(By kind permission of St. Vladimir's Seminary )
“If we have faith, and allow God to do to us that which He wills, everything good will come down to us,” said His Grace Thomas, visiting bishop to our Three Hierarchs Chapel, during his homily on the Feast of St. Barbara and St. John of Damascus. Preaching on Luke 8:43, the gospel story of the woman with the flow of blood, His Grace reminded our seminary congregation that obedience to God’s will, within the providential circumstances of life and within the Holy Orders of church service, produces healing and perfection.
An alumnus of St. Vladimir’s, Bishop Thomas leads the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, part of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese in America (AOCANA). The diocese includes more than thirty churches and missions in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
This was His Grace’s first visit back to his alma mater in twenty-five years. He warmly greeted the chapel congregation, and graciously presided over the Divine Liturgy. Five presbyter-seminarians and one deacon-alumnus within the fold of AOCANA concelebrated with His Grace, along with three visiting presbyters from AOCANA, and our seminary Dean Archpriest John Behr and Chancellor Archpriest Chad Hatfield.
“It is a blessing to be with you,” Bishop Thomas began his homily. Then, especially addressing seminarians, he instructed, “It will be a temptation for you to think that you will heal people; that you will teach; that you will change things. We think that we will save the world, the Church. It’s best, if we simply save ourselves.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that we are slaves of Jesus Christ,” he continued. “We must not forget Who is the true Priest and Who is in charge of everything we do.”
Bishop Thomas also conveyed to the seminary the Nativity Season blessing of Metropolitan Philip, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All America. Lastly, he acknowledged St. Vladimir’s as a “hospital that [spiritually] heals people and sends them out to distribute God’s Grace.” He wished the seminary “many more years of healing and teaching for His kingdom.”
Serving at the altar with His Grace were presbyter-seminarians, Frs. Raphael Barberg, Jason Blais, Michael Sakran, Lucas Rice, and Ignatius Warren; deacon-alumnus Adrian Budiça; sub-deacon-seminarian Richard Ajalat; and altar-server seminarian Andrew Meena—all from his archdiocese. Visiting AOCANA priests who served included Frs. George Alberts, Dimitri Darwich, and Thomas Zain; Fr. Elias Bitar, SVOTS Lecturer in Liturgical Music, also attended the liturgy.
At the conclusion of Divine Liturgy Chancellor Archpriest Chad Hatfield welcomed His Grace, noting, “It is a particular joy to receive back one of our students who is within the episcopal rank of Holy Orders.”
A special luncheon with Bishop Thomas, for AOCANA seminarians, their spouses, and visiting clergy, followed.