He only said two words to me in his entire apostolic life, but they were the two most meaningful words I have ever heard a bishop utter. They were the same words he used to greet every wayward American pilgrim that had somehow found themselves at the doorstep of the ancient, apostolic Church. And they are the same words that we who love him the most now use to usher him in benediction on to his true and heavenly abode: WELCOME HOME.
Welcome home, Syedna (Arabic for “Little Father”) Philip. You were the first to serve me Holy Communion in the Church after my chrismation and reception into Orthodoxy two decades ago in Toledo, Ohio. When I barely even knew what to make of bishops, you were there to demonstrate for me a very fatherly example of one that not only rightly divides the word of truth, but who defends the fatherless orphan and the widow. And such an orphan and a widow was I.
Orphaned like so many in this rootless land by bankrupt spiritual practices that left me aching for something deeper. Widowed by 15 different confessions of Christian faith who, despite their best intentions, could not feed and nourish me with the fullest expression of Jesus Christ that my soul craved. Your loving hand reached out and touched so many like me that longed for something, or someone deeper. Not just Jesus Christ, but Christ in His Church, the Mother, “…without whom,” writes Blessed Augustine, “we cannot call God our Father.”
Your modern apostolic witness would not be satisfied with just winning a few souls, but like another Paul, your hand touches all nations, the very same that are gathered here in this most diverse nation of the world. And because of your vision, those very same people you made Orthodox reached out to me in the corners of my podunk, no-name town in Ohio to begin to tell the story of America’s best kept secret.
Eternal be your memory! الذاكرة الأبدية! Вечная память! Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη! All of America, all of the WORLD is deeply in your debt.