Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one Church
Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers
8 March, 2009

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

In these words [John 15:1-10 had been read], our Saviour is telling us how we should be living our Christian lives. He says that we have to be conscious that we can do nothing without Him. However, in Him we can do everything. In fact, in the Lord we can do what human beings will consider very often to be impossible. It is important for us to remember that our life is in Him. We, like the branches of a vine, are part of Him. He says that He is the vine, and we are the branches.

This evening, on an occasion like this, it is always a great joy for us to be able to be together, to sing together, to worship the Lord together. With joy we see how much variety there is in the Lord’s work in His Kingdom. We see how He reaches out, and how He embraces everyone and everything, everywhere, at all times. He, who has spoken everything into being, is also uniting everything to Himself. He gives life and purpose to all things. His desire is to give everyone and everything life eternal with Him in His Kingdom.

The “downside” of our being together as we are this evening (and there is one) is what we all keep talking about – the fact that even though we all possess one Orthodox Faith, and our belief and our worship are the same, and even though our joy is great in being together, our joy is limited. This is because, in fact, in North America we are still very far from living the Orthodox life, day by day, in the way that the Lord has called us to live it. This experience that we have now is a once-a-year sort of experience. With the joy, there is sadness precisely because we are not completely one. The Lord, who calls all to unity, and who is Himself the expression of unity, is embodied in the Orthodox Church. If we, the Orthodox Church (especially in a city like this one), are going to demonstrate with any strength the truth of Jesus Christ, sooner or later we have to come to the point of being all together the one visible expression of the Orthodox Church – not divided up with six or seven bishops in the same city.

This is the “downside” that I am talking about. It is a painful part of our life, but it is not at all hopeless. It is a reality which we have to be prepared to face and embrace in prayer. It is high time that we, the faithful of the Orthodox Church in Canada, start praying and fasting seriously, and offering to the Lord our intercession for His Church here in Canada, so that the necessary unity can be achieved. As long as we are divided as we are, and as long as we are not one visibly united Orthodox Church, which looks after everyone in this country, we are, in fact, betraying Christ.

For the Orthodox Church to be herself and to reveal Christ, who is One, we have to be one. In Canada, everything about the Orthodox Church – not only the iconostas, not only the Divine Liturgy – but the whole structure of the Orthodox Church must sooner or later reveal the oneness of Christ. There is nothing invisible about the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church must be visible. It always has been. In our ancestral countries, the Orthodox Church is one, and it must be one here, also. When that time comes, it must be one Church that embraces everyone, and that allows all to bear fruit according to their kind. It must be an Orthodox Church in Canada which nurtures Greeks, Serbs, Romanians, Lebanese, Syrians, Russians, Ukrainians – everyone. It must enable everyone to flourish together sort of in the way that we are offering our worship to the Lord here, together, this evening. Our Lord said to us just now in the Gospel that if we ask Him in the right way, knowing what is His will, we can, in Him and with Him bring about what is His will. It cannot be the Lord’s will that the Orthodox Church in Canada continue to exist indefinitely as something looking like a Protestant grouping. People outside look at us and think of us as a group of different-language-speaking Protestants. We cannot continue to appear in that way. The Lord put us here in this country to be yeast and salt. He put us here to do something for this country : to bring the Truth of Jesus Christ to this country. We, Orthodox Christians, are the only ones who can do it.

Brothers and sisters, our challenge is to take hold of this joy in Christ that we have in being together, to offer this joy to the Lord, and to ask Him to help us not only to understand what is His will, but to have the guts to implement His will. He will show us what we must do in order to come together in due course in His time as one Orthodox Church in Canada. This must be our prayer-project for all of us together. It cannot happen simply because the bishops would like it to happen (and we would). However, we, the bishops, cannot do it. It has to be on the foundation of your prayers. I think that when you pray, and the Lord reveals the time and the way in which this will occur, the bishops will be ready to do whatever has to be done.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord enable us by all your prayers to be a visible, concrete, tangible witness of the love of Jesus Christ. He, Himself, put flesh on the love of God ; He reveals Himself to us as love, and saves us. May He, our Saviour, give us the heart to be obedient in prayer and in action, so that in everything we will be able to do precisely what the first missionary to North America exhorts us to do. Saint Herman, the Elder and Wonder-worker to Alaska says to us all the time : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”. Therefore, let us glorify with him and with all the saints, the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.