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BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley visited St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church to greet Metropolitan Methodios and the faithful of the Metropolis of Boston before a vesper service for the feast of Theophany and the feast of St. John the Baptist, Jan. 6.
It was the first in-person visit between the cardinal and the metropolitan since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The two prelates customarily exchange visits several times a year. They exchange delegations on their patronal feast days, and Metropolitan Methodios typically attends the Holy Week Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. However, those visits did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Cardinal O'Malley's visit was also the first time the archbishop of Boston greeted the Greek Orthodox community on that particular feast day, generally called Epiphany in the West and Theophany in the East. While the Catholic Church recalls the visit of the Magi on this day, Orthodox Christians celebrate the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River -- the first manifestation of the Trinity recorded in scripture -- as well as the feast of St. John the Baptist.
While only a small number of people could be present inside St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, the vesper service was live-streamed so that the wider Greek Orthodox community could participate virtually.
In his remarks, delivered before the service began, Cardinal O'Malley spoke about St. Nicholas, who was a bishop, and "the gift of the episcopacy."
"In our Churches, the vocation to bishop is an important one, an extension of the ministry of the Twelve Apostles. It's because Christ has given us this sacrament of the bishops that we are able to have the Eucharist and the other sacraments in our Churches," he said.
He pointed out that St. Nicholas was one of the first canonized saints who was not a martyr.
"People recognized, in his holiness and his goodness, the fact that there are other ways that we witness to the Church's faith and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He said that this was true of Metropolitan Methodios, whom he called "one of these great bishops who witnesses with his life and his goodness and his pastoral heart the presence of the Good Shepherd among us."
Cardinal O'Malley assured the Greek Orthodox community of his prayers for them and for their loved ones.
"At Christmas, the star that guided the Magi is our faith that leads us on sometimes a very difficult journey of discipleship. But we pray that in this new year, the star of faith will grow stronger and draw us closer to the Lord and to one another," Cardinal O'Malley said.
Metropolitan Methodios replied that he was honored by the cardinal's presence and joined him in praying for an end to the pandemic and for the country.
"You are a spiritual leader, not only of the Roman Catholic Church but of all churches and all religions here, not only in Boston but throughout New England. I thank God for you," Metropolitan Methodios said.
He referred to St. Mark's account of the Lord's baptism and told Cardinal O'Malley that "the skies open every day in your life, and God from above says, 'This is my son with whom I am well pleased.'"
"Truly, God is well pleased with your ministry and your leadership," Metropolitan Methodios told the cardinal.
Accompanying the cardinal for the visit was Vito Nicastro, associate director of the archdiocese's Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
In an email to The Pilot the same day, Nicastro spoke about how Epiphany or Theophany is a "festival of light," celebrating the illumination that comes with God's manifestation.
"The light shines more brightly in the darkness. This year has been dark. And so, more than ever, we treasure the illumination. In this year, more than ever, when everything else is stripped away, we find that we are left with this treasured light that binds us together: the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," Nicastro said.