Orthodox America

  A Metropolitan is Enthroned

Isaac Lambertsen, Reader Synodal Translator

 A Brief Biography

      As is traditional, the diocese of Eastern America and New York was permitted to remain in a state of "widowhood" for a mourning period of 40 days following the repose of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret; The Synod of Bishops decided that the Council of Bishops would begin its deliberations to elect a new metropolitan on the third day of Theophony, at Synodal headquarters in New York City.

      Fifteen bishops arrived to participate in the election, deeply concerned about the decline of morality in human society and the difficulties the faithful meet in their attempt to live according to God's commandments, the bishops felt that the one chosen to pilot the Church should be selected by the Mother of God and the Holy Spirit, using the same means the Holy Apostles employed when filling the vacancy created by the suicide of Judas: they chose lots.

     Thus, on Wednesday, 9/22 January 1986, the Feast of Hieromartyr Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, the bishops gatherod in the Cathedral of the Mother of God of the Sign in New York City. Following Divine Liturgy and a Panikhida for the repose of Metropolitans Anthony, Anastassy, and Philoret (the three former Primates of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), a Service of Supplication invoked the grace of the Holy Spirit.

      Every bishop was given a ballot on which appeared the names of each bishop; thus, in principle, every hierarch was a potential candidate. Archbishop Nathaniel of Vienna and Austria, who was too ill to come to New York. had committed his vote, in writing, to Bishop Mark of Berlin and Germany as his proxy. To vote, each bishop placed a small cross next to the name of one candidate. The ballots Were then collected and counted by a panel of three bishops, The first ballot gave four votes each to Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal and Canada and Archbishop Antony of Geneva and Western Europe, with three votes for Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles and Southern California, and a scattering of votes to other hierarchs. The bishops then proceeded to a second ballot, voting only on the top three candidates. This ballot produced six votes for Archbishop Vitaly, six for Archbishop Antony of Geneva, and four votes for Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles.

     Then, the names of the two candidates with the most votes on the second ballot were written on slips of paper, folded, and placed in a wooden coffer before the wonderworking Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, the Protectress of the Russian Church Abroad. The bishops then chanted the kontakion, "We have no other help, we have no other hope than thee...", and the elderly Archimandrite Gelassy (Maiboroda), formerly a monk of the famous Kiev Caves Lavra and for many years archdeacon to the late Metropolitan Anastassy, was summoned to pick the lot. Having taken a blessing from Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago, senior bishop in episcopal years, he approached and drew forth the lot on which the name of Archbishop Vitaly was inscribed.

    The installation of the new First Hierarch took place during the Vigil on Saturday, January 12/25 and at the Liturgy on the following day. At the conclusion of the First Hour on Saturday evening, Metropolitan Vitaly proceeded through the Royal Doors to the solea, where Archbishgp Antony of Los Angeles gave him the blue mantia and white klobuk of a metropolitan, both of which the Metropolitan placed on himself with the aid of subdeacons, after which "AXIOS !" (Greek for "He is worthy") was chanted by the hierarchs and the faithful in turn.

     The following morning the Metropolitan was vested in the middle of the church and then Archimandrite Gelassy. brought forth the Metropolitan's mitre, with the cross on top; the rest of the Liturgy proceeded as usual. Fourteen bishops, 36 priests, 8 protodeacons and deacons, and a great many servers, took part; the sanctuary alone held nearly 100 people. At the conclusion, all of the bishops, led by the First Hierarch, went to the center of the church to chant a Service of Supplication to the Mother of God and all the Saints of Russia. The Kursk Icon and the myrrh streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God were set on analogia before the bishops. 

      "Before the earth and everything on it burns up. everything superficial will burn up, everything which hopes on wealth, success, and worldly glory, and there will remain only those who unhypocritically love Christ and are devoted to Him unto death...who love only Him, their Saviour, and no one and nothing else. No knowledge of all the corridors of here under the earth, will save anyone, will rescue anyone; only a living, personal, fervent love for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ can do this." Metropolitan Vitaly 

After the moleben, Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles gave the episcopal staff of the late Metropolitan Philaret to the new Metropolitan with these ancient words:      "The Almighty and life-creating Holy Trinity, the invincible Might and indivisible Kingship, bestoweth upon thee this great throne of the hierarchy, the Metropolitanate . and Primacy of the Russian Church Abroad, through the election of thy brethren, the Russian hierarchs abroad. And now, lord and brother, take thou the staff of pastorship and ascend the throne of the senior hierarch, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and entreat His all-pure Mother for all of Orthodox Christianity and for the Russian people in the diaspora who are entrusted to thee, and shepherd them like a good shepherd. And may the Lord God grant thee health and length of days for many years."

     To this the Metropolitan replied: "May the Almighty and all-ruling hand of the Most High preserve and strengthen us all. May He grant peace and serenity to His holy Church and deliverance to our homeland. And to you, my brethren, archpastors of the Russian Church Abroad, and to all the Russian people in the diaspora, and to all Orthodox Christians, may He bestow health and length of days for many years."

     The services concluded with the choir, under the direction of Alexander Ledkovsky, singing "Thee do we praise, O God..." after which the bishops and many of the faithful traveled to Holy Protection parish in Nyack, New York, where a banquet had been prepared in honor of the newly-installed Metropolitan.

    May God, through the prayers of His all holy Mother and all the saints impart to our new spirltual leader the grace and wisdom to preserve and strengthen the witness of Holy Orthodoxy to the world.



A Brief Biography

      The new Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was born Rostislav Ustinov in St. Petersburg in 1910. After the outbreak of the Revolution he traveled with his family to France where he studied at the Lyceum in Lemain. Following two years of military service he entered the monastery of St. Job at Vladimirova in Carpatho-Russia where he received his theological education. Tonsured in 1939, he was ordained hieromonk in 1941, and was raised to hegumen in 1944. With the Brotherhood of St. Job he fled to Germany where he served as a priest at Fischbek (DP Camp). There he performed a great service in putting to use his fluency in several languages, particularly English, to help many Russians escape the cruel repatriation which sent hundreds to their death. Among the Russian refugees he actively undertook missionary work, instituting a daily cycle of church services, and a course of theological instruction for youth. At the same time he gathered a small monastic brotherhood and began printing prayer books and spiritually edifying leaflets which were spread throughout the refugee camp churches in Germany. In 1948 Archimandrite Vitaly was given responsibility for the parishes of London, and in 1951, on the Feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, he was consecrated Bishop of Montevideo (vicar bishop of Brazil). There again a monastic brotherhood was formed, and Bishop Vitaly opened a print shop and a small orphanage for boys who daily attended the church services at the skete. Appointed Bishop of Edmonton and Western Canada in 1951(and later Archbishop of Montreal and Canada), he founded a press and two sketes. In Montreal he built a cathedral--the largest in the Russian Church Abroad. Close by a several-story house serves as a metochion of the holy Transfiguration Skete located an hour and a half from the city. The house contains the press, dedicated to Br. Job of Pochaev; included among its various publications is an Orthodox periodical in French. There the monks also make -candies and vigil lamps. From 1976 Archbishop Vitaly served as second deputy to Metropolitan Philaret, functioning as locum tenens and President of the Synod of Bishops following the death of the late Metropolitan.