Olga, thank you for giving us Fr. Alexander and for sharing your life with Skandar with us. Katherine and Skandar, thanks for sharing your dad with us. I know there were many times when he should have been with you, both as a wife and as a daughter and a son, and he was with his flock. And our God saw all of those tears that you thought that no one saw during the past life as a khouriye and as PKs, those tears that you shed silently, even hiding it from Fr. Alexander into your pillows, but our God saw them, and his angels brought them to him, and he transforms them from tears into diamonds.
There’s nobody like a khouriye, nobody. The sacrifice which she makes is only matched by those which her children make, because, in addition to being a khouriye, she is also the mother of PKs. Her sorrows are multiplied: every little hurt that Katherine and Alex experienced, any unkind word they heard at coffee hour about their father. We thank you for that. And Kat and Skandar, thank you for allowing these people to call your father their father. It’s a sacrifice that no other children but PKs have to make.
And now, brothers and sisters, it’s time for you to pay a debt, a debt to Khouriye Olga and to Katherine and Alex, for they gave their husband and their father to you, and they did without so many times so that you might have him with you. Don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.
Fr. Alexander submitted to ordination and prepared himself for that ultimate call by God. Olga knew when he proposed that it was most likely that he would be ordained, so he and she signed on for this—but Katherine and Skandar did not. Their sacrifices were freely given—not always joyfully; let’s not be dreamers here. There were times when they wanted their father and needed their father with them, and they saw him go out the door to be with you. Don’t let their sacrifice and the sacrifice of all priests’ wives and priests’ children be in vain, and don’t let the ministry of the man whom they love, the man whom God sent to you as a shepherd, be in vain. You owe a debt, and it’s time for you to pay.
Over three decades ago, a young man named David knelt before the throne of God and the hands of our chief shepherd, our metropolitan, were placed upon his head when he invoked the grace of the all-Holy Spirit. And when David stood, he was no longer David. He was the priest of the Most High, Alexander. And so much of what he was before died at that holy table, and he was transformed.
On the day of his ordination to the priesthood, and on the day of the ordination of all of us to the holy priesthood, whether it’s the young ones at the far end of this line or the old ones up here near the Holy Place, we all heard the very same frightful words when we were young men, words that the bishop speaks to the newly ordained priest, words which now I as a bishop have to speak to the new priest, and words which stick in my throat each time I say them, because they’re fearful things. Fr. Alexander heard these words: “My son Alexander,” as he put his hands together like this, and the bishop placed in his cupped hands the Lamb of God, the bread-become-Body:
My son Alexander, receive thou this pledge and preserve it whole and unharmed until thy last breath, for thou shalt be held to an accounting thereof at the fearful coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And from that moment the newly ordained priest becomes a Christ-bearer, Christophoros, literally a Christopher, a Christ-bearer. There’s no need for that gold paten any more; we have a flesh-and-blood paten.
But it was not just the body of Christ in that bread that became Body that was entrusted into his hands and into the hands of priests, but we’ll speak of Alexander today. You see, you, too, are the body of Christ. The Holy Scripture teaches us that we are all members of that one Body of Christ of which Christ, the only Priest—we just share in his priesthood a little bit—of which Christ, the great High Priest, is the head. So, yes, we were charged to preserve whole and unharmed that holy Eucharist, to care for each and every little pearl—that’s the poetic words for the crumbs—for every little pearl, and you’ll see how careful the priests are, and the deacons when they dare touch that, that not one little pearl of the Body of Christ be lost, because we know we’ll be asked to make an accounting for it when we go to stand before our great God and Savior.
But you, too, are pearls! You, too, are pearls, particles of the Body of the Christ, members of the Body of Christ, and, brothers and sisters, Alexander goes now and will have to make a good defense for you! Answer for you! Tell me, who but a priest has to do that? Fathers don’t answers for the sins of their children. [Wives] don’t answer for the sins of their husbands. Brothers don’t answer for sisters. Only priests need answer for someone beside themselves. You’re a pearl, and you were entrusted to his hands, and for thirty years he held you in his hands. And this day, brothers and sisters, he makes his way to the fearful judgment seat, and our Savior, the real Priest, will say to him, “Skandar, you did a good job, but how about Mary? You cared for the pearl of the bread-become-Body. You didn’t lose one of them, but how about Mary? She was entrusted to you. Or how about Hanna? He’s far from the Church.”
You see, brothers and sisters, he has to make answer for you. This is where you pay your debt now. And I’m very serious about it, and I hope you take this seriously. You need to transform your lives, make them worthy of a person who is called by the name Christian, as this man taught you, as this man lived for you, as this man died for you. Be a good defense for him before the fearful judgment seat of Christ, not an embarrassment for him! Let him hear those words with no “but” or “what about?” Let him hear those words, “Well done, Skandar! Well done. You preserved whole and unharmed till thy last breath that which was entrusted to your priestly hands.”
Brothers and sisters, you are debtors, and if you’re not from this parish, you’re debtors to your parish priest. And we, brothers, are debtors to those priests who raised us up in the faith. Let us live lives that are worthy of the name Christian, that will bring honor and glory not to ourselves and not just to our good God, but to those holy men, our priests. What precious gifts they are to the Church. And the lives which they shared with their wives and their children so that we might hear the holy Gospel, that we might be for them a good defense at the fearful and last day.
Pray for Skandar. Pray for Alexander. And if you’ll stand now, we’ll offer one final prayer for him, with him, in this holy temple, and sing. Don’t just stand there. Again and again in peace, let us pray to the Lord. Raise your voice and beg the Lord that he might have mercy on Fr. Alexander and not judge him because of your sins. To our good yet fearful and just God, be glory and dominion and might now and through all ages. Amen.