“Faith is a personal experience and way of life”, stressed Archbishop Makarios of Australia, speaking to the packed congregation at the Holy Monastery of Panagia Kamariani in Red Hill, Melbourne that came to co-celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the All-Holy Theotokos with their Shepherd.
Archbishop Makarios officiated at the Service of Great Vespers and on the feast day, Friday 8 September, officiated at Matins and presided over the festive Divine Liturgy with Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis and Evmenios of Kerasounta and with many clergy from the Archdiocesan Districts of Melbourne and Northcote. Despite it being a working day and the inclement weather, a large number of faithful with great reverence flocked to the pilgrimage of the Virgin Mary at Red Hill.
The joyous atmosphere was further enhanced by the elevation of two priests to the position of Protopresbyter – Fr Emmanuel Ioannidis and Fr Matthew Papadopoulos. Archbishop Makarios praised both of them, describing them as “blessed workers of the Church”.
It is noted that on behalf of the Executive Committee and Philoptohos Association, Fr Matthew, who has assumed duties as rector of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Kamariani, officially welcomed Archbishop Makarios. “We wholeheartedly welcome you and express our deepest gratitude for your presence and your continued paternal concern for the progress of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Kamariani”, he said during his address.
For his part, the Archbishop was convinced that through a spirit of love, harmony, and unity, the Monastery of Panagia Karmariani will travail a course of progress and will flourish in the future. “This place has gone through a trial with a priest who has been cut off from the Body of the Church”, he remarked in quotations, and added, “The Church is all of us being together – it is you; the priests; the bishops; the Archbishop; the Patriarch. All together we are the Church. When one isolates himself and goes his own way and follows his own path, then he is imitating what the devil did in heaven. While the angels were united together, the devil wanted to be isolated and autonomous. And the devil fell and is lost…” From now on, Archbishop Makarios pointed out, “I am certain that this place will flourish again and grow, but it will flourish correctly and ecclesiastically because this is our ethos and this is what Christ and Panagia want from all of us; to be united with love”.
Later, during his sermon, the Archbishop referred to the Virgin Mary’s parents – Joachim and Anna – and focussed on two of their virtues: their prayer life, and unwavering faith. He emphasized that the birth of the Virgin Mary was the fruit of the strong and fervent prayer of these two people of faith. “These people prayed fervently, exercised much patience, and waited for God to answer when He saw fit”. He pointed out that, finally, their prayers were answered and, in fact, they had “the most blessed child ever born to humanity”. Therefore, he urged the faithful to also devote time to prayer, among the other activities of their daily lives, and to show patience and steadfast faith in God.
Moreover, he recapped that unwavering faith was the second most important virtue of the mother of the Virgin Mary, Anna, who gave birth at a very advanced age. This, as he distinguished, “is not interpreted either by science, nor with medicine, nor with logic, but only with faith”. In conclusion, Archbishop Makarios emphasized that people who have faith in God, on the one hand, can better face the trials and adversities of life and, on the other hand, they become good and upright citizens who benefit the rest of society. “Faith is a personal experience. Faith is also a way of life. The person who has faith, lives differently to a person who does not believe. A person who has faith, has principles, courtesy, respect, and love”, he highlighted.