“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The Orthodox Church, on the night of Pascha, gives witness to this great mystery of the coming of the Lord. St. John the Evangelist has said it this way, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…” (I John 1:1-2).
The Church is the new temple in which resides the grace which restores man to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the laboratory of the love and holiness of God given to us men, it is the new life of the Trinity which has been incarnated and communicated to us through the Church in the Holy Mysteries.
The Paschal period particularly accentuates the Apostles’ need to be strengthened in their faith, for even though they had accompanied the Savior for more than three years and had seen His miracles and witnessed His word of power, they were still confused at His resurrection. This shows us clearly that man needs something more than the word, something constitutive—the grace of God which brings new life. In fact, the Savior tells them at His Ascension, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and unto the ends of the earth”(Acts 1:8).
The Holy Apostles received the mission to proclaim the word, but not just in any way. The work of salvation is not human, but divine. In the Church, God gives us Himself, making us partakers and fellow-laborers in salvation. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the Holy Mysteries, we receive from the power of God’s grace, which profoundly illumines and renews mankind and the entire world. From the beginning until now, the Church, through its ministry manifested in the Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and all the Saints, reveals the new life. In every time and epoch, Tradition has represented the way in which man has understood and translate into deeds this understanding of how to live that new life.
For those of us today who are involved in the life of the Church, society expects us to give authentic responses to the problems of our time, in the spirit of the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. Therefore all of us—both the young and those who are older, men and also women, simple people as well as scholars—are one body and each of us members working toward the same goal—salvation.
In our Archdiocese in North America we find ourselves in a specific context, which requires a spiritual strategy that is adapted to the major problems that confront us—to name a few: Christian identity and witness, universality and specificity, the perennial and the contingent, tradition and renewal, mission, new and renewing standards, etc.—just to mention a few. To all these things the Church must respond with its message to become exemplary history. The response we give as members of the Church, modeled on the image of Christ, must incarnate the commandment of love of neighbor which God has given us, and which our forefathers and mothers have demonstrated in founding churches as witnessing communities of faith in God.
May Christ the Lord illumine us through His grace, that through our ministry we may be living stones of the spiritual edifice which is the Church—the Body of Christ.