Metropolitan Theodosius presents relics of St Raphael to Antiochian Cathedral

On November 3, 2000, His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, presented relics of Saint Raphael Hawaweeny of Brooklyn to the faithful of St Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral here.

The presentation took place during a Vesper Service attended by His Grace, Bishiop DEMETRI, Auxiliary to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; and a dozen priests from the OCA and AOCA; and hundreds of faithful who filled the historic cathedral.

On behalf of His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP of the AOCA, Bishop DEMETRI thanked Metropolitan THEODOSIUS for the relics, which will be enshrined in the cathedral for veneration.

Saint Raphael, who was the first Orthodox Christian to be consecrated to the episcopacy in North America and was responsible for missionary work primarily among Middle Eastern immigrants during the early years of the 20th century, was canonized in special services at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA in May 2000. Saint Raphael was the founder of St Nicholas Cathedral during his early years in America. The present building is the second in the community’s nearly 100-year history. The canonization followed a lengthy study of the saint’s life and work conducted by a joint Canonization Commission composed of representatives of the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

During the presentation, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS spoke on the legacy of Saint Raphael. The text of his sermon follows.

“‘For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more…. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I might share in its blessings’” [1 Cor 9:19, 22-23].

“These words from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians help to characterize his role as an apostle ­ as one sent out by the Lord to proclaim the Gospel of new and eternal life. These words of Saint Paul also help to describe the life and person of Saint Raphael of Brooklyn. Like the holy apostle, Saint Raphael was sent by the Lord into the world to offer the Word of Life to all people. As a missionary in North America the venerable Bishop of Brooklyn became “all things to all men” so that no one would be deprived of the Savior’s generous offering to enter into the fullness of the Kingdom of God. And as the Son of God emptied Himself to be incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, Saint Raphael emptied himself ­ humbled himself ­ so that he could be unhindered by national and social boundaries.

“The life and work of Saint Raphael teach us that if the Orthodox Church, particularly the Church in America, is to undergo an evangelical renaissance nurtured by the reative energy of the Holy Spirit, there must be a desire to be free of all which hides and distorts the Gospel. National and social boundaries cannot ­ must not ­ be allowed to be drawn in our Churches. Much of the last century witnessed the weakening of our Church in America specifically because of the ethnic divisions which fostered the multiplication of national jurisdictions.

“Born in Syria, educated in Kiev and Halki, Saint Raphael utilized his God-given talents to build up the Church in America. Born in the East, the Lord guided Bishop Raphael to the West where he spent his life planting and watering the seeds of the Apostolic Faith. A son of the venerable Church of Antioch, he was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in America. Called back to serve the Church n his native homeland, Saint Raphael chose to remain here and serve the flock of Christ scattered across North America. He chose to bring the light from the East to the land where the Church had and continues to have the opportunity to act without political or religious oppression. Creating parishes for the Arab Orthodox in North America, Saint Raphael personified the inexhaustible breath and depth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“Indeed, Saint Raphael was a servant to all. He did not spare his life or energies, but poured out his life for the building up of the Body of Christ in America. He lived and died in America working to expand the growing Orthodox mission that had originated in Russian Alaska.

“The glorification or canonization of Saint Raphael affirms the sanctity of his life and labors. His glorification also affirms the commitment of our Church to spare nothing for the promotion of the Gospel.

“This evening we gather around the relics of Saint Raphael. We prepare to draw near and to venerate them. They are now permanently placed in the Mother Church of the Antiochian Archdiocese where they are the sanctifying presence of one who labored for Orthodox unity in America. The relics of Saint Raphael now rest with the community that he founded and nurtured. They are the physical presence of our holy Archpastor who ceaselessly intercede for the unity of the Church in America which must show itself as a slave to all so more may possess the Gospel of new, transfigured and eternal life.

“Holy Hierarch Raphael, continue to sojourn with your missionary Church. By your prayers may we soon come to enjoy the sweetness of indissoluble unity founded on the incarnate Word of Truth, sustained by the Holy Spirit and bound eternally to the bosom of the Father. Amen.”