SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications]—His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was one of nine hierarchs representing the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA] to issue a statement on the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
The text of the encyclical reads as follows.
“To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
“On this first Sunday of the Holy Lenten season, we greet you in the grace and peace of our Lord. As we gather on this day in our Orthodox parishes throughout the Americas, we come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to worship the One who is always and forever in our midst. We affirm in word, in hymn, in prayer, and in sacrament that our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed among us, offering the divine grace of God, illuminating our hearts with His wisdom, and assuring us with His peace from above.
“Our celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy reveals the significance of our worship as Orthodox Christians. This is so, because in our commemoration of the triumph of the True Faith over heresy, we acknowledge that when we worship, we worship God in Truth. We draw near to Him, our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer, with the fullness of His divine revelation. The proclamation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council that is read on this day affirms that our Orthodox faith is the faith of the Apostles, the faith of the Fathers, and the faith that has established the universe. It is the True Faith that has not only been passed down to us through the ages, but it is a Living Faith that leads us to respond to the presence and grace of God by worshipping Him ‘in spirit and truth.’
“Our commemoration of the restoration of icons by the Seventh Ecumenical Council also affirms the unity we share when we are joined together in praise and honor of the One who gives us salvation. Our shared tradition of liturgy and sacrament offers a witness to the world of our unity as the people of God and as Orthodox Christians. When we gather as true worshippers, we bear witness to the world that we are joined and knit together as the body of Christ. By His blood we have been brought to the True Faith, and the walls of division and hostility that separate us havebeen abolished [Ephesians 2:13-14]. We ‘have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel’ [Ephesians 3:6]. We are united as the Church in true communion and in true faith in a manner that overcomes the racial, ethnic, social, and even geographical barriers that have marred this temporal world. As Orthodox Christians we are united in the True Faith, and this day leads us to cherish what has been established by Christ and the Apostles, what has been preserved by the Martyrs and Saints, and what has been bequeathed to us by our fathers and mothers.
“Our joy, however, must be marked by our awareness that we live in a world that is in need of unity and truth. We are called to offer what we have been offered. Through our worship and the ministry that flows forth from our communion in Christ, we must guide others through the confusion and chaos made by sin and deception to the illuminating and salvific truth of the Gospel. Through our worship as communities of faith and through all aspects of our lives we must show the world that we are intimately associated with God and His kingdom. By our love for one another, and through our patience, kindness and ministry to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we must offer the world a holy image of true community and true unity, so that all people of all nations may join us before His throne singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come [...] You are worthy, our Lord to receive glory and honor and power…’ [Revelation 4:8c,11a].
“May our gathering in worship and prayer on this Sunday of Orthodoxy offer this testimony of the True Faith and of the unity that we share as Orthodox Christians in the Americas and throughout the world; and may the presence and strength of our Lord continue to guide each of you through this Holy Lenten season.”
Other hierarchs signing the encyclical included His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, SCOBA Chairman; His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, SCOBA Vice Chairman; His Eminence, Metropolitan Christopher, Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada, SCOBA Secretary; His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA, SCOBA Treasurer; His Eminence, Archbishop Nicolae, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada; His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph, Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church; His Eminence, Metropolitan Constantine, Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA; and His Grace, Bishop Ilia of Philomelion, Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America.