Focusing on the the eschatological perspective of man, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, spoke before the Holy Clergy, the local Officials and the Christ-loving People of Larissa, at the end of the Hierarchical Festive Vespers which were held on the evening of Friday, 12 May 2023, at the ancient Basilica of Saint Achillios of Larissa.
The pre-feast Vespers at the ancient Basilica, was officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, while also being joined also in prayer by Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larissa and Tyrnavos, marked the beginning of the liturgical and festive events to celebrate the memory of the Patron Saint and Protector of Larissa, Saint Achillios the Wonderworker. The hymns of the Vespers Service were chanted by the School of Byzantine Music of the local Metropolis “AGIOS ACHILLIOS”, along with its Director, Mr. Ioannis Mavromatis, as the conductor.
Before the dismissal of the Vespers, the local Metropolitan, His Eminence Metropolitan Ieronymos, welcomed the Archbishop of Australia with heartfelt fraternal words, noting among other things: “Truly, we are moved to have him among us, as we may not have known each other for many years, but his spirit of unity, common efforts, common offering and great love unite us.” Metropolitan Ieronymos also referred to his recent visit to the fifth continent, in October 2022, for his participation in the First Pan-Australian Clergy Synaxis, and expressed his admiration for the work of His Eminence Archbishop Makarios and the local Orthodox Church.
“Australia is famously heard in the ecclesiastical news, and we are all proud of the holy brother,” he pointed out, and continued: “I am also proud, both of his rich theological training, and of his good disposition and his loving heart, by which all the difficulties of church life in the 21st century are surpassed. I am also happy for his prudence, with which he makes the appropriate recommendations to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and defends not only the rights of the Church, but also its unity, the true faith and the ecclesiastical ethos which in his person has found an amazing exponent”.
In his response, the Archbishop of Australia thanked the Metropolitan of Larissa and Tyrnavos, both for his invitation to preside over the celebrations for the Patron Saint of Larissa, Saint Achillios, as well as for the honourable references to his person, which, as he pointed out, he accepts not as realities but as goals he sets in his life and in his hierarchical ministry. He returned the fraternal words, noting about Metropolitan Ieronymos that he is “a Bishop, who cares for heaven and not for earth”.
Afterwards, the Archbishop delivered an inspired theological speech about the eschatological reality and the invisible and eternal light of the coming Kingdom. “Here in the ancient and splendid Basilica of the patron saint and protector of Larissa, in the cheerful and peaceful twilight of the evening, we sang the ancient hymn, the ‘Epilychnio’ Hymn of Thanksgiving, as it is called, which comes to us from the depths of the centuries and is one of the oldest hymns of our Church”, he noted and continued: “At a time when natural light is slowly fading and disappearing, the Church is praising the light! But it is not this tangible and material light that little by little fades and disappears, but it is another light, different, of a different nature, of a different quality, of a different constitution and state.
It is a light beyond and outside of natural reality and laws; a light that begins to faintly glow “at the setting of the sun” and that knows no end, change, increase and decrease because, just as it was said, it is a different, new and resurrected light. It is the light of the blessed Trinity; of the unoriginate Father, the consubstantial Word and the co-worshiped Spirit, it is the Taborian light of the Transfiguration, it is the light of the Resurrection of the Lord, it is that uncreated light that the Saints of our Church experience and suffer. It is about the light of the Kingdom of the Last Days (eschaton), which we see in the persons and lives of our Saints, just as we experience it spiritually and by grace, and in the face of our god-bearing and light-bearing father Saint Achillios, Bishop of Larissa”.
At another point, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios emphasised that the commemorations of the Saints and the Feast Days of our Church are events that refer to, symbolise or illustrate the eighth-day dimension, i.e. the out-of-time and out-of-world reality of the Kingdom of God. “This is the true meaning of the feast days of our holy Church”, he pointed out, “and not a carousal, which is certainly neither wasteful nor condemnable, as long as it is done eucharistically and doxologically”.
“Our saints, just like our God-bearing Father Achillios the wonder- worker,” he continued, “are those who live more fully than we, the imperfect ones, the reality of the Last Days and bring us closer to this state, since their life, their teaching and their miracles, are true signs of this participation in the Eschatological Glory of the Eighth Day. Therefore, for the man of God there is no sorrow or anxiety for the coming death. Because death is precisely the entrance to the eschatological glory.”
After the end of the Great Vespers, joined by the sounds of the philharmonic band of the Holy Church of Saint George the Great Martyr of Larissa, with the Vicar General of the Metropolis, Father Nikiforos Kontogiannis, a Holy Litany was held in the direction of the Metropolitan Church, where the reliquary of the Relics of Saint Achillios was opened and venerated by the faithful.