Archbishop Makarios’ Speeches at Fr Makarios’ Ordinations
Ordination to the Diaconate
My dear Subdeacon Prodrome,
As you are well aware, the historical course of our Holy Church follows unwaveringly the path of martyrdom and ascesis, in other words, the path of the ethics of vigilance (νηψης) and the coenobitic way of the loving symbiosis in Christ. Numerous holy figures of Christ’s Great Church fought over the centuries, not only for the preservation in the world of the holy aspects of our faith, but primarily to form those live sign posts, which continually indicate to the world a “different life”, the heavenly reality of the “new creation”.
Such an ecclesiastical figure and personality of our days is the Abbot of the Great Monastery of our Nation, the Monastery of St George at the Phanar, His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Exactly 20 years ago, during his pilgrimage to a Monastery of my birth place, our Patriarch opened his heart to the brotherhood there and revealed the internal experience of his soul, saying: “I never forget that I am primarily a monk, and from my young years I was dedicated as a whole burnt-offering, with all my soul and body, to the Lord and the Mother Church.”
My dear Prodrome,
Faithful and modest, filotimos and faithfully fulfilling all ecclesiastical duties, I encourage you as a father now that you are receiving the first degree of priesthood and are becoming a deacon of the holy altar, to hold as a holy inheritance the words and the example of our Patriarch and never forget that you are a monk, wholly dedicated to Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church. For us monks, the day of our monastic establishment is the day of our birth exactly because that day we received our second baptism.
“A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Mathew 5:14-15). The Holy Monastery of St John of the Mountain constitutes for our place a spiritual “twelve-walled city”, which stands high in the hill of hope in Forrestfield of Perth. The Holy Monastery of St John is a vessel of virtue, a school of piety, a greenhouse of love and a flower garden fragrant of all kinds of benevolence. As its responsible guardian and gardener, be mindful never to open the backdoor of carelessness through which the conqueror devil enters, aiming to poison your holy efforts, sowing weeds, cultivating disease or delusion in every way possible.
In today’s fragmented and alienated world, where “the love of many” has grown cold because “lawlessness has abounded” (Mathew 24:12), a monastic brotherhood that is established in good foundations and lives with peace, solidarity and unity with each other, is capable of transmitting messages of hope and of inspiring and exciting people to follow a path of resurrection. Such a Monastery will be the pride of our local Church, and a place of rest for all our labouring and burdened brothers, our revered clergy and devout flock of our Holy Archdiocese.
Today, as you will kneel in front of the holy altar, you will willingly offer yourself, mimicking Christ, as a live sacrifice to God the Father. “Only what we offer in a climate of freedom…can be regarded as a true sacrifice. Sacrificing our life…we earn an abundance of life and make the whole world rich. This is the deepest experience of a sacrifice: the voluntary emptying of ourselves”, our Patriarch had mentioned one day in reference to priesthood.
In this spirit, the contemporary holy (niptikoi) fathers of our Church, Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia, Ephraim of Katounakia, Joseph the Hesychast, Sophrony of Essex, and of course St Paisios of Mt Athos, whom we especially venerate here in our Monastery and who prays unceasingly for the flock hither in front of the Throne of Christ the King, experienced deeply the pain for the suffering of the world. Following the monastic path of the martyrdom of the conscience, I urge you to empathise with those unjustly treated and with the afflicted, and to seek to meet and communicate with them. Never hesitate to proclaim what is just, as also the truth of the gospels with courage, wisdom, discernment and love.
In today’s world, being a monk and at the same time a clergyman reflects that which in the Orthodox spiritual experience of the fathers is called “joyful sorrow”. The joyful sorrow combines the taste of pain with the majesty of the sacrificial emptying. In front of you, my beloved Prodrome, stands the responsibility of the consolation and the prayers offered for the suffering person, a responsibility which is indissolubly interwoven with the joy of offering and the loving communion. Therefore, endeavour to make our Monastery here, through your person, a place of rest of souls. People coming here and leaving changed, altered with the good effect of the Grace of God.
“Christ is Risen, my joy!” was exclaiming the Saint of joy, St Seraphim of Sarov, each time he encountered a brother. This spiritually-driven joy of the divine desire of communion with your brother directly opposes the luciferian self-centrism. It is this joy that you should strive to offer with your service to the contemporary person who is sad, or rather depressed, and is in need of spiritual and heartfelt consolation.
Our heart is not a place that is hermetically sealed, but a widely open place. Open your heart for your fellow man. Empty your heart from your own self to make space to fit your brother who is next to you. Open your heart to allow richly the dwelling in it of the grace of the All-holy and mystery-performing Spirit. “Enter into the joy of your Lord”!
Ordination to Priesthood
My dear Fr Makarie,
Our joy becomes complete today with your ordination to Presbyter which will grant you the priesthood so that you can perform the Sacraments of our Church, preach the Word of the gospel, bless and sanctify the faithful and especially the brotherhood and the pious pilgrims of the Holy Monastery of St John here in Western Australia, a Monastery which is also the Monastery of your repentance. This is a great spiritual gift that God is giving you and also this beloved Monastery of mine, which from this day forth will acquire its own priest-monk, who will satisfy the liturgical needs of the brotherhood. Be grateful to God and to our Church for this benefaction, always considering during your hieratic and monastic life that everything is given to us free of charge, everything in our life constitutes signs of God’s love and not of our own merit or reward of our own efforts.
In addition however, to the gift of the vocation, priesthood is a responsibility. As the man who receives a treasure has the responsibility to protect it and to increase it, similarly the one who is ordained receives the treasure of priesthood, which is never a gift to the benefit of the receiver, and indeed it is not a static gift, but rather an augmentative one, according to the teachings of Orthodox Theology. This means that the priest sacrifices himself. His priesthood is self-emptying and an offering, it is extroversion, it is a cross and humility. That is why the shepherds ought to be genuine, well-meaning, lenient with the faults of others, good listeners at the agony of the fellow man, without trying to monopolise a discussion with either interrogating questions or dogmatic answers. They ought to be sensitive, understanding of the personal difficulty of the fellow man, to appreciate the deepest meaning of the external behaviour, and to have the wisdom to guide whoever asks for their help, through various difficulties, towards internal peace and God. Of course, they should not be egocentric and cold businessmen only striving to maintain their likability and good name. However, in particular they should not use their pastoral relationship to judge the fellow man, they must be people who experience the presence of God in their lives, who are dedicated to the Church, who see in every person innumerable value, and who respond to the spiritual experience of each person.
However, unfortunately it has been observed that in our days there are many deviations from what has been mentioned above, which only briefly describe the orthodox hieratic and pastoral care. All these deviations, upon close examination, are found to constitute signs of introversion, consequences of introversion, which characterise some of the shepherds of the Church whom, due to their feelings of inferiority and anxiety to stand out, isolate themselves inside the shelter of their personal safety, and work with the aim to satisfy and heal their own grim inner condition. Thereby we see introversion even in the hieratic and pastoral care, which instead should be a testimony of self-emptying and offering in any human relationship.
We can identify some signs of introversion in priesthood when
1. As shepherds we strive to manage the salvation of people, using the ecclesiastical oikonomia for personal exposure, and presenting a different version of salvation completely unrelated to repentance which creates illusions that trick the conscience.
2. As shepherds we use Christ to “survive”. Selfishness is lurking behind our intensive pastoral activity, together with the spirit of self-affirmation, the acquirement of power through the people, with the intention to influence ecclesiastical decisions. “In other words, we look forward and feel flattered to becoming ourselves a flag-symbol of people, whilst the Lord gets unconsciously repelled to some faraway local “kingdoms”, “deployed” only as a rhetoric formation of legalising our own flag”. This results in the Church becoming personal inheritance of each clergyman, fief, which he manages authoritatively not as a servant but as a lord, and in fact sometimes as a cruel and merciless lord, to the point that the biblical “you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” accurately applies.
3. We have grown so acquainted with our inner world that we cannot see any measure of comparison other than our own self. Ourself is the measure of comparison when it comes to using ecclesiastical oikonomia. Ourself is the measure for the evaluation of sanctification and discernment (especially discernment) when someone who does not deal with matters the way we do lacks discernment. Ourself is the measure with which we characterise someone worthy or not worthy, promotable or not promotable. Ourself is also the role model for tomorrow’s officials of the Church. Once, a Bishop told a clergyman who was asking for permission to learn a new language: “Why do you need to learn a new language? I am a Bishop for 20 years and I do great without a second language!”. Of course here it must be noted that the formal qualifications will always be formal, and what really matters in priesthood is sanctification. However, a person with sanctification does not place the bar up to his height. He places it higher, and this is what we aim to emphasise here.
4. We try to explain everything in various non-ecclesiastical and non-theological ways, claiming that we do it to bring people closer to the Church. Nevertheless, in essence we do it to excuse our own inadequacy as shepherds and the fact that we do not spend enough time with and do not take seriously our vocation, which we consider as a hobby. We do the absolute necessary only to show that we do something, but in truth we desire to spend more time with ourselves. This way, appalling spiritual misconducts occur in the name of our pastoral vocation and the salvation of our fellow man, which may seem to increase the number of people who get liturgised or the number of the youth entering the Church, however they do not increase the number of Saints and those glorified within the body of the Church. And this happens because we use nice words and words of love which arouse the emotions, but do not reform the soul.
I could mention more characteristic signs of the introversion that oppress priesthood, however I will limit myself to the above as a brief reference aiming to make us all clergy reflect on how we conduct ourselves, and of course as a challenge for you my beloved Makarie, because I am certain that you will ponder on all these thoughts in order to establish the foundations of your new hieratic life.
My dear Makarie,
Up until now I spoke generally about priesthood, but also more specifically for each one of us, as all of us can find a mirror in everything that was mentioned so that we can see where we are at and how we conduct ourselves. If you asked me what I would say to you personally, addressing your blessed person with much love and affection, I would suggest to you with much simplicity: go about your vocation with humility and nobility, and God will bless you. This means that you should work with peace and spiritual serenity for the brotherhood and our Monastery. Work with joy and not with misery and sadness in the vocation you were assigned by the Church and our Holy Archdiocese, which is the supervision of this Holy Monastery. Love this place, because this place is not lifeless but is the holy place of your sanctification. Focus on the maintenance and also the advance of the Monastery. We mentioned before that God’s gifts are not static, but augmentative. What you have received from your predecessors, His Grace Bishop Emilianos of Meloa and the Very Reverend Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne Fr Ieronymo, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St George, all that you have received you should strive to increase for the glory of God. Do your work with humility and in silence, in other words work internally and with prayer. When someone works in this way God corrects any potential mistakes, substitutes for the missing and heals the sickness. Working with humility also means to be gentle in your manners and behaviour towards the brotherhood and the pious pilgrims of the Monastery. Today people are afflicted and psychologically fatigued and cannot bear abrasive words or inclemency. We live in an era of sensitivity and fragility, hence we must take care to address everyone with love and much gentleness, in order to give them comfort and lead them to Christ and their salvation.
You have everything necessary to fulfil the Church’s expectations. You have many spiritual gifts. I value the fact that you do not compromise with quick and mediocre things. I extremely value the fact that you are not lukewarm, like the people of the Revelation whom Saint John the Theologian detests. A Cretan writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, who had debatable faith but sometime in his life was enlightened, said: “Half jobs, half words, half sins, half good deeds are why this world has become such a mess. Man, go to great lengths. Go and don’t be afraid! God detests more the half-devil than the chief devil!” Therefore, continue to be maximalist when it comes to your sanctification, perfection, gentleness and simplicity, because everything else is average for the average, and me personally as your shepherd and Archbishop I do not want you to be average but perfect, I do not want you hesitating but determined, I do not want you lukewarm but hot. I want you as St John the Chrysostom says like “a lion that breathes fire”.
I express my joy and satisfaction for the presence of the two brother hierarchs in the joy of your personal Pentecost, Their Graces Bishops Emilianos of Meloa and Elpidios of Kyanea, the latter being also your Archiepiscopal Vicar and with whom I ask you to have an excellent collaboration. I salute and bless also the presence of the fathers and brothers of this district and of those who arrived from afar. I congratulate your kind mother Magdalene, your brothers, the pilgrims of this Monastery, and the novices, our good and faithful children which constitute the certainty of our future. Thank you everyone for everything.
With these humble but paternal thoughts, I call you to climb the steps of the Holy Gate to receive the second degree of priesthood. With the fear of God, faith and love, draw near to receive the inheritance which the Church and Christ ask you to hold until your last breath. Enter the joy of the grace of the All-holy Spirit. Amen.