His Eminence Archbisop Demetrios of America
Printed in the May Issue of the Orthodox Observer
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is in this blessed Paschal season when our hearts are filled with the joy of our Risen Lord that we look forward to our gathering in July for the 38th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Within the passing of two months we will be meeting in Nashville in a very beautiful and unique environment to worship, to fellowship, to equip ourselves for the sacred ministry of the Church, and to address the needs, challenges, and opportunities that are before us in the months and years to come. Our ability to conduct the Congress in a productive and edifying way will be enhanced by the graciousness and love of our hosts, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit, the beloved people of the Metropolis of Detroit, and the faithful of the Holy Trinity and St. John Chrysostom parishes of Nashville. We extend our deepest gratitude for their offerings and service to the Church and for the glory of God.
For the past few Congresses we have emphasized our calling and mission as Orthodox Christians in our contemporary world. In fact, this is the purpose of the Congress and why we should meet. We come together to facilitate the work of our parishes, Metropolises, and the Archdiocese so that each and every person may receive the saving truth revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ and lives may be transformed by God’s love for us and our love for one another. This sacred vocation is reflected in the theme for this Congress--Sharing the Truth of the Gospel and the Love of Christ.
First and foremost, this theme is a clear statement of what we believe. We are not called to alter the message, reinvent a concept, or always be anxious to discard what is ancient and embrace the new. The truth of the Gospel has been revealed to us by the Creator of the Universe, the One who is above all time and space, who also brought us into existence for fellowship and communion in eternal holiness, life, and love. Even the power of sin and death has been overcome by the love of God for us through the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Him every person can be restored to the image and likeness of God, receive the gift of salvation, and live in hope and joy preparing for an eternity of blessed and abundant life in heaven.
This is the truth of the Gospel that must be shared with those who live in hopelessness and despair, with those who cannot find the strength to face another day, who are rejected by others, unloved, and hated. It is the truth that can free those in bondage to sin and addiction, engender peace in the lives of the oppressed, and grant wisdom to see beyond the deceptions and lies of evil to what is real, holy, and eternal. It is the truth that we must embrace and share, so that through our lives and service others will join us on the journey to the place where the throne of God will be forever among us, and we will see His face and worship Him (Revelation 22:4).
As our lives and time move toward that great and glorious day, we are directed by our Lord to share His love. It is this love that is at the heart of the Gospel. The truth of the Gospel is God’s love for us, a love revealed to us in the person and acts of Jesus Christ. Through our faith in Him, we experience this love and its transformative power that lifts us from the grave and into an abundant, unending life with our Creator. By following His example of love, we can know a deep and genuine commitment to the will of God and true and sacrificial compassion for the needs and salvation of others. When we know this love and share it, our lives will be a beautiful witness of truth and will lead others to Christ.
It is also in sharing the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ, that we will mature in life and faith. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to speak the truth in love, so that they might grow up in every way into Christ (Ephesians 4:15). When we know the truth, allow it to change our lives, and then share it in love for God and others, we will become the holy and wise people that God calls us to be. Further, we will know and witness something that no power in heaven or on earth can destroy or diminish – the power of life that comes when the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ are shared. We mature in Christ when we know that this is the truth and love that upholds all things, and that it is this truth and love that will preserve our lives when all other things fall and pass away.
As we prayerfully prepare for our Clergy-Laity Congress, may you consider how the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ have influenced and continue to impact your life, and how God is leading you to share this truth and love with others. When we come together in Nashville, may we share in this knowledge and commitment to our calling in this world so that all that we do as the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Church in America will be directed toward offering truth and love in our parishes, communities, families, and in all of our relationships. As we live, work, pray, and share together in the joy of our Risen Lord, “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).