Sermon of His Reverence Archimandrite Parthenius, on the feast of St. Elijah, delivered in the Bigorski church, during the act of Doxology
My dear ones, I congratulate you our great national holiday St. Elijah Day, as well as the ecclesiastical celebration of the Holy Prophet, Elijah, and the Holy Martyrs of the Prechista monastery, Evnuvius, Paisius and Averkius!
Saint Elijah, as a glorified Old Testament Prophet, was a harbinger of future salvation, “an angel incarnated, a foundation of the Prophets, a second forerunner of Christ’s second coming”. A man who, with unusual zeal, kept God’s revelation in purity and justice. He was a true Spirit-bearer, the bearer of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament period Prophets were the only one to be given the honour of being bearers of the Spirit of God and to know the great secrets of faith. In the New Testament, however, after the coming of the Son of God, when God spoke to us as a Man, the grace of the Holy Spirit is a privilege for all the people baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. God, through the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, became a man in order to restore, sanctify, and deify human nature. Through the act of Holy Baptism, the grace of the Holy Spirit descends upon each of us in fullness, sanctifies us, and thus we are the chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2, 9).
Chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. A while ago, when we were reading the Doxology Prayer, I was delighted by the words of the prayer for our people: “By Your divine grace, O God, You have kept our people free for centuries, and by enslaving them, You have established and saved them and brought them back to free life. ” What do these words tell us, if not the fact that the most important and the only essential truth for us is the spiritual freedom that Christ gives us? The great teacher of the nations, St. Paul the Apostle, addressing the Christians, says: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5, 1). The only truly free man is the one who sees freedom through the spiritual eyes, through the Gospel, through the liberator Christ. All the people want and long for freedom, but not everyone understands what it really is. Most of them think that if they can do what they want, which is in accordance with their inner desires and passions, then they are free. But on the contrary – a person who commits and lives in sin cannot be called free. The Lord Jesus in the Gospel says: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin (John 8, 34). And the ancient Greek philosopher Plato concludes: “Excessive freedom is nothing but excessive slavery.” When a man abuses the gift of liberty and goes into insolence, letting his sins overcome him, he ceases to be free and becomes a slave to the sin. He is, above all, a slave to his inverted self, to his painful egoism, for he only thinks of satisfying his loathsome passions. He has no elevated thoughts, ideals and consequently cannot sacrifice himself for his neighbor. If we take the examples of the holy and righteous people of the Scriptures, including, of course, today’s celebrating Saint, St. Elijah, we will find that they all fought at first against their sins within themselves and then became God’s preachers, leaders and liberators of the people from sin, from idolatry, from spiritual bondage.
But not only in the Scriptures can we find examples of national benefactors and liberators. Take as an example our forefathers during Ottoman rule. Although politically unfree, without any rights, in the last two hundred years of that five centuries-long oppression, history has witnessed a real awakening – an enlightening renaissance. First many monasteries were revived, with the appearance of enlightened monks, who were also the first revivalists. Monks have always been the most beautiful fruit of one nation’s repentance. Because, a true monk is a burnt offering for his people, for his neighbors. After achieving the greatest victory in this world, the victory over themselves and freeing themselves from the sinful burden of egoism and passions, these revivalist monks became the bearers of an all-national awakening, bringing the fresh air of spiritual freedom, at a time when we lacked political independence. This was done by all Christ’s saints and no less by our ancestors as well, the common and simple people, who were not included in the Diptych of Saints, but undoubtedly lived a holy life. There are, indeed, many who sacrificed themselves for the God-given faith and the salvation and spiritual freedom of their neighbors. Therefore, their spirits can be felt all over our country to this day. Among them were the heroes who gave their souls for their neighbors on the battlefield. May their memory be eternal!
Being respectful of the struggles and prayers of our saints, the enlighteners and revivalists, the national heroes and men with great spirit, who knew very well who they were, what they fought and sacrificed for, let us therefore also stand firm in the freedom which Christ has set us free with, if we don’t want to lose the political freedom as well. May the Lord preserve us in that beautiful freedom of Christ, guard our Fatherland, enlighten those who have been given authority to lead us, and as we read in prayer, to put “good words in their hearts for the Church and for all His nation. ” The responsibility of those in charge is great and we should not only criticize them but also pray for them. On their part, they too need to be aware of the position they have, because those who have been assigned to lead the people, whether in the Church or in the state, should be good servants, above all. As Christ Himself says: If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9:35). If those in positions of authority in the Church and the state strive to live up to this Divine commandment, to sacrifice themselves and to serve, then we will have far less problems in our entire society.
Pray that Christ watches over us and guard us all!
May our Fatherland be timeless!