Encyclical for Indiction 2015

Beloved in the Lord,

The above verse is taken from our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, and I hope it will inspire each of you and the ministries of our Metropolis in this new Ecclesiastical year. As the Lord teaches, this light, this brilliance, is not meant to be covered under a bushel, but placed high for all to see and to illumine a path for all to come to Him. Now that our parish programs and ministries resume their normal routines after the summer months, let the light of our faith and life as Orthodox Christians shine bright.

As you read this letter, I am enjoying the hospitality of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, at the Phanar, for the Synaxis of the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne. The Phanar is so named because of the lighthouse that once sat in this area on the Golden Horn. Today the lighthouse is gone, but our Patriarchate serves as the lighthouse for our Orthodox faith, being a shining example of leadership and care for the Orthodox Church and the people of the world.

In the Synaxis, Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Bishops from the eparchies and dioceses of the Ecumenical Patriarchate around the globe are gathered in council under the leadership of our His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to discuss the issues facing our Church and the world today. Throughout the Synaxis our focus will be on finding new ways for our Faith and Church to shine the light of Christ with greater intensity. There are many issues to discuss from the forthcoming Great and Holy Council to be held in 2016, to the tragic situation of the Church under persecution in the Middle East. We must act as one Church to continually shine light on these issues.

Another area of common concern for the Church and the world is the environment. September 1 has been designated as the day of the Protection of the Environment. Our Ecumenical Patriarch began shining light on this issue long before other religious leaders. His All Holiness has called us to pray for the protection of the environment and to ask for forgiveness for our complicity in its destruction. With the raging forest fires, years of drought, and the recent toxic accident in a river, we can see why we must turn to God and ask Him to enlighten us with environmental wisdom, for we need His help and guidance more than ever.

Let me conclude by returning to our work as the Metropolis of San Francisco. Our task in this coming Ecclesiastical year is to magnify and radiate the light of Christ through the life of our parishes and people. We, the Body of Christ, are called to continue Christ’s mission in the world, to see all people as Christ saw them: children of their loving God and Father. This coming year as we continue to implement our Strategic Plan, let us spread the light of the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Orthodox Church throughout our Metropolis. The programs and ministries we are building can shine the love and the light of Christ on all people. Some people today criticize Christianity because they believe it is not living up to the Gospel that it preaches. Let this not be so among our parishes and Metropolis. Let our love for our neighbor be as meaningful as the words we preach!

May the love of God the Father shine in your hearts and radiate among the lives of all you encounter in your parish, in your work, and in your family. Beseeching our God to bring this New Ecclesiastical Year all His blessings, I remain,
With Love in Christ,

 

+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco

 

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Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the New Ecclesiastical Year and the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment – September 1, 2015

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this Feast of the Indiction which marks the beginning of the New Ecclesiastical Year, we are led by our beloved Ecumenical Patriarchate in observing the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment.  The relationship of our commemoration and observance is significant due to the changing of the seasons, our agrarian heritage in relation to marking time, and the strong foundations of our worship and theology in the relationship of our Creator to His creation.  We affirm this in the hymns of this day as we sing, “In wisdom You have wrought all things and have established proper times and seasons for our lives” (Praises of Orthros), and “Author and head of all creation, under whose power lie all times and seasons, O compassionate Lord: crown the cycle of this year with Your generous blessings” (Exapostilarion of Orthros).

It is in the divine act of our creation that our relationship to the created order is revealed.  Through the power and grace of the Creator bringing all things into existence and in His creation of humankind in His image, we see our unique role as stewards of all that God has made.  As Adam and Eve were created and placed in the garden to “tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15), we have the responsibility to care for and protect His creation.  As man and woman were directed by God to “be fruitful and multiply” and to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28), we have the authority to manage the created order prayerfully and respectfully to sustain life and to address human and environmental needs.  We must also affirm in our relationship with God that through His wisdom and our creative potential, we are able to sustain and protect the natural environment while addressing the environmental challenges and stresses of technological innovation, economic forces, population growth, and natural disasters.

Created in God’s image as stewards of the natural order, we are witnesses of the goodness of creation.  He saw that all He created was very good (Genesis 1:31), and He established and sanctified time through the order and process of creation (Genesis  2:3).  Our awareness of this inherent goodness in all that God has made is known first in our relationship with Him.  We also marvel at the beauty, complexity, and function of creation, recognizing divine origin, purpose, and goodness.   We proclaim the Gospel, guiding all to the revelation of God’s grace through Christ.  We offer a ministry of hope and transformation, as we help others find healing, assurance, and salvation in Him.  Through the prayers and liturgical life of the Church, we journey through each day, each week, the full cycle of the year and our lives toward the glorious fulfillment of time and eternal life in communion with God.

As we commemorate this Feast may we commit our time to the feasts and observances of the Church, to a daily life of prayer and communion with God, and to sustaining our spiritual lives through the disciplines of our faith.  May we also affirm that we are created and called as stewards of the created order.  From our relationship and communion with God, may we offer a witness of the goodness of His creation and the sanctity of life.

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS

Archbishop of America

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Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos

August 15, 2015

Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We commemorate today, on this blessed Feast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary, the holy repose of the Mother of our Lord and seek her intercessions for deliverance, refuge, and salvation in Christ.  From her resting place among the Saints she continues to radiate the grace of God offering solace and strength to those in need.  Through her repose and her constant ministry on our behalf, the Theotokos shows the power of faith and the promise of life beyond death.

For this reason this is a Feast of celebration and joy.  It is also a Feast of hope and assurance.  In the Kontakion of this day we sing, “Neither the tomb nor death had power over the Theotokos, who is ever watchful in her prayers and in whose intercession lies unfailing hope.”  First, we are filled with hope on this day as we look to the beautiful example of a life dedicated to the will and love of God.  She has shown us the path to communion with Him.  Through her witness of complete faith and unwavering obedience the Virgin Mary guides us in trusting in the divine will and committing all of our ways unto the Lord.

Second, through her life and repose we see the miraculous power of God and the blessings of a life long relationship with Him.  This power made her the dwelling of the Son of God.  It is the divine power that sustained her throughout the life and ministry of our Lord and made her a paragon of virtue and a pillar of strength.  The power of God transformed her repose into a witness of holiness and a feast of joy for a life that draws all humanity to the Savior.

Our services for this Feast are a prayerful and much needed reminder of the hope that we find in the Theotokos.  In times of distress and need we find comfort and strength in the intercessions of one who knows our struggles and embodies the compassion of our Lord.  We also seek the intercessions, deliverance, and comfort of the Theotokos for all who are in need and struggling through tragedy, want, and despair.  For many of our brothers and sisters in Greece, this has and continues to be a time of hardship and uncertainty.  Too many are lacking basic necessities or face the possibility of great need in the months and years ahead.  On this day, a very special Feast for Orthodox Christians, we seek the intercessions of our Most Holy Lady.  In this time her comfort is needed.  Her aid is sought so that hope may be nurtured in the hearts of those seeking deliverance.

On this day as we commemorate her repose, may we ask for the intercessions of the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary for those in great need, especially the people of Greece.  May we follow her example of service to God and humankind.  And may our worship be a faithful witness of the power and life that she has shown through her life.

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS

Archbishop of America

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Why a Fast for the Dormition?

It would be a gross understatement to say that much has been written about the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Yet very little has been written about the fast that precedes it. Every Orthodox Christian is aware and generally knows the reason behind the fasts for Pascha and Christmas. But while they may know of the Dormition Fast, it is notable that some do not observe the fast, and more than a few question why it is there, not understanding its purpose. Given the pervasive misunderstanding of the purpose of fasting itself, a refresher on its purpose is always a good idea. There is a perception that we should fast when we want something, as though the act of fasting somehow appeases God, and seeing us “suffer” gets Him to grant our request. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Fasting Pleases God?

It is not our fasting that pleases God, it is the fruits of our fast (provided we fast in the proper mind set, with alms and prayer, and do not merely diet) that please Him.

1) We fast, not to get what we want, but to prepare ourselves to receive what God wants to give us.

2) The purpose of fasting is to bring us more in line with another Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and away from their sister Martha, who in the famous passage was “anxious and troubled about many things.”

3) Fasting is intended to bring us to the realization of “the one thing needful.” It is to help us put God first and our own desires second, if not last. As such it serves to prepare us to be instruments of God’s will, as with Moses in his flight from Egypt and on Mt. Sinai, as well as our Lord’s fast in the wilderness. Fasting turns us away from ourselves and toward God.

4) Fasting during the Dormition Fast helps us become like the Theotokos, an obedient servant of God, who heard His word and kept it better than anyone else has or could.

So why do we fast before Dormition?

In a close-knit family, word that its matriarch is on her deathbed brings normal life to a halt. Otherwise important things (parties, TV, luxuries, personal desires) become unimportant; life comes to revolve around the dying matriarch. It is the same with the Orthodox family; word that our matriarch is on her deathbed, could not (or at least should not) have any different effect than the one just mentioned.

The Church, through the Paraklesis Service, gives us the opportunity to come to that deathbed and eulogize and entreat the woman who bore God, the vessel of our salvation and our chief advocate at His divine throne.

The Paraclesis Service

The Service of the Paraclesis to the Theotokos consists of hymns of supplication to obtain consolation and courage. It should be recited in times of temptation, discouragement or sickness. It is used more particularly during the two weeks before the Dormition, or Assumption, of the Theotokos, from August 1 to August 14. The theme of these Paraclesis Services centers around the petition. . “Most Holy Mother of God, save us”.

If you have a problem or if something is burdening your soul, if you feel spiritually uneasy and if you are not at peace with yourself and with those around you, then, you should come to the Church during the first fifteen days of August and ask for the intercessions of the Mother of God. Even if you are fortunate enough to be one of those very few who are at peace with themselves and with God, then those blessed ones should come to these services and thank God and His Blessed Mother for the blessings that they have bestowed upon you and your family.

Since these Paraclesis Services to the Theotokos are primarily petition for the welfare of the living, let the whole Church pray for you during the first fifteen days of August and especially on the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 15th. Don’t let your laziness and your apathy cause you to miss this great blessing and inspiration that the Church can bestow upon you. Let the peace and holiness that only the Mother of God can give you enter into your life. “Let us lay aside all earthly cares,” and let us truly, during these fifteen days, participate in the fasting and prayer life of the Church so that we can “taste and see that the Lord is good” and so that we may fully experience the spiritual blessings that the Church offers to us at this holy time. “Blessed is he whom He shall find watching.” Come and pray to the Theotokos with us and with the Church and by her prayers and intercessions, may our souls be saved!

Observe the Dormition Fast

Fasting, in its full sense (abstaining from food ,evil thoughts, actions and desires) accomplishes this. Less time in leisure or other pursuits leaves more time for prayer and reflection on she who gave us Christ, and became the first and greatest Christian. In reflecting on her and her incomparable life, we see a model Christian life, embodying Christ’s retort to the woman who stated that Mary was blessed because she bore Him: blessed rather are those who hear His word and keep it. Mary did this better than anyone.

Fr. Thomas Hopko has noted, she heard the word of God and kept it so well, that she of all women in history was chosen not only to hear His Word but give birth to Him. So while we fast in contemplation of her life, we are simultaneously preparing ourselves to live a life in imitation of her. That is the purpose of the Dormition Fast.

When the assumption of thine undefiled body was being prepared, the Apostles gazed on thy bed, viewing thee with trembling. Some contemplated thy body and were dazzled, but Peter cried out to thee in tears, saying, I see thee clearly, O Virgin, stretched out, O life of all, and I am astonished. O thou undefiled one, in whom the bliss of future life dwelt, beseech thy Son and God to preserve thy people unimpaired.

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ASSEMBLY OF BISHOPS ISSUES RELEASE IN RESPONSE TO SUPREME COURT DECISION

NEW YORK – The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, responding to the Supreme Court decision of June 26, Obergefell v. Hodges issued today the following release:

Response of to Obergefell v Hodges

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America strongly disagrees with the United States Supreme Court decision of June 26, Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court invents a constitutional right for two members of the same sex to marry, and imposes upon all States the responsibility to license and recognize such “marriages.”

The Supreme Court, in the narrowest majority possible, has overstepped its purview by essentially re-defining marriage itself. It has attempted to settle a polarizing social and moral question through legislative fiat. It is immoral and unjust for our government to establish in law a “right” for two members of the same sex to wed. Such legislation harms society and especially threatens children who, where possible, deserve the loving care of both a father and a mother.

As Orthodox Christian bishops, charged by our Savior Jesus Christ to shepherd His flock, we will continue to uphold and proclaim the teaching of our Lord that marriage, from its inception, is the lifelong sacramental union of a man and a woman. We call upon all Orthodox Christians in our nation to remain firm in their Orthodox faith, and to renew their deep reverence for and commitment to marriage as taught by the Church. We also call upon our nation’s civic leaders to respect the law of Almighty God and uphold the deeply-rooted beliefs of millions of Americans.

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Soap-opera star talks about how he became Orthodox

Emmy-award winning star Jonathon Jackson talks about how he became Orthodox. See the interview by clicking here

http://pemptousia.com/video/jackson-how-i-became-orthodox/

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Assembly of Bishops Executive Committee to Meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

On June 16, the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America will travel to Istanbul in order to meet with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will receive them at the Phanar.

The meeting is scheduled prior to the annual meeting of the Assembly in September in order to share with the Ecumenical Patriarch the overall work of the Assembly of Bishops, particularly as it relates to the achievements of its committees, and to discuss preparations for the upcoming Great and Holy Council, which is scheduled for 2016.

The prayers of our faithful for safe travel and fruitful deliberations inspired by the Holy Spirit are requested.

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Paschal Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios of America

April 12, 2015

Holy Pascha

The Feast of Feasts

It is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant,

O people! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God has brought us from death to life, from earth unto Heaven as we sing the triumphal hymn.

Canon of Holy Pascha

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Χριστός Ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen!

In the light and joy of this blessed and holy Day of Resurrection, we gather to celebrate our Holy and Sacred Pascha.  This Pascha, this Feast of Feasts, is a celebration of life, abundant and eternal.  It is a celebration of the power of grace.  It is a day above all others when we proclaim throughout the world that the chains of sin and death have been broken, we have victory through Christ, and through the power of the Cross and the Resurrection we are being transformed from death to life.

On this blessed day, Lent ends by being transformed into a feast of joy.  The time for contrition of heart and contemplation has past as we engage all our soul, body, and mind with the jubilance before us.  Repentance has received forgiveness and grace.  We have returned home and are welcomed with the loving embrace of the Father.  We have completed the journey of faith, and in the glory of this Holy Pascha we glimpse eternal life and rest.  Our hope in the blessed promises of God has been fulfilled in the Holy Resurrection.

This transformation has come to us through our Risen Lord.  On this holy day we celebrate because of Him Who said I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), and we celebrate with Him.  He is in our midst.  We have seen His Passion.  In the journey through the wilderness we have seen our Lord lifted up on the Cross to bear our shame and sin through His suffering.  Today, Jesus Christ is risen in holiness and glory, revealing the power of eternal and abundant life.  We greet Him in joy.  We receive His body and blood in thanksgiving.  We proclaim to the world His Resurrection.  We are transformed in the light and life that comes from Him.

Our transformation changes everything!  In the radiance and glory of this Holy Pascha we find the meaning of life as it was created to be.  We see our goal, our purpose, our completion and our eternity.  Our hope for the journey of life is strengthened. Our understanding of life, of others, of the world, and of all creation is changed in the truth and certainty of the Resurrection.  Fear is vanquished, the threat of death is annihilated, and the weakness of sin is exposed in the enduring light of our Lord’s holiness and glory.  We are now free from the guilt, our communion with God has been restored, and He offers to us an abundant life of peace and joy.

As we gather on this day, let us be completely filled with the joy of Holy Pascha!  Let us purify our senses, and we shall see Christ! Let us celebrate the saving Pascha of God!  Let us worship our Holy Lord Jesus! Let us forgive everything in the light of the Resurrection and proclaim: Christ is risen from the dead, by death He has trampled down death, and on those in the tombs He has bestowed life!

With paternal love in the Risen Lord,

†DEMETRIOS

Archbishop of America

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PASCHAL ENCYCLICAL 2015

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

Dearly Beloved,

Today we rejoice because the Lord has set us free. In His Resurrection, death and its hold over mankind has been defeated. As we see in the icon of the Resurrection, Christ lifts Adam and Eve out of their tombs and through them lifts all of us from the bonds of corruption. The doors of Hades have been broken forever and death himself has been bound, rendered powerless before the omnipotent God. As Moses led the Hebrew people from slavery and death in Egypt to life in the Promised Land, Christ has led us from the tyranny of death and corruption into a new reality of life with God. As we hear in the praises of Pascha, “Paradise has been opened for us.”

We have labored throughout our Lenten journey to bring us to this point. We have observed the practices and ascetic disciplines of our Tradition so that we would be prepared physically, intellectually, and spirituality for this moment. We have spent Holy Week sharing in the Passion of the Lord so that we might enter that blessed and empty Tomb and bear witness to the reality that, “He is not here. He is risen” (Matthew 28.5).  To paraphrase St. Epiphanius of Cyprus, the sixth century father of our Church, we have descended with Him so that we may rejoice together.

And so, my beloved sisters and brothers, today, we can put our asceticism aside and celebrate. As we hear in the Paschal homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom, “O rich and poor … dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!”

Yet, not all are able to feast at the table as we do today. Not all are able to celebrate in freedom. The Christian community in the Middle East and Africa still yearn to be free from persecution, merely for calling themselves Christian. They long to be able to walk through the streets of their cities and share the Good News that Christ is risen and “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15.22). But out of fear of persecution and martyrdom, the message of the Resurrection must only beat in their hearts. So, for them, let us chant the hymns of Pascha with greater strength and joy, proclaiming “God has put all things under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15.27). For them, let us raise our lit candles high because “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15.554). For them, let us share the Good News with our neighbors.


Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen
!

 With Love in the Risen Lord,

+ G E R A S I M O S

Metropolitan of San Francisco

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Humility is the cloak of the Godhead by Elder Ephraim of Arizona

We have arrived at Holy Week and the Passion of our Lord. His life-giving Passion began at Bethany, from the village of Martha and Mary. This is where He set out with the little donkey and His disciples in order to make His entrance into Jerusalem. We witness Him Who sits upon a throne of glory simultaneously sitting upon a throne of humility. This is what our Lord wanted to teach us by mounting this humble animal: humility.

With His humility our Christ prompted everyone down here on the earth—even the small children—to sing praises: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt. 21:9). With His humble entrance before the multitudes of people, He moved and shook up all of Jerusalem. “Who is this person?” exclaimed everyone who was unaware [of what was taking place]. All the people raced to cut branches from palm and bay trees in order to lay them down before His path.

Yet, take a look at how the things of this world change so quickly. On Sunday the crowds were crying out, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes,” as well as many other things; four-five days later, however, they shouted, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” (Jn. 19:15). This is how things are on the earth. Nothing is stable. One moment the world exalts a person and the next moment it degrades him. Man is unstable; his works are unstable; his thoughts are unstable; everything in his life is unstable. The humility of our Christ is truly remarkable! It is awesome! We witness the God-man humbly and unpretentiously seated upon a young donkey. His holy example is such a beautiful lesson for us. As we proceed through the most sacred week of His Passion, His supreme humility becomes even more pronounced. We see Him enduring tortures, ridicule, and slaps. We watch Him suffering the hardship of imprisonment, lifting the Cross, and eventually falling to His knees from the weight of the Cross. Who can fathom that God on earth was slapped by a human hand made of clay, by the hand of the creature whom He fashioned with such beauty, perfection, and wisdom! This person whom He [initially] created as “a god by grace” upon the earth afterward raised his hand and hit God! If our child were to hit us, we would rise up and protest, “How you dare hit me? Your mother, your father…?” But what is a mother or a father when compared to God on the earth? They are just fellow human beings made of clay.

This is where the beauty of Christ lies: His humility! If He were not humble, He would not be God. He is not a dictator; He is not a ruler; He is not haughty. His glory is His humility.

 

An excerpt from “The Art of Salvation” By Elder Ephraim of Arizona

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