At the celebration of Great Vespers at Saint Innocent Cathedral here on Thursday, February 20, 2014—the eve of his consecration to the Episcopate—Bishop-Elect David [Mahaffey] delivered an address to the bishops, clergy and faithful.
The complete text appears below. A photo gallery of the service and fellowship that followed may be found on the OCA web site and Facebook page. See related story.
ADDRESS OF BISHOP-ELECT DAVID ON THE EVE OF HIS CONSECRATION TO THE EPISCOPACY
Your Beatitude, Your Eminence, Your Graces, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers and Mothers, Matushki, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today I stand before you, an unworthy servant of Christ filled with fear and trembling. The fear which I have is a Godly fear and the trembling I have is a trembling of the heart. Who can realize or understand the task that is given to a man when he is chosen to be a Bishop? Even now, I am humbled by this undertaking entrusted to me. You, the hierarchs, have placed upon me a mantle of joy and blessing that is called the Diocese of Alaska.
I know not what to say to you for this honor. I can only say that, like Saint Paul, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself if only I may finish my course in the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.” Today this ministry has been magnified in many ways by the trust you have placed in me to be the Bishop of this diocese. I only hope that my unworthy efforts would justify your confidence in me.
First of all this evening, I want to say a few words to my children. To Nick and Mike and Seth and Kyra, and also to Cassie, Peter, Angela, Denise, and especially to my Granddaughter, Caitrin, I do not think that any of us could have imagined that life would have turned out this way for all of us. The faithful of this Diocese have expressed to me often how thankful they are for your sharing of your father with them. I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to serve God by coming to Alaska. I know that at times the distance will seem great, but you are all as close as my heart and my prayers, and in visits in the time that God will allow. Please know that this distance does not change the love that I have for you, nor does it affect in any way my desire to be with you whenever possible.
I would also like to say a few words about the many people who have influenced me in my life. First of all, I believe that I am who I am because of the woman that God gave me and made my wife. Matushka Karen, my companion for more than 34 years, helped to shape my ministry as much as any priest or bishop. She was the perfect example in every way of what I think makes a good Matushka. I feel her presence and her prayers at every service, and I hear her voice in every choir. May her memory be eternal.
It especially important for me to say that without the guidance and instruction of the priest who chrismated me, I’m not sure what my Orthodoxy would look like. Archpriest Raphael Rozdilski spent many weekends at my home after services teaching me about the Church. Some Sundays we would stay up all night discussing Scriptures, Church Fathers, Sacraments, and many other theological issues. He was more patient and kind with me than I deserved, but I’m grateful to God for putting him there for me when I needed it the most. Of course there were many other priests who helped to form my faith, and that I am indebted to all of them. Likewise, the time I spent at the feet of the many instructors and professors at both the Late Vocations Program in Pittsburgh, and Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, has given me an understanding and a comprehension of Orthodoxy without compromise.
I have also been blessed to serve under some very God-loving and shining examples of Christ in the episcopal office. His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill, who I served as a deacon for over 12 years, showed me the way of a loving pastor, as did His Beatitudes, Metropolitan Theodosius and His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, taught me the importance of good administration and caring for the flock. And I would be remiss, if I did not also mentioned His Grace, Bishop Michael, who has been a mentor to me, as well as a good friend. During the dark days of my life, he was always there helping me keep my faith, and keeping my trust God. Your Grace, I shall always be indebted to you. I am also grateful for the relationship I have had with all the members of our Holy Synod. Their leadership, love, and support are what keeps our Orthodox Church in America strong.
Now, I have a duty to give back to the Church, in every way I can, the wisdom that has been imparted to me. I am reminded of the words of Saint Innocent when he said, “woe to him who has been called and ordained to preach the word of God and who is not doing it… We as pastors, as teachers, as heirs of the apostles, have to keep up with our calling, and that means we have to teach. Otherwise, we are like pagan priests, just performers of mysteries and rituals.” Thus, I understand my obligation to the faithful of Alaska, and to the Orthodox Church in America, not only to guide and to lead, but to be a servant of servants, leading and teaching by my example. With Saint Paul I must now say it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.
So now to the Flock that you are entrusting to my care, I ask only one thing. More than anything else, I need your prayers. I am but a simple man, and of my own self I am capable of very little. I know and I recognize the enormity of what lies ahead of me. Please pray that I am kept from pride and from self-importance. Pray that God will open my heart to understand and accept His Holy Will in my life, and for that of all Alaska. Pray that I remember the words of Christ, that with men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. In the Breastplate of Saint Patrick, is a prayer I try to pray every day. It concludes with these words, “Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.” Made it always be, my beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, that you never see me, but that you see Christ working through me. By your prayers, may Almighty God teach me to do His will, and serve His Church, to the best of my ability.
Beloved, today is a new beginning for the Diocese of Alaska. What happens in Alaska from this point forward will not be the doing of one person. It will not be the doing of one hierarch. It will not be the doing of one priest, one parish council, or any single church. If it is the will of God, then it is the work of all of us. As Saint Paul said in his Epistle to the Ephesians, there is only one faith. This one faith is the same for each and every one of us; and it is for this one faith that this new beginning is dedicated. Each of us must strive to live this one faith every day of our lives. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us all pray with Saint Herman, “from this day, from this hour, from this very minute, we should strive to love God above all else and do His will.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.