Bishop Alexander’s “Credo,” in acceptance of his election to the episcopacy

On May 4, 2012, his grace Bishop Alexander of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese delivered this “Credo” at St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford, Ohio, in acceptance of his election to the episcopacy:

Credo delivered at St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford, Ohio

Bishop Alexander of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese, on the eve of his consecration, speaking at St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford, Ohio.

Your Beatitude, your Eminence, Right Reverend Bishops, Reverend Fathers, Brothers and Sisters: Christ Is Risen!

I stand before you on the eve of consecration to the episcopate of Christ’s holy Church, and I do so with fear and trembling, for no higher office exists in the Church, nor is there any so heavy with responsibility before our Lord and Savior as is this one. I know I shall be called to account before the Judgment Seat for the souls that are about to be placed in my charge, and I fear the Righteous Judge Whose justice is perfect and Whose word is truth.

What is it to be a bishop? Many centuries ago, a holy bishop of Rome defined himself and his office as “the servant of the servants of God”, in which phrase the saint was echoing the words of our Lord, Who told His disciples – after the latter had been quarreling over precedence in the Kingdom – that “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” In the Divine Liturgy, on the other hand, when the bishops sits enthroned on the high place flanked by his presbyters, he presents the image of God in heaven on the throne of the cherubim surrounded by the Angels of the Face. Again, when standing before the holy altar at the anaphora, the bishop images forth the one and unique High Priest, Christ, Who acts through His celebrant. These latter are true images, wonderful and glorious, and their veracity is supported by and echoed throughout the millennia of the Church’s life. They are true and revelatory icons of God’s Kingdom which is, and is to come.

Yet, while it is true that our Lord Jesus is true God and true King, it is also true that He did not come to us, His creatures, with the pomp and splendor of the King, attended by the legions of heaven, but rather in humility He emptied Himself and was found in the likeness of a servant. He was born in a stable, and when He entered the city of His ancestor, David, He did so riding sidesaddle on a donkey like any peasant, and not on a splendid charger arrayed in the armor and pride of those who are glorious on the earth. He died naked, abandoned by His disciples and mocked by His enemies, and offered neither reproach nor rebuke to His slayers, but rather forgiveness. If this is the Master, can the disciple be otherwise? No, and the Lord Himself tells us as much, and if this example of long-suffering humility, meekness, and charity is held out for imitation to everyone who has put on Christ in Baptism, then how much the more does it not apply to one who has been set aside to serve as bishop of His Church?

Allow me to draw a few conclusions from these two sets of images, the one drawn from the holy liturgy and the other from those same Gospels which are to be placed on my head tomorrow morning. They are very different images, the first set revelatory of the splendor of heaven, and the second of the humility, long-suffering, and charity of our Lord’s life and ministry. My first conclusion is that I must keep this difference firmly in mind throughout my life as bishop, by which I mean the glory of the liturgical iconography should have no place in my office and day-to-day demeanor. My actions, my patterns of speech, my service in short, is to be determined by the example given us by God the Word Himself. I am therefore not, as Bishop, called to behave like a king, an autocrat and master of obedient slaves. True, I shall be given authority, and that authority is real and to be respected both by me and by those whom I am called to serve, but our Lord also called His disciples friends, and it is thus that I hope I can be to my flock, most especially to my clergy, who are together with me called to serve God’s people, and to suffer for and with them. If I am to be a father, and such is the nature of the office to be given me, then there again I must look to the example of our Lord. A righteous and loving father will on occasion be obliged to discipline his children, but never to terrorize them. Our Lord’s disciples felt free to pose Him questions, even to rebuke Him as did Peter at Caesarea-Phillipi. Now, to be sure, Peter was wrong and was himself in turn rebuked, but he was not punished. I am not now, nor ever will be infallible like our Lord, and it may be in my case that rebukes will be justified. I therefore hope that the priests in my charge will never be afraid to speak their minds, courteously and lovingly, nor expect anything else from me than an equally courteous and loving reply, even if the latter be not always to their liking. For now, I beg their patience and ask their assistance, and warn my fellow bishops to be that I shall be calling on them for counsel and help in adjusting to an altogether different path than the one I have followed these past decades. Of all I ask prayers before our Lord and Savior on my behalf, who am and remain, for all my sins and weaknesses,

His servant,
Alexander+, hieromonk
Bulgarian Diocese