To the Popadias and Diaconissas
of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia,
Participants in the Gathering on July 16th and 17th, 2009 in Des Plaines, IL
Dear popadia Junia Tolbert,
Beloved in the Lord popadias and diaconissas, our spiritual children, We are pleased on behalf of the Holy Synod and on our behalf to greet you paternally on the occasion of your annual gathering on July 16 and 17, 2009, this time in the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church "St. Sophia" in Des Plaines, IL.
We know from the letters and pictures we received last year as well as from the information which was shared with us by our brother and your diocesan hierarch, Metropolitan Joseph, that from year to year your gathering becomes more fruitful and attracts more participants. Perhaps, that is why his Eminence prefers drinking tea, because during "the tea with Dedo Vladika", you always move him with your goodness, kind-heartedness, sobriety, and soulful conversations, which are so important for the life of "the halves" of our priests and deacons in the diocese. From the Gospel of St. Luke (11:27-28) you know that when Jesus preached in the house of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, one woman lifted up her voice from the crowd and said: "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked". And He answered to her: "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it".
We believe that like the woman from the crowd you also are convinced of the blessedness of the womb which bore not only our Lord, but also His greatness as the God-man. And if the woman from the crowd witnessed closely the miracles of the Lord and listened to His words, then on behalf of His Holy Church, we could say that as popadias and diaconissas you also know both the earthly life of our Lord Jesus and the greatness of His service. But what honors you is that you know, see and support not only the life, but also the service of His priests and deacons in the diocese, being "one flesh" with them as "a small house church". Moreover, you see that which the Lord revealed through the Holy Spirit to the apostles. You are witnesses of His work as He revealed it during His earthly service and continues to reveal it in the life of our Holy Church, of which He is the head.
Therefore, if the Lord said to the woman from the crowd, "yes!", let us believe that He also says to us, “Yes, but blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” The Lord Jesus Christ knows Who He is, and knows who His mother is. But He also knows and sees the godly service of all of you. He also says: yes, blessed is the mother of God! But blessed also are you who hear the word of God, keep it, and strive as popadias and diaconissas to imitate her as living witnesses of His words and deeds.
Everything which you do as worthy popadias and diaconissas in supporting your husbands in their service to the Lord and the Church of God, contributes a lot to your tasting of that blessedness.
We praise you for your diligence to participate also in your husbands' love towards the Savior. We rejoice in your constant warm-hearted disposition and fiery love with which you stoke the fire of our Orthodox faith.
Remember that you are chosen by God to be popadias and diaconissas, so that together with your husbands you may grow in faith, wisdom, and holiness. Throughout your lives you should accept in obedience everything that comes from God through His Holy Church.
Being so blessed, you should always follow your believing hearts, and each one of you should be
an image of purity, a faithful spouse, a loving mother, full of mercy and warmth of heart, a zealous churchgoer, a good co-worker of the parish's spiritual father, or, if a diaconissa, of the parish's deacon. Furthermore, as hearers and keepers of the word of God, you are sisters and mothers of Jesus, as He himself says (Mat. 12:50). That is, you are blessed, as His Mother is blessed.
May the blessing of the Lord and His mercy be with all of you!
+Maxim, Patriarch of Bulgarian