+ Metropolitan JOSEPHFr. Christo B. Christoff’ s Funeral
He, being made perfect in a short time,
fulfilled a long time: For his soul pleased the Lord
(Wisd. Sol. 4:13-14).
Dearly Beloved Father James, Popadia Maria, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are gathered together here in our numbers in this holy church, and stand in deep mourning by the bier of one beloved by us all - the Very Rev. Fr. Christo Christoff - in order that we may offer up our fervent and heartfelt prayers to Him Who has “power over both the living and the dead”, our Lord Jesus Christ, for the eternal repose of the departed in the faith, that he may take his place amongst the righteous.
We are comforted in our grief by the presence in our midst of many brethren and sisters in Christ, brought here by their earnest desire to share our sorrow, to bow before the coffin of the beloved departed, and together to pray fervently for the repose in the heavenly mansions of Fr. Christo, of blessed memory.
We are all familiar with the life of the blessedly departed Father and his indefatigable labours for the good estate of the Holy Church, and we firmly believe that the Lord will receive his soul into the mansions of His saints.
Fr. Christo was a true son of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and from his earliest youth dedicated his life to the service of the Church of God. He was a capable administrator, a sensitive pastor, an excellent teacher, a devout servant, a man of prayer, a “sweet heart” to his popadia, a beloved father to his children and the best dedo/grandfather to his grandchildren.
We all know with what love he officiated at divine services, preached the Word of God, and beautified this holy church. We saw his untiring concerns for his fatherly care of his flock, who were under his pastoral guidance.
Many of us, who are now standing in mourning around his coffin, were inspired by him to choose the Orthodox way of life.
Ministry, which was the cornerstone of his life and work, was not the only way in which he served the Church.
If we were to measure the successfulness and his long mission among us, some might want to do this in terms of numbers - counting dioceses and bishops, churches and believers, conventions and vecherinkas, services and activities, bulletins and religious events, institutions and associations.
Surely, there is a room for glory in his past accomplishments. St. Paul’s criteria for the consequent success of the Church service is quite right. Fr. Christo was truly alive in Christ. He was a fellow citizen of the saints. He built up the household of God. I would like to say that Fr. Christo loved to work. There was no amount of work that you can give him that he won’t do.
Fr. Christo had many loves - his parish, his family, our diocese. All of these he served to the fullest capacity. Whether it be the Divine Liturgy he loved to serve, the Bible - he loved to read, the choir - he loved to sing - this priest loved to give himself, to give of the many things with which he has been blessed by God.
As his bishop I would like to say that Fr. Christoff’s zealous priesthood, devotion and dedication to the Church and her hierarchs have all been exemplary. Many years we had gathered together to pray, to break bread, to rejoice, to cry, for all these things were part of our being a family.
I would like to stress that Fr. Christo was an astounding person. The key to his influence on people, to his remarkable charm was the secret of his Christian heart, open and simple, ready to accept a man for what he is, with his joys and griefs alike, with his merits and weaknesses.
He always found the opportunity to talk to any person who sought his council.
Therefore, our people enjoyed him. They liked what he presented to them, they enjoyed the intelligence he shared with them, they liked the help he gave them, they were learning, they were remembering what he said to them, because he was prepared and he was always ready to spend time with them, because he was doing a service for the Church, and we appreciated that. Our people even now say: “Dedo Vladyka, we had a good church’s life with Fr. Christoff!”
Complimenting a priest or layperson about the idea, a plan of action, or a decision is not only a normal social courtesy, but also an absolute spiritual necessity.
Truly to say, I don’t know where would our Diocese be without the outstanding ministry of St. Thomas Eastern Orthodox Church and Fr. Christo B. Christoff? Therefore, I thank you both - St. Thomas and Fr. Christo. I am very grateful for their ministry!
Also, thank Fr. Christo for his long service, love and concern for the entire Diocese in donating too many hours for our success as a member of the Diocesan Mixed Coucil, Secretary, Treasurer and Vicar General/Protosyngel!
In expressing our deep sorrow to the family, especially to the beloved Popadia Maria, daughters - Emily, Cyntia, Christina, grandson Joseph and all of you, fathers, brethren and sisters, on the occasion of the demise of Fr. Christo of blessed memory and in conveying our condolences to all those who knew and loved him, we address ourselves to our newly departed Father with the words of the prokimenon: “Blessed is the path, brother, which thou followed today, for thy place of rest has been prepared!” Amen.Memorial TrapezaDearly Beloved,
Fr. Christo was an example for me in obedience to the Lord, to His Church, to his family, to me as his bishop.
I was proud of him especially as husband. He and popadia were precious in the sight of the Lord. As partners they were worthy of their marriage. The serpent of evil was far from their bed.
Once he expressed his understanding concerning the significance of marriage, saying: “Dedo Vladyka, the real “income gap” in America is not between the races, but between the married and unmarried. Most couples will work harder than most single people, because they want to take care of each other and their children. Marriage binds the generations together.”
Truly to say I envy Fr. Christo. Almost the whole world now is praying for him - America, Canada, Australia, Bulgaria, all our churches in Europe, several jurisdictions, several monasteries, CSB and thousands of friends.
The Holy Fathers said that Abraham went to Paradise because he received guests, because of his hospitality. I’ll say the same for Fr. Christo. He received many times many of us and today he is going to Abraham, where sorrow is fled away.
St. John Chrysostom says to us: “Understand where your beloved person has gone and you will receive consolation. He has gone where the apostle Peter is, where the apostle Paul is, where the apostle Tomas is, where the holy fathers are, where the whole choir of the saints is.”
And I am so pleased that Fr. Christo will wait for his resurrection together with many of his parishioners are - here in Fairlawn, in his family everlasting house.
Memory eternal to him!Fr. Jim Wright’s Commentary:
In the midst of our grief for the Falling Alseep of Fr Christoof, we are filled with joy the learn that His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph, will be with us on Monday to lead us in the Divine Liturgy and Parastas for Father Christo. We are most complete as Orthodox when our bishop can be with us, since the priest serves only as a representative of the bishop, who represents Christ.
I was asked this eveing, why the Aer (cover for both the Chalice and Patten) is placed to cover the face of the priest. It is a sign of great honor for the priest (or bishop), since the Aer coveres the instruments which hold the body and blood of Christ. Since the priest represents the bishop, who represents Christ, the honor is passed on the the priest.
Please pray for traveling mercies for His Eminence on Sunday and Tuesady for his return trip. I am personally grateful that he will be with us since this burial will be most difficult for me. Since my parents were divorced when I was 6, Fr Chris took on the role of father many times for me. I learned tonight that Mr Dave Anthony, the funeral director who will care for Fr C here in Akron, also found Father to step in as a father figure for him after his parents were abducted and murdered while he was in his late teens. This funeral will be very special for both of as, as well as for his family and the community.
Memory Eternal!Obituary: Rev. Christoff is recalled as a 'true shepherd'
By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal religion writer
POSTED: 08:38 p.m. EST, Feb 02, 2010
The Rev. Christo B. Christoff's legacy will be one of love.
''I don't know anybody quite like him. I can say Father Christo is the closest I have ever seen to a live saint,'' said the Rev. Jim Wright, pastor of St. Thomas Eastern Orthodox Church in Fairlawn. ''He embodied the true meaning of love. He was loving and kind to everyone from all walks of life.''
The Rev. Christoff, 84, died Sunday in Phoenix, where he had moved in 1996 after retiring as pastor of St. Thomas.
''My dad was one of the most humble people I've ever known. He really lived a Christian life,'' said Dr. Cynthia Bamford, of Auburn in Geauga County. ''He didn't preach to us. He showed us how to love. He was an amazing man and a wonderful father.''
A native of Bulgaria, the Rev. Christoff spent 53 years as a Bulgarian Orthodox priest. He was the founding pastor and pastor emeritus at St. Thomas, where he served for 37 years.
St. Thomas was founded in 1959 by a group of people who wanted to keep the Rev. Christoff from leaving Akron. He had announced his resignation at another parish because of ideological differences with church hierarchy. Families of Macedonian and Bulgarian heritage came together and voted to retain the Rev. Christoff and established the St. Thomas parish.
Mary Kimson was among the 13 people who petitioned to keep the Rev. Christoff in the area and establish a new church. She said she will always cherish his compassionate leadership.
''He was a shining example of what God wants us to be. He really cared for people. He was a true shepherd,'' said Kimson, of Akron. ''When he gave his word, it was like giving you his life. I am trying to celebrate his triumph into eternity, but I am selfish enough to know that I have to part ways with him for now.''
Under the Rev. Christoff's leadership, a church building was purchased at 870 Copley Road and dedicated Feb. 20, 1960. Once the mortgage was paid, parishioners discussed constructing a new facility. A 5-acre parcel was purchased at the current site, 555 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, and the building on Copley Road was sold.
While the new building was being constructed, the congregation met for Sunday worship services at the auxiliary chapel at St. Paul Episcopal Church. The new church complex, which included a 250-seat sanctuary, classrooms, office, foyer, kitchen and 400-seat banquet hall, was consecrated on Sept. 3, 1978, although the congregation moved in the previous year.
In addition to his work at the church, the Rev. Christoff worked with the late Rev. George Bartz, then-pastor at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, to build ecumenical relationships in the Akron area. One of his colleagues, the Rev. Louis Mashie, pastor at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Copley, described him as ''a unifier.''
''He had a character of excellence. He knew how to meet and serve his community as a caring shepherd. He exuded kindness,'' Mashie said. ''He was never too busy for anybody. He was just a sower of the seeds of the Good Shepherd.''
Services for the Rev. Christoff are Thursday in Phoenix.
Local viewing is 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at St. Thomas. A memorial Divine Liturgy will be 10 a.m. Monday at the church. Burial will be at Rose Hill Cemetery in Fairlawn.
In addition to Bamford, the Rev. Christoff is survived by his wife, Mary, and daughters, Emily Christoff of Akron and Christine Seeling of Doylestown.
Special gratitude needs to be expressed to Ken & Michele Mellenbrook who watched over Fr Chris & Popadia Mary as if they were their own parents. Many Years to the Mellenbrooks!