To the clergy, monastics, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
Dear beloved children in the Lord,
Today, on the Sunday of All Saints, we behold the fruit of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as we remember all those throughout the whole world who answered Christ along with St. Peter in the Gospel: “Lo, we have left everything and followed you” (Mt. 19:27).
On this day we place in the center of our churches the icon of the feast depicting all the holy ones of God, known and unknown, men, women, and children from every walk of life. But while most of the holy icons which adorn and beautify our temples stay the same year to year, century to century, the icon of the Feast of All Saints is different. It expands and grows larger every year as the Lord reveals new saints throughout the earth. We take comfort in this and find inspiration from the saints’ example as we follow in their footsteps, walking the narrow path of sanctity we are also called to walk (cf. Matt. 7:14).
At the same time as we behold the icon of the feast, we see other more terrible images as well. The tragedies of our time seem to march in steady pace before our eyes: the continuing gun violence in the United States, wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia, the slaughter of Roman Catholic faithful in Nigeria, and the conflict and violence in many parts of the world. These are, tragically, only a few recent examples of the horrors we human beings visit upon each other in our pride, hopelessness, greed, and thirst for power. All these violent acts are contrary to the Gospel of Christ who is the “prince of peace,” as the Prophet Isaiah proclaims (Isa. 9:7). Our Lord’s way for us to follow is to lay down our lives for the other, not to shed another’s blood (cf. Jn. 15:13).
In the face of such evil in our world it is difficult to avoid the feelings of discouragement and helplessness. Take comfort that all the saints faced the evils of their age too. We, like them, can strengthen our hearts with Christ’s words: “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:27). Let us continue to follow the example of the saints and meet evil with good, hostility with love, and violence with sincere prayer that Christ, who Himself is our peace (Eph. 2:14), will reign amongst us.
On this Sunday of All Saints I exhort the faithful to pray for the peace of the world, and I conclude with the comforting words of the Apostle Paul: “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6).
May we all forever imitate the love and self-sacrifice of all the saints of God.
I remain sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada