The Word Magazine December 1992 Page 5-6



by Metropolitan PHILIP


Your Graces, Beloved in Christ:

We are gathered in this Cathedral this morning to pray for the repose of the soul of our departed brother and friend, His Eminence, Archbishop Michael.

Death, in the human experience has never been easy — whether it comes suddenly or after a long illness, whether it comes in youth or in old age. It always leaves in its wake sorrow, tears, and longing. May our gracious Lord receive the soul of His departed servant, Archbishop Michael, in His holy mansions, “where the choirs of the saints and of the just shine like the stars of heaven.”

It was last Saturday afternoon, when I was in Western Pennsylvania on an archpastoral visit, that a member of the Board of Trustees of the Archdiocese called to tell me the news of the falling asleep in Christ of our beloved brother, Archbishop Michael. Needless to say; the words froze on my lips; because this news was totally unexpected. I knew the Archbishop to be healthy vigorous, and always ready to travel on behalf of the Archdiocese. As a matter of fact, it was last summer, this last August, he traveled to Syria; not knowing, perhaps, it was to be for the last time to recall and recollect the remnants of his memories.

Life is very uncertain. No matter how strong we are, no matter how wealthy we are, no matter how famous we are, in the twinkling of an eye or in the fluttering of a wing, we are no more. And how well this was put by the great Damascene, St. John, when he said:

“What earthly sweetness remaineth unmixed with grief? What glory standeth immutable on earth? All are but feeble shadows. All things are most deluding dreams. Yet one moment only, and death shall supplant them all.”

St. John goes on to say:

“I looked into the graves and beheld the bones laid bare. And I said, Who then is the king or the warrior, rich man or the needy?”

My friends, all of us, when we depart this world, leave behind some kind of legacy. Some leave millions of dollars, to no avail. Some leave millions in property to no avail. Some leave worldly fame, but to no avail.

When someone passes on to life eternal, it is often asked, “How much did he leave?” I am sure you have heard this hundreds of times. I want you to know that we leave everything. We do not take with us one penny to the grave. The only thing which we take with us, when we pass through that narrow gate into eternal life, is our abiding faith in Christ who is the resurrection and the life. Our faith and our good works, nothing else.

What kind of legacy did His Eminence, Archbishop Michael leave? I am sure that he is not leaving millions of dollars. I know this for a fact. I am sure he is not leaving property; the house in which he lived is owned by the Archdiocese. I am sure he is not leaving behind worldly goods. What he leaves for us is something more precious than gold and silver; more precious than all the buildings of this world and all the property therein.

Firstly, Archbishop Michael leaves behind a legacy of humility. He was a very humble man. We all know that. Secondly, simplicity — the simplicity of life. Thirdly love. He was loved by the people; and your presence here today and the presence of the tremendous crowd which we had in this Cathedral last evening testifies to this fact, beyond any doubt.

But the most important and most enduring legacy which the Archbishop leaves is the legacy of peace!

In the Beatitudes, our Lord said:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”

And in the Second Epistle of James, we read:

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits without uncertainty or insincerity. And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

(The Metropolitan then gave an account of Archbishop MICHAEL’s life from birth to death. We will not repeat it here, as some of it can be found in the Editorial.)

It is the irony of history that I, who came to this country invited by Archbishop David, switched jurisdictions because of circumstances beyond my control. And in 1962, when Archbishop Michael was elevated to the rank of the Holy Episcopate, he also switched jurisdictions, from the Archdiocese of New York to the Archdiocese of Toledo, because of circumstances beyond his control. I believe it was divine providence that these things happened.

In 1966, I was elevated to the Holy Episcopate to be Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York and All North America. And as I reflected — for I did that many times — on the conditions of our Orthodox people in North America, especially the Antiochian Archdiocese, I could not understand why our people were divided against each other. Neighbors were not talking to neighbors; friends were not talking to friends; cousins were not talking to cousins.

I thought about this reality and I felt very strongly that this was totally unacceptable; that this was totally unreasonable. And ‘from my youth up’ I have struggled to unite our people.

The years passed by and it was June of 1973. I was here in Toledo presiding over the Midwest Region Parish Life Conference. It was Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy, in this same city where Archbishop Michael was residing. All of the people had left the hotel and I was alone in my suite, agonizing over this very same problem. I realized that here I was, celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the city of Toledo, while having a brother-in-Christ who lived only a few blocks from where I was and we did not celebrate together. This is tragic!

While I was immersed in these thoughts, one of my priests, Father George Rados, walked into my suite. I looked at Father George and I said, “I want you to call Archbishop Michael right now.”

Father George, after some pause, asked if I really meant it. I said, “Indeed I do. Call Archbishop Michael.”

Father George proceeded to do so, and the Archbishop was most receptive to the call. He said “Come, you are most welcome.” And so we went to his residence and were greeted at the door most graciously; there was a smile on his face as we embraced.

Of course, we had spoken many times in the past, for we were friends. But now I told him, “I have come here to talk about the unity of our people. I want you to know that if you would like to be the Metropolitan of this one, united Archdiocese, I will serve as your Auxiliary.”

Our friendly exchange continued; it was decided to appoint a commission to study rhc problem and see what could be done about it. And we did exactly that. We chose a committee of clergy and laity; and it became apparent that the details were more difficult than the principle. We spent two years discussing details.

Finally, in June of 1975, His Eminence, Archbishop Michael and I met in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and signed an agreement which was subsequently ratified by the Holy Synod of Antioch on August 19, 1975. We proclaimed the good news to our people, on this continent and overseas, that henceforth, the power of the devil will never be able… never, never, never be able to divide our people.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

This is the legacy that His Eminence, Archbishop Michael leaves, and believe me, it is a tremendous legacy which will be reflected in the history of this Archdiocese to be written in the years to come. He will go down in history as the peacemaker.

(The Metropolitan then made some personal remarks of comfort to the Shaheen and Corey families.)