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The Address of His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan Oner on the occasion of his enthronement as Metropolitan of the British Isles and Ireland for the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese.
St George’s Cathedral, London, 27 February 2016
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Your Eminences, Beloved Faithful…
I give thanks to the Holy Trinity for the grace of the holy episcopate bestowed on me, the unworthy. Everything comes from God, from the abundance of His grace and love. We are nothing without Him. It is by God’s will that these parishes came together to form this Archdiocese and by His will I am delegated to be its shepherd. I, in turn, totally rely on God’s will to accomplish His work in my ministry.
I am very grateful to the Holy Synod of Antioch and His Beatitude Patriarch John Xth of Antioch and All the East, who we all wish a quick recovery. By the Grace of God they have entrusted me with this Archdiocese as its first Antiochian Metropolitan, so that I may walk the path of obedience, working for my own salvation and the salvation of the faithful; and I come bearing the Cross of love and reconciliation.
The Antiochian Heritage
I am from the city of Antioch, the city where the apostles began the evangelisation of the world. Our Beatitude Patriarch John Xth says: “The Church of Antioch understands that the Christian mission is divine and universal and is being renewed in this age of secularism, globalisation and universalism.”
Here, today, we are following the missionary path of Antioch; working with all our brethren, to spread the Word of God throughout the world; preaching Jesus Christ our God, whom we are preparing to receive again in glory, in this world and the next.
The Church, according to St. Paul, is the community of believers united in Christ by Baptism, and growing through Holy Communion. By their different talents, the believers together are the Body of Christ, made one by Him, in whom there is no distinction. The Church is built on this foundation of unity in Christ and we will work according to this principle.
We are characterised not by where we came from, the physical “city” of Antioch limited by geography, but rather the great heritage of Antioch’s spirituality: the spirituality of her Fathers and Saints, especially the God-bearer Ignatius of Antioch, the great preacher John Chrysostom, the humble monk John of Damascus, and all those who have contributed to Her spiritual formation and in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is our Holy Heritage, our Sacred Living Tradition, to the glory of God, which we offer to all.
The Bishop and the Diocese
The role of the Bishop is not complete unless all believers fulfil their role: the priests, deacons, parish council, chanters, pastoral workers and parishioners. The grace of the Holy Spirit abiding in us unites us and sanctifies our work. The relationship between the Bishop and the believers is built upon evangelical love as taught by Christ: “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5). In love one reconciles and forgives in order to truly listen and understand each other working together for Christ’s sake. I pray that our relationships become a model for others, an example of love. By prayer we will build together a Holy Archdiocese founded on Christ’s pure love, to gathers the harvest of the faithful with all who love Christ.
I know that the devil will try us with temptations, trials, and obstacles, so put Christ in your hearts as He is above all passions so nothing can block our path to the Heavenly Kingdom, even if we lose many worldly privileges and suffer many things, these are nothing compared to our eternal victory in Christ.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we will use the gifts and talents of the Holy Spirit bestowed by grace, to fulfil our work in His Church; all working together according to our spiritual gifts, becoming vessels of the Holy Spirit and a Church pleasing to the Lord, a sanctified people and a people who sanctify others.
Parishes and Parish Councils
We are greatly blessed in our Parish Councils who help their parishioners to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through the Church, living a life in Christ by their example witnessing Christ to those they serve. From such work comes true prosperity in the Church. In our Councils, we find those who think, plan, work and support and their work is essential and indispensable to the glory of God. Work in the Church trains us to work in humility and in holiness, serving each other in love, giving of oneself selflessly to the other with no place for prideful ambitions. Without the Councils there would be no Archdiocese and I would not be here now.
Relations with the Others
We live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious modern society, enjoying the privileges of many freedoms for example freedom of opinion and speech. With any freedom and privilege comes responsibility not to abuse, or use them selfishly. Without the love of Christ and each other, they become a curse of confusion with no point of reference. Our freedoms must be guided like a lighthouse guiding the ship sailing in the storm and our guide is one, our Saviour Jesus Christ our God and Son of the Father. My beloved sisters and brothers, we must work together to make our churches lighthouses shining the light of Christ to guide each other and all the world, a spiritual reference throughout these Islands for the salvation of us all.
Avoiding all pharisaic judgment of others and any compromise of the Truth of Christ, the essence of what we offer our society, is the emphatic love of Christ which transforms our lives here, now, beginning in this world.
Call to Prayer
We pray for all those who are suffering and struggling, offering our practical support, consoling them as much as we can. By serving suffering people in this time of war, destruction, and displacement, we serve Jesus Christ Himself, revealing to all the countenance of Christ whose humble love embraces the world. We are guided by love to be open to others and to be respectful of their condition, accepting them as they are, encouraging others to love us as we love them.
Youth in Church
As for our youth, they are the future of our Church and we rely heavily on them to make our Church vibrant with life by the Holy Spirit. We must support them spiritually, practically and financially, so that they become a generation that loves God, ready to serve Christ in their Church. We will pass the Church into their care. I challenge the youth to accept and do this.
Ours is a missionary Church, preaching in society and witnessing by our example the Resurrected Christ. Let us use strength of our youth to be emissaries of Christ, harnessing their motivation as Christ’s soldiers. The Church needs you. Christ desires you. Become His children and missionaries, seeking first the sanctification of Christ in you, then bringing others to be sanctified by Him too.
To All My Children
My brothers and sisters, beloved children of this God protected Archdiocese:
you have many expectations of me, but I have nothing to offer, except to lead you to Christ, His love, teaching and salvation for you and for all people.
By loving each other first, we show all humanity that we are sons and daughters of Christ. The Son does not disobey the Father, so we, in His image, have to obey His words and example in our Holy Bible, by loving each other freely, willingly, unconditionally, carrying each others burdens gently and humbly imitating our Lord in all things.
Be Holy as Christ is Holy in your daily life, witnessing to others Christ’s example of love, beauty and splendour. Pray unceasingly, observe the fasts, read the Holy Bible, follow Christ’s teachings and example, keep all the Holy Sacraments of the Church, building your relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. Put the Archdiocese in the midst of your heart, keeping it there with love, cherishing our brothers and sisters in it. We are all called to be one before God through love of Christ and each other.
Now, at last, I am with you all. I will be with you in your parishes and homes sharing with you the words of our Lord and the consolation of our perfect faith. After so many decades of your asking our Lord, you now have a Bishop to be with you permanently. I will dedicate the rest of my life to serving you, the body of Christ His Church. Together we will strive to enter His salvation and pray for the salvation of the world. I will seek each of you out individually to find out how I can help and support you, to learn from you and do what you need of me and you will see how much I need you too.
Christ showed us the way of obedience and humility through the Great and Life-Giving Cross. He permits each of us to carry a small cross to lead us to salvation while He carried the Great Cross for the salvation of all. I will help you bear your cross and you will help me to bear mine, until it is time for us to join Him eternally, entering salvation together. Our lives are now bound to each other for evermore, our purpose is salvation and our destiny is Christ and only Christ.
We pray for peace in the suffering Middle East, especially for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Palestine whose lands are a battlefield, devastated by unholy war. We pray for the peace of God in the whole world.
The only way human suffering will end is by knowing and loving Christ. Man is not the cause of his own salvation and perfection. History teaches us that only by having Christ present in the hearts of all is the world transformed and perfected. Only Christ overcomes all our shortcomings, all our passions and sins. Man can only live in peace and unity by first being one with Christ, and so transforming the world: no more hate, war, famine, injustice, crime, divorce and the failure of love in our families and lives.
Like St Silouan the Athonite we pray fervently that the whole world comes to know Christ through the Holy Spirit. United in Christ our infinite joy begins and suffering ends, establishing God’s Heavenly Kingdom.
We must always remember in our prayers all the captives and prisoners, those who are wounded in body and soul, those who grieve for the loss of their loved ones, and especially for our kidnapped Metropolitans Paul and Youhana of Aleppo, and the many others who have been kidnapped including clergy. Remember always the remaining Christians in the Middle East.
A Word of Thanks
I am very grateful and thankful to you all.
To His Beatitude Patriarch John Xth represented today by Metropolitan Saba of Bosra Houran and Jabal al Arab and my brother Bishops, members of the Holy Synod of Antioch.
To Her Majesty’s Government for all the special care and help given to me to be here.
To Metropolitan Ignatius of France, Western and Southern Europe, for serving this Archdiocese on behalf of His Beatitude over the last two years.
To the Antiochian Orthodox Society of Britain and its leader, our beloved Dr Samir Hraiki and the members of its Board of Management who have worked over many decades.
To the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery whose work pleases God, chaired by our beloved Archpriest Gregory Hallam.
I especially greet and thank the representatives of our brothers in Christ from all the churches represented in this august gathering, with the warmth and affection of the love of Christ in my heart: Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord! We are your partners in Mission to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. In the years that God grants me to be with you, permit me to offer and commit myself to working with you for the glory of God; to participate with you in the defence of the Christian heritage and faith in these lands.
And finally I thank all the people who came to celebrate this historic moment in the life of our Archdiocese and all those who could not come whose prayers sustain us, your love touches my heart and humbles me.
I glorify and thank God for all of you who are going to help, support and build this Archdiocese to the glory of God and of these Islands.
God be with us!
of the British Isles and Ireland