One of our visitors along with our bishop last month was Fr. Dan. We had encountered Fr. Dan once or twice before and each time he proved to be a very effervescent and enthusiastic priest. He was wonderfully playful with the children and very warm with everyone. This past weekend he was consecrated as a bishop at the Ukrainian cathedral in Parma, Ohio. Fr. Greg was able to travel to Ohio for the event (he and Fr. Dan were seminary buddies) and returned home full of wonderful stories and descriptions of the various ceremonies throughout the weekend. You can read about his consecration here.
Tad and I have been struck by the process of choosing and training new bishops in the Orthodox church. It makes sense that only those priests called to celibacy would be allowed to become bishops. The travel and pastoral duties of a bishop are definitely much better fulfilled without the addition of a family to support emotionally, physically and certainly financially as well. Fr. Dan was consecrated an auxiliary bishop first which means that in his youth (both physically and as a newly-consecrated hierarch) he will spend time learning how to be a bishop. He will travel quite a bit, observe a lot and take the time to absorb and learn even more. I found his remarks to the Hierachs of the church to be quite revealing of his humility and the humility required of the episcopal office. So much so, that I think they are worth repeating here:
“The will of the faithful of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the Holy Synod of the Great Church of Christ call me this day to the most responsible service and authority of a Bishop, successor to the Apostles and witness to the words and deeds of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is with the profound sense of humility that I stand in front of you my brothers hierarchs, reverend fathers and brothers and sisters in the Lord and reflect upon my unworthiness to receive this call and be chosen for this profound service and responsibility – a bishop in our Lord’s blessed Vineyard.
I cannot help but to reflect upon the words of Holy Apostle Paul, describing the moral standards and characteristics of Episcopal service: “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered … but hospitable, a lover of what is good, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”
A steward of God…. Am I worthy of this responsibility? Were the Apostles worthy of this responsibility?
They were simple people – fishing, collecting taxes – doing the things ordinary people do to live. Then something happened. They were called by someone and sent somewhere. And when that happened, everything changed. They saw themselves differently, went places they never thought of going before, thought thoughts that never would have come into their heads, and did things they never would have seen themselves doing. Their world turned upside down. They were called and sent – and everything was rearranged.
Standing in front of you I also reflect upon the words of Holy Prophet Isaiah, the very words that our Savior Jesus Christ once spoke at the beginning of his public ministry: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted… to announce a year of favor from the Lord…"
One of the first duties of a bishop is the proclamation of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I humbly realize that as a bishop, I will now enjoy the privileged responsibility of teaching the faith and proclaiming a word of hope and encouragement to people not only of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA but to people of all cultures and languages. Although the circumstances may vary, ultimately, it is one same Word that people need to hear—the Good News of our Risen Lord.
In the Holy Priesthood - as bishops, priests, and deacons, we are ministers of God's Word, a Word that we can only proclaim to others if we have first heard it in the silence of our hearts through prayer.
Our work of evangelization naturally leads people to the Lord's altar, to a desire to share in the mystery of His Death and Resurrection through the Holy Mystery Eucharist and the other Mysteries of the Church.
My beloved brothers: as a shepherd, bishop is concerned not only for the unity of the Church, but also in looking for ever-new ways to promote the dignity of human life from the first moment of conception until natural death. As a teacher, bishop is not only handing on and renewing our Orthodox faithful in their understanding of the Faith, but he is also called to articulate our faith values and show how they apply to the many social issues of our times. I beg you to pray for me so that I have the strength to become a voice speaking on behalf of the basic human rights for all people. Because of my faith and ethnic background, heritage, and somewhat limited experience, I hope to have a special opportunity to witness to the special needs of people; to help others become ever-more sensitive to cultural diversity and the way our Church and our country will be stronger as we learn to share the gifts and resources with one another.
I solemnly realize that as a shepherd among my own - Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Christian community, I must deepen my own holiness through the exercise of my episcopal ministry among the people of God. I pray that my availability and sensitivity to the clergy and laity alike will be a source of joy and encouragement for them and for myself as well. I will do everything possible to help to build up the unity of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church by involvement in the work of the parishes and institutions and organizations of our Church throughout the world that continue the teaching and healing ministry of our Risen Lord.
This evening, I spiritually prostrate myself before the Lord, acknowledging my human weakness and dependence on God’s mercy. Then, in all humility, with every fiber of my being I shall arise from the posture of prostration – a sign of my complete self-giving – and come forward for the most powerful but ever silent gesture of the descent of the Holy Spirit - laying on of hands, the central act of Episcopal consecration, a reminder that ordination brings a whole new identity, a new way of living.
I am being called to this ministry in order to serve in the name of the Lord. May I always remember that He alone is my life source and that all ministry will be effective and fruitful only to the extent that I must forget myself and allow Christ to work through me.
The obedience that I am pledging this day is not simply committing myself to a particular eparchy for a certain number of years. Rather, my obedience must embrace an attitude whereby I freely and completely immerse myself in this service and this Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church with all of its gifts and needs.
I prayerfully reflect upon the question posed to the sons of Zebedee in the Gospel: “Can you drink this cup?” As I am consecrated and then drink of the Cup each day, may I be renewed by the love for the Lord and His Holy Church. May the Holy Spirit come down upon you, my beloved hierarchs and our whole Church, blessing all of us who serve together in His Name.
And so, with fear of God, I anticipate the descent of the Holy Spirit and with a child-like attitude I beg you, my beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord to remember me in your prayers, and you, my beloved hierarchs, I beg to bless me and remember me, a sinner, in your prayers so that the Lord will send down His Divine Grace and make me a worthy servant of His Church for His Glory and salvation of others. Amen.”
This is yet another of our hierarchs well on his way to restoring my faith in the true apostolic leadership of the church. May God grant him many years!