Speech of Bishop Elect Archimandrite George
read at the Service of Nomination
Saturday, December 2008
at Holy Trinity Monastery
God-loving Hierarchs, dear Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters in Christ!
It is with fear and trembling that I stand before you now, with the realization that along with the day of my baptism, this is probably the most important day of my life. Since the day that I learned that my name had been presented as a candidate to the episcopacy, I have been in a state of bewilderment, wondering how this could happen, and thinking that somehow it simply would not happen. However, as we all know, the ways of man are one thing, and the ways of God are another.
I was born in the Midwest, in Illinois, raised in a pious Roman Catholic family, with an older brother who is a Roman Catholic priest, and an aunt who is a nun. I attended a Roman Catholic elementary school and high school. In elementary school I attended mass daily, served as an altar boy and sang in the choir. My parents were good Christian examples, my father especially being a remarkably meek and patient man. In spite of all this, when I became a young man I began searching for something more, not even knowing what that might be. Eventually my travels brought me to California where God opened my mind and heart and revealed to me His Orthodox Church. I truly felt like the person in the Gospel parable who found the pearl of great price. I quit my job and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Mt. Athos. It is there that I firmly decided to become a monk. Upon returning home I joined the Russian Church in San Francisco and went to Platina, where Frs. Herman and Seraphim told me to go to Holy Trinity Monastery, here in Jordanville, where I arrived in September, 1975.
Here I was blessed to study in the seminary and become a novice by Archbishop Averky, and I was instructed in the monastic life, both by word and example, by the many fathers here at that time, such as Frs. Vladimir, Sergei, Anthony, Gury, Jonah, and Tikhon, who all showed much fatherly love and care for the young monks and novices and always encouraged us. When Vladika Laurus became the abbot in 1976, he became like a genuine father for me, always showing great love and patience. After graduating from the seminary I was given a blessing to go to Mt. Athos to live, in 1981. I had hoped to stay there, but God judged otherwise. As St. Ambrose of Optina says: “The all-good Providence of God always arranges what is most beneficial for us, while in our ignorance, we very often strive for the very opposite.” I returned here in 1986 and Vladika Laurus ordained me a hierodeacon that year, and a hieromonk in 1987. As a hieromonk and later as a confessor I came to see how the grace of God works through us sinful creatures, in spite of our many weaknesses and infirmities, as St. Paul says: “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me” (Phillip. 4:13). It is this, and monastic obedience, which gives me the strength to accept the decision of the Council of Bishops that I be consecrated a bishop, all the while being conscious of my sins and unworthiness. Perhaps the only training I have for this exalted position is monastic obedience, and I think it is significant that I was not asked, or given a choice, but merely informed of the Bishops’ decision, allowing me only to say, “May it be blessed.”
I ask you, holy archpastors, to pray for me, that my heart and mind be always open to the Word of God and that I may have the strength and courage to obey it. I ask you to continually guide me and instruct me as I start out on this new path, and later on that you admonish me whenever you see that I am making a mistake, that I, and the flock entrusted to me, may profit from your wisdom and experience. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask for your prayerful support, that God may continually strengthen me and guide me by His Holy Spirit to do His work, “for the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” I ask all of you to pray that the Lord have mercy on me, that at the Last Judgment, as it says in the prayer of consecration of a bishop, I may stand unashamed before His throne and receive the great recompense which He has prepared for them that have endured sufferings for the preaching of His Gospel.