DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: March 16, 2009
Keynote Address of Metropolitan Hilarion at the Eastern American Diocesan Assembly
From the Editors: On Monday, March 16, after having served a pannikhida in the the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God, the lower church of St Vladimir Memorial Church, for His Holiness Patriarch Alexy, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, who passed away one year ago today, Archbishop Vitaly (Maksimenko; + 1960), and Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsy; +1976), co-served by Bishop Mercurius of Zaraysk, His Grace Bishop George of Mayfield, and His Grace Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, opened the Diocesan Meeting of the Eastern American with the following words:
Your Graces, Right Reverend Masters!
Fathers, brethren, and sisters, beloved in the Lord!
We are brought together today by the memory of His Eminence, Vladyka Laurus, who in his ministry fulfilled the testament of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), who is buried in this place: Bring all your powers to bear on peacemaking work within the Church. Recalling the first days of the restoration of the fullness of Church fellowship, His Eminence, Vladyka Laurus said: “The liturgical services of these days reminded me of the words of the Psalmist, for in the process of the dialog between both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, in the Fourth Pan-Diasporan Council and in the solemnities connected with the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, ‘Mercy and truth have met each other; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’ These days, which are being spent in prayer and brotherly fellowship, have likewise reminded me of the ancient icon of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, who embraced and greeted one another after their reconciliation. So also the two parts of the one Russian Orthodox Church, embracing, kissing, and greeting one another, served joyously, with great spiritual enthusiasm, prayed and partook of the one Cup of Christ, triumphing over the enemy of the human race, who during the difficult years of persecution ‘struck at the shepherds and scattered the sheep’ of the Russian Orthodox Church.” Honoring the memory of His Holiness, Patriarch Alexis, His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus, and Archbishop Vitaly, brethren, we must continue their “peace-making work within the Church.” For our strength lies in unity. If we work with one another, if we do and take up the work of God together, if we support one another, if we preach unto all, not so much in words as in the example of a good Christian life, of brotherly love, condescension, humility, and patience, then the power of God will accompany us in our ministry to His people.
We must remember that each of us is a servant of the People of God, and the People of God are our flock. Such a servant of his clergy and flock was Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky), who also rests here, and who, not sparing himself, diligently worked for the strengthening and growth of our parishes on the eastern seaboard of America, carefully and successfully conducted the affairs of the Diocese, and established in our midst a truly Orthodox Christian worldview.
Looking to the example of the above-mentioned deceased hierarchs, let us take care of the people who have been entrusted to us, for their salvation and enlightenment. We must pastorally care for those who have always lived and remain within the Church, nurture them, show attention to them, delve into their life, travel with them on the path to God. There are also children of the Diocese who have arrived from the lands of the former Soviet Union in more recent times, and who, yearning for the Homeland, find it in our churches. For their churching and enlightenment we must not only take thought, but intercede in prayer before the throne of God. We must actively provide them with the good news of Christ, the Gospel, and the Church. We must share the literature of Church education with all who seek answers to their spiritual inquiries.
While helping our compatriots remain Russian and Orthodox amid the difficult conditions of our life abroad, we also cannot forget those heterodox who surround us and who are starving for the bread of heaven. We must extend a helping hand to those who live next door to us; that is, we must engage in missionary work. We have the possibility to share with local Americans the rich legacy of the Russian Orthodox Church, its traditions and spirit, the ideals of Holy Russia. This is particularly sought after by those who languish in denominations that in many ways have discarded traditional Christian structures and spiritual and moral values.
In a word, we should concentrate on preaching, missionary work, and renewing the strength of our Dioceses. And for this, we must not only live and serve in accordance with our Faith, as has been said above, but we must also be organized, disciplined and accessible. We can no longer restrict our ministry to the serving of parish feastdays. We must become organized and activated. Having organized the work of the Diocesan Council, I hope that we will proceed to the organization of an website for the Diocese of Eastern America, the formation of a diocesan center, the restructuring of the diocesan administration, and missionary and educational work, not only among our compatriots and Americans, but among our children and youth, for our youth is not only our future, it is our present. Youth always finds new ways to spread the good news of the Gospel of Christ.
One must also be mindful of the financial aspect. Among us it is common to pass over this in silence, to avoid, out of false modesty, raising these pressing issues, treating them as of secondary import. Nevertheless, without material means, no institution, no organization, no diocesan administration with its chancery, with its staff of employees, will be able to function at full capacity, or function at all. None of us considers this question to be of secondary import when it concerns us personally; though at the same time one can observe a certain negligent attitude toward this matter when it concerns the affairs of the Church.
Dear brethren archpastors, beloved in the Lord, fathers, brethren, and sisters: I call upon you to consider these questions at our assembly calmly and conscientiously. Let us not pay any heed to the slanders being spread by the enemies of our Church, who are trying in every way possible to infect us with dissension and division; rather, let us take care that we piously, in fasting and prayer, in reverently serving and receiving communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, spend this time, which will lead us to the Pascha of Christ and the restoration of our strength. Let us pray to God, that He bless both our diocesan assembly and our pastoral conference, that His will may be done in the life of our Diocese of Eastern America. And let us be assured that it is being done: for it is not men who pilot the Church, but the Lord Himself. In Him let us place our trust.