Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
There is a reason that we try to secure the visit of one of our bishops on our parish holiday. To be able to say “one of our bishops” is in itself recognition by our Synod of Bishops of this reason. The Diocese of Eastern America is big, extending from Maine to Florida and the largest in numbers of any diocese of the ROCOR. And so, our Diocesan Bishop is Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, and we have two Vicar Bishops, George of Mayfield and Jerome of Manhattan.
The reason we want our bishop to come to us is that a bishop carries the grace of God with him and we want that grace, more and more, for all our time here. His coming has nothing to do with our deserts, but everything to do with our spiritual desires. Remember what the Lord said just before the invention of the Mystical Supper: “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.” He was not talking about the yearning of the physically hungry for a meal. He was talking about establishing the life of the Church, His Church, His Body. This intensive love among the people of God is founded upon God’s love, the love that radiates His divine grace among us. This is ever-present, but when the bishop comes to be with us, the presence of this grace is, as it were, intensified, ignited. It is like the simultaneous coming alive of all good memories. He is a successor to the Apostles, one with them. They are one with the Lord. The Holy Apostle Paul says of the Lord, “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Therefore that oneness in Christ is made alive in a way different from other times when the Bishop comes. When He is here, there is not one icon of the Holy Apostles; there are two.
This presence, really there all the time, is referred to as being under his omophorion, his mantle, his covering. In spirit, he hovers over us, protecting us by his prayers. When he is with us, we say, instead of “through the prayers of our Holy Fathers”, “through the prayers of our Holy Master.” We always pray first among our petitions for our Bishops. Our prayers focus on him, because his earthly life is focused on us, his life is indeed for us. His surname is no longer the one given at birth, but is the place of which he is shepherd.
Let us therefore take special joy in his being with us, for the sake of his prayers and our life together as the Church.