It has been a long Great Lent. And in many ways it was fraught with distraction. The word distraction is probably the best way to put it, but not the most accurate. There have been distractions from as far away as Alaska and Syosset, New York.
Today, we have now entered into Great and Holy Week and into the time of the passion. For me personally as your father in Christ, it is a time of repentance and confession, and also of thanksgiving and gratitude. Great lent indeed was difficult. Somehow I thought that it could not be as difficult as it was last year. I was wrong. The distractions were incredible. In terms of repentance and confession, I confess to you that during this time I have neglected our Diocesan Church. And I repent of that. And I ask your forgiveness. It is time for gratitude and thanksgiving that I give to almighty God for you, all the faithful clergy and laity of this God-protected Diocese of the Midwest. Even in the darkest times of meetings with the Holy Synod and times of frustration I could feel the prayers of our people. And it has been your prayers that provided strength, provided hope, and the will to persevere.
Just three days ago I was at the Chancery in Syosset for yet another special meeting of the Holy Synod. I was very apprehensive as to how it would turn out. But I left with renewed hope. As far as the suffering Diocese of Alaska there is hope, there is relief and I believe very firmly that in the entire Orthodox Church in America after a difficult Great Lent all of us can have a peaceful Great and Holy Week and a joyous celebration of Our Lord’s Pascha. The common expression is, “we are not out of the woods yet”. But I think three days ago we turned a corner.
I have confided in you, in the form of a letter that I was not optimistic about the forthcoming All American Council in November. I am very happy to say that I changed my mind. There is reason for confidence that indeed this council is going to be very fruitful. I ask your continued prayers that indeed it will be for the benefit of our church.
For us in the Midwest in just two months this struggle will have lasted for three years. Three years since our Diocesan Council dared to request transparency and accountability, something to which the entire Church is entitled. That was the beginning. Never did anyone imagine that it would take so long. But we have to be patient. And I think this patience means that we will be stronger. We will be stronger, as a Church, and stronger as members of the Body of Christ.
During every Divine Liturgy, at the Great Entrance, I always pray the petition from St. Basil’s liturgy, “those who love us and those who hate us, may the merciful God remember them all in his kingdom…”
My brothers and sisters, there are many people, during these almost three years who hate us. But there are many, many more who love us and love our diocese and we can be confident of their prayers. And we can also benefit from the strength and encouragement that they give to us.
My prayer at this first of the bridegroom services is that all of you will have a wonderful continuation of Great and Holy Week and a spiritually edifying celebration of Our Lord’s Pascha, participating through the liturgy in his death so that we might truly proclaim and experience the beauty of His Resurrection.