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JORDANVILLE: March 13, 2006

The Great Lenten Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Honorable Reverend Father-concelebrants, dear in the Lord Brothers, Sisters and Children!

I greet all of you with the beginning of this salvific time, a time meant for spiritual introspection and self-examination. The Holy Church now calls upon us to ignite our spirits, to cleanse our hearts and to approach our God and Creator, our Heavenly Father and Dearest Friend, Who invites us into His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Love , Mercy and Light. Weak by nature but strengthened by God's help, holding the staff of prayer, let us all commence this podvig and labor over ourselves! He who labors over his inner life during this Lenten time and declares war on his weaknesses shall not regret it, he will undoubtedly become better, he will rise at least a little from the ground and on the holy Paschal night "will enter into his Lord's joy," when, as the writer of the Church said: "the whole Church (that is, all who are in the temple) form His Holy Church," and this is the unity with the Resurrected Christ of which the ninth part of the Creed teaches us.

Let us support each other upon this path leading towards renewal, as the ancient Jews once supported each other as they fled Egypt and headed for the Promised Land, when children and old people were taken up and carried and the strong and healthy helped the ailing. Let us also, week by week, approach the Pascha of Christ, this "fountain of incorruptible life," (second irmos of the Paschal canon).

Now I address a few words to the participants of the IV All-Diaspora Council, which will commence on the week of the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women. First of all, "for the sake of ecclesiastical need" (Council of Antioch, Canon 20), prepare yourselves for the anticipated forthcoming Council and its difficult but great work, holy in its sacred importance, through fasting, frequent cleansing of your souls through confession and partaking of Christ's Holy Mysteries. I call upon all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to approach your selection as delegate seriously and responsibly, for the Church Herself calls upon each of you to this holy and inspired conciliar task. Earnestly pray to God that His all-good and all-salvific will be done at the forthcoming Council, that the participants of the Council be a living church force, capable on one hand of introducing peace and good order to our lives, and on the other hand, bringing mercy and Christ's truth and joy in the Holy Spirit to the hearts of all the children of our dear Church. Raise your prayers to the Most-Blessed Virgin Mother of God, our Protectress; to the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors, to All Russian Saints and to St John, whose relics lie incorrupt in the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, where the meetings of the Council will be held. By their prayerful intercession, may our Merciful Lord pour His blessed power into the IV All-Diaspora Council and the Council of Bishops that will follow, and "fulfill all our counsels" with the grace and providence of the Holy Spirit.

During Great Lent, I ask everyone to double their prayers for the deceased beacons of the Russian diaspora, the builders of Russia Abroad, the teachers and the mentors, that the Lord, through their fervent intercession, would lead us with His omnipotent and all-strengthening assistance in our forthcoming labors.

Let each delegate take my words not only into consideration, but unto fulfillment.

Once again I greet everyone with Great Lent and prayerfully wish everyone reconciliation with God and with His image as reflected in our neighbors. Let the heart of each one of us become the Life-bearing Sepulchre of the Lover of Man, resurrected on the third day, our Lord; that in our eyes, in our lives, people would see this victory of Life, this Divine light. I believe that welcoming the Pascha of Christ in this way is the best testament of Orthodox Christianity in the face of our fallen world. In this illuminated condition, I hope, we will commence our conciliar work. May this be in all of us, for all of us. Amen.

With love in the Lord, and asking your holy prayers,

+Laurus,

Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York

First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Theodore Saturday, 2006