On this day, December 20, in 1915, Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov) of Warsaw fell asleep in the Lord in the Russian city of Petrograd (St. Petersburg). The Right Reverend Nicholas, with the title of "Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska," was the ruling hierarch or our Church in America from 1891 to 1898 and resided here, in San Francisco.

In commemoration of this outstanding missionary and Church builder, we publish here Bishop Nicholas' archpastoral message to Hieromonk Sebastian (Dabovich), another great personality in the history of Orthodox America.

According to Church records, a child of Serbian parents, John Dabovich was baptized in San Francisco in 1863 by the chaplain of Russian navy ship "Mighty," Father Cyril. As an adult, bearing the monastic name of Sebastian, he became the very first American-born Orthodox priest and was appointed to be the English preacher of the Cathedral by Archbishop Vladimir (Sokolovsky).

Archimandrite Sebastian died on August 30, 1946, in a monastery in Yugoslavia.

A Message

To Hieromonk Sebastian (Dabovich) As He Is Awarded
A Gold Pectoral Cross From The Office Of His Majesty

November 29, 1892

With the blessing of the Most-holy Ruling Synod of All Russia and by the assent of the Most-pious Emperor, this high sign of distinction is now bestowed upon you, my beloved brother in the Lord. It is granted to you not only as a reward for your devout ministry in the lower ecclesiastical ranks; but even more so, as an encouragement in the ever greater labors and heroic tasks which you will continue to face in your missionary ministry.

This distinction is truly high: in other Churches it is bestowed only upon bishops, and in our Church -- only to the most distinguished of presbyters. Endeavor to be always worthy of this award!

Let this cross, bestowed upon you today, serve you as a permanent reminder, not of your foremost dignity among your brethren but rather of your foremost duty to proclaim the Word of God (I Cor. 1:18, 28, 24) there, where this is impossible for others. Let this cross reminds you that your preaching of the Cross should not be with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (I Cor 2:4), that is not in eloquence and not in dialectical constructions of ideas, but rather in the internal strength of Christian conviction.

Looking at this cross, remember that not all who bear crosses enter into paradise, on the contrary, very often it happens that some descend all the way to hell. Thieves crucified together with Christ may serve as an illustration to this truth.

Looking at this cross, remember that you and I, and everyone else have to be crucified with Christ with the passions and lusts (Gal. 5:24), because, as the Apostle testifies, flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (I Cor. 15:50). But if this is mandatory of every Christian, then how much more so to one like you, that is, to a monk and preacher of the Word of the Cross.

Looking at this cross, you too have to imitate in every way Him Who was crucified upon it, that is, to continue His work, the work He did here on earth.

It was love, that brought down upon earth Christ the Savior; that is for our sakes He became poor (II Cor. 8:9), He humbled Himself even unto death, even the death on a cross, being in toil and hardship. Not for His own sake, but for our salvation -- because of our incontinence -- He, Who is the Lord of all, endured hunger and thirst, was naked and had no place to rest His head. And in this you also have to imitate your Savior, because you were not forced to pick up the cross of a monk and a missionary, but did it of your own free will, for yours and others salvation.

This made you not your own but Christ's (Gal. 3:29), now you should seek not your own (I Cor 13:5), but the things which are Jesus Christ's (Phil. 2:21) in order for you not to be counted among those who, according to the Apostle, crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh (Heb. 6:6).

Looking at this cross, remember often in your prayers those who brought you to the monastic cross-bearing and those who, awarding you this cross, bring your mind and heart to the heights of the Cross of Christ and to deeds for the glory of this Cross.

The power of the precious and life-giving Cross of Christ be with you always. Amen.

Translated from Russian
First publication in English in The Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, 12/20/1992

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