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HCHC Students Pay Tribute to Metropolitan Philip Saliba

By Scott O'Rourke, MDiv candidate (’16), Metropolis of Detroit

“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” - John 16:20 

In the yearly cycle of the Church, the season of Great Lent is the greatest embodiment of the sentiment of joyful sorrow (χαροποιὸν πένθος), a mourning which is tempered by the joy to come; resurrection. It was with such Lenten joyful sorrow that we received news of the falling asleep in the Lord of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. And it was in resurrection-tempered mourning that twenty HCHC students traveled to Brooklyn to pay their respects and attend the Metropolitan’s funeral.

The desire to attend came out of the gratitude and sorrow of individuals whose lives were touched by Metropolitan Philip, as well as the desire of a community to stand in solidarity with our orphaned brothers and sisters in Christ. Members of the Antiochian Archdiocese are our classmates, neighbors and dear friends, and this is because of Metropolitan Philip who was a supporter of our school, and a former student thereof. Here on our campus, formal divisions between our jurisdictions fade into the background, behind our daily life as a community of common faith in Christ. This is our shared Church, of which Metropolitan Philip was a “good and faithful servant.”

Rassem el-Massih (MDiv '14) leads the funeral chant, joined by John Michael Boyer (MDiv '14 ). Dean of Students Deacon Nicholas Belcher serves. Photos by Luke Bullock

Members of both Archdioceses, Greek and Antiochian, traveled and mourned together, fittingly transporting the unity of our life together on our Holy Hill out into the wider world. Rev. Dr. James Katinas, Director of Institutional Advancement, represented our administration with Dean of Students, Dn. Nicholas Belcher, himself a member of the Antiochian Archdiocese, serving in the hierarchical Divine Liturgy that preceded the funeral service. The funeral itself was chanted by two of Holy Cross’s great student-chanters, both of whom will receive their diplomas this May – Rassem el-Massih and John Michael Boyer.

It was an incredible blessing for us to have been present at Metropolitan Philip’s funeral, in the presence of so many hierarchs, priests, deacons, monastics, and faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese and other Orthodox Christian clergy and laity, as well as the many esteemed guests from other faith communities, governments and civil organizations. The breadth of influence the newly-departed Metropolitan had was plainly evident by the sheer number and diversity of mourners at the Cathedral that weekend. He was once again, in death as he was in life, a man who brought us all together.

The trip required sacrifice, of time, effort, and of comfort, for all those who endeavored. Hours spent in on the road in a school van and a busy weekend of services were mediated graciously by the Gounardes family of Brooklyn, facilitated by their son Gregory, a first-year student in Holy Cross. The Gounardes family opened their home to the Antiochian seminarians from Holy Cross, as well as to the women who had made the trip.

Seminarians of the GOA were provided a hotel and transportation by the Student Government Association of Hellenic College Holy Cross. We would also like to thank the clergy of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, the Patriarchal Vicar of the Antiochian Archdiocese, Metropolitan Silouan, and the people of the Antiochian Archdiocese for their hospitality as we were welcomed by them and offered space inside the Cathedral to join them for the services.

In closing, I would like to share one final anecdote. In the time between the many services for Metropolitan Philip’s funeral, there was always someone reading the Gospel by his side. Just before the funeral began on Saturday, one of the last lines read was wonderfully fitting for our delegation of GOA students in the choir loft of the Cathedral – all the Antiochian seminarians were attending to the hierarchs in attendance. The line was from Matthew’s gospel, and read as follows:

"Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip..." John 12:20

Glory to God for all things!