On October 28, 2012, the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, during a visit to the US blessed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, officiated at Divine Liturgy in Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Chicago. The cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Vladyka Ilarion was joined by His Eminence Archbishop Justinian, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA; His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America; Protopriest John Behr, Rector of St Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary (Orthodox Church in America), and the cathedral’s clergymen. Also praying at the service was His Eminence Archbishop Alypy of Chicago and Mid-America.
After the ambo prayer, Metropolitan Ilarion addressed the worshipers with the following archpastoral sermon:
“In today’s Gospel reading, we heard the parable of the Lord Jesus Christ on the sower of seeds (Matthew 13:3-8). A man went out to sow seeds, scattering them in various places: some seeds fell by the wayside, where fowls came and devoured them; others fell upon stony places, where they sprang up but was quickly scorched by the sun; other seeds fell among thorns, which choked them; while others fell into good ground, where they brought forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold; some a hundredfold. This parable tells us how God’s Word is spread throughout the world and how different people respond to the news of the Gospel.
“Today, the Word of God is heard by all mankind, and anyone who wishes can respond to its call. Not everyone does so, because in some the devil steals that which he hears from the heart of a person, for another, the cares of daily life and worldly matters throttle the Word of God in his heart, and there are other reasons which might hinder a person from responding to the Word of God. But always and everywhere we can find people who thankfully accept the Gospel news, striving not only to hear the words of the Lord, but to manifest them in their daily lives, and to build their lives in accordance with the commandments of Christ.
“Such are the people comprising the community of the Church of which our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13-14). There were not always many of them, but these were always people ready to give up their lives to fulfill Christ’s commandments; prepared to give up every day of their lives for the work of God, so that the seeds of His Word continue to be disseminated and be sown in the soil of men’s hearts. What fruit they will bear is not for us to know, because our task is to sow the seeds, the results will seen to by the Lord Himself.
“Here on American soil, many generations of believers have sown the Word of God, and today the churches which have been built in the towns and cities of the American continent are the fruits of the saving efforts of the sowers who had even in our day followed the footsteps of the Apostles and continue their work.
“This magnificent church is also the fruit of the salvific work of sowing seeds by those who came here to disseminate the Word of God and preached it not only in word, but in their very way of life; thereby inspiring people to come here and establish church communities.
“The American land is sown with the seeds of the Word of God, and the ears of grain are the temples of God which now draw thousands of people. But there are still many who are found outside the gates of the Church, and we must do everything we can to convert them to Christ.
“Let every one of us remember that the Lord brought us to His Church not only so that we can save ourselves here, but so that, in the words of St Seraphim of Sarov, thousands around us be saved, so that not only will we turn towards the Divine Grace that comes from the wellspring of salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, but so that our children and grandchildren would likewise partake of this grace-filled spring, our friends and acquaintances, everyone we meet in our life’s path. The Lord called us to Church in order for us to become sowers of the Word of God, giving no thought to where these seeds may fall, stony ground, by the wayside, among thorns or upon fertile soil.
“The American land has demonstrated that it is fertile, that the Word of God can be sown here, and that it brings forth good fruits. But a great deal of work must be done in order to illuminate with the light of Christ’s truth the people of this land, so that in preserving the Orthodox faith among our parishioners, including our children, we pass it on to our descendants. What the harvest will bring is known only by the Lord, for we are to sow, and He will gather. He said: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8). The answer will depend upon us, in part, upon how we labor together, how we preach the faith in Christ, not only and not so much by word, but by our deeds and our way of life. We are sowers and must expect the Lord’s harvest, He Who will come and ask each one of us why we lived, how we lived and what we left behind on this earth.
“Let us pray the Lord that He grant us strength to sow the word of God, to be preachers of His blessed truth, let us ask God to give us the power to be good Christians and to follow the path which leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.”
After the end of service, Metropolitan Hilarion was welcomed by Bishop Peter. Thanking him, the archpastor noted:
“Vladyka, your title, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, gives joy to our hearts, because it is a Russian title. We are pleased with our bonds with the Mother Church, which we never denied. Sadly, we were separated administratively and in daily life, but our hearts never forgot Russia, nor the Russian Church. This is evidenced by the fact that our children, thank God, speak Russian, and we hope to further pass down our legacy in the American land.”
Bishop Peter asked the President of the DECR to relay to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia his words of greeting and good wishes, adding “We ask his Patriarchal prayers and blessings for our labors and obedience.”
In memory of the divine service, Metropolitan Iliarion gave Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral an icon of the Most-Holy Mother of God.
After Divine Liturgy, its participants shared a trapeza luncheon organized by the Cathedral Brotherhood and Sisterhood.
Press Service of the DECR.