“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:1-3).
Pentecost was the birth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. With the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Church was given all that was needed for the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ to continue through the Holy Apostles and their successors.
The Holy Orthodox Church has been provided every treasure necessary to lead us to our eternal salvation. We need not borrow limited and false values from secular society. Unfortunately, society has affected our faithful – laity and clergy alike. We, as a society, have been desensitized to the respect for life from cradle to grave. We, as a society, have been desensitized to moral values by viewing, on our televisions and other forms of media, the acceptance of cohabitation before marriage and same-sex relationships. We have been tempted to take the easy and convenient way in all we do, regardless of the consequences. For certain, the Orthodox Christian Faith in its fullness is difficult to live. If it had no value, it would be easy to live – but it is the “pearl of great price.” We should not expect the Church to lower its standards for our convenience or to conform to the nuances of society. Instead, we must deny ourselves daily, taking up our crosses while attempting to live up to the standard our Lord and His Body, the Church, have set for us. Yes, we are weak and sinful human beings, but we must continue to struggle in our spiritual lives to live the commandments of God and seek, above all else, His Kingdom.
Dear Orthodox Faithful, we are continually and subtly being led away from the very deposit of faith and the Holy Tradition we have received. We are not being persecuted by communism, nor are we being oppressed by the state, as the faithful in some countries are experiencing. Instead, we are being challenged to be on guard continually against the subtle and tempting influences that society imposes on us, the People of God.
On the weekend of my consecration a little over one year ago, I took the following oaths as your bishop:
“I promise also to do nothing through constraint, whether coerced by persons with power, or by a multitude of people, even though they should command me under threat of death to do something contrary to the divine and holy laws….
“I promise to visit and watch over the flock which is now entrusted to me after the manner of the Apostles, so that they remain true to the Faith and true in the performance of good works. I will show special concern for the priests….”
I took these promises quite seriously, and I plan to honor them throughout my episcopacy. I ask for your prayers, your love, and your support as I continually pray for and love this God-blessed Diocese, its clergy and faithful. For the last two-thousand years, the Holy Orthodox Church has remained faithful to its doctrines, teachings and the Holy Tradition that have been handed down from our Lord, Jesus Christ, His Apostles, the Holy Fathers and their successors in the Church. Let us pray that we might remain faithful always to that which the Most Holy Trinity has given to us for our eternal salvation and for the salvation of those who come after us.
Your Shepherd in Christ,
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest