Your Eminence, Holy Master, Demetrius
I do not believe that it is by chance that this year marks exactly the 60th anniversary of the founding of our Church of Saint Markella, from 1954 to 2014.
The humble, but active and virtuous, Archbishop, Petros Astyfidis, laid the foundation stone. That stone being the solid base of the then small temple, which is today the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Markella in Astoria.
A stranger in a foreign land, he worked in pain and tears to light the small flame that would gather believers to honor the traditions of our Church. He always wore the raso, something unusual for the clergy of America. Wearing the honored robe, as an Orthodox monk, he planted the tree of Genuine Orthodox Christianity, in Astoria, New York.
Climbing his own Golgotha, he raised high the banner of Orthodoxy. Defamed by false brothers, hurt and chased by many, he forgave them all from the bottom of his heart.
A sweet-voiced priest and peerless preacher of the Divine Word, he always went forth raising the Cross on his shoulder, his own Cross.
But the throne was empty, until the hierarchy of the Russians Abroad recognized the worthiness of his virtues and spirituality.
He founded churches, monasteries, and Greek schools. His days were full, until he left for the great journey to the Heavenly Father, for whom he had yearned from his youth.
Then, his work continued through the all-worthy Metropolitan Pavlos.
Years passed, bearing much fruit with religious programs on Greek TV, Divine Liturgies, sermons -- drawing believers together to enjoy the speeches by Bishop Pavlos.
Sadly, our spiritual joy stopped, after sundown, February 28, 2006, when our greatest test came as a shock. This day of sorrow at Saint Markella will remain in the life story of all who wept and ached over the sudden illness of our dear and revered shepherd, Pavlos.
We were covered by black and gloomy clouds. Desperate cries came from the mouths of the faithful who knew this respected and impressive man.
The throne of the Cathedral of Saint Markella was empty for the second time in our lives. The golden-mouth of our Metropolitan was silent.
Time passed, months, to hear again this voice, after the ceaseless prayers of all who knew him, to utter a few words from his bed of pain.
Today, Your Eminence, a new story is being written.
We look to you, our new shepherd, our spiritual father, the chosen successor of the founder of our church, Petros of blessed memory, and the honest and respectable laborer of the Gospel, a beloved brother and fellow-laborer, his Eminence, Pavlos.
Yes, our esteemed Metropolitan! The pall of black clouds has been scattered. Divine grace has suddenly opened, and raised golden rays, all gold, with your election to the empty throne of our church.
How can this not be a joyous day? How can we not cry out the thrice Axios! from the depths of our hearts? How can we not rejoice like children who see their father, loving, compassionate, and ready to embrace each of us individually, to assure us that he is close to us, in our sorrows and our joys?
How can we not hope that the brilliant beacon of Orthodoxy has been illuminated, and will radiate to penetrate the darkness of unbelief, apostasy, heresy, and all the evils of this present age?
Our hope, your Eminence, is that the Lord of Glory will empower you to bear the heavy task of cultivating His vineyards, enlightening into all truth, and preserving the Most Holy Orthodoxy.
Your Eminence, you have ascended the metropolitan throne of our Church, to fill the void left by your predecessors, our hierarchs and fathers, and to embrace your new flock, which anxiously awaits your blessings.
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