Pastoral Letters 2007

Slava Isusu Khrystu! All Praise Be to Jesus Christ!

Offices of the Metropolitan Prime Bishop


To Our beloved Brothers in the Episcopate,


Celebrating the joy of this greatest of Feasts, we often forget that all the apostles, with the exception of Peter and John, fled and were nowhere present at the moment of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus, the one Who loved most and gave His life for you and me, suffered the horrific emotional pain not only of betrayal by a friend and denial by another (not only once, but three times), but also the abandonment of those whom He loved most at the time when He needed them the most. The women who ran to the empty tomb on that first Easter were told to gather the apostles because the Risen Christ was to appear among them. Christ forgave them and still, even in His resurrected form, could not bear to be without them. His love was unconditional.

Today, we celebrate the historical moment of Christ’s resurrection, but as Christians, as those baptized into oneness with Christ, it is our obligation to go beyond that historical event and to bring the reality of that moment and of our personal experience of the Risen Christ, to those among us today in 2007. There are the poor, the sick, the old, the orphaned, the widowed, those in immigration crises and the homeless whom Jesus, Himself abandoned by His loved ones, will not allow us to abandon. We must, as followers of the Risen Christ, enflesh His love for anyone in crisis materially, spiritually and/or emotionally. To do otherwise would be to betray the Risen Christ present in each of them.

Today, many of our governments are in crisis, many of our nations and even Churches are at war, and it often appears that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Yet, my most beloved Brothers and Sisters, Christians are a people of hope who have seen “the great Light” and who have the strength of conscience to overcome every obstacle and to bring “ the great Light” of hope to those in despair.

It is Our prayerful hope that all our Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Monastics, Seminarians and Faithful will hear the Risen Christ calling each of us by name to receive the forgiveness and strength offered by the Risen Christ and to become a Paschal People -- His Presence to all among us.

Given at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Skete of Solus Christi Brothers, this 8th day of April, on the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, God and Savior Jeus Christ, 2007, in the third year of Our episcopate and the second year of Our election as Prime Bishop.


Metropolitan Prime Bishop



To Our beloved Brothers in the Episcopate,


Since the dawn of the first Christian communities and through the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the season preparing for the celebration of Pascha has been set-aside as a period of repentance and penance.

In Mark, the first and earliest Gospel, the Baptism of Jesus is immediately followed by the narrative of the temptation of Jesus (Mk 1:12-13):

                        “And immediately the Spirit drove him forth into the desert. And

In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, immediately after His baptism by John, Jesus is led to the desert by the Holy Spirit and is tempted by the devil to use power, yes, secular power, in three separate instances, but Jesus remained steadfast and resisted. While the forty year desert sojourn was a time of temptation and failure for the Israelites, for Jesus it was a time of victory over the powers of darkness, and so it must be for the Church, the community which carries on the message of Jesus Christ. In the words of the Scripture scholar, Fr. John L. McKenzie:

                        “The temptation comes not to him (Jesus), but to the Church, (JBC, “The Gospel According
                        to Matthew," p. 69)

The desert is a place of purification, a place of confrontation between the powers of good and evil, a place of repentance. The late monk, Fr. Louis Merton, wrote of the desert:

                        “...the desert wilderness ‘where evil and curse prevail’, where (Merton, The Monastic Journey, p. 145)

The problem remains, however, that most of us equate the call to the desert with monks and nuns, and in so doing, we forget that to pray, to seek God, to do penance, to save our souls -- these are the duties of all Christians by virtue of their baptism and chrismation. In seeking God and His will in all things, my Brothers and Sisters, we are all monks who are called to penance, to re-evaluating our priorities and to purifying ourselves before the God who created us and Who calls us to an intimate and personal relationship with Him.

    The world in which we live today in 2007 is in turmoil. People of different religions and even denominations are persecuting and even killing each other in the name of God. Our Churches are openly criticized as being motivated by greed, power and lust. Mankind is in horrific pain, and it is only in following Jesus into the desert and in purifying our hearts, minds and souls that the world can change. We must go into the desert, into the solitude and individuality of each of our hearts, to seek and find what it is that Jesus is telling us, and to no longer put into His mouth what we want Him to say and in contorting His words and message to our benefit.

    We begin the journey of Lent as a period of conversion, of intense inner struggle and self-confrontation, of purification, of finding the true God, not a god whom we have fashioned ourselves. We ask you all to fast, to take at least 15 minutes each day to pray in solitude, to attend Divine Liturgy and the Liturgy of the Presanctified on a more frequent basis during this holy season of Lent. We implore you to spend time as a family unit reading the Gospels and searching for the true meaning of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

    As St. John Chrysostom said (Concerning the Statues, Excerpts from Homily III):

                        “...the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from

Given this 14th day of January, in the year of our salvation 2007, at the Monastery of Solus Christi, Milwaukee, WI, in the third year of Our Episcopate and the second year of Our election as Prime Bishop.


Metropolitan Prime Bishop


    To those who are able to observe the traditional strict fast of abstaining from all meat and dairy products from Clean Monday until Pascha, We impart Our blessing and the assurance of Our prayerful support. However, for those who because of mitigating circumstances such as age, ill-health, the stress of work the following Guidelines are set-forth:

* Clean Monday (February 6/February 19) - Strict abstinence. No meat and no dairy products are permitted
        to be eaten.
* Wednesdays and Fridays during all of Great Lent are days of abstinence from meat.
* Great Week (March 20/April 2 through March 25/April 7) -- No meat and no meat products may be eaten
        during the entire week. Dairy products may be eaten.
* Great Friday ( March 24/ April 6) and Great Saturday (March 25/April 7) - Are days of strict abstinence. No
        meat and no dairy products are permitted to be eaten.
* When receiving Holy Communion at Presanctified Liturgies during Great Lent, a fast of three hours
        from all solid foods and one hour from all liquids is to be observed.
* Before Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and/or St. Basil the Great, the usual fasting from midnight is to
        be observed.
* Where the Vesperal Liturgy is celebrated on Holy Thursday, a fast of three hours from solid foods and
        one hour from all liquids is to be observed.


Metropolitan Prime Bishop




While it is an historical fact that the first Christians received the Eucharist on a daily basis and could not fathom going through a day without partaking of the Eucharist (they were even given the Eucharist to take to their homes), today, in some Orthodox jurisdictions, frequent reception of Communion has become the exception, while in others the Faithful do receive the Eucharist more frequently. In both cases, however, the reception of Communion is often erroneously perceived as an act of private devotion and is not seen from the theological perspective of its communal dimension. Our churches need to rediscover the communal and corporate dimensions of the Eucharist. They also need to reevaluate their various practices related to confession, fasting, and other forms of preparation for communion. This is necessary particularly when these practices not only obscure the ecclesial significance of the Eucharist but also discourage frequent Communion, thus inhibiting the spiritual growth and nourishment of the Faithful.

In many places, it is believed that one may not receive Holy Communion unless one has made an individual Confession prior to every reception of Communion. For many years, this was somewhat "standard" practice, primarily during the centuries when frequent reception of the Eucharist was unheard of. Until quite recently -- that is, prior to the 1960’s -- it was common to find the faithful receiving the Eucharist only once every year, usually during Pascha/Easter. Certainly, if one receives the Eucharist only once or twice every year, one should, indeed, observe individual Confession before receiving Holy Communion.

As the frequent reception of Communion became more commonplace, however, the understanding of Confession and Communion as two DISTINCT and separate sacraments began to make it much more clear that it is not necessary to observe individual Confession every time one receives the Eucharist, provided one is communing regularly, is attentive to the guidance of his or her Spiritual Father, and is properly prepared through prayer and fasting to receive the Eucharist.

In the 18th century, St. Makarios of Athens taught that “to receive Communion the usual two or three times a year is good and helpful, but to receive Communion more frequently is far better. Remember, the nearer a person comes to the light, the more light he gets. The closer he draws to the fire, the warmer he is. The nearer he approaches sanctity, the more saintly he becomes. In the same way, the more frequently one draws near to God in Holy Communion, the more one receives light and warmth and holiness. My friend, if you are worthy of making your Communion two or three times a year, you are worthy of making it more often, as St. John Chrysostom tells us”, for we are called to maintain preparation and call upon God’s bestowal of worthiness all year round even to take it once a year.

St. Makarios continues, “But what does stop us from taking Communion? The answer is our carelessness and laziness. And we give way to these faults so much that we are not sufficiently prepared to be able to receive Communion...Where did God or any one of the Saints for that matter, bid us Communicate [only] two or three times a year? Nowhere is this found...” He then goes on to point out that “It is both necessary and very beneficial to the soul for a person to receive Communion frequently. It is also in obedience to the commandment of God...the proper time is the moment that the priest exclaims ‘In the fear of God and with faith and love draw near.’ Is this heard only three times a year? No! Although everyone must eat two or three times a day in order that the material body may live, must the unfortunate soul only eat three times a year or perhaps even once--the food that gives it life in order to live the spiritual life? And isn’t this completely absurd?”

Even in his day St. Ambrose found it necessary to address the problem of frequent reception of the Eucharist. Ambrose pointed out: “God gave us this Bread as a daily affair, and we make it a yearly affair.” St. Basil the Great states that “It is good and beneficial to receive communion every day, and to partake of the holy body and blood of Christ. For he distinctly says, ‘He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life.’ And who doubts that to share frequently in life, is the same thing as to have manifold life. Truthfully I communicate four times a week: on the Lord’s day, and Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of any Saint” (Letter 93). The Faithful are supposed to, in a well-disciplined manner, and, with the right frame of mind, partake of Communion every Sunday and on holy days, as Sts. Gregory and Symeon of Thessolonika state (cf. p. 951 of the Philokalia, and chap. 360) and Sts. Nikodemos and Agapios of the Holy Mountain, compilers of the Pedalion of the Orthodox Catholic Church (the book of Canon Law of the Orthodox Church), likewise upheld. However, the canons themselves mandate frequency in partaking of Communion. Canon 9 of the Holy Apostles states the following:

“All the Faithful [not under penance] who enter and listen to the Scriptures,

Likewise, the following from the words of the 12th century canonist Zonaras: “The present Canon demands that all those who are in the church when the Holy Sacrifice is being performed shall patiently remain to the end for prayer and Holy Communion” (page 21 of the Pedalion). The commentary on the eighth and ninth Apostolic Canons clearly emphasizes this: ‘The commands of these canons are very strict and severe, for they excommunicate those who come to the Liturgy but do not remain until the end and take Communion’” (Pedalion/Rudder, Com. Can 9).

The notion that one should abstain because one is “not worthy” is rejected by the Holy Fathers, since we humble ourselves in repentance and then rely on God giving us his grace. We become worthy by God’s energy even if we are not worthy from our own. We do this by admitting our faults and shortcomings on a weekly basis to all whom we have wronged. St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain has the following to say regarding this very point:

“There is no doubt from a Patristic and historical point of view: It is

It is not acceptable in the tradition of the Church to keep away from the Eucharist using Confession as an excuse. The Sacrament of Confession exists to enhance our approach to the Eucharist, NOT TO IMPEDE IT!

The Council of Constantinople of 1819 endorsed the teachings of these “Kollyvades Fathers” (i.e. St. Nikodemos, St. Makarios of Corinth and the rest) insistence that Communion should be partaken of regularly by clergy and faithful alike. This is simply a reaffirmation of what the Orthodox Church has always officially held down through the ages. For our Lord Himself warned, “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you” (John 6.53). The verbs “eat” (Gr. faghte, phagite), and “drink” (Gr. pihte, pite), do not connote a one time event, but a continuous practice of eating and drinking. Thus, just as we eat food and drink on a regular basis to give the body life, we eat the Heavenly Food and Drink to give both Body and Soul eternal life:

“Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise

Therefore, we should always examine ourselves, seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ, family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, partaking of Repentance (Confession) as often as conscience and proper conduct yield, and preparing through acts of goodness, relying upon God and trusting that He will bestow worthiness upon us. For we are not able to partake of Communion because we have in some way made ourselves worthy, but rather because we are a member of the redeemed community in which Christ is in the midst. St. John Cassian states:

“We must not avoid Communion because we consider ourselves sinful. We

It is Christ upon whom we must rely to make us worthy and not the things that we do. For “only God is good,” as our Lord says, and it is He that works within us and His worthiness which enables us. As St. Basil the Great has formulated in a preparatory prayer before communion, “I know that I am unworthy to receive your Holy Body and Precious Blood...But trusting in your loving-kindness I come unto you who said: He who eats My Body and drinks My Blood shall abide in Me and I in him. Therefore, Lord, have compassion on me and make not an example of me, your sinful servant. But do unto me according to your great mercy, and grant that these Holy Gifts may be for my healing, purification, enlightenment, protection, salvation...the Communion of the Holy Spirit...and for Life Eternal. Amen.” In the pre-Communion prayers we pray to the Lord Jesus Christ that we may be united to His Body and Blood and have Him, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, dwelling and abiding within us.

In compliance with the above guidelines, Orthodox Christians may partake of the Eucharist, who after examining themselves truly approach “in the fear of God with faith and love,” and say the prayer “I believe O Lord” prior to taking Communion with awareness and sincerity in what is being said.

So then, we will finish with the words of one of the Canons of the Sixth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople: “If anyone wills to be a participator of the immaculate Body in the time of the Synaxis, and to offer himself for the Communion, let Him draw near, arranging his hands in the form of a cross, and so let him receive the Communion of grace” (Can. 101).

“Thus, just as we eat food and drink on a regular basis to give the

Presbyters, deacons and monastics are reminded of their grave pastoral responsibility in regard to the spiritual life and development of the Faithful and the primary place to be given to the reception of the Eucharist in this regard. Pastoral solutions would include the celebration of General Confession and Absolution on the Saturday evenings after the serving of Vespers (or even before the celebration of each Divine Liturgy), and inviting those who feel the need for individual confession the ability to approach their parish priest and/or spiritual director in the immediate future.

Given on this 7th day of January, 2007, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, at the Skete of Solus Christi Brothers, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the third year of Our Episcopate and the second year of Our election as Metropolitan Prime Bishop of our most beloved jurisdiction.

Metropolitan Prime Bishop

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