For the last few weeks, there were dreams of death. As shared with Presbytera, there was no escape from these dreams. The last time there was such a dream, a friend had passed away. A restless night, and upon waking at 4 a.m., within a few hours, the phone rang, and immediately, before answering, the realization that he had departed this life.
Metropolitan Ilia, by his person, revealed what many other bishops are not. He was a man of exceptional intelligence who was poor and humble. When hyenas within the Church colluded with the SEC (as part of a corrupt and religiously bigoted persecution of one of his priests) to cast dispersions, lie, and commit federal process crimes, Bishop Ilia stood up, writing directly to the court—putting his name and reputation on the line (καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν - John 1:5). No other bishop would have had the courage to do the same.
He was a part of the lives of countless families, and one in particular for about twenty years, like a father. Blessing a holy union and baptized the fruit of the marriage. Later, praying at an ordination, for which, as was so often the case, he was pushed back, though he was greater than those who pushed him back. You only need to meet someone like Metropolitan Ilia once to know what a bishop is and is meant to be. He was "above reproach... sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and able to teach." (1 Tim 3:2).
Bishop Ilia blessing a union (July 4, 2004)
Bishop Ilia Katre praying during an ordination (July 2011)
Ordination address (including) to Bishop Ilia here
Bishop Ilia baptizing a child (April 2016)
He blessed the ground for St. Katherine almost exactly six years ago; it was the only time His Excellency would bless the foundation of a new Church. St. Katherine emerged (the first Orthodox Church to be built) in America's darkest (literally and figuratively) secular state. Holiness is such that it is so subtle that it often can only be seen in hindsight.
Bishop Ilia blessing the ground for St. Katherine (October 2016)
Bishop Ilia with the stone masons and steelworkers who labored by hand to make the stainless steel Justinian Crosses for St. Katherine
Through his hand, St. Katherine has grown and prospered, a place of spiritual refuge for those who otherwise would have no place to worship. The Metropolitan had planned to celebrate the divine liturgy at St. Katherine the week he reposed in The Lord. The Chapel of St. Katherine stands as a monument in his place.
St. Katherine, upon completion
St. Katherine, upon completion
O God of spirits and of all flesh, You trampled upon death and abolished the power of the devil, giving life to Your world. Give rest to the soul of Your departed servant Ilia in a place of light, in a place of green pasture, in a place of refreshment, from where pain, sorrow, and sighing have fled away. As a good and loving God, forgive every sin he has committed in word, deed, or thought, for there is no one who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your word is truth.
For You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of Your departed servant Metropolitan Ilia, Christ our God, and to You we offer glory, with Your eternal Father who is without beginning and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.
May your memory be eternal, worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory.