Bishop John Elya’s Welcome Greetings
At the Vesper Service | Annunciation Cathedral
On November 12, 1999
Your Eminence Bernard Cardinal Law,
Your Eminence Achille Cardinal Silvestrini
Your Emminence Metropolitan Bishop Methodios,
Your Excellency Archbishop George Riashi, representative of His Beatitude our Venerable Patriarch Maximos V,
Your Excellency Bishop Vsevolod of Scopelos,
Your Excellency Bishop Nicholas, Chairman of our Eastern Catholic Encounter ,
My dear brother Archbishops, Bishops, priests, and Deacons, My dear Sisters of religious orders,
My dear People of God:
On behalf of our Melkite Eparchy, of my brother Auxiliary Bishop Nicholas, and on behalf of the clergy of our Cathedral, I extend to you a warm welcome to our Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Annunciation and to this beautiful and inspiring Vesper service. Our gathering tonight from America, Oceania, Europe, Asia and Africa brings naturally to my mind the joyful verse of our Canon of Pascha:
“O Sion, look around you and see your children coming to you from East and West and North and South, praising in you the Risen Christ forever.” (Canon of Pascha)
How true is the exclamation of the Psalmist: “How beautiful and how sweet it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1) This has been a historical week in which the 21 sui juris Catholic Churches felt strong by the presence of the Lord among them as He promised that when two or three meet together in His name, He will be among them. Yet, how much stronger we feel this evening when we are joined by our Sister Orthodox Church. Your Eminence Metropolitan Methodios, your presence among us with your Greek Orthodox people and with the priests and people of our Sister Antiochian Orthodox Church made our meeting complete and overflowing with God’s blessing.
Yet, EAST IS EAST and WEST IS WEST !
“Oh! East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.”
In my humble opinion, this famous passage of the Ballad of East and West by Kipling has been too often partially, negatively, blindly quoted and, consequently, misquoted. Please listen carefully to the remaining three lines of this famous verse:
“Oh! East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,
Till earth and sky stand presently at God’s great judgment seat.
But there is neither East nor West, border nor breed nor birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
Though they come from the ends of the earth.”
(Kipling, the Ballad of East and West)
There is no East nor West when two strong men, such as Paul VI and Athenagoras, John Paul II and Bartholomeos, Cardinal Law and Metropolitan Methodios in their exchange of visits at the feasts of St. Peter and Paul and of St. Andreas respectively, and today’s speakers Archbishop Weakland and Bishop Vsevolod; there is no East or West when these heroes of the Christian faith with innumerable other strong men and women stand face to face, eager and willing to work toward the bypassing of the barriers and borders and breed and birth.
If we are strong in faith and love, there is no East nor West. “For through faith you are all children of God. For all of you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
Part of the vision that the Holy Spirit has given to Pope John Paul II in His leadership of the Church into the third millennium is the reunion of the two “strong men” (quote unquote) of East and West face to face. The Holy Father is convinced, (and I believe it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), that the Church of the Third Millennium can, will and must again breathe with “two lungs”. However, however, the two lungs, distinct and of equal importance as they are, must breathe in unison as one; otherwise the poor person would choke to death. Could you imagine the two lungs pulling apart in order to affirm their so-called distinct identity and their specific importance? Anytime we walk and work together, God is with us. Anytime we pull apart in disunity, we break the heart of God. Because “God is love” and He loves us all. “God is love, and when we abide in love we abide in God and God in us.” Shall we keep ourselves apart in discord and, thus, confuse God’s love: With whom of us shall he side? In whom of us shall He dwell.
How often the first line of the Kipling’s Ballad is candidly quoted but not the full stanza. And how equally often have we accepted the division or worse exaggerated the division without a fervent effort of unrelenting prayer and risky love. NO LONGER!!! There is a conditional quality to this prayer from the heart of Jesus — “May they be One…. SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE”. There is a clear connection between our effectiveness in continuing the mission of Jesus on earth and our unity. We have made progress but we have much farther to go. Let us give all we can to promote the cooperation and unity of the “two strong men,” East and West, right lung and left lung, right hand and left hand, Orthodox and Catholic. Christ is calling us to unity, “so that the world may believe.”
May our meetings during this week and especially our prayer together this evening be a step toward the realization of our Lord’s prayer, “That all may be one, as the Father and the Son are one, so that the world may believe.”
Eparch of Newton