Great and wonderful are the deeds of brotherhood and communing in the Lord, and they bring joy to the Church and relief to the people of God. We bear witness to such a blessed act today, when the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Imvros and Tenedos, His Grace Kiril, a respected hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, visits our Holy Monastery. In fact, the holy bishop came to Bigorski as a great friend of our Church and as a representative of His Divine All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, bringing his fatherly greetings and blessings for the name day of our beloved Elder.
The Most Reverend Metropolitan Kiril was received in accordance with the ancient monastery rule for receiving a hierarch, with a solemn reception (ipodochi) by the Elder of the Monastery, Bishop Antaniski, and the entire brotherhood. In the church of the Forerunner, after the prescribed hymns and prayers, the Elder addressed our esteemed guest:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. These were the words, Your Eminence, the Metropolitan of Imvros and Tenedos, a beloved brother in Christ, Kirill, that first came to mind when I received a confirmation of your response to my request and heard the joyous news of your coming here, to this millennium-old Sanctuary of the Honorable Forerunner. You were the bearer of the holy blessing of His Divine All-Holiness, the Archbishop of New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom you brought us the ‘quiet light of the holy glory’ from the luminous Phanar of Orthodoxy, the seat of the First-Throne Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This spiritual fire with which you lit the candle of joy and gratitude in our hearts has essential significance for us as a Church, monastery, and people. We feel the fragrance of the gospel peace that spreads from the noble and Christ-like personality of His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, and which now comes to us through you, his son in spirit and in faith.
You come to us, our benefactor, from the glorious Imvros, the birthplace of His Holiness, carrying with you the fragrance of sanctity from that holy island. We admire and are inspired by the feats and accomplishments that you perform there, by the entire renaissance in your diocese, by the resurrection of the spirit and deeds of the Orthodox. It is a blessing and an encouragement to have an example of pastoral care and fatherhood like you. We are witnesses to your titanic struggle for the prosperity of your entrusted flock, and at the same time, for the well-being of the entire Church of God. We confess with immense gratitude your tireless efforts and sacrifices to solve our church question and to heal that longstanding wound of the body of Christ. That is why your coming here for us has a historical and monumental character.
Your presence here represents a warm embrace from the Mother Church, to which our Holy Church turned almost five years ago, using the right of appeal to the first Throne in Orthodoxy, based in Constantinople. As it is well known to everyone, the requests and prayers of our Church, state, and people were not in vain. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, that great and historical Patriarch, together with the Holy Hierarchs of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on May 9th, 2022, made the epochal decision to end the decades-long isolation of the Ohrid Archbishopric and to reintegrate it into liturgical and canonical unity with the entire Orthodox world, after which decisions followed by other local Churches to join in unity with it and recognize in its sacred hierarchy a Church mature for autocephaly. The peace, blessing, and tranquility which other nations previously enjoyed through the beneficial and reconciliatory work of His All-Holiness Patriarch has also descended upon our faithful people. With his enlightenment, faith, and wisdom in God, the Ecumenical Patriarch has long cared for God’s people among us and has fatherly worked towards healing the ecclesiastical schism and unity in one Church organization. His feat and care were crowned in the moment when, on the bright Pentecost, he returned the Act of Unity to His Beatitude, our respected and holy Archbishop Stefan, from his throne. That moment will remain engraved in the grateful memory of the people of the Ohrid Archbishopric, as the day of Resurrection and the day of the visit of the Comforter and Unifier. Our Most Blessed Archbishop will note this as well when, at that moment, he exclaims:
‘Today, on this completed holiday, we, the members of the Ohrid Archbishopric, felt that we are not orphans. Instead, after finding ourselves in the paternal embrace of His Holiness, the beloved Patriarch Bartholomew, returning from ‘foreign land’, we sat at the Lord’s table… Here we are, accepted and loved, serving together with the contributor of today’s common sacrifice of ‘all and for all’, participating in the meaning of the sacrament of Pentecost when God’s grace is distributed indivisibly among the divided’.
In fact, the Ohrid Archbishopric has been a worthy daughter of the universal throne throughout the centuries, always faithful to the canonical order of the Church, a fighter for the correct ecclesiology. Because where there is no order and respect for the order established by the Fathers, there is the universal spirit of pride and lack of brotherhood. And the Divine Paul teaches us: “lest there be quarrels, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20).
We thank Your Eminence for all the care, efforts, and sacrifices you have made and continue to make for our legitimate church existence. We thank you for being here as the image of the First Hierarch of the Orthodox world, His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whose blessing you traveled here. We humbly ask you to convey our immense gratitude, good wishes, and heartfelt kisses to His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch for everything he has done for the Orthodox people in our homeland and throughout the world, for the official recognition of our church entity, and finally for the fatherly care and attention with which he sent you to us.
We extend our brotherly greetings and a warm welcome from our respected and always beloved Metropolitan, His Eminence Timotej Plaoshki and Debar-Kichevo, and we wish you a pleasant and peaceful stay in our Sacred Home.
Many years, Holy Bishop!”
Responding to this greeting from our Elder and Abbot, His Eminence Metropolitan Kiril, in his response conveyed the blessings and love of His Divine All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to our entire people and Church.
“Your Eminence, holy Bishop of Antanisky, Father Partenij, esteemed abbot of this sacred and holy monastery, and a beloved brother in Christ,
It is my great privilege and blessing to be here as a representative of His Divine All-Holiness, our highly respected lord and bishop, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. I have the special honor of conveying to your Church, the Ohrid Archbishopric, to your blessed Archbishop Stefan, to the hierarchs, priests, and the entire faithful people, and especially to you, holy brother, the paternal and patriarchal wishes, blessings, love, and care of the Mother Church.
Your Eminence, you are well acquainted with the words of the Apostle Paul, whom you mentioned, who says, “May God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And I say the same: May God forbid that I should boast in anything other than the Cross of the Lord. And you, holy brother, together with your hierarchy, clergy, and Orthodox lay brothers, have borne the Cross of Christ on your shoulders for many, many years. But we all know that after Golgotha comes the empty Tomb – the Resurrection. And so, Your Eminence, I feel that the Ecumenical Patriarch, by what he has done, has given the joy of the Resurrection to all the brothers here. And in order for that joy to be undiminished, we must do what we sing at the Resurrection: “Let us forgive all things through the Resurrection.”
These moments are truly touching and moving. I consider myself to be the least among the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but here I am among you, just like you, as one of you. I came with great joy, dear brothers, because your beloved Elder connected us with the love of Christ and sacrifice for the Orthodox faith and for the Church. I came to express my gratitude, love, and thanks. I came to rejoice with him for the upcoming feast of the memory of Saint Partenios the Bishop of Lampsacus. I came to share with the Bishop and all of you the beauty of unity.
Elder, I have the privilege of living near Lampsacus, the homeland of Saint Partenios. And every time I travel from Imvros to Constantinople and back, I pass through Lampsacus. Today, when I left in the morning, I passed by there. I stopped in front of his church, which, unfortunately, is now a mosque. I bowed and asked Saint Partenios to cover you, protect you, bless you, and give you strength, together with you and the brotherhood and sisterhood of your sacred congregations, the respected and dear brothers who are striving in the fight for worship in Christ, the dear brothers who carry the cross on the path to salvation. May Saint Partenios cover and protect the Church, that great Hierarch, and resolve even the most recent open questions in the best and most peaceful way. May the Lady Theotokos and the Honorable Forerunner – the teacher of repentance and the prophet – cover and protect the Holy Abode and all the sacred Brotherhood. I do not hide from you, holy Elder, that as I approached, I was surprised and immediately remembered what the sober-minded Fathers of our Church say, that where the presence of God is, there is paradise. And here, Your Eminence, there is a rich presence of the Holy God, and therefore your paradise is very beautiful. Many years to you!