Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos) on Bishops

Arabic original here.

The Bishop: A Spiritual, Patristic Approach

There is a deep bond between the bishop and the local church. He is tied to a specific, real diocese (bishop over a territory).

Saint Cyprian says, "The bishop exists in the church and the church exists in him." Saint Ignatius of Antioch says, "Follow the bishop as  the Lord Jesus Christ follows His father..." (Epistle to the People of Smyrna 8:1-2).

He is the priest par excellence, the successor of the apostles, and the teacher who watches over the upright faith as well as the Orthodox ethos. The word 'episkopos' means someone who watches over, the overseer, the one who preserves and protects. The bishop presides over the eucharistic gathering and distributes the holy mysteries that are the source of grace and life. The bishop remains, despite everything, a mere servant of the mysteries because Christ Himself is the true source of the grace that is bestowed by the Holy Spirit Himself.

The bishop as teacher:

"Rightly dividing the word of truth" (cf. Canon 19 of the Council in Trullo). This responsibility requires of him great humility, simplicity of life, and an upright ethos.

The bishop does not speak in his own personal name, but in the name of the Church. That is, in the name of the community of the Church, the body of Christ, as well as in the name of holy tradition. He receives this grace from Christ Himself through apostolic succession.

The bishop as shepherd:

He is the the shepherd of rational sheep who watches over them: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). The bishop is the image of Christ when he follows God's will in the Church by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Then "obedience to the bishop is obedience to God," as Saint Ignatius of Antioch says in his Epistle to the Ephesians (5:2) and his Epistle to the Magnesians (3:2).

He is the guard who takes care of his sheep. He strengthens the weak, treats the sick, and strives after the lost sheep.

In the prayer of consecration of a bishop we pray, "Grant, O Father, to Your servant whom You have chosen for the episcopate that he may shepherd Your holy flock."

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

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