Your Eminences, Your Graces, Reverend Fathers, Devout Monastics and Faithful:
On the Eve of the Patronal Feast of the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow,” I find myself present before you, the Most Reverend Hierarchs, as one having been called by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to the hierarchical rank. This Cathedral holds many precious memories for me: I often visited here as a college student even before becoming an Orthodox Christian. The Divine Grace here was overwhelming, and like the Russians who visited Hagia Sophia a millennium ago, I did not know whether I was in heaven or on earth. Since then, by God’s mercy, I have been blessed on so many occasions to serve here as a clergyman, and to come with pilgrims to venerate and pray before the Relics of St. John. Now I stand here for an entirely different reason, and I am filled with trepidation and awe.
Our Lord Jesus Christ promised His faithful: “Behold, I will not leave you orphans.” (John 14:18) In every generation, He has given bishops (from the Greek word episkopos which means “overseer”) to His flock—these successors to the Holy Apostles, to provide guidance and salvific instruction. As He said to the Apostle Peter: “…Feed My Lambs… feed My sheep…” (John 21: 15-17) He commanded the Apostles to “go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) Hierarchs are to protect the flock from errant teachings (Matt. 7:15) and to seek after the lost sheep. (Luke 15:4) For precisely this reason, they carry a staff, even as a shepherd carries one in watching over his flock. (Micah 7:14) The Apostle Paul refers to the bishops when he exhorts the faithful to “obey those who rule over you… for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” (Heb. 13:17) The hierarchs are the principal stewards and celebrants of the Holy Mysteries and ordain others to celebrate them. (I Cor. 4:1)
It is without a doubt a singular time in which to be called to the episcopate. Seeing the failure of the brutal persecutions of the 20th century to destroy Christianity, the adversary of God and mankind has raised up another pernicious scheme—namely, to pervert and even strip away meaning itself from within Christian words and categories of thought and experience, and to replace the God-created order of things with grotesque deconstructions and shameless mockeries. One cannot help but call to mind the words of the poet William Butler Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” (“The Second Coming”)
In the face of these adversities, and of all of those which have ever faced Christianity, the Apostle Paul boldly asks: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom 8:35) Our Savior Himself, in the same manner, exhorts us: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) And again the Lord says: “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Let us not forget that remarkable encounter of two adversaries on a mountain top. To the one, the other offered the glory of all the kingdoms of this world if only the other would bow down and worship him. The other refused. He still refuses. And so must we.
Those who are called to take up the pastoral staff in our era must do so with this resolute spirit and clarity of mind. To His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion and the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, whose inspiring example and trenchant confession of faith has followed this pastoral path, I express my great esteem. To you, my ruling hierarch, Archbishop Kyrill—whom I have known since college, and who has paternally watched over me over these many years, Tonsured me to the Mantiya and Ordained me to the Holy Priesthood—I express my deepest respect and filial devotion. To His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill and the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, I express my great gratitude, noting that, while I am not of Russian descent, I am in my heart a son of Holy Russia and deeply honored to be a member of the Russian Orthodox Church—which has emerged, from what may worthily and justly be described as the holy and great podvig of martyrdom, “as gold tried by fire” (I Peter 1:7) and is now manifesting its much-prophecied witness of authentic Orthodoxy to the entire world. To ponder that my unworthiness is about to be ranked amongst the hierarchy of such a church is astonishing to me. But to this humbling reflection I would nevertheless add another, if only by analogy: “Lord, I am not worthy of You, but I cannot do without You.”
I also give thanks to God for my devoted father, who strove with all his being to provide for his family and guide his sons; for my precious Mother, who raised her two boys with a very great love and patience, and whose presence rejoices me on this day; and for my remarkable brother—who is my senior in everything except years and many years ago became my spiritual brother in the Orthodox Faith, and is present with his family.
To my late Spiritual Father, Archimandrite Anastassy, who diligently labored in missionary work at the University of California at Santa Cruz, nurturing our Orthodox Christian Student Fellowship, I owe a debt of eternal gratitude. All of our nine members became servants of the Church in different capacities, and many of them are present here today. Like the generous host of a great feast (Lk. 14:16) he offered us magnificent hospitality after the Divine Services, while also feeding us spiritually at his table from his rich pastoral experience, gifted story-telling and extraordinary erudition. Like the “Good Sower” (Matt 13:24) he prepared thought-provoking articles for our education, along with audio recordings of sacred church chant and soul-profiting lectures and sermons. And to the late Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), I owe yet another such debt. His voluminous translations, scholarly books and articles, and his many brilliant and inspiring lectures, were sources of tremendous edification and the subject of many salvific conversations amongst us in our college years and beyond. Such laborers in Christ’s vineyard were our role models.
They encouraged us to cultivate “a life of our own in Christ,” that is, an internal spiritual life free from the allurement of deceptive distractions and co-dependence on the fleeting stimuli of this transitory world. They taught us that the Divine Liturgy is not the “Last” but rather the “First,” or more precisely, the “Mystical” Supper, offered “once, for all” (Heb. 10:10) by Christ our God—in, through, and above time, and encompassing all generations. Through the mystery of the Holy Church, we become witnesses of and participants in Christ’s life in our very own generation. In hearing these words, which are “the words of Eternal Life,” (John 6:68) we heard the Lord’s invitation “follow Me” (Matt 4:19) and chose “to follow the Lamb of God wherever He goes.” (cf. Rev. 14:4)
One day Father Anastassy said to me: “Young man, you have received much: be generous with your life.” I saw in him the very principle by which he was exhorting me to live. When I asked him how he acquired all his knowledge, he cited his sources and traced everything back to the Apostles and Christ. Then he added: “What is more important is whether or not you will one day impart this knowledge to others.” Since 2004, I have had the privilege to serve as a Hieromonk at the Old Cathedral of the Holy Virgin here in San Francisco, laboring for the community and instructing converts. In this fulfillment of my heart’s desire I have also had the joy of taking pilgrims to the holy places associated with St. John while sharing with them the very treasures of the faith imparted to me.
But when earlier this year you, Vladyka Kyrill, invited me to be interviewed by the Holy Synod for the position of second diocesan vicar bishop, I had to consider a path that I had neither sought nor even contemplated. I wondered: how was I to consider this unexpected calling? The following words of Our Lord to the Apostles resounded in my ears: “He who hears you hears Me, and he who hears Me hears Him Who sent Me. He who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16)
I also remembered the account of the rich young man who inquired of Christ about what he must do to attain eternal life. To the Lord’s answer that he should keep the commandments and honor his parents, etc., he replied that from his youth he had done so. The Lord then said to him: “You lack one thing: go and sell all you have, give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross and follow Me.” (Matt 19:21) But the young man trusted in his own judgement, relied upon his earthly wealth and sorrowfully turned away from Christ. I, too, possess a great wealth—unfortunately, however, it is comprised of shortcomings and deficiencies—and could therefore have very justifiably declined. However, I believe that God’s grace “which fills that which is wanting” (the Rite of Ordination) will compensate for my unworthiness, and that He will help me carry my cross and do His Holy Will.
It is with these reflections that I humbly accept the Holy Synod’s nomination for my election as Bishop of Sonora and present myself for consecration to the hierarchy. I now look forward with faith, hope and trust in the Lord, as I embark upon this new path of ecclesiastical service, sharing the beautiful treasures of our Holy Faith with those who seek to follow Christ—“the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) Through the intercessions of the Most Pure Mother of God who is not only the “Joy of All Who Sorrow” but also the “Joy of All Who Rejoice,” of our beloved Saint John, of my Patron Saint, the Holy Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord, and of all the Saints, may God be my helper.
I go forth having the following words of St. Patrick’s prayer as the motto of my heart:
“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me
I arise today through a mighty strength: the Invocation of the Trinity
Through a belief in the Threeness, through Confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of Creation
Salvation is of the Lord, Salvation is of the Lord, Salvation is of Christ
May Thy salvation, O Lord, be with us forever. Amen.”
October 23/November 5, 2019
Eve of the Feast of the Theotokos “Joy of All Who Sorrow” - San Francisco