Reflection of Metropolitan Philip on His Fortieth Anniversary
by Metropolitan Philip
Fifty years ago, Divine Providence or my destiny brought me to these blessed shores of the United States of America. After a short stop in Boston, i.e., a semester at the Greek Theological School of Brookline, Massachusetts, and a summer working at John Stevens Factory in Boston, I received a scholarship from Wayne State University. Thus, I came to Detroit and lived at the rectory on East Grand Boulevard. Sometimes, when I didn’t have the bus fare, I just walked to the General Motors Building, turned a corner and walked straight to Wayne State University. Two years later, at the end of 1958, I graduated.
On March 1, 1959, I was ordained a priest for St. George Parish of Cleveland, Ohio, where I spent seven of the most beautiful years of my life. In March of 1966, after the falling asleep in Christ of Metropolitan Antony, I was nominated to succeed him as Archbishop of New York and all North America. On August 5, the Holy Synod of Antioch elected me as Metropolitan of this God-protected Archdiocese. On August 14, I was consecrated Metropolitan Archbishop, and on that day I promised:
“to visit and watch over the flock now entrusted to me, after the manner of the Apostles, whether they remain true to the faith, and in the exercise of good works, more especially the Priests; and to inspect with diligence, and to exhort and inhibit, that there be no schisms, superstitions and impious veneration and that no customs contrary to Christian piety and good morals may injure Christian conduct.”
Needless to say, the formative years of my episcopacy were most difficult. …
In 1968, while in Washington, D.C., I suffered my first heart attack. For fourteen days in the hospital, I did not make any progress toward recovery because I was in denial. Finally, my doctor convinced me that I really did have a heart attack. Upon this realization, I completely surrendered to God … and I said to Him, what He said to St. Paul in II Corinthians:
“My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in weakness.”
The first four years were a time of extensive traveling and study.
In 1972, I underwent open heart surgery at Miami Heart Institute. Some said to me, open heart surgery is good for ten or fifteen years and then you have to repeat it. So I started racing with time to do some of the things I wanted to do for this Archdiocese:
1973 Founding of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America.
1975 Reunification of the Antiochian Archdiocese and founding of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
1977 The first visit of an Antiochian Patriarch to this continent.
1978 We purchased the Antiochian Village.
1979 We started our camping program.
1983 Consecration of Bishop Antoun.
1985 We were blessed by the visit of His Beatitude Patriarch IGNATIUS IV and we built the first phase of our Heritage and Learning Center.
1987 We received the former Evangelicals into Orthodoxy.
1990 We dedicated Phase II of the Heritage and Learning Center.
1991 Celebrated my 25th anniversary in the Episcopate and established the Antiochian Village Endowment Fund. Also established three Endowment funds — Missions and Evangelism, Youth Ministry and Christian Education.
1991 Founded the Antiochian House of Studies Program. Consecrated Bishop Basil.
1994 Held the first meeting of all Orthodox Bishops at the Antiochian Village.
1995 Celebrated the Centennial of the Archdiocese.
The new century brought Self-Rule and restructuring of the Archdiocese.
2002 Dedicated the new Cultural and Athletic Complex at the University of Balamand.
2004 Dedicated the new Antiochian Museum at the Antiochian Village.
My basic ecclesiology is this: The church is the bishop, the priest and the lay people working together.
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom Or the strong man boast of his strength Or the rich man boast of his riches, But let him who boasts boast about this: That he understands and knows me That I am the Lord Who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth For in these I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
My episcopacy has not been a solo performance. People ask me if I regret anything. I do not have any regrets. If I were to live my life again, I would not change anything. In the twilight of my ministry, I say from the depth of my heart, “Glory be to God for all things.”
Courtesy of the
December 2006 issue of The Word magazine.