April 19, 2019

The Correspondence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Saint Amphilochios Makris

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is not only responsible for the canonization of numerous saints of the Church, but he had a personal relationship with some of them as well. One way he had a personal relationship with these saints was through correspondence.

Metropolitan Ignatios of Berat published a book about the recently canonized Saint Amphilochios Makris in 1993 titled Ο Γέροντας της Πάτμου: Αμφιλόχιος Μακρής (1889-1970), Βίος – Υποθήκαι – Μαρτυρίαι (The Elder of Patmos: Amphlochios Makris (1889-1970), Life - Maxims - Testimonies). Inside this biography is a series of six Letters from 1957 to 1962 by Saint Amphilochios addressed to the then young student Demetrios Archontonis (future Patriarch Bartholomew), who was between 17 and 22 years old.

Patriarch Bartholomew in his youth sought the advice of Elder Amphilochios about his future ecclesiastical journey. The correspondence reveals the intense spiritual pursuits of the young Demetrios Archontonis, his desire to fully dedicate himself to the Church, his anguish about his future, and his willingness to systematically study the patristic texts.

At the same time we observe his ingenuity, his high educational level, and his literary skill. These features can be understood by everyone when reading the following Letters, which are translated below.

The Letters of Elder Amphilochios Makris 
to Demetrios Archontonis

Letter 1

My Beloved Demetrios,
Greetings in the Lord.

A month ago I received your letter. I did not respond because I was away at the islands of Samos and Icarus, and now that I have time I respond to you, that I read your letter with joy and I feel that joy which is felt by the one who seeks precious stones in order to adorn a valuable object.

For I also seek to discover among Christian youth people with Christian feelings, that the Church of Christ may be adorned and return to its initial glory, in order to enlighten and guide those who walk this holy path, which the Apostles, Martyrs and Hierarchs walked.

The age is such that these youth are scarce, which is why I behold with joy how you want to walk this difficult but holy path, and I can only congratulate you and help you, as I am able, being always invisibly by your side.

From my beloved children John and Zafeiris you will learn the details of my thoughts. You can follow them with trust along the path they walk, that they may assist you by your side, while I through prayer will entreat the Lord to enlighten and guide you.

With fatherly blessings,
From Patmos on the 22nd of August 1957
Amphilochios Hieromonk

Letter 2

My beloved Archontonis,
Greetings in the Lord.

From my spiritual son John I learned of your desires and your Christian thoughts. Your letter gave me so much joy because it certifies what I heard orally.

I did not respond to you then, because of many obstacles. Please do not think that I am indifferent to young people who have the flame of the love of Christ in their heart.

I pray that one day we will walk together along the path from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and then we will understand the Scriptures and we will know Jesus by the breaking of the bread.

With the love of Christ,
From Patmos on the 15th of November 1957
Amphilochios Hieromonk

Letter 3

My beloved Demetrios,
Greetings in the Lord.

With joy I read your letter. I studied it and study it, because every expression of yours moves me to the point that I am unable to describe on this paper.

I do not know you personally and yet I feel you very close to me, even among my spiritual family with my other children John and Gerasimos, which is why may you allow me to surround you with the love I have for my two children.

May God be glorified that in 1958 he allowed me to have a good child in Demetrios. Now in my prayers I will add your name and thank God for the gift he gave me this new year.

I will make this known to your brethren in Patmos and Rhodes, for divine grace has added yet another brother to our spiritual family.

You write that you do not know where God has arranged you in his Church. This, beloved Demetrios, is not important at all to us. For our family has spiritual ties that are so great, that even if you are in China, you will always be near us spiritually.

The Lord wants one thing, even if you are near us physically, may it be blessed, all the better. I and all the children will love you so much, that even if you are far away you will feel the spiritual heat of the hearts of father and children.

Our Brotherhood bears the name of the Beloved and that is why love must be the foundation of our spiritual complex. This is why I tried in the response to your letter to decorate it with the flowers of Patmos, which is the island of the Apostle of Love.

I pray that 1958 will be peaceful and holy.

Your spiritual Father and Elder,
Patmos on 1/20/1958
Amphilochios Hieromonk

Letter 4

My beloved Demetrios,
Greetings in the Lord.

With joy I read your letter and thank you for your thought in providing your photograph. It very much moves me that you write, and I long to meet you on the island of the Beloved, that I may personally meet you and discuss next to you all that I think about, concerning a mission of spiritual education of the Orthodox Christian people.

I pray you pass the new academic year with your brethren with peace and health. May the Evangelist John be your protector and guide.

Blessings to my beloved John, Argyri, Kosta, Deacon Panteleimon and Gerasimos.

With paternal blessings your Elder,
Patmos on 11/15/1958
Amphilochios Hieromonk

Letter 5

My beloved Demetrios,
Greetings in the Lord.

With much joy I read your letter and I thank you very much for your prayers. It is true that I was very much moved by your love with that of the other brothers of Halki, as well as all of your expressions for my feast.

Instead of sending blessings and thanks to all for their love, I always pray before the divine Eucharist of Christ, that the Lord will enlighten all of you and warm you with his divine radiance and cool you off with the aura of the Holy Spirit, that you may walk the apostolic path without obstruction.

The lungs will always be strong and healthy, when you breathe in the oxygen of the writings and lives of the Fathers of our Orthodox Church. I am happy to see that you are thinking of choosing Saint Ephraim the Syrian as a topic for your thesis.

He is a great Christian philosopher of the East and the second, after Basil the Great, pillar of Orthodox monasticism in the East. Your choice is excellent and from far away I congratulate you and bless you.

How I wanted our children to take as topics the following: for Argyre "Monasticism in Asia Minor", for Kosta "Monasticism in Egypt", for Basil "Monasticism in Palestine", for Diamantis "Monasticism in Constantinople", and others Monasticism in Macedonia, Greece, Crete and the islands, Russia and other Orthodox lands.

In this way they will study the actions and asceticism of such holy men, that flourished in each place, and with divine inspiration developed the sacred institution of Orthodox monasticism.

Unfortunately, today the smoke of various European smells and fumes cover over and prevent the sense of the holy aroma, which for many centuries was offered by Palestine, Egypt, Latros, the Olympus of Prousis, the Olympus of Thessaly, the sacred mountain of Ganos and Chora, Crete, Patmos, Athos, Sinai, and so many other altars of the Church, most of which now are destroyed by internal and external enemies of monasticism.

For the actions of monasticism to become known in the Church, as well as in society, Orthodox theologians alone must, without Protestant and rationalistic prejudices, focus on this important topic.

Unfortunately monasticism today has departed from its path and direction, which it once had. I pray that I see fulfilled what I write before I shut my eyes.

Together with beloved Argyre and the other children try to create a living missionary pulse in the heart of the Church, which is the Theological School of Halki, to circulate warmer blood in the veins of the new theological youth, so that they may afterwards leave not with the purpose of understanding the position of a certain Metropolitan or Professor, but with a program to enlighten our people, who know nothing but external matters, without having Christ in their hearts.

The people walk in darkness. Now there have been added materialistic teachings as well as various Jewish organizations, so a dense mist covers over everyone. And our Christians are asking for guides with light, that they may emerge out of the darkness and fog.

You will receive this light from the School in Halki, you will acquire the missionary pulse by the cleansing of your souls and hearts, and strength from the Fathers of our Church.

And so with the theological torch and the missionary rod you will go out and find the sheep who are in error and return them to the spiritual pen of the Orthodox Church.

To Argyre and all the children who wrote to me their best wishes, tell them of my warm prayers and thanks.

Blessings from Fr. Naukratios; he is studying French a lot, in order to be able next year to go to the outside world.

With many paternal blessings and love in Christ,
Patmos 12/17/1959
Amphilochios Hieromonk

Letter 6

My spiritual child Bartholomew,

With much joy I received your card.

I warmly thank you for your prayers. I pray the Lord will give you strength to complete your military service and to serve the Church of the Lord with much dedication.

It is a great gift that you have been elected to become a liturgist of the Lord and to stand before the holy altar.

I pray the Lord makes you worthy also of the ordination as a presbyter and to overshadow you with the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the sacrifice you offer will be welcomed for your salvation and that of the pious Christians of the Church.

With warm parental blessings,
From Patmos on 12/3/1962
Amphilochios Hieromonk

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.