Vespers of St. Parthenius and name day of our Elder

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are charismatic gardeners who make our souls flourish.

– Marcel Proust

In the spirit of gratitude, according to these inspired words, as well as according to the testament of the Divine Apostle Paul: Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. (Heb. 13,7), the Holy Bigorski Моnastery, with the nuns from Rajchica, Prechista and Knezhino and the present faithful, celebrated the Feast of our Father among the Saint, Parthenius, the Miracle Worker of Lampsacus and the name day of our Еlder and Аbbot, Bishop Parthenius of Antania.

The blessed celebration of our Elder’s name day, the first since he was ordained as a Bishop, began with the monastic synaxis before the Vespers. During this gathering the brothers and sisters of our monastic family poured their hearts out before their spiritual father and teacher, receiving once again, his paternal gratitude:

“Your immense love, my most beloved children, reminds me of the great responsibility I have before God for you and for all the spiritual children of our Моnastery. Thank you for reminding me of the Prophet Moses at the Red Sea, thus directing my thoughts to how difficult it is for one chosen to lead. The God-fearing Moses was a friend of God and talked to the Lord face to face, the way a man talks to his friend. In fact, we all talk to God in some way through prayer, but Moses also had supernatural and living revelations. However, although chosen by God, he faced unspeakable difficulties in his redemptive mission. Βut, God did not leave him alone. At first, the Lord Himself was with him constantly, and later He ordered him to choose helpers, whom the Holy Spirit enlightened. In this context, you should know that you are my helpers in the mission our Monastery does for the salvation of souls. Without you I am nothing. I often feel as I am the last of all, because I am careless in my spiritual activity, unworthy and sinful. So please forgive me and be patient with me. To endure a sinful man is a great thing, because it is so much easier to live with the righteous ones, but then where will our reward be? You can see that all my life I have been trying not to distinguish people by their title, education, nationality, religion, social status. I am trying hard to love them all, and each and every one of our Monasteries are based on that spirit. So please, be patient with me. Our Lord commands us to love one another. You love me very much as a father, because in a spiritual sense I gave birth to you – I feel your love and love you even more than that. And even if you do not love me, it does not matter, because I am not worthy of your love. It is important that I love you and this is my spiritual nourishment. Because we should not demand for others to love us, it is more important that we give love. When we expect special attention and love from others, then we are wrong, because if we do not get what we expect, we will be disappointed. Remember the words of our monastic teacher, Abba Dorotheus: ‘Do not seek love from your neighbour, for if you do not receive it, you will be upset. It is better to show love to your neighbour – that way you will calm down yourself, and you will inspire your neighbour to love’. So, let us try not to ask for love from others, but to give it constantly. Then God will not leave us without comfort. “Thank you infinitely for your heavenly love, forgive me, pray for me, and pray for my enlightenment”.

The Vespers adorned this mutual sharing of spiritual love, with a prayer towards the celebrant, Saint Parthenius of Lampsacus, to strengthen and fulfill with grace our beloved Еlder and Вishop. And after the Vespers, in the Grand Monastery Hall, he thanked everyone for their prayers and love:

“My beloved ones, I wholeheartedly thank you, that despite the difficult conditions in which we live due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you found time to be present here on this day, which has a special meaning for me, because tonight and tomorrow we celebrate the Saint whose name I bear. Saint Parthenius of Lampsacus the Wondermaker, was a great Bishop of Christ, the true salt of the world in the time in which he lived, the glory and sanctification of the diocese that the Lord had entrusted to him. And I, the last one, for almost 26 years, have been unworthily bearing his sacred name.

This year it is the first time that I am celebrating the Feast of St. Parthenius, since I have been ordained as a Bishop, namely the same rank as my heavenly patron. I want you to know that your bright and happy faces, your presence, as well as the love of those who are not physically present tonight, means especially a lot to me. Today, many of my spiritual children have sent me messages, reached me by phone to show tribute on my name day, and their wishes and love is a priceless gift of Christ to me, encouraging me to continue to serve God sincerely, with strong faith and prayers, asceticism in His love.

It is only through love that we can be sanctified. In life, even when we are criticised, slandered, or accused, we must not respond with evil. Remember what happened to the Apostle Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, when a servant struck one of Christ’s enemies with a knife. Then said Jesus unto him: Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword (Matthew 26,52). You see, God loves Christians who will not respond to evil with evil, but with love and forgiveness will transform the evil; Christians who crucified themselves for the Church. That is how God want us to be – to be crucified for His Body, that we sacrifice ourselves for His Church. So, the Lord needs crucified Christians, full of love and forgiveness, the true salt of the earth, not crucifiers Christians who want to point out fingers at others and judge.

The life of St. Parthenius was exactly that: an unceasing feat in the love of God, a fight to be the salt of Christ in the world. And not only his, the life of all Saints consisted of that feat to serve, not to be served; to be crucified, not a crucifier; to be love, not condemnation. That is why they became inhabitants of Paradise, in communion with their Saviour, Who did not return evil for evil, but was crucified on Golgotha, embracing the whole world with open arms.

I embrace you from the bottom of my heart and thank you all for rejoicing with your love, first of all, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, St. John the Baptist, St. Parthenius of Lampsacus, and then my personal joy and praise. God rejoices to see His Church gathered and catholic. Therefore, I ask you to remember this once again: God loves crucified Christians, not crucifiers. I repeat this because today, unfortunately, there are many Christians who act contrary to Christ’s teaching of humility and love, and tend to crucify others.

I beg for your prayers, do not forget to mention me in those, because to bear the episcopal rank is a great and terrible responsibility. I do feel the responsibility and sometimes it really weighs on me a lot, because I am too weak to carry that feat, that holy order. Tonight I spoke to the monks about the prophet Moses, who was chosen by God to lead the people of Israel from bondage to freedom. In a figurative sense, the spiritual father is like the new Moses for his entrusted flock, so I was reminded of the great responsibility of being first. But the Lord send helpers to Moses when he asked. We read in the Pentateuch as the Lord said to Moses: Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee (Numbers 11,16). So to me, the unworthy one, the Lord entrusted me wonderful monks and nuns, and spiritual children, who sincerely strive, in humility, as crucified ones in this world, to spread the graceful Word of the Gospel, witnessing the same by living it. After all, it is the only right way in which way the Gospel can truly be witnessed, as the Apostle Paul teaches, that we must constantly crucify the old man in ourselves, to be crucified for the world, so that the new man may live in Christ.

May you be blessed and I thank you for your sincere love. May God grand you with many blessings and spiritual strength in this difficult time in which we live, so that you may be the Gospel salt on earth, to be the joy of this world.

May the Feast of St. Parthenius of Lampsacus be for many years to come!”

In addition, our oldest Hiermonk Fr. Dositheus, on behalf of all the monks and nuns, uttered a warm speech to congratulate our Elder on the Feast of his name day:

“Beloved Bishop of our hearts, dear brothers and sisters,

Let me briefly say a few words, which to some extent coincide with what our beloved Elder has just said. Namely, today it is your twenty-sixth name day, which you celebrate for the first time as a Bishop, as a Hierarch of the Church of Christ. But, knowing you well, we are all aware that this sublime dignity is not a reward for you, but another great burden, another heavy burden that falls on your shoulders; a burden that you have voluntarily taken upon yourself, to carry it for the good of all of us. May the grace of God, which complements human weaknesses, be always with you and in you, according to the apostolic fullness of the holy rank you have!

In the famous monastic poem, The Inner Prayer, we sing: ‘My revered Elder, my wise Moses’. As you said a moment ago, the Spiritual Father, is truly a new Moses for us, leading us through the wilderness of this world, from the bondage of the passions to the promised land of freedom in Christ, for which we are infinitely grateful.

On this occasion we would like to offer to our Elder and Bishop a modest box of flowers, which symbolically represent the garden of his monks and nuns, and inside, on a small screen a video is played on which our humble gratitude is recorded, from all the brothers and sisters, in an attempt to get at least a little closer to his unattainable self-sacrifice and love.

The video also includes some quotes about the monastic feat taught by our Elder, referring to life in obedience:

When you have true obedience, you have everything and the impossible becomes possible..

My children, accept perfect obedience and humility and then you will surely know that you are spiritually right.

When in a monastery the monks do everything with blessing and obedience, that monastery progresses and then we will do the most important thing – we will save many souls.

The prayers of the true monk, who spends his day in obedience, are like a pillar leading to the Heavens.

You, Holy Bishop, similarly to our Pastor Christ, Who was wounded for our transgression, bruised for our iniquities (Isa. 53,5), and Who took the sins of the world upon Himself (John 1,29), bear our passions and sufferings, turning them into a fragrant prayer offering for the salvation of many souls. Accept our holy filial gratitude for the holy sacrifice you offer daily before the throne of the Holy Trinity, completely exhausting your being for the good of all.

For many years to come!”