October 9, 2012

Holy Synod Autumn Meeting Begins

Liturgy for St Tikhon

The ancient canons of the Church require that the bishops meet at least twice a year, in Spring and Autumn. Today the Holy Synod began its October meeting on the feast of Patriarch Tikhon—in the presence of his relics—with the Divine Liturgy at 7:30 am. Archbishop Tikhon of Philadelphia presided (it’s his nameday), joined by Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak, Father Eric G Tosi and myself.

Archbishop Tikhon

This job as Chancellor has its rough days, but this is not one of them, at least not so far (it’s 10:30 am). What a privilege to be part of the liturgy with our fathers in Christ. Archbishop Tikhon spoke a few words after the Gospel about the good shepherd, so appropriate for these days. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (John 10:11). Christ is the image for all of us who are shepherds—not just bishops and priests, but everyone who in some way, in their family, in their work, in their school has the task of leading and caring for others. And Saint Tikhon, who served in North America as a missionary bishop (1898-1908), who was chosen as Patriarch of Moscow in the dark days of the Bolshevik revolution, “demonstrated what it means to be a true shepherd who embodies both meekness and authority. He gave his life for his flock, and now his example is more important than ever as we prepare for a new stage in the life of our church.”

After the Divine Liturgy, all the bishops and the officers had breakfast together and then went back into Saint Sergius chapel to open the meeting with a service of prayer, asking that God would guide the bishops with insight as they deliberate and make decisions. Archbishop Nathaniel, as locum tenens, gave the opening remarks that set the tone for the meeting. “Brothers, God has brought us together again according to the canons. This is an important meeting, given all that has happened with the resignation of the metropolitan and preparations for the All-American Council. God has left us in the world to bring His truth. Our little church is a unique creature in the world, we have to be certain of who we are, where we are going and how to get there. We need to be slow to speak and full of wisdom. We want to bring our church peace, but we also want to move forward, to bring the Gospel. We have a vision of the church as local in North America and embracing all Orthodox. Not everyone understands that, but we have to live our lives in this reality that there can be a local, autocephalous Orthodox Church. As bishops we are called to guide the church through troubled times, but Christ calms the waters. We ask the Lord to calm the storms and bring peaceful times for the building up of the holy church in this land.”

After these opening remarks the Holy Synod went into a closed session and the officers withdrew, to return later for our reports and to continue the agenda. This afternoon Protodeacon Peter Danilchick will lead a discussion to help the bishops think through the challenges and opportunities that face them and the new metropolitan to be elected a month from now.

Read the life of Saint Tikhon here.