Bishop Matthias visited our parish yesterday. It had been five years since a bishop had been to our church. Several weeks before his visit, we held a church cleaning day, and we ended up painting the nave and rearranging the icons. The ladies “Saints Mary and Martha Guild” planned the lunch menu.
Because we are old calendar, we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration during his visit. That meant we had him, not only for liturgy, but also for a very moving vigil the night before. We had a meet and greet (he really is down to earth, with a great sense of humor.) before the vigil, and then the solemn--yet joyous service. My photos are from the vigil. The liturgy was too special to mar by taking pictures (besides, it's hard to take pictures when you're in the choir.)
My sister asked me on Saturday if the bishop was going to speak on Sunday. "I guess so," I responded. I remember thinking, That's not the point. It's just having him here. But he did give the homily and it was amazing, as I knew it would be. He also made some special presentations: naming our long-time deacon as protodeacon, tonsuring a new reader (a new convert who was chrismated the same time we were), plus three unexpected awards to long-time church members who have given many hours of service to our parish.
It’s a cliché (and in this case a pun), but it really was a “mountaintop experience.” It was hard to come down to earth again.
I’ve never been a member of a church that had a bishop. I guess the churches I was a part of considered it too “Catholic” or something. But the Bible mentions bishops several times. The problem is, the Greek word episkopos is translated “overseer” (or in one case “guardian”) in both the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version, the translations usually used in the churches I attended. But if you remove the first letter and the last two letters of episkopos, you get “piskop,” from which we get the word “bishop.” The good old King James Version and my favorite, the New King James, usually translate the word as bishop. Let’s have a look:
Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (Philippians 1:1)
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; (1 Timothy 3:2)
For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, (Titus 1:7)
In addition, the church history written by Eusebius in 325, lists the bishops of the early church from the time of the apostles. But then I’d never heard of Eusebius until I became Orthodox
I’m no expert on church government, but I can see the importance of bishops for leadership and accountability. And this weekend I experienced something else--the excitement and sense of wonder when a bishop worships with us, especially during a feast day.