Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Late Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria, My Friend who was a Friend of the Saints

 
Metr. Seraphim (left) at Name Day of Metr. Hierotheos (right) on 10/4/2019
 
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The repose of the Metropolitan of Kastoria, Seraphim (+ 12/29/2020), hurt me a lot. I closely followed the progress of his health, and every day I called him at the Hospital to find out about his treatment. Demonstrative as he was, he was overly emotional: “You enslaved me, Elder. I thank you from my heart."

In one of my phone calls he told me that every day at the Hospital he did the sacred Services, Compline and the Supplicatory Canon to the Panagia. In fact, he confided in me that one day a nurse entered the ward, before he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, and asked if they had lit incense, because the ward was fragrant. Then he found out that a small box with some relics that he had under his pillow was emitting the fragrance. This shows his love for the sacred relics, that he took them with him to the Hospital. Now that I think about it, I understand that perhaps this fragrance was an indication that God wanted him in the heavenly Divine Liturgy, because he was pleased with his life.

The last phone call I made to him was on Saturday, December 19th. He told me that he had a fever and because he had low oxygen they would give him oxygen. Since then I had no other contact with him, because he entered the Intensive Care Unit, and I learned about the development of his illness from Metropolitan Athanasios of Sisaniou and Siatista, his good spiritual son.

I have known the now late Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria since we both served at the Holy Archdiocese of Athens, during the Archdiocesan service of the late Archbishop Seraphim. When in 1987 I was transferred from the Holy Metropolis of Edessa, Pella and Almopia to the Holy Archdiocese of Athens, he was appointed Vicar of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Acharnes and I served as Preacher and Youth Director of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens. I already knew him previously as a deacon of Archbishop Seraphim of Athens, but then when he became a Presbyter we got to know each other better.

The then Archimandrite Seraphim Papakostas had many internal questions. He was a friend of the services, a friend of the saints, a friend of God and a friend of people, he respected the sacred institution of the Church and he loved Patristic Orthodox theology and monasticism. With this spirit he approached me first among the priests of the Holy Archdiocese, and asked me about various theological and ecclesiastical issues.

I noticed that he ate up insatiably what I said to him and he repeated it in his sermons, he read my books and memorized theological concepts, terminology and especially he was an ardent supporter of hesychastic theology, as it was expressed by Saint Gregory Palamas.

He called me every day, literally, and asked me about various ecclesiastical and theological issues, and he found rest within, assimilating what I said to him and it seemed to me as if I were doing a "theological tutorial" to a clergyman.

In fact, at that time I was writing the biography of my Elder, Saint Kallinikos, which was later published under the title "Jewel of the Church", and Fr. Seraphim showed interest in reading the manuscript, because he wanted to see how a Holy Metropolitan exercised his episcopal duties. He was very enthusiastic about reading this text and called me to express his enthusiasm. I saw that he stood out from many other clergymen of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens, in regards to the ascetic and hesychastic life.

The center of his pastoral ministry was the Church of Saint Nicholas in Acharnes. In the morning he was in the church, he celebrated the feasts, then he went to the Holy Synod, and in the afternoon he was present again in the church to perform the Vespers, to confess his spiritual children, to practice his pastoral work. The fruits of this priestly ministry, among others, are Metropolitan Athanasios of Siatista, then a small child and student, always willing, smiling and serious, and his brother Nicholas, the current Chancellor of the Metropolis of Kastoria. Also, in those days the current Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Nikopolis and Preveza served as his deacon.

I had a clear knowledge of his ministry in the Church of Saint Nicholas, because for a while I rented an apartment near the church, so with his own encouragement I spoke every Wednesday at the Spiritual Center of the church, I liturgized weekdays for the feasts of Saints, and confessed the people that I spiritually guided.

Archimandrite Seraphim Papakostas was as enthusiastic and happy about this work of mine as a child, for he truly was a child in his inner world, and sometimes, when he had something to say, he confessed to me. He did this when we were concelebrating and before the Divine Liturgy he would tell me his thoughts and I would read him the prayer of forgiveness, because he wanted to liturgize with a clear conscience.

At that time I was in a difficult position, since the repose of my Holy Elder Kallinikos had preceded and I remained spiritually orphaned, I moved from Edessa to Athens in an environment unknown to me, mainly in an ecclesiastical environment, but also a social one.

In these difficult days, Archimandrite Seraphim Papakostas was for me a spiritual oasis. The Church of Saint Nicholas in Acharnes was also considered an ecclesiastical spiritual recreation for me, which is why I called it "Saint Nicholas of Relaxation". The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas Anapausa is well known at Meteora, but this is what I also called the Church of Saint Nicholas in Acharnes, because it spiritually relaxed me, and this was due to the vicar of the church, Archimandrite Seraphim Papakostas. On the various feasts he invited me to his house, to the festive table with his simple and revered parents.

Metr. Seraphim (left) at Enthronement of Metr. Hierotheos (right) on 9/10/1995

Later, he supported me as a brother in my election and ordination to the Metropolis of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou, he gave me to wear his own phelonion for the great Message, and before my ordination he invited me to serve my first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the Church of Saint Nicholas. He was as happy as a small child, and he "loaded" me with gifts out of his wonderful philotimo and his heartfelt enthusiasm. He supported my enthronement, read the encyclical of the Holy Synod during the enthronement ceremony, and rejoiced at my election. Of course, I returned the favor after a while at his own election and ordination as Metropolitan of Kastoria.

As fellow Metropolitans, we had constant communication on burning ecclesiastical and theological issues, he fully accepted my word, he respected me very much, he always called me an Elder and we coordinated in all matters, theological and ecclesiastical. We lifted the same cross of episcopal ministry in our Metropolises. I followed his episcopal work as a Metropolitan, where he unfolded all his inner gifts.

The late Metropolitan of Kastoria, Seraphim, was a ruler over his behavior, but also as a small child, a sensitive man and active, a hospitable and loving Bishop and father, a sacrificial ecclesiastical pastor and fervent patriot, a friend of services and active pastor, a friend of saints and a friend of Mount Athos, an ascetic and hesychast, open-hearted, ardent and humble. He had many gifts, to an exuberant degree.

His repose made me very sad, because on earth the Church lost its honorable and good Bishop, but heaven won a sanctified Bishop. And I lost a distinguished friend and brother, but I gained a blessed Hierarch, who is in the heavenly Hierarchy to be an intercessor for me and for all of us.

In my memory, the Metropolitan of Kastoria, Seraphim, remains as a good and kind brother and a distinguished friend.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.  


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