DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: October 23, 2007
On October 21, 2007, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia celebrated Divine Liturgy in Holy Trinity Church in Vineland, NJ, having served all-night vigil there the night before. At the end of Divine Liturgy, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus addressed the participants of the celebration with the following sermon:
" Most glorified art Thou O Christ our God,
Who hast established our Holy Fathers as luminous stars upon the earth, and through them didst guide us all to the true Faith. O Most-merciful One, glory be to Thee.
"Just as the sky and the heavens are adorned with heavenly lights, so too the Church of Christ is adorned with spiritual lights—the Holy Fathers, just as the Holy Church chants today in Her hymns in memory of the Holy Fathers.
"Why is it that the Holy Church honors the memory of the Holy Fathers so much? And who does the Holy Church call a Holy Father? And who can become a Holy Father? Already from ancient times we can see that the honored title of 'father' was given to instructors, to teachers.
"Thus in the Old Testament we have such an example: the Prophet Elisha calls out to his teacher and guide, the Prophet Elijah, who was ascending to heaven, 'Father, father, the chariot of Israel.' This honored title of 'father' continued in the New Testament, and spiritual guides and instructors were called this—at first the Holy Apostles, and then their successors, the Apostolic Fathers, and men their successors, the bishops and priests.
"The Church of Christ is a grace-filled body in which all its members live and move through the grace of the Holy Spirit. What must a Holy Father possess, and what characteristics must he have? First of all, a spiritual father spiritually gives birth to children and raises them up for the Church of Christ. But in order to spiritually give birth and to be able to pass on to his children the spiritual gifts which he speaks about and teaches about, he must first possess them himself, and only then can he pass them on to others.
"The life of such a spiritual Father must be holy, and it must be founded on the commandments of God. Merely a holy life is not sufficient, however. He also needs spiritual wisdom, a spiritual education, a spiritual anointing, and this he acquires through holiness of life, through the acquisition of the Holy Spirit
"Besides this, the teaching of a Holy Father must be founded on the Holy Scriptures, it must agree with the teaching of me Holy Church. When expressing their thoughts, the Holy Fathers always first verify them with Holy Scriptures, and then they verify and substantiate them with the sayings of the Holy Fathers, their predecessors. St Cyril of Jerusalem says: 'And do not believe me, if I simply speak without proof from the Holy Scriptures.'
"This is the attitude of the Holy Fathers to their work in word and in teaching!
"The Holy Fathers were participants in the Ecumenical Councils, and therefore they are especially glorified by the Holy Church, for thanks to them the Church of Christ was cleansed and protected from all heretical false teachings and schisms. At the Ecumenical Councils the Symbol of Faith, which we read every day, was established by the Holy Fathers. Also established were the Church canons and rules which regulate our Church life.
"Today we prayerfully glorify the Holy Fathers of me Seventh Ecumenical Council who established the veneration of Icons for the Church of Christ.
"And so, let us not be attracted by various foreign teachings, according to the bidding of the Holy Apostle Paul. Let us remember our instructors who preached to us the word of God, and considering the end of their life, let us imitate their faith.
"Brothers and sisters, we often hear from people of other religions, and sometimes even from the Orthodox, that this or that in our Church has become out of date, and we need to change it. No, in the Church of Christ nothing becomes old and nothing changes. The teaching of the Church of Christ is founded on the Truth of Christ, which does not grow old and does not change.
"Today, brothers and sisters, we prayerfully celebrate the 60 th anniversary of your parish. Now, after the dismissal, we will offer thanksgiving to the Lord for His great mercy which he has bestowed on your parish and on all of you during these years.
"I sincerely congratulate your pastor, Fr Lyuba, and all of you with your anniversary. Let us pray that the Lord grant you peace and that He send down upon you His mercy and grace, and that they may guard and protect each of you and your entire parish, all your parish family, from every misfortune and sorrow! Amen."
After a moleben and the customary singing of Many Years, His Eminence awarded the Rector, Fr Lyuba Milosevic with a gramata [decree of blessing].