The Ecumenical Patriarch Mr. Bartholomew
During the Great Vespers on His Name Day
(Holy Monastery of the Life-giving Spring Balaklya, June 9, 2022)
Most Holy Archbishop of Ohrid, Mr. Stephen, with your honourable company,
Venerable representatives of the Local Churches of Jerusalem and Cyprus,
Holy and God-loving brothers hierarchs,
Your Excellency Mr. Minister,
Honourable Archons officials of the Mother Church,
Children in the Lord beloved,
The constant repetition of the redemptive events of God’s Economy in the life of the Church is the cornerstone and immovable rock on which it has been built and the spring, which flows endlessly and it is revived from. Without the festive repetition of the unique events and the insatiable desire for our submerging into the depths of the mysteries of faith in Christ, the Church would not be able to proclaim salvation and convince the listeners of the Truth.
This endless repetition of the ecclesiastical feasts is not simply a reflection on historical events. Historicism is not enough for the Church, because its demand is the Eschaton and the desired meeting of all of us with the Lord Jesus. The feasts present the past, so as to give meaning to the present and open the way for the future.
The feasts of the Church are renewal of the inner world of our heart and transformation of our existence, because they are a point in which we place ourselves again under the gentle yoke of the Lord and feel the relief of the burden of the daily bearing of our cross. The feasts are a two-way movement. They are an invitation and an answer. Christ is the Host, and we are the participants in the feast of faith. In our free response lies the tasting and joy of the great and super-rational gifts, which the Church gives and distributes. Without our warm-hearted participation in the feasts of the Church, that is, in this faith in it, life has no value for a man who believes in Christ. The faithful draws strength, courage and hope from the church feasts. In them, we see the Gospel as constantly contemporary, because all the redemptive events are permanently realized in the persons of the deified faithful, that is, the Saints. From the Most Holy Lady of ours Theotokos, the holy Apostles and all the way up to today and forever, the Saints of the Church testify and keep the Gospel alive and contemporary. The Church, brothers and children in the Lord beloved, rejuvenates and revives. With this rejuvenating breath, it renews the world and all of us.
From the depths of our heart, we thank all of you who came here wholeheartedly for the feast of the most honoured Apostle Bartholomew. Indeed, he is a mentor and companion of our church life. He is a protector and friend of our souls during the efforts of our Church throughout all these decades. He is our refreshment and water mist in the difficulties of the church furnace. He is our mediator towards the Lord God and our comforter in the hours of hardship and exhaustion. We also thank the ever-remembered Elder of ours, the Metropolitan of Chalcedon Mr. Meliton, because he adorned us with this apostolic name, wanting to honour and commemorate a great and glorious offspring of our native Imbros, the hieromonk Bartholomew of Kutlumush and gave us the opportunity to enjoy the apostolic zeal and to be strengthened by his sanctified personality.
Please, all of you, pray that the Lord our God, may give us strength to bear the patriarchal burden, through the prayers of the Apostle Bartholomew, for as long as He wishes.
But today, my brothers, when fulfilment of the great day of Pentecost is approaching, the long-awaited and the much-desired hour has come for the solving of a long and painful schism in the Body of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Today, among us here, in the venerable and all-seen Catholicon of our holy, patriarchal and stauropegic Monastery of the Life-giving Spring Balaklya, is our Most Holy brother in Christ, the Archbishop of Ohrid Mr. Stephen and his honourable company. They are here to receive from our hands the Patriarchal and Synodal Act of restoration of the church communion with their Mother, the Great Church of Christ, and through it and by it, with the other Local Churches of God, through the bond of love, unity and the Eucharistic rapprochement through mutual respect.
Today there is great joy in heaven, because the long-torn robe of our Lord is renewed, whole and intact, sown with the needle of the Holy Spirit.
Today the multitudes of the Orthodox rejoice for the return of the Christ-bearing people in the embrace of the Mother Church.
Today the Constantinople Great Church of Christ proclaims joyfully: – Come and see the Mother who rejoices for her children.
Today the souls of our predecessors here, the ever-commemorated Athenagoras and Dimitrios, rejoice, because they enjoy in the Church of Heaven this moment, which they have been waiting for fifty-five years.
Today we are convinced of the accuracy of our faith, because the value of the church dyarchy and the indissoluble connection between its Oros and Canons is most clearly shown.
Our responsibility for Ecliton, which you, Holy Archbishop of Ohrid, reminded us of in your recent letter of gratitude to your Mother Church, signed by all the honourable Hierarchs around you, is not a privilege, but a sacrifice and exhaustion, for the salvation of the faithful.
The responsibility for Ecliton, as determined at the aforementioned Fourth Ecumenical Council, and confirmed by the other Ecumenical Councils, but, most importantly, as interpreted, used and sanctified by the Church over one and a half millennia, without any disagreement or misinterpretation, is not an empty letter and a primacy of honour, as some uneducated and deluded try to claim lately.
The responsibility for Ecliton for the Constantinople Primate is his daily participation in the cross bearing sacrifice of our Lord and in the joy of His Resurrection.
The responsibility for Ecliton of the Constantinople Patriarch throughout the centuries has supported the Orthodox Body and through it preserved the unity and accuracy of the faith. In both favourable and unfortunate historical times, that constant fact kept the Eastern Church of Christ moving and from it and only through this constant sacred-canonical security, which is not negotiable, the present intra-Orthodox reality has been formed. If Orthodox unity is interpreted through the prism of social and political patterns and is considered a commonwealth and federation, then we have fallen away from the truth.
All the Patriarchs, in their time, felt as a testimony and responsibility the application of this duty and obligation towards the Catholical Church. This deep feeling of the Patriarchs, for providing redemptive solution to every particular request and call that comes from everywhere in the Universe, is not an easy task. For this, one needs a combative prayer, discernment, patience, long-suffering, tolerance, evaluation of the facts, consultation, maturity, perseverance and, above all, enlightenment, so as to find what is needed and ensure the greatest interest of the Church.
So it happened in this particular case. Most Holy Archbishop Mr. Stephen, have in mind that the Mother Church of Constantinople suffered, prayed, endured, waited, hoped, advised and prepared for finding a solution to the problem that affected your Local Church. The truth is that the ethno-phyletic influences, unfortunately present in the intra-church views as well, negatively affect the whole of our Eastern Church of Christ. There is no need for more clarification, because we have all tasted the fruits of such attitudes. This sick and wrong point of view, Holy brother Archbishop of Ohrid, brought as a result the isolation and the state of schism of your church being. The difference in opinion with the Most Holy Church of Serbia, regarding your affairs, as well as the immovable insistence on your positions and actions that did not lead to a way out, brought the things to a deadlock, frozen for more than half a century and which needed a radical healing.
See how wise the practice of the Church is! If it were not for the right to appeal to the Constantinople Church, the deadlocks would be longer, and perhaps incurable. You resorted to the providence and care of the Great Church and it looked upon you with a feeling of philanthropy and maternal love. It did not neglect the problem. It did not deafen. It did not escape from its responsibilities and from the work. It was not careless. It investigated. It cared for the alleviation of the difficulties here and there. It sent an invitation to both you and the Most Holy Church of Serbia for a joint cooperation with us, for an exhaustive examination of the whole issue, with the aim of finding the most suitable solution. In the end, gathering all the parameters we became convinced of your maturity, since the unfounded ecclesiological and other views, which were previously formed, were already abandoned. In addition, we concluded that now more than ever you are prepared for a fruitful dialogue with the Church of Serbia. Thus, we decided, as we have a sacred and inalienable duty, to restore you, under specific conditions and provisions, in the church communion. We recommended to you, however, to strive together with us, for a humble and peaceful finding of the further pastoral-administrative form, which – according to the sanctified practice of the Church – will be submitted to us for approval and subsequently informing of the whole Orthodox Body.
We understand your difficulties, the arisen dilemmas, the internal considerations, the changeable different opinions; but the decisions require sacrifice and courage. Thus, we feel the joy of all of you for the achieved progress. From today on, we hope that when you receive a position and service in the all-holy Body of the Church, you will prove equally worthy of the benevolence of the Great Church of Christ towards you.
We hope that you will be consistent in your promises and that the mistakes of the past will be a source of knowledge for avoiding and repeating similar ones. We hope that the constant danger for Orthodoxy – the ethnophyletism – will become a distant and irreversible past. We expect from you more attention and deeper approach to the ecclesiastical issues and we assure you that we intend to stand by your side always. Constantinople is your birthplace and you have a duty to cultivate greater and even closer than the others, indissoluble ties, through the power of the all-powerful Holy Spirit.
With these many and good hopes we crown you. We bless the People of the Most Holy Archbishopric of Ohrid. We greet the visible, good and brotherly disposition of the Most Holy Church of Serbia towards you. We expect an official notification from you about the progress of the dialogue between you. Finally, we present you with the restorative for the church communion Patriarchal and Synodal Act and we anticipate the co-service with you on the upcoming Sunday of Pentecost, “and may the God of peace be with you all, amen.” (Rom. 15:33).