Enthronement Homily of Bishop Teodosije, December 26, 2010
Expressing gratitude to the Lord our God the Creator; to the Holy Trinity celebrated and glorified; to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit; elected by God's providence and by decision of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, with fear and trembling I enter the sacred throne of the Bishops of Raška and Prizren.
I humbly accept the archpastoral scepter, aware of the great responsibility and sublime mystery of the episcopal ministry, remembering the words of the Apostle who said, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). These are frightening words, because the Bishop as God’s steward is invited to feed the flock of Christ, redeemed by the Lord on the cross and called into eternal fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Therefore the throne of a Bishop who follows Christ is at the same time the Cross of the Lord, because following Christ we are invited to go through His suffering, in order to become worthy of the eternal glory of the Resurrection and the Heavenly Kingdom. Accepting these sacred duties, which exceed human strength, I remember the words of prayer that “the divine grace heals human weaknesses and corrects shortcomings.” I know that I cannot achieve anything by myself, but only in communion with my brothers, priests and the faithful, because every Diocese is a Church in which we live and act together, serving one another in humility and love, and not waiting for others to serve us. So on this occasion I humbly ask for your prayers, so that I can be worthy to carry on this duty with dignity, to worthily witness the word of the Lord’s truth, preserving the Orthodox Faith, which was handed over to us by Christ the Lord through the Holy Apostles and the Fathers of the Church and which we are obliged to hand over intact those who are coming after us.
In the Divine Liturgy in which we have communed with the Body and Blood of Christ, living out the reality of the Heavenly Kingdom, we have once again confirmed our fellowship in Christ. In the episcopal service the supreme mystery is the Eucharist itself, because the Church expresses itself in the Liturgy as a fellowship of the people of God around the Bishop, who, in the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, is an icon of Christ the Son of God in the liturgical assembly. Therefore, the Liturgy and the worship of God through prayer are the lungs of our Church, by which she lives and breathes, sailing with the Holy Spirit in this life, as a ship towards eternity.
As an ancient Christian writer once said, Christians live in this world but are not of this world; they live in their countries, but simply as sojourners . This paradox is the very essence of our Christian understanding of reality in which we live for eternity, but at the same time remaining deeply involved in all aspects of our earthly life. Spiritual life is not indifference to the world around us, but a living and continuous awareness that this life is not our ultimate goal; that it cannot serve as the criteria by which we measure the values for which we live.
More than six years ago, with God’s providence, I was elevated to the rank of Bishop as the as the Auxiliary Bishop of Lipljan. I received this sacred dignity with joy and fear, knowing that my previous service to God, as the abbot of Decani Monastery, would have to be heightened, that I would have to be even more devoted and committed than before. Nineteen years in Kosovo and Metohija have been for me the greatest school of life, in which I got to know this pious flock and fell in love with this blessed land of Kosovo and Metohija. Years of war and suffering have taught me how frightening are the abysses of human nature, its helplessness and weakness, and how great is the power of God which is manifested so powerfully in danger.
Now, when I am receiving the sacred office of the Diocesan Bishop of Raška and Prizren, the responsibilities that I face are much greater. I am aware that I am being entrusted with one of the most distinguished Dioceses of our Church. Resulting from the union of the Dioceses of Raška and Prizren in 1808, it comprises the area in which our faithful people have bequeathed numerous holy sites that to this day shine as lights of our faith and hope in Christ the Savior. The Raška and Prizren Dioceses were first formally mentioned in the 11th century in written form by the Byzantine emperor Basil II. This episcopal chair had most certainly existed before that time, as witnessed by the oldest Christian chronicles from Byzantine sources, such as the Lives of the Christian martyrs Florus and Laurus, who were martyred in the ancient city of Ulpiana, where later in their honour a basilica was built—the remains of which still exist today. A particular stimulus to the Church in this area was given in 1219 when these two dioceses, together with the neighboring dioceses of Hvosno and Lipljan (both in Kosovo and Metohija), became integral parts of St. Sava’s Archdiocese of Žiča, especially when the seat of the Archdiocese was transferred in the mid thirteenth century to the monastery of the Patriarchate of Peć. Monasteries, hermitages, cave-churches which emerged in that time throughout present-day Kosovo and Metohija vividly exemplify the intensive ecclesiastic and spiritual life which is firmly embedded in the foundations of the identity of the Serbian people. As our people made their historical covenant with God through Saint Sava and the Sanctified Prince Lazar, so are our holy shrines stamps on this Charter—the living witnesses of our faith and faithfulness to Christ who summoned us to the family of Christian nations. Sopoćani, Banjska, Gračanica, Dečani are pillars of the Serbian Orthodox history which determined our spiritual and historical path, reaching from the earth to the heavens showing us what we were, what we are and what we shall need to be. The ancient cathedral of the Holy Virgin Ljeviška, which used to be the episcopal cathedral church and is now, though wounded and burned, a strong witness to the sublime beauty of the sacred history of this Diocese and this ancient city which for centuries has been a place of convergence for many cultures and civilizations.
Many holy bishops of our Church have sat on this honorable throne, amongst whom I should particularly mention the late Patriarch Pavle, who was Bishop here in Prizren for 33 years. Preserving the unquenched torch our Orthodox faith, from here he brought it to the throne of the Serbian patriarchs, as a shining example to all our faithful people. I would also mention Bishop Seraphim, who sat in the episcopal chair of Raška and Prizren in the difficult days in the beginning of the Second World War and who along with his clergy and people took the cross of suffering with Christian humility and suffered a martyr's death in Albania—far from his home. Similarly, after the sufferings of war, Bishop Vladimir took upon his shoulders the burden of his people. At his request, he was buried in the city cemetery of Prizren, and thereby demonstrated his commitment to the congregation that had been entrusted to him by God. The history of the Church in this region was not only written by bishops, but also by a number of ascetics, Saints Peter of Koriša and Joanikije of Devič, and our holy kings and numerous known and unknown martyrs of our nation, including the two who excelled in their martyr’s end – monks Hariton and Stefan, new martyrs from Kosovo and Metohija.
Today, when I am given the pastoral duties over the region of Kosovo, Metohija and Raška, our church is experiencing another Golgotha, for the umpteenth time, in its history. But knowing that the power of God is manifested in helplessness, we all feel a great spiritual consolation despite the troubles we face daily. The reconstruction of our destroyed holy sites and our homes, together with the return of the displaced to their hearths, we are constantly experiencing a spiritual renewal and the power of the mystery of Christ's resurrection, which by its light conquers darkness and death, and every sadness turns into a spiritual joy. Today, the congregation of this Diocese is a little flock to which the Lord says "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). That is why in this moment my thoughts and prayers are directed towards my faithful people, the old, the infirm, the returnees, and particularly the children. I invite them to have firm hope and faith in the Lord, to stay and live in their homes and bear witness to the faith of their forefathers and live with dignity, as did their holy ancestors. We know well that it is difficult to live in constant uncertainty, look at the ruins of our holy sites and cemeteries, and even harder to see our cities without their Serbian population, such as Prizren, where today only twenty Serbs remain amongst the living. Nevertheless, our certainty and hope is in God, who has always taught us not to lose ourselves in troubles, and not to allow bitterness enter our hearts and deprive us of love.
Living in this region, we are called to share this earth and water, air and sun with all those who live with us and around us, constantly bearing witness of our faith in Christ the Lover of Mankind, and preserving the love for our neighbor. The Lord has shown us that love can conquer the world. That is why this divine command is our calling and our duty, especially in this region where “iniquity [has] increased and where the love of many became wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). Keeping our faith, we must not lose our awareness of the universal mission of our Church and the responsibility for all those around us with whom God has called on us to share this earth. Because our testimony should always be inspired by the awareness that every human being is a bearer of the image of God, is called on to participate in the eternal Kingdom of the Lord, and that we, as witnesses to the truth of Christ, bear responsibility for how much others will be able to see Christ in us. Resolutely defending our people and our holy shrines, their centuries-old Christian and Orthodox identity, we must not forget that we are called to build bridges of peace, to be ready to love and forgive, in order to become worthy of eternal life, divine grace, and the Kingdom of God.
So with this place, I address not only the Serbian Orthodox people of this God-saved Diocese but also our neighbors—Albanians, Turks, Bosniaks, Goranis, Roma and all others who live in this blessed land—inviting all to work together in peace and mutual respect in building a future for the younger generations. Our future should be based on God’s justice and truth, so that each one of us will be able to make a contribution to a just solution to all the questions we are facing. May God not allow the days of conflict, hatred and war to ever be repeated in this region.
In addition, I address the international civilian and military representatives, urging them to always bear God's justice in mind above all worldly interests, and to constantly be aware of the responsibility we all have before God and history in resolving the status of, and all important issues in, Kosovo and Metohija.
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude especially to you, Your Holiness, for your trust and support. Your advice will be my constant support and encouragement in my pastoral work. I owe special gratitude to the previous Administrators of this God-saved Diocese, retired Bishop Atanasije of Zahumlje-Herzegovina and Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral. During these past months, I learned so much from both of them about pastoral work and responsibility, care and love for the suffering Church of Christ. In particular I thank the clergy, monks and nuns of the Diocese who remained faithful to their Church, and together with the faithful people, demonstrated spiritual maturity and responsibility in keeping Church order and tradition. The unity of the Church based on respect for church order and hierarchy is the basic foundation on which we base our archpastoral work.
With joy and gratitude in particular I welcome the brethren bishops here present, who came to our prayerful support, to share with us the spiritual joy. I welcome all priests, deacons, venerable monks and nuns who brought us the blessings from their parishes and monasteries all over the Orthodox Church.
I welcome the present representatives of the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Church, the Islamic community, civil and international representatives. I sincerely hope that we will develop mutual relations based on respect and understanding, and shared responsibility to do everything in our power to let the peace and harmony rule among the peoples in Kosovo and Metohija.
I welcome the representatives of the state here presentm as well as all our friends, benefactors, and contributors who have been genuinely supporting our people and holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija, helping us to renew our villages and homes, churches and cemeteries, feed the hungry in our soup kitchens and help the poor.
Finally, I thank the faithful people of this God-saved Diocese and all the faithful of our Church, who have made an effort in these winter days to come to this ancient imperial city of Prizren. To all present, and to all those who wanted to attend and were not able, I extend my sincere gratitude with this archpastoral blessing: – The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and love of God the Father and the Communion Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen!
PHOTO GALLERY 2 – ENTHRONEMENT OF BISHOP TEODOSIJE