Famous Byzantine chanter Fr. Elias Bitar reposes in the Lord

Union Bridge, Maryland, May 22, 2020

Photo: Facebook Photo: Facebook The world-renowned priest and Byzantine chant expert Archimandrite Elias (Bitar) reposed in the Lord yesterday afternoon, May 21.

An obituary by his son, Antony, was published on the site of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

It is with faith in our Risen Lord that we inform you of the passing into eternal life of our beloved father, grandfather, brother, friend, and pastor, The Right Rev. Archimandrite Elias Bitar, in the afternoon of May 21, 2020.

Father Bitar leaves behind a lifelong legacy as “the voice of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.” During his nearly forty years in the priesthood, he has been a Lecturer in Liturgical Music (with a specialty in Byzantine music) and Practical Theology at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, and the residing priest for churches in California and New Jersey. Father Elias studied for his Master of Divinity degree at St. Vladimir's from 1972–1975, and subsequently earned a Doctor of Ministry from the Seminary in 2001.

Father Elias Bitar is survived by his children Katrina, Sr. Ignatia, Martha, Mikey, Antony, and Madeleine, as well as his grandchildren Zachary, Jacob, Samia, and another granddaughter on the way.

He is reunited in His heavenly kingdom with his wife Kh. Joanne,​ and his parents Sadallah and Zahwe Bitar.

… In lieu of flowers, kindly send all donations to The Monastery of St. Nina​ in Union Bridge Maryland, where Fr. Bitar resided.

Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen​!​

It is also noted that information will be provided later for all to participate in Fr. Elias’ livestreamed funeral.

May his memory be eternal!


Listen to Fr. Elias chant the Great Doxology:

A number of remembrances and words in honor of Fr. Elias have been posted on social media.

Fr. Joel Gillam of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania writes:

I have been blessed in my life to have had several priests that have mentored me to greater or lesser degrees… Today that rank of wonderful priests is joined by another priestly mentor Fr. Elias Bitar. I will always remember his gentleness as he tried to get me to learn Byzantine chant, his compassion pastoring me as one of many seminarians, lunch over Chinese food, or pie at Olympus diner. Throughout more than a decade of PLCs under my belt there was his voice chanting and it truly was the presence of heaven in the midst of the earth. Likewise there was his calm presence to always greet us with true joy and love in his heart no matter how much time had passed. I pray that I might remember 1/10th of what these kind priestly men tried to teach me, and I ask for their prayers before the throne. May his and their memory be eternal, may they rest among the Saints. Allah yer’hamo. Christ is risen!

Fr. John Mahfouz of St. Matthew Antiochian Orthodox Church in Torrance, California describes him as, “A selfless, loving, and generous Priest. A spiritual father, teacher, and servant.”

And Hieromonk Jeremy (Davis) of Holy Ascension Antiochian Orthodox Church in Norman, Oklahoma writes: “Memory eternal! He has been an encouraging spiritual father to many and a steadfast presence in our archdiocese. He will be missed, but we will benefit from his prayers for us at the throne of God!”

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Subdeacon Basil5/24/2020 4:37 pm
In 1996 I attended a gathering at Rose Hill College. I was clearly an outlier, a Protestant truck driver crashing a retreat for Episcopal priests and their wives invited to meet Bishop Basil. I was welcomed as if it was planned that I should be there, and it was a very helpful time for me. But, on the last evening of the event, at Vespers, as I entered the chapel, Father Elias, who was standing at the chanters stand with one other person, turned and invited, almost insisted, that I join them! It is appropriate for me to be recounting this on the Sunday of the Blind Man. That intimate experience of participating instead of observing came me the courage to ask out loud what I had to do to become part of the Orthodox Church. That was the extent to my interaction with Father, but it was very important in my journey, and I will remember always his timely and gracious invitation to a blind man!
Father Rodney Torbic5/23/2020 1:23 pm
Christ is Risen! Father Elias was a classmate at St.Vladimir's. He was always gentle, kind and full of joy whenever I saw him. May God give rest to his soul.. MemoryEternal!
Andrew5/23/2020 6:09 am
This is an obituary, this is not the appropriate forum to discuss the differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism. I hope the family does not see the above comment as it is incredibly disrespectful to the people who are grieving and remembering their beloved father/grandfather/colleague.
Priest Seraphim Holland 5/22/2020 4:00 pm
I didn't know father, and I will pray for him, but it seems to me that those who love him and extoll his virtues and also not sound like Protestants and talk about him being reunited in heaven with his wife. I hope that is so, and we can have a quiet confidence that that is, but should we deprive this man of Prayer by Assuming he's in heaven? That's not the Orthodox way. That's the way Protestants talk. We may be in a western society that does not understand such things, but we are Orthodox Christians and we do understand such things so should we should not talk like they do. Priest Seraphim Holland
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