Pastoral Letter of His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan in Tribute to His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo
"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God;
and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ;
if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him."
Beloved in Christ,
Hierarchs, clergy, Members of the Board of Trustees and faithful
Of this God-protected Archdiocese:
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
I am writing to you on the Holy day of the resurrection of our Lord, not only to greet each one of you and convey my personal salutation, as well as those of our clergy and parishioners in Argentina, but also in order to address you upon the one year anniversary of the abduction of our beloved brother Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, Alexandretta and Dependencies.
How to resurrect with Christ
"If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1)
Beloved in Christ
Hierarchs, clergy and faithful,
Of this God-protected Archdiocese
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Christ defeated death! We are no longer subject to it; rather we are Christ's, who gave us "the right to be God's children" (John 1:12) and to be His "friends" (John 15:15)! What great news! What a great gift! What a great reality! An eternal bond is granted to whoever believes in Christ as Savior from death - divine adoption in Christ's name!
From now on, the Lord commissioned us to be victorious not only over death "from outside," but also over death "from within," that is, over our own selfishness. He also commanded us to be messengers of the Good News and heralds of His victory - and ours, too - over any kind of death. He asked us, as Christians, to abide by love rather than by hate, by hope rather than by despair, by faith rather than by logic, by justice rather than by injustice, by forgiveness rather than by resentment, by humility rather than by vanity and arrogance, and by sacrifice rather than by self-interest.
How to be crucified with Christ
"I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20)
Beloved in Christ,
Hierarchs, clergy and faithful
Of this God-protected Archdiocese:
The mystery of Christ is very simple. Yet in order to embrace it in our lives, we need a mind and a heart as humble as His. The mystery of His love to humankind is such that it surprises us, whenever we meditate on it and are conscious of it. It surprises us because it reveals the love He has for us. He "is love" (1 John 4:8), isn't He?
Christ manifested His love to us in a very particular way: the way of a bridegroom with his bride. The Church preserved from the Lord's last moments before death the image of a marriage. The "picture" she took of this wedding has been expressed in two different ways in our celebrations on the first days of Holy Week. In fact, we chant at Matins of these holy days: "Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night...", and "I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me." We also make a procession with the icon of the "bridegroom" with the inscription, "Behold, the man!" (John 19:5). It is the icon of the Lord of the "utmost humility," the whole image of His passion, a snapshot of His unconditional love for us. It was the last picture taken of Him before His death on the Cross. It is the best picture ever taken of Him. The Church raises in front of our eyes this "picture" in order that we recall today in our hearts His love and humility, and commit ourselves again to follow Him on the way of the Cross.
The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, O Lord, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. "Woe is me," she said, "for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the love of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline ot the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine inneffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my head, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgements, O Savior of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure."
Tone 8, by Kassiani the Nun
His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan, Metropolitan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina, and Patriarchal Vicar of New York and all North America, writes:
Buenos Aires, April 12th 2014
Very Esteemed Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy,
Honorable Members of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees
and Beloved Faithful
of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
I wholeheartedly greet you on Lazarus Saturday, having experienced the tranquillity of the company of the Lord to His closest friend, and having shared His imperishable promise to Lazarus´ sisters, Mary and Martha, that He is the resurrection for whoever believes in Him!
Last Wednesday, I arrived back in Buenos Aires in order to celebrate Holy Week and Pascha with our parishioners in Argentina. Nevertheless, I did not stop working for your beloved archdiocese, and I will do until my functions as a vicar come to fulfilment, when the Holy Synod of Antioch elects a new Metropolitan in order to succeed to His Eminence, our beloved Metropolitan Philip of eternal memory.
I would like to share with you some aspects of my experience, during the two weeks I have spent with you, from Monday March 24th (arrival to the Archdiocese´s Headquarters) until Tuesday April 9th (Departure to Buenos Aires).
O Christ God, when before thy voluntary sufferings Thou didst explain to all the confirmation of universal resurrection; Thou didst raise Lazarus in Bethany by thine exalted might, after he had been dead for four days. And to the blind Thou didst give sight; for Thou art the Giver of light, O Savior. Thou didst also enter the city with thy Disciples, sitting on an ass, fulfilling the preaching of the Prophets, as though riding upon the cherubim, and the Hebrew youths received Thee with palms and branches. Wherefore, we also carry olive branches and palms, crying out to Thee in gratitude, Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he that cometh In the Name of the Lord.
Orthros of the Feast
"Though I lie in bonds, O Savior," Lazarus cried from below to Thee his Deliverer, "yet shall I not remain forever in the depth of Hell, if Thou wilt only call to me, ‘Lazarus, come out;’ for Thou art my Light and my Life."
"I implore thee, Lazarus," said Hell, "Rise up, depart quickly from my bonds and be gone. It is better for me to lament bitterly for the loss of one, rather than of all those whom I swallowed in my hunger."
Shaking the gates and iron bars, Thou hast made Hell tremble at Thy voice. Hell and Death were filled with fear, O Savior, seeing Lazarus their prisoner brought to life by Thy word and rising from the tomb.
-from the Canon of the Raising of Lazarus, Tone 1
The Archdiocese communicated the following details regarding historic May and June meetings to all clergy and parishes on April 8, 2014:
The dates and location have been set for a special Archdiocesan Synod Meeting, Board of Trustees meeting and the Special Nominating Convention. The location will be Chicago, Illinois, in order to facilitate air travel from all parts of the Archdiocese. The specific hotel will be announced, and all meetings will take place at that hotel. (See here for hotel and registration updates from April 29.)
The new date and location for the Special Board of Trustees and Archdiocesan Synod meetings were motivated by the need to convene the Special Nominating Convention. This makes it necessary to cancel the meetings which were originally scheduled at the Antiochian Village for the weekend of May 29-31.
The schedule of meetings is as follows:
Tuesday May 13, 2014, 7:00 – 11:00 p.m. – Special meeting of the Archdiocesan Synod.
Wednesday May 14, 2014, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. – Special Board of Trustees Meeting.
Wednesday June 4, 2014, 7:00 – 11:00 p.m. – Meetings of the Archdiocesan Synod and/or Archdiocesan Board of Trustees (as needed)
Thursday June 5, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Special Assembly to nominate candidates for the office of Metropolitan
As the summit of the liturgical year approaches, Antiochian.org offers a variety of resources to enrich the experience of personal and corporate worship. Holy Week: Journey to the Empty Tomb, offers reflections and information about the specific days and traditions of Holy Week such as the Hymn of St. Kassiane sung on Holy Tuesday, and the Sacrament of Holy Unction.
Clergy and choir directors will find all the music needed for Holy Week and Pascha catalogued in the Department of Sacred Music's online library, and can refer to the Online Liturgical Guide for information as well. Throughout the Department of Christian Education's section, teachers and parents will find craft and activity suggestions for the season, appropriate for use in home and Church School.
Thou didst sever with the sword of abstinence the snares of the soul and the passion of the body, O righteous one. And by the silence of asceticism thou didst choke the sins of thought. And by the stream of thy tears thou didst water the whole wilderness, bringing forth for us the fruits of repentance. Wherefore, we celebrate thy memory.
-Vespers of the Feast
On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt. By her example, we are reminded of the extraordinary power of repentance and God's mercy, by which even the greatest sinner may be transformed and sanctified.
Memorial services for our departed Metropolitan Philip were held at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY, March 26, to March 30. His Eminence was laid to rest at Antiochian Village on Monday, March 31. May his memory be eternal!
An extensive collection of photography from the memorial events has been assembled here. Our thanks to all who submitted photography. The galleries presented here will continue to be expanded over the coming days to include additional images from Brooklyn and from the Antiochian Village.
We ask for your continued prayers for the repose of our beloved Primate, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, as he is laid to rest today at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, Pennsylvania, after almost 50 years of leadership. Learn more about the life and legacy of Metropolitan Philip here. Video, photography and written material regarding the memorial services of the past days are being prepared for release. We ask for your prayers as well for safe travels for all those returning from the events honoring Metropolitan Philip. Memory eternal!
We are grateful to the community of St. Nicholas Cathedral of Brooklyn, NY and all those who have labored to organize and record the memorial events honoring the repose of our beloved Primate, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip. Following are photographs from the Friday, March 28, funeral for a bishop. Many more photos are being prepared for release, including from Saturday's main funeral service, now concluded. May his memory be eternal!
Our thanks to Noursat, Reach Media, and the community of St. Nicholas Cathedral of Brooklyn, NY, for the broadcast of the memorial services for Metropolitan Philip. Some technical difficulties with Noursat's online video stream began at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST; our apologies to those who have not been able to watch the conclusion of the services after several hours of continuous coverage. The television broadcast has continued and is being recorded, and will be made available online in its entirety within a few days.
Let us honor John, that pride of ascetics, that angel on earth, that man of God in heaven, that adornment of the world, and that bliss of virtues and good deeds; for, planted in the house of God, he flourished with justice; and, like a cedar tree in the wilderness, he caused the flock of Christ to grow, those sheep endowed with speech, in righteousness and justice.
-Vespers of the Feast
On the fourth Sunday in Lent we commemorate St. John, the great seventh-Century ascetic and author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. As we continue the Lenten fast, we recall St. John's account of the labors necessary to approach God, and we take comfort in the Lord's words: "he who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt 24:13).
As hierarchs and clergy begin arriving for the wake and funeral of our beloved Metropolitan Philip, His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan, the Patriarchal Vicar, and His Grace Bishop Anthony celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Great Feast of the Annunciation this morning. After the liturgy, the hierarchs and clergy went to the funeral home to vest Metropolitan Philip in his hierarchical vestments. Memory eternal!
Additional pictures available below.
The Archdiocese is deeply grateful for the wide range of tributes to His Eminence Metropolitan Philip which have begun to follow his repose. This collection of tributes from religious leaders, media outlets, and international sources will continue to be expanded.
We also offer in tribute this memorial photo gallery of Metropolitan Philip's life and work, which will also continue to be expanded. Our thanks to all of those who have contributed photography. Also available is a gallery celebrating His Eminence's dedication to the youth of our Archdiocese.
Below, we highlight three videos of His Eminence. The first is from Pascha 2011 at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY. The second video was prepared in honor of Metropolitan Philip's 80th birthday, and was presented with these remarks by Fr. Anthony Gabriel at the 2011 Archdiocese Convention. The third was originally prepared by Fr. Ayman Kfouf of St. George Church of Troy, MI in honor of Metropolitan Philip's historic 2013 visit. This video was played during the last official, celebrational pastoral visit of His Eminence before his falling asleep.
Verily, Gabriel did come to thee, disclosing the purpose which was before the ages, hailing thee and saying, Rejoice O unseeded land! Rejoice, O unburning bush! Rejoice, O depth inaccessible to vision! Rejoice, O bridge leading to the heavens! Rejoice, O lofty ladder whom Jacob did behold! Rejoice, O jar of divine manna! Rejoice, O dissolution of the curse! Rejoice, O recall of Adam! The Lord is with thee.
Vespers of the Feast, Tone 6
Homily on the Annunciation by St. Gregory the Wonderworker
God's Free Gift, by Fr. Steven Rogers
The Boy Who Died and The Boy Who Lived: Reflections on the Annunciation, by Douglas Cramer
The Archdiocese communicates with a heavy heart as we struggle with the news of the falling asleep in Christ of Metropolitan Philip. May his memory be eternal!
We express our sincerest appreciation to our Father in Christ, His Beatitude Patriarch John X, for his pastoral care and love. His Beatitude was in continual contact with us, and with Metropolitan Philip during his hospital stay, and showed his love and concern for his spiritual children in North America. For this, we are most grateful. May the memory of Metropolitan Philip be eternal, and may God grant many years to His Beatitude Patriarch John.
The schedule for all events associated with the falling asleep of Metropolitan Philip is available here. All events will be held at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York unless another location is specified. In lieu of flowers for the funeral, donations can be made to the Archdiocese for the benefit of the Retired Clergy Fund.
Both letters appoint Metropolitan Silouan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina as the Patriarchal Vicar until such time as a new Metropolitan is elected by the Holy Synod of Antioch. The Patriarchal Vicar is responsible for the administration of the Archdiocese until a new Metropolitan is elected. Archbishop Joseph will serve as the Locum Tenens of the Archdiocese. Archbishop Joseph will arrive in New Jersey on Friday March 21, and Metropolitan Silouan will arrive on Monday March 24.