Archpastoral Letter for the Civil New Year 2003
Prot. N. 152
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Monastics, Clergy and Pious Faithful of this God-Saved Diocese:
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Fathers and Faithful,
I greet you in the joyful expectation of the Civil New Year. I look forward to serving the Lord and His Church in the year 2003, and, I pray that we will share in the confident hope, the steadfast faithfulness and the comforting zeal of Christ and His glorious grace.
It is time that we become optimistic about 2003, and that we look upon this near future with positive regard. Our hearts have been filled with much foreboding and ill tidings from recent tragedies and traumas. Yes, we and our country are still reeling from September 11th....yes, news is ruled with..."wars and rumors of war"...yes, there are terrorist threats, and the economy is not as robust as we would like.
Our Lord told His disciples (Matthew 24:6): "You will hear of all these things, but see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
Despite this promise of our Master, there is too much alarm and pessimism in the Christian community. Too many have taken it upon themselves to proclaim that these years are the last. Too many of us have looked upon membership statistics and have concluded that the Church is dwindling. Too many look upon the passing years as an unstoppable approach toward doom and decay.
I do not see things this way. I see our Lord ever calling us to follow Him into the next moment, the next hour, the next day and week, and into the next year. I do not see Him giving up hope. I do not see Him allowing pessimism to sap His stamina. I see Christ inviting us to follow Him bravely, to be willing to proceed outside of our comforts and familiarities.
We need to heed this call of this Christ who blazes a wondrous path into the future for all of us: "He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3). He does not lead us into shame, or defeat, or decline. Rather, He offers us the bravery and hope of "the King of Glory". So also should we approach the New Year with all its challenges and unknown with confidence and with faith: "What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or persecution or distress or peril? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:35-37).
We have a great year of glory ahead of us in 2003, and we will walk into it with humble trust in our Lord, but with strong, optimistic faith. We have a glorious new Camp Church to complete and consecrate this year. What a beautiful testimony of faith this structure has already become! I view this church of Saints Cyril and Methodios as a shining symbol of the power and grace of Jesus Christ in this Diocese. In every structural element, this Church makes manifest the mighty , blessed assurance that God has established this Diocese upon the rock of Apostolic Faith that God has saved this Diocese through the storms of testing, doubt and struggle and finally, that God has destined this Diocese to serve Him throughout all the generations of this Age to come.
Throughout all the generations of this Age to come......... Does this strike you as naive or vain? It should not, because it was our Lord, after all, Who promised us that as He builds His Church, "the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Do you not know that you belong to an eternal Church, and that your Orthodox identity only begins in this life, and it will stretch forth into the fullness of life for all eternity?
Let us.go boldly, together into this New Year. Let us walk in the Light of Christ, and let HIS grace, HIS Uncreated Light, dispel all pessimism, weakness and fear ."If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another" (1 John 1:7).
Let us be confident enough, and courageous enough, to live out the year 2003 as obvious Christians". Let there be no mystery or doubt as to our identity in the everyday world. May it be that every co-worker, family member, student, associate or friend around you will know -beyond a shadow of a doubt -that you are an Orthodox Christian, and that you are not afraid of the future...because you know, personally, the One Who holds the future in His hands-
Remember the new Camp Church, Saints Cyril and Methodios, what it stands for and what it means. It stands for the Orthodox Faith of our fathers and mothers in the Old World, who struggled, worked and prayed for the life of their children. It stands for the Orthodox Faith of our children and grandchildren, and all the generations to come after us. The Lord may return tomorrow or soon, but He may just as well not come back for thousands of years. We must be ready, and we must walk in the Light so that the Light will shine.
But this church also stands for the Orthodox Faith of you and me. God has given this time, this New Year of 2003 -not to our fathers and mothers, nor to our children or grandchildren -but to you and me.
It is our time to let our light shine in our generation (Matthew 5:16). It is our time to follow Christ in the days, weeks and months to come. It is our time to cast out fear and doubt. It is our time to remember, once and for all, that "if God is for us, who then can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) and, "He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:5).
With paternal regards and blessing, wishing all of you a most prosperous and blessed New Year , I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
+ METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS