DIOCESE OF SAN FRANCISCO AND WESTERN AMERICA: October 20, 2006
Epistle of His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill to the Flock of the Diocese of San Francisco and Western America on the Eve of the Regular Session of the Synod of Bishops
Fear not, little flock!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
Look down from Heaven, O God, and behold, and visit this vineyard, which Thou hast planted with Thy Right Hand, and establish it.
Listening attentively to these most comforting words as a child, it was impossible to imagine that the Lord God would ever, in His mysterious ways, direct me, a sinner, to set forth on the arduous path of archpastoral service to Him Alone, our King and our God, Creator, Judge and Saviour.
Thine is the vineyard, O Lord, and Thine the Sheep, and Thine the hand that plants, shelters and strengthens each and every one of us.
Not to us, never to us, but to Thy Name Alone all glory is due!
The matters and decisions that at this time rage tempestuously about our Church and our service in it are inseparably bound to the very presence of our earthly church within common human society—a presence, moreover, that affords us practically no way to exert a direct influence on this society, and on this age. It is precisely for this reason that these matters cause us so many doubts and difficulties, and give rise to painful reactions. This phenomenon can and must be understood in that light. It also requires us to maintain a calm composure, and to address it without unnecessary agitation.
But at the same time it is essential to examine all the details in their subtle complexity, and to that end, to take the full measure of the context of our existence in this world, rather than merely to be guided by that principle so perfectly captured in the English expression, wishful thinking . In other words, we must allow reality and not our preferences to govern and guide our decisions, our actions.
It is for that reason that I consider it my duty to express my disagreement with many of the arguments being advanced by the opponents of the reconstitution of the canonical unity of Russian Orthodoxy.
These arguments can be summarized as follows: It is fruitless for the Moscow Patriarchate to persist in its contacts with the World Council of Churches, it is unacceptable for us. And ultimately: lest so much as one of the souls of our flock outside Russia be lost to us, we should bide our time and not hurry to sign the formal Act that will end the schism between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate.
Let us first address the matter of the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches. First of all, I would like to stress the fact that the work of the Moscow Patriarchate in the WCC has fundamentally changed. At its Jubilee Council of 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate condemned the so-called "branch theory." Several points of this Council's decision with regard to the attitude towards the heterodox in fact echo the anathema of ecumenism of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1983. This is confirmed in some of the joint documents of our Church Commissions, approved by both Holy Synods of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. Also, these documents condemned the participation of Orthodox in joint prayers with heretics. Thus, the Moscow Patriarchate fulfilled all our demands regarding ecumenism; at the same time, in its membership in the WCC, as His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion correctly noted in his Statement, "neither dogma nor canons of the Holy Church are violated".
Being with every fiber of my being a person of the 19 th century in my values and concepts, I attest without qualification and hesitation: I am a foe of ecumenism. I do not accept the mixing of concepts, the selling out of fundamental values, compromise… But having said all that, it is equally impossible to simply shut out the harsh reality of our time. We are few, brethren!
We are well consoled by the words of our Saviour: Fear not, little flock! (Luke 12:32).
Yet we are few!
Our Saviour Himself repeatedly proclaims this fact in the Gospels. " Many are called, but few are chosen" (Mt. 20: 16, 22: 14). Not all the Virgins with lamps were found worthy of entering into the Bridegroom's Kingdom (Matthew 25)… Even the Apostles were not all as strong as they ought to have been, when the time of tribulation came… Christ's Church is open to all, to each human being; and yet, paradoxically, not every one finds it.
In the words of Metropolitan Vitaly himself, who reposed just before the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross (+ 2006), Orthodoxy amounts to an aristocratic refinement of the spirit…
We are few not only within the Orthodox world. If we add up the entire Moscow Patriarchate, as well as the canonically Orthodox parishes of what is now known as Ukraine, Crimea, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, the Holy Land and even in our spiritual godmother, Greece – and then even if we add to that all the new calendar Orthodox, and the OCA, everyone… All the Orthodox taken together: we will find ourselves fewer than four hundred million baptized Orthodox souls! But that is less than five percent of the population of the earth… Five percent!
This is the fundamental reality in which we dwell, and it is precisely in its light that we must consider what the World Council of Churches amounts to, and how we should view it.
The World Council of Churches is a society founded by men, not by Christ. By men, we might add, who were themselves a priori not faithful sons of Christ's One Church.
The name itself is deceptive, for this council most certainly does not encompass the world. It comprises only select parts of the developed nations, and of those, only such communities as can afford the luxury of allocating time to its conferences, publications and programs.
Is it in fact a council? Anyone can after all call themselves anything they please. A council convenes, that is, some representatives interested in self-indulgent verbal excess gather together.
Is the WCC capable of enacting any statutes or rulings that have any canonical significance for us? Quite obviously, not in the least!
Does the WCC provide anyone at all with valuable or valid counsel ?
Do their resolutions have any direct connection to the life of our Church, to Her Regulations, order and rules of services, calendar, canons, practice? To our church life?
Emphatically, unequivocally, no.
How might I define my personal reproach of the WCC? I am of the view, as an external observer, that they largely squander time, energy, resources on meaningless pontificating. They might do better simply to study the Holy Gospels more thoroughly, and thereby possibly be drawn into the Orthodox fold…
But how are they to become Orthodox, if our total numbers in the world, even if we include every baptized infant, every person who is not active in church life, fall short even of five percent of the human population? Is it within our power to alter this fact? Quite clearly, the Lord our God did not grant us such a possibility – even though He gave us, as we know, and believe, holding fast to this Truth, the Most Holy Eucharist, the Most Holy Gospels, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, the Intercession of the Most Zealous Intercessor, the Most Pure Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary… and a great multitude of righteous saints who pray for us!
Where is our Church? Can it really be threatened or undermined by the heresy of ecumenism emanating from what essentially amounts to a rather helpless organization, the pseudo-council of pseudo-churches of the world?
Our Church is IN HEAVEN WITH OUR LORD, and there She is the ONE AND ONLY CHURCH, and Christ is Her King and Her God. There are no conflicts there, no disputes, no pontificating, no pointless discourse, but only eternal bliss. There are not even any meetings, resolutions, discussions, no official acts or statutes there, of any kind: for all these things are the vanities of the secular world.
We, on the other hand, here on earth, in the captivity of our sins, endure torments and discomforts as we stand on the threshold of God's Eternal Kingdom, striving to attain entry to Paradise – to that Kingdom which hardly anyone of the so-called WCC even has the foggiest notion of… Or at best a hazy, slight one. For they are, indeed, far removed from our faith, from our canonical Church, our Holy Tradition, our continuous wondrous and miraculous Communion with our Lord Jesus Christ Himself through the Most Holy and Life-Giving Mysteries…
Twenty or thirty years ago, when we lived our entire lives in constant expectation of a deadly nuclear war, when in our prayers for the suffering Russian land, we vividly saw the prison of totalitarianism, of theomachy in its most brutal forms of physical and psychological tyranny over our brothers and sisters of shared ancestry and heritage, we – the clergy and church leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia – were profoundly shocked by the emergence of this dread concept of ecumenism! We attached enormous weight and significance to the concept of ecumenism, and indeed our very attention contributed to its impact, as we placed it on a par with Communism, iconoclasm, and many other terrible delusions…
We recognize as heretics, and anathematize, excommunicating from the Holy Church and Her Mysteries, anyone who so much as admits the possibility that one may find somewhere outside of Orthodoxy the Communion of the Holy Sacraments, or the fullest Grace of the Holy Spirit, which, according to the priestly orders established by the holy Apostles, resides only within specific, exclusively Orthodox, ordained clergy.
Does the mere presence of an Orthodox clergymen at some official civil establishment—I stress, establishment, such as a library or hospital, or laboratory, where at that given moment a godless operation could be taking place—a betrayal of Orthodox teaching, of the Canons of the Church? If so, in what way? Is it ostensibly because as a member of the 4 or 5 percent of true Orthodox Christians in the world, he is surrounded by individuals who do not share with him our teachings and Holy Mysteries?
For ultimately, of course, we are all surrounded, wherever we might be, at all times, by the ninety-five or more percent of humanity which is not Orthodox.
Through our authority as bishops, we bless the marriages of our faithful, even when they enter into union with the non-Orthodox. Often as a result of these marriages, others from those families convert to Orthodoxy who were not themselves born within it. We have had plenty of cases when contact with Orthodox has brought individuals who were themselves, until then, far from Christ into the embrace of the True Church, and into communion with Her Holy Sacraments.
Sometimes people come to Orthodoxy at quite an advanced age. And that means the Lord has found even those lost sheep, and brought them home.
Throughout the world, Orthodox children attend private or public schools, in which sometimes prayers are read. Maybe, as part of a school curriculum, they are obliged to visit not only non-Christian temples, but even pagan lodges and shrines. How are these Orthodox children and their parents to comport themselves? What are they to do? Certain Orthodox families of ours have gone to considerable lengths to keep their children out of the reach of these modern phenomena, but obviously not many have this opportunity. And it must also be noted that utter isolation from the outside world is not always conducive to rearing the most spiritually healthy of Christians, as we all know.
And what about Orthodox teachers who work in an unorthodox environment, when their superiors require them to stage school events with a patently ecumenical or even outright anti-Christian content?
What about the Orthodox parents who are now required to make mandatory annual contributions to programs where they teach not only Darwinism, but even shamelessly sacrilegious or abominably corrupt precepts?
The grievous reality, no longer a hypothesis, is that while we are still primarily arguing against the mere presence of the dread heresy of ecumenism, we – monastics, mature in years, free from the necessity of doing daily battle with such a debased society simply to survive – are isolated and shielded from that outer world in which our altar boys, their sisters, their parents and even the tiniest, youngest members of our Church who have yet to articulate their first proper prayer, are immersed from head to foot…
The world has changed indescribably, in front of our very eyes, in the blink of an eye…
And it is impossible for those of us whom God has seen fit to cause to live in such a time to disengage ourselves from this reality.
It is impossible to forget that our principal purpose in serving Christ must always be, first and foremost, the preaching of His Truth to all who surround us, which is what we do when we accept that we are present in this world and members of its society; when we do not barricade ourselves from it, do not reject it out of hand, condemning it to perdition in order to preserve our own feeling of personal spiritual superiority.
For it is precisely the desire to preserve this feeling of personal uniquely pristine and exclusively emigre Orthodoxy that motivates those who object not only to any contact with the WCC, but even to canonical communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, our fellow Orthodox people of Russia.
These objectors cling to a thought that ultimately echoes the delusion of the Pharisees, namely: We are better than they and must not have contact with any outsiders. And the proof of them being worse than us is plain to see, for they have social contacts with members of other religious denominations, with sinners and with the unclean…
As if we, who are uniquely pristine, never have contact of any kind with sinners and the unclean, in our own churches yet! Why, at any funeral or wedding these days, our churches are visited by all kinds of people who come and converse with our clergy, and perhaps even pray in their own way, after a fashion… And we do not ban them from coming. We do not shut our doors against them. We see in this a means of preaching the Gospel of Christ.
The absurdity of this pharisaic demand that we exclude even other Orthodox from our midst, that we essentially deny the obvious – the unity of our faith with that of the Russian Church – is even more glaring when we consider that Christ Himself shunned neither sinners, nor scribes, nor tax collectors, nor Samaritans, nor Romans, nor Pharisees, nor even Judas himself, but interacted freely with all, until the very end, converting those who could be converted.
Christ gave no examples of excluding anyone—not even Judas—from communion with Himself, i.e. the Truth, the True Incarnate God, until events themselves caused each to be confronted by the ultimate choice: to crucify Christ, or stand by Him even at Calvary itself.
We cannot forget for one instant that Christ's journey with the Cross proved too difficult for many, even for most of the Apostles. Only the Mother of God Herself, John, Mary Magdalene, and the myrrh-bearers remained. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus also proved courageous… Where were the others?
And yet, after the Resurrection, CHRIST APPEARED TO THEM ALL! He forgave Thomas his unbelief, and He restored Peter in his apostolic rank.
It is perfectly clear that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself instructs us by example. After His suffering on the Cross, as before, Christ shunned no one. Although, properly, a special place is assigned in the Gospels, in Eternity and in the Kingdom of Heaven to those who remained with Christ all the way to the end, without fear…
Tending to Christ's flock, we are obligated to be in the world, where these same sheep of Christ struggle to survive. That is where we must watch over them, protecting them from wolves, predators and illness. But even as we cannot build walls around them against the world, neither can we abandon them. Therefore we are must, with God's help, comprehend just how difficult life is for this little flock in our time.
Our faithful are constantly forced by circumstance to contend with an utterly anti-Orthodox element. We, on our part, object to the very presence of this element. In Russia, just a very short time ago, schoolchildren would be beaten merely for wearing a baptismal cross. To this day, criminals inflict brutal attacks on the faithful. A concerted effort is under way to allow children to learn the fundamentals of Orthodoxy in school. What are those few Orthodox leaders to do, those whom God has burdened with returning ALL the Russian people, and not just some of them, into the fold of the Church? In the vast Russian land there officially exist fewer than thirteen thousand Orthodox communities to minister to a population of 150 million. And only now are steps being taken to restore the office of military chaplain as part of the effort to eradicate sadism and corruption in the armed forces. How are several tens of thousands of Russian clergymen supposed to tend to such an enormous number of un-churched souls? To baptize infants, instruct and confess the dying, inspire the young, educate the soldiers, all the while caring for their parishes and rebuilding and repopulating monasteries?
Such a difficult path lies ahead of them, amid poverty, separated by vast distances, in an inhospitable climate, not to mention a society that is still underdeveloped in many places, where cordial social relations are still absent, where functionaries and the powerful scoff at the law, and where a healthy psyche is rarely found within people who have suffered greatly over some 85 years of Bolshevik tyranny!
Can we possibly take on their burden, share in their podvig ? We cannot.
When our own parishioners are forced, for the sake of their family's sustenance, to attend a Buddhist wedding for instance, or even to donate funds to the United Way, or to the Red Cross (organizations that sponsor abortions), or to other purely ecumenical and even explicitly anti-Orthodox funds (the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, Belief Net, the Christian Coalition – organizations allied with aggressive evangelical and fundamentalist groups that vigorously disseminate ecumenism and all that which in the USA we lump together into the category of so-called interfaith dialogue …), we make excuses for our parishioners… Because we understand , these experiences being so familiar to us, why they must avoid offending their superiors by attending a Buddhist wedding; by donating to a society that undermines the morality of our children (for example, Planned Parenthood). Or why they might, for example, purchase the products of a company that boasts of its support of an ideology that we reject, such as the rights of same-sex unions. Our Diocese, for one, where the relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco abide, is based one of the world's most active centers for this ungodly cause. We have many companies that have proclaimed their support for these outrages, raise funds for changes in the laws and require their employees to embrace this philosophy.
So how, then, are we to live?
Are we in a position to demand that our faithful only accept work from Orthodox employers, or from genuinely Christian businesses? Has our emigre community created anything remotely resembling such prospects for its succeeding generations?
Can we demand that no Orthodox household own a television set, nor subscribe to secular publications? We cannot. And that means that we take on the challenge of properly nurturing a healthy Christian soul using completely different logic.
What is specifically unacceptable to us, and subject to outright prohibition? Naturally, we Orthodox only allow fellow Orthodox to partake of Holy Communion. That goes without saying. And the rest? To be at one table with the non-Orthodox? To be in one place with the heterodox? This is not only not forbidden, but Apostle Saint Paul himself wrote detailed instructions on this, on how a Christian should behave in the presence and society of non-Christians (1 Corinthians 10:25-33)… This is hardly anything new.
This is the very Apostle Paul whom we revere, but who caused such debate when he was miraculously converted from the persecutor Saul into Christ's Apostle Paul… The Apostles themselves, including Peter, initially viewed Paul's conversion with antagonism and suspicion, even as today some of our own faithful regard the matter of our reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Therefore, in matters concerning the World Council of Churches, allow me to articulate a different point of view:
Christ has many enemies. They are not only to be found in the meetings of the so-called World Council of Churches. Some of these enemies, for example, operate the media. Some teach. Some set conditions at employment. The Lord our God has not granted us the means to protect that little flock which He entrusted into our care from any and all contact, presence and even outright blasphemy by the enemies of Christ.
We can only teach our flock to pray and to fast, to struggle against evil, to resist deceit within their hearts, to hold fast to the dogma of the Church, not to succumb to those who calumny Christ. But we cannot extract our Orthodox faithful from this un-Orthodox society, yet we are obligated to remain alert, with eyes fully open to the grievous reality of it, for their sake, on their behalf, and for the sake of our pastoral mission.
Contact does not signify endorsement. Contact sometimes takes place even against our will (1 Corinthians 9:17), with no sympathy at all with the other party, whether that be an acquaintance, a colleague, or one's superior. We see this in our own dioceses; we should allow the same understanding to carry over onto others.
Is it seemly of us, that while we protect our own selves with the sign of the cross, we long for hermetic isolation that would safeguard us against any chance exchange with members of other religious traditions, whom we collectively denounce as irredeemable heretics, as adherents of ecumenism?
Didn't our own Father Seraphim (Rose) come to us out of Buddhism? Have we not already received into our clergy a substantial number of most worthy priests and deacons who were formerly Catholic or Anglican?
Does the World Council of Churches lead our faithful astray? No more than they are being led astray by television and the nearest elementary school.
So what are we to do?
The holy and righteous Saint Seraphim of Sarov, in calling upon each one of us to be constantly in prayer, and giving us an example of lifelong exertion in prayer, also showed us the best way to fight ecumenism. All of us pastors and flock, are called upon more than ever before to be steadfast in prayer; to pray constantly, forcefully, with focus and concentration, regardless of where we might be, with whom, what we are doing and what we are discussing… Our Lord Himself indicated our greatest and most reliable weapon to us: prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). These overcome all the snares of the devil.
Prayer and fasting, I am certain, shall help our straying parishioners to sort out their sad misconceptions over the imagined dangers they attach to the canonical communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.
It is a painful truth, yet we must admit it: these obsessive fears bear witness to a basic misunderstanding of Christ's Gospel message, of His teaching, of Christ's Commandments. For the first two commandments of Christ compel us precisely to embrace this fearless coming together with our nearest ones , and not to prolong or extend the rift (Mark 12).
When we fast and pray in accordance with Church rules and by example of our teachers, beginning with Christ Himself, we can fearlessly approach and interact with anyone under any circumstances that the Lord, the Creator and Omnipotent Sovereign, sees fit to present to us. We can even drink of poison, says Christ, and it shall not harm us… (Mark 16:18, Luke 10:19). Let us then, accordingly, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16)…
Compromising nothing in the least, betraying no part of our holy teachings and canons, let us agree that we live in a time vastly different from the time of our Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers… We live in a world, where all the delusions and wicked notions and vices and false teachings have all come to be completely mixed together , so that it is no longer possible to shield ourselves from it, to free ourselves from the presence of heretics and non-Orthodox. There are no deserts left for us to flee to from the pervasive reach of this society…
I cannot therefore accept the suggestion to delay the signing of the Act on Canonical Communion, precisely in light of all the vices that rage all around us, and our flock, in this world.
This is not the time to re-examine the political and historical ills of the twentieth century. That time has elapsed; those questions have been exhaustively studied. We can continue to study them, but what good is endless debate? How many generations must be consumed with the condemnation of Metropolitan Sergius' "Declaration," already repudiated utterly and repeatedly? In 2000, at the Jubilee Council, the Moscow Patriarchate condemned the ESSENCE of "Sergianism." In the joint documents of the Commissions, the Moscow Patriarchate rejects the course taken by Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) in 1927, calling the "Declaration" a tragedy and a temptation which divided the Russian Orthodox Church. Who is to blame if some members of our flock do not bother to read the documents that are published and distributed directly to the parishes not only by the Moscow Patriarchate but by us as well?
How long are we to continue to express our indignation at the existence of the so-called WCC? Do we attend it? No. Has it ceased to function? No. Will we succeed in shutting it down? No.
Everything in this world is tainted, is harmful. But every deception, every form of corruption, all the vices and the false teachings of this world shatter into dust before the Omnipotence of God… Neither Darwinism, nor perversions, nor blasphemy, not even the ecumenism of heretics, nor delusions about the so-called theory of many branches of the Tree of Truth can possibly overcome, can possibly besmirch any part of Christ's Truth. They do not even deserve this much attention from us, for so many years…
Can Orthodoxy ever be in danger, when it is itself the very Spirit of God?!
More crucial now is to wage war against sin within our Orthodox community; to strive to have our young people free of pierced lips, noses, tongues when they come up to the Holy Chalice; free of vile tattoos, free from dissolute relationships, free from luring their Orthodox peers into a life of vice, free from using or distributing drugs, free from committing abortion…
It is much more important to fight the sort of ecumenism when an Orthodox young woman marries a Hindu or pagan or an atheist. But that struggle needs to begin much sooner; it needs to engage her entire family, from her very birth… The same may be said about our young men who rush into marriages to pagan, much less non-Orthodox, women… This struggle is far more difficult than denouncing the clergymen of other confessions, or publicly dissecting every word and deed of theirs.
The Church of Christ is called upon not to put off this struggle, and therefore not to delay for any reason the execution of the final documents on prayerful communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.
We Orthodox bishops have made a special vow to Christ. We have taken upon ourselves the burden of archpastoral service, whose emblem is the holy Omophor. We have put on the holy Panagia – representing not only the Most-Pure Virgin holding our Saviour, but also the very image depicting in its essence the Holy Family, i.e. the Christian understanding that our Lord God through His own example sanctified the podvig of the family congregation. Christ and the Mother of God constitute the first Orthodox household Church.
And we, Orthodox bishops, as we tend to the families that make up Christ's flock, teach them: " For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ!" (Galatians 3:27).
Every true Christian who has consciously been baptized into Christ and who dedicates him or herself completely, consciously, daily, hourly, to Christ – is vested in Christ. Having put on Christ, can we delay the healing of the terrible wounds on the body of the Church? Can we continue to reject contact at least with those other Orthodox Christians , with the excuse that some of them might sometimes be present in places we refuse to set foot in, or that some of their ancestors or predecessors may perhaps have once sinned before God in some way?
How did Christ address the mob that was preparing to stone to death the woman taken in adultery? How did Christ answer the woman who was bleeding, and sought healing, and presumed to touch Him in direct defiance of all the mores and laws of the time? With what great miracle did Christ reward the faith and the humility of the pagan centurion who sought healing for his servant, without ever setting foot even in his house (Matthew 8)? With what words did Christ greet Zacchaeus, the tax collector? For the sake of whose tears did Christ recall to life Lazarus on the fourth day after his death? How did Christ reward the wise, penitent thief?
We, Orthodox bishops, having put on Christ in the fullest sense of the word, must first and foremost seek to deliver all these wondrous, awe-inspiring, tender, healing, enlightening, merciful teachings, divine services, traditions, and all the details of our beloved Orthodox True Church, to all those who are already a part of Christ's flock, or who stand close by.
God's Judgement awaits us all. The Lord our God shall judge us all according to our merits or errors, even unto all those who stand in our way as we strive to fulfil our archpastoral and pastoral vocations.
Our duty is to preserve this little flock. But to preserve does not mean to stand rooted to one spot until we have persuaded all the weakest, fading members of this flock. To preserve the flock means to help the flock preserve itself by that organic means of increasing and strengthening the Orthodox family which each flock naturally grows.
To accomplish this, all of us, Orthodox bishops, in keeping with the canons and laws of the One Holy and Apostolic Church, must stand before this flock not as a warring, fractured organization of some kind, but truly as the successors of the holy Apostles and the holy Fathers, who have put on Christ. Without disputes, without recriminations, without second thought – and without artificial, unjustified limitations and impediments to communion in prayer, to communion in the Holy Eucharist, to communion as brothers.
Then the flock shall be whole, and its Lord shall return to us in kind.
The task that we have embraced is the duty to shepherd, to protect, to heal, to instruct this little flock of ours – and not to erect walls and obstacles between its parts.
The afflicted, of course, require a different approach than the healthy. But both the afflicted and the thriving receive the same essential Truth from their good physician, from their good shepherd: there is only one way, Who is Christ our God. There is one medicine alone: prayer and fasting, the Holy Sacraments, that guide each and every one of us on the path of righteousness.
And we, amongst ourselves, are one, united in our service to Him. We are united in the face of the crisis in the church—not the question of unity: for we are already one!—but the crisis of the general decline and general immorality of humanity.
Of course, the enemies of Christ—precisely His enemies!—do not wish to see the strengthening and the flourishing of Christ's flock… The foes of a man are his household , says the Lord, reminding us that not all who claim to be are in fact His followers (Matthew 10:34-36). And it is precisely the enemies of Christ , and not credible sources, that wreak all these disturbing attacks, calumnies, outbursts.
We must fully grasp this reality. It is not because of our weakness or deficiencies that these criticisms are being hurled at us within our dioceses, but because Christ's flock is in a neglected state. Enemies, plagues, parasites and filth have entered and ensconced themselves. And our Lord Jesus Christ Who Conquereth All shall Himself assist us in ridding ourselves of these detrimental elements.
We shall fulfil our vows, repeating with a pure heart the invocation that every bishop makes at every Divine Liturgy: Look down from Heaven, O God, and behold, and visit this vineyard, which Thou hast planted with Thy Right Hand, and establish it.
And so shall we be, for all time, Made Perfect in One (Job 15:14, also 17:21-23), as our Creator, our Saviour, our Lord and our God, our King and our Judge, Jesus Christ commanded us to be. Amen.
Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America
October 7/20, 2006
St Jonah of Hankow the Miracle-worker