The collective celebration in Imbros from two days ago, which was dedicated to the memory of our Holy Father St. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, and to the name day of His Eminence, the Metropolitan of Imbros and Tenedos, Mr. Cyril, continued yesterday, on Friday, with the highest manifestation of church unity – the Divine Eucharist. This mystery of faith, mystery of unity, mystery above all mysteries, was celebrated in the famous metropolitan church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, in close proximity to the Imbros Metropolis. The celebrant of the Holy Liturgy was our host, Metropolitan Mr. Cyril, in co-celebration with our Elder and Abbot, the Bishop of Antania Mr. Parthenius, and with the fathers Archimandrites, hieromonks, and hierodeacons from our Holy Monastery, as well as Archimandrite Mr. Gregory from Imbros. The Holy and Divine Liturgy was a true spiritual journey through the beauties of unity, which decades behind was impossible even to imagine, let alone experience.
At the end of the Holy Liturgy, Metropolitan Cyril delivered a speech of deepest gratitude, filled with Christ’s love:
„“Venerable Bishop of Antania, Mr. Parthenius,
Esteemed nuns, beloved brothers and sisters,,
Today in the Gospel, when one apostle asked Christ to sit at His right side, and the other on His left, one to have this power, the other that power, He told them: You are the light of the world. Seek nothing else, but to be a light for the world. The Church heard this and our saints heard this. And they indeed became the light to the world.
Such light, also, is today’s celebrant, our most honoured Saint Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria. A great father and luminary of our Church. His life was a martyrdom. A voluntary martyrdom for the love of Christ. In his time, there were many heresies. Once he was so severely beaten by a heretical group of monks that, if they did not think that he was dead, they would have continued to beat him until he died. He lived, as I said, a life of martyrdom. But he was also the same one who presided over the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus, a city located a little south of here. There, at the Council, he fought strongly for the dignity of the Most Holy Mother of God. And at that Council, for the first time the term ‘Theotokos’ as the name for the Most Holy was adopted – as the One Who bore God, not just a man. Then Saint Cyril stood and sang the same thing we have just sang, taking parts from the Gospel and composing the hymn with the dogmatic teaching of our Church: ‘Theotokos Parthene’. This invocation, ‘Theotokos Parthene’, he added himself, and then continued with the greeting from the Archangel Gabriel: ‘Rejoice, Most blessed Mary, the Lord is with Thee! Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb’. At the end, he added: ‘for Thou hast borne the Savior of our souls’. His contribution to the dogmatic theology of our Church is immense, because all Orthodox dogmas of our Church are built upon Cyril’s exposition, from the time of the Third Great, Holy, and Ecumenical Council, onwards.
He was a great Saint, especially for his enduring humility. Influenced by his uncle, the Patriarch of Alexandria Theophilos, at first he did not recognize Saint John Chrysostom as a saint. However, after a vision revealed to him by Theotokos, he accepted the sainthood of Saint Chrysostom, went humbly, took the omophorion of Saint John Chrysostom, and placed it on his head. And since he had always suffered from terrible migraines, once he did that, he was healed. Therefore, Orthodox iconographers of our Church, paint the cape worn by St. Cyril in the same colour with the omophorion of Saint John Chrysostom. He is the one who wrote the service for Great Friday, for the Epitaph. He left many theological writings and hence the Church calls him Great.
Celebrating, therefore, this great Luminary today, the Holy Father who became a light to the world, I feel the need to thank His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Mr. Bartholomew, for all his fatherly care and love with which he embraces my unworthiness. In addition, I thank the Holy God and the Patriarch who sent me here, to the place where he was born, to serve the Church of Christ and the few, but at the same time numerous Orthodox Romey.
I thank our church councillors, the holy psalmists and all the people here, for their participation in the Divine Service at this holy place.
Today I have a reason, above all and before all, to thank You, Your Eminence, as I mentioned yesterday, together with your monastic fraternity and the clergy, monks, nuns, and faithful from North Macedonia. Thank you for coming here to celebrate and rejoice with us, anticipating the great joy you will have tomorrow at the meeting for the celebration of our Patriarch’s name day.
I should not speak more, as time has passed, and I need to give the floor to You, Venerable. The school bell reminded me that I should finish. I want to thank You from the depths of my heart and tell You once again that it is a great blessing that we met and became friends with you and all Your holy monasteries.
Please convey our love to the Archbishop and the Synod of the Ohrid Archbishopric, and we are expecting soon the blessed moment when in Saint Sophia of Ohrid, our All-Holy Patriarch will deliver the Tomos for autocephaly to your Church, to complete the joy in its entirety.
As a sign of gratitude, you will allow me to give a few symbolical gifts, first to You, then to the fathers and nuns, as a sign of gratitude for Your great love, but also for the other gifts that you have given us.
We thank you and want you to continue coming to Imbros, because we love you and want to see you here more often, your presence revives us.”
In response, our Elder, Bishop Mr. Parthenius, addressed the present with an appropriate speech, once again congratulating the broad-hearted and hospitable host, the Metropolitan Mr. Cyril:
Beloved fathers and children of the Most Holy Mother Church,
Today, once again, the Holy Spirit has gathered us in unity on another Pentecost, so that each in his own language, but with one soul, may glorify God’s greatness upon us and give thanks for the abundant gifts of our holy and venerable faith. Such words might sound too ordinary and as if repeated many times; but they are not merely uttered by our lips, rather our hearts cry them out loudly, for they are filled with the joy of unity. I am full of joy that does not fade, because not long ago, just one year ago, we who speak to you from this holy place, were not able to celebrate our personal friendships and rejoice in them in the manner befitting Christians – in the Divine Eucharist. Like Jonah in the whale, we thought we would never be illuminated by the light of God’s mercy, but it had touched the compassionate, philanthropic, and wise heart of His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Mr. Bartholomew, who condescendingly reached out his hand and took us into his paternal embrace. Because of his love and efforts, we stand here before you and with you, to rejoice together with our beloved brother and tireless shepherd of this holy island, His Eminence Metropolitan Mr. Cyril
Distributing fiery tongues, the Holy Spirit called everyone to unity and this unity, which today seems to be the highest ideal of the Church, something desired but difficult to achieve – is practically the essence and foundation of its existence. That descent of the Holy Spirit aimed to renew the unity of human nature wounded by sin, to repair what was the inevitable result of human vanity, literally and metaphorically represented through the Tower of Babel.
You probably cannot imagine how the builders of the Tower of Babel felt when the Spirit descended and mixed their languages and when the previously familiar men became complete strangers. The mouths that had previously spoken words of unity became a source of discord. However, if you need an example, look into our times and see our vanity, our disobedience, and our little towers ambitiously wanting to reach Heaven. Concentrating all our efforts on self-promotion, we have completely alienated ourselves from each other, becoming lost like sheep without a shepherd. Some of us, faithful, even brothers of the same blood, with whom we have shared bread, now have become complete strangers because they have scorned the age-old tradition of the holy Church. They rejected the Holy Spirit in their vain efforts to build a church that, instead of God, will have their own image and the idols they built at its centre. The idols of power, money, nation, political state, the idols of unhealthy equality, theorizing, wisdom, and relativization.
One of the victims of this relativization is the ecclesiology of the Holy Church, which in our times is mercilessly wounded and sacrificed on the altar of worldly power and the nation, which in turn, is based on boundaries and divisions not established by God and nature, but by man himself, by human criteria. We see how in our time, one conciliar Church is transformed into a federation of independent local churches, which often find more threads of difference than of unity. Obedience, which exists at every level of church hierarchy, paradoxically ceased to apply to its highest level – such a federation no longer needs a Primate to coordinate and unite it. The privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarch, established and affirmed by the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, supplemented and clarified by the supreme Fathers of the Church, have become superfluous, unnecessary, and unacceptable to the dozens of small popes in every corner of the universe.
If in the world competition can breed innovation and be useful for those who argue, if they argue nobly, in the Church there must be no hostility and opposing camps, because there is one Way, one Truth, one God, and one Faith. From the lives of the martyrs, we know that God is witnessed to the end, and from the lives of the Holy Fathers, we know that the Faith is defended without compromise.
The pains and labours of Saint Cyril of Alexandria for the faith were enormous, and his love for the God-Man and the God-Bearing Mother exceeded his human powers and enabled him to become a pillar of church dogmas. Nevertheless, let us note something that is not at all a detail, but a whole side of Cyril’s life… Because all people, even the saints, are not immune to human weaknesses, so Saint Cyril too, prompted by his uncle Theophilus of Alexandria, purely for personal, not dogmatic reasons, harboured great hatred towards Saint John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and did not want to mention him, neither alive nor dead. But the Most Holy Theotokos, whose love filled his heart, did not want her faithful servant to perish, appeared to him in her glory, having Saint John Chrysostom at her right side. After this vision, he repented and subsequently became one of the greatest supporters of the work of the holy Patriarch of Constantinople.
Therefore, let us pray to the Theotokos and Saint Cyril of Alexandria, to encourage the hearts of all those who for personal and vain reasons do not want to mention the successor of Saint John Chrysostom, because in their delusion they do not realize that the First Throne of the Universe cannot be separated, only they can be cut off from it. May God fully restore the unity of the Church and gather all His children together.
Once again, I would like to thank the holy first shepherd, the Metropolitan of Imbros and Tenedos, Mr. Cyril, for the great honour he bestowed upon us during our stay in this blessed place, which was crowned with this holy Liturgical celebration, and again to wish him many blessed years!”
These gracefully delivered spiritual and enlightening words, poured grace from heaven upon the listeners and which “when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). Then the holy hierarchs, in the spirit of love and unity, exchanged archbishop’s pectoral crosses in memory of the historic first co-celebration in Imbros, on the occasion of the name day of the Metropolitan of Imbros. He also presented the Archimandrites of our Monastery with archimandrite’s pectoral crosses, a beautiful icon and for prayerful remembrance to the abbesses of the two women’s monasteries. Our host did not fail to prepare rich tables for the feast of love for the numerous monks, nuns, and faithful during these two days.
Many and blessed years to His Eminence, the Metropolitan of Imbros and Tenedos, Mr. Cyril!