SCOBA Encyclical for The Sunday of Orthodoxy 2003

March 16, 2003

The Feast of The Sunday of Orthodoxy

The Hierarchs of the Standing Conferenceof Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas

To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, we address you in the love of Jesus Christ on the occasion of the Feast of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, a day when we specifically celebrate the restoration of the use of icons in our worship. The significance of this day, however, does not rest solely on icons, but also in the celebration of the fullness of our Orthodox Christian faith and its triumph over forces that have sought to diminish its power and integrity. On this day, in every Orthodox Church throughout our country and our world, the affirmation of this faith as recorded by the Seventh Ecumenical Council is proclaimed triumphantly and With one voice: This is the faith of the Apostles! This is the faith of the Fathers! This is thefaith of the Orthodox! This is the faith which has established the universe!

Our Orthodox faith is the Apostolic faith. Its power and truth rests upon the living testimony of the Apostles who were called by Christ to see His miracles :firsthand, to hear His words of truth and wisdom, and to give witness to the wonders of His glory. After His Resurrection, Christ commissioned the Apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28: 19). So great was their fervor for this sacred endeavor that they could not remain silent in the face of persecution or even death, but were inspired to speak of what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20)

Our Orthodox faith is the faith of the Fathers of the Church. The Fathers were pinnacles of learning, education, and human understanding-figures of towering spiritual and intellectual abilities, who used the tools of prayer and philosophy to expound upon the essential truths of the Christian faith. With their shining examples of brilliance, we proclaim on this Sunday of Orthodoxy that our faith is one of profound spiritual and intellectual sophistication.

Our Orthodox faith is universal, for the Good News of salvation extends to all humanity. The Apostles themselves confirmed that to the nations also God has granted repentance unto life (Acts 11: 18). The Creator of the universe offers to every person, each being created in His likeness and image, abundant mercy that leads to eternal life.

This Orthodox faith has been proclaimed by the Church down through the centuries. Today, as faithful clergy and lay people, members of the Body of Christ who are guided by the Holy Spirit in our Apostolic witness, we offer to our contemporary world the rich heritage of this faith in ways that nurture, enrich, and refresh lives, families, and communities. The healing power of our united Christian witness is especially crucial for our modern age, which is plagued by attitudes of racism and bigotry, assaulted by increased threats of war and terror, and challenged by environmental degradation and poverty. Before these and other ills, we offer the saving truth and compassionate service of our holy, apostolic, and universal faith.

As Hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches in the Americas, we pray that the light of the unadulterated truth of our Orthodox Christian faith shine before all people of this land so that all may know the transforming presence and the infinite mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord. May our Lenten journey towards His glorious Resurrection grant you continued spiritual fortification and strength; may we continue to grow in the apostolic fervor and witness of our Orthodox faith; and may the peace and grace of the Holy Trinity dwell among us now and for all eternity.

+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

+Metropolitan HERMAN
Orthodox Church in America

+Metropolitan NICOLAE
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada

+Metropolitan JOSEPH
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

+Metropolitan CONSTANTINE
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA

This Encyclical is to be read in all Diocesan Churches in place of the sermon on the Sunday of Orthodoxy March 16, 2003