Word Magazine October 1967 Page 8/13
THE CHURCH AND THE AGE
By the Rt. Rev. Protosyngelos Ellis Khouri,
Pastor of St. Nicholas’ Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
An address to the members of the Twenty-second Annual Convention of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of New York ad all North America
Dearly Beloved Brother Priest’s and Esteemed lay members of our Orthodox Archdiocese:
As I sat down to gather some thoughts appropriate for this solemn and joyous occasion, my mind wandered back through the years to the earlier days when so many of our parishes were struggling to establish themselves, our beloved Archbishop Antony labored so zealously to provide us with his able leadership, and our devoted people fought and overcame so many obstacles until eventually they have firmly established themselves as leaders in almost every community where they live. I have seen the amazing and gratifying growth of our Archdiocese based upon the love, loyalty, self-sacrifice and dedication of our clergy and laity. As I looked to the past, my heart swelled with gratitude to Almighty God for His many mercies and blessings to us.
But then we must not only turn back the pages of time. This is the habit of the aged and of those whose life is almost ended. The life of our young and dynamic Syrian Archdiocese has just begun and the future lies ahead of us as a challenge each one of us must face. Our assembly here today in this Archdiocesan Convention, is a challenge and an opportunity, offered to us by our Blessed Lord. Our deliberations here and our very presence at this convention give evidence that each of us is determined to give our best efforts, our resources, and our love in assuring the further growth and stability of our beloved Archdiocese.
As Protosyngelos and Dean of the Clergy, I am conscious of the exalted privilege that is mine in being able to address this august convention. To each of the dedicated priests and
faithful laymen may I say that our challenge today is greater than at any time in the past. We live in a day when the prophets of doom on all sides proclaim that “God is dead” and that “there is no longer any need for the Church.” Advocates of the so-called “new morality” insist that each individual must determine for himself what code of morality he will follow. There is a growing abandonment of the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ as men and women everywhere turn away from God and His Church. Sad to say, many members of the Orthodox Church, living in his secularistic and godless environment, have come to accept this decayed and debased system of thought and action.
As we look to the Churches, we find them divided and often conflicting, despite the hopeful signs of ecumenical labor which would give promise of possible unity of all Christians into the “one fold under one Shepherd” which Christ promised us. Even within Orthodoxy, especially here in America, there continue to be scandalous divisions and separations from the unity of the Orthodox Church. Human pride and deceit find their way even into the temples of God. More than in any other age, our youth need to be challenged and inspired by the teachings of our holy Faith. More than ever before, our clergy must be aware of the needs of souls and the serious problems so many of our beloved people face today. They cry out to us for answers, for guidance, for comfort and the grace which only comes through Christ’s Church. As the blessed Augustine said in the early days of the Church, man’s heart was made to find its rest only when it rests in God. Nothing in this world of purely humanistic and secular values can ever bring the peace mankind seeks.
This then is the answer of our holy Church to the challenge offered to it by the forces of worldliness and materialism. The false answers of Communism and the forces of rebellion against authority and divine law will never bring peace. They have no answer and no solution to man’s difficulties. Only Christ and His holy Orthodox Church can provide the answers and meet mankind’s desperate need.
During this convention, each one of us must earnestly and prayerfully seek to discover what it is that God wills our Archdiocese to do in carrying out His work. For we must not forget: this is not our Church as though it were a social club or fraternal organization. This is Christ’s Church; His Mystical Body which continues throughout all human time to carry on the holy work He Himself and the Apostles began almost two thousand years ago. As loyal and dedicated members of this Church, we are called upon to give everything we are and everything we possess in order that the Kingdom of God may reign upon earth. Ours is the great privilege of assembling here, and we pray that we assemble under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in order that we may discover the ways of doing more effectively what God wants for His Church.
Two things I feel compelled to say:
1. All of us have ample cause to thank God and to rejoice in our having the blessing of the high-priesthood of His Eminence, our clearly beloved Metropolitan Philip. In the short year since his Episcopal consecration we have seen the many evidences of the fact that God’s guidance was involved in his election to the episcopacy and His abundant grace communicated to our esteemed Metropolitan at the time of his consecration as our spiritual Father.
According to the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church and our own timeless tradition, our Metropolitan stands at the head of our Archdiocese as our supreme head, our Father-in-Christ to whom we all owe our obedience, love, loyalty and the fruits of our labors. But so beloved has Metropolitan Philip become to us in this past year that we need no laws to command what we so freely and lovingly give to him. I know that I speak for all of the priests of our Syrian Arch— diocese when I assure you, Your Eminence, of our firm loyalty, our deep love, our unswerving obedience and our determination to leave no efforts untried in laboring under your able leadership in insuring the growth and stability of this Archdiocese. When we commemorate Your Eminence in every Liturgy and other liturgical services, we do so with the utmost sincerity and affection. Truly we beg that Almighty God will grant to Your Eminence the grace, the strength, the wisdom and the courage to guide and direct all of us within this Archdiocese. Each of us says to Your Eminence now:
“Behold, we stand ready at all times to serve; accept our talents, our energies, our resources and our loyalty. Use them in your archpastoral labors, always conscious, that you labor not alone but with the full support and cooperation of all of us, your spiritual sons and daughters. God grant Your Eminence many blessed and fruitful years as our Metropolitan.”
2. Lastly, let all of us seriously determine to follow the guidance of His Eminence and following the deliberations of this convention, quickly and prayerfully to put our decisions into effect for the greater glory of God and the progress of our dearly-loved Archdiocese.