The Address of His Eminence, Metropolitan Saba to our Bishop upon his Ordination
To My Brother in the Episcopate
When the Patriarch of Antioch placed his right hand upon your head and lifted up the Holy Gospel, brought by the hands of your brother bishops, he called down up you the Spirit of God to perfect your human imperfection, heal your infirmities, and release you into the service of His Church. The bishop, my brother, is the primary guardian of the Lord’s most precious deposit, His Church.
From now on you have become a watchman guarding over the purity and uprightness of this Church militant. Keeping watch over your soul and keeping watch over the Church are always inseparable.
Inasmuch as you are vigilant about the purity of your soul and are attentive to its salvation, it will be a factor for the purification of the Church of the Lord and an instrument for the salvation of the children of your diocese whom He has placed in your custody. They are His children and they become your children inasmuch as you are truly a child of God. A child bears the attributes of his father. Thus you emulate your Heavenly Father. We humans, including us bishops, are your brothers. However, we bear our imperfect humanity and remain without a model. You are what you have and our stumbling. Always fix your gaze on the Model and rely on the activity of the Lord, here and there, among your weak brothers.
You are going to a foreign land. Good. This will remind you of your authentic home: the Kingdom of Heaven. There you will serve a people who were born in the Orthodox faith and who have the usual freedom of a son of the house that may reach the point of irreverence, and have disadvantages as well as advantages. You will also serve people who came to Orthodoxy after a journey of searching and study.
Be a father to all. The people of today are in dire need of a father. Our world today has lost its fathers. You will come across many in your new sojourn who do not understand the fatherhood of God because they have not had a father on earth. For them your fatherhood will be an image of God’s fatherhood. If they sense your compassion, your watching over them and your sternness with them when necessary, then they will see fatherhood and will turn to God exclaiming “Our Father”. Europe threw away its heart long ago and its mind took total control, while the East suspended its mind, leaving its heart captive to passions and the effects of emotion.
You are called to serve both in your diocese. Perhaps God wanted you there because He knows the balance and harmony between the two that He has given you. Treat them all as your children and love them as your children. A father loves, educates and rears. This mission of his succeeds when it is based on love, setting a good example, and sobriety. Whatever we may teach and do, people are still most affected by our example and our love. You will devote yourself in your diocese to spiritual service. There is no integration in that part of the world between the world and religion, as we have here. The people there do not need the Church for their basic necessities. However, they are in need of meaning, the meaning of their existence, the meaning of their life. Your mission is to bear witness to them of the fullness of life, that which Christ unleashed within you as soon as you were aware of His empty tomb and the work of His presence within you. The world is enticing, but it does not fill and it never satisfies those who chase after it. The world is in need of true witnesses to the true joy of the Lord.
You will be a witness to His joy, His peace and His presence. At the beginning of your new pastorate, you will lack a personal pastoral role, but you will make up for this by first of all tending to the priests. The bishop, my brother, is responsible first of all for tending to the priests, so that they may tend to the people of God. They live alongside the people and are with them in the details of their life. However, the bishop sets their pastoral policy and directs them in the steps to implement it. He watches over them and assesses them so that, if they serenely dedicate themselves to pastoral service, they bring into it inner peace and tranquillity.
Now you are bishop over a diocese and responsible for it. However, through your presence on the Holy Synod of Antioch, you do not limit yourself to only your own diocese. The episcopate is universal. Every bishop is a universal bishop, in the sense that he bears the pains and challenges of the Church and is sensitive to them. We have been given the duty of facing and solving them, wherever they may be, naturally according to the canons of the Church. Do not limit yourself to your own diocese and become isolated from your brothers and their dioceses. Even if you are geographically far away, contribute to strengthening the bonds of unity between our dioceses. Our people long for a situation that makes them feel that they are embraced by their family of faith. Is it right for us to be members of Christ’s family and be entirely concerned with just a part of this family? You come from a people that is wounded and broken but still standing. You come to your dioceses with the suffering of your Antiochian people in your heart and there you will bear witness to their faith and spiritual strength. The experience of suffering catches the ear of humanitarians, and for them it may be an entryway to knowledge of Christ who embraces all, who only asks in return for it “that we have the fullness of life” (cf. John 10:10).
You will contribute to Christ’s being Master of the hearts of the people of that country. Your children who have come from other churches to Orthodoxy came to it seeking the spiritual fullness that they have found in it. You know that the West has come to be materialistic to a terrifying degree, but people still search, in every place, for some spiritual fullness. In that you have been brought from your upbringing in a purely Orthodox environment, you are called from now on to embody what you experienced in a new land and in new souls. In the beginning, you will need to listen, have patience, and very often keep silent with keen attention. This is so that you will be able to understand their culture, their way of thinking and how to speak to them. You will learn this quickly inasmuch as God has granted you intelligence, peace and love.
Put everything before Him and start out with trust. It is enough for you that He called you and you yourself never once sought the position you are now in. He who accompanied Tobias with an angel and delivered him safely shall alone accompany you and make firm your steps so that you may always be according to His heart.