Posts tagged ‘Modern Elders’

Our Father in Christ, Archbishop Dmitri

August 28, 2012 is the one year anniversary of the repose of this man who was so dear to so many. He was formative in my life both as an Orthodox Christian and as a priest. This is the commemorative article I wrote for the 2012 Tikhonaire about Vladyka Dmitri. It can be found also HERE.

“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15)

After many fruitful years of ministry in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Eminence Dmitri, Archbishop of Dallas and the South, reposed in the Lord on August 28, 2011. The founding Bishop of the Diocese of the South, Vladyka Dmitri worked tirelessly to share the fullness of the Christian faith with the people of his “native lands.” The Synod of the OCA gathered in Dallas, at St Seraphim Cathedral, which he had founded, for his funeral services from August 29 – September 1 of last year.

Vladyka was born Robert Royster on November 2, 1923. He grew up Teague, Texas, raised by faithful Baptist parents. His Eminence often credited his mother for providing a solid Christian foundation for he and his sister, and a particular focus on Christ – a focus that was to be his central tenant as a pastor. It has often been said that he preached only one homily – “who is Christ?” He also made it a conscious point to mention Christ in practically every conversation, calling constantly to mind the Founder and Author of our Faith.

Vladyka and his sister converted to Orthodoxy in their late teens, in 1941 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas. Their conversion was blessed by his mother, since he could honestly say that the center of the Church is Christ. He was drafted into the Army in 1943, and was trained to work with linguistics, in particular, Japanese. He even worked as a Japanese translator on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur’s Pacific campaign theatre during World War II.

After his military service, Vladyka Dmitri went to university. He received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Texas in Denton, and a Master’s Degree in Spanish in 1949 from Southern Methodist University. He also completed two years of post-graduate studies at Tulane University in New Orleans. After that he returned to his home in Dallas.

In 1954, as a subdeacon with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Eminence petition for a blessing to found an English-language parish in Dallas. He was ordained deacon and priest later that year, and assigned to the newly created St. Seraphim Orthodox Church. In 1958, St. Seraphim parish was received into the OCA (Metropolia at the time). As priest at the new English-language parish, Fr. Dmitri also worked with the Spanish speaking populations around Dallas, translating the services into Spanish and preaching the Gospel. He also worked tirelessly to spread the faith among his “hometown” Texans, looking for every opportunity to share with them the fullness of the faith of Jesus Christ, once and for all delivered to the Saints. Vladyka also taught Spanish at SMU during this time, to guarantee a stable income and to ensure he could continue his work with the Church.

During this time in Dallas, Fr Dmitri found time to help his sister operate her own restaurant, and he published many articles on Orthodox faith and life in St Seraphim’s weekly bulletins. Orthodox works in English were rare in those days, and the new priest did what he could to address it. He was a gifted preacher and teacher, able to relate to many people on many different levels of life. The parish of St Seraphim grew steadily, by the grace of God and the struggles of His Eminence.

In 1966 and 1967, Fr Dmitri attended St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and in 1969 he was elected to the episcopate and consecrated (on June 22, 1969) as the Bishop of Berkley, assistant to Archbishop John [Shahovskoy] of San Francisco. It was virtually unheard of for a convert to be consecrated bishop in the Americas, so Vladyka’s election was a sort of milestone in the history of the OCA. In 1970, he was reassigned as Bishop of Washington and Auxiliary to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney. He would later recall the helpful training he received as an Auxiliary under both Archbishop John and Metropolitan Ireney, especially his many hours of instruction in Church Slavonic.

On October 19, 1971, Bishop Dmitri was elected Bishop of Hartford and New England, and when parishes in Mexico were received into the OCA in 1972, he also became the Exarch of Mexico (given his knowledge of Spanish, and fondness for Mexican culture). In 1977, at the 5th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America in Montreal, Bishop Dmitri received a majority of popular votes in the election for a new Metropolitan. The Holy Synod of Bishops chose to consecrate as Metropolitan then Bishop Theodosius of Pittsburg instead, feeling that the time was not yet right to have a convert as the Metropolitan of the OCA.

In 1978, the Synod of Bishops took the important step of creating the Diocese of Dallas and the South. The Diocese was essentially comprised of all of the states not yet within another Diocese – it stretched from New Mexico to Florida, and as far north as North Carolina. Bishop Dmitri became its first ruling hierarch, taking Saint Seraphim Church as his Episcopal See. Archpriest George Gladky was named chancellor, and his parish of Christ the Saviour in Miami became a second Cathedral for the expansive new Diocese. Fr. George and Vladyka Dmitri travelled constantly around the new Diocese, planting new missions and encouraging the faithful in their Christian lives. Vladyka had always had a strong constitution, and how he had a chance to use it – crisscrossing the Diocese (from Dallas to Miami) at least 6 times each year by car, in addition to all of the other trips he made to various communities under his care.

The people of the Diocese of the South took to the preaching of the Gospel, and parishes began popping up everywhere. When the Diocese was founded, there were about 6 parishes and missions – by the time of Vladyka’s repose that number had grown to nearly 70. Pastors were encouraged to a very simple life of loving their people and preaching Christ. There was no secret recipe for the success of the Diocese of the South; Christ was preached, and the people came. Many people fondly remember the times they spent with Vladyka – full of joy, full of life, full of love – his very presence changed the room. People listened to him, they followed his suggestions, not because he was the Bishop and therefore in charge, rather, people followed him because he was a true shepherd to them. He fed his flock, and in return, the flock loved him.

From the creation of the Diocese of the South in 1978, Vladyka was elevated to the rank of Archbishop in 1993, and he even served as Locum Tenens of the OCA for the few months between the retirement of Metropolitan Herman and the election of Metropolitan Jonah. But as he put little stock in titles or positions, and never sought out such things for himself, these are the few things to mention of his “career” as a hierarch. He cared for the things of Christ, and not for the trappings of the world. After many years of tireless work for the Gospel in his Diocese, Vladyka requested, and was granted, retirement in March 2009.

He spent his few years of retirement peacefully, filling his time with writing commentaries on the Scriptures, prayer, services, and receiving guests as his strength allowed. The people of his cathedral, and his Diocese, loved him, and many came to help him as his strength was waning. When it was announced that his earthly life had come to its end, the people of the Diocese of the South (and others as well) mourned the loss of their father. By his love and his example he had given birth to the Diocese, he was our father in Christ, and now his intercessions for us continue in the Kingdom without end.

How can we sum up the life and ministry of such a great man of God? His guiding light in all things was Christ – if Vladyka were to have us remember one thing, that would be it. He measured his steps and his decisions by Christ, and called on us all to do the same. He was a strong and capable pastor, loving and truly concerned about his flock, and always holding up Christ as the ultimate goal in all things.

May his memory be eternal!

Author Matthew Jackson

4 Holy Modern Elders of Greece

There’s far too much to say for me to even begin speaking of the lives of these holy men of God. They shine as bright lights for us in the modern world, having lived in times contemporary to ours. These men are gifts to us, given by the grace and mercy of God, for us to listen to deeply and to be inspired in our lives in Christ. Below I will list the names of these holy men, together with a link to a book either by them or about them, as well as a brief version of their life from online. May God strengthen us by their example and especially by their holy prayers.

 
 
 
 
 
 

The Elders, from left to right…
Elder Paisios the Athonite
Brief Life and Teachings
– book, Elder Paisios of Mt Athos by Elder Isaac

Elder Iakovos of Evia
– no good life online, sorry
– book, The Garden of the Holy Spirit – Elder Iakovos of Evia

Elder Porphyrios of Kapsokalyvia (Wounded by Love)
Brief Life
– book, Wounded by Love

[seated] Elder Joseph the Hesychast
– a great deal about the Life of the Elder
– book, Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast
– book, Elder Joseph the Hesychast: Struggles – Experiences – Teachings

Archimandrite Zacharias on the Importance of St. Silouan and the Elder Sophrony