On March 5, 2017, Metropolitan Joseph, leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, hosted Metropolitan Tikhon and other clergy at the annual Pan-Orthodox Vespers for the Sunday of Orthodoxy at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY.
More than 40 bishops, priests and deacons from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Orthodox Church in America, the host diocese and other Orthodox jurisdictions participated, including Archbishop Michael of New York (OCA) and Bishop John of Worcester (AOCA), as well as laity who filled the cathedral in a sign of our unity of faith. The “Spirit of Orthodoxy” choir from the New York area led by Aleksei Shipovalnikov and a Byzantine choir led by cathedral chanter Fadi Broumana sang the responses.
Metropolitan Tikhon, in his guest homily, recounted the history of Saints Raphael of Brooklyn and Tikhon of Moscow, reminding the faithful that just as they gathered to celebrate their common Orthodox Christian faith more than 100 years ago, again tonight in this historic cathedral we were gathering to do the same thing. When Bishop Tikhon first arrived in New York City in 1898, “he found a vibrant and ethnically mixed community of Orthodox that came to greet him as he got off the boat in Manhattan, and it was Russian and Arabic that dominated his fi rst days in New York. The senior Orthodox priest in New York at the time was Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny, who therefore had a leading role in greeting the new bishop, leading him from place to place and from service to service. During the next few days, Archbishop Tikhon encountered two other leading clergy, who in addition to Father Raphael, would in later years be canonized as saints: Father Alexis (Toth)... and Father Alexander Hotovitzsky, who built the Russian Orthodox Saint Nicholas Cathedral on 97th Street and was later martyred in the Soviet Gulag under Stalin.” (Editor’s note: Archbishop Tikhon would consecrate Father Raphael as bishop in 1904, the first Orthodox episcopal consecration in North America.)
“As we celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, and refl ect upon the blessings and struggles of the past,” His Beatitude continued, “let us be inspired by the true icons of the Kingdom, Saint Tikhon and Saint Raphael, who remind us to be grateful to our merciful God for the gift of one another and for the freedom to witness to the Orthodox Faith, which has been proclaimed in North America for more than 200 years. When the Russian Orthodox missionary monks arrived in Alaska from Valaam Monastery in 1794, the seeds of Orthodox witness were planted on this continent. These seeds have grown over the decades of the 19th and 20th centuries. Descendants of the Alaskan native peoples are today faithful Orthodox Christians. The immigrant communities of Orthodox people from the Middle East, the Balkans and Eastern Europe are now Americans. The numerous converts to Orthodoxy are a major presence in our Churches, with many serving as bishops, priests and deacons. We see Orthodox dioceses and parishes, monasteries and theological schools, organizations and agencies for education and charity, media ministries, prison ministries and campus ministries, as well as the publication of books and journals for the edifi cation of Orthodox Christians and for outreach to all Americans.”
Vladyka Tikhon concluded: “By God’s grace, all of these accomplishments have been achieved through the various Orthodox Churches in North America and by the dedication and initiative of Orthodox Christian men and women of vision. We are grateful for what has been accomplished and are also mindful of the task still before us, with all its challenges and obstacles. Our proclamation of the Orthodox Faith must give priority to the proclamation of the Good News of Christ. What we are given in the treasury of the Orthodox Faith is not intended to be an end in itself, but rather as a witness to Jesus Christ and the Gospel. This is true about the holy icons, which are not ends in themselves but windows into the Kingdom of God. This is true about Orthodox theology, which is not an end in itself but rather a guide to communion with God. Our faith, our icons, our theology, all the gifts we have been given as a great treasury, are means for us to acquire a new and iconic way of seeing and of living.”