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Appeal of the Pastoral Conference

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    Appeal of the Pastoral Conference of the Clergy of the Diocese of Western America We thank Thee, O Compassionate One, Who by the Cross dost save our souls.
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29, 2003
      Appeal of the Pastoral Conference of the Clergy of the Diocese of Western

      "We thank Thee, O Compassionate One, Who by the Cross dost save our souls."

      Sticheron at "Lord, I have cried...", vespers of Monday of the 4th Week of
      the Fast
      We pastors, participants in the pastoral conference in the city of San
      Francisco, have gathered together under the gracious protection of the
      all-holy Theotokos, the Joy of all Who Sorrow, and our great holy hierarch
      and Wonder-worker John of Shanghai and San Francisco. We are glad of the
      possibility for close spiritual fellowship with our archpastors and one
      another in the task of building up the Church in the spirit of love, unity
      and openness. In these days of the Holy Forty-day Fast, when "the most
      precious Cross is set forth for veneration," we have been praying together,
      we have united around the holy altar-table, we have shared our pastoral
      experiences, our joys and fears. We are aware that we are remiss in
      thanking the Lord for the rich mercies He has bestowed upon us. Expressing
      our gratitude to the Lord for the gift of the priesthood He has imparted to
      us, at the same time we also thank God, and call upon the spiritual
      children entrusted to us to be thankful to Him for the mercy of our being
      in the true Church of Christ. How this warms and fills our hearts with joy!

      During the course of the conference, we found the following themes and
      questions to be particularly pertinent and topical:

      1) We must never forget that the parish is a spiritual family. The parish
      is not a democracy, not a dictatorship, but rather a family. In this, the
      family of Christ, the spirit of love, trust, openness and modesty must
      prevail. All those seeking spiritual support will hasten to such a family.
      Many Americans, including the clergy and flock of various modernist and
      pseudo-Orthodox jurisdictions, as well as newly arrived Russians, are
      seeking spiritually for that Church which is in this world but not of this
      world. They are seeking in the Church for a bulwark, they are searching for
      the pillar and ground of Truth, and kindness, warmth, care and true
      spiritual concern from us. Let us open for these people the doors of our
      hearts and the doors of our churches. And let us not merely open the doors,
      but extend our hand to them.

      We are very much concerned with the question of the restoration of piety
      among our parishioners. Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that the Church
      was not established so that those who pray in it may display their
      corruptible wealth, but to amass spiritual riches. In particular, it is
      totally unacceptable for women to approach the holy Chalice, Holy
      Communion, with lipstick on their mouths and to leave traces of this
      lipstick on the spoon and in the chalice; to do so is a profanation of what
      is holy. We also call upon women to come to church with their heads
      covered, as the holy Apostle Paul teaches us (I Cor. 11: 5).

      2) We also consider that it is essential to dedicate special effort and
      attention to our successors--our youth. They are the future of our Church.
      We have already lost many of them--partly because of acculturation and
      mixed marriages, partly through our own fault. We must make every effort to
      draw the youth to the Church, to the spiritual life. We call upon our
      children and our youth to be, with us, members of the Holy Church, to save
      themselves with us. The society in which we live has become a society of
      despair. The youth senses this--they have had little joy in the 20th
      century. True consolation is to be found only in the Church. With
      particular joy and enthusiasm we welcome the recent resolution of the Synod
      of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on the
      appointment of a standing committee for the organization of annual Saint
      Herman Youth Conferences--a necessary application of all possible means for
      the spiritual elevation of our youth. With other pastors, parishioners and
      the youth, we are prepared to work toward the realization of this
      objective. It ought to be noted that in parish life there is one terrible
      phenomenon which often repels children and the young--parishioners'
      constant condemnation of one another, and the pastors and archpastors of
      the Church. Let us combat this sin with all our strength.

      3) During the course of the conference we remembered several of our
      departed spiritual leaders. We remembered Metropolitan Anthony, of whom
      Saint John wrote: "Every Orthodox Christian, whatever his nationality and
      from whatever country he hailed, was close to him. To everyone who had need
      of him, he was a good father and wise guide. Each one who approached him
      for spiritual advice, he treated as his own spiritual kinsman..." We also
      remembered Metropolitan Anastasy, who often gathered his clergy and the
      youth together, questioned them, listened to them, and bolstered them
      spiritually. Of course, we also remembered our Vladyka John. These holy
      hierarchs showed personal care for their clergy, their flock, and
      especially the youth. Following the book of the Proverbs of Solomon, they
      sought counsel: "There is salvation in much counsel." The clergy and
      believers felt themselves to be a vital, real part of our Church. The
      grace-filled unity and trust which are so important for the edifying work
      of the Church, and which are shown, and must be shown, to be one of the
      characteristics of our Church Abroad, were palpable. When there is no
      counsel, when there is no trust, no personal concern and unity in the fold
      of the Church, the life of the Church suffers, and distrust, alienation,
      misunderstanding, a waning of zeal, and depression appear. We call all true
      cooperatation in the Church.

      4) Speaking of our spiritual leaders, we cannot remain silent about our
      Mother, our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The path of our
      slandered, misunderstood, isolated Church has been thorny. But thorny also
      was the path of those martyrs who suffered for the Faith at the hands of
      the Latins. The betrayal which took place four hundred years ago at
      Brest-Litovsk not only continues to this day, but is intensifying, drawing
      the local Orthodox Churches toward a new union with Rome. Thorny also was
      the path of the holy new-martyrs of Russia, who shed their blood for the
      confession of the right Faith. Thorny likewise was the path of those exiled
      for the Orthodox Faith. We cannot forget their blood, their faith, their
      principles, their zeal, their piety. We must stand firmly in the Faith, in
      the Truth. During difficult times, during periods of flux, it is a firm
      stand in the Truth which draws people: purity of faith leads to true joy.
      It is essential to preserve the spiritual heritage of our Church.

      5) Our spiritual guides repeatedly warned (and continue to warn) us against
      the apostasy, the moral disintegration, the spiritual desolation, which are
      taking place around us. Once we allow our spirit to flag because of this
      and various parish difficulties (and this may happen without our even being
      aware of it), we forget the greatest of Christian virtues--hope. We forget
      the words of the Lord: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's
      good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk. 12: 32). Despite all the
      difficulties and all the darkness of today's world, we must hold joy and
      hope in our heart, for our Faith is a triumphal Faith. Have we lost our
      inner certainty that the Church will conquer? The gates of hell will not
      prevail against the Church (Mt. 16: 18). Yes, we live in a world mired in
      sin, yet has not the holy Apostle Paul told us: "where sin abounded, grace
      did much more abound" (Rom. 5: 20)? A clear example of this is the city of
      San Francisco, in which many are sunk in the filth of vile lust, in the
      perversion of God's image in man--yet in this same city has appeared to the
      whole world the greatest consolation and mercy: the incorrupt remains of
      Saint John! No, we shall not lose heart. We shall live in hope and transmit
      this spirit of hope to our youth. And with hope there will also be joy,
      which we also often forget. Has not the Apostle Peter commanded us to
      rejoice with joy unspeakable (I Pet. 1: 8)? This joy we should also pass on
      to our youth.

      6) The life of the venerable Basil the New contains the account of how he
      prayed that the Lord reveal to him the fate of his deceased disciple,
      Theodora. And the Lord answered the prayer of the saint. Appearing to him
      in a dream, Theodora recounted her passage through the way-stations of
      sloth, avarice, lust, pride, deceit... It is noteworthy that the final
      way-station before the entrance into the kingdom of heaven was that of
      hard-heartedness and lack of charity. If we successfully complete a great
      many struggles, yet lack charity, entry into the kingdom of heaven will be
      denied us. At the Dread Judgment, the final sentence will be that
      pronounced upon lack of charity. We, the pastors of the Church of Christ,
      are called especially to show charity towards the members of our flock;
      and, at the same time, the souls entrusted to us must show charity toward
      one another. But to ourselves personally we must show greater strictness,
      we must expect more.

      Work with the youth, the mutual building up of the Church, the rooting in
      us of hope, joy and charity, faithfulness to the ideology and spiritual
      heritage of the Church Abroad, the restoration of piety, the extending of
      our hands to all who seek and desire salvation, and inexpressible gratitude
      to the Lord for everything--this is what we have been speaking of in our
      conference, this is what we have experienced and what we are aiming for. We
      are deeply convinced that, following this path, toward these goals, our
      Church life will become more vibrant, more edifying, more fruitful. Despite
      the fact that more effort, more prayer, more zeal for the Lord are demanded
      of the pastors, we feel a certain excitement and a fresh flow of spiritual
      strength. We wanted to share this with our brethren in the other dioceses,
      with our parishioners and our beloved youth, in the hope that the spark
      kindled today, by the relics of Saint John, will spread, burst forth, and
      be transformed into the flame of faith, love and hope.

      Archbishop Anthony, Bishop Kyrill, and Conference Participants

      Wednesday of Mid-Lent, 1996
      San Francisco, California
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