David Rayahin is a second year student in the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
The Orthodox world is abuzz: “Have the Antiochians changed their minds?” “How will we move forward to renew the Orthodox Church in the USA?”
Clergy and laity alike have raised concerns regarding the future of Orthodox administrative unity in the new lands and the ability for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops to continue their work as brothers in Christ. Somehow, it seems that unity was an easier topic when we ourselves were disunited; when the Antiochians were divided between two archdioceses in New York and Toledo, when the Greek faithful were in limbo between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and when the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was not-concelebrating.
I am hard-pressed to find a single moment in my life where I’ve thought to myself, “we’re so disunited.” So many monumental moments in my life were defined not by jurisdiction but by the Church as a whole.
After I offered my oration at the Oratorical Festival during the 51st Antiochian Archdiocese Convention in 2013, I was awarded a generous scholarship from the Greek Archdiocese to attend Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. This wonderful scholarship has opened up so many blessings in my life and has introduced me to so many wonderful people, across numerous jurisdictions who have enriched my life in ways I could have never imagined.
When His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios made his annual archpastoral visit to our Holy Cross Chapel for the feast of the Holy Cross, I was humbled to receive the blessing to wear our school cross alongside my brother seminarians. As our President, Fr. Christopher Metropulos, read our names in alphabetical order, each of us approached His Eminence with a prostration and received our cross. Each and every one of us, whether American or Greek, Arab or Russian, received the same cross, inscribed with the words, “In the beginning was the Word.”
Many dismiss the question of unity saying, “I have my archdiocese and you have yours,” or, “I don’t care, because everyone else is uncanonical,” these expressions do little to aid Orthodox unity, but rather display that the issue with unity is not from the top (the leadership of the Church), but amongst the faithful. I am reminded of the words of Patriarch Elias IV, of thrice blessed memory, who said, “In spite of ethnic difference we have unity of faith. We have the same dogma, the same doctrine, the same traditions.” and, “Most importantly, the faithful in North America must do their part to make independence and unity a reality.”
The reminder of brotherhood and humility is so evidently prominent in our Divine Liturgy, nearly every epistle begins with, “brethren,” and before we approach the chalice to receive Holy Communion, we remember the words of the thief, “Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom!” The time has come and gone for us as a collective Orthodox faithful, clergy and laity, to serve one another in brotherhood.
PHOTO CREDIT: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of New York and All North America embrace at a Pan-Orthodox gathering of clergy.
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