By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
In our Church, beloved brethren, we honor the Apostles, the Martyrs and the Fathers, and generally all those who are united with Christ and are members of the Church, members of the Body of Christ. All these have within them the Grace of Christ, who sanctified them, who transformed them and all their heroic struggles were linked as well as their sacrifices for Christ.
But the Church also honors the righteous of the Old Testament - the Prophets, Judges and Kings - who guided the people of God, because they also had communion with the fleshless Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The difference between the Old and the New Testaments is that in the Old Testament the righteous had communion with the fleshless Logos, while in the New Testament they had communion with the incarnate Logos.
One such Prophet and blessed man, chosen by God, who had constant communion with God, was the Prophet Ezekiel, whose memory is celebrated today by our Church. Our Church honors him for the relationship and communion he had with God, and his struggles for the people of Israel.
The Prophet Ezekiel, whose name means "mighty God" or "God of might", was the son of Buzi, who belonged to a priestly family and was a descendant of Zadok. He was captured in 597 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, during the second siege of Jerusalem, together with thousands of people, for which reason he lived and died in Babylon. There he was called to the prophetic office, which he exercised for twenty-two years. In Babylon Ezekiel lived the tragic moments of the destruction of Jerusalem.
His work was difficult, but grand. The Prophet said that the Jews suffered from two great passions of the soul, which prevented their repentance. The first was egoism, because they believed they were unfairly punished for the sins of their ancestors. The second was hopelessness, which led them to gravitate towards idolatry. The Prophet Ezekiel had many revelations from God and did various symbolic acts. The two major visions he saw which he described in his book were of the Cherubic chariot and the new Temple.
We know of the prophecy of the Prophet Ezekiel regarding the restoration of the Israelites in Jerusalem, which is a prototype of the resurrection of the dead, and a prophecy we read in the Church on Good Friday evening, after returning to the church from processing the Epitaphios. There it is written that God brought the Prophet into ecstasy and led him to a valley that was full of dead human bones, and he was told by the Lord to address the dead bones. And as he preached the word of the Lord to the bones, there was an earthquake and the bones began to come together, acquiring nerves and flesh on top of which was placed skin. He was then told to preach to the spirit, and so the animating spirit entered the dead bones and the bones became alive and stood on their feet. And then God instructed him to proclaim: "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord" (Ezekiel 37:12-14).
The Old Testament Prophets preached repentance for the people to repent and return to God. Many of their teachings were messianic, since they refer to the coming of Christ, and to the preparation of the Israelite people to receive the incarnate Christ. Of all the peoples the Jews were the best prepared, which is why Jesus was born among them. And this is due to the Prophets, among whom was the Prophet Ezekiel whom we celebrate today. For this reason we owe them great gratitude. That which they preached, we received to enjoy.
Taking cue from today's celebration and the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel, we should firmly believe in the resurrection of the dead, which will take place during the Second Coming of Christ, and prepare to stand at the right hand of God.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "23 Ιουλίου - Προφήτης Ιεζεκιήλ", February 2005. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.