Pastoral Letter June 17, 2018

Through greed we underwent the first stripping, overcome by the bitter tasting of the fruit, and we became exiles from God. But let us turn back to repentance and, fasting from the food that gives us pleasure, let us cleanse our senses on which the enemy makes war. Let us strengthen our hearts with the hope of grace, and not with foods which brought no benefit to those who trusted in them. Our food shall be the Lamb of God, on the holy and radiant night of His Awakening: the Victim offered for us, given in communion to the disciples on the evening of the Mystery, who disperses the darkness of ignorance by the Light of His Resurrection. — Vespers on the evening of the Sunday of the Last Judgement

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

I pray that this week has been one filled with countless blessings and opportunities to grow in the Lord. We are well into the Apostles Fast and I trust that it has been a rewarding experience and an opportunity to strengthen your spiritual resolve and discipline. Before we reach the end of June and commemorate Ss. Peter and Paul and the Synaxis (Gathering) of all the Holy Apostles, we will come to another celebration: Father’s Day.

You would be correct in pointing out that Father’s Day is not a Church Feast or Commemoration. In fact, several years ago, following my ordination (that took place on Pentecost/Father’s Day) I said in a conversation that “It was nice to be ordained on Father’s Day.” His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah was within earshot and corrected me. “No,” he said. “You were ordained on the Sunday of Pentecost.” My bad.

But even though this Sunday’s secular recognition of fatherhood is not on our ecclesiastical calendar, it is equally true that every Sunday is actually “Father’s Day.” In fact, every single day that has ever existed, or will ever arrive is “Father’s Day.” We cannot even begin to fathom the role of a father without meditating upon the ministry of our Father Who is in Heaven. Our Creator. Our Sustainer. Our Benefactor. He is the Divine Who set in motion the design of creation. He lamented our expulsion from Paradise. He devised the plan for the return of humanity into the Gates of the Kingdom. He sent His Only Begotten Son to become incarnate in the flesh and to be born of the Virgin. He fashioned us from absolute nothingness and He rescued us from damnation, as we arrogantly turned away from His goodness.

We are well past the Sunday of Judgment. So please do not be confused by the above-mentioned hymn that is quoted from that service.

To me, this hymn speaks to God’s desire to become in union with us once again. In other words, a Father who longed for the companionship of His wayward children.

Father’s Day is not about BBQ grills, golf clubs or car detailing certificates (though admittedly, those all make nice gifts). There is no present or greeting card that can capture what a man receives when his sons and daughters enter the world. The gift of fatherhood itself is an honor to the man who receives that precious title.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to love unconditionally.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to sacrifice joyfully.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to discipline fairly.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to protect viciously.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to teach patiently.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to act prudently.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to speak wisely.

Fatherhood as given by the One, True Father is the responsibility to acknowledge the very Father who begat His Son in order to offer salvation to humanity.

Just as our own children make mistakes as they grow and mature, we as God’s children made a critical and fatal mistake, as we partook of the fruit and betrayed His ways. He, as the designer of perfect fatherhood, allowed us the freedom to act out impetuously; fairly presented the consequences of our actions; taught us the better way; and most importantly, did not hold us forever-accountable for our sin. He offered the gift of forgiveness. He permitted His Son to pay the price for that forgiveness, and from the Cross, and through the obedience of the Son, we became whole once again.

Father’s Day began as we were taken up from the dust of the earth. It continued as we (based on our own shortcomings) were banished away. And it was reflected through the blinding light of the Resurrection.

God gave us life.

God gave us renewed life.

God gave us abundant life.

God gives us everlasting life.

So this Sunday, as I mentioned in my message last week, I will not be with you as I travel to Camp Emmanuel with our young, freshly-minted GOYANs. Fr. Elias, a lovely father in every sense of the word, will have the blessing to share his (and my) prayers and best wishes to all of the fathers of our community. Happy Father’s Day to all the men who celebrate.

Your children, grandchildren and godchildren are stronger human beings and more faithful Christians because of your influence. At least that is the way it’s supposed to be. For many of us, we miss that mark. My own children can tell you that is the case, for sure. But with God’s grace, guidance and inspiration, we can come close enough to make the difference. For me, there is no greater joy than the blessings of being a dad, and no greater opportunity for humility than to be your “father.” I ask your forgiveness in my shortcomings in that precious capacity. You are all loved, deeply in my heart.

In the Joy of God the Father,

Fr. Anthony