Over the years I have heard different clergy and lay people use this above phrase to characterize how Orthodox saints of the past have approached bringing the Apostolic Faith to new countries. On May 11th our church will be hosting an event that honors Ss. Cyril & Methodius (9th century saints) who are very dear to both Macedonians and Bulgarians for bringing the Orthodox Faith to their lands in their own native tongue. These saints also supplied them with their own written alphabet that they never had before. Is this what it means to baptize a culture? I will speak more about Cyril and Methodius as “baptizers of a culture” at the May 11th event at our church. But I want to cite another quote from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians and share some thoughts on the idea of baptizing the culture we live in today.

We begin another time of fasting to prepare us for the Holy Pascha of our Lord. The guidelines of fasting are simple; we are to eat no meat or dairy products from the beginning of Great Lent on March 3rd until Great and Holy Pascha. There are other rules to the fast such as no alcohol, oil, and fish with backbone. But to be honest with you refraining from meat and dairy products is a challenge enough for us in this culture we live in today. Finally for those who are ill and have certain medical conditions that require that you not fast as strictly, then do what the doctor says. The purpose of fasting is not to make you sick and endanger your health. Most of you know this, so there is no need to dwell on the rules. However there are two things we do need to focus on as we fast that will make a difference as to whether this is a fruitful fast for us.

There are different practices and viewpoints regarding child attendance at the Divine Liturgy. During my childhood I was used to attending half of the service and spending half of it in Sunday School. Young kids spent the first half in church, and then went to Sunday school after the sermon. The older kids began Sunday school when the Liturgy began, and then came to church for the last half of the liturgy. This practice continues today in some Orthodox parishes. In other Orthodox parishes, children attend the entire liturgy and go to Sunday school either before or after the service. It does seem as if the trend is moving more towards children being in church for most of the liturgy and not half of it. For some this idea may be hard to accept because one might believe that children can’t handle being in church for an hour and twenty minutes. Kids get antsy, bored, and restless. They complain that church is too long and might even cause a scene. This is not an easy issue for parents to deal with. It is not uncommon to see parents remove kids from church because they have become too disruptive. Parents may consciously come late to church so the kids don’t have to be there as long. They may also bring toys with them to church for kids to play with to keep them quiet. The problem with these approaches is they do nothing to help the child connect with worship and to pay attention to what is going on. Some might conclude our worship is irrelevant and too abstract for children to embrace. I would like to speak some on this issue and talk about some things parents can do to help their children in this area.


We glorify the name of the Triune God for gathering us at this first Episcopal Assembly of this region in New York City on May 26-28, 2010 in response to the decisions of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Switzerland, from June 6-12, 2009, at the invitation of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Gathered together in the joy of the Feast of Pentecost, we humbly recognize our calling, in our unworthiness, to serve as instruments and disciples of the Paraclete, who “holds together the whole institution of the Church” (Hymn of Vespers of Pentecost).

We honor and express gratitude to the Primates and Representatives of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches who assembled at the Ecumenical Patriarchate from October 10-12, 2008 to affirm their “unswerving position and obligation to safeguard the unity of the Orthodox Church” (Chambésy Rules of Operation, Article 5.1a) and emphasized their will and “desire for the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements” (Message of the Primates 13.1-2)

We call to mind those who envisioned this unity in this region and strove to transcend the canonical irregularities resulting for many reasons, including geographically overlapping jurisdictions. For, just as the Lord in the Divine Eucharist is “broken and distributed, but not divided” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom), so also His Body comprises many members, while constituting His One Church.

We are grateful for the gift of the doctrinal and liturgical unity that we already share, and we are inspired by our leaders, the Heads of all the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, who proposed that which we painfully yearn for in this region, i.e., the “swift healing of every canonical anomaly” (Message of the Primates 13.2). We are also grateful that they established a fundamental process toward a canonical direction and resolution.

We are thankful to almighty God for the growth of Orthodoxy, for the preservation of our traditions, and for the influence of our communities in this region. This is indeed a miracle and a mystery.

During our gathering, and in accordance with the rules of operation of Episcopal Assemblies promulgated by the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Conference, we established:
1. A registry of canonical bishops (Article 6.1)
2. A committee to determine the canonical status of local communities in the region that have no reference to the Most Holy Autocephalous Churches (Article 6.2)
3. A registry of canonical clergy (Article 6.3)
4. Committees to undertake the work of the Assembly, among others including liturgical, pastoral, financial, educational, ecumenical, and legal issues (Articles 11 and 12)
5. A committee to plan for the organization of the Orthodox of the region on a canonical basis (Article 5.1).

In addition to the above, we agreed that a directory would be created and maintained by the Assembly of all canonical congregations in our region.
We as Episcopal Assembly understand ourselves as being the successors of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), assuming its agencies, dialogues, and other ministries.

Moreover, at the formal request of the Hierarchs who have jurisdiction in Canada, the Assembly will submit to the Ecumenical Patriarch, in accordance with the rules of operation (Article 13), a request to partition the present region of North and Central America into two distinct regions of the United States and Canada. Additionally, at the request of the Hierarchs who have jurisdiction in Mexico and Central America, the Assembly will likewise request to merge Mexico and Central America with the Assembly of South America.

As Orthodox Hierarchs in this blessed region, we express our resolve to adhere to and adopt the regulations proposed by the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and approved by the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and to do everything in our power by the grace of God to advance actions that facilitate canonical order in our region.

We confess our fidelity to the Apostolic Orthodox faith and pledge to promote “common action to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in our region” (Chambésy, Decision 2c). We call upon our clergy and faithful to join us in these efforts “to safeguard and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church of the region in its theological, ecclesiological, canonical, spiritual, philanthropic, educational and missionary obligations” (Article 5.1) as we eagerly anticipate the Holy and Great Council.

The Assembly concluded with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Friday, May 28, 2010 at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York City. During the Liturgy prayers were offered for the repose of the eleven victims of the current ecological disaster in the Gulf Coast, for the consolation of their families, for all those adversely affected by this catastrophe, as well as for all people living under conditions of war, persecution, violence, and oppression.

Of the sixty-six Hierarchs in the region, the following 55 were present at this Assembly:
Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman
Metropolitan Philip, Vice Chairman
Archbishop Justinian, Vice Chairman
Bishop Basil, Secretary
Archbishop Antony,Treasurer
Metropolitan Iakovos
Metropolitan Constantine
Metropolitan Athenagoras
Metropolitan Methodios
Metropolitan Isaiah
Metropolitan Nicholas
Metropolitan Alexios
Metropolitan Nikitas
Metropolitan Nicholas
Metropolitan Gerasimos
Metropolitan Evangelos
Metropolitan Paisios
Archbishop Yurij
Bishop Christopher
Bishop Vikentios
Bishop Savas
Bishop Andonios
Bishop Ilia
Bishop Ilarion
Bishop Andriy
Bishop Demetrios
Bishop Daniel
Bishop Antoun
Bishop Joseph
Bishop Thomas
Bishop Mark
Bishop Alexander
Metropolitan Hilarion
Bishop Iov
Bishop Gabriel
Bishop Peter
Bishop Theodosius
Bishop George
Bishop Ieronim
Metropolitan Christopher
Bishop Maxim
Archbishop Nicolae
Bishop Ioan Casian
Metropolitan Joseph
Metropolitan Jonah
Archbishop Nathaniel
Archbishop Seraphim
Bishop Nikon
Bishop Tikhon
Bishop Benjamin
Bishop Melchisedek
Bishop Irineu
Bishop Irinee
Bishop Michael

 

Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was born in the year 340 into the family of the Roman prefect of Gaul.  After the death of the father of the family, Ambrose journeyed to Rome, where the future saint and his brother Satyrius received an excellent education. About the year 370, upon completion of his course of study, Ambrose was appointed to the position of governor of the districts of Liguria and Aemilia, though he continued to live at Mediolanum (now Milan).  In the year 374 Auxentius, the Arian Bishop of Mediolanum, died. This led to complications between the Orthodox and the Arians, since each side wanted to have its own bishop. Ambrose, as the chief city official, went to the church to resolve the dispute.

While he was speaking to the crowd, suddenly a child cried out, “Ambrose for bishop!” The people took up this chant. Ambrose, who at this time was still a catechumen, considered himself unworthy, and tried to refuse. He disparaged himself, and even tried to flee from Mediolanum. The matter went ultimately before the emperor Valentinian the Elder (364-375), whose orders Ambrose dared not disobey. He accepted holy Baptism from an Orthodox priest and, passing through all the ranks of the Church clergy in just seven days, on December 7, 374 he was consecrated Bishop of Mediolanum. He dispersed all his possessions, money and property for the adornment of churches, the upkeep of orphans and the poor, and he devoted himself to a strict ascetic life.

Ambrose combined strict temperance, intense vigilance and work within the fulfilling of his duties as archpastor. St Ambrose, defending the unity of the Church, energetically opposed the spread of heresy. Thus, in the year 379 he traveled off to establish an Orthodox bishop at Sirmium, and in 385-386 he refused to hand over the basilica of Mediolanum to the Arians.

The repose of St Ambrose, who departed to the Lord on the night of Holy Pascha, was accompanied by many miracles. He even appeared in a vision to the children being baptized that night. The saint was buried in the Ambrosian basilica in Mediolanum, beneath the altar, between the Martyrs Protasius and Gervasius (October 14).