Beloved in Christ,
We are about to be blessed with the visit of our shepherd, His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, the bishop of the God-Saved Metropolis of Denver. I am excited, and I hope that you are as well, to share the love of our community with our bishop. St. Ignatius, an apostle of St. John the Evangelist and the bishop of Antioch, while en route to Rome to be sentenced to death for his faith wrote several letters to the local Churches he encountered. In his letter to the Church of Smyrna, he wrote the following:
"See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church...”
Now, there is a lot to unpack there. For now let us dwell on gathering around the bishop, and drawing our identity from our association with him. His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah is our local apostolic witness. He delivers the Gospel to us, and by so doing, brings us all into the Kingdom of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As a presbyter, my identity and office is entirely tied to His Eminence, and his blessing and command by which I serve this community. This is a formal relationship, but it is also a personal one, as I pray it is for all of us.
It is my fervent wish that we all surround our hierarch when he visits. I pray to see pews full beyond capacity, to be gathered around him as we worship God and receive from His Eminence the Holy Eucharist, the food which provides us eternal life.
Following St. Ignatius’s analogy; we can’t call ourselves Christians, members of the Church, if we don’t gather around Christ our Savior. Our identity with the entire Church is wrapped up in this orientation. Likewise, our sense of who we are as a parish is properly formed by our relationship with our Metropolitan. Let us begin the month by receiving his blessing, and carry that blessing through the month, and the year, and all our life. After all, we pray for our Bishop in every service, and we ask God to grant him many years, that he might rightly teach the word of truth, that is, the Gospel. By extension, we his community should pray that we facilitate his work and endeavor to share in it.
The Challenge, if we choose to accept it, is to be here with His Eminence, and to consider our identity; with Christ, with the Church, with His Eminence, and with our parish. We all have the capacity to strengthen all of these bonds. When we do, the light of Christ will radiate from our faces, and the world will be drawn to community with Him. As we begin catechism classes, organize our library, start byzantine music classes, and start young adult gatherings - and all the other already extant ministries of this parish - let each of us ask how we can serve our parish, our bishop, our Church, and our God. The ways are many, and there is at least one for each of us - in roles of giving and of receiving.