September 1, 2001
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
It is with sincere gratitude for your love and prayers during my medical leave, that I embrace you as we enter a new Ecclesiastical Year.
Several months ago, my physicians informed me that I had suffered a series of mild strokes. They strongly recommended that I take a four-month medical leave as a precautionary measure and to rebuild my strength, leaving the final decision to me. To say the least, the decision to accept their recommendation was not an easy one, yet it was a decision that had to be made. And now, as my leave draws to a close and I return to my primatial duties, I fully appreciate the wisdom of their recommendation, and I rejoice in the opportunity to continue my ministry, renewed and refreshed in body and spirit. I also rejoice in the countless expressions of your love and unselfish concern during my leave, touched by countless cards and letters I received from our clergy and laity, and especially from the children and youth of our Church. And words cannot fully express my gratitude for the continuous prayers offered on my behalf. Surely, it is because of your prayers and love that Our Lord has granted me the strength to continue in service to Him and His Church with renewed vigor and strength. For all these blessings, I offer thanks to Our Lord, the Physician and Healer of our souls and bodies, and to you, my beloved sisters and brothers in Christ!
During my leave, I had the opportunity to spend many hours in quite reflection. It was during these quiet moments that I learned to fully appreciate the precious gift of time. As part of God’s creation, time is blessed and sanctified, providing the context in which God and humanity interact and commune with each other.
Time has a beginning and an end. These two poles form the eternal and infinite boundaries to which human life is destined. From the “beginning” to the “end” the great acts of God unfold, culminating in the sending of His Son, born of a women [Galatians 4:4]. In the context of time God ceaselessly interacts with us. Even after the expulsion from paradise God remains faithful to His creation, His People, His desire to unite all things in Himself.
It is in time that we work out our salvation. Our personal histories are joined to the history of salvation—to the great acts of God in time and space. Thus, even though sin and death subjected the creation to futility (Romans 8:18-25), God offered us a living hope in the person of His only-begotten Son. Indeed, as the Holy Spirit worked through the Law, the patriarchs, and the prophets, the barrenness of fallen creation was being prepared to give birth to the universal Redeemer and Savior.
With its own “beginning” and “end” the Ecclesiastical New Year binds together the Church’s liturgical cycle which draws us into sanctified time. In the context of sanctified time, the Church, as Christ’s living body, offers the world the Passover from the temporal to eternal, from death to life. In the context of sanctified time, the past, the present, and the future are continuously filled with the eternity of the Kingdom of God and renewed and refreshed in the Holy Spirit.
As we enter this new Ecclesiastical New Year, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the precious gift of time and in offering thanks to God for the countless ways He has touched our temporal lives, even as He prepares us to receive the eternal life He so graciously offers us. Let us once again begin our journey to His Kingdom, renewed and refreshed, giving thanks in all things for the “beginnings” with which we have been blessed.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada