AT THE FUNERAL OF METROPOLITAN CHRISTOPHER OF LIBERTYVILLE-CHICAGO
Your Eminences and your Graces, my brother hierarchs,
Reverend Fathers, bereaved relatives,
Dear diocesan members of our departed brother Metropolitan Christopher,
All our destinies, all our lives and the short days which comprise our lives, should be subordinate to the will of God. It is for us to spend all the days we have received from the Lord for our salvation and to live as God has commanded. This is not easy. To the greatest is given the heaviest burden. When he is carried forth from this world as it befits him, then the words of the great Njegos follow him: “Fortunate is that person who lives forever, there is a reason why he was born”
In 1928 when the ninth child, Velimir, was born into the Kovacevic Family it could not be known that great works awaited him. Once upon a time families had many children: for God, for the King, for the Fatherland, for the home and the clan. Our Metropolitan of blessed memory had many brothers and sisters who were faithful to God and His people. Velimir was a priest and acquired a family – three sons and a daughter. Later as a widower, he became a bishop and expanded his physical family with numerous spiritual children – new sons and daughters of God’s Church, the Serbian Church – starting from 1978 when he became Bishop of Eastern America and Canada, where he multiplied the honey-bearing beehive by his efforts and labour. We especially emphasize the contribution the newly departed Metropolitan made toward the founding of the Canadian Diocese, on whose foundation we also are toiling. I am grateful to him for the good seed he planted and which is now bearing much fruit and for the support which he has shown toward me as a younger brother.
The Serbian Church recognized his efforts and in 1991 elevated his diocese to the Metropolinate of Midwest America and appointing Bishop Christopher Metropolitan.
His labour and love were reflected in the community of love which emanated from him and in his role as president of the Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America he brought us closer together. He was considerate and tolerant. He would hear everyone out and then would present his rational position supported by arguments. He loved us, his brother bishops as well as his clergy who were loyal to him and respected him. The whole church life in the Central Church Council as well as in the Episcopal revolved around him.
He was especially concerned about the young students of theology and religious education in general. The Theological Faculty in Libertyville was his special concern and care. He was the soul of that Faculty and it is no wonder that according to eyewitnesses, my brother bishops, his last words were: “Watch over Faculty for me”.
Metropolitan Christopher of blessed memory constantly strove to live in accordance with Christ’s Gospel and in harmony with his monastic name – Christ-bearer – and sealed it with his life. Similar to St. Ignatius of Antioch and the God-bearing Apostle Paul, who expressed that mystery “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Gal 2:20), as well his heavenly protector, St. Christopher the Martyr, our Metropolitan strove to carry God within himself and to measure his steps with the will of God. With such faith and love, faith which raises us up to the measure of growth in Christ Vladika Christopher aspired to the measure of Him who is “the only physician both bodily and spiritual, born and unborn, God manifested in body, in death true life, and from Mary and from God, first suffering and then not suffering Jesus Christ – our Lord”, as St. Ignatius the God-bearer describes.
Distinguishing himself as a fighter and zealous for the Church, he truly gave up the last particle of his being for Her, following the liturgical exclamation “let us commend ourselves and each other and all our life to Christ our God”. With godlike wisdom he led Christ’s Church in this western region, where many temptations and divisions exist. Metropolitan Christopher wisely laboured to show the true model of God’s Church, the model of Truth and Life handed down from the God-man Christ charging us to follow Him. By this way of life he aspired to unity in Christ’s Church. For there is One Head and One Christ. “for as the body is one and has many members, but all members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).
The life of Metropolitan Christopher is not precious only because of his conscientious fulfillment of his parish and arch pastoral duties. He had a great role in the period from 1963, when court cases and division within the Church on this continent ruined her reputation and devastated resources and energy. The then Protopresbyter Velimir Kovacevic was the main interpreter of the truth, an active participant and court translator. He was uncompromising in the struggle for Church unity, for which he acquired a great reputation.
Our Most Reverend Vladika truly protected the meaning of the Church, and constantly aspired to unity, even when suffering and bearing various temptations, following the words of St. Gregory the Theologian who said: “Let us accept everything for the sake of God the Word (Christ), through suffering let us imitate His suffering, by blood let us treat ourselves to blood, let us voluntarily proceed to the cross”.
With such character and meaning this Godly man walked in this confused and proud world. But, joy through death is manifested, for Christ has given meaning to our existence, as the God-bearing Apostle states: “For none of us live to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord”(Romans 14:7-8). And through Christ’s Resurrection we hope for the general resurrection, where we will meet and glorify God, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus”(1 Thessalonians 4:14).
In his constant struggle Metropolitan Christopher did not pity himself. He justified his existence, fulfilled his task and brought unity to the Church on this continent. The struggle was great but Metropolitan Christopher’s energy was even greater. Whatever he spoke he confirmed by his deeds. He never did anything for himself, but only for the Church. Thus it was not difficult for him to “give away” his whole Diocese, unite it with the New Gracanica Diocese for the sake of god-pleasing unity, keeping for himself only one church in Chicago and the most significant Monastery of St. Sava in Libertyville. No one would have taken his Diocese from him, no one would have asked for such a sacrifice, but Metropolitan Christopher of blessed memory knew that only this way would we speedily achieve unity. Or, perhaps, he heard the voice of an angel before his end telling him how we should struggle, live; subjugate personal interests to the general interests of the Church. And God granted him to see the Church in America united, to see the fruits of his labour and we believe to go peacefully to his Lord Whom he faithfully served and to report to Him “I have finished the work you have given me to do...”, and in return he will hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord”.
We pray to the Lord that this godly man acquires such grace and glory in eternity and all of us together with him, that we might follow our Holy apostles and teachers, in the God’s Kingdom where there is unceasing doxology and eternal victory in good.
May his memory be eternal.
Amen, God grant
August 23, 2010
Holy Resurrection Cathedral, Chicago
Bishop of Canada