Category Archives: Monthly Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter – The Apostle

June 2014 Newsletter The Apostle

The Fast of the Apostles:

On being sent into the world

Adapted from an essay by Dr. Alexander

Roman.

The Apostles’ Fast is one that was actually engaged in by the Disciples of Christ following the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

 

Having rejoiced throughout the fifty days following Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Apostles began to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to carry Christ’s message to the far corners of the world.

As part of their preparation, they began a fast with prayer to ask God to strengthen their resolve and to be with them in their missionary undertakings.

 

It is this fast that we ourselves participate in when we observe the Apostles’ Fast.  But we do this not only because we honour the Apostles and their sacrifice.  We do this by way of preparing ourselves to be sent as missionaries into our world to reflect and radiate Christ to those around us.

 

Somewhere along the line, we seem to have disconnected ourselves from the Apostles.  We’ve placed them on a very high plane so that we may admire them and their spirituality while, at the same time, effectively preventing ourselves from ever having anything to do with it as far as our own personal lives are concerned.

When Christ asked his sleeping disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane why they could not watch and pray with Him for one hour, He was actually giving all of us some real practical advice on how much time we should be spending in prayer at a minimum.

 

Yet, today we think that His words were only for His apostles and disciples, for those who made a radical commitment to follow Him until the end of their days.  And we think that this has nothing to do with us! How wrong we are!

 

The apostles were people like we are.  St Peter was actually so filled with a sense of his own sinfulness that he felt it was inappropriate for him to even speak with Jesus at their first meeting.  And it was he who denied Christ three times.  Later, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it was into this same Peter’s shadow that sick people would try and throw themselves in the hope of receiving healing!

 

It was St Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, who called himself the “least of the disciples.”  He considered himself to be a full member of the Apostolic group, notwithstanding that he did not see Christ before His Crucifixion and Resurrection.

St Paul did “see Christ.”  He saw Him in His heavenly glory.  Paul’s apostolic zeal was second to none and he was determined to make the whole world be as he was, that is, see with the eyes of the faith he had.

 

As the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, Christ chose his 12 apostles to represent the New Israel or Church of the New Covenant.  That St Paul would be the 13th apostle hearkens to the role that the two sons of Joseph had among the tribes of Old Israel.

 

In her liturgy, the Church sometimes numbers the two assistants of Peter and Paul among the ranks of the Apostles, the two Evangelists, Mark and Luke.

It was Mark in whose parents’ house the Mystical (Last) Supper was held.  It was Mark who was the mysterious young boy in the Garden at the time of Christ’s arrest who escaped naked from the soldiers. Luke was a Syrian, former pagan doctor, whose great secular education put him right in Paul’s league.  It was appropriate for the Apostle to the Gentiles to have a Gentile assistant! In addition, Christ chose 70 disciples, reflecting the choice of 70 judges by Moses who helped him govern Israel.

These 70 disciples went out, two by two, as did the Apostles, and preached, prayed, healed and witnessed.

 

Added to this Apostolic Choir were the women who assisted Christ throughout his earthly sojourn. St Mary Magdalene was the most famous “Equal to the Apostles.”

There is simply no evidence to confirm that she was the “sinful woman” of the New Testament. A sister of Lazarus and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene was a woman of means who used her resources to help the spread of the Christian message.

 

Throughout the centuries since, others have received the title “Equal to the Apostles,” including Sts. Constantine and Helen, Sts. Cyril and Methodius for their apostolic labors to bring others to Christ. So no one has missed the boat, so to speak, on becoming an Apostle.  We are all called to be such, as a matter of fact.

 

We may not be called to witness to Christ as the original Apostles did.  We may not be called to die for Christ as they and others did.

But let us remember that the root of the word “martyr” in Greek essentially just means “witness.” For the ancient Greeks, to die for one’s beliefs was considered a “proof” as to their validity, especially as experienced internally by the martyr.

The Romans were not, primarily, interested in killing the Apostles and other Christians. What they wanted to do is have them deny their beliefs.  That was where their sense of victory lay. To this end, the refined tortures they used on the Christians were designed to get them to deny Christ and affirm the gods and social structure of the Roman Empire. But Christians would rather suffer and die than deny Christ.

 

The Apostles did great work to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Church, as did their successors, the Bishops. This is why St Nicholas is commemorated on Thursdays along with the Apostles for he represents the episcopate of all ages.

The Apostles’ Fast is therefore something which should be undertaken with an apostolic vision on our part.

When Christ told His disciples to go and preach to all nations, He had us in mind as well. When He set the standards of “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked” and others, He was also using these in a spiritual sense. How many are around us who thirst for spirituality?  How many who hunger for the Word of God?  What about those in the prison of their own sinfulness?  Or who are naked, that is, unclothed by the Grace of the Holy Spirit?

 

These are all apostolic opportunities that are presented to us by our Lord Himself.

As St Peter said, our battle is with principalities and dominions etc. the representatives of the Evil One. And they are something that can only be cast out with prayer and fasting.

Fr. Michael


June 2014, Newsletter The Apostle

May 2014 Newsletter The Apostle

Christ is Risen!

Beginning on Pascha (April 20th, this year) for forty days we proclaim the Paschal greeting: Christ is Risen! The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the cornerstone of our Christian Faith. If there is no resurrection, then there is no basis for the Faith. We say that Christ has “trampled down death by death,” yet we are all too aware that there continues to be sin, tragedy, injustice, hypocrisy, betrayal and illness, war, murder and the like. How, then, is death overcome in the Resurrection? In this way: death is no longer the end of our hopes and aspirations, rather it is a passage (albeit a difficult one) to life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Scriptures tell us that Jesus, being both God and man, broke down the dividing wall between humanity and God, making it possible for us to once again have communion with God, as did Adam and Eve before the Fall. This communion is made possible by our Lord’s Pascha, that is to say by His Death on the Cross, and third day Resurrection.

The fact that the Crucifixion is inseparable from the Resurrection is most important. When Jesus comes again in glory, the end of earthly suffering and death will come, but in the meantime, Christ tells us that in order to be his disciples; we also must carry a cross. This means that we must expect to have to live with the consequences of sin (ours and others’) and of the brokenness of this fallen world, just as Christ did, and to join our sufferings with His in order to share in his glory!

Along the way God does not leave us “on our own,” but grants us strength and comfort to continue on the way. Indeed, in his merciful love, he grants us participation in the Kingdom to come even in this life (Holy Communion is the best, but not the only example of this).

So my dear ones, let us not be overwhelmed by the news of evil which we see and hear all of the time. Imitating Christian believers throughout the centuries, let us remain people of hope. As such we must work for more justice, more peace, more good in the world, anticipating the day when Christ returns and “God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3, 4)

In this hope, in this the light that shines from the Empty Tomb, let us rejoice!

Truly He is Risen!

Fr. Michael

May 2014, Newsletter The Apostle

May flyers 2014


April 2014 Newsletter The Apostle

On April 20, we will again proclaim the Paschal greeting: Christ is Risen! The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the cornerstone of our Christian Faith. If there is no resurrection, then there is no basis for the Faith. We say that Christ has “trampled down death by death,” yet we are all too aware that there continues to be sin, tragedy, injustice, hypocrisy, betrayal and illness, war, murder and the like. How, then, is death overcome in the Resurrection? In this way: death is no longer the end of our hopes and aspirations, rather it is a passage (albeit a difficult one) to life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Scriptures tell us that Jesus, being both God and man, broke down the dividing wall between humanity and God, making it possible for us to once again have communion with God, as did Adam and Eve before the Fall. This communion is made possible by our Lord’s Pascha, that is to say by His Death on the Cross, and third day Resurrection.

The fact that the Crucifixion is inseparable from the Resurrection is most important. When Jesus comes again in glory, the end of earthly suffering and death will come, but in the meantime, Christ tells us that in order to be his disciples; we also must carry a cross. This means that we must expect to have to live with the consequences of sin (ours and others’) and of the brokenness of this fallen world, just as Christ did, and to join our sufferings with His in order to share in his glory!

Along the way God does not leave us “on our own,” but grants us strength and comfort to continue on the way. Indeed, in his merciful love, he grants us participation in the Kingdom to come even in this life (Holy Communion is the best, but not the only example of this).

So my dear ones, let us not be overwhelmed by the news of evil which we see and hear all the time. As have Christian believers throughout the centuries, let us remain people of hope. As such we must work for more justice, more peace, more good in the world, anticipating the day when Christ returns and “God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3, 4)

In this hope, in this the light that shines from the Empty Tomb, let us rejoice!

Truly He is Risen!

April 2014, Newsletter The Apostle

March 2014 Newsletter The Apostle

Beloved in Christ,

Lent begins on March 3RD and we are even now, in the Church calendar preparing for this. With this in mind, please read and ponder the article reprinted below!

THE RIGHT ATTITUDE FOR LENT

Father Vladimir Berzonsky

Before the Great Lent begins the Orthodox Church reserves three weeks in order to encourage in its members a proper mental preparedness towards the season of intense prayer, meditation and fasting. We must learn not merely to accept lent as a spiritual obligation, an intrusion into a life of fun and diversion, but rather we must learn to welcome its discipline if we are to benefit by it spiritually.

Let us first mention certain misconceptions regarding this period: the great danger of keeping a strict Lent is that one tends to become self-righteous. Wisely the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee is put at the very start of the Triodion Cycle [which includes Lent,  the three week period beforehand and Holy Week] to impress upon our minds the distastefulness of self-righteousness. It would be far better not to observe the lent than to have it result in arrogance, a “holier-than-you” attitude.

Neither is Lent intended for scoring points in heaven. The hairs on our head may be numbered, as the Lord tells us; but it is highly unlikely the angels keep track of whether we had a cheese sandwich or bologna for lunch. We sometimes tend to keep the letter of the lent and fail to develop an over-view, a general framework for understanding why we deprive ourselves of certain foods and pleasures.

What we are about is to know ourselves. To know ourselves we must withdraw from the world, to go into the desert as Jesus did following his baptism. It is essential that we extricate our inner selves from our surroundings, if we are to have an over-view of our lives. If we cannot physically retreat, we must at least retreat mentally. This we are able to do by the very fact that we are human beings. For example, a fish in an aquarium is alive in every sense that we are who observe him; with one exception. As far as we know, he is not able to transcend himself, in the way we are. Not only are we able to look at ourselves from a distance, we must analyze and evaluate ourselves to be truly human.

Fasting is simply to make us hungry, enabling us to evaluate the person we really are; how enslaved we are to that drive which draws us against our will to the refrigerator! How we cannot think about anything but the growlings of the stomach! I’ll get a headache, I just must eat something,” you say. You’ve learned something about yourself.

We must see how we’ve surrendered the gift of freedom God intended for us, as we reach out to our cigarettes or bottle, refusing to evade the reality of our slavery until we hate the fetters enough that we will admit that we are imprisoned by our habits, then make the difficult struggle involved in setting ourselves free.

I am convinced, however, that concentration on ourselves is no longer sufficient. We must mature into a new awareness of life around us, developing a respect for nature and all of God’s creatures not previously manifested among us. There is a need for a new attitude towards property, both ours and others, a reverence for living beings over institutions and man-made laws; we must have the courage to analyze and perhaps reevaluate our priority of values. What should be borne uppermost in our minds, nevertheless, is that true, effective and worthwhile change takes place in hearts and consciences, and only their bearers can make them.

With God’s help, let us make this Lent truly a springtime for our souls!

February 2014 Newsletter The Apostle

Pastor’s Column

 

Attributes of the Perfect Church

Written by the Very Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride of the wife of the Lamb'” (Revelation 21:9)

Here we are near the end of the Bible in the Revelation experience. Is it not odd that one of the angels with the seven bowls with the seven last plagues is here inviting us to witness the glorious marriage of the Lamb whom we know to be our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ as the bridegroom? Also to recognize that the bride is none other than the holy Church all dressed in radiant white, symbol of purity and innocence? It tells us about angels. They are as their name implies, “sent” as messengers by the Holy Trinity to humanity. An angel like this brought the reader to the vision of the destruction of the great harlot, Babylon. Here the angel is announcing the glorious wedding of the Lamb of God and the Bride, the holy Church that the Lord bought with the great price of His Cross. The Bride-Church is a symbol of all who have the following attributes of unblemished flawless virtues radiating from their souls.

St. Paul set forth the attributes of the perfect Church. In Revelation those who dwell in such a Church are among those in the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to belong to Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who comes to claim His bride. From the apostle to the gentiles, we find their characteristics:

They are people who are devoted to one another: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” [Romans 21:10] When we read this, how does it resonate on the conscience of each member of the community we call Church?

These are people who can say of their fellow parishioners that they: “Honor one another above [them]selves.” [Romans 12:10] It means that each member in good standing holds all others in the congregation above themselves. They feel it an honor to be part of such a community of believers. Does this really happen?

It’s mandatory to dwell in harmony with one another: “Live in harmony with one another.” [Romans 12:16] It means that nothing is as important as to preserve peace among the family of Christ. Of course there are differences of opinion in the parish everybody understands that but they also realize that without the peace of God that passes all understanding, their Eucharist is hollow because their relations are shallow and worldly, not godly.

Love one another: “Let no debt remain outstanding except the debt to love one another.” [Romans 13:8] Until we can realize the order from the Divine Liturgy: “Let us love one another that with one accord we may confess…Father, Son and Holy Spirit…” as Jesus said, we are talking nonsense when we say we love God. Here the expectation is that by the time we approach heaven, we have made love a way of life.

Accept one another: “Accept then one another, just as Jesus accepted you.” [Romans 15:7] To accept is to realize there are differences, and yet they do not prevent us from forgiving. The French say: To understand is to forgive. Acceptance is not approval not even tolerance. It is compassion.

Serve one another: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in sinful nature. Rather serve one another in love.” [Galatians 5:13] Is this not the meaning of foot washing? What more powerful an example can there be than the Son of God washing the feet of fishermen? Are we above the Master?

Forgive one another: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” [Colossians 3:13] You will be stopped and forbidden entry into heave if you come with a grudge defiling your soul.

Encourage one another: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” [I Thessalonians 5:11] We are ordered to build up the confidence and to reinforce the positive images of all your sisters and brothers in Christ. There’s no place for a downer or defeatist in Paradise.

February 2014, Newsletter The Apostle

January 2014 Newsletter The Apostle

In this month we celebrate the Lord’s Baptism (the Feast of Epiphany or Theophany). In the gospels we read that Jesus came to the River Jordan to be baptized by His cousin, the Prophet and Baptizer John.  Fr. Thomas Hopko, in his book on the Advent/Nativity/Theophany season, “The Winter Pascha” offers us an important Biblical reflection of the place of the Jordan in the history of salvation:

The river Jordan plays a very important role in the Bible. Before it becomes the river in which Jesus the Messiah baptized, it is revealed as the river, which bounds the “Promised Land.” To cross the Jordan, for the people of Israel, was to enter into the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. It was to enter the “land flowing with milk and honey,” the place where God would dwell with His people providing them with the endless blessings of His presence.

In the New Testament, with it spiritual and mystical fulfillment of the Old, to cross the Jordan was to enter into the Kingdom of God, to experience the fullness of the life of the age to come. The fact that Moses was not blessed to cross the Jordan thus became a symbol of the fact that the Law by itself could not save Israel or the world. It had to be Joshua, which literally means Savior, and is the Hebrew form of the Greek word Jesus, who leads the people across the Jordan and into the promised land, thus symbolizing the saving action of the new Joshua, Jesus the messianic Savior, in the covenant of grace (see Joshua 1:12).

When Joshua came to the Jordan the streams parted at the presence of God’s people, with the priests bearing in their hands the Ark of the Covenant. As the waters of the sea parted to allow God’s people to pass through as if on dry land at their exodus from Egypt, so also at the entry into the land of promise, the river of Jordan made way for God’s people to pass through into the place of their final destination (Joshua 3:11-13).

The Lord also commanded Joshua to take twelve stones out of the river Jordan and to place them together in one place in a pile where the people had passed through, to remain ”to the people of Israel as a memorial forever” of what the Lord had done for them (Joshua 4:8-10).

After the people passed through the Jordan River, “the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.” (Joshua 4:18) This miraculous wonder became part of the living memory of Israel, and the event was celebrated in the worship of God’s people ever since. The psalms, which recall the divine action, are sung at the Church’s festival of the Epiphany as prefigurations of God’s final act of the salvation of all people in the death and resurrection of His Anointed, the Beloved Son who was baptized in the same Jordan streams.

“What ails you, O Sea that you flee O Jordan, that you turn back?… Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 114:5,7)

The river Jordan was also parted by the passage of Elijah and Elisha, an event also recalled at the liturgy of Epiphany. (2 Kings 2) And it was from the Jordan that Elijah was taken up into heaven in order to return again, as the tradition developed, to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. (See Mt 17:9-13) It was also in the Jordan that Naaman the Syrian was cleansed from his leprosy, a sign referred to by Jesus as a prefiguration of the salvation of all people, not only those of Israel. (Lk. 4:27) In the account of Naaman’s cure the special significance of the Jordan is stressed once again.

“He [Naaman] went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5:13,14)

Can we not be washed in just any river and be clean? God answers, No. Only in the Jordan, in the baptism of Christ, are we cleansed from all of our sins. Only through the Jordan do we enter into the land of the living, the Promised Land of God’s kingdom. Only by the sanctified waters of the Jordan does God sanctify us forever.

The River Jordan turned back of old,

Before Elisha’s mantle when Elijah ascended.

The water were made to part in two,

So the wet surface became a dry path.

This was in truth a symbol of baptism

By which we pass through mortal life.

Christ has come to the Jordan to sanctify the waters.

In His love,

Fr. Michael

January 2014, Newsletter The Apostle

December 2013 Newsletter The Apostle

In preparation for the feast:

The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers

By Fr. Thomas Hopko

Two Sundays before the celebration of Christmas, the Orthodox Church rejoices in the festival of the holy forefathers of the Old Covenant, including those who came before the giving of the Law. They foretold the coming of the Messiah and were redeemed by His saving Pascha. Together with the canon of the Nativity of Christ, the following hymns are sung at the service of the day.

Let us offer praise to the fathers Who shone for before and during the Law; With righteous minds they served the Lord and Master Who shone forth from the Virgin

And now they delight in the unending Light.

The songs of the liturgical services of the day sing of Noah, Samson, Barak, Jepthah, Nathan, Eleazar, Josiah, Job, Samuel, David, and his son Solomon, Elijah, and all the prophets, including once again Daniel and the three holy children. It sings also of the holy women made “strong in the days of old by the might of Your strength, O Lord: Hanna, Judith and Deborah; Hulda, Jael, Esther, and Sarah; Miriam the sister of Moses; Rachel, Rebecca, and Ruth, the noble-minded ones.” It sings, in a word, of all the righteous of the Old Covenant times, men and women, Hebrews and non-Hebrews, who found life in God and so, as the epistle reading of the day proclaims and as the Church believes, “will appear with Him in glory” when “Christ who is our life appears” (Colossians 3:4)

The life of the righteous fathers and mothers of ancient days, like that of all God’s saints, is Christ. God’s holy people live for Him alone, for the living God and for His Word. Their reason for being is to praise God, not only in words but in deeds, and so to live.

There is a great difference between existing and living. Many people exist. Very few really live. Only those who seek God have life. Only those who delight in His commandments and rejoice in accomplishing His will pass beyond mere existence and actually find life. “Seek God, and your soul shall live” (Ps. 69:32 LXX). This is the cry of the psalmist David who is especially hymned on this Sunday and on the Sunday after Christmas. His exhortation is in perfect harmony with the words of God given to Moses in His revelation of the divine Law.

“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, then you shall live and multiply,… I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendant my live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and yours  length of days…” (Deut 30:15-20)

The holy forefathers and mothers, together with all their descendants, have chosen life. The find it in God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is Life itself, God’s incarnate Word. The celebration of the Winter Pascha [the Advent, Christmas/Epiphany season] is a celebration of Life in God’s Word. For “Christ who is our life” has already appeared (Col 3:4). We have beheld His glory” (Jn 1:14). Now that glory is hidden in the “form of a slave” (Phil 2:7), but it will be revealed at the end of the ages in power for those who “have loved his appearing’ and “live in Him” (2 Tim 4:8; Col 2:6”

By anticipation, I wish all of you a most Blessed Nativity Feast!

In His love,

Fr. Michael

December 2013, Newsletter The Apostle


November 2013 Newsletter The Apostle

Pastor’s Column

Confessing in the Presence of a Priest

Question

If we can make confession to God without the priest, then why do we have confession with a priest present?

Answer

In the early Church, confession was public; that is, one confessed one’s sins in the presence of the entire faith community. When this became impractical, it was the priest who “stood in” for the community, as its presiding officer and as its witness to the penitent’s repentance.

Further, while we can indeed confess directly to God—even a casual reading of the daily prayers reveals that we should do this—we often find that we need help and advice in overcoming the very things we have confessed.

We do not confess “to” the priest; rather, we confess to God “in the presence of” the priest who, as the prayer before Confession clearly states, is God’s “witness” and who, having witnessed our confession of sins offers pastoral advice on how we can better our lives and overcome the very things we can confess. Just as one would not attempt to diagnose, much less cure, one’s own physical ailments, so too one should not attempt to diagnose, much less cure, one’s own spiritual ailments.

It is often the case that those who object to revealing their sins in the presence of a priest or to seek his advice have no qualms about revealing their sins to their neighbors, friends, psychiatrists, and so on, usually with the intention of obtaining advice—advice that is not necessarily godly or spiritually profitable, or even just plain “good,” for that matter.

Many years ago, a woman cornered my wife at coffee hour and told her that she was having an affair. She asked my wife’s advice.

My wife advised her that perhaps she should speak to me about this. The women replied, “But he’s a priest—I couldn’t tell him that!” This is somewhat akin to the person who finds a huge lump on his or her body, goes to the doctor, and then asks the receptionist to diagnose it. No doubt the receptionist would suggest that he or she have a seat and allow the doctor to look at it, only to find that the person with the huge lump replies, “But the lump’s much, much to big for me to show to the doctor!”

So, we confess in the presence of the priest to acknowledge that our sins, whether we wish to accept it or not, affect the entire faith community on the one hand, and that we cannot “heal ourselves” on the other. The priest is there to help us overcome those things for which we seek forgiveness, to give advice that a friend or neighbor might not be in a position to give, and to bear witness on behalf of the faith community, of which he is the spiritual father, that we have indeed repented and been forgiven by God.

Column by Fr. John Matusiak, reprinted from the web page of the Orthodox Church in America

November 2013, Newsletter The Apostle

October 2013 Newsletter The Apostle

Pastor’s Column

2013 Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops Statement

On Marriage and Sexuality

To our Orthodox Faithful

1. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, representing millions of Orthodox Christians in the United States of America, Canada and Central America, express our deep concern over recent actions on the part of our respective governments and certain societal trends concerning the status of marriage in our countries, in particular the legalization of same-sex unions.

2. The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, two millennia of Church Tradition, and Canon Law, holds that the sacrament of marriage consists in the union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage reflects the sacred unity that exists between Christ and His Bride, the Church.

3. Persons with homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed on all of humanity by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Moreover, the Church is a spiritual hospital, where we all are called to find the healing of our fallen humanity through Jesus Christ, who assumed human nature in order to restore it.  All of us struggle with various passions, and it is only within the Church that we find the means of overcoming these passions with the assistance of God’s grace.  Acting upon any sexual attraction outside of sacramental marriage, whether the attraction is heterosexual or homosexual, alienates us from God.

4. We exhort the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church to bear witness to the timeless teachings of Christ by striving for purity and holiness in their own lives, by instructing their families and communities in the precepts of the Holy Gospel, and by placing their trust in our Lord, who “has overcome the world.” (John 16.33)

5. Finally, we encourage our faithful to approach their parish priest or spiritual father with any questions or concerns about this statement and its practical repercussions in their daily lives

October 2013, Newsletter The Apostle