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The Sunday of Orthodoxy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Sunday of Orthodoxy was celebrated today, March 21, 2021, in the Holy Cathedral of the First-Throned Church of Constantinople, with all solemnity and according to the centuries-old tradition.

The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, assisted by Their Eminences the Hierarchs Emmanuel, Geron of Chalcedon, Georgios of Guinea, from the Patriarchate of Alexandria, Efstratios of Chernihiv and Nizhyn, from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Demetrios of Metros and Athyra, Ambrosios of Karpathos and Kasos, Joseph of Proikonissos, Cleopas of Sweden and Makarios of Australia. During it, the elected Metropolitan of Saranta Ekklisies, Andreas, was ordained to the episcopate, and the holy Hieromonk Theodoros was ordained to the priesthood. After the Dismissal, His All-Holiness awarded him the title of Great Chancellor (Protosyggellos).

Present were many Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, His Eminence Archbishop Nektarios of Anthidon, Commissioner of the Holy Sepulcher in Istanbul, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, His Excellency Mr. Konstantinos Vlasis, as a representative of the Greek Government, the Deputy Minister of Education and Religions of Greece, Her Excellency Ms. Zetta Makri, the Honorable Ms. Eleni Vakali, First Plenipotentiary Minister, representing the Embassy of Greece in Ankara, the Consul General of Greece in Istanbul, the Honorable Ms. Georgia Sultanopoulou, and of Ukraine, the Honorable Mr. Oleksandr Gaman, other diplomats, the Deputy Mayor of the city of Saranta Ekklisies (Kιkkareli), the Honorable Mr. Arda Kolcular, the Mayor of Ahmetbey of the Province of Saranta Ekklisies, the Honorable Mr. Mustafa Altıntaş, clergy, monks of Mount Athos, Archons of the Holy Great Church of Christ, relatives of the new Metropolitan, and many believers from the city and abroad.

Before the ordination of the elected Metropolitan of the Thracian Province of Saranta Ekklisies, the Ecumenical Patriarch addressed to him, but also to the Rev. Theodoros, paternal constructive words and instructions for the new mission of ministry assigned to them by the Mother Church.

“Today the Holy Church of Christ rejoices in the ordination to the episcopate of one of its always worthy children. The Holy and Sacred Synod around us unanimously elected you, dear brother, Metropolitan of the Thracian Province of Saranta Ekklisies, and made you a Hierarch of the First-Throned Church of Orthodoxy, blessed by God Almighty to keep the sacred tradition of faith, love and hope, to bear witness in the world, by deed and by word, regarding the redemption in Christ of the human race and of all creation,” said His All-Holiness, addressing the God-loving newly elected Metropolitan of Saranta Ekklesies, recalling the course of his life from 1999, when he came to Istanbul, until today.

“You have served well in the Patriarchal Court as a Patriarchal deacon, as a tertiary deacon, a secondary deacon, and since 2014 as Great Archdeacon, while from October 2017 until your recent election to the third degree of the priesthood, you served as our Chancellor. Humble, silent, willing and cooperative, devoted to your Patriarch, you were, as was commonly stated, a modest, respected and especially beloved presence in the Phanar.

“You are ordained a bishop on a great day for the Church of Christ, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. We are celebrating today the joyous anniversary of the restoration of the sacred icons in the year 843, the end of the long and painful period of iconoclasm, as a victory of genuine faith against heresies, the epitome of which was the rejection of the honoring and veneration of icons and the truth that the honor given to an icon ‘passes on the one who is depicted,’ as stated at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, following the Holy Fathers.”

Elsewhere in his address, His All-Holiness pointed out:

“Ecclesiastical life is a relay race, which always requires compassion, coordination, solidarity and determination. When we receive the baton, we do not rest on the laurels of the past, but take an active role, developing all our strength. If we do not run through our own segment quickly, all the effort is wasted. This is the tradition of the Church, which lives by the cohesion and continuity of the struggles of the Fathers. Those who now hold the baton will hand it over to those who follow. They will also require vigilance and dynamism. No one wins alone or, in other words, Unus Christianus, nullus Christianus, “one Christian is no Christian.” No generation is allowed to deviate from this common path to the End.

“And your ordination as a bishop, Your Grace, represents this truth. As Saint Ignatius the God-bearer writes, in the Church of Christ, which is the site of the presence of the Kingdom of God in history and at the same time refers to the coming Christ and to the eschatological fullness of everything, the Bishop is the ‘icon’ of Christ. The Bishop is connected with the pre-eminently communal sacrament of the Church, the Divine Eucharist, for the celebration of which he exists. So the whole work of the Bishop is an extension of this liturgical work. Everything in the ecclesiastical life, the structure of the Church, the divine worship, the administration and the tending of the flock, are a manifestation of the Eucharistic identity of the Church, which is embodied par excellence by the Bishop.

“In this context is the fact that the Orthodox piety gives the Bishop special honor and great respect. Do not forget this, and also remember that it is a great blessing and supreme privilege to be a Hierarch of the Ecumenical Throne, the rights of which you have just committed to ‘keep inviolable and unshakeable’ until your last breath. In the Confession of Faith, you also promised, before God and men, to accept what the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers accept and to abhor what is abhorred by them. ‘Hold fast,’ therefore, my beloved brother, ‘the confession’ (Heb. 4:14), the confession of our Orthodox faith and of fidelity to the honorable traditions of the Phanar.”

Then the Ecumenical Patriarch addressed the former Archdeacon Theodoros, saying:

“The Holy Great Church of Christ acquires today not only a new bishop, but also a new priest, Father Theodoros Meimares, who at the end of the Divine Liturgy will be appointed Great Chancellor, succeeding you, the newly elected Metropolitan Andreas of Saranta Ekklisies. Father Theodoros comes from Heraklion of Leventogenna and saint-bearing Crete. A brother of the Holy Monastery of Agarathos from his youth, a deacon since 2003, he entered the Patriarchal Court in the year 2005 and passed through all the levels of the diaconate: Deacon of the Order, Tertiary, Secondary and since October 2017 Great Archdeacon. With a degree in Byzantine Music, he offered a great deal to the choirs and to the Fellowship of Music Lovers Beyond.”

The Patriarch referred to the rich studies of the Rev. Father Theodoros, who has a doctorate in Theology and is “an enthusiastic researcher of modern and contemporary ecclesiastical history,” and author of many relevant articles and books, while participating as a secretary and member of delegations of the Great Church in Ecumenical and inter-Orthodox dialogues.

“The new priest assumes the highest office in the Patriarchal Court, with much authority and multiple responsibilities, which require vigilance, dynamism, justice, courtesy, sincerity, sensitivity and responsibility. All these responsibilities must go hand in hand with the ethos and identity of the priest and the spirit of service of the minister of the Church. As it is written by a modern theologian from Crete, the priests of Christ ‘are not appointed, but sent, they do not sit but walk, submitting their freedom to the obedience of Christ.’

“We call on you, brothers and children in the Lord, to pray to the Lord of mercy, to strengthen and bless the new Metropolitan Andreas and the new priest Theodoros in their work of service to the Body of Christ.”

Immediately afterwards, His All-Holiness appointed to the office of Chancellor the newly ordained priest, Rev. Father Theodoros.

In his address, the new Chancellor, Father Theodoros, pointed out:

“The radiant preacher and unyielding defender of immortal incarnate Divine love, the all-holy Ecumenical Throne, clothed in the gilded and varied garments of the Ecumenical Councils and of the eternally sanctified ecclesiastical tradition of its hierarchical prerogatives, despite unfortunately desperate and foredoomed disputes, under the same doctrine as it was definitively formulated, declares in infallible sacrificial humility the saving Orthodox truth, and especially during the last thirty years of your inspired and God-fearing Patriarchate, Your All-Holiness, with a voice of power and prophecy, in the midst of a world astonished by the intensifying loss of existential meaning and clear orientation, and more recently by the onslaught of the terrible threat of coronavirus, which has widely and in a resounding manner suppressed atheistic illusions and the blissful certainty of the modern ‘human god.’

“In the midst of this turbulent reality, I was called, Your All-Holiness, Father and Master, thanks to your paternal affection and unfailing care and love for my unworthiness, and in fact ultimately with your consent for me to receive, in the All-Holy Patriarchal Church of the Holy Great Martyr George the Trophy-bearer, the second degree of holy orders today, the 21st of March, the date on which Ourania, the mother of my late father, born in 1922 and involuntarily relocated to Heraklion, Crete, departed from this life forty-five years ago. By your honorable and holy unblemished hands, I become now a steward of the Divine Eucharist and the saving mysteries of God, ‘in which,’ according to Nikolaos Kavasilas, ‘the Church has meaning,’ and which are offered ‘for the sake of the life and salvation of the world.’

“This highest honor and blessing is completed by the holy Patriarchal choice and honor in the appointment to the high office of Great Chancellor in the Patriarchal Court, for which I am grateful as a son, in succession to the newly ordained His Eminence Metropolitan Andreas of Saranta Ekklisies, whom I thank publicly for his flawless cooperation and his sincere fraternal fellowship during his tenure in the ministry, full of responsibilities and unspoken sighs, of the first Simon of Cyrene of the ever-crucified Patriarchal love.”

Elsewhere in his speech, the Rev. Father Theodoros emphasized:

“During my ministry here, I was given the unique and rare opportunity to learn, albeit unexpectedly, in the classroom of life in the Patriarchal Court in the Phanar, the irreplaceable and supreme university of the sacramental initiation into the authentic ecclesiastical ethos of the Phanar. In the Place of the Skull I lie and on the infinite Golgotha I stand, and listen in practice, and in close proximity, to the strong beats of the ever-pulsating Patriarchal heart for the peace of the world, the stability of the holy Churches of God and inter-Orthodox cooperation, the promotion of inter-Christian unity, dialogue between religions and cultures and the protection of the natural environment.

“However, the major pedagogical lesson for me, which is also the attitude of a model of ecclesiastical life and of a witness to the cross and resurrection, Your All-Holiness, is the exemplary, even silent, example of your incomparable long-suffering, your inexhaustible forgiveness, the unconditional paternal love and care for all your children without exception, the indescribable spaciousness of your heart, your persuasive encouragement amid the inevitable human falls and their failures, the graceful refreshment of the intellect, the tireless diligence and unwavering defense of the established rights of the Mother Church, the hard-to-find pastoral sensitivity to a man of good will without age or other discrimination, the experience of daily liturgical life, the simplicity and austerity of your life, the joyful sacrifice and complete exhaustion in favor of the promotion of the sacred affairs of the holy Center, as well as the unceasing vision for the future with unwavering confidence in divine providence, always healing the sick and the supplying what was lacking.”

The Rev. Chancellor referred to the longstanding and strong ties of the Phanar with Crete, his place of origin, the local Church which over time has offered to the Mother Church a number of clergy, several of whom served in the position of Chancellor.

“This unbreakable relationship is also witnessed, in the ineffable providence of God, by the presence, prayerful and very supportive for me, of holy hierarchs from the Cretan vessel (olkados) of the Apostle Titus, the first Bishop of Megalonissos, as well as those of Cretan origin and distinguished residents of key eparchies of the Throne in the universal jurisdiction of the Hierarchs, the near and the far.      

“At this particular moment, I invoke more strongly the maternal intercessions of my ‘only unquenchable hope, protection and salvation,’ Panagia tis Orfanis, the household icon of the ancient and historic Monastery of Agarathos, and also of my repentance, when in 2003 I became a monk and was ordained a deacon, by the beneficence of His Eminence Metropolitan Andreas of Arkalochori, Kastelli and Viannos, Professor of the Theological School of Thessaloniki, in order to strengthen my ministry and apprenticeship here, having as a compass the Patriarchal exhortations addressed to those recently ordained in the Phanar, which will undoubtedly become a point of reference for those who come later as well. In fact, in harmony with the timeless echo of the monumental sermons and addresses of your Geron Metropolitan of Chalcedon, Meliton Hatzis the Great, you instructed us, Your All-Holiness, ‘… you can, you must learn a lesson to carry through your entire life: humility, the humble mind, for “first and foremost of the passions are pride and arrogance.” For this reason, the Lord “asks for moderation of the passions, and the sighs of sacrifice.” … as my beloved children, I warn you! (cf. I Cor. 4:14): … Remain humble. Stay human. Close to people. Servants of God and human beings. Without them, what is the meaning of our mission as clergy? When Seferis received the Nobel Prize, he said, among other things, in his speech: “In our ever-shrinking world, everyone is in need of all the others. We must look for man wherever we can find him.” Stay away from haughtiness! Away from narcissism and complacency! “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favor.”’ (Proverbs 3:34).

“I keep these words of yours as a precious treasure and legacy, Your All-Holiness, and your way of life as a shining example, I intend, through Your honorable wishes, to walk in my new ministry as much as possible in humility and a sacrificial disposition, in unfailing gratitude to the Mother Church, in grateful thanksgiving and in absolute devotion and complete obedience to my Master who chose and ordained me. I hope to discern the gifts of the clergy and laity serving in the Patriarchal Court and the Most Holy Archdiocese of Constantinople and, in fact, to highlight them and not to hide them, to use the call of every human being for the good and progress of the Ecumenical Throne and for the beloved and forward-looking people of the Omogeneia who surround it here, ministering ‘not only by word, but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18), crucified and not crucified, far from divisive practices, always remembering the saving exhortation of the Apostle Paul to Titus: ‘But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile.’”

Afterwards, His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, with the assisting Hierarchs, prayed the traditional Trisagion for the repose of the souls of all “those who struggled for our Orthodox Faith and finished in it.”

The procession of the Holy Icons followed, in the courtyard of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, during which the Ecumenical Patriarch blessed the faithful.

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