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Ordination to the Holy Priesthood of Deacon Georgios Athanasopoulos

Ordination to the Holy Priesthood of Deacon Georgios Athanasopoulos

On Saturday, 30th March 2024, Deacon Georgios Athanasopoulos was ordained to the Holy Priesthood at the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos and St. Andrew in Birmingham. His Grace Bishop Maximos of Melitene celebrated the Divine Liturgy with numerous vlergy from the Holy Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain. Amongst those concelebrating were the V. Revd Archimandrite Christodoulos Kokliotis, Priest-in-charge, the Revd Protopresbyter Christos Stephanou, the Revd Protopresbyter Theodore Polyviou, the Revd Oeconomos Aimilianos Epameinondas, the Revd Oeconomos Nikolaos Karafyllides and the Revd Presbyter Andreas Minic. Archdeacon Dr. George Tsourous as well as Deacon Gregory Craveiro also served.

During his ordination speech, Fr Georgios shared reflections on his spiritual journey, acknowledging the profound call to the priesthood as a divine gift. He expressed heartfelt gratitude towards God, highlighting the unwavering support and guidance received from His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas and His Grace Bishop Maximos. Fr Georgios also paid tribute to Father Christos Stephanou, his spiritual father, for his paternal love and guidance. Furthermore, he conveyed his deep appreciation for his wife and family, who have been pillars of support and love.

In his address, Bishop Maximos not only extended his hopes for Fr Georgios’ priestly service to profoundly touch the lives of those he meets, thereby affirming the truth of the Gospel, but also imparted words of encouragement and wisdom. He counselled Fr Georgios to face any potential difficulties with courage and to embody simplicity and humility in his priestly ministry.

At the conclusion of the liturgy, Chairman Georgios Georgiou, on behalf of the Parish Council, extended warm greetings to the newly ordained priest and his wife, underscoring the community’s support and joy for this significant milestone.

With the support of Fr. Christodoulos Kokliotis, the Priest-in-charge, and Chairman Georgios Georgiou, the Ladies Committee ‘Panayia Eleousa’ orchestrated a splendid reception in celebration of the ordination. This event not only marked a significant milestone in Fr. Georgios’ spiritual journey but also brought the community together in a shared spirit of joy and festivity.

Sunday of Orthodoxy in London

Sunday of Orthodoxy in London

On Sunday, 24th March 2024, His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain presided over Matins and celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the first Sunday of Holy and Great Lent, known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy, at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom in Bayswater, London. Concelebrating with His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas were His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasios of Colognia and His Grace Bishop Gregory of Mesaoria, of the Church of Cyprus. Also serving were the Very Revd Archimandrite Nephon Tsimalis, Protosyncellus of the Archdiocese; the Very Revd Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne Theonas Bakalis, Priest-in-charge of the Cathedral; the Very Revd Archimandrite Aristarchos Grekas, of the Church of Greece; the Very Revd Archimandrite Leonidas Ebralidze, Chancellor of the Georgian Orthodox Eparchy of Great Britain and Ireland; the Revd Archdeacon Dr George Tsourous; and the Revd Deacons Andrea Matei, Dimitrios Mamouchas, and Georgios Ntallas.

Also attending the Divine Liturgy were His Excellency Yannis Tsaousis, Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic, and His Excellency Andreas Kakouris, High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus, together with members of their diplomatic corps, and military attachés. Present as well were a number of Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Since the following day was the 25th of March, students from St Sophia’s School stood with Greek flags in anticipation of Greek Independence Day.

The traditional Sunday of Orthodoxy procession of the Holy Icons took place at the end of the Divine Liturgy and was led by His Grace Bishop Gregory of Mesaoria. The faithful commemorated the triumph of Orthodoxy through the restoration of icons and celebrated the unity and rich cultural heritage of the Orthodox Christian community in London.

First Lenten Great Vespers

First Lenten Great Vespers

On the evening of Sunday, 17th March 2024, at the Holy Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom in Bayswater, His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas presided over the Vespers of Forgiveness, marking the commencement of Holy and Great Lent. Joining His Eminence in prayer were His Eminence Metropolitan Athanasios of Colognia and His Grace Bishop Iakovos of Claudiopolis, along with the Very Revd Archimandrite Nephon Tsimalis, Protosyncellus of the Archdiocese. Numerous clergymen from the greater London area also attended, as is customary for the start of Great Lent.

After vespers, His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas expressed his wishes for a blessed and fruitful Lenten season to all those present and invited the Revd Protopresbyter John Hookway to deliver a homily on the significance of forgiveness in the lives of Orthodox Christians.

 

Sermon at Vespers of forgiveness
St Sofia, 17/03/24
Fr John Hookway

As we are gathered by the Church, within this Cathedral to begin together as church, with the blessing of our Archbishop, our entry into Lent and procession through repentance towards Pascha, we commemorate, with the casting out of Adam from Paradise, the feast of St Cyril Archbishop of Jerusalem born in 315, who gave lectures of instruction, delivered during the Great Fast, to prepare catechumens for their baptism at Easter, their Passover from darkness to light. In the Prologue to his catechesis St Cyril’s words speak to our gathering this evening : “Thou art come within the Church’s nets:  be taken alive, flee not:  for Jesus is angling for thee, not in order to kill, but by killing to make alive:  for thou must die and rise again.  For thou hast heard the Apostle say, Dead indeed unto sin, but living unto righteousness. Die to thy sins, and live to righteousness, live from this very day.”

As the altar coverings and clergy vestments change into the penitential, sombre colours of Lent and we stop eating hearty food, we are called to “set out with joy upon the season of the Fast” (Stichera from Triodion at Vespers of Forgiveness). In remembering our forefather Adam’s exile from Paradise there is lamenting and weeping as we sing with the hymnographer, “I alone have become a slave to sin; I alone have opened the door to the passions”, but, in the same breath, we appeal to “the Word who [is] ready to forgive” saying, “in thy tender mercy turn me back and save me” (Mattins Clean Monday, Canticle 1). St Cyril also turns his candidates for baptism towards hope saying, “He who shed His precious blood for us, shall Himself deliver us from sin. Let us not despair of ourselves, brethren; let us not abandon ourselves to a hopeless condition.  For it is a fearful thing not to believe in a hope of repentance” (Lecture 2 para.5).  

We readily turn back to the Lord, who is angling for our soul, recognising our sins with sorrow but believing in a hope that our descent into repentance is at the same time an ascent into new life. “Live from this very day”, St Cyril commands. We sit with Adam outside the gates of Paradise and join our voice to his and say, “Woe is me,…I transgressed one commandment of the Master, and now I am deprived of every blessing…” and we are comforted hearing the voice of the Lord, as the hymn continues,  “Then the Saviour said to him: ‘I desire not the loss of the creature which I fashioned… and when he comes to me I will not cast him out.” (Saturday Vespers of Sunday of Forgiveness: Glory of the Aposticha

 As we recognise that we are fallen, dead as driftwood and deserving to be cast out of the nets, the good Lord of mercies does not reject us but receives us into his quickening presence. 

This season of repentance is Great Lent, because of the hope which it offers, if we apprehend and behold it as,  “the appointed time…the day of salvation” (Clean Monday Mattins canticle 1) in which great things can happen. Not least of these is that our sins can be wiped clean, if we enter in, and, as a verse in tomorrow’s mattins, instructs, we are “watchful, close all the doors through which the passions enter, and look up towards the Lord” (Clean Monday Mattins canticle 1). Unless we look up towards the Lord, we cannot uproot the passions. Only when we behold the “beauty and loving-kindness of  Christ, “the immaculate and spotless Lamb… and His indescribable humility”,  Archim. Zacharias explains, and only when we hold the vision of the Lord against that of the “inner ugliness”… “of the hideous mask” which now covers our ancient beauty and only when we grow “strong in this two-fold vision”, can a man “uproot the passions from his heart”. This is because the vision crushes a person’s heart, reveals its unrighteousness and allows us in humility, called the blessed short-cut to dispassion by St John of the Ladder (Step 25 para. 35), to “follow in the footsteps of the Lord on the path of descent” (At the Doors of Holy Lent p. 127-128). The Church is there for us as a strong support, describing, revealing and projecting this two-fold vision to us, in its hymns, readings and prayers, to help us to find a place of repentance, a broken and contrite heart, the ground in which the virtues can be born.

At the Liturgy this morning we heard the Apostle say to us on this last day before Lent, “the night is far gone, the day is at hand.” and that we are to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light” (Rom.13,12). At Lent’s beginning, we look up towards the end, the day of the Resurrection from where the bridegroom is calling us into the stadium, so that we will be able to meet Him having been watchful, having longed for His coming through a repentance that has prepared and enlivened our hearts by “the sensation of the presence of God” (At the Doors… Archim. Zacharias p235). 

At the Sunday of the Last Judgement, an event which will take place at the end of time is brought before us to help us to use the present to pre-empt God’s judgement by judging ourselves. God’s judgement is upon us in that He has purchased us with his precious blood through the Cross, but do we choose to live for Him and to labour to be born into new life, following Him who is the Way of humility and love? Only when we keep in front of the eyes of our soul our presentation before the Lord on the fearful day of His second coming in glory with all the angels, can we live our lives as a single presentation before the Lord who says by His prophet Jeremiah, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (17,10). The five foolish virgins delayed, deciding only at the last moment to prepare their lamps, and were shut out of the Bridechamber. Keeping the vision of the Resurrected Christ who will come as judge before us, we hasten through the narrow gate of repentance. All time is made precious by the vision, every night and day an invitation to die and live with Christ, every hour an opportunity for salvation and every encounter with another human the means of our entrance into life eternal. 

We may think of Lent as a time for introspection and prayer, dedicated to our personal struggle to repent and fast without much reference to others. Our fasting and struggle is not undertaken however, in isolation. A fundamental feature of spiritual house-keeping is our reference to a spiritual father, to whom we must confess our sins and through whom we are reconciled to the body of believers, the church, as there is no one who can save themselves. Adam fell and all of humanity suffers the consequences and we are saved together, as church, as the family of believers. Our brother or sister is not the problem, the other not a hindrance and threat to the spirituality of our fast. Our brother is our life.  Our very admittance into the presence of the Bridegroom depends on practical acts of love towards the least of our brothers and sisters, because in such works of love are the fulfilling of the commandment to love God and neighbour. Such acts of love are the fruits of our repentance and the token of its genuine character. Repentance has been described as the state of being in loving communion with God and our neighbour. As bodily virginity alone did not open the door to the five foolish virgins, so we remember today that Lent is not primarily about what we give up, cast off and do not do, but about what we take up and do. It is not enough to refrain from evil but we must become the doers of good. Avoidance of sin, without works of selfless love, will not justify us. So we not only to turn inwards as Lent begins, to repent, but we turn outwards to the other to show our repentance in action as “every act of love towards our fellow man is an investment in eternal life” (Archim. Zacharias, At the doors…p. 80). As we give our things, our time, effort or attention to others, our hearts learn to become detached from what we give and become invested in the persons to whom we turn and for whom Christ died. As we transfer our treasures to others, our hearts follow them there and become free. True repentance changes our perception of others and of our things. In a nutshell our askisis in Lent is to do acts of love. This is our spiritual struggle. To learn to do things with love, to give alms, to give of ourselves, to forgive, to pray with love, but knowing we are cursed if we think we are righteous.  

Our fasting from rich foods has love and freedom as its purpose. Adam’s exile from Paradise was the result of his choice to obey to his self-centred desires which severed communion with God. Neither is love for another person possible if we are enslaved to self-centred desires and passions. If Paradise was lost through the instant gratification of self-serving desire and the refusal to fast, when we fast from what is appealing to us to eat, through obedience to the Church, our passion-driven will can be healed and we are helped to turn our hearts to God and neighbour. Only through love can a person become one with his fellow and with God whereas self-love cuts him off from both. The exterior action of fasting helps turn our interior disposition towards God and neighbour and that is why fasting is always to be accompanied in the tradition of the Church by prayer and almsgiving. 

The fast is a call to freedom to serve God and our fellow and gain access to eternal life. It is a season of intensive care of the soul, a school of kindness and cultivation of Christ-like love. It is a training ground where practice makes perfect in the sense that even if we don’t feel like it, we practice kindness, love, mercy, giving and forgiveness, and God, who sees our effort, adds to us His grace to transform our stony hearts into hearts of flesh making them kind, loving, merciful, generous and forgiving. If we want to learn to repent, we practice repentance, that is we practice loving our neighbour, and God will change our hearts and give us the gift of repentance and of love. 

We enter Great Lent through the present Vespers of Forgiveness. It has been said that, “forgiveness is the way in which fallen human beings express their love for one another” (Fr Thomas Hopko). If we are to be God’s children we must practice forgiveness to become one heart with the Father of forgiveness. Forgiving others frees us from darkness of the prison of self-love. It is a key aspect of our effort to repent and turn our whole heart to God because God wants our whole heart. We can’t be half-hearted Christians and so must “beware”, says St Cyril, “lest [we] have the title of “faithful,” but the will of the faithless” (Prologue to the Catechetical Lectures para.6). If we do not forgive, we will not persuade God that we are His children and “the bearers of His Presence which is Love” (Fr Thomas Hopko, “If we confess our sins”, OCA, 1975). If we fail to forgive, we fail to repent and ultimately, we will fail to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:23). 

The fast is a spiritual reset, a reversal of the mind’s dispersal, a regrouping of our spiritual powers. As spiritual athletes we enter, at the beginning of the Great Fast, the arena of the Church, the arena of love, to contend with the enemy and be crowned with the virtues. We would have a good Lent if we come to know this season our weakness, if we achieve knowledge of our sinfulness and imperfection, if we see that all is a gift of God’s grace and that without Him we can do nothing, so that we humbly beg God to save us without a cause, freely and proclaim, “not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory” (Ps. 113,9). For God is not pleased with our pretence but with an honest heart which beholding the icon of the Resurrection, courageously follows the humility of the Lord to descent into hell and tastes in the soul even in the sombre days of Lent, resurrectional joy as the fruit of the grace of humility. 

Leaving the final word to St Cyril of Jerusalem, may his prayers throughout the Lenten season instruct and transform our hearts to carry the Presence of Christ in order to bear the brightness of His glory at His Resurrection. 

“Let us nerve our minds, and brace up our souls, and prepare our hearts.  The race is for our soul:  our hope is of things eternal:  and God, who knoweth your hearts, and observeth who is sincere, and who a hypocrite, is able both to guard the sincere, and to give faith to the hypocrite:  for even to the unbeliever, if only he give his heart, God is able to give faith.  So may He blot out the handwriting that is against [us],  and grant [us] forgiveness of [our]… trespasses…” (Prologue to the Catechetical Lectures para.17)

Archbishop Nikitas visits the Church of St Nektarios in Battersea

Archbishop Nikitas visits the Church of St Nektarios in Battersea

On Forgiveness Sunday, 17th March 2024, His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St Nectarios in Battersea, London. Also serving were the Revd Protopresbyter Christodoulos Christodoulou, Priest-in-charge of the community; the Revd Presbyter Stefan Strekopytov; the Revd Presbyter Stephen Morys Ireland; and the Revd Archdeacon Dr George Tsourous.

In his sermon, His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas spoke about the essence of forgiveness and offered insights on the true spirit of fasting. He emphasised that our Lord’s call to forgive one another is not only for the sake of showing grace to others, but is also a precondition for receiving God’s mercy ourselves. His Eminence underscored the importance of sincerity in our ascetic practices, particularly in fasting, reiterating the caution expressed by our Lord in the Sunday Gospel reading against performative piety. The hallmark of true fasting is humility, not accolades from others. God rewards the genuine heart that makes sacrifices in secret.

Furthermore, His Eminence urged the faithful to seek peace in eternal treasures, highlighting that true wealth does not lie in earthly possessions, but in our relationship with God. This, he concluded, is where our hearts find true and lasting joy.

At the end of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence tonsured Mr Joseph Craveiro as a Reader. Afterwards, the community warmly welcomed His Eminence at a reception hosted in his honour, where the faithful had the opportunity to meet with their Archbishop and receive his blessing before the start of Holy and Great Lent.

Patriarchal Catechetical Homily on Holy & Great Lent 2024

Ecumenical Patriarchate

Prot. No. 152

CATECHETICAL HOMILY
FOR THE OPENING
OF HOLY AND GREAT LENT

+ BARTHOLOMEW
BY GOD’S MERCY
ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE-NEW ROME
AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH,
MAY THE GRACE AND PEACE
OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST,
TOGETHER WITH OUR PRAYER, BLESSING AND FORGIVENESS
BE WITH ALL

* * *

Most honorable brother Hierarchs and blessed children in the Lord,

The grace of our God of love has once again vouchsafed for us to enter the soul-benefiting period of the Lenten Triodion and arrive at Holy and Great Lent, namely to the arena of ascetic struggle replete with gifts from above and the joy of the Cross and Resurrection. During this blessed period, the spiritual treasure and dynamism of the ecclesiastical life as well as the soteriological reference of all its expressions are revealed with clarity.

We have already learned much from the impasse and self-righteous arrogance of the Pharisee, from the barren moralism and hard-heartedness of the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and from the callousness and condemnation on the Day of Judgment of those who proved indifferent to the “least of our brothers” that were hungry, thirsty, foreigners, naked, ill, and imprisoned. Moreover, the value and power of humility and repentance, of forgiveness and mercy were revealed to us as attitudes that the Church emphatically calls us to nurture in the period that opens up before us.

Holy and Great Lent is a welcome time of spiritual, inner and physical purification and discipline, which—as we just heard in the Gospel passage that was read—traverses through fasting, which should not be practiced “so that others may see,” and through forgiveness of our brothers and sisters: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you” (Mt. 6.14). After all, this is what we confess each day with the Lord’s Prayer, when we say: “as we forgive the sins of our debtors” (Mt. 6.12).

Yesterday, on Cheesefare Saturday, the Church honored the memory of the saintly men and women who shone in ascetic life. Saints are not only models for the faithful in the good fight of life in Christ and according to Christ. They are also our fellow travelers, friends and supporters in the ascetic journey of fasting, repentance, and humility. We are not alone in our effort, but we have God, who encourages and blesses us, as well as the Saints and Martyrs, who stand beside us, and above all the First among the Saints and Mother of God, who intercedes for us all to the Lord. Sanctity is proof of the power of divine grace and the human synergy in the Church, which takes place through participation in the holy sacraments and fulfillment of the divine commandments. There is no “gratuitous piety” or “easy Christianity,” just as there is no “wide gate” or “spacious way” that leads to the heavenly Kingdom (cf. Mt. 7.13–14).

The Church constantly reminds us that salvation is not an individual, but an ecclesiastical event, a common discipline. During the God-guarded Holy and Great Lent, what becomes apparent for the spiritual life of the faithful is the definitive meaning of participation in the life of the community—that is to say, in the Christian family and parish, or else in the monastic coenobium. We would like to highlight the function of the Christian family as a community of life for the experience of Great Lent’s spirituality. Our predecessor among the Saints, John Chrysostom, described the family as “a small Church.”[1] Indeed, it is in the family that occurs the rendering of our existence into that of the church; it is there that the sense of the social and communal character of human life and the life in Christ as well as the love, mutual respect and solidarity are developed; and it is there that the life and joy of cohabitation are experienced as a divine gift.

The joint endeavor to apply the ecclesiastical rule and ethos of fasting in the context of the family manifests the charismatic dimension of ascetic life and, more broadly, the conviction that whatever is true, honorable, and rightful in our life comes to us from above; that despite our own cooperation and contribution, in the end they transcend whatever is humanly achievable and accessible. After all, the communal aspect of life, the love for one another that does not seek its own, and the virtue of forgiveness, do not allow room for human rights-ism and complacency. An expression of such a spirit of “common freedom” and eucharistic asceticism is precisely the inseparable connection between fasting, charity, and participation in the parish and liturgical life of the Church. Living out this “Lenten spirit” within a Christian family leads us to the depth of truth in the ecclesiastical experience and constitutes the birthplace and source of Christian witness in our secularized contemporary world.

Brothers and children, pray that we may all travel with godly zeal along the way of Holy and Great Lent with fasting and repentance, in prayer and contrition, making peace within ourselves and with one another, sharing in life and showing ourselves to be “neighbors” to those in need through charitable works, forgiving one another and glorifying in all circumstances the God of mercy’s name, which is above the heavens, beseeching Him to deem us worthy of reaching Holy and Great Week with purified minds and of worshipping with joy and delight His splendid Resurrection.

Holy and Great Lent 2024

+ BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople

Fervent supplicant for all before God

[1] Commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians 20, PG 62.143.

Archbishop Nikitas visits the Church of the Annunciation in Middlesbrough

On Sunday, 10th March 2024, His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Middlesbrough. Also serving were the Revd Prof. Nikita Banev, Priest-in-charge of the community, and the Revd Archdeacon Dr George Tsourous.

In his sermon, His Eminence invited the congregation to extend their focus beyond the stricter fasting practices observed during Holy and Great Lent, and to embrace Lent as a comprehensive journey of faith, and to look with anticipation to Christ’s glorious Resurrection.

Elaborating on the Gospel reading of the Last Judgement, His Eminence underscored that the truth of the Gospel is realised in acts of selfless compassion toward our fellow human beings: offering comfort to the afflicted, tending to the sick, and generally striving to embody Christ’s sacrificial love in our daily lives. The Church offers us this particular Gospel reading as we stand on the threshold of Holy and Great Lent in order to call us to deeper introspection and accountability for our actions.

His Eminence encouraged almsgiving during Lent and emphasised that true wealth is found in our relationships—with God and with those around us. “Lent calls us to scrutinize our lives and to radiate the joy of the Resurrection and the love of Christ, for He is the cornerstone of our being.” His Eminence concluded by reflecting on the special unity of Church communities, brought together in Jesus Christ through the Holy Sacraments.

His Eminence also congratulated the community in Middlesbrough for the recent revitalization that they have experienced under the leadership of Fr Nikita Banev after the parish had been closed for several years.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence tonsured Professor Georgios Antonopoulos and Mr Symeon Banev as Readers. Following the Liturgy, the community warmly welcomed His Eminence at a reception hosted in his honour, where the faithful had the opportunity to meet with their Archbishop and receive his blessing.

Easter celebrations for the Greek-Cypriot Metropolitan Police Association

This morning, Friday, 15 March 2024, on behalf of His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, the Revd Oeconomos Demetrianos-Christakis Melekis attended the annual Easter celebration hosted at New Scotland Yard by the Metropolitan Police Service Greek and Cypriot Association.

Fr Demetrianos read a message of greeting from His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas, who thanked the members of the association and all of their colleagues for their courage, sacrifice, and dedication in the line of duty, assuring them of the prayers and support of the faithful of the Archdiocese. His Eminence also conveyed his wishes for a joyous Easter celebration to those who will observe the Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection in two weeks’ time, as well as a blessed beginning to Holy and Great Lent for all Orthodox Christians.

The Revd Protopresbyter Joseph Paliouras then led the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music in chanting several Lenten hymns to honour the gathering.

Encyclical for the Beginning of Holy and Great Lent 2024

Each year at the appointed time, as winter gives way to spring, we prepare our hearts, minds, and bodies to embark on the sacred journey of Holy and Great Lent. This journey leads us along a specially prepared path from the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry to His unjust condemnation, His extreme humiliation, His voluntary passion and crucifixion on the Cross, finally, arriving at the heart of our Christian faith: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Holy and Great Lent is also an invitation to participate in Christ’s Resurrection through repentance. Repentance is much more than an exercise in abstinence or a temporary intensifying of our efforts; it is a summons to realign every aspect of our being according to the example of Christ’s perfect love. Repentance helps us to acquire “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” of the salvific victory over death and corruption and to live it for ourselves.

Every Sunday Matins during the pre-Lenten period and then throughout Holy and Great Lent, we chant, “Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver of Life, for early in the morning my spirit hastens to Your holy temple…”. Repentance may begin with feelings of grief and remorse for our sins, but the fruits of repentance cultivate within us a desire to continually seek God, to partake more fully in the joy of Christ’s Resurrection. We begin to quench our thirst from the “spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14), especially once we realize that every other earthly promise of ‘salvation’ and ‘resurrection’ is insufficient; it is like drinking water that will only cause us to thirst again.

The Sunday Gospel readings of the last three weeks before Lent provide us with important guidelines for our repentance, certain conditions for accepting the Resurrected Christ into our hearts. The parable of the Publican and the Pharisee warns us to scrutinize our motivations in order to avoid the delusions of pride and self-righteousness, while pointing to the prudence of approaching God with humility and a contrite heart. The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates God’s unfailing readiness to welcome us back into His loving embrace, no matter how far we may have strayed. The account of the Last Judgment reminds us how surprising it can be to realize that opportunities for repentance and salvation are always before us, that the risen Christ is present in every moment of our lives and in every interaction, even with the “least of our brethren”. “Lord, when did we see you…?”

Equipped with these lessons, how, then, do we engage in the work of repentance? The Church, in her wisdom, provides us with particular ascetic practices that help us to discern the reality of the Resurrection in our daily lives. Through fasting, prayer, almsgiving, vigilance, obedience, silence, and other ascetic efforts, we demonstrate and strengthen our willingness to cooperate with Christ’s love. We learn to allow His life-giving power to transform us, according to His will. These particular forms of asceticism are not, of course, ends in themselves, but means of seizing the Resurrection and placing it at the centre of our lives; in other words, they can teach us to cry out as the Penitent Thief, “Lord, remember me in Your Kingdom”. The asceticism of the Church is a great gift; it is the pen and ink with which we can write our own personal love letters of humility and thanksgiving to our Creator and our fellow human beings—not an alibi to feed our own self-justification, or a regimen to build up our ego and desensitize our hearts to the needs of those around us. “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).

Our Holy Fathers and Mothers, the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us, beseech us to not be indifferent about our salvation, but to run the road of repentance to find refuge in our Father’s house. Saint Symeon the New Theologian entreats us, “I, therefore, beg all of you, beloved fathers and brothers, and I will never stop begging your love not to be indifferent about your salvation”.

Come then, sisters and brothers, beloved people of God, and let us keep our eyes fixed on the joy of the Resurrection. Let our repentance be genuine and our hearts open to the transfiguring grace of God. May our Lenten journey be one of profound renewal, leading us to the glorious celebration of the Festival of festivals with hearts full of doxology and gratitude.

May the mercy, peace, and love of God be with all of us as we begin our annual Lenten pilgrimage to Pascha.

With paternal love and blessings,

Holy and Great Lent, 2024

+ Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain

Окружное послание к началу Святого и Великого поста 2024 года Его Высокопреосвященства Архиепископа Никиты Фиатирского и Великобританского

Каждый год в определённое Церковью время, когда зима сменяется весной, мы предуготовляем наши сердца, ум и тело к священному поприщу Святого и Великого поста. Это шествие ведет нас по особым образом проторенной стези последних дней земного служения Христа, ведущей к Его неправедному осуждению, Его крайнему уничижению, Его добровольному  страданию и распятию на Кресте, подводя нас в итоге к главному событию  нашей христианской веры: Воскресению Господа нашего Иисуса Христа. Святой и Великий пост – есть призыв соучаствовать в Воскресении Христовом через покаяние. Покаяние – есть нечто большее, чем просто подвиг воздержания или период особых усилий; это призыв преобразить каждый аспект нашего бытия по образу всесовершенной любви Христа. Покаяние помогает нам обрести «очи, чтобы узреть» и «уши, чтобы внять» спасительной победе над смертью и тлением, и пережить ее самим.

Каждую воскресную утреню в предпостный период, а затем в течение всего Святого и Великого поста мы воспеваем: «Покаяния двери отверзи ми, Живодавче, утреннеет бо дух мой ко храму святому Твоему…». Покаяние может начаться с чувства скорби и раскаяния о наших грехах, но плоды покаяния воспитывают в нас желание постоянного искания Бога, более полного причащения радости Воскресения Христова. Мы начинаем утолять нашу жажду из «источника воды, текущей в жизнь вечную» (Ин. 4:14), особенно когда осознаем, что никакие земные обетования «спасения» и «воскресения» не смогут нас удовлетворить; подобно питьевой воде, которая неизменно вызывает жажду.

Воскресные евангельские чтения последних трёх недель перед Великим постом намечают важные ориентиры для нашего покаяния, определённые условия для приятия Воскресшего Христа в наши сердца. Притча о мытаре и фарисее предлагает нам тщательно рассмотреть свои побуждения, чтобы не пасть жертвой заблуждения гордости и самодовольства, призывая нас к благоразумию, чтобы приблизиться к Богу во смирении и с сокрушенным сердцем. История о блудном сыне являет нам неизменную   благорасположенность Бога принять нас обратно во Свои любящие объятия, как бы далеким не было наше отпадение. Повествование о Страшном суде напоминает нам, насколько неожиданно может прийти к нам сознание, что нам всегда предоставлена возможность покаяния и спасения, что воскресший Христос присутствует в каждом моменте нашей жизни и в каждом повседневном общении, даже с «наименьшими из наших братьев»: «Господи, когда мы видели Тебя…?»

Усвоив эти наставления, каким образом сможем мы приступить к деланию покаяния? Церковь в своей мудрости предлагает нам особые аскетические подвиги, способствующие нам увидеть реальность Воскресения в нашей повседневной жизни. Постом, молитвой, милостыней, бдением, послушанием, безмолвием и другими подвигами – является и укрепляется наш настрой соработствовать Христовой любви. Мы научаемся предаваться преобразующему действию Его животворящей силы, согласно Его воле. Эти особые виды подвигов, конечно, не самоцель, а лишь средство к постижению Воскресения, поставляющим его, Воскресение, в основу нашей жизни; другими словами, подвиги могут приучить нас к молитвенному воззванию, подобному гласу кающегося разбойника: «Господи, помяни мя в Царствии Твоем». Подвижничество Церкви есть великий дар; это перо и чернила, с помощью которых мы можем писать наши личные любовные послания смирения и благодарности нашему Создателю и нашим собратьям-человекам, а не предлог для подпитки нашей самоправедности и не способ самовозвеличения, ведущего к омертвению наших сердец к нуждам окружающих. «Соблюдение правды и правосудия более угодно Господу, нежели жертва» (Притчи 21:3).

Наши Святые Отцы и Матери, «великий сонм свидетелей», окружающий нас, умоляют нас не быть равнодушными к нашему спасению, но течь путем покаяния, чтобы найти прибежище в доме Отца нашего. Святитель Симеон Новый Богослов умоляет нас: «Итак умоляю всех вас, возлюбленные отцы и братья, и никогда не перестану умолять вашу любовь не быть равнодушными к вашему спасению».

Придите же, сестры и братья, возлюбленные люди Божии, и устремим взоры наши к радости Воскресения. Пусть наше покаяние будет искренним, а наши сердца — открытыми для преображающей благодати Божией. Пусть наше постное поприще будет поприщем глубокого обновления, ведущим нас к славному празднованию Праздника праздников с сердцами, исполненными славословия и благодарности.

Да пребудет со всеми нами милость, мир и любовь Божия в начале нашего ежегодного великопостного шествия к Пасху.

С отеческой любовью и благословением,

Святой и Великий пост, 2024 г.

+ Архиепископ Фиатирский и Великобританский Никита

Enciclică pentru începutul Sfântului și Marelui Post 2024

În fiecare an, la vremea rânduită, când iarna face loc primăverii, ne pregătim inimile, mințile și trupurile pentru binecuvântata călătorie a Sfântului și Marelui Post. Această călătorie ne îndreaptă pașii pe o cale anume pregătită pentru noi, de la ultimele zile ale slujirii lui Hristos pe pământ, la nedreapta Sa osândire, la smerirea desăvârșită pe care a răbdat-o, la patima Sa cea de bunăvoie și răstignirea pe Cruce, ajungând în cele din urmă până la inima credinței noastre creștine: Învierea Domnului nostru Iisus Hristos. Sfântul și Marele Post este de asemenea o chemare de a ne împărtăși de Învierea lui Hristos prin pocăință. Pocăința este mai mult decât o nevoință de înfrânare sau o întețire vremelnică a strădaniilor noastre; este o chemare de a ne reorândui fiecare aspect al ființei noastre după pilda iubirii desăvârșite a lui Hristos. Pocăința ne ajută să dobândim „ochi de văzut” și „urechi de auzit” vestea biruinței mântuitoare asupra morții și stricăciunii și să o trăim noi înșine în viața noastră.

În perioada premergătoare Sfântului și Marelui Post și apoi pe tot parcursul Postului, cântăm în fiecare duminică la Utrenie: „Ușile pocăinței deschide-mi mie, Dătătorule de viață, că mânecă duhul meu la Biserica Ta cea sfântă…”. Pocăința poate începe cu simțăminte de mâhnire și regret pentru păcatele noastre, însă roadele pocăinței fac să crească în noi dorința de a-L căuta neîncetat pe Dumnezeu, de a ne împărtăși mai deplin de bucuria Învierii lui Hristos. Începem să ne adăpăm din „izvorul de apă curgătoare spre viața veșnică” (In. 4, 14), mai ales după ce înțelegem că orice altă făgăduință pământească de „mântuire” și „înviere” este neîndestulătoare, ca o apă ce nu potolește setea.

Evangheliile celor trei duminici dinaintea Postului Mare ne dau prețioase îndrumări pentru pocăința noastră, arătându-ne condițiile necesare pentru a-L primi pe Hristos cel Înviat în inimile noastre. Pilda vameșului și a fariseului ne îndeamnă să ne cercetăm cu luare aminte înclinările inimii pentru a ocoli amăgirile mândriei și ale îndreptățirii de sine, arătându-ne totodată că înțelept este a ne apropia de Dumnezeu cu smerenie și inimă înfrântă. În Pilda fiului risipitor învățăm că Dumnezeu este pururea gata să ne primească din nou în îmbrățișarea Sa iubitoare, oricât de departe am fi rătăcit. Evanghelia Judecății de Apoi ne amintește cu câtă uimire ne dăm seama că avem mereu înaintea noastră prilejuri de pocăință și de mântuire, că Hristos cel Înviat este prezent în fiecare clipă a vieții noastre și în fiecare întâlnire, chiar și cu „cel mai mic dintre frații noștri”. „Doamne, când Te-am văzut noi pe Tine…?”.

Așadar, întăriți cu aceste lecții, cum vom purcede la lucrarea pocăinței? Biserica, în înțelepciunea ei, ne pune înainte anumite nevoințe care ne ajută să ne încredințăm de adevărul Învierii în viața noastră de zi cu zi. Prin post, rugăciune, milostenie, priveghere, ascultare, tăcere și alte nevoințe, ne arătăm și ne întărim dorința de a împreună-lucra cu dragostea lui Hristos. Învățăm să îngăduim puterii Sale dătătoare de viață să ne preschimbe după voia Lui. Aceste forme de nevoință nu sunt desigur, scopuri în sine, ci mijloace de a lua Învierea și a o așeza în centrul vieții noastre; cu alte cuvinte, aceste nevoințe ne pot învăța să strigăm împreună cu tâlharul pocăit: „Pomenește-mă, Doamne, întru Împărăția Ta”. Nevoința Bisericii este un mare dar: este condeiul și cerneala cu care putem scrie scrisorile noastre de dragoste, de smerenie și de mulțumire Ziditorului nostru și semenilor noștri. Prin nevoință nu căutăm să ne hrănim îndreptățirea și iubirea de sine, nici să ne lăsăm inimile să devină nesimțitoare față de nevoile celor din jurul nostru, căci: „Făptuirea dreptății și a judecății este mai de preț pentru Domnul decât jertfa sângeroasă” (Pilde 21, 3).

Sfinții noștri Părinți și Cuvioasele noastre Maici, „norul de mărturii” care ne înconjoară, ne roagă cu tot dinadinsul să nu fim nepăsători față de mântuirea noastră, ci să alergăm pe cărarea pocăinței pentru a afla adăpost în casa Tatălui nostru. Sfântul Simeon Noul Teolog ne îndeamnă cu stăruință: „Rogu-vă pe toți, iubiții mei părinți și frați – și nu voi înceta a cerși iubirii voastre – să nu fiți nepăsători față de mântuirea voastră”.

Veniți deci, surori și frați, iubit popor al lui Dumnezeu, să ne ținem ochii ațintiți asupra bucuriei Învierii. Pocăința să ne fie adevărată și inimile deschise prefacerilor harului lui Dumnezeu. Să ne fie călătoria Postului Mare un prilej de adâncă înnoire și să ne călăuzească la Praznicul praznicelor cu inimi pline de slavoslovie și de recunoștință.

Mila, pacea și dragostea lui Dumnezeu să fie cu noi cu toți cei care ne începem pelerinajul către Înviere și în anul acesta.

Cu dragoste părintească și binecuvântare,

Sfântul și Marele Post, 2024

+ Arhiepiscopul Nichita al Thyateirei și al Marii Britanii