Acceptance Address of Archimandrite Tikhon (Fitzgerald)

Given at the Proclamation of his Election as Bishop of San Francisco

Diocese of the West
May 29, 1987

Your Beatitude, Most Reverend Archpastors, wise in God, by God's holy will and through the election of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Holy Orthodox Church in America, I am to become a bishop.

As I think of the loftiness, holiness, and responsibility of the service of a bishop before God Almighty, I am gripped by fear and apprehension. I am also very deeply troubled, realizing how sinful I am, confronting my spiritual poverty -- perceiving my lack of the essential qualities that a bishop must possess and which should be his adornment. It is only by hoping for God's omnipotent Grace Which heals the infirm and completes that which is lacking, hoping in the untiring intercessions of the All-Holy Theotokos, filled with Grace, and of all God's saints that I receive strength to overcome these my spiritual misgivings.

In these moments, which are indeed sacred to me, I bow in full submission to God's inscrutable will and accept your command gratefully and say nothing contrary to it, appealing with the Prophet lsaiah, "Here I am; send me" (Is. 6:8).

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul recalled how Christ said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." The same Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (I Timothy 1:15) and be counseled him to be "a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15). From these words I take heart, even though fearful, to receive apostolic Divine grace.

Beloved archpastors, guides, teachers! As I see you before me, I cannot help but ponder on the mystery and magnificence of the holy episcopate. The bishop's mitre is frequently compared to Christ's crown of thorns. And one bishop of the suffering Church has compared the bringing out of the dikiri and trikiri candles at the conclusion of the bishop's vesting at Divine Liturgy to the carrying of torches by those who came to arrest Christ prior to His crucifixion. Here is part of the mystery of the holy episcopate, that it is no one's episcopate but Christ's, Whose suffering, kenotic, self-emptying Image is preserved in our holy Church. As you prepare to consecrate me to this high and magnificent ministry of suffering, I reflect on the form which this consecration has in our Holy Tradition. The consecration cannot be accomplished by one bishop acting in isolation from the rest of the holy episcopate; indeed, an Orthodox consecration is an act of the whole episcopate, and the form makes this obvious. I see that my whole episcopate will be, indeed must be, guided by this same holy principle, sometimes called catholicity, sobornost, wholeness. I must always be alert to act together with you and all other bishops in all that I initiate and complete, so that all may see and know that the Church is indeed one in Christ as Christ is One. From this reflection I draw inspiration for plotting my future course as a bishop of the flock which you are about to entrust to me. I have to pursue Unity in Love before everything else in the diocese, so that all may see and know that we are of Christ. The Psalmist has said, "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." May my staff be a comfort to the flock, a means of maintaining them in the fold, not a means of dividing them.

Now I thank God Almighty for the faith which was imparted to me on my mother's knee. I thank Him for those first Orthodox people I met, over thirty-five years ago, displaced persons from the eastern Ukraine who were so zealous in the practice of their Orthodox faith as to capture my heart for the Orthodox Church so delicately, yet so invincibly, that my mind, my body, and all my senses and feelings eventually followed my heart and were sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Chrismation. I thank God for the example which you, Your Beatitude, and you, most reverend lord bishops and a multitude of clergy and laity, have given me on the way to this moment especially, Your Beatitude, for your own patience, understanding, kindness and real humanity. I pray to the heavenly protectors of the cathedrals of the Diocese of the West -- the All-Holy Life-Giving Trinity, Protector of this, the See-cathedral of the Diocese; the All-Holy Theotokos, Rescuer of the Perishing, under whose holy Icon the Los Angeles cathedral reposes; and the great Saint Spiridon, Shepherd of Crete, heavenly Protector of the venerable Seattle cathedral, an early and inspiring example of inter-ethnic Orthodox cooperation: All-Holy Trinity, glory to Thee! Most Holy Theotokos, save us! Holy Father Spiridon, pray to God for us!

Finally I turn to my own heavenly protector, our Father among the Saints -- Tikhon, Bishop of Voronezh, Wonderworker of Zadonsk, and to the brethren of St. Tikhonıs Monastery for comfort and sustenance in prayer. Saint Tikhon's biographer writes that the See of Voronezh was a difficult assignment because there had been a large turnover of bishops in preceding years. The path of my own namesake-predecessor on the throne of San Francisco, sainted Patriarch Tikhon, was such as to inspire awe and dread and humility in any beholder. May the All-Merciful Lord never desert me in the future, as He never has in the past. Thanks be to Him for everything!

I ask you humbly, hierarchs of God, to pray for me and bless me for the hard ministry ahead of me, so that I may not be a temptation or stumbling block to the faithful, but that I may rightly divide the Word of Truth for the sake of my own salvation and of that of those faithful to Christ who are to be entrusted to me. Amen.

The Orthodox Church, July 1987, page 6.

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