To be a Bishop it means to be the first in serving others

The Formal address of His Reverence, the Bishop of Antania Mr Parthenius, Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, delivered at his ordination at St Sophia cathedral church in Ohrid, on the day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, July 12th 2020

Your Beatitude,

Honourable Members of the Government,

Your High Reverence,

Your Reverence,

Honourable Brothers Monks,

Respected Fathers and Priests,

Beloved Brothers, Sisters and Guests,

First, let me express my gratitude, Your Beatitude, for the warmth of your Archipastoral address, as well for the sublime words which surpass by far my humble strength and knowledge.

It is a great honour to address this sacred community, the invisible members of the heavenly and the present members of the secular Church, but at the same time, it represents a great burden for me. I am supposed to address you as a newly ordained Bishop of our Lord Jesus Christ, as an image of His priestly grace and yet consider myself incapable to carry the burden of this sublime dignity and immense responsibility. Therefore, I humbly ask for your prayers and support.

To be a Bishop, a successor of the apostolic grace, it means to be the first, not in the authority, nor in some privileges, but rather in the responsibility and serving others for their good, according to the words of our Saviour to His disciples: If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9,35). This means that one should be a humble worker on the field of God, a minister in the mystery of Love, in the mystery of the Eucharist, not only in the Divine temples but also in the living churches – the hearts of people. And the Holy Eucharist, the service of the Divine Liturgy is an act of incessant thanksgiving to God.

Therefore, this first address would be, above all, sacred gratitude of my heart” for everything and for all”.

First, I give thanks to the Only True God, manifested in three Persons, for making me a part of His salvation Revelation, for all of His visible and invisible, known and unknown goodness towards me, including this great service which I am invited to.

Immediately after the Trinitarian Perfection I offer my gratefulness to the Empress Mother, the Most Holy Theotokos, whose maternal protection and love I have been feeling ever since my childhood, and also to the glorious Prophet and Forerunner of God, St John the Baptist, to whom I belong and serve for 25 years now.

I owe special gratitude to my Superior, the highly respected Metropolitan of Debar and Kichevo, Mr Timothy, who is inseparably connected to my monastic life: namely, he is the Bishop who tonsured me, later ordained me a Hierodean and a Hieromonk, and now, at his request, the Holy Archiereic Synod elevates me to the third grade of the holy hierarchy. His overall support has always been essential for me, so I humbly ask for his paternal blessing and vow to remain obedient to him.

An essential part of this warm thanksgiving belongs to my parents – my Father Boris, my biological mother Svetlana, whose blessing I constantly feel from the heavenly Church, may her memory be eternal! – as well as my second mother Zivka, who proved to be a real irreplaceable parent in everything, but mostly in her love. Their blessing and support in my yearning to replace the temporal and the secular with the eternal and the incorruptible was the foundation on which I started to build my monastic life. They gave God one child and now they have gained several dozens of children, because they accepted the monks and the nuns as their own children, not distinguishing them from me in anything.

When it comes to parenthood, it is impossible not to express my filial gratitude to the blessed reposed Elder Georgios Kapsanis, former Abbot of the Gregoriou Monastery on Athos. His paternal love was impeccable – as he was a real spiritual father with parental feelings and care – and he remains my true inspiration in my invocation as a spiritual leader. I still remember the words our Elder told us while I was on Athos: “Your mission should be sacred and apostolic. Use the nets of the apostolic love to catch as many souls for Christ as you can. But you should know that this would in no case be easy because you would be required, through the feat of suffering and sacrifice, to conquest inch by inch of territory from our spiritual enemy”. By His holy prayers, from the very beginning till now we strive eagerly in obeying his spiritual advice. May his memory be eternal, and his blessing be with all of us!

Shortly after my election for a Bishop by the Holy Archipastors of the Synod of our most Holy Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric, I stated that “monastic life remains the most sublime and primary vocation of my life”. The kindest God blessed me with a wonderful Christ-like monastic family, with my brothers and sisters, monks, and nuns, who are my life and my strength, in short – they are my everything! I testify before God and all the saints in this heaven – like the church of Divine wisdom: everything I do, including my standing here before you in these episcopal vestments, is mostly for their sake, for their spiritual progress on the path to deification. I give my sacred vow that I would remain with them to the end of this earthly life and if God shows me mercy – in eternity too. At the same time, I humbly ask for their faithfulness and their prayers, because the prayers of monks preserve the world. I have always felt their love and their support, so my dear children I would need it twice as much from now on.

I also want to thank and ask for the prayers of all my spiritual children, who by the grace of God I truly love as my sons and daughters. Their love is of vital importance for me, therefore I would like to ask them to be close to me with devotional love just as I give my promise that I will always be there for them, just like I have been so far. They are my praise and my identity in our Lord Christ. Their joy is my joy, their sorrow my sorrow too, their salvation – my goal of life.

Here I would also mention my spiritual children, the proteges of our monasteries, with whom we have always shared and will share our monastic bread, struggling together and experienced downfalls but also numerous resurrections. In my approach to them, I am mostly inspired by Christ’s words that great is the joy in Heaven for each repented sinner. Therefore, their growth, their spiritual progress in life in Christ is my true spiritual nourishment, rest, and refreshment. Indeed, there is no greater joy for a father, especially the spiritual one, then to see his children progress in repentance, in gaining virtues and striving in the feat of love for Christ’s sake. Also, there is no greater reward for him, than their salvation, which he desires more than his own. I want them to know that they would never be abandoned by us, I ask for their forgiveness if I have done them wrong with anything, but also I would like to ask them to be my support with their virtuous life and prayers.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you, my friends and acquaintances present here, but also all of those who are not with me at the moment, wherever they might be now. I kindly ask for your support, prayers, and love. In this moment of my personal Pentecost, when the all-forgiving grace of the Holy Spirit came down upon me, I humbly ask for your forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of all those who I might have disagreed with on certain matters. Forgive me if I have hurt or saddened anyone with my words, act or thought so that I could start my new mission in the field of God with a reconciled conscience. Today when we celebrate the memory of the Holy Apostolic Primates, it is useful to remind ourselves of Apostle Peter’s repentance and his triple confession of love for Christ: Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee (John 21,15).  At the same time, I give my sincere forgiveness to all of those who have hurt me or done me wrong in any way. May God of mercy and love be merciful to all of us.

Since I consider this episcopal sermon as a kind of confession and a testament, I would like to publicly declare before you the unshaken devotion that I have for my Macedonian nation and my Homeland Macedonia, but mostly to my MOC-OA, the Mother Church of all the Orthodox within our country. This is the Church to which I devotedly serve as a monk for the past 25 years. It is simply impossible for the one who has chosen to strive and to live for the Heavenly Kingdom, not to love his secular homeland too, or his neighbours because they are the blessed God-given space and surroundings where God engaged us to do the deeds of salvation.  Although the testimony of words is important, the testimony of deeds and sacrifice is far more convincing. So, I would leave our deeds, which are not a result of our righteousness, but rather an act of grace – to speak for themselves about our commitment to the Homeland and our faithful people. Certainly, in this context, one should not neglect to mention that the Church exists to manifest the perfect act of love, defined by the words of the Apostle: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3,28). We all represent the one body of the Church and we should constantly testify the meaning of these words with our life and deeds, thus defending the Christian identity from every kind of ideological, national, and political captivity. This phenomenon, which is especially present in the Orthodoxy of today, proved to be very damaging, considering the crisis caused by the several recent events. These divisions based on the principles or the interests of the world present real danger for the ecumenical character of the Orthodox Church. This new hazardous temptation not only distances us from Christ, but also destroys the unity of the Body of Christ, and we can only overcome it with the prayers and love of the son of God, Who pleaded with His Heavenly Father that all be one in Him (John 17,21).

For the real monk, it is very natural to live a life of constant restraint from pleasures and lavish material things, because this is the basic vow according to which the monk renounces the world and its wealth. In fact, as the ancient hermits say, “The world, the people, the material things – they are all good but only become bad for us when we get passionately obsessed with them”. I testify with a pure conscience that in these past 2,5 decades, my brotherhood and sisterhoods have received no personal financial compensation for their overall mission nor have been given any government or church salary. They do not even have any social or retirement insurance. Certainly, the same goes for me as an integral part of this monastic community. Therefore, in the future, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, that is not my intention at all, just want to be open and sincere that, in accordance with the present reality of my life and behaviour, If I am allowed some kind of salary as a Bishop, I would like to leave it entirely to my brotherhood for the necessities of their monastic mission.

In the end, I would like to thank you all and ask again for your prayers so that I could carry the Archiereic cross with dignity, to the glory of the Our Lord and for the good of my spiritual flock. May the apostolic blessing come upon all of us, and on the entire society, tormented by the many temptations of today’s situation, so that by the prayer of the Holy Apostles, Christ’s Church triumphs over the forces of evil and remains unharmed in her holy Tradition, customs and the way of life. Bear in mind that whatever happens in the world today, we the Christians should not let fear overcome our love for the neighbour and our strong faith in God’s Providence. Actually, what is there to fear, if we constantly have before us the worlds of the Saints we celebrate today, the great Apostle Paul who says: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 9,15).

Thank you, my dear ones, for your attention ad please forgive all my mistakes.