QUESTIONS FROM A SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS AND ANSWERS
Greek Orthodox Diocese of Atlanta
6 WEST DRUID HILLS, SUITE 620 ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30329
Telephone (404) 634-9345
Fax (404) 634-2471
May 11, 1994
The "Junior" Sunday School Class
Mr. Philip Lawrence
St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
1316 Watts St.
Durham, NC 27702
Dear Juniors and Mr. Lawrence,
I want to thank you for the letter that your teacher Mr. Lawrence sent to me on your behalf. Allow me to apologize for the delay of my response but the responsibilities of administration for the Diocese of Atlanta are such that I am out of the office pastorally visiting parishes and can not respond immediately to my correspondence. Let me now answer your questions.
Who inspired you to become a Bishop?
In answering this question I must explain that there was not an individual that I was associated with that inspired me to become a Bishop, as you termed it. I was called to the priesthood by our Lord. It is a "feeling," a "knowing" that makes the priesthood what it is, a vocation and not a profession. I also want you to know that never did it enter my mind that I would aspire to become a Bishop. I entered the priesthood because I wanted to serve God in a very special manner, devoting all of my energies and life to Him.
How long did it take to become a Bishop?
I was born in Kephalonia, Greece and received my Theological degree from the University of Athens. I was tonsured a monk when I joined the Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Penteli. On January 23, 1952 I was ordained a deacon in Athens, Greece. In April of 1958 I arrived in the United States and served as the Archdeacon for His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos. On April 24, 1960 I was ordained into the priesthood and became the priest of St. Gerasimos Church in New York City. I was elevated to the rank of Archmandrite in December of 1960. I have served communities throughout the United States and on August 1, 1982 I was consecrated Bishop of Daphnousia. On April 2, 1992 our Lord found me worthy to be enthroned as Bishop of Atlanta. As you can see, the road was designed by God and I have always been a willing servant to do His will.
What is your favorite service?
Each service has its own beauty, but we must understand that the Divine Liturgy is the pinnacle of all of our Holy Services. It is at the Divine Liturgy that we are called forward to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and become partakers of the Eternal Kingdom.
What is your favorite Bible story?
This is another very difficult question that you have presented me with. I am extremely overjoyed to answer such well thought out questions, which reflect the true faith that is being developed inside of each and every one of you. I would venture to say that my favorite Bible story is that of Job. The fact that the Book of Job presents us with so many of today's dilemmas that we are plagued with, is most intriguing and beneficial for our sanity in a mixed up and crazy world. I hope that Mr. Lawrence or one of your religious educators in the past have taken the time to read and explain the Book of Job with you. If not, I truly believe that everyone should acquaint themselves with the story of Job. Job was a man of great faith, one who's "leap of faith," seems so incomprehensible to us today. But let me assure you that this is the faith that all of us must have, and this is the love for God that we need to nurture in order to attain eternal life. Job is the "hero" image that we need to have before us today, along with the other Martyrs, Saints and Fathers of the Church. The heroes of MTV and the society we live in are all an illusion that will lead us down a path of destruction. Our archetype is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not anything born out of the temporality of this world.
How many different sets of vestments do you have?
The typikon of our Church, or might I say the guidelines concerning Liturgics specify specific colors for specific seasons during the ecclesiastical year. I have made it my responsibility to make sure that my Liturgical dress coincides with the requirements of our typikon.
Have you performed services outside the U.S.?
Allow me to rephrase your question. Have I "celebrated" services outside the U.S.? The answer is yes, I have celebrated all forms of Orthodox worship services in many different places throughout the world. God has blessed me with the opportunity to celebrate with diverse groups of Orthodox faithful all over the world. I pray that you will possibly entertain the idea of devoting some period in your lives to doing missionary work for the Orthodox Church.
What question are you asked the most?
I am continuously asked questions concerning our Orthodox faith. Who are we? Are we Christians? Do we believe in Jesus? People, whenever having witnessed any of our Holy Services are so moved and intrigued that they ask all kinds of questions concerning our rituals and ceremonies. Orthodoxy is not evangelistic in the Protestant sense of the word. Proselytizing is something that we as Orthodox have never engaged in, and as Orthodox will continue to attract those who want to embrace our faith through the Light of the Truth only. The "fulfillment" "pleroma" that belongs to Orthodoxy only is what brings those outside the fold, inside the body of members of His Church.
It has been an extreme pleasure taking the time to answer your questions. I am never too busy to spend time with any of you. I want you to know and understand that many times I am sure you have heard it said; "the youth are the future of our Church. " I want you to know that all of you are an integral part, active members of the Body of Christ, TODAY! I hope that all of you will take the opportunity to attend the St. Stephen Summer Camp in Aiken, South Carolina this summer.
God bless you,
Bishop Philip of Atlanta