To the Rev. Dr. Adamantios Avgoustidis, President of the European Council of Pastoral Care and Counseling, and beloved Participants of the 11th Conference of the European Council of Pastoral Care and Counseling,
We greet you in the name of the Lord with all humbleness, praying that His Grace and Peace will be with you so that your gathering will be successful and pleasing to God in every way. The convocation of the 11th Conference of the European Council of Pastoral Care and Counseling has surely been blessed by our Pastor Jesus Christ, who gives the breath of the Holy Spirit to all those that have been appointed to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” , to cure diseases and heal the sick .
The theme of your conference, “Prophetic Pastoral Care and Counseling”, is very relevant at this time of history, where dismay and uncertainty prevail regarding the future of mankind and when many are concerned with the way they will die. Because of this, if our ministry is going to be truly pastoral, it is essential that it be prophetic in its content, addressing these deepest concerns.
To take on a prophetic identity, one must remember that prophets live in light of the vision of God. Living in sanctity, they constantly exclaim the angelic hymn: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” . Being witnesses of God’s glory, the prophets see the great and glorious image of God in those they have been appointed to care for. In seeing the image of God in their fellowman, they continuously celebrate the incarnating love of God, proclaiming His philanthropic love in specific ways. Thus, every prophet sees every person as being sanctified and relates to him or her with awesome reverence. Yet a prophet, in seeing man’s state in this world, cannot ignore the reality that the image of God in man has been brutally marred by sin. Wounded, full of weaknesses, suffering many illnesses and undergoing various difficulties, man seeks to find a remedy for his pain, to have his wounds cleansed and to find salvation.
Having a sense of self-awareness, a prophet well knows his own sinfulness and his weaknesses. It is for this reason that a prophet lives an ascetic life. Living in this world but not being of this world, a prophet struggles with the forces of the various passions which attempt to distract man from the living vision of God and which distort His divine creation. In preaching repentance, a prophet invites every man to enter into such a struggle so as to return into the love of the Father, in that all of creation can be a glorifying expression of His philanthropy.
Lastly, a prophet’s prospective is always eschatological. It is not limited to the present. Neither does it dwell on the mistakes, disappointments and tragedies of the past. But a prophet always looks toward the future in hope for God’s coming. From the wilderness of the prophet’s ascetic struggle, he cries: “Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:3). A prophet always lives in expectation that, upon God’s revelation, all men will be united together in love.
As you gather together for your most significant conference, may you be united in love. Hearing the call of all the Holy Prophets, it is only if we are united, that we will be able to support and counsel all those that are undergoing pain and heal the infirmities of mankind. As you exchange ideas and thoughts on better ways of caring for others, enter also into your selves to find the image of God in your hearts. In finding His Image, you will find the love that is so necessary in your task. Do not become discouraged by the difficulties of the present, neither dwell on any regretful past, but look forward in hope, that, being united amongst yourselves, you will bring all those you care for in the joy of union of the of the Holy Spirit.
May the grace of the Holy Spirit enlighten and bless you all.
+Bartholomew of Constantinople