21. “I, Robert Shaheen, called by the grace of God and by the choice of the Syriac Antiochene Maronite Bishops’ Synod from the Order of Priesthood to the Order of Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, believe firmly in God the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
22. I believe in God the Father, who has no beginning or end. He created the universe by His Word and sustains it by His Might.
23. I believe in God the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, begotten of the Father from all eternity and not made; He took flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary and became man, like us in all things but sin. He guided us by the light of His gospel and redeemed us by His cross on which He shed His blood for us in redemption of our sins. He rose from the dead and poured forth for us the fountain of eternal life through the divine Mysteries of His Church, especially:
24. The Mystery of Baptism that enables us to become the adopted children of God;
25. The holy Myron (Chrism), by which the Holy Spirit empowers us to proclaim our Christian faith;
26. And the Mystery of the Eucharist, our food on our journey toward Him Who is seated at the right hand of His Father as our Intercessor in heaven.
27. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son and has spoken through the prophets and apostles.
28. I acknowledge the first seven Ecumenical Councils:
29. The First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), which confirmed that the Son is of the same essence as the Father;
30. The First Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.), which confirmed that the Holy Spirit is of the same essence as the Father and the Son;
31. The Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.), which confirmed that the Son is both true God and true Man and that the Virgin Mary is the Mother of God;
32. The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.), which confirmed that in the Son there is one Person with two perfect natures, one divine and the other human;
33. The Second Council of Constantinople (537 A.D.), which clearly reaffirmed the teachings of the previous Ecumenical Councils;
34. The Third Council of Constantinople (681 A.D.), which confirmed that there are two wills in the Son, one divine and the other human, both in one Person;
35. And Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.), which established the veneration of the cross and icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints.
36. And I acknowledge the other Ecumenical Councils convened subsequently by the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
37. I acknowledge the Sacred Scriptures revealed in the Old and New Testaments.
38. I profess that the Lord Jesus Christ designated Peter as his successor and the head of his Church; and that Peter placed his See in Antioch first, then moved it to Rome where he was martyred for the love of Christ.
39. I acknowledge the successors of Peter, the great popes who presided over the Church and occupied the See of Rome. I acknowledge especially His Holiness Pope John Paul II. May God confirm his leadership.
40. I also acknowledge that the Maronite Patriarchs succeeded consecutively to the Antiochene See of Peter down to our Father, Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Peter Sfeir. May God assist him and grant him many years of leadership over us.
41. I pledge before God, before the altar and the Holy Mysteries, before the angels and saints, and before this community here present, to submit to them and to obey them and their successors with a filial obedience and to act according to their advice and their fatherly guidance.
42. I also pledge to endeavor, by the grace of God, to make every effort in directing the Eparchy entrusted to me, for the sanctification of souls, clergy and laity and especially the priests, my collaborators in my Episcopal mission.
43. This is my profession; I proclaim it freely; I signed it by my own hand. May God who is my Witness, help me to be committed to it.”
44. Monsignor Shaheen presented the signed Profession of Faith to the Patriarch, asked for his blessing and returned to his seat. Two bishops then came and led the Bishop-Elect to the Patriarch saying: “We present to your Beatitude, our pure Father Mar Nasrallah Peter Sfeir, our Patriarch, this God-loving servant, Robert. He is standing here to accept the imposition of the Divine Hand for the Order of Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. As he vows obedience to your Beatitude, we all pray for him, and proclaim three times: Lord have mercy.”
IV. The Rite of Imposition of the Hands
45. The congregation was deeply reverent when the Bishop-Elect knelt for Divine Grace in front of the Patriarch, who stood and removed his miter. Two co-consecrator Bishops placed the Book of the Gospels, opened to John 10, over the head of the Bishop-elect. They joined the Patriarch in placing their hands on the head of the Bishop elect and prayed calling upon the Holy Spirit to descend and bless him. The Patriarch then presented Bishop Shaheen with the Book of the Gospels, inscribed with the date of the ordination and the ordination certificate both signed by His Beatitude.
46. The ceremony of the placing of the hands resumed when the Patriarch placed his left hand on the Mysteries (the bread and wine) and his right hand on the head of the Bishop-elect and prayed again for the descent of the Holy Spirit. For the third prayer of the placing of the hands, the Patriarch was joined by all the attending bishops who raised their right hands toward the head of the Bishop-elect and declared together: “By the power of your Word, O Lord God, and through Your compassion, You have created all things. You established the universe by the will of Your Only Begotten One; You granted us the understanding of truth, revealed to us Your Holy Spirit, and gave us Your Beloved Son, the Word of God. By His outpouring of [shedding of His] blood, the Church and the rites of priesthood were founded. Now send Your Guiding Holy Spirit upon Your servant Robert, so that he may shepherd the Church, lead it, and ordain priests and deacons for it. He will consecrate altars and churches, bless the homes of the faithful, bind and loose, and confirm Your people and the sheep of Your flock, for You are the Giver of good works. To You, Lord God, be glory for ever.” The Deacon then proclaimed: “With glory and honor You crowned him and by the works of Your hands You empowered him.”
47. The Imposition of Hands is a pre-Christian tradition that was incorporated into Christianity. Placing the hands on another person is symbolic not only of transferring blessing but also of passing on authority and power. It is also to give the person a sacred character and to set him apart from the rest of the designated ministry. Saint Paul in his First letter to Timothy talked about the empowerment conferred by the imposition of the hands in Chapter 4 Verse 14, saying “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.” In Christianity, the imposition traces its power from the Holy Spirit Who came over the Apostles and the Blessed Mother in the Upper Room. This is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, as follow: “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came and rested on each one of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke uses the placing of hands in many instances in his recording of the Bible to indicate that miraculous power or healing was conveyed (See Acts 5:12; 8:17-19; 9:12, 17; 14:3; and 19:6, 11).
V. The Rite of the Anointing with Myron (Chrism)
48. Following the placing of the hands, the Rite of the Anointing with the Myron (Chrism) began when the Bishop-Elect knelt again before the Patriarch who anointed his head with the Holy Myron, prayed, anointed the palms of the hands, joined them and prayed: “Grant him, O Lord, by this anointing the joy of Your Holy Spirit and empower him with that power You granted to Your Apostles so that he may offer sacrifices and offerings, distribute Your Divine Mysteries to the faithful, and walk before You with a living faith and pure heart all the days of his life.”
49. In the days of the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were appointed by anointing their heads with special oil. The tradition continued in Christianity through the use of specially prepared oil called The Myron. By this ritual, the ordination is sealed and cannot be erased. It means that the thoughts and hands of the Bishop are marked by the Holy Spirit and are prepared for the sacred duties.
50. While the Patriarch and the Bishop-Elect washed their hands, the choir and the faithful sang “O Lord, protect Your Holy Church.” His Beatitude was then seated and proclaimed the ordination of the new Bishop.
VI. The Rite of the Enthronement
51. With the announcement, the ordination was concluded. Then began the Vesting and Handing Over of the Episcopal Insignia when the Patriarch pronounced: “Beloved brother, your ordination to the Order of Bishop is accomplished. Put on now the vestment and carry the Episcopal insignia, not for a perishable and worldly consideration, but for the greater glory of God and the up-building of the Holy Church.” The Patriarch then handed the new Bishop his cope, a pectoral cross, a ring and a Miter. As he handed him the staff, the Patriarch proclaimed: “The scepter of your power the Lord will stretch forth from Zion” (Ps 110:2). The choir then sang “Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance; shepherd them, and carry them forever.” (Ps 28:9).
52. The final rite was the Seating upon the Throne. The Patriarch directed the new Bishop to sit on the chair prepared for him saying: “Sit as a bishop on the chair of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The choir then proclaimed “He is most deserving and worthy.”
53. This ritual is figurative for it reflects the reign of the Kingdom of God, with Christ as the King. Because the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, are the heirs of Jesus on earth, they are symbolically enthroned as leaders of their See to accomplish the Kingdom of God on Earth.
54. Next, there was the procession of the new bishop through the church accompanied by two bishops on either side of him. He carried the pastoral staff in his left hand and with the hand-cross in his right, blessed the people. The procession ended with a thanksgiving prayer by His Beatitude. Returning to his seat the new bishop received greetings from the bishops attending. Then the priests of his diocese came individually, knelt before him and kissed his ring as a sign of obedience.
Patriarch Sfeir leads Bishop Shaheen to the people after the ordination and the enthronement ceremonies.
Photo by Micheline Tanios, curtsey of Al-Massira Magazine.
St. Louis, February 15, 2001.
55. The new Bishop proceeded to the altar to take communion followed by the priests, deacons, and the laity. The ordination then ended with the blessing, dismissal and “the prayer of farewell” to the altar. Bishop Shaheen then made his first public speech as a Bishop. He asked people to say a Hail Mary for him and to pray for the Patriarch and Lebanon.
56. The ordination and enthronement, which was attended by over 1500 people, lasted over three hours. People were absorbed in prayer and they were inspired by the music and the symbolic rituals. Although the whole ceremony was grand with the Patriarch presiding and more than twenty bishops attending it, there was an atmosphere of humility, mysticism and spirituality that cannot be conveyed in words. The choir sounded heavenly. The translation of Syriac prayers into English maintained an air and essence of the early centuries in the life of the ancient Eastern Church. There was complete harmony throughout the sacred multi-lingual ceremonies.
57. The ordination and enthronement As Bishop Shaheen assumes his responsibilities, we join Saint Ephrem the Hymnographer in praying for His Excellency, chanting “O you pastors, be made like unto that Diligent Pastor, Leader of the whole flock who cared so greatly for His flock. He brought near those who were afar. He brought back the wanderers. He visited the sick. He strengthened the weak. He bound up the broken.”
VII. Bishop Robert J. Shaheen’s Coat of Arms