REFLECTIONS ON THE CANONIZATION OF ST. RAPHAEL

by Archbishop Peter (L'Huiller) of New York and New Jersey

 

Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny was canonized in the Spring of this year, 85 years after his dormition. The decision was made by the Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, working in close connection with the local Archdiocese of the Antiochian Patriarchate. The religious press and especially the Orthodox Church in America have thoroughly described the event and my intent is not to duplicate materials already published on that subject. I would like only to share some thoughts with the readers of Jacob’s Well about the contemporary significance of the recent canonization for Orthodoxy in our country.

The life of St. Raphael reflects accurately the catholic unity of the Church and his pastoral ministry remains an example for priests and bishops everywhere. I do not intend to recount his life which has been published together with the liturgical service in his honor, but I would like to shed light on some points which have nowadays a special significance for the Orthodox Christians living in America.

Undoubtedly his ethnic origin and the religious education he received seems to have predestined St. Raphael for his future ministry as is rightly emphasized in a phrase of his kontakion where he is called "son of Syria and glory of North America." Then the idea of overlapping episcopal jurisdictions had not yet come to maturity. Such an attempt against Church order had been solemnly condemned by a council held in Constantinople in 1872 which coined that heresey as ethno-phyletism (ecclesiastical nationalism). The missionary work in North America had been initiated and organized by the Russian Church during the eighteenth century. St. Raphael took care primarily of the Arabic-speaking Christians in North America while belonging to the Russian Church which was, according to the canons, the only existing jurisdictional entity. Moreover, he publicly stated in front of St. Tikhon, his archpastor that the latter had been sent to America "to tend the flock of Christ: Russians, Slavs, Syro-Arabs, and Greek.

Having passed away in 1915, he did not witness the devasting impact of the Bolshevik Revolution on the life of Orthodoxy in North America. To be sure, the Revolution was not the only facto of the ensuing canonical disorders in our country. Nevertheless, it was the starting point in the process of jurisdictional fragmentation and the very fact that such deficiencies have not already been overcome should be a matter of reflection.

Holy Hierarchs are praised in the Church as Rules of Faith and Images of Humility. Let us fervently pray to St. Raphael in order that he supplicate the Lord God for the good order of His Church in America.

From Jacob's Well
Newspaper of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey
Orthodox Church in America
Spring/Summer 2000

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