His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, President of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary [STOTS], conferred degrees and certificates on the 15 members of the Class of 2019 during the school’s 77th annual Commencement on Saturday, May 25, 2019.
The day opened with the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the Monastery Church of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, at which Metropolitan Tikhon presided. Concelebrating were His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek; His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, STOTS Rector; and His Eminence, Archbishop David. During the Divine Liturgy, third-year seminarian Subdeacon John Parker was ordained to the diaconate, while third-year seminarian George Davis was tonsured to the order of Reader.
On Saturday afternoon, Metropolitan Tikhon delivered the opening prayer at the Commencement, after which Archbishop Michael offered greetings. Archpriest John Parker, STOTS Dean, then offered his opening remarks before Seminarian Benjamin Cabe delivered the valedictory address.
“Often, when we think of graduate degrees in theology, we imagine a classroom full of people discussing theological ideas, but this is not the thrust of our education here,” Benjamin said. “God is not an idea; He is a person, and a person can only be truly known through personal contact.”
After Archbishop Michael presented the members of the Class of 2019, Metropolitan Tikhon conferred degrees and certificates. Archpriest Steven Voytovich, Past Seminary Dean and Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor, also presented Clinical Pastoral Education Certificates.
Archbishop David delivered the commencement address, during which he spoke of the innumerable “God tests” the graduates will face in pursuing their ministries.
“You will have lots of ‘God tests” in life, and while you may be done with the classroom, you’re not done with the ‘Living’ room,” Archbishop David explained. “Every time you are approached by someone with a question about a life subject, you need to be ready to answer the test question. It may be that you find yourself in a checkout line [and] they may notice you’re a priest…. You’re going to get a God test. Be ready, be confident, but most of all, be humble.”
Archbishop David went on to charge the graduates to avoid “getting in a position where you are the determining factor of what your mission is in the Church.
“Your bishop knows far more than you do about the harvest, and where best to put you, so don’t be too selective, too choosy and want something that God may not think is right for you,” Archbishop David continued. “It really isn’t your decision to make. I would guess that in the case of the majority of you, you came here already married, maybe even with children. Who made those decisions? Did you not see the hand of God guiding you towards seminary? So now what, you need to be in control now? Remain humble and let God decide, you will not regret it.”
Archbishop David also reflected on the well known quote from Saint Herman of Alaska: “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all else,” explaining how the quote is incomplete.
“The quote actually ends with these additional words, the most important ones, in my opinion,” said Archbishop David. “What Saint Herman said was, ‘From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all else, and fulfill His Holy Will.’ Do you see why we are mistaken to stop before these last words, as they make all the difference.”
Finally, Archbishop David concluded by sharing a quote from Saint Innocent, the Enlightener of the Aleuts and All America: “It is indeed a holy endeavor, one equal to that of the apostles, to leave your homeland and go to places that are remote, wild, and devoid of many of the comforts of life in order to convert to the path of Truth people who are still wandering in the darkness of ignorance and to illumine with the light of the Gospel those who still have not seen this saving light. Blessed is he whom the Lord chooses and places in such service! But especially blessed is he who with all fervor, sincerity, and love struggles to convert and to enlighten, enduring the labors and sorrows met in the course of his service, for great is his reward in the heavens.”
“May God bless each and every one of you who leave here today,” Archbishop David concluded, “to find that ‘Holy Endeavor.’”
The day of celebration ended with a banquet honoring the Class of 2019 at the Hotel Anthracite, Carbondale, PA.