The Feast of the Sunday of Orthodoxy 2/20/2007

February 25, 2007
The Feast of the Sunday of Orthodoxy

The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference
of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas

To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this the first Sunday of Great Lent, we the Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas greet you in the peace and love of our Lord. Together, we have begun our Lenten journey with a week of prayer, fasting, and worship, seeking to strengthen our faith and renew our commitment to God and His will. Today, the inaugural week of Great Lent culminates in the celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, a commemoration of the triumph of the true Faith with the final restoration of the Holy Icons to the churches in the year 843.

It is on this day that we hear once again the acclamation of those who signed the decree of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787: “This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the Orthodox, this is the faith which has made firm the whole world.” In this statement the bishops affirmed the Apostolic character of the faith. Why was it so essential that the faith be connected to the Apostles of our Lord? Why do we as Orthodox Christians continue to affirm this Apostolic character? How do we define and understand the nature of this link between our spiritual lives and the faith of these Saints who answered the call of the kingdom, followed Christ in ministry and witness, and established the Church through their testimony of His love?

First, we know from the Holy Scriptures that the faith of the Apostles was in Christ alone and in His revelation of the divine will and work of the Holy Trinity. On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter proclaimed, God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). It was to this Lord and Christ that the Apostles pointed through their preaching, teaching, and healing. They knew that He was the source of life and that faith in Him was the way to salvation. The Evangelist and Apostle John wrote, In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4). They also knew His power to help us overcome sin and live in intimate communion with God. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me, wrote the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:20).

Second, the faith of the Apostles was evangelistic and philanthropic. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, they became witnesses to Christ throughout the world (Acts 1:8). They preached Christ crucified and risen, and even when threatened with imprisonment and death they proclaimed, We cannot but speak of the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20). In addition to sharing the Gospel, the Apostles offered a witness of its truth through the power of healing and caring for those in need. They guided the early Christians in acts of charity, especially for the widows, orphans, and the poor, and they offered the saving mercy of God through miraculous healings in the name of Jesus Christ.

Third, the faith of the Apostles was life-transforming. The life of each disciple of Christ was radically changed through an encounter with the Son of God. Simple, ordinary people became champions of the faith. In hearing the call to service, the Apostles sacrificed much for the sake of the Cross and offered their lives so that others might hear and believe in the Gospel of the kingdom. In so doing, their own lives were transformed in holiness, they were granted great wisdom, and they were received by our Lord into a blessed and eternal communion of life and love.

This is the faith of the Apostles. This is our faith as Orthodox Christians, direct spiritual descendants of these holy ones who offer both their example and intercessions to all of us. This is the faith that we have inherited in truth and love, but it must also be the faith that we live. If we proclaim our faith as that of the Apostles, then we must believe above all in Christ and salvation through Him. Our faith must be visible through a constant witness of God’s grace and through acts of compassion, so that both the spiritual and physical needs of others may be met, and they may know of the power of the Gospel. Most importantly, we should understand that the genuine, Apostolic faith will change our lives. Our Lord is calling us out of darkness and into His marvelous light to become the people of God (I Peter 2:9).

As we celebrate Sunday of Orthodoxy, as we continue this blessed and holy Lenten season towards the Holy Pascha, may we cherish this beautiful heritage of the Holy Apostles and allow it to guide us to a deeper communion with Jesus Christ and a greater understanding of life and faith. May we also seek the intercessions of the Apostles and of all of the Saints. They have made this journey before us, and through their lives and prayers they call us to keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

With paternal blessings and love in Christ,

+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

+Metropolitan HERMAN
Orthodox Church in America

+Archbishop NICOLAE
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America & Canada

+Metropolitan JOSEPH
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

+Metropolitan CONSTANTINE
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America 

Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Christ is Born!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has dawned upon the world the light of knowledge. * for through it, those who served the stars * were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness * and to know You, the Dawn from on high. * Glory to You, O Lord! (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. * Angels and shepherds sing His glory; * Wise Men journey with a star * for there is born for us an infant Child, the God Who is before all ages. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10,11 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have autority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice.

St. John Chrysostom