A record number of Orthodox Christian pilgrims from across North America gathered at Saint Tikhons Monastery here Sunday and Monday, May 28 and 29, 2000, for the Glorification of Saint RAPHAEL [Hawaweeny], a Beirut-born missionary who eventually became the first Orthodox Bishop of Brooklyn, NY.
The decision to glorify Saint RAPHAEL, made by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America at its Spring 2000 Session March 27-30, 2000, followed an intensive three-year study of Bishop RAPHAEL’s life, works, and ministry by the Joint Canonization Commission composed of representatives of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA] and the Englewood, NJ-based Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. After a thorough review of the Commissions report, members of the Holy Synod of Bishops signed a formal Proclamation on the Glorification of Our Holy Father, Bishop RAPHAEL. Also signing the Proclamation as a witness and representative of His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, was His Grace, Bishop ANTOUN, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese.
In preparation for the Rite of Glorification, a final Memorial for Bishop RAPHAEL was celebrated at the Monastery on Friday, May 26.
“This marks the last time the Church prays for him, and for the repose of his soul,” said the Rev. Joseph Frawley, a member of the Joint Canonization Commission. “Following the Rite of Glorification, the Church prays to Saint RAPHAEL as a heavenly intercessor.”
The Rite of Glorification commenced at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 28, in conjunction with the celebration of Vespers and Matins. Prior to the service, the relics of Bishop RAPHAEL were carried from the monastery church and placed on a table which had been set up in front of the adjacent bell tower. The exterior cover of the reliquary, made in Russia, features a full-length icon of Saint RAPHAEL, while an image of the old monastery church it was Saint RAPHAEL who had blessed the grounds for the site of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in 1905 and who, together with Saint Tikhon, Archbishop of North America, and Bishop Innocent [Pustinsky], consecrated the monastery the following year graces the cover’s interior.
Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, read the Proclamation of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America regarding the Glorification of Saint RAPHAEL immediately before the beginning of the Vigil service.
“Although of Arabic ancestry, Bishop RAPHAEL lived in several places among Greeks, Russians, and Americans of diverse backgrounds,” the Proclamation states. “While in America, he was a vicar bishop in the Orthodox Diocese, assisting Saint Tikhon and his successors in their visionary multi-ethnic organization of the North American Church. As his greatest labors took place in America and bore fruit here, it is fitting that the Orthodox Church in America should glorify Bishop RAPHAEL.”
Presiding at the Rite of Glorification were His Beatitude, Metropolitan SAWA of Warsaw and All Poland, who was on an official visit to the Orthodox Church in America, and His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. In addition to the other nine archbishops and bishops who, together with Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, compose the Holy Synod, several other hierarchs concelebrated the historic rite. Two hierarchs of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, His Grace, Bishop BASIL, a member of the Canonization Commission, and His Grace, Bishop DEMETRI, also concelebrated. His Eminence, Metropolitan SERGEI of Solnechnogorsk [Russian Orthodox Church] and His Grace, Bishop MERCURIUS of Zaraisk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the US [Russian Orthodox Church], also concelebrated, as did His Eminence, Archbishop ADAM of Przemysl and Nowy Sacz [Polish Orthodox Church], His Grace, Bishop DIMITRIOS of Xanthos [Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America], and His Grace, Bishop SERAPHIM [Sigrist], retired Bishop of Sendai, Japan [Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan].
Following the singing of the psalm “Lord I call upon Thee,” special hymns composed in Saint RAPHAEL’s honor were sung for the first time. Shortly thereafter, four priests carried the holy relics of Saint RAPHAEL in a procession around the monastery church as the Litiya hymns in Saint RAPHAELs honor were chanted. At each corner of the church, a litany was chanted as four other priests were chosen to replace those who had been carrying the relics. During the Litiya Prayer of Intercession, “O God, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance,” the name of Saint RAPHAEL, Bishop of Brooklyn, was commemorated in the list of saints for the first time.
At the conclusion of the Polyeleos at Matins, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS stepped forward and opened the reliquary, venerating the holy relics of Saint RAPHAEL. The concelebrating hierarchs, clergy, and faithful venerated the relics for the first time during the singing of the Matins Canon, while several hierarchs anointed the faithful with oil and distributed envelopes containing an icon print of Saint RAPHAEL and a piece of cloth that had been touched to the icon bearing his relics.
“There were perhaps 5,000 or more faithful, including many clergy and laity from the Antiochian Archdiocese, attending the Glorification and Memorial Day pilgrimage,” according to Father Frawley. “Many favorable comments were heard regarding the services and the newly-composed hymns in honor of Saint RAPHAEL.”
Following the Vigil Service, a Grand Banquet was held at Genetti’s Convention Center, Dickson City, PA, where members of the graduating class of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary were honored. In his banquet remarks, His Eminence, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, Deputy Abbot of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, commented on the uplifting spiritual experience everyone had shared at the Rite of Glorification. He added that the most detailed description of the Glorification would fail to express the joy experienced by those who were present for the services.
On Monday, May 29, the pilgrimage continued as children walked in procession from the town of South Canaan to the monastery, where they joined thousands of clergy and faithful who accompanied the relics of Saint RAPHAEL as they were carried from the monastery church to the pavilion for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. During the Little Entrance procession, the holy relics were carried by four bishops.
After the Liturgy, the relics were transferred back to the monastery church, where they will remain in close proximity to the relics of Saint ALEXIS [Toth] of Wilkes-Barre, who had been canonized in similar rites at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in 1994.
The annual Feast of Saint RAPHAEL will be celebrated on the day of his repose, February 27, and he will also be commemorated annually on the second Sunday of Pentecost, the Feast of All Saints of North America.
The Glorification of Saint RAPHAEL generated a great deal of interest beyond the Orthodox Church in North America. On June 2, the celebration was noted by Bob Abernethy on the PBS program “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” while major stories were carried by the Washington, DC-based Religion News Service and other media outlets.
Born in Beirut in 1860 to parents of Syrian background, Bishop RAPHAEL was ordained to the diaconate at the Halki Theological School in 1885 and to the holy priesthood at the Kiev Theological Academy in 1889. His education and travels in numerous countries enabled him to learn several languages, preparing him for missionary labors in America, where he ministered to people of diverse national origins. In 1904, he was elected to the episcopate. His was the first Orthodox Episcopal consecration to take place on the North American continent.
Bishop RAPHAEL was the author of several books and the founder of The Word magazine, which still serves as the official organ of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. His missionary journeys took him to virtually every corner of North America as he labored tirelessly to gather widely-scattered Orthodox faithful into viable parish communities. He died in 1915 and was buried in Brooklyn, NY.
Subsequently, his relics were transferred to the cemetery at Antiochian Village, Ligonier, PA, where they remain. [The portion of his relics which were venerated at the Rite of Glorification were graciously provided by His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.]