Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Glory to Jesus Chris!
The liturgical year is drawing to a close. For my family and I, it is our thirteenth year in Cambridge. It has been the happiest time of our lives. From the moment we arrived, we knew that God was with us and that He sent us to this place. That knowledge has been confirmed time and time again.
September first the beginning of the New Year on the Church calendar. The final feast is the Dormition of the Theotokos. We celebrate that day as our patronal feast with great solemnity because we are so very grateful to her. The intercessions of the Blessed Mother have kept St. Mary Church safe from harm, from dissension, from all manner of evil. God's blessings abound among us. His grace permeates every nook and cranny not because of our own righteousness, be because of his. Some very important members of our parish have fallen asleep in the Lord recently and yet we know they go to God and have become intercessors for us along with mary. "O grave, where is thy victory?"
I look forward to every opportunity we have for gathering together. Divine Liturgy is, of course, the most wonderful time; but even the most "mundane" of our meetings bears the mark of our unity in Christ. Perhaps it is most telling that Parish Council meetings, the bane of many parishes and the thorn in the side of pastors, are peaceful, focused and joyful events because the truth is, love reigns among us; and we trust each other to work for the good of the community. Disagreements may arise, but rarely and somehow they have no power to divide. In my experience as a parish priest, I have never seen anything like this before. Is is as if the heart of this Church, the Eucharistic Supper, is transfiguring everything. That is as it should be.
Of course, all is not perfect. There is much work to be done. Do we always express the Kingdom of God as we should? In some cases we do pretty well, in others less so; but there is forward movement in this process of perfecting our likeness to God as a community. There is vision and purpose, a sense of mission and a desire to do what is right.
Significantly, there is a desire among many to deepen their spiritual lives. As has been the case throughout the history of Orthodoxy, the Jesus Prayer, is a central focus. This most Orthodox understanding of prayer and meditation is refreshing the lives of many parishioners. Is is an organic movement, rising from the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance, nothing contrived, nothing forced, nothing strange, odd or extreme. The desire to live the Christian life and the acknowledgement of the need to promote real personal interior change is the motivation. What could be better?
It seems in every summer "Cornerstone", I give a little summary of what I see happening in the parish; and usually it is the context of thanksgiving. This year is no different. I have no complaint, only reasons to rejoice. Through the prayers of His Most Holy Mother, we are where we are by the goodness and grace of God who lives and moves among us. Christ is in our midst! I sincerely believe it because the evidence is everywhere. Thanks be to God, to His Holy Mother, to the great cloud of witnesses and to all of you.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Antony Hughes