Syosset, New York
January 1, 2005
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
During the last week of December 2004, the joy with which we celebrated the Nativity of Our Lord was darkened by reports of what has been termed the worst natural disaster in recorded history: the earthquake and resulting tsunami which left a path of death and destruction from Southeast Asia to the shores of Ethiopia. The media images of this disaster could only leave one speechless. And reports of tens of thousands of lost lives, many of them children, staggered even the most hardened of heart.
Standing as we are on the threshold of a new year, filled with hope for a brighter future for ourselves and for a world gripped by terror, inhumanity, war, and natural disaster, we are once again challenged to give thanks to God for all things, for His many blessings, and for the loving kindness He has bestowed upon us. Such disasters serve as a reminder that the world is indeed fallen, and that the tragedies which seem so remote could surely befall any one of us, at any time. And they also serve as a reminder that, as Christians, we cannot be indifferent to the suffering of those we are enjoined to call “brother” and “sister.” Their sorrow is our sorrow. Their loss is our loss. Their lives, rooted in the Creator Himself, are as sacred as our own; as such, they cannot be considered to be of less worth than our own. While giving thanks to God for sparing us the pain and unimaginable grief so many have suffered, we are prompted to face the new year with the desire to become more compassionate, more merciful, more loving—in a word, more God-like—in order to reveal God’s presence in a world which all too often fails or refuses to see it.
At times like this, we are also reminded to take a sober look at our own lives and our own future. Do we see the beginning of a new year as an occasion to pursue frivolous or meaningless resolutions, focusing exclusively on ourselves with little concern or compassion for others? Do we honor it as an occasion to recommit ourselves to discerning God’s will for our lives in this world, so often filled with sorrow, and in the world to come? Do we welcome it as an opportunity to grow spiritually, to give thanks with every breath while striving to reveal in word and deed the hope that Our Lord offers to all who embrace and treasure it?
As we anticipate the new year with joy, let us remember in heartfelt prayer those who have suffered so much and who have lost everything, including hope. Let us strive to share the gifts with which we have been blessed so abundantly, sharing them with those who have so little. And let us recommit ourselves to offering thanks to God, in every place and at all times, while working diligently to become like Him, to partake of His divine nature, and to exalt Him as our only hope.
I wish you every blessing in the year to come—peace, prosperity, health, and length of days—and I invite you to join me in prayerfully discerning the countless ways Our Lord is calling us, as individuals and as His Church, to witness to His transfiguring presence and power in our lives and in our world.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada