"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985
It was Dimitry Alexandrov (presently Bishop Daniel), graduate of Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary and firm worshipper of the Russian Church's ancient traditions, who was fortunate enough to come upon the original text of the enthroning ceremony which was used in old Moscow.
Thus, by the grace of God, our humble Church in Exile was, so to speak, especially called upon to feel Herself even in Her present humble and exile-induced appearance the very same Russian Orthodox Church of old, and that specifically by finding Herself today beyond the boundaries of Her beloved native land. In the continuing act of enthronisation, the consciousness in the faithful of BEING THE CHURCH received incarnation.
All experienced quite an exceptional lifting of the spirit when at the end of the First Hour the whole church was suddenly plunged into the sea of lights, the Royal Gates swung open and Metropolitan Philaret emerged, arrayed in the usual bishop's violet mantle and a black cowl with its diamond cross. All the bishops disposed themselves in a semi-circle on either side of him. The metropolitan's blue mantle was brought out by Archbishop John; Archbishop Alexander carried the metropolitan's white cowl on a salver. (Both the mantle and cowl had just then been consecrated in the altar by Metropolitan Anastassy.) The sub-deacons removed the bishop's mantle from Metropolitan Philaret's shoulders and Archbishop John handed him the metropolitan's mantle. "Axios". - was his cry. "Axios" - was the cry of all the bishops and clergy. "Axios" - thundered the two choirs in succession. The impression was that these words were coming from the hearts of all those present, who had approached close to each other right up to the ambo. Archbishop Alexander then presents the white cowl on the platter to the new metropolitan. And again "Axios" is proclaimed in the same order as before, making it seem as if immeasurably more was being done here than the normal elevation to the high order of metropolitan ... The subsequent congratulations of the new metropolitan and the receipt of his blessing by all was conducted in an uncommonly warm atmosphere. All spoke of the great miracle that had been worked upon us by the Lord. Many wept from happiness and emotion ....
One cannot help mentioning the blessed effect of Paschal hymns which continued to sound through out the service. Our spiritual joy took on a special tint which transformed everything we experienced into a second Pascha.
If the church had been sufficiently filled during vespers on Saturday night, then it was literally packed right from the beginning of Divine Services on Sunday morning for Divine Liturgy: worshippers stood close to each other right up to the ambo.
At 10:00 a. m. the new metropolitan was welcomed as he arrived in church. All the bishops with their crosiers and clergy arranged themselves on either side of the church entrance. The metropolitan is escorted into the church by the two senior prelates - Archbishops John and Alexander. After the entrance prayers and the singing of "Ton despotin... ." the same archbishops lead His Eminence to the cathedra in the center of the church.
"Axios." - proclaim Archbishops John and Alexander, followed by the bishops and clergy, and finally by the choir. The new metropolitan blesses the people on all four sides around him. The vesting of the metropolitan begins. The mitre is brought out by the two senior clergymen - Archimandrite Panteleimon and Protopresbyter George Grabbe.
The usual service begins. The Divine Liturgy flows on in triumphant and holy solemnity, peculiar to services conducted by a multitude of bishops - there are sixteen prelates! But the solemnity is far from being a surface one: prayers rise to God from all hearts with a fervor perhaps never reached in this hallowed place of worship. The Church, here and now, is living a full life, fusing all into one holy Entity . . . In such. a spiritual state, physical fatigue is not felt, and the overcrowding itself is felt as an outward sign of the inner spiritual closeness. An endurance appears which will afterwards surprise many as they look back upon this solemn day .. Wonderful are Thy works, O Lord!
Metropolitan Philaret delivers a sermon. There is simplicity in all his words and actions: there is nothing artificial about him. "Be, and not merely appear to be" - this testament of his famous namesake seems to be incarnated in His Eminence. "Why, he is a born metropolitan!" - could later be heard from many. And the fact that there was not the merest trace of anything superficial in this simplicity forced one to not only admire the new metropolitan, but to become imbued with a feeling of deep personal affection for him. Unassumingly, calmly, naturally and with confident simplicity was each expected movement executed and each word delivered by him .... and this only increased the ineffable majesty of what was taking place. For it was not only that the youngest among the bishops was being suddenly elevated to the highest position which was significant, but this very height received a new meaning, opening up for us perspectives which only yesterday seemed to have been antiquated.
Metropolitan Philaret delivered a sermon on the subject of the day's Gospel reading. In retelling with perfect accuracy, Christ's conversation with the woman from Samaria at Jacob's well, His Eminence underlined the extreme theological depth of this conversation, especially the unprecedented circumstantiality with which Our Lord replied to the woman's questions: He had never spoken so openly even with His disciples! And finally - those clear and great words of the Messiah, which also had not yet been heard by His disciples:
"I that speak unto thee am he!"
At this point the preacher turns his attention directly upon his listeners.
To whom is Our Lord speaking in this manner? Is it not to a wanton and sinful woman? Would we not have condemned her immediately, having recognized her as being depraved and morally worthless? Our Lord and God is here teaching us a lesson: not to despise even the most terrible sinners. For this follows from the first and most important commandment: love - which does not condemn anyone, but is forbearing and compassionate.
But there is yet an even greater lesson here. Admittedly, the life of the woman from Samaria was burdened with passions and great sins -her heart was not alien to what? KNOWLEDGE OF GOD! That is why Our Lord was able to reveal Himself as the Messiah -specifically to her! The preacher then reminds his listeners of the publican Zacchaeus - treated with contempt by all as a morally worthless individual. In him, too, Our Lord saw a spark of goodness, thus converting it into a roaring flame. To all their environment, both the woman from Samaria and the publican were fallen souls: all around them could see nothing else in them. Our Lord noticed this spark in them and how brightly did he make it burn! This woman from Samaria - did she not become the first preacher of Christ?
Let us not, then, condemn anyone. Let us try to discover a spark of goodness at least in each and every one. Can there be such a person who would lack even this measure? For this to be true, a human being must become a veritable demon! Let us regard each other with love, for love does not condemn anyone; it regards everyone with forbearance and compassion. And may the Lord of all be with us. Amen.
At the end of the service - another memorable event, without which that spiritual happiness and fervent hope which were increasingly enveloping everyone, could not have reached fulfillment. The beatific "staretz", the new metropolitan, all the bishops and clergy -all move out of the altar to the center of the church. Archbishop John brings out the panagia on a salver. Metropolitan Philaret makes an address to Metropolitan Anastassy. He reminds him of how mindful were all the members of the Sobor of Bishops to the Holy Father's word of farewell. He reminds him how earnestly the Sobor had begged His Lordship not to carry out his decision to step down. The Lord Metropolitan had remained adamant, and the Sobor had bowed before this decision. A successor was elected ... But Metropolitan Anastassy continues to be, spiritually and morally, the head and the father of all. "All of us are your spiritual children. And the Sobor of Bishops has instructed me to place upon you, together with the title of Beatific, a second panagia. I ask you to submit to the will of the whole Sobor and to accept this expression of our filial love toward Your Beatitude."
"Axios!" - exclaims Metropolitan Philaret, and this echoed in turn by the bishops and the clergy, and by the choirs.
The fullness of joy has been attained. The wise and beatific father remains close to the new Primate. His Beatitude has not retired into seclusion. His wise leadership has merely taken on a new form, now leaning upon the filial loyalty of the new head of our Church. The Te Deum is sung with a new prayerful exhilaration.
At the end of the Te Deum, Archbishop John hands Metropolitan Philaret his crosier, while Archbishop Alexander loudly repeats (mutatis mutandis) the very words which, many centuries ago, were heard by new metropolitans in old Moscow:
:"The Almighty and Life-endowing Holy Trinity, Immeasurable Dominion and Indivisible Kingdom, is granting you this great throne of prelates, the Metropolis and Primacy in the Russian Church Abroad, by the act of election by your brothers, Russian Orthodox bishops. And now, Lord and brother, take this crosier of pastorship and ascend the throne of the holy primacy in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and beseech His Most Pure Mother on behalf of all Orthodox Christendom and those Russian people in exile who have been placed in your charge, and tend them like a good shepherd, and may the Lord God grant you the health and life for many years."
The choir sings: "Ispolla etti despota."
Metropolitan Philaret replies:
"May the Almighty and All-containing Right Hand of the Most High protect and strengthen all of you. May He grant peace and contentment to His Holy Church and deliverance to our native land. And to you my brothers, prelates of the Russian Church Abroad, to all the Russian people presently in exile and to all Orthodox Christians, may He grant health and life for many years."
The choirs again sing: "Many years." The enthronisation ceremony has come to its end.
All surge forward toward Metropolitan Anastassy to receive his blessing. The fear of his early departure is so great that, people push and jostle each other to get near. Many are fortunate enough to receive the blessings of both metropolitans. The love of all who have gathered is directed toward both: to the well-known and personally close to all, beatific father metropolitan, and to the new ruling head who, prior to this, was known to hardly anyone, but who, literally within the short space of a few hours, became just as close and just as dear. This makes the flood of congratulations a natural conclusion to the blessed emotions experienced during this great and solemn feast. A full hour went by for all to express their warm feelings to the new metropolitan.
The two metropolitans, bishops and clergy unite with some of the laity at a reception held in the refectory, where many have an opportunity to express their feelings.
Archbishop Averky, on behalf of Holy Trinity Monastery, presented Metropolitan Philaret with an icon of Our Lady of Pochaev, and in a brief welcoming address, begged the new Primate's prayers and paternal attention for the monastery, with its printing-office and seminary, so that it may continue to fruitfully develop and strengthen its activities in the service of the Russian Church Abroad.
Metropolitan Anastassy was the last to speak. With tender emotion he speaks of the grace Our Lord had sent. In the midst of unprecedented trials and tribulations, something also unprecedented arose, which elevated the youngest among us to the position of head over all. His Beatitude called upon everyone to rejoice in the firm belief that this event's beneficent effects would be felt even by following generations. We must beseech God to further strengthen and increase the many noble qualities which Metropolitan Philaret, in his humility, refused to recognize in himself. Virtually glowing with happiness, Metropolitan Anastassy repeats these thoughts in various forms, as if to implant them firmly in the hearts of his listeners. In conclusion, he recalls how Metropolitan Philaret had always been joyful by nature, even in his school days; how he had been a comfort to all who knew him. His soul, ever sound, had always sought to be united with others in sound joyfulness, which he had the ability to transmit to others as no one else could. His Beatitude felt a deep satisfaction now over the fact that all members of the Church had immediately accepted Metropolitan Philaret as a shepherd after their own heart. May the good Lord not take him away from us! May our hearts rejoice in the Lord! Let us pray to Him so that now, when there is so little happiness on earth, He may preserve our Church in happiness. May the risen God defeat His enemies. Christ is Risen! ....
A public assembly was arranged for 6:00 p. m. in a nearby building belonging to the Presbyterian Church. The huge hall was crowded. The Sobor of Bishops, headed by the two metropolitans, sat at the speakers' table. At the center of attention was, of course, Metropolitan Philaret, the first to speak. After a few introductory remarks, His Eminence felt it incumbent upon him to direct particular attention of his listeners to the sad state of neglect of the Gospel in our time. It would appear self-evident that everyone had to be familiar with the Gospels, yet in fact what do we find? Whenever some specialist, such as a physicist or a mathematician, picks up a book dealing with his field, he is immediately able to find what he wants in it. While we Orthodox, whenever some of us have to find something in the Gospels, - do we not find ourselves helplessly lost in the Holy Book? Do we not find it a stranger to us? And yet it is only there that we will find an answer to all our problems, and nowhere else will we be able to obtain an answer. Let us turn to the Holy Book with the questions puzzling us.
In the Gospel according to St. John we will find recounted Our Lord's conversation with Pilate. The Roman governor asked Our Lord: "Art thou the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered him: "Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?" Pilate answered: "Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: What hast thou done"?
And what did Our Saviour reply to this? "My Kingdom is not of This world ......
Here you have the clear and exact answer to the problem which is worrying all of us and which easily becomes a dividing issue. May the Church serve political ends? Of course not! This does not mean, however, that the Church should remain indifferent to what is happening around her. To provide an example, His Eminence quite naturally referred to what was experienced in the Far East.
Some high dignitaries of the Soviet Church appeared there one day. They made public speeches and were excellent orators. Many were charmed and delighted by their sermons. Not so the present speaker: on him they had an opposite effect. Things in no way deserving of praise were presented in glowing colors and any criticism was forbidden. St Gregory Nazianzen says that by silence is the truth often betrayed. Did not Metropolitan Philip accuse Ivan the Terrible? Was that interference in politics? No! Philip had spoken out as a loyal subject. He was not meddling in politics, but illuminating what was going on around him with the bright rays of the Gospel's eternal truth.
Do we not, then, receive a clear indication in the Gospels as to the Church's attitude towards politics?
His Eminence returns to Christ's conversation with Pilate. Pilate said unto him: "Art thou a king then?" Jesus answered: "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was, I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." "What is truth?" replies Pilate, and leaves. Truth Incarnate stood before Pilate, yet he turns away from Her, attempting to justify this action with his scornful question .... Once again, is it not directly to us that exact indication is given of the Gospel's attitude towards what is today at the center of the world's attention? Ecumenism! What is its mission, toward the realization of which it is attracting everyone? To search for the Truth! It is alleged that fragments of this Truth are to be found everywhere and that it merely remains to bring these segments together for the fullness of Truth to be revealed! How could our Church possibly agree to such a thing? By so doing She would only be delivering the Truth up to abuse and ridicule. No, our Holy Church has not committed, nor will She ever commit, this crime. Let all around us seek after the Truth, let them unite in the name of this task. The Orthodox Church is not a party to this quest: She has no need to look for the Truth - She possesses Her in full measure.
Metropolitan Philaret returns to the Far East in his recollections. There the Church had been preserved unimpaired. Only the vaguest rumours were heard of Western disagreements. The terrible trials arose with the coming of the Japanese. Great courage was displayed by the frail and ailing Metropolitan Meletius when the Japanese began to demand obeisance from all before their goddess Amaterasu. Even worse trials arose with the name of this task. The Orthodox Church is not a party to the Far Eastern Church's absorption by the Moscow Patriarchate, but pointed out a number of mitigating circumstances behind the tragedy. This made him all the more grateful to our Church in Exile for Her continued loyalty to Orthodoxy. And all of us must likewise become completely imbued with this feeling of gratitude. It is only the Russian Church Abroad which today continues to openly denounce godlessness. Her way is that of the Cross, but it is also the road to salvation. And here too, the Gospels will serve as our guide - so long as we firmly remember that there is only one purpose in the Church's existence: to prepare souls for eternity.
A number of other speakers followed, and all were heard with undivided attention by the vast auditorium. All were imbued with the one spirit. And the heart felt expressions of goodwill were equally warm as the speakers addressed themselves to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anastassy, and to his successor who was now being honoured. There was no loss felt because both metropolitans were regarded as one in the public eye. This conception was fully justified in the closing addresses of the two metropolitans.
The meeting was coming to a close. Of deep significance was Metropolitan Philaret's reply to the many welcoming addresses he had received. Having thanked all for their kind words, he cast his mind into the future. It was unknown to us. But do not all of us see what is happening in the world? Attempts are being made to reconcile the irreconcilable, everything is being dumped into one pile .... for what purpose? For the sake of material welfare and prosperity! Everyone keeps talking about peace - but will Our Lord grant peace to the wicked? We can only expect things to get worse in the future. Great trials and tribulations await us. High spiritual qualities, great courage and an unshakable faith will be required of all of us in order to withstand. And all these qualities - to the highest degree - will be demanded, first of all, from the head of the Church. He will have to possess the combined virtues of Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen and John Chrysostom .... His Eminence is unable to discover the barest trace of these gifts within himself. But he does not lose courage: prayer can do anything! Through the prayers of many even the weakest receive the strength of the Holy Spirit .... He implores all to remember him in their daily prayers ....
The final note was sounded in the gentle words of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anastassy. Let there be darkness ahead; his radiant and joyful outlook remained unclouded.
The Lord had heard our prayers. Our Lord had not abandoned His Church and had given us great comfort at the very time when we were in the direst need of it. We all manifestly experienced His grace. Our new head has brought us not only love, but strength of the Holy Spirit as well. Let us take his words close to heart ad let us pray the Lord to grant us all that spiritual strength without which a rebirth is impossible. May the Lord multiply His life-giving strength in His Church, -- He alone works miracles! He alone has the power to restore Holy Russia.
Many good wishes we have heard here today, emanating from the fullness of heart. But all these wishes come to but one thing, without which we will show ourselves powerless of doing anything truly good: we must be reborn in the Holy Spirit and unite in Him. For Satan himself has now appeared in the world. Terrible times are approaching. Only the grace of God can help us, and we have every reason to firmly believe we will receive His assistance. This day is a famous and historical day. Our Lord has manifestly extended His help to us. All around us the very depths of Hell are rapidly destroying all the foundations of the world. But the Lord is our strength. What can we ourselves do? Our strength is not in us, but in God. And He is with us. Let us pray to the Lord not to abandon us also in the days to come and to crush the head of the serpent with His power. Christ is Risen?
Thus ended this truly "historical and famous day", opening up a new era in the history of our Church in Exile .... Her only? ....