NEW YORK: February 18, 2021
Archpastoral Epistle of Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, to the Clergy and Flock of the Eastern American and Australian-New Zealand Dioceses
Beloved in the Lord fathers, brothers, and sisters!
In the spirit of Christian love, I greet you with the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, that wondrous encounter between the Righteous Symeon the God-Receiver and the Divine Infant Messiah! The celebration of this sacred event reminds us that the main goal of man’s life must be an active striving for God, to behold Him with the eyes of our inner man and to meet Him in the depths of our heart, for "the Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
I believe that just such an encounter was vouchsafed to the ever-memorable Archbishop Paul (Pavlov; +1995), the predecessor of my unworthiness in the See of Australia and New Zealand, and Bishop Mitrophan (Znosko-Borovsky; +2002), who for many years served as a priest in St. Seraphim Church in Sea Cliff, New York, and in the later years of his laborious life ? as vicar of the Eastern American Diocese. Both peacefully spoke their “Nunc dimittis” years apart, on the Meeting of the Lord. God’s people greatly revered these archpastors, considering them to be guardians of piety and spiritual fathers, from whom they sought instruction, a good example, and blessing. In the days after the feast, the Holy Hierarch and Equal-of-the-Apostles Nicholas (Kasatkin; +1912), Archbishop of Japan, also peacefully departed for eternity. Having become acquainted with the enlightener of the “land of the rising sun” in his parents’ home, the young Alexey Khrapovitsky, future Metropolitan Anthony, was set aflame with the desire to labor in missionary work, and even began to study Japanese. Another teacher of the Christian life for the Most Blessed Vladyka Anthony was Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (+1881), who reposed on the threshold of the Meeting of the Lord 140 years ago. His burial was remembered as an exceptional event: on behalf of the brethren of the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra, Feodor Mikhailovich’s widow was asked to bury him there, noting that he was a great preacher and defender of Holy Orthodoxy. Metropolitan Anthony would later say of him: “to read Dostoevsky is an exhausting and difficult task, though it is also a delightful one.” And one of His Beatitude’s spiritual children heard this remark from him: “First of all, the Bible; then, the liturgical rubrics; and third, Dostoevsky.”
Dear fathers, brothers, and sisters! Bowing reverently before the memory of the above-mentioned giants of the Russian Church, let us take an interest in their lives, labors, and legacies, and let us take up the “exhausting and difficult task” of working on ourselves during the approaching Great Lent. Let us augment our prayers and reading, and take care for the doing of good deeds, taking hold of ourselves and declaring war on our sinful habits. It is truly comforting to observe how, in preparation for this salvific time, full of the most beautiful and meaningful services of the Church year, the pandemic has begun to die down, quarantine measures are being relaxed, and the normal flow of life is gradually returning. Nevertheless, I call on the rectors of the parishes and monasteries to continue to act with careful circumspection, adhering to common sense, sanitary norms, and the regulations set by local authorities, taking the recommended precautionary measures as circumstances dictate, while the order of receiving Communion should remain unchanged. Manifestations of disobedience and "zeal not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2) on these matters, as the pandemic has shown us, lead not only to outbreaks of sickness, but also to serious divisions among the people, to say nothing of every manner of other temptations. Therefore, obey readily and without complaint the directives of the Hierarchy and local governments, which in the present circumstances are being undertaken precisely for our benefit. Calling on God’s aid, let us also call on doctors and medics to offer assistance in the parishes, remembering the words of the most wise Sirach: "the Lord hath created the physician… and medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them" (Sirach 38:1,4). The great luminaries of Christ’s Church respected doctors and medical science. The Holy Hierarch Basil the Great says, “Humanity is the regular business of all you who practice as physicians… for health we are dependent on your skill” (Letter to Eustathius the Physician). In his Letter to Olympias, the Holy Hierarch John Chrysostom asks for remedy for himself, and counsels others to make use of the aid of physicians and medicines.
Having told you, according to my archpastoral duty, that which is necessary and needful, I ask you all for your holy prayers, that we, the Church, might successfully, humbly, and with spiritual profit endure the current tribulation, and as a loving family greet Holy Pascha, keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). Amen.
With love in the Lord,
Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad
Meeting of the Lord 2021 A.D.