Fifty-Eighth Annual Commencement
Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary held its Fifty-Eighth Annual Commencement on Sunday, June 4, 2006. The ceremonies began with a procession from the monastery refectory to Holy Trinity Cathedral, where His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary, celebrated a Service of Thanksgiving (Moleben) with the assistance of Seminary clergy. After processing from the church to the Graduation Hall, Metropolitan Laurus officially opened the proceedings. Following the singing of the American and Russian national anthems, His Eminence offered a brief address in which he greeted all present and expressed his hope that the Lord would lead all the graduates along the path of service to the Orthodox Church.
The Commencement Address was given by Dr. David C. Ford, Associate Professor of Church History at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theology Seminary in South Canaan, PA, and author of the books Women and Men in the Early Church: The Full Views of St. John Chrysostom and Marriage as a Path to Holiness: Lives of Married Saints (co-authored with his wife, Dr. Mary Ford, also a faculty member at St. Tikhon's Seminary). Professor Ford focused his remarks on the pastoral lessons taught by the Orthodox saints who lived in North America, paying particular attention to Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow, who served as hierarch in America from 1898 to 1907. Dr. Ford cited in particular two moving sermons given by St. Tikhon, the first his "inaugural address" delivered in San Francisco in 1898, and the second a sermon spoken at the ordination of a priest in 1900, also in San Francisco. Especially memorable were these words of St. Tikhon:
Remember that the success of pastoral labors does not depend so much on external activities; rather it is the result of spiritual podvigi [i.e., struggles and labors] and the virtuous life of the pastor himself. A priest can only ever be a true builder of souls, and their guide to Christ, when he builds himself up spiritually, and in good conscience walks the path of Christian self-perfection. Indeed, it cannot be any other way, since this is the law of the spiritual life! "It is necessary," says St. Gregory the Theologian, "first to purify yourself, and then to purify others; to become wise, and then to make others wise; to become light, and then to enlighten others; to become holy, and then to make others holy." One elder, experienced in the spiritual life, used to say, "You will not inspire more good in someone else than you have in yourself."
Awards for academic excellence were given to Noah Barrett (first year), Nikolaj Fedkiv (second year), Novice Sergii (Tkac) (third year), and Alexis Pjawka (fifth year); Felipe de Oliveira (fourth year) was given an award for diligence. The degree of Bachelor of Theology was awarded to Hieromonk Evtikhy (Doganiuk), Vladislav Ivanoff, Eugene Koulanov, and Alexis Pjawka ( cum laude ); members of the graduating class who will be awarded the Bachelor of Theology degree following completion of their course requirements are Monk Savvati (Lewis), Rassaphore-monk Nikolai (Savinov), and Mikhail Ovchinnikov. Following the conferring of diplomas, Fathers Evtikhy and Savvati offered responses on behalf of the graduates in Russian and English, respectively. Following the closing prayer all present were invited to a meal.
Holy Trinity Seminary would like to thank Professor Ford for his Commencement Address; and its honored guests, Mr. Andrey Gromov and Mr. Alexander Musienko from the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, for their participation.