Below is an excerpt from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's homily delivered at Panagia Soumela Monastery in Pontus, during his fourth Patriarchal Divine Liturgy on August 15th in 2013.
But what is so special about this place, since all the earth and the fullness thereof is the Lord's, and especially after a century of silence?
The most important is that the Grace of God has sanctified this area because of the asceticism and charismatic radiance of the Saints who lived and worshiped here the Lord and the Theotokos, from the days of Sophronios and Barnabas the founders until February of 1923, when the last monks of Soumela needed to abandon this sacred rock.
This mountain of Soumela, which for centuries gave hospitality to the sacred and wondrous Icon of our Panagia that survives until today, and was sanctified and graced by it, is, for the entire Church and Roman People, a timeless symbol and shrine, in which countless multitudes of our blessed ancestors submitted their tears, their sighs, their problems, their thanks and their innermost desires.
Of course today we do not have, as we would have hoped for, a continuation here of a human presence, that is, a living monastic brotherhood, as a century ago. The souls of the multitude of Holy Fathers of Soumela live however in the hand of the Lord, who invisibly continue until the end of the age the perpetual worship glorifying among the choirs of Angels and the countless Saints and Martyrs of Pontus and the entire Church, as well as with all of us, who today worship here the God of our fathers with one mouth and one heart.
Above all things, however, our Lady lives and is active here in this Place, the beyond-pure and full-of-grace Mother of God, who chose as her dwelling this huge vertical rock, this blessed Mountain, and made it her mystical garden and wondrous orchard, like the Holy Mountain of Athos.
The Lady Panagia, "enthroned in our hearts", wells up in many ways, invisibly and mystically, but also in reality, her grace and she works her wonders to those who flee to her with faith.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.