His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH’s Address on the Occasion of the 35th Anniversary of Holy Resurrection Church
February 19, 2005
Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Reverend Deacons, the Parish Council and beloved Faithful of Holy Resurrection parish:
The joy of Jesus Christ’s glorious Resurrection has been with this community from its very beginning, on that Pascha long ago when you celebrated your first Divine Liturgy. In 1969, the foundation was laid for this community, which has struggled to bring the light of Christ to this darkened world since that day in 1969.
When I think of this foundation, I remember the words of the Holy Apostle Paul to the bishop, St. Timothy:
"But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.'” (2 Timothy 2:19)
Your past brothers and sisters in this parish, those who struggled and sacrificed that we might stand here today, understood this. They departed from the quarrelsome attitude St. Paul goes on to describe in this letter, and the unity they created on earth has been fulfilled for them as they enjoy the fruits of their labor in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Even now in this present moment, many of you have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice a great deal of money, time and talent for the propagation of this parish. With almost 100 families from various backgrounds and traditions, you have succeeded in making this parish a home to many, welcoming all who seek after the face of God.
But, to maintain this foundation requires stability, especially when we think of pastoral care. When I asked Fr. Philip to come to this parish, to nurture you with the message of the Holy Gospel and minister to you, I said that he would be buried here. This will be his home until the day he dies, not only for his salvation, but for the salvation of all of you who have patiently endured many pastoral changes over the years. You have had many fine priests with differing talents, but my desire is that you have one priest for the long haul, who can build deep and meaningful relationships and bring the healing grace of God into the hearts of many. This takes time, for trust and respect are not easily won, but I have confidence that Fr. Philip will do just that.
Fr. Philip’s own foundation rests on the spiritual example of his wife, Kh. Theodora, a woman of deep faith. We all know how they are raising up five wonderful children in a truly Christian home, and they are an example to all of us that the Orthodox faith is not a Sunday-only event, but a lifestyle in which there is no boundary between church and home. Our Lord transcends such illusions, and envelops both with light and love when we desire to encounter Him.
I want to share with you my joy and love, because it is my most precious gift from God. You do not have to be rich or famous to know peace, for there are wealthy men who are tormented and depressed. Rejoice in the blessings you have, and you will find them added to. Your future is bright, and I foresee great things for this community so long as you remember that God has brought you to this day for a reason. For over 35 years, your community has been gradually perfected by the Holy Spirit, so that you may take on greater challenges in the future. You have been given much, and so God expects much of you.
It is the foundation of unity that will allow you to build up and receive even greater blessings. This unity is the center of our Archdiocese, and even now we see it in our new Diocese. The clergy and faithful from Alaska to San Diego, Hawaii to Utah, sense that we are united as a one family. Those of you who travel have probably seen this. Never forget all those far away people who pray for you and desire good things for you. You are never, ever alone in God’s Holy Church.
I remind you of this that you might have the courage to continue in your progress. I am with you every step of the way, as you build up this parish community. Just as your forefathers labored hard that this generation might enjoy such a stable and holy community, so to we are called to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the next generation. I have declared 2005 as the ‘Year of the Youth’ for this reason, that we might be mindful that our ambition might not be to live only for ourselves, but that we can savor the joy of giving to our young people even more than what we received. This does not mean cell phones, Playstations and computers, but rather the peace and happiness that comes from true faith. Give your children a solid spiritual foundation, and they will be content with whatever they have. Deprive them of a life in Christ, and they will be miserable even in the midst of great wealth.
All of the ministries of the parish, from the choir to the Antiochian Women to the Order of St. Ignatius, should be mindful of this task of bringing greater faith to the people of God. I would like to take a moment to think of what this means. Your choir director, Mareena Boosamra-Ball, knows this when she is arranging music, how some music can be very pleasant for entertainment but distracting for prayer. She knows that some music simply isn’t right for worship, and though we might like it, we cannot use it in Church. We must have discernment such as hers, to know what leads us towards God and what distracts us. Our children learn this from us, and we must teach them.
So, I urge you now to give them a living example of your commitment to Jesus Christ. Renew your spiritual lives through fasting and prayer. Then, roll up your sleeves and get to work building your new sanctuary. Do not delay, unless you wish to teach your children procrastination. Instead, show them your love and gratitude to God for His blessings by working hard to complete your new church building, and you will teach your children to be grateful for what they have.
I congratulate you all on this special occasion of your 35th anniversary of holy service, and building up a great and holy community to the Lord for the coming generation. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, for your prayers and support of my ministry to this Diocese. Let us work together to continue to build up this blessed parish, that we might see greater miracles and rejoice together in the Heavenly Kingdom.