You Are Loved | A Pastoral Letter
Photo Credit To Fr. Gregory Saroufeem

You Are Loved | A Pastoral Letter

You Are Loved | As we reflect on the reality of where we are today, a pandemic, racial tensions and dissent, political polarization, a global Church identifying with its rich heritage while seeking its local culture while struggling to make them intersect, we are reminded today, in the crucifixion of our Lord, in His Death, and in the Glorious Resurrection, that Love endures all things (1 Corinthians 13).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 | You Are Loved

You Are Loved | A Triune God

I want you to know that you are loved. Loved in a way that can be attempted to be articulated in words, but language will never truly grasp the heights and the depths of this great Love. For Love is a Person, who was manifest in the flesh, in our Lord Jesus Christ, who was incarnate for the full and sole purpose of restoring those who were created, by His Word (Genesis 1:26-28). Created in the Triune image and likeness of Him, as a manifestation of this love, to share in His fullness, of being Love Himself (1 John 4). It is a love that was existent from the beginning, before the existence of time. A Triune God, wanting to share in His Glory, creates. Creates everything, and it was good. Creates man and woman, and by a breath, came to life, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31).

You Are Loved | In Grace

And in innocence, we were deceived (Genesis 2), which turned to knowledge, and in the knowledge we became ashamed, and in our shame, we hid from Love Himself (Genesis 3). And He sought us, while in the bushes, in our nakedness and shame, he sought us, the created, and He clothed us in tunics of skin to cover the shame. With full respect to the choices made, when the will diverts from the Will, He allowed what He didn’t intend, and His creation chose what it didn’t know, falling out of this Divine Love. From the Glory of living eternally with Him to the horror of dying separated from Him. And when He desired a sacrifice of the heart, in turn, He was given the sacrifice of a brother, whose blood cried out to Him from the ground (Genesis 4:10). And we continued to wander, aimless, with nowhere to turn, and nowhere to find rest, for in the garden we lived in Grace, in Love Himself.

You Are Loved | All He wanted was you.

The truth is, He never ceased pursuing us, even when we fell out of Love. You can ask Noah the Righteous, or Abraham the witness and bearer of the covenant, Isaac the obedient son, Israel His servant, and Moses the great gatherer and leader. With Noah, the ark was our gathering place, to come and meet with Him as when we were in the Garden; and when we didn’t, a rainbow showed promise of further pursuits (Genesis 9). In Abraham, we were given a promise, a covenant, a chosen people by God (Genesis 15-19), so He may find lineage for what He had planned at the cursing in the garden (Genesis 3).

In Isaac, we witnessed the possibility of the impossible, of a faithful and righteous father, willing to sacrifice a son, out of obedience to the true God; and a son, going to the slaughter, in blind trust to a father of many nations (Genesis 22). In Jacob, we wrestled for Him to bless (Genesis 32), and he blessed with 12 stars, 1 outshining the rest, who was sold as a slave for 20 shekels of silver, by his very own. With Moses, we were freed from slavery (Genesis 3), and walked through the Red Sea of dry land, towards land, that by promise, is plentous in milk and honey. And yet, we still continued to seek our own, judge by judge and king by king.

His voice can be heard, soft or firm, prophet by prophet. In so many different ways He sought, and in so many different ways we deflected, we complained, we ran, we coveted and we worshipped all, but Him. All He wanted was to find and gather that which was scattered. All He wanted was you.

You Are Loved | The face of God

And in the fullness of time, the Highest, humbled Himself to take the form of His creation, in fullness being God and Man, so He may dwell with us (Matthew 1:23), so that He may raise us up from the fall. And this time, Humility crushed what was proud, Innocence chased after what was ashamed, Light consumed the darkness, Love enveloped what was wretched, leprous and left for dead.

The face of God became the face of man, divine and human, immortal and mortal, infinite and finite. And in this great mystery, all of creation came face to face, with its first love. He didn’t seem familiar, He didn’t arrive in splendor, His voice didn’t thunder at His cry. He grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52), sitting in the midst of teachers, learning and asking questions until it was time to start His earthly ministry. To teach by word and by example, on life in Him rather than apart from Him. In wisdom, in struggle, in healing, in service, in sacrifice, in union and communion, where He would reconcile the earthly with the heavenly.

You Are Loved | In the wilderness

In the wilderness He went to meet the deceiver (Matthew/Luke 4); a far cry from the Garden when the serpent deceived us, and unlike us, He withstood the temptations, in word, in power, and in authoritative dominion. And as He walked the earth, He taught in words, that is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), to discern the thoughts and intents of our heart. He knocked, He sought and He asked, so we may turn to Him, as a bride to her bridegroom, longing for meetness.

He fed the hungry, both the physical and spiritual, healed those who were blind, in sight and in mind, renewed strength to the paralyzed, and dignity to the shunned, oppressed and marginalized, raised the dead by a touch (Luke 7:14), a soft voice (Mark 5:41) and a loud cry (John 11:43), and forgave sin.

You Are Loved | In the grave

In His entry into Jerusalem, we sought a great king, and as on both the manger and the donkey (John 12:14), we saw the Humble King. One more throne He sought, desiring only our heart; to sit on this throne if only we thought. And our response was the same, in the choice we made, to crucify on the cross, as we looked on, ashamed. And as Adam was naked in the garden in shame, so Christ also hung naked, to carry his shame. And with the stroke of a brush, in the paintings we see, we draw a tunic of cloth, to cover this scene. He hung on the cross, high for all to see, He hung on the cross, for you and me.

A definition of Divine Love, manifested in the flesh, with His arms opened wide, to gather His own flesh. And in His last breath, as in His first, in His resurrection He raised the dead, bestowing new life to us who believe (John 3:16). And the homily of the golden mouth, on his paschal letter, reads, quoting St. Paul to the Corinthians this here; Oh Death, where is your victory!? Oh Hell, where is your sting!? (1 Corinthians 15) You are overthrown, the demons are fallen, the angels rejoice, life reigns, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13).

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You Are Loved By Fr. Gregory Saroufeem | A Pastoral Letter

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About The Author

Father Gregory Saroufeem | A priest of St. Mary and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church of Manhattan. New York ~ Diocese of New York and New England.

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