By His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi
During the Meetings of the National Ladies Philoptochos Society
Within the Framework of the 44th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
(Boston, July 2-5, 2018)
Your Eminence and dear brother in Christ Archbishop Demetrios of America,
Beloved brethren Clergy,
Esteemed President of the National Ladies Philoptochos Society,
Gracious ladies and members of the Philoptochos Chapters,
From the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, in addition to the sacred group of His Holy Apostles, there existed the reverent group of His Holy female disciples. First among them stands the Most Holy Theotokos, followed by esteemed figures such as Mary Magdalene, Mary of Cleopas, Joanna, Salome and many others. These saintly women followed their Teacher and the Apostles, evidently ministering to their daily needs for food, cleanliness and other necessities. History would later remember them with the honorary title of “the Myrrh-bearers.” Shortly thereafter, deaconesses assumed the roles of the Myrrh-bearing women, serving as the primary arm by which the ancient Church enacted philanthropy. Simultaneously, they undertook educational responsibilities within catechism and even lower forms of liturgical service. Indeed, these women were heroines of Christian love. Names of deaconesses such as Phoebe, Olympia, Sylvia, Prokla, Sabiana and many others adorn the history of our Faith. In other words, since the beginning, women have played an active role in the work and life of the Church. And once we begin to mention nuns, ascetic women and abbesses, we open yet another chapter, which is not of the present topic.
Today—most especially in the eparchies of the Orthodox Diaspora, such as the Holy Archdiocese of America and the Metropolises of the New World—it is with great enthusiasm that women assume an active role in ecclesiastical life, primarily through Ladies Philopotchos Chapters. In continuing the work of the Myrrh-bearing women, they tirelessly and willingly sacrifice their time and treasure; they complement the work of the Hierarchs and Clergy; they run to lovingly comfort and support the sick and those in need; and they raise funds to help alleviate the economic burdens of parishes, such as providing them with necessary liturgical items for worship and beautification. They hasten to help both our young children and the elderly—essentially everyone! They assist with stewardship pledges for parishes, Metropolises and the Archdiocese. They organize various community, philanthropic, educational and cultural events. Moreover, all of this is done as bees, or rather, as angels of God! And when I say that they run to provide aid, I mean that you do so, because you are the ones who do these things in the Archdiocese and the Metropolises of America. Therefore, I offer this moment of recognition, praise and the laurel wreath of the Mother Church to you, adding—together with my brother hierarch Metropolitan Maximos of Selyvria—to the sentiments of deep appreciation, paternal love and compassion that His All-Holiness our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew conveyed in his venerable message to you. The Mother Church of Constantinople has repeatedly tasted the fruits of your good dignity, as well as your compassionate support of her needs. You will always have our heartfelt gratitude!
Nevertheless, I would like to lovingly underscore the need to recognize that the connection of your local Church with the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not only canonical in nature (for you are one of the blessed Eparchies of the Throne, and basically the most prominent and fruitful), but that it is also primarily ontological. You are the Phanar’s “bone of its bones and flesh of its flesh.” We are all cells and members of the same body. The Patriarch is not merely an administrative supervisor, but the father of all of us—a compassionate one who thinks of you night and day, worries for you and prays for you and your children. He is concerned with the welfare of the Archdiocese, your metropolises, communities and organizations, as well as your ecclesiastical, spiritual, educational and community progress. Please keep this in mind, and pray for our Patriarch, hierarchs and the rest of the coworkers who surround him, and together keep lit the Lantern of our Orthodox and saving Faith; the Lantern of nobility of our devout Genos; the Lantern that bears chief responsibility among the Orthodox Churches throughout the oikoumene. Preserve and protect that which you have inherited from your predecessors—what the Church has always taught and continues to teach—and bequeath it to your children and their own. Teach them to be proud that they are children of the Church: the faithful Orthodox and Greek-Americans who find protection under the double-headed eagle of our most honorable Ecumenical Patriarchate.
May God richly bless you in your spiritual struggle and in all good works you perform for your fellow neighbor, for the Church and for the Omogeneia. May the Virgin Mary keep you securely in her embrace all the days and hours of your lives!