September 1, 2004
To the Venerable Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
Every year, on the first of September, Orthodox Christians throughout the world mark the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. In so doing, we are afforded an occasion to look within our selves, to reflect on where God has led us during the past year, and to discern where He is leading us in our ongoing journey, our ongoing pilgrimage to His eternal Kingdom.
As the Church in North America, Our Lord indeed has been gracious to us. From humble beginnings with the arrival of Saint Herman of Alaska and his missionary companions, who planted Orthodox Christianity in Kodiak, Alaska in 1794, the Church has blossomed in virtually every corner of our continent. The vision of such luminaries as Saint Innocent and Saint Tikhon has inspired generations of faithful to embrace the fullness of truth, to celebrate it by worshipping the Trinity “in Spirit and truth,” and to share it in word and deed. And it is that same vision—one rooted in the burning desire to proclaim the Good News of the risen Christ to any and all who would receive it—which inspires and challenges us to renewed commitment to Christ and His Holy Church as we embark on our pilgrimage into the new year.
It is not by coincidence that, in the coming months, we will joyfully mark a number of significant occasions in the life of the Orthodox Church in America—occasions that, while rooted in our past provide opportunities to recommit ourselves to our future.
The coming year marks the 100th anniversary of North America’s oldest monastic community, Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. Blessed by Saint Tikhon the Confessor and established by the Blessed Archimandrite Arseny (Chagovetz), the monastery has stood—and continues to stand—as a beacon of Orthodox Christianity for the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who have entered its gates, seeking consolation, inspiration, and spiritual growth.
The 35th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska will also be celebrated during the coming year, together with the 35th anniversary of the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America. Both of these commemorations serve as poignant reminders of the vision of the Church on this continent and occasions for renewing our commitment to “continue the mission” initiated by Saint Herman and his fellow missionaries and renewed by the granting of autocephaly.
Formally, our pilgrimage of faith will be further strengthened during the coming year with the convocation of the 14th All-American Council in Toronto, Ontario in July 2005. Once again, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America will be afforded the opportunity to gather in council, to chart the course of our Church’s pilgrimage into the future, and to derive spiritual strength from Our Lord and from one another as we take the first steps into the next chapter of our common witness.
Just as the cycles of liturgical worship we will celebrate during the coming year serve as reminders of our pilgrimage of faith, these events—and numerous others—focus our attention on our ongoing pilgrimage of action and witness and ministry, lived in faithfulness to Our Lord’s command to “teach all nations.” In celebrating and reflecting on our past during the coming year, we will discover the faith and hope to renew our love for the Church, for its mission on this continent, and for our personal and collective pilgrimages during the new year and in the years to follow.
As we continue life’s pilgrimage by celebrating the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, and as we commemorate those events of “our time” which have shaped our life as the Orthodox Church in America, let us prayerfully discern that to which Our Lord is calling us to accomplish in “His time.” While recognizing that indeed, we are not “of this world,” we have been called by God to proclaim His truth “in this world,” in the place where “we have been planted,” that in all things and that at all times, He and He alone might be glorified.
Invoking God’s blessing and assuring you of my prayers, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada