I wasn’t privileged to meet him. But, like all others who have converted to Orthodoxy, in particular the Antiochians, Metropolitan Philip Saliba has touched every one of us. The story of how in 1987 he opened the doors of the church to some 2,000 American Evangelicals has to be the biggest mass conversion to the faith in modern times. Indeed, it was a miniature mirror of Acts Chapter 2 with 3,000 being saved on the day of Pentecost. Even before this great occurrence, Sayedna Philip was laying a foundation for expanding the faith by forming various church organizations for women and youth and bringing different factions of the church together. I am sure there are those who were born and raised in the Antiochian Church and only one or two generations removed from their immigrant forebears who bemoan some of the changes such as the self-rule status of the North American Diocese and services conducted in English rather than Arabic. Yet, this metropolitan has effectively maintained the doctrine of 2,000 years of Holy Orthodoxy and help to present it in a way that invited curious inquirers to come even closer, even to “come home.”
As a newly converted/catechized believer, it has been an honor for me to come into the Antiochian Church as we say “farewell” to such an influential leader and tireless worker. His loss should serve as an encouragement for all of us to have the light of Jesus Christ shining brightly in our lives and not to be lacking in our efforts to spread the Gospel. Not everyone will meet an Orthodox Metropolitan. But, we of the faith can be an example of what a metropolitan is to everyone we know and meet inside and outside of the church. And especially during Great Lent, let us give greater attention to our spiritual lives that we may witness salvation to others. In our parishes, let us be attentive and cooperative as good stewards of our resources that we may provide outreach to our surrounding and far-flung communities. I believe this is the example Sayedna Philip gave us. In Christ, let us live by it.