Enthronement of the Right Reverend Seraphim

Bishop Seraphim : Speech
The Right Reverend Seraphim
Bishop of Ottawa and of Canada
Holy Trinity Sobor
Ottawa, Ontario
28 October, 1990

Response to the Decree of Election

Lord, You have been our refuge in all generations” (Psalm 89:1).

In his farewell address to the Church in North America, our father among the saints, the Holy Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, Enlightener of North America, said that “it is self-evident that the Lord God helped us” (New York, 7 March 1907). In response to the election of the faithful of Canada, and of the Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America, and in direct response to the paternal love, support and admonitions of our beloved father, His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius, I find that this simple, profound statement burns into the very heart of my being as I stand before you today. In response to these demonstrations of God’s Will acting, I now dare to make those very words of Saint Tikhon my own : “It is self-evident that the Lord God helped us !”

The life of this Archdiocese of Canada has been far from easy. It has been one of knowing want, dissension, strife, and discouragement. It has suffered polemics and division from within and without over the years. The archdiocese has been at the mercy of all sorts of foreign catastrophes, upheavals, and misunderstandings. However, that this archdiocese exists today, that it continues to live in attempted fidelity to the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, that by the mercy of God this archdiocese has come to this moment, should be ample evidence that “it is self-evident that the Lord God helped us”.

It is with great thankfulness for the help of the Lord God, for the mercy and saving love of the Lord God which is so freely given to me, to my brothers and sisters, to our whole archdiocese, that I undertake the task of being the ruling Bishop of Ottawa and of Canada. By this time I should not be unaware of the work to be done. Our father, Metropolitan Theodosius, has by inspiration of the Lord broken me in over the last three years by making me his administrator. I believe I know something of the immense work needed to bring Canada fully to Christ. However, I am equally aware of the immense, immeasurable Grace that we as an Orthodox people have known in Canada : the Grace given to the faithful – those known, and unknown, those who from generation to generation have been faithful to Jesus Christ, and who have brought us to this historic day by their prayers, tears, love, and repentance.

It is true that in our history there has been a great amount of suffering and deprivation. If ever there were a tree thoroughly pruned, that is us ! However, it has been a history filled with brilliant lights as well. We cannot forget the long pastorate of Archbishop Arseny who, as Archimandrite and then Bishop, preached and taught from his centre in Winnipeg, and who became known as another Chrysostom. We cannot forget the many priests who laboured in Christ’s vineyard, often near starvation amongst hungry people. There have been very many : bishops, priests, deacons, lay people, who have steadfastly clung to Jesus Christ and who have declared His love by their lives. I do not want us to forget the struggles of the families of all those priests and faithful who shared not only the hardships, but also the experience of God’s love in action.

As you can see, and most of you know very well, my beloved, our past has been difficult ; and I really do not expect that the present or future will be much easier. Yet, in the face of such a prospect, it is important not to be overwhelmed. Although any one of us alone would certainly be tempted to despair, we must never believe that we are working alone. The bishop does nothing alone, and neither does any one of the flock. This ministry of building up the Body of Christ, of saving souls, is our work. We do it all together. It is true that the fallen world is not too friendly to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that there are many huge obstacles for us. The powers of darkness attempted to extinguish the light of Christ. However, it is this same Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is our Life ; it is He who will accomplish His will in us, and, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, do the work which otherwise seems to be so impossible. It is in Jesus Christ that we find the resources necessary – like the five loaves and two fishes of the Gospel – to feed, to care for, to clothe, to heal, to love, and to make known the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to this hungry, naked, unloved, unsaved land.

Our father, Saint Tikhon, said that “the light of Orthodoxy is not lit for a small circle of people” (New York, 17 March 1907). How often have we been told the opposite by one source or another in Canada during our lives ? The light of Christ is not lit for a small circle of people, but for all people, for all our land, for all our world. That is exactly the direction of the Gospel. Nevertheless, my beloved, for this light to be seen and to give light and life, this light of Orthodox Christianity must be lit in us. It is in us that the light of Christ must be held high for all to see. It is not held high by fancy talk, by eloquent preaching, by clever teaching. It is demonstrated in concrete acts of love in everyday life, minute by minute.

Saint Tikhon once again reminds us today :

It is our obligation to share our spiritual treasures, our truth, our light and our joy with those who have not these gifts. And this duty lies not only on pastors and missionaries, but on lay people, for the Church of Christ, in the wise comparison of Saint Paul, is a body, and in the life of the body every member takes part (New York, 17 March 1907).

Our holy father Tikhon, the founder of the Church in Canada, also tells us that taking part in the “life of the body” and the work of sharing our treasures requires three specific areas of effort : first, “by personal missionary effort” in the society in which we live ; second, “by monetary support [for the Church] and service to the ‘needs of the saints [the faithful]’” (yes, the saints do speak of money needs in the Church !) ; third, “by prayer to the Lord that He might ‘establish and increase His Church’, and that He might ‘teach the word of truth’, to those who do not know Christ, might ‘reveal to them the Gospel of righteousness’” (New York, 17 March 1907).

And so, my beloved, this is your, my, our work. It is the Lord’s work, and it is that which enables you, me, us to say : “It is self-evident that the Lord God helped us” along with our holy father Tikhon.

And now, as we step forward together in Christ, as we together set our hand to the plough, let us also once again recall the instruction of our first elder and missionary, Saint Herman, the Elder and Wonder-worker of Alaska. It is he who, with others, planted the Holy Cross in North America ; and it is he who, by his prayers, helps us now, as we exalt the Holy Cross here in Canada. It is he who says to you, and to me : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all”.