Metropolitan  Anthony  of  Sourozh

This month marks the 25th anniversary of Metropolitan Anthony's consecration as bishop, and it seems only appropriate to publish again the text of his acceptance, which was delivered during the Vigil Service the evening before. The occasion brought together representatives of many different Orthodox groups in Great Britain, but the participation of Bishop James of Apameia is singled out as somehow representing the underlying unity of the Orthodox Church in the diaspora.

The English text was published in the Parish Herald of the Patriarchal Parish in London in February 1958,

In the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Ghost! Bishops, fathers and brethren! I was deeply affected by the decision of the Holy Patriarch and the Holy Synod to appoint me Bishop of Sergievo. But now the turmoil in my mind is stilled and I stand before you having collected my thoughts and probed my conscience before God, ready to convey to you truthfully all that fills my mind. If I had followed the first promptings of my heart I should have asked for mercy, since the whole of my being is powerfully drawn towards prayerful silence and the anonymity of monastic service; and fear and misery swept over me when, with the voice of the Church, Christ bade me join the ranks of witnesses of Divine Love, for no calling is more fearful and responsible (Jn. 20.21, Mt. 10.16). When fourteen years ago, while still a doctor, I made my secret monastic profession, I was looking forward to something heroic: prayer, fasting, vigils, hardships. Love did not appear to me to be a difficult achievement, but simply a joy and the very life of the soul. Since then I have learned that there is no more implacable law than that of Christ's love, the compassionate, suffering love of the Holy Trinity, the love of the merciful Saviour who gives His life for the people who have withdrawn from Him, the love of the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep... It was easy and joyful for me to pronounce the vows of renunciation. Nothing drew me except a sincere and joyful love of Christ. It seemed to me that there was nothing to renounce, for there was nothing that I desired, nothing that my soul was searching for, except God. And I was surprised by the parting words of my spiritual father that the monastic life is not ascetic deeds, but in perfect love. Soon, however, the actual living and doing of my medical work in a monastic way began to disclose to me the hetherto unknown wealth of love: revealed to me the meaning of those words that were said to me and drew me towards priesthood. 'You have left everything you did not value', my conscience persistently told me, 'for the sake of the one thing that you desired; you have renounced what you had not need of in order to gain what you longed for. Like the Gospel youth you do not want to part with your riches'. In misery and indecision I asked myself, 'What must I do to attain eternal life?... Give away the last shreds: let your very soul become the prey of anyone who hungers and thirsts, as the Prophet Isaiah says' (Isaiah 58.10). Fathers and brethren, I became a priest as culmination of my monastic vows, so that nothing in me should remain mine. Almost ten years have passed since then and only now am I beginning to see that I have not even entered upon Christ's path, and yet the Lord is calling upon me to become a sacrifice (Phil. 2.17; 2 Tim 4.6), is laying upon me the omophorion, symbol of the lost sheep which the Good Shepherd must find and save at the cost of his own life, and the staff, the pilgrim's staff of Christ's disciples (Heb. 11.13). The unthinkable is happening... But I do not believe in chance. I am profoundly convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself governs His Church, and from my youth I have made it a rule (as far as I have the strength and faith) to seek for nothing and to refuse nothing, to ask from God neither cross nor consolation; therefore I bow my head, and with trepidation but without doubt I give thanks unwaveringly with an undivided heart and I accept the Cross that is offered me and say nothing in contradiction. I shall say nothing of my own unworthiness: I believe in the grace of God which heals weakness and completes the deficiency of man's powers. And I know, too, from experience, that 'the strength of God is made perfect (only) in weakness' (2 Cor. 12.9); and so I pray the Almighty not for strength, but for the blessed weakness which is born in a humble, contrite and merciful heart; I pray God for love and humility as the only firm foundation for eternal life, as the only content of the Christian life, as the source of Knowledge, Wisdom and Discernment. 'I know that I am not worthy of heaven and earth and of this temporal life', but I believe and I know without a doubt that because of God's boundless love for the world, to me too will be given the power of the collective grace of the Church, and that for me too, by the gift of God, 'all things will be possible' that the Lord may command (Mk. 9.23). I have no words in which to speak of that tremulous feeling which fills my heart to overflowing at the thought that the conclave of Russian Bishops has resolved that I should enter the Apostolic circles; that it has faith in the sincerity of my love towards God, the Church and our orphaned world; that it has entrusted me with the Cross to be 'as it were appointed to death' (1 Cor. 4.9); that it has not doubted that I too would joyfully show my willingness to follow the example of Christ the Chief Shepherd and with Him 'give my life for the sheep'. But I beg of you, Bishops of the Russian Church, to pray the Lord God for me that He may give me the weakness that is receptive of God, His love and the 'mind of Christ' (Phil. 2.5; 1 Cor. 2.16), His humility and faithfulness to the end in perfect obedience to Him alone. I believe that through the prayers of the Holy Patriarch and my Mother Church the Lord will not desert me, but will allow me to serve Him dying unto myself and will make me 'decrease' from day to day in order that 'He may increase', subduing unto Himself all the powers of my nature until they are wholly His (Phil. 3.21). My heart is filled with a profound joy and gratitude to His Grace James, Bishop of Apameia, who, as the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, is today taking part in my nomination and tomorrow in my consecration. May the blessing of the great Church of Constantinople, the mother of all our young Slav churches, come upon me by the laying on of his hands, and may his participation be a living witness to the indestructible unity of the Orthodox in Faith, Sacraments and Love. Fathers and brethren! It is seldom that God grants a bishop to be consecrated, as in my case, amid his own flock. May it be allowed me to address my spiritual children too in this hour which is important for them as well as for me. During the years of my pastoral service among you God has granted us to become a close and loving family. Episcopal grace is the pledge of an even deeper more sincere unity, for this grace is primarily one of pastorship and spiritual fatherhood. Let us give thanks to the Lord! And let us love one another even more truly and vitally and effectually. Let us become one with Christ in and through love, and with His love which nothing could break let us come to love that world for which He gave His life. Let us love every man as He loves him and us (Phil. 1.8). Let us enter life as Christ's disciples with new hope and renewed strength. Let us bring to the cold, orphaned world our flaming, invincible joy, so that every soul may rejoice, all fear may be dispelled, hatred extinguished, that Christ's light may illumine even those who wander in darkness, that with one heart and with one mind we may all, all without exception, raise the triumphal song to God. Those are the thoughts and feelings with which I stand before your holiness today; I remember the Lord's warning that 'by thy words shalt thou be justified and by thy words shalt thou be condemned' (Mat. 12.37), but I believe that through your prayers, your love and your support the Lord will fulfil in me too the good that He has inspired (Phil. 2.13), will forgive me my ignorance and that which is lacking in my words, will unite all of us and be our only Shepherd and Head of the Church. Amen. Sourozh 1982. N. 10. P. 1-4

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