the Synaxis of Optina Elders, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God in the St. Ambrose Stavropegal Convent, Shamordino. At the Liturgy, His Holiness presided over the consecration of Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) as bishop of Egorevsk, Vicariate of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
Fr. Tikhon, now Bishop Tikhon is well known in Russia as the abbot of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery, and the Secretary for the Patriarchal Council for Culture. He also stands out for his work in the reunification of the Russian Church Outside of Russia with the Moscow Patriarchate, and is beloved around the world as the author of the highly popular book, Everyday Saints and Other Stories.
At the end of the Liturgy, His Holiness Kirill entrusted Bishop Tikhon with the bishop’s staff, and gave a parting homily on the occasion.
Your Eminence, Bishop Tikhon!
God’s unspeakable love has gathered us together here, so that having delighted in the feast of faith and tasted of the Table of Thanksgiving we would become partakers of and witnesses to the birth in the Holy Spirit of a new bishop of Christ’s Church. Today you have received the great gift of the Heavenly Comforter, vouchsafing you to experience the same feelings and the same inexpressible spiritual joy that the apostles once experienced when they all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication (Acts 1:14) in the Upper Room. From this moment you are the inheritor of their labors and the successor of their service.
Signed with God’s grace, you have now acquired the gift of preaching the Gospel with special boldness and great power, as did Christ’s disciples when they set out to the ends of the world to carry the word of truth about Christ’s resurrection. Therefore, striving to manifest faithfulness to the Church and obedience to its First Hierarch, at the same time Neglect not the gift that is in thee (1 Tim. 4:14). Strive to use all your talents and abilities for the benefit of Holy Orthodoxy, that the Lord Who today has placed you on His candle stand would not deprive you of His grace-filled help and support.
The Master of Life has appointed you to carry the labors of the Patriarchal vicariate in our country’s capital city, required you to preach the “glad tidings of peace, to preach good news, and to publish salvation” (cf. Is. 52:7). And your main task is to go to all lengths to make it our city the Mother city not only in name, but also according to its inhabitants’ faith. Have particular care for people’s spiritual enlightenment, and their participation in the life of the Church. It also important that people who are part of the Church not only manifest outward piety and follow the Church’s traditions, but also strive to “experience” this tradition, this living faith, as did the saints from evangelistic times to the present, and to which every Christian is called.
In approaching this service for as long as you live, do not expect that everyone around you will throw laurels under your feet and pave the road with beautiful flowers, just as the Savior’s disciples had no such expectations. Prepare yourself to know joy as well as difficulties, to meet people along your path who are meek and sincerely thirsting for truth, as well as people whose hearts are not so easy to reach, who for various reasons do not wish to accept the good tidings, and who refuse the life-creating divine words. But I fervently pray the Greatly Gifted Master that in your work you would meet more Corneliuses and Dionysious Aeropogites than Simons the sorcerers and deceitful Ananiases.
No matter how hard it may be, never lose hope and never leave your labors. The holy fathers unanimously say how important it is in spiritual labors to show constancy and good persistence. St. Isaac the Syrian teaches us, “If you have no constancy and evenness in your service, do not expect the true consolation that comes from them” (On Divine Mysteries and Spiritual Life, Homily 1). What remarkable words: constancy and evenness! How often does it happen that, inspired by one or another idea we initially put particular effort into making that idea happen; but when difficulties arise we cool down, and the idea becomes less attractive to us. Do not be like a foolish and light-minded man who, plants a tree but does not water it regularly or take care of it, and when it starts to wither immediately sets to work on it—but too late. The tree is already withered, and much time will have to pass before water’s forces again nourish the plant and it revives—if it revives…
Generously sow the seed of God’s Word, and take good care of the good sprouts. For this it is necessary to harmoniously develop different aspects of Church activity: spirituality and enlightenment, good deeds, which we now call social work, mission, and of course, education of the young generation, care over the building and restoration of churches, and the creation of strong Christian communities. All of these are the life-giving juices that feed the organism of the Church and help it grow and develop in full measure. This does not at all mean programs that are external to the Church, inspired by circumstances of the times. It means those nourishing juices, without which the tree of Church life cannot grow. Therefore, get a deep understanding of parish life, especially supporting the parish’s volunteer and youth groups.
It is extremely important for you to care for your good and faithful companions who might help you bear all the weight, and who would be reliable supports in difficulties and various situations. The clergy under your authority should become those close helpers for you. Be fully responsible when searching out candidates for the priesthood; test their sincerity in the faith and faithfulness to Christ’s Church, their erudition so needed in our age, and the depth of their pastoral sensitivity.
While always remembering the loftiness of the episcopal rank, be also simple and accessible in your association with clergy and laypeople. Avoid arrogance, remember that you have received the Spirit not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Mt. 20:28), and if necessary—and these are not just pretty words—to lay down your life for Christ’s rational sheep. Be a kind and caring father to your flock, showing sternness and integrity when needed, magnanimity and condescension where required, and unfailing love and spiritual discernment in all things.
While making your hierarchical vow remember also your monastic calling. The main work of any monk is prayer. Never abandon it, for nothing so sobers the mind, brings peace to the soul, and strengthens the spirit as prayer, which is the key that opens the Heavens to the believing heart. When it seems to you that you have neither the time nor the strength for it, when you feel that everyday affairs are about to swallow you whole, then together with Blessed Augustine sigh from the depth of your heart, “Do not be much caring, my soul: do not let the ear of my heart be deafened by the clatter of your fuss” (Blessed Augustine, Confessions, Book IV ). Blessed Augustine knew what he was saying, because he himself in the whirlpool of worldly vanity passed through many temptations and came to know the true power of prayer and repentance.
The bishop is the face of the Church; people will judge the Orthodox Faith by you, and on you they will judge and form opinions on the clergy of today’s Russian Orthodox Church. The bishop’s life is always the focus of attention in society. Therefore, attentively watch yourself that you might cut off occasion from them which desire occasion (2 Cor. 11:12). Always walk before the Lord, and you will never sin.
Having heard from me these fatherly parting words, go in peace to the cross-bearing, sacrificial labor of episcopal service; accept as testimony the authority given you by this archpastoral staff, and rule Christ’s inheritance in the strength and power of God’s grace, so that when you reach the sunset of your life, by God’s mercy, with a pure conscience you might be able to say the words of the Apostle Paul: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Amen.