By the laying on of their hands on those chosen from among the faithful, the Apostles consecrated bishops, priests and deacons. It is evident from this that the Christian faith is not merely dogma but spiritual power. (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich)
The consecration of a bishop is comprised of three separate rites: the rite of election, of confession and the actual consecration.
Before the Vigil on the eve of the consecration, the hierarchs who are to perform the rite take their places at a table in the middle of the church. From the altar two senior priests lead the candidate to the table. All stand as the protodeacon reads the nomination, to which the candidate responds: “I return thanks, and accept, and say nothing contrary thereto.” The hierarchs chant some brief prayers, invoking the Holy Spirit Who was sent down upon the Apostles and empowered them to “catch the universe” with the preaching of the Gospel. After a short litany, the nominee delivers his acceptance speech. He then retires to the altar and the Vigil begins.
The next morning, after the reading of the Hours, the hierarchs again take their places behind the table, in front of which is a large eagle rug. The senior priest and protodeacon lead the bishop-elect onto the tail of the eagle. He is asked, “How believest thou?” and responds by reciting the Creed. Advancing to the middle of the rug, he expounds on the Creed by reciting a second “confession of faith”. Finally, at the top of the rug, he is asked to explain his attitude towards the canons and traditions of the Church. The candidate promises to observe these and likewise “to preserve the peace of the Church and firmly to hold and zealously to teach the people entrusted to me, and not to devise any thing whatsoever which is contrary to the Orthodox Catholic Christian faith of the East all the days of my life… I promise also to do nothing through constraint, whether coerced by powerful persons, or by a multitude of the people… I promise to visit and watch over the flock now confided to me, after the manner of the Apostles…and to inspect with diligence, and to exhort and inhibit, that there be no schisms, superstitions and impious veneration, and that no customs contrary to Christian piety and good morals may injure Christian conduct… And may our God, Who seeth the heart, be the witness to my vow.” The bishop-elect then bows down before the assembled hierarchs and kisses their hands as a sign that he is entering their ranks and as a pledge of love and peace with them in Christ. The choir sings “Many years”, and the bishop-elect goes into the altar, where he stands at the side on an eagle rug, waiting like a bride-to-be, as the Liturgy begins.
After the Small Entrance (which represents the coming to earth of the Lord incarnate) and the singing of the Trisagion, the senior priest and protodeacon lead the bishop-elect through the south door onto the ambo to the Royal Doors where he is received by two hierarchs. While the candidate kneels with his head touching the altar table, an open Gospel is placed face down upon his head, as a sign that although he is given authority over all, he himself is under the law and his head is Christ. Holding the Gospel in this way, the bishops pray: ” O Lord our God… do Thou make this man… to be an imitator of Thee, the true Shepherd, Who didst lay down Thy life for Thy sheep; to be a leader of the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a reprover of the unwise, a teacher of the young, a lamp to the world…”
The new bishop is then vested as a hierarch, and when the omophorion-an article unique to the episcopal office- is placed upon his shoulders, the clergy followed by the people shout thrice, “Axios!” (“worthy”), indicating their assent to the implied question: “Is he, in truth, worthy of this ministry?”
At the end of the Liturgy, the Chief Bishop gives a word of instruction to the new bishop and hands him his pastoral staff. The new bishop blesses the congregation with both hands as the choir sings, “Eis pollá éti Déspota” (Many years, O Master).