2000th Anniversary of the Lord's Incarnation

Bishop Seraphim : Article
2000th Anniversary of the Lord's Incarnation Celebrated by Canadian Bishops
[Published in the “Canadian Orthodox Messenger”, Winter/Hiver 2000/2001]

It is fitting in this year in which we celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, that the canonical bishops of Canada have been serving together the Divine Liturgy in five of Canada's regions. This concelebration of the bishops visibly celebrates our unity in the Body of Christ, His Church. It is particularly appropriate that we do this now.

The twentieth century began with a single Orthodox Church in Canada. Because of political circumstances, the Church became nationalistically and linguistically divided. Because of the misunderstandings, there were sometimes strong tensions. As the century closes, by God’s mercy and Grace, most of these tensions have been dissipated. An indication of this is that the bishops of the different canonical jurisdictions have been trying to meet annually to talk about their common concerns and to increase co-operation. It was because of such a meeting that they decided to serve the Divine Liturgy together in five provinces of Canada (from the east to the west) during the spring, summer and fall of 2000, in celebration of this anniversary of our Lord’s Birth.

The first of these pan-Orthodox Divine Liturgies was served on 1 May in Montréal, Quebec. The host bishop was His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios, of the Greek Metropolis of Toronto, and the host parish was Saint George's, whose feast-day (transferred from Holy Week) it was. Present with His Eminence were three other bishops representing the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, and the Orthodox Church in America.

The second Divine Liturgy was served on 24 June at the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration near Milton, Ontario, just west of Toronto, and right on the magnificent Niagara Escarpment. The host bishop was His Grace Bishop Georgije. Serving with him were bishops from the Greek Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, and the OCA – eight hierarchs in all.

Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Winnipeg, Manitoba was the site on 9 July of the third Divine Liturgy, hosted by His Eminence Metropolitan Wasyly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. He was joined by seven other bishops representing the UOCC, the SOC, and the OCA. The words of a witness to this pan-Orthodox gathering illustrate how moving these services have been. Esther Juce comments :

His Eminence Constantine, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, delivered the profound and moving sermon. [He said that] God’s action 2000 years ago requires action today. We need to make a greater effort to image God. We are being sent to proclaim life eternal. God has entrusted us with love. God is alive now, guiding us on. We live in a world of AIDS, divorce, cancer, and all manner of human rights abuses. We are being sent to nurture. Christ came, cared, loved, and forgave, and we are called to do the same. Our forebears embraced the Faith and proclaimed God's glorious works. The millennium is a gift from God, and as with our ancestors, requires total commitment and our entire love.

His Eminence, Archbishop John was host for the fourth pan-Orthodox liturgical celebration, served on 23 September at Saint John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Edmonton, Alberta. He was joined by bishops of the GOC, the UOCC, and the OCA. An interesting addition to this celebratory weekend was a forum on “Orthodoxy in the 21st Century”, sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Education Committee of Edmonton, held the evening prior to the Liturgy. Lay persons, priests, and a bishop – representing the Antiochian, Greek, Romanian, Ukrainian and OCA jurisdictions – shared their visions, challenges, and questions about the future of the Orthodox Faith in Canada.

The fifth and final Divine Liturgy to be celebrated this year by the Canadian bishops together will be served at Saint George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Vancouver, British Columbia on 11 November, with His Eminence, Metropolitan Sotirios as host.

As we close the century (and the second millennium) in this continuous celebration of the Incarnation of the Word, we show our true unity in Christ. We have not achieved administrative unity in Canada (and probably we will not for some time). Nevertheless, closing this century in an atmosphere of brotherly love and eucharistic unity will enable us to begin the next century and the next millennium in a spirit of unity. In this atmosphere, with God's help, we will be able to provide a common witness for the truth of Jesus Christ and to provide a concrete example of evangelical reconciliation. Together, we will be able to build up the Body of Christ in Canada to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.