May You live long, First Apostle of Orthodoxy!

Sermon of His Beatitude Archbishop of Ohrid Mr. Stephen
(On the commemoration of St. Ap. Bartholomew and Barnabas, 10.06.2022, at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George the Trophy Bearer, Phanar Constantinople)

Having celebrated both last night and[1], behold, today, on the Eve of the great feast of Pentecost, moved by God’s providence, we can conclude that God so wisely arranges the order of things. Namely, these festive days are blessed for their theology, but this year they are connected with another special meaning as well.

Behold, we celebrate your name day, Your Holiness, in honour of St. Ap. Bartholomew, whose name you rightly bear. Rejoicing in the commemoration of one of the twelve apostles, that is, rejoicing for St. Bartholomew and his apostolic work, we rejoice also for the present Bartholomew, for you, All-holy and All-honourable Bishop, who stand before us, and for your apostolic work in the modern life of the Orthodox Church, a work of selfless service to the Church.

Back in time, as the hagiographer writes, St. Ap. Bartholomew appeared to Joseph the Hymnographer, dressed in a white robe, and, blessing him with the Gospel, blessed him with the words: “From your mouth let waters of heavenly wisdom flow!” However, this blessing of your heavenly patron spoken then is no less relevant, obvious and visible in our time and embodied in your work for the good of the Constantinople’s faithful, but also, for the benefit of the entire Orthodox Church. This is evident from the past thirty fruitful years of your patriarchal service, as the Head of the all-holy and all-honourable universal throne of the as much glorious – as much martyred Mother Church.

We remember some of your words, and they are in the context of what was mentioned before. “The New Testament”, you said on that occasion, “assures us that the one who does not love his neighbor, he cannot love God.” This enabled us to understand back then and today to feel in full power your persistence for the teaching, for the responsibilities and for the inherited order of the Church. In fact, your so courageous, and at the same time so loving: “I have no right to take a step back”, for us, the hierarchy and the faithful people of the Ohrid Archbishopric, stems from and makes sense in what was said above about love for the neighbor and love for God.

Therefore, as the first hierarch of the Ohrid throne, on behalf of the holy Synod, the holy hierarchy, the monasticism and the faithful people, as well as on my own behalf, with a heart full of respect and honour, once again I thank you for the honour with which you honoured us and for the heartfelt love with which you embraced us – informing us of your favourable judgment on our appellation: the restoration of liturgical communion with you and, through you, with the fullness of the Orthodox Church.

Now it is very clear that your benefaction towards our Ohrid Archdiocese appeared, in fact, as your latest contribution before the Loving God – as a deed worthy of the father of the Orthodox. Therefore, we, your humble children, can only glorify God, for the fact that besides the grace I mentioned here – we are also honoured to be your contemporaries and witnesses of your deeds for the good of the Church. Also because we have the opportunity to rejoice and be comforted by your feat of “good standing”, of authentic adherence and self-sacrificing, even to martyrdom, testimony of the canonical and sacred order of the Orthodox Church.

Many years to come- may You live long, First Apostle of Orthodoxy! May the grace of God strengthen you, so that you can keep the holy order of Orthodoxy, bless us with your fatherly tenderness and embrace the whole world with your love!

[1] On the Day of the Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas, 10. 06. 2022, church “Saint George the Trophy Bearer”, Phanar, Constantinople.