Friday, February 26, 2016

Hierarchal Visit – What does that mean to us?

“If they are not with the Bishop, they are not in the Church.” - St. Cyprian of Carthage

This is the first quote from a little pamphlet written by New Martyr Patriarch Tikhon entitled “What is a Bishop?” St. Cyprian may be the least known most important saint in our Orthodox Church. His writings were crucial in his time in keeping the Church from falling into extremism, and we may rightly say that New Martyr Bishop Hilarion (Troitsky) is a true and very important successor of St. Cyprian's teachings. This post is not about either of these important saints – perhaps posts later will be. Especially if our readers would like to discuss their lives and their application to us today.

We are truly privileged to have Metropolitan Jonah visit us this weekend. We all know that the hierarchal services are a bit longer than the services headed by a priest. This is why we start at 9:00 a.m. when a hierarch visits rather than 10:00 a.m. But I think it is important that we understand this on a much deeper level than just “I have to get up earlier this weekend!” Or perhaps even worse: “I don't care if we start at 9:00 a.m. - I will show up at 10:00 a.m. as usual!”. First, if you are on time every week thank you! :) But – the hierarchal services, with the vesting of the bishop in the middle of the church, the small additions to the Liturgy, the Subdeacons exercising their ministry, etc., are important in that they help us to understand liturgically just what St. Cyprian writes above: the bishop is theologically an important part of our Orthodox Church. In fact, the bishops are the successors to the Apostles. Only the bishop can ordain new clergyman, and this act – this action of the Holy Spirit in changing a man from something he was to something new (and with an appointed, God-given ministry) – this is one of the most important aspects of the episcopal ministry. We won't have an ordination this weekend, but we have recently, and God-willing we will have many more in the future!

I would like to also remind our parish family that the bishop has an important ministry of leadership in the Church. In another place St. Cyprian talks about the Church (that is, the diocese, with each diocese being itself the fullness of The Church) being the bishop, his council of presbyters, and the faithful, all gathered around the holy altar and living as a liturgical eucharistic community. And this is why it is so good for us to partake of Holy Communion when a hierarch serves in our parish church – it is the image of The Church according to the holy fathers. But it is important to remember too that the bishop has the greatest and most fearful obedience in the Church, for he will answer for each and every soul for which he has been given responsibility. In other words, he will answer for every soul in his diocese! Can you imagine the weight of this responsibility!? I can say from first hand experience that it is a very scary thought for a priest to understand that he must answer for each soul in his community – those saved and those lost. But for the bishop to answer for every soul in every community in his diocese – this is a heavy burden indeed. And St. Paul understood this perfectly, and thus instructed us, via his epistle to the Hebrews, with these words:

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Please discuss – questions and comments are welcome.

Fr. Gregory


The idea of this blog is to allow for a deeper discussion of spiritual questions in our parish family. Those from outside our parish are welcome to chime in too, although we hope that you will seriously consider joining us on our journey towards transfiguration in Christ if you find this blog useful. If you'd like to learn more about our parish family please check out our web site.

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