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Metropolitan Joseph Consecrates Dome of Basilica of St. Mary

By The Very Rev. George Shalhoub, and Parish Ministries Coordinator and Cantor Christina Stavros

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There are special moments in the lives of men and women that leave an everlasting impression. If we are Orthodox Christians, these moments are those that serve to aid and empower us in our journey towards Christ. This past weekend (October 31- November 2nd) was such a moment in the life of The Basilica of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Livonia, Michigan.

In the presence of our beloved and newly-elected Metropolitan Joseph, our local Bishop Anthony, scores of clergy, and Teen SOYO from around the diocese who were present for the 2014 Fall Gathering, we witnessed with our own eyes the consecration of our holy icons in the dome of our church by His Eminence Joseph's holy hand. This moment will remain forever etched in the minds, hearts, and souls, of the faithful of our parish.

It was another milestone in the life of our church community. We do not only celebrate the moment, but we are encouraged in our journey as we remember the past men and women who began our humble mission. As Sayidna proclaimed to us in his sermon and throughout the weekend, "the Archdiocese is not one person ... it is all of you—each and every one of you". The church lives not because of one bishop, one priest, or one community. It lives because the bishop, priest, and community are led by our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and came into this world, not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Sayidna Joseph also told the faithful of the Basilica of Saint Mary and the youth of the diocese that "The youth are my first priority." We were reminded that the youth are not the future of the church but they are the church, now. Our efforts to nourish and grow their faith and equip them with the ability to continue the holy Orthodox Christian tradition is to be the first priority of our parishes. Sayidna's presence and blessing upon all of us inspired the new generation following in the footsteps of their mothers and fathers to carry on the torch of faith for the next generation to come.

Now, the goal is to surge ahead to build the future of our church during these trying times in our world. We are to tackle the impossible tasks and dream big because of what the Lord has asked of us—to take up our cross and follow Him—to be the Gospel in this hurting, war-torn world around us. What we need to have is faith the size of a mustard seed—and He does the rest. In the last forty-three years, we have learned to be messengers of peace. We have learned to let the church be a sign of joy in our midst. For this very reason, we do not fear.

If we only count our short comings and imperfections, we will never obtain the grace of Christ and His forgiveness. As our beloved Metropolitan Joseph said this weekend, the world needs the church, because through the church we are healed, loved and forgiven. Through the Cross of Christ, joy has come into all the world because Christ is Risen (Hebrews 12:2). By this we know that our suffering has meaning. This is the mystery that we proclaim as Orthodox Christians. It is the source of all of our hope.

The faithful of the Basilica of Saint Mary are thankful to God and to the cloud of witnesses who dreamed big dreams and made this—the second phase of our Dome—possible. Our parish and all those who come and visit us to be a part of the joyful celebration sing a joyful song—confirming that yes, we are disciples of Jesus Christ, His descendants, and descendants of the Apostles. And, we are protected and take refuge under the veil of the all-holy Mother of God, the Theotokos.

How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of a shepherd, who brings good news, who proclaims peace...who proclaims salvation and redemption saying to your church, 'Your God reigns'.

Eis polla eti, Thespota—Sayidna Joseph! Thank you for your presence with us and your blessing upon us! May God grant you many years, Master!