of His Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral
December 8, 2011
Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America,
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Your Eminence Metropolitan Maximos
Your Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit,
Your Grace, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos
Your Grace, Bishop-elect of Zela Sevastianos
Reverend Presbyters and Most Devout Deacons,
Esteemed Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew,
Beloved Representatives of the Sisterhood of Philoptochos,
Honored Members of Leadership 100,
Respected Officers and Members of the Order of AHEPA,
Esteemed Civic leaders and guests,
Beloved Faithful of this Cathedral and this Metropolis,
With nearly every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, we affirm the declaration of Saint James the Brother of the Lord (James 1:17), that“every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”
I stand before you this day as one who receives a gift, a gift that truly is “good and perfect,” a gift from the Father of lights: a gift that is itself a kind of light —this Holy and God-Saved Metropolis of Pittsburgh. “You are all son and daughters of the light and sons and daughters of the day” (1 Thess. 5:5). In you I see the light of Christ shining. The unwaning light of Orthodox Christianity has been shining forth throughout this Sacred Metropolis from the day of its inception, in the service and synergy of the holy hierarchs, the reverend clergy, and the pious faithful laboring together for the glory of our Triune God. In you has been at work that divine grace, “which ever heals what is weak and completes that which is lacking”; the divine grace which transforms us “from glory to glory … by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18); the divine grace that adorns you as the holy, “radiant bride of Christ, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Eph. 5:27). This is the gift—the gift of you, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ of the Metropolis of Pittsburgh.
With Saint Paul I call out from the depths of my soul: “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). The gift is so great, so glorious, so precious beyond compare! My heart overflows with thanks to God whose mercies have followed me all the days of my life and have brought me even to this hour. Before His people now I call upon His holy name and ask that, unworthy as I am, I may be counted worthy of the deposit of faith, the parakatatheke, entrusted to me. May God grant me the strength of His love and the power of His wisdom to guard well the reason-endowed flock that are now committed into my care.
The Lord Jesus Christ taught that whoever would be first among His disciples must be servant of all (Mark 10:44). In accepting the leadership of this Metropolis, I accept the yoke of servant-hood. I do so in conscious imitation of our Ecumenical Patriarch and spiritual father, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and of the holy and beloved hierarchs with him in the Great and Holy Synod of Constantinople. I have witnessed the dedication of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, how its hierarchs and clergy indeed make themselves constantly the servants of all Orthodox Christians throughout the whole world. And on this day of enthronement, I thank the Great and Holy Synod not only for the extraordinary honor they bestow in ratifying my election, but equally for the extraordinary example of selfless service they carry out at all times with joy in the Lord.
I am grateful likewise and to my brother hierarchs, the members of the Holy Eparchial Synod for the confidence they have placed in me by my election as Metropolitan of Pittsburgh. I beseech them to hold me up in their ministries of intercession before the Lord, as I join them in the arch-pastoral labors that they carry out so faithfully and tirelessly. I am deeply grateful especially to Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit for his work as locum tenens of the Metropolis of Pittsburgh over the recent three months. He shepherded the flock of Christ in that time with wisdom and alacrity, for which the whole Church has reason to be exceedingly thankful. May God grant Him many years of health and service to the Lord!
I am proud to follow in the footsteps of the truly eminent hierarchs who have served as leaders in this eparchy: Bishop Polyevktos of Tropaiou, Bishop Theodosios of Ancona, Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos, Bishop Anthimos of Christopolis, and above all, Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh. In fact, I count it among the greatest of the gifts God is raining down on me today that I am able to address in the flesh my immediate predecessor on this throne. In your historic thirty-two years of service, beloved Geronta Maximos, you embodied the ideal of the bishop as the one who is “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)—through your scholarly insight, your fidelity to the teachings of the Church, your pastoral wisdom and discernment, your meek and gentle spirit. The Metropolis of Pittsburgh in its presence form came into being during your pastorate, Your Eminence, and you laid a firm foundation, of which the cornerstone is Jesus Christ Himself. I count on your prayers, therefore, that what I build on this foundation may be likewise firm and of ever-lasting value.
I cannot find words to express the debt of gratitude I owe to His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America. His paternal love and unfailing kindness, his wise counsel, his enormous patience, his academic acumen, his expansive vision coupled with attention to detail, and his calming prayerful presence have been my inspiration and encouragement, ever since my days as his student at seminary. To the extent that I am prepared for the service of leadership that lies ahead, it is due to His Eminence. Whatever strengths I may have are a dim reflection of his strengths; my weaknesses remain my own.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters and Fellow-Servants in the work of the Lord,
Seven centuries before the coming of the Christ, the Lord, the Giver of Life spoke these words through His holy prophet Isaiah (43:19): “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?”
The Spirit of God, the Spirit of holiness is forever the Spirit of renewal: “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” This is a great paradox of the Church: Holy Spirit’s presence is marked by both unchanging continuity and ceaseless creativity. Jesus Christ speaks of this paradox in teaching that “every scribe who is instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasures old and new” (Matthew 13:52).
An often-overlooked, under-appreciated characteristic of our Church is its vitality. Orthodoxy cannot be defined simply in terms of a backward-looking allegiance to the past. Orthodoxy is—to borrow a phrase from Archbishop Demetrios—an “unlimited expression,” an unbounded process of creating forms of praise for the mercies of God that are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). For us, the strength to do new things for Christ comes precisely from our past, which gives us the rootedness and stability to reach out in confidence and explore and create without fear. The deposit of Truth that we preserve unchanged so zealously is the very thing that makes all things new. This deposit is surely nothing less than the indwelling Spirit in our hearts and minds, who strives within us “with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26) to carry out the divine work of renewal for all creation.
By the grace of God, new opportunities lie ahead for the Metropolis of Pittsburgh and for our Church in America—new opportunities to encounter our neighbors, new opportunities to evangelize, new opportunities to draw the world into the Apostolic net of salvation. May God grant us the same ambition that burned within Saint Paul, to preach the Gospel where Christ was not previously known (Romans 15:20). In geographical terms, this is not possible for many. But in technological terms, there is a wide open door (cf. 1 Cor. 16:9) for all of us to bring the love of Christ in new ways to new places and new people. We have but to summon the courage in faith to go through that door.
New information technologies have always provoked reactions of fear. A large part of Plato’s Republic, ironically, is a warning about the dangers to society of the spread of a new technology, the alphabet. There may even be a few of us here who are old enough to remember that the invention of the telephone was rejected from fear for the end of personal privacy. Truth be told, there are elements of insight in the anti-technological fears of those who urge caution. But technology, as an element of the material world, is in and of itself neutral, neither good nor evil in its own terms. It is always and only the use to which we put our inventions that gives them their moral value.
The Internet, therefore, cannot be shunned or neglected as irrelevant to the Church’s mission. An Orthodox presence on the Internet is vital. There is in the electronic media a capacity to reach the unchurched and to draw them in, a capacity that far exceeds the power of print or any other media of decades past. In fact, our Archdiocese has been among the first to recognize the incredible potential for outreach and evangelism made possible by the new technologies, and our Internet presence is second to none. The dissemination of information about our faith and activities has never been so wide-ranging. But so much more is possible on the level of inter-connectivity. The potentials for entering into and maintaining meaningful contact have yet to be explored. As your Metropolitan, I commit myself to exploring with you the possibilities for “doing a new thing” for Christ through the emergent and ever-evolving electronic technologies. The World Wide Web constitutes the modern version of the “highways and byways” of the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-23). If we would obey the command to make the Master’s house full, we must go there with our invitation to join the banquet. As the Apostle Paul took advantage of every opportunity, in synagogue and agora, both in and out of season, to bring people to Christ, we too must meet people where they are and fellowship with them, in a spirit of compassion and love. I take to heart the powerful, pastorally provocative words of St Paul: Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
In a way, this commitment draws on one of the historic strengths of the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, which is renowned for its Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian dialogues. In these ventures Metropolitan Maximos was truly a visionary and a pioneer, and we must follow boldly in his footsteps, which lead us to the threshold of the realm of cyber-dialogue. The emergent technologies present a marvelous new forum in which we can reach out to our brothers and sisters in Orthodoxy, to those of other Christian communions, and to those in the growing faiths that are labeled as “agnosticism” and “atheism.”
The Good Shepherd said that He had come so that His own “may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). For those in His flock, therefore, the spiritual life can never simply be a question of maintaining. For those who belong to Christ, there must always be an experience of growing, enriching, expanding, and encountering. “Other sheep have I,” declared the Good Shepherd (John 10:16), and we are His agents for bringing them into the fold, if we are living that more abundant life of the Kingdom.
A challenge lies ahead—the challenge of encounter. In an era of economic hardship, political gridlock, societal polarization, encounter becomes difficult. Like the Great Wall of China, the “us versus them” mentality pervades modern culture. Who is better equipped by God to overcome these divisions than the Church that brings together old and new, East and West, rich and poor, saint and sinner? Dialogue—thoughtful, attentive, heartfelt, open-minded dialogue—is the great need of our time. Can the Orthodox Church keep silent and sit passively and still remain who She truly is?
Let it begin, therefore, among us ourselves first of all, as the family of faith of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh. With God’s blessing of strength and health, I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with the clergy and the faithful of this strong and historic Metropolis. Technology is a marvel, but in this first phase of my arch-pastoral ministry, there can be no substitute for the personal encounter. I want to meet as many of you as possible, and as fast as possible. It is my intention to visit every parish of the Metropolis within my first year, and to meet all the members of your communities in your spiritual homes. For in meeting together, I with you and you with me, we may both begin to understand the mind of the Spirit who dwells in us and who is doing in us a new thing that now springs forth for us to perceive.
To that end, I yearn for your prayers, that I may “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10), and in peace and health “that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you,” (Romans 15:32), so that in better knowing you all I may faithfully “guard the good deposit that was entrusted” to me (cf. 2 Timothy 1:14), “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” and who makes all things new. Glory, thanksgiving, and honor to the One never ceases to grant us every good and perfect gift from above: to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen!