Let us transform ourselves according to the image of God so that we can change the world

Sermon of His Eminence, bishop Parthenius of Antania, Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, delivered on the day of St. Elijah, in the temple of the Great Martyr George the Triumphant in village Lazaropole, on August 2nd 2022

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

My dear ones, from today’s Holy Gospel, which the Holy Fathers designed to be read on the day of the great and glorious Prophet, Saint Elijah, we heard how our Lord Jesus Christ highlights and praises the prayer of His follower, that is, what the prayer of a righteous person is like. His prayer at that time managed to deliver the entire Israelite nation from the great and terrible spiritual crisis, in which it had fallen due to the apostasy from the faith in the true God. And indeed, if we read the life of the Holy Prophet Elijah, described in the Holy Scriptures, in the First and Second Books of Kings, we will learn that he was a particularly zealous man, filled with prayer, obedient to God’s will, a man who, above all, wanted the will of God to be carried out on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Everything that God the Creator made from nothing, both the visible and the invisible world, was harmonious. But after the fall of the first people and the introduction of sin, the world on Earth lost a great deal of its harmony. However, if we dwell on some beautiful and good phenomena in nature and the Universe in general, we will see that the order established by God still exists. In the heavenly world, on the other hand, perfect harmony reigns. That is why in the prayer “Father ours”, Christ our Lord teaches us, among other things, to pray for the implementation of God’s will on Earth, as it is in Heaven: “Thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven” – so that His peace and harmony could be established between us. Thus, only we, humans, created with free will, can disturb the Divine harmony of this world. Since we have been created with the greatest love and were given freedom by God, we have the self-authority to choose whether we will do good or evil.

However, it is not always easy to distinguish between good and evil; in everyday life, there are often situations in which it is not quite obvious what is really good. The ability of people to judge what is good and what is evil, and what is the will of God, depends on their righteousness. They should have and practice the God-revealed faith in the Divine Trinity, Who created the world and Who, in the time of the Old Testament, revealed Himself in the foretelling of prophets such as Saint Elijah, and finally revealed Himself to us and spoke to us through the Son and Word of God The Father and the gracious and uncreated energies of the All-Holy and life-giving Spirit the Comforter. Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, became a man in order to elevate man and lead him to the right path. If a person follows Christ’s way, enlightened by Him, he will first understand His will, and then he will act according to it.

Saint Elijah also saw the importance of the right faith, which is why he fought so zealously to establish in Israel faith in the true Creator God. Namely, at that time, his people were the only ones who to some extent knew and observed God’s revelation, but gradually they too deviated from this truth. Saint Elijah prayed fervently that his people would return to the true faith and renounce bad traditions and practices in everyday life. Beware, the bad habits and traditions in everyday life, which resulted from the wrong pagan belief.

As we know, there were people in the ancient world who had reached a great extent in several fields, such as, for example, philosophy, mathematics, rhetoric, medicine, etc. It included the Eastern nations and civilizations, then the Egyptians, the Ancient Greeks, the Romans… and all of them undoubtedly made their contribution to human civilization, but their daily habits and laws regarding the family were particularly harsh, even inhumane. Even parenting, the mother’s natural love for children, was not at all like in the time of the New Testament, after Christ. Because the Heavenly Empress, the Most Holy Mother of God always holding the Christ Child in her arms became a model and a true example of the mother and mother’s love. She became a prototype for all mothers and a provider of maternal love and care. Today we seem to have forgotten what a humiliating place the mother and woman in general occupied in the ancient world, which can easily be seen in the available historical sources. The traditional and warm family, as we know it, is a result exclusively of the Christian civilization. Our Lord Christ gave it its true meaning, as a community of sacrificial love, as a small church. The Apostle Paul teaches us that a man should love his wife as Christ loved His Church hanging on the Cross, with sacrifice (cf. Eph. 5:25). So what family and parenting are based on? First of all, on the right faith from which right deeds arise. Because, if we do not have true faith, we will not have the right thinking, and consequently not a complete and normal life, according to the criterion of the image of God and likeness to God.

Today’s Europe, which is founded on Christianity and became a civilization precisely because of it, is in a moral crisis. These days, a woman came to talk to me and said: “There are no more labour workers in this country.” I answered her that we are aware of it because we are constantly building and we need good workers, who are in great deficit. But the situation is similar in Europe. That labour shortage is not a problem just in our country. Yes, we could say: that our entire youth went to Europe. But even Europe faces the same problem. Some time ago I read that there is a big labour crisis in Germany. Why? Because there is no natality. Because they forgot Christ. We read and hear that churches in Germany are closing. Nobody goes to church anymore. It will soon be over. Once that is the case, then we will return to the decadent primitivism of paganism. The mother will no longer be a real mother, nor the father a father, but only individuals trapped in their own egoism. Someone might say, “Parenting is a natural feeling, an instinct.” Yes, it is, but if we start living without God and degrade to instincts, we will start behaving like animals and in time we will lose that temporary instinct as well. Look at the examples we have today: a well-off married couple wants to have children, but the woman does not want to lose her slim figure, so she says to her husband: “If you want to have a child, then we will find a woman to bear it.” And in some poor countries, they will find and pay for a surrogate mother. That’s it with true motherhood.

Therefore, my dear children, we need to return to the foundation of our civilization, to the cornerstone – Christ, Who created us all. I will tell you from experience that everything we have done, achieved and restored – everything can be contributed to the people who entered the church, and who returned to the Christian foundation. Recently, a man from Galichnik told me his good idea: “I want to renew Galichnik.” But how can he without Christ? Can there be a restoration without the Restorer of our souls? Is there a fatherland without the Heavenly Father? Or patriotism without God? Even if we become like the rich countries. There is a crisis over there too. The family disappears, there is no natality. In this context, I will share something I heard from a boy who works as a paramedic in Germany. He told me: “The largest percentage of minor children in Germany, who come to hospitals, suffer from psychological disorders. Psychiatries in Germany are full of children! And we, together with doctors and scientists, are assigned to work with children, to animate them, to entertain them, so that they could get out of their psychological crises.”

We can easily conclude that those children lack the security of a healthy and fulfilling family, my dear ones. A Family! Let us not bring ourselves to that moral decline as a nation, although maybe we have already experienced it to some extent?! We all want to talk about patriotism, politics, about the famous activists of the past, which we celebrate here. But how do we celebrate them? Just dancing, singing, drumming? Where is the church?! Where is the prayer of the righteous that can save an entire nation?! Even a single man can do so much if he prays properly. After all, that’s exactly what we should be doing. A man of prayer is the greatest benefactor for a society. I recognize as true patriots only those who have Christ above anything else and nothing else is more important to them. We as a people have gone through times when we did not have our own state and our own Government, but people believed in God and went to church. And the Church did the rest. This temple, for example, was built at a time when we were together with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Then our ancestors did not have their own state, how could they lack anything when they were with God? Well, they managed to build this beautiful church and many others like it. Today, however, we have our own state and an independent Church. This spring, God blessed us with such a great deed – to be accepted and recognized by the other Churches – an ideal of our ancestors and a dream of many activists such as Archbishop Dositheus. But we must not look upon the Church only as a tradition and as a national institution. If the Church is not present in our family, even in our daily life, we will become spiritually deaf and one day we will lose everything, losing our family first. We have already mentioned what danger it is in. From being a small church in the Christian world, which in the French Revolution was taken as a basic cell in society, today it has become completely devalued and defaced. How does modern European society define the family? As nothing more than a temporary arrangement between two individuals, regardless of their gender. Is that a family?!

Let us stand firm in the faith and the tradition, my children. Christians have no problem with democracy. Let us have the freedom to preach Him and live in Christ and we would need nothing else. Christianity was born in an empire that breathed hatred against Christ. But the early Christians conquered and transformed the entire Roman Empire without a single weapon. Only with love and self-sacrifice. This is exactly what we should possess. Now we don’t have to go through external persecution and martyrdom; we have freedom and so many ways to witness Christ. Of course, first of all, it is necessary to live as true Christians and to pray.

We also have so many means of communication, which allow us to preach Christ even more. But what is going on in those communication networks? People who call themselves Christians are judging, literally biting each other. They abuse social networks, to attack each other or to devalue and shamelessly criticize someone. What kind of Christians are they?! Do you see how much we are in need of an inner transformation? Saint Elijah inspires us to do exactly that. That is what is expected of us: to realize a true spiritual transformation, turning to Christ and implementing the words of St. James the Apostle, which he expressed regarding St. Elijah: The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5,16). Christ, my beloved, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Therefore, let’s turn to Him, praying for transformation, and through our personal transformation, the transformation of society and even the whole world would come.

May you be blessed with the love and zeal that St. Elijah had for the Lord, may God bless us all!