Following a successful week at the annual Diocesan Clergy Seminar, a pleasant visit at the West Coast Chancery and other times for spiritual fellowship, Their Graces, Bishop JOSEPH and Bishop TIKHON concelebrated the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Through the laying on of their hands, they ordained to the priesthood Rev. Fr. John Christensen, whom Sayidna JOSEPH sent to St. Tikhon’s Seminary where Vladyka TIKHON lives, teaches and serves.
Vladyka TIKHON, Bishop of the Orthodox Church in America’s (OCA) Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania and Deputy Abbott and Rector at St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, spoke to our clergy about Pursuing a Spiritual Manner of Living: Ascetical Struggle and Liturgical Prayer as Doors to Divine Life, the seminar theme. After his series of discussions and question-answer sessions, nearly all of the clergy remarked that Vladyka himself was the best part of the seminar. Vladyka’s talks will be available soon on compact disc; check back with the Diocesan website in the near future.
Sayidna JOSEPH welcomed Vladyka TIKHON to the Cathedral on Sunday, February 15. Fr. John, a second-year student at St. Tikhon’s, served his last Liturgy as a deacon before being led around the holy altar table by his sponsors for the priesthood: V. Rev. Great Economos Michel Najim and Rev. Fr. George Ajalat, the Cathedral Dean and Assistant Pastor. Fr. John’s whole family, including his wife, Khouriyee Barbara, and 100-year-old mother made the trip from northern California for this blessed event.
Vladyka TIKHON then gave the homily on the double significance of the day: the Prodigal Son and the ordination. He, like the Church Fathers, called the parable a “miniature Gospel” in and of itself. “The father is an icon of God the Father, Who gives us nothing but joy and blessings,” Vladyka said. “When the son asks for what is his, the father doesn’t protest, but he expresses his love in actions and silence.” As the parable continues, the prodigal son wastes his share from his father, because “he doesn’t realize what he received was already his, but only when he is united to the source of those blessings – the son cut himself off from his father’s life.”
We, too, depart from our Father’s mansion and feast, Vladyka continued, but we return through repentance to the great feast – the Eucharist. Then, Vladyka reminded that the older son, who became bitter at his father when he royally received back his younger brother, is also a prodigal. “His heart was darkened to the love of his father,” Vladyka said. “The older son was never there to see and celebrate his brother’s return. The darkness in his heart was darker than the foreign land his younger brother ran off to.”
And then Vladyka congratulated Fr. John on his ordination. “Fr. John made his way to the Father, clothed with the robe of priesthood,” he said. “He is called to lead God’s children into the heavenly kingdom.” During the Liturgy, right after the bread was consecrated into the Body of Christ, Sayidna JOSEPH placed it into Fr. John’s hands with the charge: “Receive thou this pledge, and preserve it whole and unharmed until thy last breath, because thou shalt be held to an accounting thereof in the Second and Awesome Coming of our Great Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.” We pray that God will bless Fr. John’s ministry as our hierarchs have described it, as he faithfully offers sacrifice and love to God the Father in behalf of the people he serves.
By Subdeacon Peter Samore