Exhortation to His Grace, the Right Reverend NIKOLAI on the occasion of his installation as Bishop o

Saint Michael the Archangel Cathedral
Sitka, Alaska

March 5, 2002

Your Grace, dear Vladyka NIKOLAI, today is a joyous day for the Orthodox Church in America. Most especially, it is an important, historic, and joyous day for the God-protected Diocese of Sitka and Alaska. Today the Holy Spirit gives the Church in Alaska a new archpastor. Our coming together-our concelebration in this historic place-is truly the fruit of our love and obedience to the All-Holy Spirit who makes present here and now the living Body of Christ. Our prayers for you and for your flock affirm our oneness in the saving truth of the Gospel. Our concelebration of the Banquet of Immortality confirms our unity in the undivided Christ who is the very expression-the very incarnation-of divine love and reconciliation.

Your Grace, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, an awesome responsibility has been placed upon your shoulders. In the presence of God, in the presence of your brother hierarchs, and in the presence of the clergy, monastics, and pious faithful of your flock, I exhort you to be a true pastor to those who are now entrusted to your care. Sharing in the ministry of the One High Priest you are called to be a servant of Christ’s servants. In your role as servant, you are also required to exercise archpastoral authority. The authority of your office has at its foundation the life of renunciation. Like the Holy Forerunner and Baptist John, you are to become less so that Christ may become more, you are to decrease so that Christ may increase. You are to become less so that all may see and know that true authority is inseparably bound to humility. Through a life of renunciation you are to show your flock that the authority of your episcopal ministry is bound to the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ.

As the servant who becomes less so that Christ may become more, you are to express unconditional love for your priests, your deacons, your monastics, and all your faithful who are joined with you in eucharistic fellowship. You are to reveal the Crucified Christ who upon the Cross stretches out his arms to embrace the whole world. You are to reveal the Risen Christ who comes into the midst of His disciples and grants them peace, driving away their doubts and their fears.

Dear Brother and Concelebrant, the Diocese that has been placed in your care is vast. Its faithful are descendants of ancient and diverse cultures. Therefore, I exhort you to know your people, their land, and their ways. Know their struggles and their sufferings. Comfort them with the Gospel which you are to proclaim in truth and in love so that together you may “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Receive the love and affection of your flock with gratitude. Always remember that the obedience that is shown to a bishop is derived in and through the dynamic of mutual love and respect. True obedience-the obedience to which the Gospel calls us-cannot be imposed. It must be earned, making the spiritual and moral fiber of this diocese stronger so as to continue the work of Christ in Alaska.

I encourage you to continue to develop the life and work of Saint Herman’s Seminary. Cultivate within all your flock an even greater love for learning-a love for the truth-so that all who study at Saint Herman’s may share the fruits of a theological education with those yearning for divine illumination. Invite your students to explore the mystery of the Truth. Instill in their minds and hearts the desire to be opened to the creative activity of the Holy Spirit who guides and leads the Church in time and space. With your dedicated faculty, form your students into priests, deacons, readers, teachers, and choir directors of the highest caliber. For only with an enlightened leadership will the Church be able to speak with integrity and conviction.

May all the saints that have labored for the Church in Alaska continue to intercede for you as you follow in their footsteps and continue the work that they began-for the glory of God.

Your Grace, we give thanks to God for this day. We pray for you knowing that as the faithful of Alaska gather around their bishop the ministry of Christ will continue to bear the beautiful and sweet fruit of new and eternal life. We pray with you knowing that we are of one mind and heart, praising and glorifying the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Presentation of Pastoral Staff by His Beatitude:

Receive this pastoral staff that you may feed the flock of Christ which has been entrusted to your care. May the Lord be your strength and support in your archpastoral ministry and be your rod and your staff. Ascend now the episcopal cathedra to give the apostolic blessing to those who have taken part in this celebration and to all Christ’s flock throughout the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska.

The newly-installed Bishop shall ascend the Cathedra and give the blessing as the choir sings Ton despotin.