict with our Church’s call to repentance. However, there is a need for us to make a deliberate and conscious effort to realize that a complete repentance has two objectives.
The first objective is threefold: a renunciation of our sins, a decision to cease and desist from sinful deeds and habits, and a decision to make amends for the consequences of our sins. For example, the publican Zaccheus, who sincerely repented during his encounter with Christ, demonstrated his repentance in a practical way by repaying fourfold the very people from whom he had unjustly seized wealth.
The second objective of repentance is that we should change our mentality. We should replace our understandings with other higher and loftier ones; or in the words of the Psalmist: to "ascend in our hearts" (Psalm 83:6). This second objective needs to be pursued especially by those who are unconvinced by their consciousness about specific sins. For example, our understanding of love surely falls short of perfection; likewise our understanding of humility. For when we compare our own spiritual state to the perfection of God, a perfection we are called to imitate, surely we will see our shortcomings and realize the endless road we must traverse in order to find ourselves in the path of those who are like unto God.
As we examine the quality of our inner peace, we ascertain that we fall short of the peace of Christ "which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). Pondering the level to which we trust our lives to God’s Providence, we sadly realize that we are often seized by anxiety and uncertainty about the future, as if we were either of little faith or even without faith. In general, upon examination of the purity of our conscience, we realize that we fall short of understanding correctly the many feelings we harbor within ourselves that are detrimental to our purity, often mistaking them as healthy. Thus, a new and more complete enlightenment of our conscience is needed through the teachings of the Fathers and of the Gospel, so that we will be in a better position to think critically about ourselves and our shortcomings, in line with the judgment of God. Since no one can claim to judge himself perfectly, by the same token no one can claim that he has no need of a renewed mind, a more enlightened mind, a transformation of mind, a correction of mind and mentality, i.e. a need of repentance.
The call of our Orthodox Church to repentance is not merely a call to self-reproach. Self-reproach can be useful, as are deep contrition and tears of repentance; but they are not of themselves sufficient. We need to experience the joy emanating from the forgiveness granted to us by God, the sense of deliverance from the burdens of the bondage of sin, and the sense of God’s love for us. Our repentance does not deprive us from the joy of life, making us indignant when we hear a sermon calling us to repentance. Repentance means cleansing and enlightenment of our minds, more ardent love for Christ and His creation, freedom and joy through the newness of life into which we continually enter through our constant repentance.
The one who constantly repents, ever progresses, ever rejoices through new ascents, finds constant satisfaction in deeper understandings of all things. Through the transformation of mentality and understanding, the one who repents better understands the whole world, becomes wiser, more judicious, more discreet, nobler and a true friend of Christ. Therefore, the preaching of repentance should be favorably received by wise persons who are able to appreciate any improvement that comes from the renewal of the human person through repentance.
Therefore, brothers and sisters and beloved children in the Lord, let us accept the invitation of our Church to repentance as we have set forth above. Let us who have fallen short through sin cleanse ourselves from sin through confession. Let us constantly examine our own presuppositions, so our judgments and thoughts may be godly and pure, just and true.
Finally, we paternally pray that all of you may enjoy the every assistance and help of the Lord on your road to repentance and throughout your renewed life in Christ.
Holy and Great Lent 2008
BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople
The fervent intercessor for you all before God