May 9th will remain for us a day of spiritual and national commemoration

Homily of
His Beatitude
Archbishop of Ohrid
Mr. Stephen
(during the Vespers to St. Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas, 09.06.2022,
at the monastery of the Life-giving Fountain – Balaklya, Constantinople

All-Holy and Divine Archbishop of Constantinople, of New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, Mr. Bartholomew,

With joyful hearts and filled with admiration we came to the Imperial City of Constantine from our ancient Ohrid, which, in its glorious years, had 365 altars, as many as the days of the year.

We come from “Holy Sophia of Ohrid”, to you and the Great Church of Christ; we come from Ohrid, from the city adorned with precious frescoes and icons of the Most Holy Theotokos, to you and the holy City of Theotokos, the city martyr among the cities. We come from St. John the Theologian, from Kaneo – from the church that watches over the shore of the Ohrid Lake for centuries, to you and the Church where this Apostle preached the Gospel of the true faith, where he experienced the Revelation, reposed and in the embrace of the Lord departed. We come from Plaoshnik, the spiritual fortress, from where every human soul “cries” his eyes into the blue lake. We come from that divine beauty, from the temple dedicated to St. Clement, Equal to the Apostles, and to the Holy Great Martyr Panteleimon, the merciful healer, to you and the merciful Constantinopolitan Church, which equally loves all its children and all the people of God. We come and bring greetings from St. Nahum, and from Veljusa, and from Treskavec, and from Nerezi, and from Zrze, and from Lesnovo, and from Osogovo, and from Bigorski and from all the monasteries and sanctuaries, to you and the City – the Throne of all thrones.

We came, therefore, seeking for the maternal embrace, Your Holiness, after the period spent in the spiritual desert – in self-examination and in isolation. Everyone makes mistakes, we confess that we were impatient, but, running to repentance, we asked you to open your great heart and behold – you did not reject us, but rather accepted us in your fatherly embrace. We have heard before, and now we know that you, as the Constantinopolitan Archbishop, heal the wounds and mend the injuries very well. In fact, for centuries, the Constantinople Church has been doing this sacred and noble work, and is dedicated to it. It is a Church of sacrifice and offering, of feat and exhaustion, of inexhaustible mercy and abundant blessings. It constantly empties herself, but it is never empty of love and compassionate sympathy.

We came to you, we believe the time has come, the time in which you heard the cry of our heart and felt the longing of our souls! We came to you and we are very happy because of that. We came to express our longing for Christ, whom, as Orthodox Christians, we have, and to express the respect, honour and gratitude before your throne – to proclaim loudly, here, under the dome of the Constantinopolitan Church, before the all-holy Ecumenical throne, our love for the whole Universe.

Therefore, standing today before you and with the privilege to stand with you, we came to tell you a heartfelt thank you! Behold, on this very blessed evening, which contains in itself many graceful events: the feast of the Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas and the Council of the first Athonite icon “It is truly meet”. Also, this stavropegion in which we are right now and the living water born from the Life-giving Spring. The reposed in the graves and we, the dead who have risen; the ecliton that we have sent to you and through the justification of which you have accepted us in communion with you and with the entire Orthodox world. Finally, you, the Archbishop of Constantinople, your privileges and your heart full of love.

All-Holy and All-Honourable Father,

The Patriarchal and Synodal Act for our return from the suffering in isolation is a good foundation and we will make sure it remains the basis on which we will build our future, always adhering to the wise advice of the Mother Church of Constantinople. This we have demonstrated also by fulfilling the obedience that you have directed us to – overcoming the misunderstandings with the sisterly Orthodox Church of Serbia, which was confirmed by the joint holy liturgies.

However, May 9th will always remain for us a day of spiritual and national commemoration, a day of benefaction, a day of honour and reminiscence – a spiritual and national feast.

Many years to you, Your Holiness! Your children from the Holy Archbishopric of Ohrid – the hierarchs, the clergy and the people, headed by my humble self, bow their knees before you as a sign of gratitude, appreciation and respect, wishing you that our Most Holy Lady grant you many more years at the helm of the First-Throned Constantinople Church and of the  City. Then the people bearing Christ’s name may rejoice and we could exclaim together with them: “Such a hierarch we needed!” Amen!

Many years to you, Most Holy Father!