Thursday, March 28, 2024

A Time of Reflection and Resistance: The Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia's Holy Thursday Letter

By. A. DiNardo

ROME-RUTHENIA 28 March 2024 (NRom)

In an era where the fabric of faith seems continually under siege, the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia's letter to the clergy of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church, as well as to churches in communion around the globe, serves as both a beacon of hope and a call to spiritual arms. Issued on Holy Thursday, a day that commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the letter from His Holiness Bishop Rutherford I is a poignant reminder of the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead for the Christian community, particularly the orthodox and catholic faithful.

The text of the letter follows: 

Dear Brethren in the Episcopate, Brother Priests, and Fellow Clergy around the World,

At the heart of Holy Thursday is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, a sacrament that encapsulates the essence of Christian faith, the true and living Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It is a testament to the sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ, offering himself for the salvation of humanity. This day is important, not only as a moment, at the same time historical and timeless, of deep spiritual significance but also as a foundation upon which the faithful must stand firm, especially in times of adversity.

The era in which we find ourselves today sees the world at a crucial juncture. Earlier it seemed like a  comparatively golden period for freedom for the Christian Church, but we know such periods are fleeting. Now the world is overshadowed by increasing hostility towards Christian people. The orthodox and catholic communities, in particular, find ourselves at the forefront of these challenges. Attacks, both verbal and physical, on our religious freedoms have escalated, making the defense of the faith more critical than ever.

Today, as we celebrate the institution of the most powerful act on earth, the Holy Eucharist, We give an unequivocal call to the clergy and the faithful: to uphold the teachings and traditions of the Church with courage and conviction. This is a reminder that the journey of faith is fraught with trials, but also that these trials are not insurmountable. The history of the Church is replete with periods of persecution, yet it has always emerged stronger, buoyed by the resilience and dedication of its people and aided by Christ and the Saints. The Church is washed in the blood of the martyrs like Christ before. Many have tried to stop the Church. All have failed. 

In the face of these adversities, though, the coming celebration of Pascha is a source of hope and renewal for the clergy and the faithful alike. Pascha is not just a celebration of Christ's Resurrection; it is a reaffirmation of the victory of life over death, of faith over despair. This message of hope is particularly poignant for us clergy, who bear the responsibility of shepherding our flock through these turbulent times. Draw strength from the Paschal mystery, remain steadfast in your vocation, and to continue spreading the Gospel's message of love, peace, and redemption. We call on you not only to defend the faith but to live it fully, embodying the very principles that this holy time in the liturgical calendar represents.

Yet, we do not merely reflect today, but directly call for action. Both the clergy and the lay faithful must be vigilant. The clergy must educate themselves and their communities about the richness of their faith and fight opposition in accordance with Christian principles. Remember, though, that defending the faith does not only mean defence against attacks but also proactively living out the teachings of Christ in everyday life.

Most of all, unity within the Christian community, especially between the orthodox and catholic churches, is of utmost importance. In the face of external pressures, this unity is a formidable force, a testament to the strength and resilience of the Christian faith. It serves as a reminder that, together, the faithful can overcome the challenges of the present day, just as they have in the past.

This is Our call to the clergy and the faithful of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and its sister churches worldwide. Remember the significance of the Holy Eucharist and Pascha as cornerstones of the Christian faith, symbols of sacrifice, hope, and resurrection. In a world where the faithful increasingly find themselves besieged, remember the strength found in unity, the importance of defending the faith, and the ever-present hope that Paschal mysteries bring to the Christian community. As we reflect today on the institution of the Holy Eucharist and we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in a few days, let us also recommit ourselves to the mission of the Church in the world today.

In peace,

Rutherford Pp. I
Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia