October 3, 2017
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies and Your Graces, most respected Hierarchs of the Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America,
It constitutes a great joy and a profound blessing to be together again for our 8th annual General Assembly. Many of us have known each other not only since our First Episcopal Assembly in May 26-27, 2010, but long before. Our eight General Assemblies, however, have been special occasion for cultivating and strengthening the bond of deep love and apostolic zeal that unites us as canonical Hierarchs of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church in America. Through God’s grace and providence, we have all been brought together to this one place and we have been called to walk in unison toward a common goal, albeit, one that is still unfolding and which will be fully revealed in the eschaton. While our sights are ultimately set on the “things to come and longed for,” as long as we call ourselves co-laborers in God’s vineyard, it is our sacred obligation to work together to realize this goal by drawing ever-closer to one another.
This leads us to pay greater attention to the purpose of our meeting. Let us consider some basic points.
1. Cultivating the Bond of Love and the Unity in Christ
The first point related to the purpose of our Assembly is something self-understood. We are here to increase the love for each other, and to enhance our unity in Christ. This is a noble purpose in and of itself, but it also has a decisive impact on our work in presenting an authentic witness of Orthodoxy. Before His betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, crucifixion and death on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ reminded His disciples that when He is gone, the only way that the world will recognize that they are His disciples is by the love they have for one another. As you know, He said to His disciples, A new commandment I give to you that you love one another even as I have loved you that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35). At the same time Christ prayed to His Father: Father I do not pray for those only but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they all be one even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they also may be one in us so that the word may believe that You have sent me (John 17:20-21). It is not simply that people will call themselves “Christians” that the world will know that they are followers of Christ. Only by their love – their sacrificial love – for one another and their unity in Christ will the estranged world pause and recognize in them the very light and life emanating from Christ and His Gospel. This unwaining light, which is present in the hearts, thoughts, and actions of love of true disciples of Christ, moves young and old to discover Jesus and to quench their spiritual thirst with His living water.
Our work together is, therefore, a methodical and intense spiritual exercise in building love and fortifying the bond of our unity in Christ. Such a sacred task, as it happened today, starts and is perfected by our participation in the life-giving and unifying Cup, in the vivifying Body and Blood of Christ, in the Holy Eucharist. Our Liturgy today gave us the superb blessing of experiencing love and unity in Christ. I would like to personally thank our brother Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, who eagerly and with great joy offered his parish of Saint George in Clifton, NJ, as the location for our opening Divine Liturgy. On this occasion, I also thank him for extending to us the assistance and service of his Metropolis staff and clergy, and for offering an Abrahamic hospitality to us all.
I should like also to express our gratitude to Bishop Basil and Metropolitan Antony for their untiring labors as Secretary and Treasurer, respectively, offered graciously to the Assembly. Their successors for the past year, since the last Assembly, Bishop Gregory and Archbishop Michael, have already shown remarkable zeal in performing their duties. Additional gratitude is offered to Bishop Maxim for coordinating the work of the Committees for the past seven years, and to the Presidents and members of our Committees.
...Read the rest at Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.