Address of His Eminence,
Metropolitan Panteleimon
to the Parish of the Most Holy Trinity
in Phoenix, Arizona

Sunday, 22 October/4 November, 2007

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

My dear Fathers, Bothers and Sisters; my children in Christ, beloved of our Lord:

Blessed be the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Who has permitted me to be here in your Parish which honors the Most Holy Trinity, and on this most auspicious occasion of the Consecration of your beautiful Temple.  I am gratified that our Archbishop Nicholas, who is responsible for our Parishes in the United States, and who sends you his warmest and most Paternal and Apostolic Blessings, gave his permission for me to be here.  It is certainly a great occasion for me, for I have never had the opportunity to travel this far into the heart of your most hospitable and beautiful nation of the United States, and to serve this awesome Service of the Consecration of a truly Orthodox Church.  I am honored by your invitation to me to inaugurate this new era in your Parish, beginning today with the full consecration of your Church and the placing within the Holy Table the relics of  martyred Saints.  

I pray that you are also happy to see my humility serving among you; an unusual event, since no Orthodox Bishop has ever before served here.  When your spiritual Father, Protopresbyter Stephen invited me to come, I put aside all of my many duties and responsibilities so that I could respond positively to his call.  I did this gladly, knowing that your Parish has a history of service to the Orthodox people in this noble sector of your nation; a history of struggle to maintain and transmit the ideals of our holy Faith, Her exactness of Confession of Faith, and the Way of life that is consistent with this Confession from generation to generation.

I have come bearing, in addition to those of the Archbishop, the blessings of each of our Bishops of our Holy Synod, whose blessings are strengthening me this very moment to communicate to you that our geographic distance is of no consequence when we speak of the love that binds our hearts in Jesus Christ.  We are in Greece; you are in America.  But what of it?  Love in Christ Jesus knows no boundaries.  Up until just yesterday we were as strangers; now we are truly brethren, having seen each other face to face, and above all, sharing the life-giving Body of our common Savior in the Cup of the Divine Liturgy.

I have come bearing a message of consolation and love in Christ; for in the final analysis it is this godly love that will strengthen us and bind us into one body; a body that is nothing less than the Orthodox Parish of the Holy Trinity in Phoenix.  Individually we are weak and subject to the dangers and snares set for us by the devil.  But bound together in true Orthodox Faith and Love, we become as strong as steel, and the enemy can only break his teeth as he tries to harm us.

Therefore, let us all cooperate in this work of love; both among ourselves and toward strangers who are attracted to our Parish because they sense something...something...something very special and attractive among you: purity of Faith, devotion to Holy Tradition and that Christian love of which I have spoken.

I have seen Father Stephen and I have met many of you.  I perceive that there is nothing that I can teach you about love, for the affection among you is obvious.  Still, permit me to repeat some exhortations concerning love, if only to remind you of principles that you are already aware of, and which you practice in your dealings, not only among your Brethren in the Faith, but also towards those "outside."

Be sparing in your criticism and liberal in your commendation.  Criticism arouses resentment, self-justification and resistance; commendation fosters a desire to meet the expectations implied. Abba Isaac writes that when we meet a person who may have short-comings and may even bear ill-will against us, we should greet him as if he is the most talented and beloved person that we know, embracing him and kissing him as a brother.  This accomplishes something that criticism and disapproval could never accomplish: the person, moved by your loving response, will feel honor-bound to try to measure up to your expectation of him.  And we will have gained our brother!

Approach people in their troubled state by trying to see the matter from their point-of-view. Beware of judging them, for we rarely know the whole story.  Besides, judging is the province of God alone.  If we dare to judge, we put ourselves in God's place: blasphemy!  Rather than high-lighting someone's insufficiency, be positively inclined, be encouraging, assuring him or her that with just a little more effort success in any endeavor will succeed!  We should regard each person with whom we come into contact as possessing a hidden treasure, just waiting for the sunshine and dew of our Holy Faith to be brought to the surface and realized.

Attract people to our holy Faith and visitors into our Church with your animation and enthusiasm, with a smile of good-will and helpfulness that will, like the sun, brighten all around you.  Especially when one is at a loss, seeking to find consolation and truth, your welcoming and non-judgmental attitude will bring him close to the Truth and the Consolation: Jesus Christ in His Church.  The ancient pagans were attracted to the new Christian Faith by this characteristic and would say: "Behold those Christians; how they love each other."

And should there arise disagreements among you, let them be ended by conciliation and warmth.  Ill-will or hatred or any other kind of enmity can only be made worse if it meets its like.  Love conquers any negative feelings when it springs from a grace-filled heart.  Abba Dorotheos of Gaza wrote: "No man is my enemy; only the Devil is my enemy and seeks to harm me."

And finally, my beloved brothers and sisters, please permit me to exhort you to strengthen the bond of Faith and Love having as its focus your Parish Life.  For it is in the fellowship of the life we live with its center being our local Parish that we experience and participate in the Church, the Body of Christ, outside of which there is no salvation.   For it is here that our Lord has willed that we live the Life in Christ, which is a life with the Holy Mysteries as its center and focus.  Your consistent and frequent participation in Parish life, especially the Sacred Services, your volunteering to help in the many programs and manifestations of your Parish Family will mold your character and slowly, slowly you'll reach, by God's grace, the fullness of understanding of our holy Faith.  The icon of Jesus Christ which was sketched upon your souls at Holy Baptism will be perfected until you have reached the fullness of stature of Jesus Christ, which is the very purpose of our life.

Look to your Presbyter, your Father Stephen, who bears the unique Orthodox Priesthood, as to a loving father, but also as being your intercessor before the awesome Throne of the All-Holy Trinity, and who will give an account for each of you on Judgment Day.  Accept his preaching and exhortations as from the Lord, and show him the respect and consideration that is due him as your Father-in-Christ, whose sacrifices, among your own, have established this Parish as a peaceful Harbor where your souls find rest and consolation from your lives of voyage upon the windswept sea of life.

And please, my beloved, pray for us, your Bishops, that our common Lord will grant us faith, wisdom, health and discretion as we seek to govern the Ark of the Church in these uncommonly tempestuous times.  We pray for you and ask your prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ, our common Savior, to Whom, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit is due glory, adoration, and honor unto the ages of ages.  Amen.