THE THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EPISCOPAL OFFICE OF METROPOLITAN KYRIAKOS OF NAZARETH
On Sunday, 11/24 October 2021, Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Synod (AD 787), who restored the holy icons, His Eminence Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth celebrated the anniversary of thirty years of prosperous, fruitful and under good oath Episcopal Office in the Metropolis of Nazareth.
On this occasion, the Episcopal Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Shrine of the Holy Church of the Metropolis dedicated to the Annunciation of the Theotokos. The Liturgy was officiated by the celebrating Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth. His Holy Beatitude, our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos was represented by His Eminence Archbishop Methodios of Tabor, who came from Jerusalem, and co-celebrated at the Liturgy along with His Eminence Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis. Co-celebrants also were, Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Hegoumen of Tiberias Archimandrite Parthenios and Hierodeacon Eulogios, the Hegoumens of the Holy Monasteries of Galilee, the Priests of the Shrine of Nazareth and other Priests from the neighbouring communities. The Service was attended by the President of the Nazareth Community, the caretakers of the Church, Mr Caesar Marjie and a large congregation.
During the service His Eminence Methodios read the address of His Beatitude as per below:
“To His Eminence, Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, brother in Christ and co-celebrant to Our Mediocrity, a holy greeting in Christ Jesus.
Through this Patriarchal writing, we joyfully participate in the gleeful day of your dearly beloved holiness, on the completion of a prosperous thirty-year ministry in the Holy Shrine of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, and your God-pleasing pastoral care in the God-redeemed Holy Metropolis of Nazareth of our Rum Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, congratulating you with all Our heart.
It is indeed right that our reverend flock in Nazareth honours your holiness, for which you have given yourself in your Episcopal Office in this Metropolis, defending as a genuine Hagiotaphite Father the irrefutable privileges and rights of the Patriarchate in the Holy Land and this is in praise and benefit of our Holy Congregation and our Rum Orthodox Patriarchate.
Congratulating again your dearly beloved holiness, and wishing many happy returns in health and strength, for the benefit you the flock that has been entrusted to you, we offer you the holy osculation from the All-holy and Life-giving Sepulchre and remain.”
At noon, His Eminence Metropolitan of Nazareth offered a meal and thanked His Beatitude and all who honoured him as follows:
“Your Eminence, Archbishop Methodios of Tabor, Representative of His Holy Beatitude,
Your Eminence, Holy brother Joachim, Metropolitan of Helenoupolis,
Beloved Fathers and Brethren,
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the intercessions of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and all the Saints, especially of my patron Saint our Holy glorious Father Kyriakos the Anchorite, have deemed us worthy to be present today in the gathering of the Eucharistic Doxology, on the occasion of the completion of thirty years since that blessed day of my entrance in the Holy city of Nazareth as a Metropolitan.
I owe special whole-hearted thanksgiving to His Beatitude, our Father and Patriarch Theophilos, for His Patriarchal support and care about the needs and the difficulties we face in the course of our humble Episcopal ministry in Nazareth, as well as for His Patriarchal blessing today, which is expressed through the presence of two dear brother Bishops, His Eminence Archbishop Methodios of Tabor and His Eminence Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis.
I also thank warmly the President and the members of the Community Council for their good cooperation and precious help in the mission of the Metropolis, and also the President and the members of the Committee of the High Council.
Especially and gratefully, I thank for their love my beloved Priests, who unceasingly day and night serve our communities without complaint, these special and blessed people of Nazareth, and in this manner, we walk down the same path, in prayer, patience and love, in our feeble strength, but nevertheless, amidst God’s Providence. To Him belongs all glory, honour and worship, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
THE GENERAL ABBOT OF THE FRANCISCANS VISITS THE PATRIARCHATE
On Friday afternoon, 9/22 October 2021, the recently elected General Abbot of the Franciscans, Reverend Father Massimo Fusarelli Ofm, that is, the Abbot of the Order of the Franciscans all over the world visited the Patriarchate.
The Reverend Abbot was accompanied by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Francesco Patton, Fr Dobromiro, Fr Luke, Fr Sinesa and Fr Athanasios Makora, Fr Mark, Fr Faltas, as well as other Franciscans. They were received by His Beatitude, along with their Eminences, Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Geronda Secretary-General Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina and other Hagiotaphite Fathers.
His Beatitude addressed all present as follows:
“Dear Father Massimo,
Dear Father Osauro,
Your Paternity, Father Francesco,
Beloved Members of our Brotherhoods,
As you make your pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we welcome you, dear Father Massimo, and your brothers, to our Patriarchate. Your pilgrimage to the Holy Land comes at a crucial time for the Christian communities of our region.
As we greet you today, we recall the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, that where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20). We give thanks to our Lord, because here in the Holy Land we have built a full and harmonious co-operation of the Sacred Edicule. With this first phase successfully completed, we are continuing with the second phase of the work, encouraged and strengthened by our relationship.
The restoration of the Sacred Edicule is a historic event of the utmost importance, precisely because it has been accomplished by the three Communities to whom the diakonia of the Holy Places has been entrusted by Divine Providence. But in this partnership, the relationship between our two Brotherhoods has grown, and now we anticipate the restoration of the Grotto of the Church of the Nativity.
However, our united front in restoring the Sacred Edicule has an even deeper significance than this. For we have also established an important partnership in facing the unprecedented challenges before the Christian communities due to the complicated political situation here. Our united front is all the more crucial because new difficulties are constantly arising.
In addition to our common task of maintaining the Christian character of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, we have a shared interest and commitment in accommodating the many pilgrims who come from around the world. We also have a shared interest and commitment in sustaining the Holy Places as places of worship and keeping them accessible to pilgrims without distinction. And we have a shared interest and moral and pastoral commitment to do everything that we can to support and sustain the Christian population so that Christians remain in the Holy Land. This is of obvious consequence, for a Holy Land devoid of its Christian presence would lose its integrity.
We pray that in our cooperation, mutual respect, and deeper understanding, we are advancing the cause of the unity of the followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed that His disciples might be one, even as he and the Father are one (John, 17:22).
We wish to express our appreciation to you, Father Massimo, for all that you do to support Father Francesco and the work of the Custody in the Holy Land. MAY God bless you in your pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and MAY God bless you and your brethren as you begin your new ministry in service to the Order of the Friars Minor.
Referring also to the very good cooperation of the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood with the Order of the Franciscans in Jerusalem, His Beatitude stressed the recently renovated Sacred Edicule and the protection of the rights of the Shrines in the Holy Land.
Thanking for the welcoming reception, Reverend Fr Massimo Fusarelli Ofm expressed his satisfaction for the cooperation of the Franciscans with the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood and wished for its continuation for a good Christian witness and protection of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
THE FEAST OF THE UNIVERSAL EXALTATION OF THE SACRED CROSS AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Monday, 14/27 September 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Sacred and Life-giving Cross.
On this feast, the Church commemorates that after the consecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the gathered crowd asked to see and venerated the Precious Cross and for this reason, the Archbishop of Jerusalem Saint Makarios and Saint Helen exalted the Cross to be seen by everyone. Then all people exclaimed “Kyrie Eleison” many times. Ever since, this event was established to be celebrated one day after the anniversary of the consecration of the Church, namely, on 14th September.
For this event, Great Vespers with the formal incense procedure and the blessing of bread was officiated on Saturday afternoon at the Catholicon of the Church of the Resurrection by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of Hagiotaphite Fathers.
On Sunday morning the Divine Liturgy was officiated at the Catholicon of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by His Holy Beatitude, our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, the Archbishops, Aristarchos of Constantina, Methodios of Tabor, Theodosios of Sebastia, Demetrios of Lydda, Philoumenos of Pella, Aristovoulos of Madaba, Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks with first in rank Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by Hierodeacon Simeon as the Service was attended by many people and the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras.
The Divine Liturgy was followed by the Procession from the Catholicon through the Holy Deposition to Saint Helen’s chapel. The Deacons offered incense there at the Holy Altar of the Armenians, and through the stairs of the chapel the Procession went down to the shrine of the finding of the Cross. His Beatitude observed the Exaltation of the Holy Cross to the four points of the horizon according to the Typikon, while the Hagiotaphite awarded with officialia and the congregation awaited at Saint Helen’s chapel.
The Procession continued on the right from the Seven Pillars and went round the Holy Sepulchre three times.
From there it continued to the Horrendous Golgotha, the apolytikion of the feast was chanted three times, followed by a prayer and the Holy Cross was exalted again to the four points of the horizon, before the Holy Cross was placed on the rock of the Horrendous Golgotha. Under the chanting for the troparia of the feast, the Holy Cross was venerated by the Patriarch, the Archbishops, the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras and then the congregation, who also received basilic flowers for the sanctification of their houses, souls and bodies and to use for the making of the bread of Eucharist, instead of leaven, as witnessed by those who make this kind of bread.
From the Horrendous Golgotha the Patriarchal Entourage went down to the Altar of the Catholicon through the interior stairs and from there they marched to the Patriarchate Headquarters.
Therein, His Beatitude addressed those present as follows:
“Today the death that came toman through the eating of the tree is abolished through the Cross. For the curse of our first mother Eve fell on all mankind is destroyed by the fruit of the pure Mother of God, whom all the powers of Heaven magnify”, Saint Cosmas exclaims (Second troparion of katavasiae of the cross, ode 9).
Your Excellency Consul General of Greece Mr Evangelos Vlioras,
Reverend Fathers and Brothers,
The grace and power of the Sacred and Life-giving Cross have deemed us worthy to celebrate this year again Its Exaltation in the very place where It was found, and of course at the Horrendous Golgotha, with the celebration of the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Holy Church of Christ honours especially the Holy Cross because, according to Saint John Damascene, “the Cross is a trophy of Christ, once it was placed, but forever it drives away the demons”.
In other words, the Holy Cross is a powerful symbol of the abolishment of the corruption of death. “By nothing else is death abolished, the forefather’s curse freed, death put to shame…. but by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Anything is made possible through the Cross”, Saint John Damascene says.
And according to Saint Paul, the Holy Cross is the incarnation of self-denial and utmost humility of Jesus Christ: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
Just as through the wood of the first-created couple’s disobedience “through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it” (Wisdom of Solomon 2:24), likewise, through the wood of obedience, namely the Cross, the eternal life in Christ through His boundless philanthropy came to the world. “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25) the Lord says. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him” (Romans 6:9), Saint Paul preaches. And according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Christ’s death in the flesh made the source of the renewal to immortality and the newness of life for us men.
The greatness of our Saviour Christ and the incomprehensible divine mystery of the Cross is clearly expressed by Saint Paul in his letter to the Colossians with the words: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Col. 1:19-20).
“O Cross save us by thy power; sanctify us with thy brightness, O precious Cross, and make us strong by thine Exaltation; for thou hast been given unto us as the light and salvation of our souls” (Entreaty, troparion 7). Amen! Many happy returns!”
THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF THE THEOTOKOS AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Sunday 6/19 September 2021, for pastoral reasons the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos was celebrated earlier at the Holy Church of the Nativity of Theotokos in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem.
On this feast, the Church glorifies God because He granted Mary to the former baren Joachim and Anna, from whom our Lord Jesus Christ was born in the flesh. The Church joyfully chants “Joachim and Anna were freed from the corruption of death O immaculate one by thy Holy Nativity…the barren woman giveth birth to the Theotokos and nourisher of our life” (Kontakion).
For this joyful feast the Divine Liturgy in the beautiful Church of Beit Jala was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with the co-celebration of their Eminences; Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina and Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Priests of the Community, Paul, Joseph and Elias and Archdeacon Mark. The chanting was delivered by Mr Nidal and his choir, as the service was attended by the whole parish and the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras.
Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:
“The ends of earth rejoice today upon thy birth, O blameless Maid, O Mary, God’s hallowed Mother and bride who knewest not wedlock. Hereon is loosed the sorrowful reproach and pain of childlessness by which thy parents once were held; loosed is the curse in childbearing that fell on Eve, our first mother” the hymnographer of the Church proclaims. (Minaion, Matins, Exapostilarion).
Beloved Brethren in Christ,
The Holy Church of Christ rejoices today along with the Holy Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Righteous and Saints on the Holy Nativity of the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, we are gathered in this holy Church to honour in Eucharist the Theotokos, the Mother of our God.
Let nature leap with joy because the sheep of God is being born and from her, the shepherd will be clad in a garment like a sheep and will tear apart the garments of the old deadening. Let virginity dance, because as Isaiah says, “the Virgin is born, she who will conceive and give birth to a Son, whose name will be Emanuel”, meaning, “God is with us”.
And the shepherd who will be clad in the sheep’s form and will tear apart the garment of the old deadening is no one else by God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who “for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9), Saint Paul preaches.
Interpreting these words of Paul, Saint Chrysostom says: “Here, Paul names ‘wealth’ the knowledge of the mystery of reverence, the purification of sins, righteousness, sanctification, the myriads of good things He has bestowed on us and those He will bestow in the future”. And Zigavinos says: “The wealth of the deification by grace”.
The nativity of the pure Theotokos Mary from Joachim and Anna reversed the curse that came from Adam and Eve to the human race when later on she bore Christ in the flesh. That is why Saint John Damascene says, “in thee Ever-Virgin Theotokos are both nature and time renewed”.
This means that both human nature and the time are renewed in Theotokos and Virgin Mary, because from her did the Light of Righteousness dawn in the world, namely, Christ, the salvation of the human race. “Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2) the Lord says. “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you” (1 Peter 1:10), Saint Peter says.
Indeed, the words of the Prophets were fulfilled to the righteous people of God, Joachim and Anna, whose prayer did the Lord hear, and gave them the Virgin Mary as a brilliant and great ransom for Eve, as Saint John Damascene says: “And the Lord heard their prayer, giving them Mary, who has the name of the Lord, such a brilliant and great ransom for Eve. The daughter will become the healing of the mother, the new dough of the divine rebirth, the root of the god-spoken branch, the rejoice of the forefather”.
This holy event of the nativity of the Theotokos is especially honoured by our Holy Church. And this is because the Most Holy Mother of God is the beginning of the people in Christ, the Christians. From her pure flesh, the Word became incarnate, He was made flesh (John 1:14).
In other words, my dear brethren, the incarnation of God the Word in the Holy Spirit from her pure flesh became “the new leaven for the divine rebirth” as Saint Athanasios the Great teaches: “In Christ, the human nature is unspeakably united with the Divine nature of the Saviour and thus rejects all natural malformity that was inherited from Adam and is renewed from above into a new divine and eternal being, by the power of the Divine nature of the Word”.
Behold, therefore, the contribution of the Most Pure and immaculate Virgin Mary to the great mystery of the salvation of us men. Behold again, why Saint Paul preaches; “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16). And behold why the hymnographer of the Church cries out loud: “thy Nativity O Theotokos, hath proclaimed joy to the whole world; for from thee hath dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, annulling the curse and bestowing the blessing, abolishing death and granting us life everlasting” (Apolytikion of the Feast).
And the Nativity of Theotokos proclaimed to the whole world the message of the joy of salvation, while the greeting from Archangel Gabriel, “Rejoice thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women” sealed the redeeming message of the absolution from the curse of the forefather and the curse of death and corruption, namely of sin, through Christ’s death.
For this reason, the Gospel of joy, blessing and sanctification, as well as the grace of the Holy Spirit, these divine and marvellous gifts that our Holy Church possesses, we are called to keep as treasures in our hearts, through the prayers of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
Along with Saint John Damascene, let us exclaim to the Theotokos: “Rejoice lamp, the deep-rooted and golden vessel, whose wick is the grace of the Holy Spirit and olive oil the holy body which Christ took from your pure flesh, the Light that never sets, thou who brought the light of eternal life to those who were sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death”. Amen. Many happy returns, with many blessings and in good health!”
The Divine Liturgy was followed by a meal at lunchtime, which was offered by the Community Council. During the meal His Beatitude addressed those present as follows:
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39), Saint Paul preaches.
Today’s feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos is in essence a feast of the infinite love of God toward His creature, the man, whom He made according to His image and likeness.
This divine love is witnessed and confessed by the Holy Church of Christ during its liturgical sacrament of the Eucharist when both the clergy and the people become communicants of the body and blood of our God and Saviour Christ, united in His Spirit.
This unity has been preserved throughout the centuries by the Holy Church of Jerusalem, namely the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, according to Saint Paul’s advice: “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
This bond of peace between God and the people was inaugurated by the great event of the Nativity of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, whom we gratefully honour today and in great reverence entreat to protect and comfort all who magnify and praise Her.
The Most Holy Virgin and Theotokos Mary is the hope of the whole world, and especially of the Christians. “Unto Thee do I commit mine every hope. O Mother of God, guard me under thine shelter”, the hymnographer of the Church proclaims (end of Small Compline). And the psalmist says: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).
We, my dear brethren, are called to “Look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), the Son and God of the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Amen. To the good health of all of us!”
THE FEAST OF THE DORMITION OF THE THEOTOKOS AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Saturday, 15/28 August 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Gethsemane at the Holy Church with the Tomb of the Mother of God.
On this feast, the Church reminds the faithful of our faith that the Theotokos conceived from the Holy Spirit and bore in the flesh our Lord Jesus Christ, she died and was buried in Gethsemane, but was translated by the hands of her Son in the heavens and her immaculate body was preserved. She stands on His right side, interceding unceasingly for the life and salvation of those who genuinely revere her as the Mother of God.
The Dormition of the Theotokos is characterized as ‘deathless’ by the Church, for this, it sings: “On thy deathless Dormition, all the heavens are jubilant, and the hosts of Angels exceedingly rejoice, clouds caught the Apostles high into the air; and although dispersed throughout the world, they were brought to stand in one choir before thine immaculate body” (Matins, praises, troparia 1,3). And Saint John of Damascus says about this, “oh, best departure, through which life in God is granted”.
For the feast of the Dormition, Vespers was officiated at the Theotokos’ Tomb on Friday afternoon by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of Lydda. The Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences: Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, the Archbishops, Demetrios of Lydda, Makarios of Qatar, and Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, along with Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, and the Archimandrites, Isidoros, Meletios and Dionysios, Priest Farah, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by Hierodeacon Simeon and the Patriarchal School Students, as the Service was attended by many local faithful Christians and the Consul General of Greece Mr Evangelos Vlioras.
Before the Holy Communion, His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:
“O strange wonder, great and marvellous! For the fount of life is laid within a sepulchre; a ladder to heaven’s heights doth the small grave become” (Vespers, Troparion 1), the Church hymnographer says.
Beloved Brethren in Christ,
By the Grace of God, we are here at the Tomb of Gethsemane, where the glorious body of our Most glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary was placed to honour her sacred metastasis (translation).
The Dormition of the Mother of God is indeed a wondrous mystery, as the hymnographer says: “Thou didst conceive and bear without the seed of man; and thou didst fall asleep, yet incorrupt in death, as wonder met together with great wonder, O Theotokos. How thou, who didst not know man, being pure yet didst nurse a babe; how the Mother of our God, clothed in death, yet doth breath froth myrrh. For this, we cry to thee with the Angel: Rejoice, O Full of Grace” (Matins, Kathisma 3).
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, we cry again with the Angel, because in Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary we praise the divine and marvellous plan of God’s Providence, the Incarnation of God the Word and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The multitudes of the Angels in heaven and the people on earth bless the sacred Dormition of the Most Holy Virgin because she became Mother of the Creator of all things on the one hand, and the cause of our deification on the other, as the hymnographer says; “For she that is of David’s seed, she through whom we have been made Godlike, hath beyond all telling been translated with glory into the hands of her own Son and Master” (Vespers, Aposticha troparion 3).
“Oh, how the fount of life is translated into life through death! Oh, how the One who surpassed the limits of nature by giving birth now keeps the laws and succumbs to death while she has an immortal body. Because this body has to lay down mortality and be clothed in incorruptibility since the sovereign of nature did not refuse to suffer death”.
Theotokos Mary is called ‘the fount of life, because she became the Mother of God. And Christ is life, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), the Lord says. Saint John the Evangelist preaches that the cause and the fount of life is Christ, the Son and Word of God: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
This means that due to the relation and union of the people with the old Adam, all his descendants die, so through their relation and union with the New Adam, the Resurrected Christ, all will be vivified, as Saint Paul preaches: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
The Mother of God, who received the Holy Spirit and the power of the Highest overshadowed her (Luke 1:35), is the beginning of those who are brought back to life. For this reason, the Dormition of Theotokos goes beyond the meaning of natural death, as this is proven by her Tomb, which is preserved and venerated to this day, while “it is empty, without a body in it”. This event, which is beyond logic, the Dormition and translation of Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is phrased by the hymnographer of the Church with the words: “The bounds of nature are overcome in thee, O Immaculate Virgin; for thy childbirth is virginal, and thy death is the espousal of life. O thou who after childbirth art virgin, and who after death art living, do thou, O Theotokos, ever save thine inheritance” (Matins, Ode 9, troparion 1).
The Most Holy and most blessed Theotokos Mary, the Mother of our God and Saviour Christ, has become the Mother of all people, and especially of the Christians, as the psalmist says: “Blessed is the [Christian] nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12).
And we, my dear brethren, being grateful for the endless benefits we have received from the Most Holy Theotokos, let us thank and entreat her to intercede to her Son and our God for the salvation of our souls.
May the grace of the Sacred Tomb of the Mother of God be with you all. Amen”.
After the Divine Liturgy, the Hegoumen of the Shrine Archbishop Dorotheos of Avela hosted a reception for the Patriarchal Entourage, the Consul General and others.
THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE NEW HOZEVITE AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Tuesday, 28 July/ 10 August 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of Saint John the new Hozevite, who came from Romania and lived in ascesis at the Brook of Chorath in the Holy Monastery of Hozeva in the 20th century. He was canonized a Saint by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 2015. His holy relic is kept incorrupt in the Monastery of his repentance.
In honour of this Saint, an all-night Vigil was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, the Hieromonks Chrysogonos and Marcellus, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Patrikios, while the chanting was delivered by Hierodeacon Simeon and the Monastery Monks.
His Beatitude was welcomed by the renovator of the Monastery Hegoumen Archimandrite Constantine with the following words:
“Your Beatitude Father and Master,
Along with Your Reverend Entourage,
We celebrate again the commemoration of Saint John the new Hozevite, whose incorrupt relics is treasured in the Holy Monastery of Hozeva. Our heart is full of joy and sadness at the same time!
Joy, because we celebrate the victory of one of us against the passions and the “world”. The victory of one man just like us, a Hieromonk of Hozeva who reached the height of holiness by the Divine Grace; Saint John the new Hozevite, who came from Romania.
Sadness because we march along a period of unbearable and significant testing. In the midst of an incredible unleashing of morals and unrepentant life worldwide, for a year and a half, the terrible pandemic of COVID plagues humanity, and millions of victims fall every day. And recently, high and greedy flames engulf houses, forests, the lungs of oxygen …
Difficult years and we all ask for consolation.
And where else will we find refuge, if not in God, the Theotokos and all the Saints?
In a letter of Saint John, we read the following words of consolation which, dissolving sorrow, give strong hope and firm optimism to all of us:
“Therefore, we are not strangers at all, although we live far away. The spiritual bond between us is very close, even if we do not realize it. I am neither a teacher nor an Abbot, and the Lord knows that I do not want such a thing. Your situation, however, is not indifferent to me. Ἡ modesty of your life is also for me an honour, an occasion of consolation…
Think that we are living in the most challenging years and the most dangerous for the soul’s salvation. Think that we have all been left as orphans, far removed from our homeland and deprived of spiritual food. Think that the enemies of our faith have multiplied more than ever, and our salvation is in greater danger. If we have a wounded soul, there is no one to heal us, and if we fall, there is no one to lift us up. Now there is a need for more unity and brotherly support. Now there is a need for more unity and brotherly support. Although we are not all together, at least spiritually to be united and to bear the weaknesses of each other with mercy…
Let us stand well; let us stand after fear in the Holy Faith and show mercy with peace to all, by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Your Beatitude, Father and Master,
Pray that the Good Lord, through the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos of Hozeva, and our Holy Father John the new Hozevite, will lead all the people and us to a safe harbour and path of repentance and salvation. Amen.”
Before the Holy Communion, His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:
“Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious and full of compassion, and righteous” (Psalm 112:4), the psalmist exclaims.
Beloved Brethren in Christ,
The light of the Lord dawned today with the holy memory of our Holy Father John of the new Hozevite in the shadow of death caused both by the incurable infectious corona disease and by the ongoing earthquakes, disasters, fires, and other signs of the divine rage.
Therefore, we are gathered in this biblical place of our Holy Father John’s ascesis, to honour in eucharist the holy man of God according to the words of the psalmist: “O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts” (Psalm 96: 1,8). “It is not of the ungodly but of the righteous to sing praises unto the Lord”, Theodoret the interpreter says.
Saint John is classified among the many sons of God, who has elevated them to the status of Christ’s glory, as Saint Paul says: “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:10-11)
Interpreting these words of Saint Paul, Saint Theophylactos says: “The Father made it worthy of His philanthropy that the firstborn of all the future sons would enjoy His glory more brightly than the rest, proving his worth through his sufferings, to show to the rest in which way they should strive”.
Our Father John, as his biographer mentions, endured many sufferings since his early youth and many temptations during his monastic life in the surroundings of the River Jordan and in the desert of Hozeva, where he became a faithful witness of the passions and the striving of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Martyrs are not only those who receive death for their faith in Christ but also those who die for the keeping of His commandments,” Saint John of the Ladder says. And Saint Paul says: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
Interpreting these words, Saint Chrysostom says: “When Paul talks about tribulation, he talks about prison cells, and bondage, and slander and exile and all other afflictions; and he refers to all the human sufferings with a single word”.
These “all the human sufferings” did the Hieromonk of obedience and patience John endure, for the love of the Chief of men’s salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ. Being guarded by the power of his faith in God, the humble in heart John also had the certainty of the guarantee that his hope wοuld not be dashed, and he became a participant of the inheritance which is kept in heaven, as the Chief of the Apostles Peter preaches: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
We have before our eyes the guarantee of the heritage in the heavens that is incorruptible and immaculate and does not wither. And that guarantee is no other than the incorrupt and fragrant relics of our Holy and wonder-worker Father John the new Hozevite from Romania.
In other words, the body of our Holy Father John, which became incorrupt and fragrant by the Holy Spirit, is an indisputable and irrefutable testimony of the resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ, but also our living hope.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15), the psalmist says. This means, my dear Brethren, that we did not come here today in the feast of Saint John to honour him, but rather to participate in the honour the Lord does to him, who is His Saint. Moreover, we came to be taught the ordinances of the true life in Christ by him, Holy John the new Hozevite and the multitude of the Saints of Hozeva before him.
Our Holy Father John indulged unceasingly in the holy scriptures according to the word “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (Psalm 119:15) and became a faithful disciple of Saint Paul, applying in both words and actions his redeeming advice: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
This Paul’s advice, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), is what Saint John says to all of us, as he has boldness before God along with all the Saints and our Most-Blessed Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Saint John gives this advice to us, my dear brethren, “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Amen. Many happy returns!”
During the Vigil, His Beatitude prayed for the salvation of our fellow men, the fire victims in Euvoia of Greece.
A monastic meal followed the Divine Liturgy.
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE & SAINT MARCELLA OF CHIOS AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Wednesday 22 July /4 August 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Holy Glorious Mary Magdalene the myrrh-bearer and equal to the Apostles, and the commemoration of Saint Marcella of Chios.
The commemoration of Saint Mary Magdalene, who according to the Gospels was healed from evil spirits by the Lord, and who saw Him and preached His resurrection, was celebrated at the Russian Holy Nunnery bearing her name in Gethsemane, with the Divine Liturgy that was officiated by Metropolitan Mark of Berlin from ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia), which was called “Diaspora” before its union with Moscow Patriarchate.
During the Divine Liturgy His Eminence Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, accompanied by Hierodeacon Simeon, visited the Monastery. His Eminence read the greeting of H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, who is currently in Jordan; the greeting is below:
Greeting to the Community on the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Myrrh-bearer and Equal to the Apostles
at the Russian Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane
His Beatitude Theophilos III
Patriarch of Jerusalem
4 August 2021
Dear Archimandrite Roman,
Dear Mother Elizabeth,
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Today on this blessed and glorious feast of your patron saint, we are reminded of these words:
Praise be to the God of the Christians,
For he has raised up both men and women to serve His Holy Church.
Among the first of them was Mary, born in Magdala,
who walked upon this earth with the blessed Theotokos,
the venerable Apostles, and the pious myrrh-bearing women.
She hath shown us, through her marvellous transformation,
the life-changing power of Christ’s compassion and deliverance.
Let us, therefore, hasten to her and declare:
Rejoice, Mary Magdalene, holy myrrh-bearer and first proclaimer of the Resurrection.
The Gospels are eloquent testimony to Saint Mary Magdalene as a preacher of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. She was the first to the tomb on that first Easter morning, and the Good News of the resurrection was spread from her.
We who celebrate her festal memory today with such joy are the Church of the resurrection, and our mission is to be a witness to the resurrection in our own day. This mission is all the more urgent in our present time and circumstance when the pandemic has spread both death and the fear of death all around the world. Here in the Holy City of Jerusalem, it is incumbent upon us to whom the Holy Places have been entrusted by Divine Providence, to remain steadfast in our proclamation of the resurrection. We are to be champions of Christ’s resurrection, holding high, for all to see, the bright torch of the light and hope that come from the Holy Tomb.
We have experienced in our community the sting of death during this pandemic; today’s feast is our consolation, for Saint Magdalene reminds us through her own tears at the empty Tomb, that eternal life triumphs over death. As we read in the Gospel of Saint Mark:
The angel said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. Look, see the place where they laid him.
Today, therefore, let us recommit ourselves to the message of the resurrection as we celebrate this joyous feast, and MAY Saint Mary Magdalene pray for us, that we MAY be faithful to our mission of proclaiming the resurrection.
The commemoration of Saint Magdalen was also celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with an All-night Vigil, led by His Eminence Archbishop Theophanes of Gerassa, and a procession with the holy relics of the Saint.
The feast was also celebrated in Magdala, the Saint’s hometown by Tiberias Sea, at the chapel of Moscow Patriarchate. The Liturgy was officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, with the co-celebration of the Head of MISSIA, Archimandrite Alexander.
The commemoration of Saint Marcella was likewise celebrated at the chapel inside the Holy Church of Saint Spyridon in the Old City of Jerusalem, with the Divine Liturgy by the Hegoumen of the H. Monastery of Saint Nicodemus and ministering Priest of Megali Panagia, Archimandrite Makarios, with the hospitality of the Hegoumen Archimandrite Sergios.
THE FEAST OF PROPHET ELIJAH AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Monday 20 July / 2 August 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the commemoration of the holy glorious Prophet Elijah (Elias) at the Holy Monastery bearing his name between south Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
On this day the Church commemorates that prophet Elias the Thesbite was full of godly zeal regarding the fact that the God of Israel is the only God. Such was his faith and holiness that God heard his prayer and did not send any rain for three years, and only with his prayer after that the He opened the heavens and gave rain again. With prophet Elias’ prayer, God sent fire from heaven on Carmel mount and burnt the wood in the altar. For the Church, prophet Elias is an angel in the flesh, the summit and boast of the prophets, the second forerunner of Christ’s presence, who gave his grace to Elisha…”
Prophet Elias ascended in heaven in a fiery chariot and dropped his fleece down to his disciple Elisha, who used it to cross the River Jordan.
The Divine Liturgy in his Monastery was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Philoumenos of Pella, Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, the Master of Ceremonies ArchimadriteBartholomew, Archimandrites Makarios and Isidoros, the ministering Priest of Saint James’ Cathedral Charalambos Bandour, Priest George Baramki, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by Archimandrite Eusevios and Hierodeacon Simeon on the right in Greek and Saint James’ choir under Mr Kamar on the left in Arabic, as the service was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras and many faithful Christians.
His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon before the Holy Communion:
“Not in an earthquake, but in a light breeze didst thou behold the presence of the Lord God, which enlightened thee of old; and mounting on a swift four-horsed chariot, thou, o Elias inspirited of God didst strangely ride through the sky, O divinely blessed, being wondrous in the sight of all” (Vespers, sticheron 2) the hymnographer proclaims.
Beloved Brethren in Christ,
The incarnate Angel and the Prophets’ summit and boast, Elias the Thesbite, has gathered us all today in his holy Church to celebrate his sacred commemoration and praise in hymns Christ Who glorified him.
Indeed, Elias was glorified by God the Father, becoming a vessel of the Holy Spirit, Who gave him the gift of prophecy and the power to work miracles “The Lord hath made wondrous His holy one” (Psalm 4:4).
Elias the Thesbite was correctly called “prophet of the highest and summit and boast of the prophets”. Like another Moses, he saw God, like another Paul, he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12:4). Behold what his hymnographer says: “As a seer of God, The Thesbite with Moses beholdeth upon Tabor that which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, and which the heart of earthborn men hath not considered, even the Almighty Lord incarnate” (Matins, Ode 9, Troparion 3).
Referring to the power and the impact of the righteous man’s prayer, Saint James the Brother of God names Elias the zealot as a tangible example, saying: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” (James 5:16-17).
Through the power of the prayer of those “with an innocent heart and pure hands” (Psalm 23:4), Elias the Thesbite did not only “bind the heavens with his word”, but also put to shame the idolatrous priests of Baal (see 3 Kings 18:22), resurrected the son of the woman from Zarephath which belonged to Zidon (see 3 Kings 17), ascended into the heavens in a fiery chariot, threw down to Elisha his mantle and gave his disciple twofold the grace he had (see 4 Kings 2).
It is written in the Book Wisdom of Sirach: “Then Elijah arose, a prophet like fire, and his word burned like a torch… How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours?” (Wisdom of Sirach 48:1-4). At this point, this book’s writer wonders: How much you were glorified O Elias, with your wondrous works! Who can boast of being like you? This refers to the experience of the vision of God Elias had while he found himself in a state of despair and hidden egoism.
“And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (3 Kings 19:10-12).
The strong wind, the earthquake and the fire Elias saw, as well as the thunder and lightning of God’s vision Moses had, refer to the unbearable of the divine nature. However, the fourth element of “a still small voice” which is unique in Elias’ vision of God, distinguishes his experience from that of Moses and strongly denotes “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), the love and longsuffering of God.
In other words, the “breeze” – according to Father Joel Gianakopoulos –, is the symbol of God’s love. This manner of God’s appearance teaches the despondent and discouraged Prophet Elias due to triumph of evil that he should be thinking of the love and longsuffering of God, Who does not wish the death of the sinner until he repents”. “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matt. 9:13) the Lord says. According to Saint Paul, God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
Interpreting Elias’ vision of God on Mount Horeb allegorically, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “everyone who like Elias the great truly seeks God, will behave like a young man and experience and thrive in the toils and struggles of virtues, not only on Mount Horeb but also in the cave of Horeb; and I mean the secrecy of the knowledge that comes along with the habituation of virtues”.
In other words, Saint Cyril considers Prophet Elias a prototype of the true spiritual work and seeking of God, namely of the mystical divine knowledge, being sure that every faithful in a practical struggle imitating Elias will be deemed worthy not only of the acquisition of virtues but also of the vision of God, namely the vision of the glory of God, which results from the cultivation of the virtues.
It is also noteworthy, my dear brethren, that God chooses natural phenomena like “a strong wind, an earthquake and fire” to reveal not only to the Prophets and the righteous but also to His deniers that He is the One who created the universe out of nought, the Creator of the visible and invisible creation. Therefore, referring to man’s fall and consequently to the fall of the creation, Saint Paul says: “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope” (Romans 8:20).
Honouring his sacred commemoration, let us ask his intercessions to God the Father and say along with the hymnographer: “Beholding the great iniquity of men, and God’s immeasurable love for man, the Prophet Elias was troubled, being wroth; and he uttered uncompassionate words unto Him that is compassionate, and cried out: Be Thou wroth with them that have set Thee as nought, O most righteous Judge. But the bowels of the Good One were in no wise stirred to punish them that set His at nought. For He ever awaiteth the repentance of all men, since He is the only Friend of man” (Matins, Oikos). To Him belongs all glory and honour and worship unto the ages. Amen.
Many happy returns!”
After the Divine Liturgy, the good caretaker of the Monastery Monk Achillios hosted a reception for all congregation and later on a meal for the Patriarchal Entourage and members of Saint James’ parish.
HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS BLESSES THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF THE PATRIARCHATE
On Friday morning, 3/16 July 2021, the Divine Liturgy on the commemoration of Saint Yakinthos and Saint Anatolios Patriarch of Constantinople was celebrated at the Patriarchate’s Holy Church of the Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Ramallah. The Liturgy was officiated by the Priest of Beit Jala Fr Pavlos Alem and the Priest of Bethlehem Fr George Zakaman, and was attended mainly by the young people of the parishes of the Patriarchate from Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Taybe, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
The Liturgy was also attended by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, Who came from Jerusalem along with their Eminences, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Father Issa Mousleh and Archdeacon Mark. His Beatitude blessed the approximately 140 young boys and girls, who received the Holy Communion, as the chanting was delivered by the Byzantine Choir of the young people of Ramallah.
After the Dismissal of the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude addressed the young ones through Fr Issa in Arabic and gave each of them an icon as a blessing. His Beatitude’s address is as per below:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) the psalmist proclaims.
Beloved children in Christ, young boys and girls.
Our presence with you in this brotherly gathering of the youths of the Rum-Orthodox communities urges us to cry aloud with the hymnographer: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”, and especially in the name of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20), the Lord says.
Indeed, my dear ones, this blessed gathering is in the name of our Saviour Christ and the Church, which is His body and He [Christ] is the head of this body, namely of the Church (Col. 1:18,24), as Saint Paul preaches. And the Church as another “hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” (Matt. 23:37).
Our gathering has special importance for the faithful members of the Church. And this, because the challenges, the signs of the times, are multiple; climatic, environmental, socio-political, economic and especially health issues.
The Prophets and the Holy Apostles also had this experience of this disorder in the world. That is why Christ would say to them: “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:10-11).
As far as the correct Christian faith and teaching are concerned, Saint Paul sends his disciple Timothy saying: “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
We, our beloved children, who belong to the local Church of Jerusalem, the Mother of all Churches, boast in the Lord that the Holy Church of Jerusalem is founded upon Christ’s blood on the Cross, and has its apostolic beginning by Saint James the Brother of God and First Hierarch of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Moreover, the Lord made all of us, both clergy and the people, who live in the Holy Land, ministers of His true witnesses, the All-holy Shrines, which testify the Nativity, the Passion on the Cross, the three-day burial and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also the redeeming work of the mystery of the Divine Providence.
We rend glory and thanksgiving to our Lord and God because He gave us His Holy Church, which as an oasis of the Holy Spirit, rises amidst a dry and arid land, amidst the worldly powers of this era. In this oasis, light shines upon them “that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11) according to the psalmist.
We do not exaggerate when we say that the Holy Church of Jerusalem, “the habitation of the incarnate God the Word and the Mother of the Churches”, according to Saint John of Damascus, became and is proven to be, throughout the centuries, both the safe harbour of our souls and bodies and the safe harbour of our cultural inheritance and national-religious identity. It is noteworthy, that this identity was kept intact and unadulterated, despite the various adversities and insults of the opponents, as the psalmist says: “They break in pieces thy people, O Lord, and afflict thine heritage” (Psalm 94:5). “Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Psalm 66:12).
Therefore, dearest children in the Lord, we have a sacred obligation to preserve this consignment, the cultural inheritance and our national-religious identity, always paying heed to the words of Saint John of the Ladder who says: “it will be a pitiful spectacle to see those who were saved at sea, to end up shipwrecked in the harbour”.
The present aeon (Gal. 1:4) in which we live, is the aeon of globalization, confusion, and disorientation, while its days are evil (Eph. 5:16). The Church of Christ, and specifically for us, the Rum-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the primary place of our protection, our salvation: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28), the Lord says.
Because of this, Saint Paul exhorts us to a brave fight, saying: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:10-12).
Behold the time, my dear brethren and children of the Lord, to know the wealth and the depth of the glory of the mystery of the Church, of which Christ is its body and head (ref. Col. 1:27).
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
The hosts of this ceremony, Hegoumen of the Holy Monastery Archimandrite Galaktion and the Priest of the Church Fr Iakovos thanked His Beatitude for His Fatherly interest.
THE FEAST OF THE SYNAXIS OF THE APOSTLES AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Tuesday, 30 June /13 July 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles.
By the word “Synaxis”, the Church does not mean the Gathering of the Apostles, but that of its faithful, in order to honour the twelve Apostles and Lord’s Disciples, for the mission they offered Christ and the Church, namely of the preaching about Christ and the spreading of the Gospel, through which they “didst draw the world into His net”.
The Church of Jerusalem was gathered for this feast at the Church of the Twelve Apostles in the centre of the city of Tiberias, on the northwest shore of Lake Gennesaret, the place of the appearance of the Lord after His Resurrection according to the 10th Matins Gospel (John 3:21).
There, on the feast day, the Divine Liturgy was officiated by His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences: Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks with first in rank Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Archimandrites, Chrysostom, Artemios, Arab-speaking Priests from Nazareth district, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by the Byzantine choir of Acre under the lead of Archimandrite Philotheos, with the participation of Russian and Arab-speaking faithful Christians.
Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following sermon:
“Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:4), the psalmist proclaims.
Beloved Brethren in Christ,
The grace of the sacred chorea of the Holy glorious and all-lauded Twelve Apostles has gathered us today in this Holy place of the Tiberias Seashore, where Jesus stood (John 21:4) and where the Apostles’ Monastery lies, to celebrate their commemoration.
In his “Revelation”, John calls the twelve Apostles the foundations of the Holy city of Jerusalem, which is the Church; “And I saw a new heaven and new earth…And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband [Jesus Christ] … And the wall of the city had twelve foundations and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21: 1-2, 14).
Talking about the mystery of marriage between a man and a woman, Saint Paul says; “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). It is noteworthy that Paul compares the union of marriage with the mysterious and unbreakable union of Christ with the bride Church. Therefore, he preaches that the Church is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23) and He is the head of the body of the Church (Col. 1:18). Paul also says in his teaching that God the Father united the gentiles and the Jews in one Church through His Only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: “Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20).
From the aforementioned Biblical testimonies, we see the unbreakable relationship of Christ with the Church and the fundamental relationship between the Apostles and the Church of Christ, His body. The Apostles received their calling from Jesus, not from the people: “Have not I chosen you twelve?” (John 6:70). “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16). The power given to the Apostles was gushing out from Jesus Christ Himself, Who said: “take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matt. 10:19-20).
The great and wondrous day of Pentecost on which the Apostles received the uncreated energy of the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4), made them vessels of the gift of the Holy Spirit and preachers of the Word of the Gospel, and inaugurators of the Churches that were founded all over the world, along with the Bishops who were ordained and established by the Apostles.
“We are made as the filth of the world” (1 Cor. 4:13) as blessed Paul says about the Apostles, proven to “have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7), that they were “ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1), and that “this grace is given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:8-9), and moreover, that they are “the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 8:23).
Indeed, the Apostles are the “glory of Christ” and therefore, of His Church, because upon their calling they were given “power against unclean spirits” (Matt. 10:1) and “over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). And before his separation from His disciples, the Lord said to them: “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:25-26).
Interpreting these words, Cyril of Alexandria says: “the perfect and precise revelation of the mystery is given to us by the Comforter, namely of the Holy Spirit Who was sent by the Father in His Name, I say of the Son, [and our Lord, Jesus Christ]”.
This authority that the Apostles received by Christ upon their calling, as well as the perfect and precise revelation of the mystery of the Divine Providence, through the Comforter, namely the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, proves clearly the magnitude of the apostolic preaching on the one hand, and on the other, the extreme value of the Apostolic succession which brings together the institution of the divine-human body of the Church through the Holy Spirit.
Behold, therefore, why the Holy Apostles are the foundations of the Church of Christ and behold why the Holy God-bearing Fathers called the Church “Apostolic” in The Creed.
We, my dear brethren, who honour the commemoration of the Holy Apostles, would like to pray to our God and Saviour Jesus Christ and say along with the hymnographer: “Thou Who art Light that existed ere all ages, when Thou didst vouchsafe to come to me, the lowly man, through Thine ineffable love for man… Thine Apostle and disciples didst Thou then reveal as second lights brightly glittering with the resplendence and the dread lightning that flasheth froth from Thee; and being sent forth, they illumined all of creation with Thy light divine, O Lord. And they ever beseech Thee to enlighten and to save our souls” (Matins, praises, Troparion 3). And let us say to the Theotokos: “Thee do we bring forward as an indestructible weapon against our enemies; thee, O Bride of God, do we possess as the anchor and hope of our salvation”(Matins, Ode five, Theotokion). Amen. Many happy returns!”
After the Divine Liturgy, the good carer of the Monastery Archimandrite Parthenios hosted a meal for the Patriarchal entourage.