Post date: Dec 3, 2012 3:20:36 PM
This past Tuesday I watched the internet broadcast of Fr. Grigorios Tatsis’ ordination to the episcopacy. Now Bp. Gregory, he is the ruling hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, also a part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As I was watching the prayer of ordination, Teddy came to me to ask a question, or to call me to play with him. I motioned him to be quiet and later took him aside to explain to him that it was important to pray for the new bishop. At that point I was thinking of a variety of things: the difficulties he would face learning the Carpatho-Russian traditions, the challenges of being a ruling hierarch, the expectations that he would face, the trials of being faithful to and proclaiming the Gospel in a world that seems increasingly hostile to it.
The following day, the epistle reading was from St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy and it outlined the requirements for a bishop: he “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money” (1 Tim 3:2-3). You may note from the above that the tradition of celibate bishops was established after St. Paul’s time, but that is not the essential part of the message. Rather, it is a reminder that, as Christ said, we faithfulness in the little things leads to faithfulness in the greater ones. Yes, a bishop has to bear the greater burdens that I mentioned at the beginning, and for that our bishops should be always in our prayers. But they still need to remain faithful in the little things, the daily things of life. They are to exhibit their faith through their gentleness, soberness, peacefulness.
St. Paul speaks of these qualities for a bishop because the bishop is to be a visible example, a tangible icon of Christ. The bishop needs these qualities so that the faithful have someone close at hand to emulate. In other words, the virtues of a bishop are not just for his salvation, but for the salvation of his flock, for we, too, are called to the same faith and the same virtues.
The church building places icons of Christ in places where we cannot help but see them: in the main dome, on the right side of the royal gates, on the cross behind the altar, with the Theotokos on the wall behind the altar and on the left side of the royal gates. Many churches also have icons of various scenes from the Gospels on the iconostasis or the walls and where we might not see an icon of Christ, there is an icon of a saint. In church, therefore, we see Christ and the saints everywhere. It is when we can see Christ and the saints everywhere outside of church that the virtues will become natural to us.
Let us therefore pray for the newly ordained Bp. Gregory, for our Metr. Iakovos and Bp. Demetrios, and for all the hierarchs that God will strengthen them to rightly teach the word of His truth. And let us pray for ourselves that the characteristics St. Paul lists for a bishop may apply to us, as well.
With love in Christ,