The Enthronement Sermon of
His Grace, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Jovan
Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America
September 18, 1994
Your Holiness, Your Eminencies, Your Graces: Bless!
Dear brother priests, Dear brothers and sisters, My dear Diocesan Faithful:
Before you stands a priestly servant, whom the Holy Spirit which dwells in
and guides the Church has, through the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian
Orthodox Church lead by His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle, elected as the new Bishop
of the Godprotected Diocese of Western America. And here I stand as the "
shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. " (Acts
I have come from far away Serbia, which is still close to your hearts, where
I served the Church in the Republic of Macedonia and as the Vicar of His Holiness,
Patriarch Pavle. The rest of my life, from age eleven, was spent at the Studenica
Monastery, founded by the Serbian Saint Simeon Nemanjic, the Myrrhflowing. From
the time I was a student at the Monastery to the time I became the Abbot, my
whole life was spent in work and prayer near the relics of the great Serbian
Saints and Forefathers: St. Simeon the Myrrhflowing; his life companion and
wife, the Venerable Mother Ana-Anastasija; and his son, the Venerable Simon
the monk, the heir to his father's throne- better known in Serbian history as
Stefan, the first-crowned King. Even as a young child I had learned from them
that worldly glory and riches are passing, and that the moral values of love
and faith, goodness and compassion, are eternal. I have wholeheartedly embraced
Studenica: her image will not be erased from my memory; the sound of her bells
will not be silenced in my ears; nor will I forget the whisper of the cold flowing
water from her river; and the holy images from the walls of her churches will
remain my eternal icons. The Studenica Monastery has become one of the symbols
of Serbian history and spirituality. Studencia has been my true spiritual mother
and my foremost school And if I am anything today, it is because of Studenica.
Therefore, do not resent it if I frequently mention this Mother of Serbian Churches
and if I plant in your hearts Her spiritual riches. Even the dedication of this
Cathedral Church, the Mother of my Diocesan faithful, allows me to do this,
for in it I see the hand of God. Her holy Protector, St. Simon-the First-crowned
King, is mystically uniting the Studencia Monastery to this Diocese; the spirit
of the motherland united with Western America. There was not one day in my life
at Studenica that passed without encountering this Sainted King, and I believe
that not one day in California will pass without prayer to him: that he be our
hope, advocate and mediator before the Throne of the Creator.
Being enthroned today in this Priestly Throne, I am mindful of the responsibility
which the Church entrusts to me. At the same time, I know my weaknesses. Yet,
I firmly believe in the help of God and I hear His voice as once did Joshua:
" Fear not, I will be with you ... and I will not fail you, nor forsake
you " (Joshua 1: 5). This s faith in God's help and obedience to the Church
brought me here to be among you today, dear brothers and sisters, in order to
preach the Word of God and " proclaim to all the year of the Lord"
(Isaiah 61:2; to preach it " in season and out of season" (II Timothy
4:2), to everyone who can and desires to hear (Matthew II: 15); and to recommend
to myself and to you that " we watch and pray" (Mark 14:38), for "
the days are evil " (Ephesians 5:16), as says the Holy Apostle Paul. Therefore,
we must continually renew ourselves in the life of the Gospel, in perfecting
ourselves " to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. "
For through this personal renewal we will more easily come to the knowledge
of God who shows us truth, righteousness and love.
As your new bishop I announce to you, brothers and sisters, that I will "
consider myself be your servant for the sake of Christ " (II Cor. 4:5).
For greatness in the Church is measured by the greatness of one's service. The
teachings of Christ are eternal. These teachings were preached by many before
us and they were not ashamed, for only they contain the " words of eternal
life" (John 6:68). I have accepted the teachings of Christ and His Gospel
my whole life and have chosen them as my Archpastoral program. If you, my Diocesan
Flock and Priests, are on that path - the path towards the knowledge of God,
then I place my right to your full support. For this reason I call you to a
unified effort for the sake of your salvation and mine.
A bishop, as also a priest, is sent to the people of God to nourish them spiritually,
to protect them, and to lead them--of course, in as much as the people want
to be fed " with the Bread of Life" (John 6:35); to want to be protected
by the teachings of the Gospel, in the faith of their fathers and ancestors;
and in this way to be lead into the Kingdom of Glory, the Kingdom of Heaven.
And even if this Archpastoral throne is physically distant from our birthplace,
it nonetheless represents the throne of St. Sava. The spiritual strength of
St. Sava is shown by his embrace, which reaches every place where the sons of
the Serbian Orthodox Church reside. And if the tragic emigration for centuries
has separated and divided our people and our church's strength, the embrace
of the mother church and the embrace of St. Sava have always saved us and unified
us one to another. Our path to God and our knowledge of God were made possible
by St. Sava and St. Simeon Nemanjic, St. Simon the monk and our other saints.
They have " impressed the image of the Savior" in the face of our
people and from the soul of our people fashioned " the icon of the indescribable
glory" of God. They have enabled us Serbs to be with God. May they help
us to remain with God, for He alone is the " Way, Truth and Life "
(John 14:6) for us and for all people. I know that what lies ahead for me, as
a Bishop of the Church of God, is difficult labor in the Vineyard of our Lord,
but I place my hope in " The Living God who is the Savior of all, especially
of those who believe " (I Timothy 4: 10) and I pray to Him ' for those
whom He has given me" (John 1 7:9) that He keep them in Himself, which
means in His Church. I place all my hope in God, for he has said: " Come
to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest "
(Matthew 11:28). Likewise, I count on your help and cooperation, brother priests,
as well as the Church-School Congregations, Circles of Serbian Sisters and all
you honorable faithful; that you will help me in keeping the Orthodox Faith
and our traditions. Without your help, I can do nothing. Also, I count on the
help and cooperation of our Sister Orthodox Churches. And I count o n all those
of good will, regardless of what faith and nationality. I believe that I will
also be have the help of the civil authorities of this land, of whose help and
understanding my predecessors speak of so highly. I have heard only good things
about you, my dear Diocesan Faithful: That you are faithful and good Christians,
that you are loving and merciful and that you cooperate well. All of this gives
me hope that we will justify our work before God and man. Only with such people,
unity and cooperation can we hope that in us will be fulfilled the words of
the Prophet David who said: " Behold, how good and pleasant it is when
brothers dwell in unity (Psalm 133:1), for to such has the Lord promised eternal
Accepting today the staff of the Diocese of Western America as a symbol of
teaching and administration, I first of all understand it to be the symbol of
authority over myself. It is the sign of my service to the Church and to you.
As the third Bishop on this 30 year old throne, I cannot but remember my worthy
predecessors: Bishop Gregory of Blessed Memory; His Grace, Bishop Chrysostom,
now the Bishop of Banat. I am familiar with how much they worked to preserve
unblemished their flock and Episcopacy. Worthy likewise are the past Diocesan
Administrators: Bishop Irinej of Nis, Bishop Sava of Sumadija and especially
His Eminence, Metropolitan Christopher, the Metropolitan of the Midwestern Metropolitanate,
who by his great effort, just as his predecessors, enabled this Diocese to live
and have prepared a good path for me. I wholeheartedly thank them and ask God
to reward them.
In conclusion, even though I should have said this from at the beginning, I
extend my deepest gratitude to His Holiness, the Serbian Patriarch Pavle who
honored this Diocese and myself with His presence by officiating and enthroning
me today. Coming to California during this difficult time for our Serbian people
and Church in our fatherland where there is blood being shed, is a significant
honor which He bestows to this Diocese and to the whole Serbian Church. The
tens of thousands of Serbs in this land must not be lost and distant from the
Orthodox faith nor from our Church and Serbian people, for whom unity and support
are needed now more than ever before. The presence of the Patriarch makes us
even more responsible towards this unity and support.
Let us fulfill the expectations of our Mother Church and Her Chief Shepard
- that all Serbs who voluntarily or by unfortunate circumstances have distanced
themselves from their faith and Church - join the life and fate of their Church
and people here and in the fatherland. Let us try by a righteous and exemplary
life show everyone that we are children of St. Sava. Only in this way, as good
people, will we best repay this land for all the good which it extends to us.
In this way we will bring all those who have fallen away from God and faith
to the knowledge of God. Preserving Church order, bringing the lost souls of
our people to the Church of Christ, and spreading the Orthodox Faith, I believe
to be my great and holy purpose here. Let us be unified in this effort, for
only in this way will we become strengthened, spiritually richer, and more fortunate
here. Most likely it is this desire which brought you here today. Let us express
this desire by once more gathering around His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle, the
44th Archbishop and successor to the throne of St. Sava, and express our love
to him as we do to St. Sava, the first Archbishop. Also, the presence of my
brother bishops, as the presence of His Holiness, indicates their respect towards
the Diocese of Western America and her faithful. For me personally, the presence
of His Holiness and my brother bishops from the Serbian as well as other Orthodox
Churches, indicates a great support for my intentions, and I take it to mean
a sign of love between us. To them is due our gratitude Concluding, I invoke
God's Blessings on all of you and I extend to you the blessings of all our holy
places in the fatherland. Once more, I ask you to pray for me that God gives
me the wisdom and strength to worthily and honorably - and with your help- carry
the Episcopal cross.