Personal Reflections on Unity
within the Church of Antioch
by Archimandrite Daniel S. Griffith
Though I write these reflections from a personal perspective, I know that there are many, many priests and laity (I believe the overwhelming majority) who have felt the same way. As a priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America since 1973, my heart was broken, my spirit crushed, and my mind thoroughly confused by the abrupt and unexpected action of our Holy Synod on February 24 of this year and by interpretations and subsequent justifications given by some for this action.
What joy we felt when we learned that our beloved Patriarch IGNATIUS IV had taken the initiative to meet with all of our bishops personally in Damascus last week. Regardless of the outcome, the very fact of such fatherly concern for his distant children in North America was heartening. My confidence and pride in the Church which I have served for so many years, but which had been severely shaken during the past months, is being restored. The very fact of our Father and Patriarch’s solicitude swept through the Archdiocese like a breath of fresh air, the very breath of God. The Holy Spirit was moving and acting.
My spirit and, I know, the spirits of nearly the whole of the Archdiocese, clergy and laity alike, were further heartened when we received from our bishops the joyful news concerning the nature and tone of those meetings, that they were filled with the true spirit of Christian love and concern.
For many years now we have had few real contacts with our Mother-Church. The fact that a sincere and ardent desire to strengthen those vital contacts was so clearly expressed during the meetings came as news long-needed. Since I have served abroad in one of the Mother-Churches for many years, I am well aware of the treasures which they, and more particularly our own Mother-Church of Antioch, possess. Yes, we have beautiful Churches here, fine educational institutions, and, now, many good monasteries, but there is something vital which we in North America lack: rootedness.
This rootedness in the faith and even in the soil itself we do not have. If we are to regain a sense of this very important aspect our faith, then we need to reconnect with our Mother-Church.
I know I speak for many, clergy and laity alike, when I say what joy and hope this wonderful expression of the profound fatherly concern of His Beatitude IGNATIUS IV for his children in North America has brought to me.
We all eagerly pray for and await the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch when it convenes for its spring meeting on June 16. We trust and pray, heartened by recent events, that, having fully informed itself, our Holy Synod of Antioch, chaired by him who has shown himself so dramatically and tenderly to be our Father in God, will render its decision in the same spirit as did the holy Apostles in that first and model Ecumenical Council in Jerusalem: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” (Acts 15:28).