Metropolis of New Jersey
GREEK ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF NEW JERSEY ΙΕΡΑ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙΣ ΝΕΑΣ ΙΕΡΣΕΗΣ
215 East Grove Street, Westfield, NJ, 07090-1656 • Tel: (908) 301-0500 • Fax: (908) 301-1397 Web: www.nj.goarch.org • E-mail: email@example.com
Independence Day 2020
The Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy
Esteemed Members of the Metropolitan Council, Esteemed Members of the Parish Councils, Philoptochos Sisterhood, Faculty and Students of the Catechetical and Greek Afternoon Schools, Directors and Participants of all Youth Organizations, and all devout Orthodox Christians of the Communities of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of
My Beloved in the Lord,
We are all graced with an abundance of gifts from God which are too manifold to enumerate and too precious to fathom. These gifts encompass each and every aspect of our lives and include every person we meet, every sight we behold, and every breath we breathe. Yet none of these can compare to one particular gift which God has given to humanity, and to humanity alone – freedom.
“Freedom” is an exceptionally substantial term and it is truly impossible to describe its vast meaning for us Orthodox Christians. In contemporary society it amounts to an individualistic expression of self-determination and autonomy. We often speak of a freedom from something. Yet, in Orthodoxy it has a deeper meaning since we envision it as a freedom towards something. Freedom in the Orthodox context does not entail doing whatever we desire, but in receiving this gift from God, it must then reflect the manner in which we received it. Thus, we must use our freedom in love. God gave us this gift not out of compulsion, but willingly out of His own love for us. So too are we called to exercise our freedom in love because we are a reflection of our Creator and, as such, our individuality is not entirely our own. Therefore, it is evident that this gift of freedom is not a freedom from another, but a freedom towards love especially as we hear in Scripture, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13).
It is with this understanding of freedom – Christian freedom – that we should reflect on its meaning as we celebrate our nation’s 242nd anniversary of its independence. We often hear countless politicians, media personalities, and fellow citizens who reference the word “freedom” as a rallying cry, sometimes as a means to remind us of the sacrifices that were made to “form a more perfect union.” Other times, however, it is
lamentably used as an empty declaration the means of which are to further a particular point of view. This application of the term “freedom” often reduces it down to a mantra to be broadcast rather than elevating it as a principle to be upheld. Furthermore, it becomes far too easy to lose sight of the essence of this gift which God has made us beneficiaries.
In exercising our freedom in love, we are enabled to right wrongs when we see injustices, to heal pain when we encounter suffering, and to bring tranquility to a world in chaos. It encourages us to lift up the dejected, to comfort the marginalized, and to give voice to those too frail to be heard. It opens our eyes to the plight of our neighbor regardless of race, gender, age, socio-economic status, or nationality because every person bears the unmistakable and distinct image of Christ within them and is entitled to their God-given dignity of personhood. Freedom in love motivates us to advocate for those whose freedoms are oppressed such as our Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the nation of Cyprus, the Syrian and Armenian peoples, and countless others who have endured untold horrors and atrocities within the past century.
If, however, we choose to use our freedom in another way – in a manner that promotes exclusion, apathy, or that seeks to set a chasm between us and the other – then we create for ourselves an unbridgeable divide which not only separates us from our neighbor, but also eternally separates us from God. This would denigrate the very gift of freedom given by God and entrusted to us to safeguard. Squandering this gift would evoke the fear of one of our founding fathers, John Adams, when he said, “Oh posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”
Let the celebration of our nation’s independence inspire us to seek this freedom in love continually within our hearts and minds so that it may permeate our very being and so that we may be encouraged to become ambassadors of freedom everywhere and for every person seeking justice throughout the world. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15).
With Paternal Love and Blessings,
† E V A N G E L O S
Metropolitan of New Jersey
His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos was born in New York City on September 20, 1961 to John and Magdalene Kourounis, the Most Reverend Evangelos (Kourounis) attended the Greek-American parochial schools of St. Eleftherios and St. Spyridon in New York City. Upon graduation from Immaculata H.S. in N.Y.C., he enrolled in Hellenic College, in Brookline, MA from which he graduated in 1983 and then continued his studies at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology graduating in 1986 with a Masters of Divinity Degree.
In 1987-88 he attended the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey of the University of Geneva, Switzerland from which he received a Certificate of Ecumenical Studies.
He was ordained to the Holy Diaconate February 1st, 1987 at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Eleftherios in Manhattan and to the Holy Priesthood on July 30th, 1989 at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in New York City by His Grace, Bishop Philotheos of Meloa.
His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America elevated him [ordination] to the rank of Archimandrite on March 30th, 1991 at Sts. Catherine and George Greek Orthodox Church in Astoria, New York. He served as Deacon to the Orthodox Center of Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy, Geneva in 1987-1988, as Deacon to Archbishop Iakovos and Assistant Director of Archives of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in 1988-1989. From August 1989 until September 1993 he served as assistant to the Dean of St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria, New York.
Prior to his election to the Episcopacy, Metropolitan Evangelos served as Chancellor of the Diocese of New Jersey from 1993-1999. He also served as Director of the Department of Registry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese from 1996 to 2001, and as President of the Spiritual Court for the Archdiocesan District from 1996 until April 2003.
From October 2001 until his election to the Episcopacy, he served as Dean of the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Astoria "St. Demetrios Cathedral".
On April 12th, 2003, upon the recommendation of and nomination by the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople under the Presidency of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, unanimously elected Metropolitan Evangelos as Metropolitan and Spiritual Leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey.
The "Mega Minima" (Official announcement and declaration of the Election) of His Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos was read on May 9th, 2003 at the Archdiocesan Chapel of St. Paul the Apostle.
On Saturday, May 10th, 2003 His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios together with His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, His Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, His Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and several other Hierarchs, ordained the Very Reverend Archimandrite Evangelos Kourounis to the Episcopacy at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.
The Enthronement of His Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos as the Spiritual Leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey took place on Sunday, May 11th, 2003 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Theologian in Tenafly, New Jersey.
H. E. Metropolitan Evangelos succeeds Metropolitan Silas and Bishop George of New Jersey. With the new Charter granted to the Archdiocese by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 2003, the Diocese of New Jersey, which was established in 1977, was elevated to a Metropolis. Therefore, Metropolitan Evangelos is the first Hierarch enthroned as Metropolitan of New Jersey.
Upon his election Archbishop Demetrios stated: "I am sure that by the Grace and strength from God, the new Metropolitan of New Jersey will prove to be a true imitator of our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ and will lead the devoted flock of his God-saved Metropolis to 'springs of living water" (Rev. 7:17)
The Metropolis is comprised of fifty-five parishes in New Jersey, the Greater Philadelphia area, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Metropolis of New Jersey Website: http://www.nj.goarch.org/
Name day: March 25
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