More than sixty Antiochian Orthodox Christians travelled to Lebanon from December 7 through December 14, 2011, and three of them returned as newly consecrated auxiliary bishops Bishop John (Abdalah), Bishop Anthony (Michaels) and Bishop Nicholas (Ozone). The Vice Chairman of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees, Mr. Fawaz El Khoury, and Archpriest Thomas Zain together planned and directed an extraordinary itinerary for the North American pilgrims which provided an opportunity to witness the glories of Lebanon in addition to the overwhelmingly joyful consecrations themselves.
While others have chronicled both the details of the December trip greater detail, it occurred to me that at least one stop on our extensive travels provided an excellent metaphor both for the consecration of the new bishops and for the function of bishops in our Holy Tradition. Toward the end of the trip we were able to venture into the mountains to behold the glory of the famous Cedars of Lebanon.
This leg of the trip began from our hotel literally at sea level where it was warm and sunny and took us along winding highways to reach the snow covered mountains of northern Lebanon. Although the temperature was just above freezing, the sun was brilliant and the cedars soared majestically. The local guides and souvenir vendors provided fascinating details about their precious cedar forest. One guide claimed he could point to the very trees which adorned the Lebanese flag, the national coinage, and the airplanes of Middle East Airlines.
On Sunday, December 11, 2011, three new auxiliary bishops were consecrated for the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, in Balamand, Lebanon. Their Graces John (Abdalah), Anthony (Michaels) and Nicholas (Ozone) were consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop for Worcester and New England, Auxiliary Bishop for Toledo and the Midwest, and Auxiliary Bishop for Brooklyn and Assistant to the Metropolitan in Englewood, New Jersey, respectively.
Recently, I returned from a pilgrimage to Syria and Lebanon. When embarking on such a journey, we often have expectations. My expectations were simple: I wanted to visit the holy Shrine of St. Thekla and monasteries, gleaning information and experience to provide consistency and to ensure the transmission of the Antiochian ethos within the life of the Convent of St. Thekla in Pennsylvania.