Fifth Dignified Vesper in the Holy Metropolis of Corfu
On Sunday afternoon, March 18, 2018 his Eminence, the Bishop of Corfu, Paxoi and Diapontian Islands, Mr. Nektarios did the fifth dignified vesper in the Church of Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker.
Protopresbyter Father Themistoklis Mourtzanos, General Prelatic Warden of the Holy Metropolis did the preaching on the following subject: “Ask for God and do not ask where He lives”.
In his short speech, his Eminence thanked his spiritual child father Themistoklis from the bottom of his heart and used as a basis the ascetical writings of our Church, underlining that God is happy to be “beaten” by humans. He is happy to see the courage and persistence of humans when praying. The relationship of God with people, is the one of father with his child, a very demanding one. Within the church, our relationship with God is very simplistic, as long as we talk to Him, have love and trust towards Him.
Then, father Themistoklis talked and thanked the Bishop of Corfu, mentioning the value of ascetical tradition in our times. He also said that tradition is the one who places humans in the line of meeting God and fellow human beings. Ascesis is not independent or for people’s pride, but through that, humans get used to love, humbleness, that both being absent of our lives.
Furthermore, father Themistoklis made a short reference to the wish of Saint Ephraim the Syrian: “O Lord and Master of my life” under the ascetical point of view. When praying, we realise that God is the Lord and Master of our lives. We not only act under the Spirits and passions mentioned, of sloth, meddling, love of power and idle talk, but also think that they are inevitable and sometimes well, but they are alienating us from our fellow people.
On the other hand, the virtues mentioned, sober-mindedness, humility, patience, love should be re-defined. Also today, we miss the “give to me” because it presuppose trust.
“Grant me”: here misses the fellow people, our siblings as free personalities, as a fall and resurrection. We are not happy because we are together, we are happy because they will give us thing to criticize them.
Then the speaker mentioned Abbas Sisoës the Great, a great ascetic figure of the 5th century on the subject of ascetic tradition and how we meet God.
In particular, father Themistoklis stressed that asceticism as reason and experience are necessary in our times because it teaches us and encourages us four principles:
1. That God is the Cause and Purpose of our Being and our Nature and Face need to be sanctified in the life proposed by Him.
2. That we have passions that become heavy, as they draw us to the feeling that ephemeral and right are above love and sin is a fabrications, while ourselves in practice are tortured since they cannot be quiet.
3. That there is a struggle of virtue, to which we are not alone, but it is given to us, as God shows us not to self- justify ourselves but love humbly. Love is the only completeness.
4. That there is our neighbor, whose face is sometimes disappointing, but it shows us our true self and help us to move along, as long as we commit ourselves to his/her ministry, even if this is our prayer.
Subsequently, father Themistoklis referred first to Abbas Sisoës and his famous speech, in front of the tomb of Alexander the Great: “When I see you tomb, I fear your view and a tear from my heart is poured, my common duty received in my mind, how will I pass this place? Death, who can escape you?”. This is one of the most important expressions of our ascetic tradition and then he presented other facts of the ascetic writings.
In his closing, the speaker reached the question: “where does God reside?” He emphasized that the most important thing is to ask for God and not to ask where he lives. Wherever we are in the house, the church, the monastery, our work, our neighbor, ourselves, all things become God’s search.
The desire of God is everything. His will is behind every encounter, every absence and presence, on the cross and tests, but also in joy, fasting, love and forgiveness. God is everywhere. Christ Himself says in the Gospel, “in Spirit and truth you must pray”. This means that priority is not where, but how. In Spirit, in the Holy Spirit, in Truth, in Jesus Christ. He is behind everything and the relationship with Him is necessary, otherwise belief becomes an ideology, a closure in a way of life, but without a face, it becomes a religiosity that offers consolation but does not save. Asceticism, fasting, vigilance (control of thoughts, self-criticism and self-knowledge) prayer help us everywhere to ask God. First, He is everywhere. Abbas Sisoës had Christ to take Him, he sought the One and serviced Him throughout his life.