Epistle of the Synod of Bishops
Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
"Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7). With these words did the Apostles greet the Christians of old, in person or in writing. With these words, too, we, the bearers of apostolic grace, make bold to greet all of you during these days of the Nativity fast and the feast day of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most-Holy Theotokos.
Great are these words, great in their importance and meaning. The Apostles used them to show where the true good for mankind lies, and expressed the wish that the members of the Church of Christ would receive it. Man strives towards good, tries to find it, but most often seeks it not where he should. So through these words, the Apostles clearly pointed out the path leading to the desired good to the ancient Christians. Our true joy is found only in the spiritual world; it is only by possessing a clear, calm conscience before God and our neighbor that we can be truly happy. It is never too late to obtain this joy, this inner peace; we must only pray to God with our hearts, bring Him genuine repentance in our sins and firmly decide to begin a new life, a life in the Church.
From the accounts of the holy events of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most-Holy Mother of God we see that this is a celebration of churchliness, for the holy Joachim and Anna brought the Most-Blessed Virgin to the Temple, where She labored for eleven years in prayer, attending divine services, reading Holy Scripture, performing handiwork, etc. Through Her presence and Her service to God at the Temple of Jerusalem, the Most-Holy Theotokos gave us the example of churchliness, of love for the temple. Genuine churchliness brought Her towards her lofty appointment—She became the Mother of the Living God, Who became Living Man out of love for us, who turned away from Him.
How we wish that we too would all emulate Her love for church, especially the children, our youth. How we wish that beyond the worldly cares, worries, irritations, anger and accusations, our souls would be imprinted with the holiness of the Divine House and with the inner peace obtained through real churchliness. Our souls have hardened from sin, from the absence of churchliness and from internal divisions. Those who take one point of view of the recent events in our Church accuse the other side of betrayal and apostasy, and through this they destroy the unity of the Church. What will warm us and grant us life? The church, the temple. Its very form speaks of something else: of God, of peace, of unity of the faithful, of love, of spiritual joy. In the church our hearts will be warmed and our tortured souls will be released.
That is why, dear in the Lord brothers, sisters and children, we call upon everyone at this time of preparation for the IV All-Diaspora Council, to piously take advantage of all the means offered by the Holy Church to obtain this inner peace, that is, through divine services, by fasting, in the Mysteries, and especially through Holy Communion, in which we come into the closest contact with God. We call upon all to fervently pray that the Lord bless the forthcoming IV All-Diaspora Council, so that in our Church, it is not the will of one "side" or another that prevails, but the all-holy and all-salvific Will of God that is done, which always leads us in wisdom towards good.
In connection with this, from this day forward, until the actual IV All-Diaspora Council, all the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are to read the following petition during the augmented litany at Divine Liturgy:
"O all-good Master, watch over Thy flock and all the children of the Russian Church Abroad, that we may bring about the structuring of our Church in a manner well-pleasing to Thee. Grant us the spirit of wisdom and understanding; instill in our hearts the spirit of the fear of God, the spirit of piety and zeal for the glory of Thy holy name. Guard us against all temptations, stumbling-blocks and divisions, that being bound together, one to another, by the bond of love for Thee, our Master, we may without hindrance perform the work of our ministry for the edification of the Holy Church as the one Body of Christ. We pray Thee, O greatly Merciful One: Hearken and have mercy!
During the years of persecution of the Church in Russia, the churches that withstood temptations and remained faithful to St Tikhon, the Patriarch of All Russia and Confessor, assumed the practice of singing the irmos of the third song of the canon of the Meeting of Our Lord after the dismissal: "O Lord, Thou confirmation of those who trust in Thee, make firm the Church which Thou hast acquired with Thy precious blood."
"O good Shepherd, Who hast promised to gather Thy scattered sheep into a single flock, put down scandal and division within the Church; all who have strayed from Thy path do Thou lead to repentance and a knowledge of the Truth, and return them to Thy fold; and confirm us all in the Orthodox Faith and the doing of Thy commandments. We pray Thee: Hearken and have mercy!"
This custom was adopted by several priests of our Church abroad after World War II, and recognized as fully appropriate by Metropolitan Anastassy of blessed memory. In full agreement with this, we call upon those who desire to introduce the singing of this irmos after the dismissal.
Dear brothers and sisters! The Most-Blessed Virgin enters the Temple and calls us to join Her! Let us follow Her example. We greet you with all our hearts on this Advent. During the days remaining before the Nativity of Christ, when the Lord expressed his greatest love for mankind, let us build and strengthen peace amongst ourselves, the peace praised by the angels over Bethlehem, for Christ "came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh… Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:17, 19).
+ Metropolitan Laurus,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
+ Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
+ Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand
+ Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America
+ Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan
+ Bishop Michael of Boston
November 24/December 8, 2005
Apodosis of the Entrance into the Temple of the Theotokos