March 29, 2022

Homilies on the Divine Liturgy - The Ecclesiastical Government (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homilies on the Divine Liturgy

The Ecclesiastical Government

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou 

When an official visits our land, an audience usually follows, that is, the meeting, to which we report our requests, and we ask them to satisfy some of our desires that refer to the life and society in which we live. The same happens with the Divine Eucharist. After the coming of Christ on the Holy Table there follows our requests and the expression of our inner feelings. Three main things will be mentioned.

First, immediately after the change of the Holy Gifts we feel the need to say to the Father - our God - that we offer the Divine Liturgy to honor the Saints, the Prophets, the Righteous of the Old Testament, the Venerables and the Confessors and every righteous person who ended their life in Christ. Above all, we offer the Divine Liturgy to our Panagia, which is why we say "especially our all-holy, immaculate, most-blessed, glorious Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary." The Saints were united with Christ. At this time we also mention the Saint who celebrates that day, because we believe that this day they are especially among us.

Second, we remember our living and reposed brethren. We first mention those who have fallen asleep, because they are in great need of our prayers, since now they can do nothing for themselves and expect them of us. The commemoration takes place at this time - the memorial service for our brethren, our relatives. That is why at the time when the chanter chants "Axion Estin" we should mention the names of the people we love and who have left this world. Then we mention the names of the living, we pray for the world, the Church that is all over the world, for the priests and deacons, for those who struggle to live with purity and modesty and for the rulers, so that there is peace in the nation. We also pray for the city in which we live and for those who live in it in faith, for those who travel in various ways, for the sick and the demon-possessed, the captives, for those who help the Church in various ways, for those who help the poor and finally we pray for ourselves, to receive the mercy of God.

Third, we mention our Bishop, in whose name the priest performs the Divine Liturgy. "And first remember Lord our Archbishop ... to whom you have given your holy Churches peace, salvation, honor, health, length of days, correctly dividing the word of your truth."

The Metropolitans commemorate the Holy Synod to which they belong, the leaders of the Autocephalous Churches and the Patriarchs, and mention "every Diocese of the Orthodox". This utterance shows our ecclesiastical government. The Church is not an abstract faith and ideology, but a specific organization, structured in Patriarchates, Autocephalous Churches, Dioceses and Parishes. Everyone mentions their immediate superior, to whom they refer. There is no individual ecclesiasitcal life. The Hieromonk who liturgizes in the wilderness of Mount Athos mentions the Ecumenical Patriarch, to whose jurisdiction Mount Athos belongs. If this mention is omitted then the Divine Liturgy suffers from being uncanonical. And we say this because a Eucharist that takes place outside the Church is not a real Divine Eucharist, but a conventicle. And of course it is not enough to mention one's Bishop and not to have a meaningful communication with him.

The Church is one body, the Body of Christ. To this Body belong the Saints, the Angels, the dead who departed with repentance and the living who struggle to be united with the Body of Christ. One cannot live alone and independently of one's brethren. Also, one cannot live outside his Bishop, who is in "the type and place of the head of the Church, that is, of Christ." Worse still, a priest cannot perform the Divine Liturgy in the name of his Bishop, mention him, so that God may preserve him in peace, salvation, honor, health, longevity and the orthodoxy of the word of truth, and yet with his daily actions to slander him, to demonize him, to fight him in various ways.

Today we do not need an individual religiosity, but a stable ecclesiastical experience and mindset. We must live in the spiritual family called the Church and respect the Bishops God has placed in the Church organization.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.