Greeting at the Opening of the Council of Bishops of 1964,
at Which Metropolitan Philaret was Elected First Hierarch of ROCOR
(on the 40th Anniversary of the Election and Enthronement
of Metropolitan Philaret)

On these solemn Paschal days there can be no other greeting than the joyous “Christ is Risen,” and I am elated to hear the no less celebratory response “Indeed He is Risen!” Yes, indeed He is risen, and we are reaping the benefits of His victory. The radiance of this light illuminates our Council, a Council we have awaited for so long, not knowing what it would bring us in these days of the bright joy of the victory of Christ over evil. Christ has risen from the dead in order to give life to all, and we are vitally sensing this victory over death, gained by Him through the holy struggle of His suffering. It is good to see all those who have come for this church celebration, which is brightly manifested in the important days of the Council, which determines the very existence and passing of church life. Now, more than before, “the grace of the Holy Spirit gathers us.” It gives us joy, strength and wisdom. It is the breath of the Divine Spirit and it reveals to us the treasured mysteries of the Church. It is pleasing to see the representatives of the entire Church Abroad, to which the Lord entrusted the preservation of the treasured pearl of Holy Orthodoxy. We sense the breath of the Spirit of God, with Which we live and move. We hope that in our communion, in our mutual love, in the spirit of wisdom we will find the way to build the Church upon the right path. In order to rid ourselves of that which has borne division and enmity, which recently came about in these troubled times, we must open ourselves to the work of grace. May we be allowed to remember this division only in order that we may guard you against it in the future. When the Church divides itself in conflict, then those who are close and dear to us seem to transform into enemies, who seek not the common good, not consolation, but hostility and anger, as though we were born to be enemies to each other, and not for unity. And we desire to set aside the enmity and hatred which so does not become us, lest we bear the heavy burden of responsibility of not fulfilling the oath which we give during our consecration. In our work of ecclesiastical creation and labor we must be the guiding forces, especially now, in these times filled with troubles. And we hope that mutual love will correct those moved by zeal beyond wisdom. We must be thankful to God that He grants us the opportunity to carry on our work in mutual love. Let us pray that the Lord turns us away from all that is harmful and all that is dangerous. Now, as we begin our ecclesiastical labor, we must pray especially fervently that the Lord grant us wisdom, and especially that He imparts unto us the fear of God, from which all our work especially depends. While godlessness grows in our Homeland, true mutual love is especially needed, and courage in the preservation of Orthodox truth. We must treasure the truth, to which our ecclesiastical life is directed. The life of the Church is built according to a special plan unseen by us. It is full of mysterious movement, unfathomable to the human mind. The Lord sometimes even allows temptations, when truth is almost hidden from us for a time, and then we must pray that the Lord steer our ship along the path of the truth. Sometimes we are threatened by tribulations of the spirit of evil in the world. The spirit of communism, of deceit and of lies leads to death. We will travel upon the path of confessing the Word of God in this troubled time. There is nothing more dangerous than the path of deceit. May the Lord help us stand firm to the end and acquire the path of truth and not to shame our calling, in order to achieve the triumph of our Orthodox Faith through our mutual love and unity, which is the victory of Christís Resurrection. May our Lord Savior be with us, Whose glory is now and for ever. Amen.

From the editors: On the day of his election as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Grace Bishop Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985) of Brisbaine, asking the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy for his new position, offered to appoint the latter as Honorary President of the Council and Synod of Bishops for life, while St. John of San Francisco (Maximovich, +1966), supported the proposal to grant His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy the title "Blessed" and the right to wear two panaghias. The minutes of the Council of Bishops of 1964 state:

"Both offers were accepted and "axios" and Many Years are sung to the Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy "Metropolitan Anastassy thanked everyone for the honors, which he had not expected at all, and so remained speechless when they were offered. He expressed joy for the unity of spirit, but not to his new position, which he did not feel he deserved and which he would eagerly decline if he had the right to do so. Several times, the bishops approached the topic and he always refused the honor, feeling himself unworthy. He fully shared the overall joy of the Bishops and was in unity of spirit with them. 'This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.' There is indeed something to be joyful about. A new era is beginning and the Metropolitan joins our common joy. We rejoice that the Lord has consoled us after terrible tribulations, which we all endured. So many times it seemed that our holy work, to which we had dedicated our entire lives, might be destroyed. The Lord gazed upon us and showed us His mercy. The unity achieved by us is dear to us to the highest degree, and it is especially joyous to see this concord now. All the Bishops proved to be at the high level of their calling, showing unity of spirit. The Metropolitan said that he wished that this would always be the case in the future. The Lord now reminds us that we all come from one rootóthe Blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky, +1936), who fathered us and is our unseen leader. There is nothing better than to "live as brothers together," and we must strive to live this way while it is given to us. We emphasized this unity from our common father, Metropolitan Anthony, who laid the foundations of our Church and who spoke so much about love in his works. May his memory be blessed and may he rejoice on this day, for he loved us truly as his children. Today may his soul rejoice in the Lord. May the Lord forthwith heed our humble prayers and may He bless our young brother, who has brought us the joy of new life.

"The Metropolitan thanked all the bishops for their love, which accompanied him over the long life's journey and which he feels he does not worthy of, but which illuminates his days. We must give thanks that the Lord, Who in the days of tribulation showed us the true love that conquered the world. He showed us the grace and peace when we did not expect it. We had temptations, but they disappeared like smoke. We cherish the talents of our electee. May the Lord's grace be with him and may it protect and save all of us, leading us towards a better fate.

"In conclusion, Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy asked to sing Many Years once more, now to Metropolitan Philaret, which the Council did.

"All the members of the Council approached Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy and His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret with their greetings, after which the act was drawn up and signed."