From the Editors: On Monday, June 29, 2015, the first anniversary of his consecration to the episcopacy of His Grace Bishop Nicholas, Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, he celebrated Divine Liturgy in the priestly rite in Saint Sergius Chapel, located on the ground floor of the Synodal residence in New York. Congratulating His Grace, the Editors offer the sermon he delivered during his nomination in San Francisco one year ago.
Your Eminence, Vladyko!
During these days of joy, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the canonization of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, you, divinely-wise and holy hierarchs, are calling me to the highest form of service in the vineyard of Christ. It is with fear, trepidation, anxiety and piety that I approach the Mystery of my episcopal consecration.
In opening the annual council of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville in 1959, its abbot, Archbishop Averky (Taushev) of blessed memory, in his keynote address, said to the brethren that “our main goal is the salvation of souls.” These words apply not only to the podvigi of the monastics, but to the service of archpastors and pastors. “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), said the Lord, calling the first Apostles. Upon His Ascension to heaven, the Lord, blessing the Apostles, said: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). As we read in the Gospel according to Mark: “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). The Apostles, receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, formed their first community of believers in Christ, the first Church. By descending upon them, the Holy Spirit sanctified and confirmed them. That is how the Kingdom of God was established upon the earth for the salvation of all mankind.
By Divine Providence, you are calling upon me to serve the Holy Church in the Apostolic rank. I recognize my sinfulness, my weakness, I do not dare imagine myself worthy of this all-holy rank, but I fear rejecting the call. I rely on the power of God, which is “made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Remembering my childhood, I thank all those, both alive and in the other world, who warmed me with Christian love. I thank God for my parents and godparents who reared me. Together with my dear brothers and my cousins, I was raised in the Orthodox faith, in love for the Russian language, Russian culture and the great legacy of our ancestors. I remember on this evening the glorious hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, who guided me spiritually and inspired me to serve the Church and mankind. Among these were Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinov), Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla), and Bishop Mitrophan (Znosko-Borovsky), all of blessed memory, who carried out their archpastoral service with great love. I remember the pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to our “spiritual fortress,” as Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky) liked to call Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville; and the monks and nuns laboring in these places. I recall the monks of Jordanville being not serious and morose, but joyful, hardworking, filled with love and pious. These were people who fully devoted their lives to God, but did not neglect their neighbor. Like them, our hierarchs and clergymen are always very accessible; we always had the opportunity not only to see them in church during services, but to commune with them outside of church.
Graduating from high school, I enrolled in Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville. Here I began to immerse myself deeper into monastic life, have closer bonds with the brethren, study theology, the history of the Church, liturgics and other subjects. At the time, the abbot of the monastery and rector of the seminary was Archbishop Laurus, future First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, whom Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) of blessed memory often called “the hope of our younger episcopacy.” Tending to the salvation of his soul, he gave all of us seminarians “the image of meekness,” humility and good virtues. The late Vladyka united perfectly a monastic form of life with his hierarchal service, participating in the life of the flock as a true bearer of the Truth of Christ and the commandments of the Gospel. In his personal life, he was exceptionally humble, but in church he served with ceremony and splendor, as a bishop should and as is customary in the Russian Church.
Upon graduating seminary, the Lord allowed me, a sinner, to serve the Holy Church under Vladyka Laurus.
Soon after my ordination to the diaconate, and the blessed repose of Metropolitan Laurus, the Synod of Bishops assigned to me the task of being caretaker to the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign.” When I learned of this, my heart repeated the words of Righteous Elizabeth: “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). And since then, the Lord has blessed for me to “travel with the icon from East even unto the West.” With my own eyes I saw how the Mother of God, through Her icon, “brought blessing and joy to all who stream towards her” (from the akathist to the Kursk-Root Icon).
Of course, the Kursk-Root Icon has been kept in the cathedral devoted to its name at the Synod of Bishops in New York since 1957. In this holy place, with God’s help, I will carry out my obedience as a Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese. This diocese is one of the biggest in the Russian Church Abroad in number of parishes and believers. Over the last 20 years, we have observed how our churches abroad are filled not only with old emigres and their descendants, but with multitudes of new immigrants, and also newly-converted Americans, who are learning the life of the church and become active members of the Church.
In my service I will strive to follow the legacy of our fathers and with great joy, as once Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) wrote “give away all my powers” to the Church under the wise guidance of my Kyriarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion.
I thank you, Your Eminence Vladyka, for your love, for your living example of true episcopacy, reminding us of the words of Apostle Paul: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:7-9).
I thank you for the great trust the Hierarchy of the Russian Church Abroad, His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate has in me, have in me. I express my profound gratitude to the clergymen and flock, who entrust me with your care. I believe that with the clergymen and staff who serve at the Synodal cathedral and the Chancery of the Synod of Bishops, we will continue with God’s help to work successfully, maintain good communications and mutual understanding, and in the spirit of brotherly love, do God’s work to the best of our abilities.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to Archimandrite Luke and the brethren of Holy Trinity Monastery, who warmed, consoled and supported me since my monastic tonsure.
On the feast day of the Dormition of the Most-Holy Mother of God in 1994, the year that St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-Worker was canonized, you, Your Eminence Vladyka, being then Bishop of Manhattan, ordained me a reader. Now, after two decades, under the protection of our Hodigitria and under the omophorion of this great Holy Man of God, in this magnificent cathedral, in which God’s hierarch celebrated before the altar table of the All-Highest, through the laying on of your hands and the hands of your brethren hierarchs of the united Russian Church, you bring down upon me the gift of episcopal grace. I ask Your Eminences and Your Graces to lift up your holy prayers and offer me good advice, so that through your achpastoral prayers, Christ the Chief Pastor would grant my service the overabundant grace of the Holy Spirit, Which always “heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking.”
On this important and holy day, this sacred and extremely responsible moment, I sense my spiritual poverty and unworthiness, and I ask the Lord that His holy will be done over me and His Church. Amen.