All the blessings of the fast!
I want first and foremost to ask your prayers and forgiveness as we continue our lenten journey toward the Great and Holy Week and the Three-Day Pascha of our Lord.
It is not lost on me that as I sit and write this brief reflection it is the seventh anniversary of the retirement of our beloved Archbishop Dmitri of blessed memory. For YEARS now we have been praying in our liturgical services "that the Lord our God, in His mercy and providential care for us, will call forth for His flock a true shepherd of wisdom and strength, blessing us with a Bishop to care for the well-being of our Diocese, and to unite His faithful people in a zealous confession of the Orthodox faith", and yesterday we received the news that FINALLY a bishop has been elected for the Diocese of the South.
This is indeed a momentous day for our diocese; a day in which would should "rejoice and be glad". It is also a day, too, that is tinged by something of the "bright sadness" which accompanies this season of Great Lent. We all (or at least most of us) were hoping for a different outcome. Let me be the first to say that I am disappointed. I too had hoped the Synod would accept our nomination. Alas, they have seen fit to provide us with another.
While I am am in no way privy to the workings of the Synod, I have had ample opportunity to work with Metropolitan Tikhon in these last weeks leading up to this election. Even not having received my hoped for outcome, I am instilled with the confidence that His Beatitude, as our locum tenens, represented the concerns of our diocese to his brother bishops and worked to garner a consensus on the Synod for our nomination.
With this decision made, the "purple demons" of lent will no doubt work to lead many of us to temptation. They will tempt us to feel rebuked and rejected, and this may lead to sadness and anger. We all need, therefore, consciously to strive to see the election of Bishop Alexander as God's answer to our prayer of these many years. In Bishop Alexander we now have as our second ruling hierarch a man who is both a scholar and a monk. More importantly, we have a man who is a gentle and thoughtful pastor, one whom we should receive in joy and gratitude as the fulfillment of God's providence towards us.
Bishop Alexander will meet with Archimandrite Gerasim, the deans, and me in a couple of weeks' time. There will be more details concerning the transition then. In the meantime, the work of the church continues. Please do not lose sight of this.
I will close with a quotation from Archbishop Dmitri's letter announcing his retirement:
"I feel confident that with our current Synod of Bishops as well as Diocesan leaders (both clergy and laymen) already in place, that the work of the Orthodox Church in the South will continue. Together we have helped to lay the foundation which is Christ, and now it is time for others to build upon our labors (1 Corinthians 3)."
His words have proved true thus far, and it is my fervent conviction that they will continue to do so.
If you have any concerns at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I remain faithfully yours in Christ Jesus, the Lord,