UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
“HEAVEN DESCENDS AND EARTH ASCENDS…”
Extraordinary Sobor Convenes to Elect a New Metropolitan
For the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA – Successor to Metropolitan Constantine of Blessed Memory
“As I find myself in these circumstances today – elected by this Holy Sobor as the fourth Metropolitan and First Hierarch of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, I realize that there is very little human involved in the sequence of events that surround me. It is as if Heaven has invaded this space and the human will and Divine Grace are united. Heaven descends and earth ascends. I think in the weakness of my humanity that I offer myself to God, but in reality He once again makes a gift of Himself to me and I am bathed in His Grace and in His Light”
These words are a portion of Archbishop Antony’s response to the just completed act of an Extraordinary Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA on Saturday, 6 October 2012, electing him as the successor to Metropolitan Constantine of Blessed Memory, as Metropolitan-Elect of the Church. The Sobor took place at the Metropolia Center of the Church in South Bound Brook-Somerset, NJ.
The Sobor began with Divine Liturgy served in St. Andrew Memorial Church with both Church hierarchs – His Eminence Archbishop Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel – concelebrating with the assistance of clergy from around the USA and hundreds of additional clergy and lay delegates to the Sobor and many guests who wanted to witness a moment of history. Bishop Daniel reminded all the participants in the Sobor that they bore a sacred responsibility under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to elect a new Metropolitan for the Church and asked that they keep their minds in a state of prayer throughout the Sobor sessions that they were about to enter into.
The Sobor was called to order by Archbishop Antony, Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan Throne of the UOC of USA who led the faithful in the singing of “O Heavenly King…” beseeching the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance during all the discussions and deliberations to follow and the Archbishop blessed the Sobor assembly for the work to begin. Immediately after this blessing, the meeting center went dark and a loving tribute to Metropolitan Constantine was presented in photograph montages and video clips. The first portion of the tribute consisted of photographs from the Metropolitan’s childhood, young adulthood, seminary life, priestly life in service to his parish community, his Archpastoral life during visits to various parishes and finally his administrative life as the ruling first hierarch of the Church – all aspects of one life lived for God.
The second part of the tribute consisted of a video tape of the Metropolitan’s loving address to those gathered to honor him on the occasion of his 40th anniversary of episcopal ordination, which took place just 36 hours prior to his repose in the Lord on 21 May 2012. He spoke about the innumerable times that the “finger of the Lord” intervened in his life – from youth to the present day – to guide him along the correct path to take in life, leading to the day of that consecration in 1972. His Eminence had been released from hospital only two days prior to this anniversary celebration and refused to grant permission to delay it because of the state of his health. It seemed that he just wanted the opportunity to see his beloved faithful one more time during the rapidly approaching end to this earthly part of his life journey.
The third part of the tribute consisted of another photo montage of the Rite of Priestly Funeral conducted for the Metropolitan on 25-26 May 2012 in St. Volodymyr Parish, Pittsburgh, PA. It was a beautiful reflection of the deep love his brother hierarchs of our own Church and many Orthodox jurisdictions from the USA, Canada and Europe and the hundreds of faithful from around the world exhibited as they participated in a final farewell to him. The hundreds of faithful gathered in the Ukrainian Cultural Center for the Extraordinary Sobor were visibly and deeply moved by this tribute and especially appreciative of the possibility they had to hear the Metropolitan’s final expressions of love for God and the faithful entrusted to his spiritual care.
The Sobor continued with the reading by Archbishop Antony of a beautiful message from His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, greeting all the participants of the Extraordinary Sobor “…with the sincere prayer and the sole purpose of electing a successor to the late Metropolitan Constantine”. “The election of a metropolitan hierarch is a profoundly liturgical and essentially theological event for the life of a Church. It is primarily a responsibility of servant-hood to the Body of Christ and a function of service to the Communion of Saints. It can never be reduced to a purely administrative obligation or merely a political role. This is something understood by Metropolitan Constantine of Blessed Memory…He both incorporated and incarnated the fundamental definition of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who taught that “where the bishop is, there also the entire Church is to be found.” His All-Holiness affirmed his presence amongst the participants of the Sobor in prayer and spirit during the Sobor, reminding of Christ’s promise to be with us “whenever two or three are gathered in His Name…” “It is our fervent prayer that your council deliberations may be blessed and that your elections will be fruitful as you pray for a spiritual father, pastor and metropolitan bishop to lead and guide the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA. May God be with you all.”
The Locum Tenens’ opening remarks to the Sobor Assembly were designed specifically to familiarize the clergy and lay delegates with the history of the UOC of USA through a commentary on the lives and service of the hierarchs who have served as Metropolitan or first hierarch of the Church since the first days of her organization back in 1918, ninety-four years ago. Included in this small group of exceptional men were the first bishop who guided the life of the Church – Germanos – a hierarch of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of the time – who was at the time on a very extended “visit” to the USA and after the repose of the hierarch of the Syrian church here offered spiritual care to the Syrian parishes and later to the Ukrainian communities from 1918 through 1924. He turned the leadership of the Church over to Metropolitan John (Theodorovich) who served for 47 years. He was succeeded by Metropolitan Mstyslav (Skrypnyk), who served for 22 years and was succeeded by Metropolitan Constantine (Buggan), who served for 19 years. The Archbishop presented the circumstances existent during the episcopal reigns of each of the metropolitans, the challenges they faced and the accomplishments and failures they achieved. In conclusion to his remarks, Archbishop Antony related the challenges and circumstances that the Metropolitan to be elected by the present Sobor would face and called for the entire to church to comprehend the need of supporting and working diligently with that new Metropolitan. The remarks served as a profound reflection about the necessary characteristics necessary for a Metropolitan and first hierarch to the Church. The full text of the address will be published on the UOC of USA website once they are finalized to include additional comments made by the Archbishop during his presentation. This and all other addresses before the Sobor will be published together.
His Grace Bishop Daniel addressed the Extraordinary Sobor. “How can we make this sacred selection this day and bestow the sacred responsibility on the shoulders of a new Metropolitan to lead the Church in the world of the 21st century? How can we, clergy and laity from every corner of our great country, do this alone, asking the Lord to confer the mission of binding and loosing?
Once again, we must know that we are not alone; we are surrounded, led and guided by the numerous fathers and mothers of our Church who have guided this Church by the grace of the Holy Spirit for almost 100 years now. Guided by the prayers of our hierarchs, clergy and laity of blessed memory, as well as those, whose legacy is still with us, such people of our Church, as Metropolitan John (Theodorovich), whose 125th (October 6, 1887) birthday would be celebrated today; Patriarch Mstyslav, and now Metropolitan Constantine. The newly elected Metropolitan will be following in the footsteps of these hierarchs… And how can he, humanly weak servant of God, assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How can one do this ministry? How will he be able to do this?
As I personally reflected upon the questions that I just posed, I prayerfully was renewed with the conviction: that we are not alone. The person whom we are going to elect as the Metropolitan of the Church does not have to carry alone what in truth one could never carry alone. All the Saints of God will be there to protect him, to sustain him and us and to carry him. And your prayers, my dear friends, our dedication, our love, our faith and our hope must accompany our new metropolitan. Following this sacred SOBOR, each one of you will be returning to your respective parishes to resume your work, but spiritually we must and will remain united in the faith and love of the Lord, in the bond of that Eucharistic celebration, in persistent prayer and in the sharing of our daily apostolic ministry.” His Grace’s remarks will also be among those published on the Church website in the near future.
Following the logistical appointments of Vice-Chairmen, Secretaries and Parliamentarian of the Sobor, V. Rev. Stephen Repa, parish priest of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Carnegie, PA spoke on the topic: “The Office of Metropolitan”. Fr. Steve gave a comprehensive explanation quoting from the Fathers of the Church and well-known Orthodox theologians about how the office of Metropolitan developed and a discussion of the different perspectives of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and other Christian Faith communities in their understanding of the role of a bishop in the life of their churches.
Sobor Parliamentarian, Dr. Gayle Woloschak, next detailed the process which would be followed in the actual election of the new Metropolitan. A nomination would be presented in the name of the Bishops of the UOC of USA, followed by a response from the nominee as to whether or not he would accept the nomination. If it was a positive response, then the actual election process would begin. A procession would enter the Sobor assembly room led by the Cross of our Lord, processional fans, a church banner and candle bearers in the person of St. Sophia Seminarians and a gold and silver chalice carried by a priest assigned by the hierarchs. Once the chalice was in place on the Tetrapod before the head table of the Sobor, the voting would begin. All members of the Church administrative bodies and Central Church Organizations – the Council of the Metropolia, the Consistory, the Ecclesiastical Court, the Audit Commission, the Ukrainian Orthodox League, the United Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhoods and St. Andrew Society would be called forth individually to present their Sobor mandates and receive a ballot to cast for the election. They would write the name of the hierarch they were voting for on the ballot and then approach the holy chalice with all reverence and humility to place their ballot therein. These individuals would then be followed by all parish priests and lay delegates from all our parishes, voting in the same manner. Following this, the procession would exit the assembly room along with one of the bishops and clergy members of the Church Audit Commission to count the votes, returning shortly thereafter to announce to the Sobor the results of the election.
At the conclusion of this informational presentation by the Parliamentarian, His Grace Bishop Daniel rose and approached the microphone to express the will of the bishops of the Church that the Locum Tenens of the Metropolia, His Eminence Archbishop Antony be nominated for the holy office of Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Bishop Daniel offered a moving tribute to the Archbishop and outlined his pastoral service to and accomplishments for the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church in through the last 27 years as a hierarch of the Church – that very day – 6 October – being the anniversary of his consecration in 1985 and through the total 40 years of his priestly service to the Church – since his ordination in November 1972 – the first priest Metropolitan Constantine ordained to the priesthood after his episcopal consecration.
The voting process took place in incredible solemnity with a silent assembly praying fervently that the Holy Spirit was guiding each and every delegate as they cast their ballots. It was an inspiring experience to witness the profound humility that the clergy and laity exhibited during the voting process and the tears in the eyes of many as they suddenly realized the historical and ecclesiastical importance of that simple, but highly theological and important (in the words of His All-Holiness) act of placing their ballots in the holy chalice. As they each wrote the name of the candidate on their ballot, a personal and permanent bond was created between them and the bishop they were voting for and the placement of the ballots in the chalice manifested their complete trust that Christ our Lord would strengthen that bond and poor forth His Grace upon the new Metropolitan and the Holy Church.
At the completion of the voting process, Bishop Daniel led the procession out of the Sobor Assembly and into the Consistory for the counting of the ballots. They returned just twenty minutes later to announce the results of the nearly 200 votes that had been cast. The assembly waited with great and excited anticipation until Bishop Daniel again approached the microphone to make the statement:
“Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial and Life-Giving Trinity, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to the delegates to this Holy Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to elect on this 6th day of October in the year of our Lord 2012 on the 27th anniversary of his episcopal consecration and the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination, to the office of Metropolitan of the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP ANTONY
The ruling hierarch of the Eastern Eparchy and Locum Tenens of the UOC of USA! AXIOS!"
The entire Sobor Assembly promptly rose to its feet and erupted with the response: Axios, Axios, Axios!
Archbishop immediately came forth and expressed his deep, deep gratitude to all the clergy and faithful gathered in Sobor for the trust they had placed in him and for the wonderful confidence he believed was justifiable about the future of the UOC of USA. He “invited Christ to enter into his innermost thoughts to change them so that he can live in unity with Him and become worthy of dwelling with the saints who have given themselves so completely over to Him, for the greatest event in the history of any soul is precisely when it is given over to Christ. How can one worthily tell of the beauty of such a moment?” These and the words, which appear at the beginning of this article are a small part of the heartfelt words of the Archbishop and the full text of the remarks will also be published on the Church website along with other Sobor addresses.
Archbishop Antony is now the Metropolitan Elect of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. The results of the Extraordinary Electoral Sobor have already been conveyed to His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew with the humble request that the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate formally elect the Archbishop as Metropolitan and enter his name into the diptychs of the Holy Orthodox Church. Many people present at the Sobor expressed the desire to travel with the Metropolitan Elect to Constantinople for the formal service confirming that induction into the diptychs. Once the Patriarchate informs our bishops about the decision of the Holy Synod and, hopefully, the date for this service, the possibility of organizing such a pilgrimage will be explored and announced to the faithful.
Following the election of the new Metropolitan, a vacancy was created in the leadership of the Church in the position of President of the Consistory, where Archbishop Antony had served since 1995. The Sobor nominations committee presented the candidacy of His Grace Bishop Daniel and by Sobor acclamation, he was pronounced as the successor to this important administrative office of the UOC of USA. Bishop Daniel addressed the Sobor speaking about his journey to the Faith – having been born and raised in Ukraine while it was still dominated by the Godless communistic regime. He presented a remarkable journey, which – as it was for Metropolitan Constantine – found the finger of the Lord always present to guide him to the right place at the right time to be in position to respond positively to the call of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to “follow Him”. The Bishop stated that he still finds it difficult to believe the path that he has followed, which led him into the hearts and souls of his brother bishops and the clergy and faithful sitting before him. He expressed his humble gratitude for their trust in him by electing him as President of the Consistory.
The only remaining items on the agenda were the announcement that the theme for the 20th Regular Sobor of our Church scheduled for October 2013 would be: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9).
The Fr. Volodymyr Lewytsky Scholarship Fund is a function of St. Andrew Society, a central organization of the UOC of USA. The administrator of the fund, Luba Lewytsky, daughter of Fr. Volodymyr, next addressed the Sobor along with St. Andrew Society President, Deacon Dr. Ihor Mahlay, to present $1,000 scholarships to each of eight St. Sophia Seminary students. The students were called forth to receive their awards and they expressed their sincere gratitude to the Society for its kindness and concern for the theological education of all the students.
The Sobor came to a close at the benediction offered by Bishop Daniel following the hymn to the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary. The delegates to the Sobor enjoyed a wonderful family meal prepared for them and could not stop discussing the beauty and spirituality of the events they had witnessed and participated in during the day. They were promised video DVD’s of the recordings of the Sobor sessions to share with the members of their individual parishes. It was a most blessed day in the lives of all the participants – delegates, alternates and guests – and one which they will never forget and will serve as inspiration for them all their lives.
Extraordinary Sobor Convenes to Elect a New Metropolitan - 10/08/12Photos by Elizabeth Symonenko and Subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas