Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This month, we celebrate two significant anniversaries.
Four years ago for the Sunday of All Saints, Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory served with us. The weekend services were a culmination of the St. Romanos the Melodist English Choir Conference we held in June 2006. We invited the Metropolitan, only half expecting him to accept. It was just after the All-Diaspora Council during which the decision was taken to pursue re-unification with the Church in Russia. The labors during that effort were immense, and no more so for anyone than for our aging Metropolitan. But he did accept, and I can never forget the soldierly pluck in the words with which he accepted our invitation. He said, “If I am alive, I will be there.” And he came. With just such diligence he pursued the rest of his Arch-pastoral burden, which coincided with the rest of his life. During his last week, the first week of the Great Fast, he led his community in all the intensive services, up through the day before he reposed in the Lord.
When he was with us, for the Divine Liturgy for All Saints, this is the homily that he gave:
“The first Sunday after the feast of Holy Trinity is called the Sunday of All Saints. On this day the Holy Church prayerfully glorifies all the saints who have pleased God from the ages. Included in this Sunday are the Holy Apostles, prophets, martyrs, bishops, monks, nuns, fools for Christ and all the righteous ones.
“Honoring the memory of All Saints soon after the Feast of Holy Pentecost, the Holy Church desires in this way to show that sanctity is the fruit of the Holy Spirit which was abundantly poured forth on the Holy Apostles and through them in the Holy Church is poured forth on all believers.
“The Holy Spirit made wise and raised to the ranks of the angels men like unto us, and others were crowned with sanctity for their ascetic and righteous lives. The ascetic feats of the saints were various, as today's Epistle reading informs us. The saints conquered enemies visible and invisible with faith. They patiently endured poverty and all kinds of adversity, persecution, martyrdom, and different forms of death.
“The gospel reading of today testifies that the saints were true confessors of the Holy Faith as they left all behind that hindered them from following the Lord or that prohibited them from fulfilling His holy commandments.
“And in the same way that they confessed the Lord before people, before mankind, does the Lord Jesus Christ confess the saints before His Heavenly Father. The saints whose memory we commemorate today followed the Lord, they followed His call, and took upon themselves the cross and carried it.
“Brothers and sisters, today I am happy to pray with you, and I am pleased that I have the opportunity to celebrate today's feast with you during this church music conference. Your efforts, your fruit: you adorn the services with your prayerful singing. With all my heart I wish you that these conferences will assist you more and more to better the quality of church singing in each of your parishes. This is a great and holy endeavor. May God help you. I will ask that all saints pray to God for us. Amen.”
We continue to rejoice in our late beloved Metropolitan’s blessing. As many have said who have known him in any degree, he was an icon of humility and graciousness. Even though he had grown up, matured and grown old in worship, steeped in the sounds and accents of Church Slavonic, he was willing to be with us and bless our work for the English-speaking communities, recognizing in his apostolic office the importance of our “endeavor.” He prepared his homily ahead of time for us, and read it in English. We have the sure hope that he is among the righteous and continuing to pray for us and bless us.
The other anniversary we will be celebrating is on June 3rd. One year ago on that date, the wondrous gift of God of the historic St. Joseph’s chapel officially passed into our hands. This day is also the day of Sts. Constantine and Helen, called “equal to the Apostles.” As in their earthly lives, Sts. Constantine and Helen continue to be founders and establishers of churches, both great and small. As the holy Helen uncovered the Very Cross of our Lord, just so was the beautiful relic of this disused church building uncovered and, in God’s good time, will be readied to hear “Blessed is the Kingdom” to which they and all the faithful departed belong.
Being a native of Beltsville, I had grown up knowing of the chapel building, but somehow, even after our mission’s founding, its use for us never dawned on me. I had never even gone out of my way to see it. We had dreamed of and worked toward a haven where we could be, right here in the community where we were founded, but, for whatever reason, the thought never occurred that such a place existed. Then from out of the blue the chapel was revealed to us, and its beauty and potential took us over.
Since this revelation, we have pressed deliberately and prayerfully forward, one step after another. Speed does not matter as long as we are following God’s lead. Lead us He has, and, as long as we are looking steadfastly to Him, lead us He will. Taking heart from the examples of Holy Constantine and Helen, and our beloved Metropolitan Laurus of happy and blessed memory, we have confidence and a sure hope.