Beloved Clergy and Faithful of our United States of America: CHRIST IS AMONG US!
(UOC-USA) 245 years ago in 1776, when the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they were also living under incredibly tense and volatile circumstances. As in the present day, major challenges affected everyone in society, in particular the absolute necessity of separating from the oppression of foreign control of a society that had no real concept of what life in “the colonies” was really like. During that tension, however, the founding fathers of our United States of America declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It was a profound and lofty goal and one not to be achieved overnight. From the beginning, imperfections existed, but the Declaration was a starting point creating a land of opportunity where, ideally, everyone would be given equal opportunity to achieve the best life possible based on their own talents and effort. The hope that this opportunity offered has ever since attracted wave after wave of imigration since. Ours is a country built by immigrants, and each of our Ukrainian Orthodox families has a migration story – some recent and others in the distant past – each integrating into our nation’s social structure. The true national identity of our nation, however, develops from the beliefs outlined so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence itself.
All the generations of USA history have faced real challenges to those principles and basic beliefs and to our self-concept as a nation. “We the People” not only survived the Revolution brought on by the Declaration of Independence, but also Civil War, pandemics, Great Depressions and recessions, World Wars, regional wars, racism and its consequences, terrorist attacks, vast inequalities at all levels of society – and the list could go on and on. As a nation we have consistently overcome the darkness of such challenges – sometimes taking generations to do so. Our ability to do this arises from a common bond of civic and social responsibility to each other.
We are still far from being the ideal nation as called for in the Declaration of Independence, but we have always taken the steps necessary in moments of crises to push ourselves a bit closer to the ideal. Much depends upon the desire of individuals – not government, institutions or any other “structure”– to live up to their own responsibilities, thus influencing the whole of society. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has provided the two most fundamental commandments for living up to our individual responsibilities: First, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Second, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Our nation will survive and thrive even during today’s societal turmoil and a multitude of inequality if, and only if, we adhere to these two commandments. Unfortunately, the incredible misuse of social media with its proliferation of shaming, abusing and scapegoating serves as proof that even some of the most prominent “leaders” at all levels of society exhibit little self-control and responsibility. This is a lack of common civility which breeds contempt, hatred and unrest. These lead to protests, marches and demonstrations – all of which are the rights of any member of society. Such rights do not, however, justify violence, rioting, looting, abuse, slander or defamation. We must always seek to ensure that the definitive line between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable does not become blurred. We must utilize the tools of modern society to build that society, to build one another, which can be accomplished only through the Grace of God inspired into our lives by the Holy Spirit through each of the Holy Mysteries-Sacraments and shared by us in relationship with one another. Let us build upon the bold words of the Declaration of Independence by each of our words, deeds and thoughts. This is how we reach our full potential!
Open your hearts to the needs of others today, rather than just your own, to see the opportunities in front of us, to accompany those in difficult situations and to stand in solidarity in order to live up to the sacred words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
May the Grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all! GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
In our Lord’s All-Encompassing Love,
By the Grace of God, Metropolitan
By the Grace of God, Archbishop