Sunday of Orthodoxy dates from 787 A.D., when the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea decreed the restoration of icons as a means to achieve spiritual growth. In 843 A.D., when the icons were finally restored in the churches, the first Sunday of Lent was designated as a day for thanksgiving and doxology. It came to be known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy, calling the faithful to a rededication to the Orthodox Christian faith. This year, it is celebrated March 4. The bishops' message follows:

"Leaping up with joy,
let us and all the faithful cry aloud today;
How marvelous are your works, O Christ!
How great is your might!
For you have made us of one mind
and brought about our agreement."
(From the First Ode of Matins)

To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Church in the Americas Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With the tone of unity in Christ sounded by this hymn of our Holy Church we greet you on this Sunday of Orthodoxy. Truly, this is a day upon which we celebrate the triumph of our Orthodox faith over the forces that have sought to diminish it. It is also a day upon which we affirm our unity in tradition, worship, and faith and our oneness of mind as the Body of Christ. We do this as a witness of true unity in a world that is constantly divided by geographical, social, economic, racial, cultural, and religious barriers that are often the result of hatred, prejudice, greed, and ignorance. As the Church, the Ekklesia, those who are called and who gather in the name of our Lord, our task is to reveal the true, eternal unity that is built upon faith, love, and the peace of God.

We manifest this unity through the essential elements of our Holy Tradition that have been revealed through the Holy Scriptures and confirmed through the Ecumenical Councils, the holy lives of the Saints and Martyrs, the writings of the Fathers, and through the diakonia of the Church to a world in need of guidance and truth. Specifically, on this day we celebrate the restoration of the use of icons in our worship and affirm the proper theological understanding of their role in the life and faith of the people. This shared use of icons, along with all of the elements of our Holy Tradition used in both our communal and personal prayer, confirms the unity we are accorded as "God's chosen ones" (Colossians 3:12).

In speaking about "God's chosen ones," the Apostle Paul offers precisely the basis of true unity. While it may be visible in our Holy Tradition--"let the word of Christ dwell in you richly"--and in our worship--"sing songs and hymns and spiritual odes with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16)--ultimately our unity is rooted in the faith that "seeks the things that are above, where Christ is," and "thinks the things that are above" (Colossians 3:1-2). Such faith transforms our lives and renews us in the image of Him who created us as we "put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony," and as we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, "to which indeed we were called in the one body" (Colossians 3:14-15).

As we observe this season of Holy Lent in prayer and fasting, as we anticipate its culmination in the joyous light of Pascha, and as we affirm unity in our tradition, worship, and faith, we exhort you, the faithful, following the God-inspired words of Saint Paul, to "put on.compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another.and forgiving each other" (Colossians 3:12). For it is in the victory of our Lord over death, it is in the triumph of our faith over sin and evil, it is in the prevalence of truth over falsehood and evil, it is in the power manifested in the renewal of our lives that true and eternal unity with God and one another is made visible.

May we love one another so that in one mind we may confess the unity that flows from the Holy Trinity, one in essence and inseparable.

With paternal blessings and love in Christ,

Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Metropolitan JOSEPH, Secretary
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

Metropolitan THEODOSIUS
Orthodox Church in America

Archbishop VICTORIN
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada

Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER
Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada

Metropolitan CONSTANTINE
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

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