On Sunday, August 13, 1967, on the eve of the Dormition Fast, the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City hosted the hierarchal consecration of the dean of students of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY - Archimandrite Laurus (Škurla) - as Bishop of Manhattan, with an assignment to the position of secretary of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and vicar to her First Hierarch, Metropolitan Philaret of Eastern America & New York. Metropolitan Philaret led the consecration, joined by a multitude of hierarchs and clergy.
In honor of the anniversary of his hierarchal consecration, the Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese will be publishing materials relating to the life and service of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus. Being published today are "Address of Archimandrite Laurus upon his Nomination as Bishop of Manhattan" and "Address of Metropolitan Philaret to Bishop Laurus upon Presentation of Hierarchal Staff," both of which were originally published for the occasion in "Church Life" journal.
On Sunday, July 31/August 13 of this year – the very eve of the Dormition Fast – in the Synodal Cathedral of our Lady of the Sign in New York on 93rd Street, the consecration of the Inspector of Holy Trinity Theological Seminary in Jordanville and baccalaureate of Theology Archimandrite Laurus (Škurla) to Bishop of Manhattan occurred, with his appointment to the position of Secretary to Metropolitan Philaret. The consecration was led by Met. Philaret, joined by a multitude of hierarchs and clergymen, amidst whom were many of the brothers of Holy Trinity Monastery.
Bishop Laurus – in the world, Vassily Škurla – was born on December 19, 1927/January 1, 1928 n.s. in the village of Ladomirová (in Czechoslovakia) in so-called Prešovian Russia, which comprises the western frontier of the former Ugrian Russia, which before the First World War was located within the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He descends from that heroic part of the Orthodox Russian people in Carpathia (the ancestral home of Slavdom) which, with its centuries-old heavy yoke and incredible harassment and oppression by heterodox and foreigners, nonetheless adamantly preserved their Holy Orthodox Faith – even in the face of the forced so-called Unia with Rome – and their national identity.
The now-Bishop Laurus accepted Holy Baptism at the hands of the Head of Mission in Slovakia, Archimandrite Vitaly (Maximenko), later Archbishop of Eastern America & Jersey City. As a youth, the bishop’s heart gravitated toward the missionary Hermitage of Ven. Job of Pochaev, founded there in Ladomirová, or Vladimirova, as the village came to be called in Russian, and from 1939 wholly relocated there, becoming a volunteer laborer.
Together with the remaining brethren, after the Second World War in 1946, he came to the U.S., settling in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. In 1948, he accepted the novitiate tonsure there; in 1950, he was ordained to the rank of deacon; in 1954, after graduating Holy Trinity Theological Seminary, to the rank of hieromonk. In 1959, he was elevated to the rank of abbot and, in 1966, to archimandrite.
Before having completed the full seminary program, he already led lectures on certain general education subjects of the lower classes, and later became professor of Old Testament Holy Scripture and Patristics. By resolution of His Beatitude, Met. Anastassy, in 1960 he was appointed to the position of Dean of Students of the Seminary. Simultaneously, throughout the course of many years in the monastery he carried out the obediences of Secretary of the Spiritual Council and Head of the Bookstore and the Monastery Shipping Center.
Your Eminence, Most Reverend Master, divinely-wise Archpastors!
In these present sacred and – to me – fearful minutes, when by God’s will you, Holy Hierarchs, and the Holy Synod of the Russian Church Abroad, call me, the unworthy one, to the episcopal ministry, what can I say, who am so full of sin?
“Fear and trembling have come upon me…” (Psalm 54:6). “I am straitened on every side…” (Daniel 13:22).
My heart is seized with fear and trembling. With great perturbation I answered your call, fearing both the great office of the episcopate and the enormous responsibilities that come with it.
I know that in the Church of God, “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God” (Hebrews 5:4), thus I also fear to dismiss the Divine summons. Albeit with deep fear and hesitation, I dare to answer the call of the Holy Church: I return thanks, I accept, and say nothing contrary thereto. But, realizing all the responsibility of ministry conferred upon me and, at the same time, my own unworthiness, although I have said that I say nothing contrary thereto, I must nevertheless say that I am weak and that “I know mine iniquity, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 50:3).
I am given much in this great mystery of episcopal consecration. I fear the words of the Lord, Who said: “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).
I confess God’s limitless mercies upon me, a sinner, by which I received so abundantly throughout my entire life.
From childhood, the Lord led me to the hermitage of Ven. Job of Pochaev, in the Carpathian Mountains, founded by Archimandrite Vitaly, later Archbishop of Eastern America, which at the time was led by Archimandrite Seraphim, now Archbishop of Chicago. Here in the hermitage, I received my preliminary spiritual training. In that same hermitage in the Carpathians, in my twelfth year I was honored to receive a blessing from Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy when my spiritual father, Fr. Hieromonk Cyprian [Pyzhov – trans.], now Archimandrite, presented me to Vladyka and he said: “God will bless you, you will be a pastor.”
Before the end of the Second Word War, the Brotherhood of St. Job was forced to abandon the Carpathians and after some wanderingбall its members were able to relocate to America, to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, to their Abba, Vladyka Archbishop Vitaly. Immediately after arriving in the U.S., I was overcome with a heavy heart, of which I immediately informed my spiritual father. Father Hieromonk Cyprian informed Vladyka Vitaly of this and asked Vladyka to autograph a picture of himself for me as a keepsake. Vladyka Vitaly wrote: “To my spiritual son from the font of baptism, and the successor of my service to the Orthodox Church and Russian people… 20 December, 1946.” These words of Vladyka Vitaly’s reinforced me spiritually. Later, Vladyka Vitaly tonsured me a rassophore monk and afterward into the mantle [Lesser Schema – ed.], it was he who ordained me deacon and presbyter. Under his guidance both my spiritual training and education continued. I thank the Lord that He gave me in obedience to such a great ascetic and warrior for Orthodoxy as the ever-memorable Vladyka Archbishop Vitaly.
I sincerely thank my present Abba, Vladyka Archbishop Averky, my seminary dean and rector, under whose guidance and instruction my monastic obediences have gone forth. I thank also all the brethren of Holy Trinity Monastery for the love and everything that I have received at the hermitage. I am indebted for all things to Holy Trinity Monastery and its brethren: one could say that I grew to adulthood in this habitation. It is now very difficult for me to part with the monastery where I carried out my obediences, which by fulfilling I believed that I was carrying out the obedience, the testament of my reposed Abba, Vladyka Vitaly, that I was continuing his service to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian people. I repeat: it is difficult for me to part with the monastery and with the brethren, with the seminary, for I know that my obediences will now lie as a heavy burden on the short-staffed monastic brethren.
Embarking now upon a new obedience in the Church of Christ, I am blessed and joyous to realize that I will be a successor of the Apostolic ministry. However, I acknowledge for myself fully that this ministry will be attended also by temptations, which I will not escape, for even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did not escape them. The Lord says this to all those who follow after Him, yet this relates also to all of His pastors, which now includes me, as well: “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:20).
“Persecution on the part of the evil and impious,” says Vladyka Anastassy in his Thoughts on Pastorship, “is the expected lot of all faithful witnesses of God… Every pastor of the Church is like a warrior, finding himself on the field of battle… However elevated the disposition of the pastor, however bright burns within him the flame of faith and love and the other virtues that separate him from the world, so much fiercer does the world bear down upon him…”
Yes, the time of persecution of the followers of Christ and his servants is not past, but is approaching the most terrible moment, of which the Book of Revelation speaks to us. Today, few true followers of Christ remain who strive to preserve the Truth such as It was handed to us by the Lord in His Holy Gospel. There is one Divine Truth, it is preserved in the Church of Christ, which is the Body of Christ. Therefore, there is one true Church of Christ, which is our Orthodox Church: Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. We are few, but we are with the Lord, we believe that these words of His are directed toward us: “fear not, little flock” (Luke 12:32), and these words: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
Divinely-wise Archpastors, pray that the Lord will help me to be a firm and incorruptible keeper of the life-bearing testaments and traditions of the Holy Orthodox Church, not only in words but, most importantly, in deeds. I entreat you, do not cease to support me, who am still unversed, with your edifications.
By the laying upon me, a sinner, of your hierarchal hands in order to send down upon my head the igniform grace of the Spirit, pray, Holy Hierarchs of God, that “the Grace Divine, which always healeth that which is infirm and completeth that which is lacking,” might condescend upon me, helping me to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
Beloved in the Lord, our co-brother,
Right Reverend Bishop Laurus!
In these special, bright, great, and joyful minutes for you, I would like to greet you not with my weak words, but with that greeting which the Holy Church Herself bids to Her hierarchs, and which, in turn, now appertain to you as well: Let thy soul rejoice in the Lord, for He hath clothed thee with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of gladness He hath covered thee. As a bridegroom He hath crowned thee, and as a bride hath covered herself with jewels, so hath He adorned thee!
Let thy soul rejoice – rejoice in the Lord, and again I say – rejoice! We, the hierarchs who laid hands upon you in the holy mystery of ordination, now rejoice with you, and receive you into our hierarchical family with love: the clergy rejoice, having prayerfully participated in the mystery of ordination; the multitude of your admirers and spiritual children gathered here rejoice; the flock rejoices – it is now shared: it is my flock and yours… But I think that rejoicing most of all are Vladyka Archbishop Averky and the brethren of Holy Trinity Monastery! And if they have genuine feelings of sorrow at your departure, as you are leaving a great void in the monastery in undertaking there manifold and critical obediences – then undoubtedly this feeling is eclipsed, as it were, by radiant joy: seeing you as a bishop of God’s Church!
But joy is one thing – yet life is not speaking of joys alone! We know that the Holy Revelator, the Apostle John the Theologian, in his Apocalypse [Revelation – ed.] tells of how the Angel gave to him a book with sealed scrolls for consumption, and how upon consumption it would be sweet in his mouth like honey, but after consumption become bitter in his belly – he felt the bitterness of martyrdom… Remember this: feasts pass and the everyday begins… The Lord Jesus Christ in His farewell discourse at the Mystical Supper warned His Apostles, and through them and their successors, i.e. the bishops: “In the world ye shall have tribulation…” Prepare yourself for tribulations. For they will surround you immediately, from your very first step, surrounding you on all sides – you will encounter them where you could never have imagined! And going forward, the Apostles themselves, burdened by the multitude of these tribulations, could have fallen into despair if their Divine Teacher had not warned them carefully and reassuringly: “In the world ye shall have tribulation – but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!” And every Christian that believes on Him becomes a participant of this victory, especially His servant in the exalted office of Bishop…
I would also like to tell you what I recently said to another newly-ordained young Bishop. I quoted for him the words of a great hierarch, who in his time beautified not only the Russian, but also the Universal Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, who encouragingly said, bestowing the episcopal staff to his newly-consecrated vicar, seeing his trepidation in those minutes: “Remember: in God’s Church the Holy Spirit appoints bishops. Ergo, from Him Himself, the Spirit of Grace, are your new rights and powers derived, and moreover, if He appointed His Bishop – it was not to abandon him, to be left without explanation and fortification!..” The grace of the Divine Spirit shall edify you, shall fortify you, shall make you wise – but fear, like fire, the possibility that you might lose, even for a moment, the thought of your own unworthiness! Remember, how weak, insignificant, and unworthy we are on our own. Only the Lord Himself can vouchsafe us to worthily accept the great gift of His grace!
The Holy Church, laying upon the shoulders of Her elect the hierarchical omophorion, by no means testifies therefore that he has already achieved spiritual perfection; She only waits and hopes that he will apply all of his energy and effort in order to, with God’s help, become a worthy vessel for the grace-filled gift. May the Lord be your Helper on every path of your archpastoral work… Receive the hierarchical staff. If it is in certain respects a tool to bolster and support the hierarch himself, then what is it to you, who are young and full of strength? Of course, the primary reason for bestowing the staff is that it is given to the bishop primarily as a symbol and sign of his holy and grace-filled episcopal power, power to rule and lead the flock and spiritual children and clergy, and also: in unavoidable circumstances, both as a sign of power and the right to discipline and, if required, to spiritually chastise: when a bishop sees in the flock obstinacy and an unwillingness to heed the fatherly word of correction… May God not allow this to happen, but life now is complicated, complicated and woebegone. I again caution: prepare yourself for tribulations! But remember also the words of the Great Apostle Paul, who suffered tribulations undoubtedly more than all of us put together, and nevertheless proclaimed joyously: as sufferings abound, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ..! Amen.
And now accept the staff and bless the flock, who await your first archpastoral blessing.
Church Life, 1967
Published by the Synod of Bishops of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia