Let us be a Community of Love!
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:34-35~
Dearest Spiritual Ohana,
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America addressed all the delegates and participants, back in 2004, at the Clergy-Laity Congress, held in New York City, concerning how we should be as Parish Communities throughout our country and the entire world, namely, “Communities of Love.” In a portion of his speech, he states clearly and effectively tells us what this entails. He says it so well that I felt compelled and moved to share his message with all of you. Below is an excerpt of what he said.
Communities of Love It is clear that faith is essential to the identity and existence of the parish. We must also understand that faith is inseparably linked to love. Where there is faith, there is love, because faith is our response to the love that God has shown to us. In his first Epistle, the great Apostle and Evangelist John writes, "So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (I John 4:16).
First and foremost, this affirms that we know God because of His love for us. He created us in love, and He has provided for our salvation through His love. Our faith, then, is a response to the love of God. We know this love through Christ, His teachings, death, and resurrection. We believe in Him as the Son of God who came into this world to offer us eternal life. And it is the grace of God through this faith that brings us salvation. As we respond to the love of God through faith, His love is within us. As a God of love, He abides with us, and the evidence of His presence is His love. We know and experience this love through a life of personal communion with Him. But His love is also shared through us in our relationships with others. As God loves, we love. As He lovingly created all human beings in His image and likeness, we look upon everyone with His love.
With a God of love in our midst and His love filling our hearts, we come together as His children in communities of love. In parishes that are filled with the love of God, we worship and minister in love. As communities of love we face challenges and difficulties in love. We disagree in love; we find solutions in love. We move forward with the work of God and His kingdom in love. Our conversations, our actions, our work, our activities, all that we do in our parishes is characterized by a love that is "patient, kind, not envious, or boastful, or (Continued on page 2) 2 arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (I Corinthians 13:4-7).
Everything we do as a parish should be motivated by love, in imitation of our Lord’s Love for us. Our love is simply a response to all He has already done for us. All of our successes as a parish and cathedral, we can say, are based on how effectively we share God’s Love with one another. All of our failings and shortcomings are symptoms that we have not loved God and one another in the way we were commanded to.
The same holds true for the world we live in. In light of the sad and tragic events taking place in the world, it is love that is needed all around and all over. I recently watched a “viral” video posted on Facebook by someone named Alex Bryant, in response to the recent violence taking place between police officers and angry protesters in Dallas surrounding unwarranted shootings. He held “hand-written signs, without saying a word, only music in the background, which read: “Who am I? Who are we? Whose side am I on?...The Police or the People? Black or White? Do we have to pick a side? Both sides have made mistakes. Both sides share the blame. But the fact remains...We are all Americans. We are all God’s children.
We have each other. Now is our time! Our lives are connected. Who are we? Who are we becoming? There are definitely TWO SIDES. The truth is...It’s Dark vs. Light, not Black vs. White. The Dark Side: Fear leads to Anger, leads to Hate, leads to Suffering. It doesn’t have to be this way! In the Light, Love leads to Forgiveness, leads to Unity, leads to Peace. In the Light All things are possible! Let’s start again for us!” I ask God to forgive me of my many shortcomings and failings to love all of you effectively as your priest and “so called pastor/ shepherd.” I ask, that as I pray for all of you, that you also pray for me so that God extend His Mercy to me, by this I mean His “soothing healing” (eleoV) and His “steadfast love” (Hesed), so that I may be a vehicle and instrument to spread this to you, through my unworthy person.
With Love in Christ,
The life of the Orthodox Church perpetuates and fulfills the ministry of Jesus Christ. The close association between Christ and His Church is reflected in the images from the Scriptures which declare that Christ is the Head and the Church is His Body, and that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His bride. Learn more»