To the Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly beloved in Christ,
Once again, a new year is upon us. Having been spiritually refreshed by our celebration of the Incarnation of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, our thoughts turn to that which lies before us as we, as individuals, families, and communities, begin a new chapter in our lives.
“Newness” is at the very heart of the Gospel which Our Lord came into this world to proclaim. Jesus Christ grants us “a new heart” [Ezekiel 36:26], one which ushers in “a new covenant” [Hebrews 9:15] filled with faith and hope in the new life He promises to those who would accept it. He challenges us to live a “new commandment” [Matthew 26:29], to put our faith and hope into action by loving God above all else and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. He reveals “a new heaven and a new earth” [Revelation 21:1]. And ultimately, He “makes all things new” [Revelation 21:5], reconciling the world to Himself for eternity.
The “newness” Jesus Christ brings into the world, however, is not something which exists apart from us. It is not something “out there,” for which we must grasp and grovel. To the contrary, the newness of Jesus Christ has been planted and rooted within us, as Saint Paul writes: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. Having experienced a new birth through water and the Spirit, we have become a “new creation,” in which the very presence of God is not only incarnate in us, but through which the newness of life must shine forth in the midst of those who have yet to be warmed by its divine and comforting rays. It is within us, the People of God, that the vineyard of Our Lord has been planted and nurtured; it is through us that the “new Jerusalem,” which knows no earthly boundaries, is fulfilled, shining forth with “the glory of the Lord.”
Today’s world is filled with restlessness, uncertainty, and fear—things which are hardly “new.” Like countless generations before us, we wrestle with the prospect of war, with financial concerns, and with an endless array of worries, burdens, and anxieties. We often usher in the new year with a host of resolutions, by which we express our desire to change. With a “new heart” we resolve to eliminate those things which weigh heavy on our souls and so deeply affect our lives—in short, to bring something “new” into our lives. Yet we often find that, within weeks, our resolutions—and our heart and spirit—have been broken. While sincerely desiring personal renewal, we often resist that which is new. The commitment necessary to unburden ourselves can grow weaker as the new year’s days and weeks pass and we return to familiar routines. How often we find that, instead of allowing the Light of Christ to shine brightly in us, we run for our bushels and, consciously or unconsciously, prevent His Light from shining within us.
If we are to fulfill our calling as Orthodox Christians, however, we must embrace the “newness” Jesus Christ proclaims. We must become that “new creation” which alone can enlighten and transfigure the world with the newness of life brought about by the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. We must overcome the temptation to remain satisfied with “the way things were” and to focus on “the way things could be” if only we—and those whom our witness and ministry touches—resolved to allow old things to pass away and strive, with the Lord’s help, to be that new creation we have been called to become. The new year offers us this wonderful opportunity, and it is my prayer that you will join me not only in embracing it, but in pursuing it with unprecedented zeal.
As we enter this new year, I wish you, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, every good wish and every blessing. May He Who makes all things new renew you in every way, and may you shine with the brilliance of that Light Which darkness can never overcome!
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada