On the Sunday of Romanian migrants, which will be celebrated this year on August 20, His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, addresses the Romanian clergy and faithful living abroad, urging them to honour with gratitude the memory of all those who have professed Orthodox faith during difficult times.
Please find below the English translation of the Patriarch’s message on this occasion.
Beloved Romanians living abroad,
The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has declared the year 2017 a Solemn Year of the holy icons, of iconographers and church painters, and a Commemorative Year of Patriarch Justinian and of the defenders of Orthodoxy during communism.
According to our Orthodox tradition, the icon is at the same time a profession of faith and a call to prayer, which is a call to our communion with God and His Saints. Furthermore, through their great beauty, holy icons urge us to purify our senses and to embellish our soul with good thoughts, good words and good deeds. Thus, a prayer offered in front of the holy icons becomes a fountain of peace and joy, for the soul’s enlightenment and strengthening in the love of God and of fellow people.
Moreover, paintings and icons, as sacred, liturgical art objects, enrich the national cultural heritage, through their presence in our churches, monasteries, and sketes, some which are included in the universal cultural heritage.
In order to understand better the importance of venerating holy icons, the Romanian Patriarchate organized the sixth edition of the National Contest “The Orthodox Icon – a Light of Faith” in 2017. Thus, it was stressed that the Orthodox icon is not a simple church ornament, but it is first the expression of the Orthodox faith in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Invisible God, Who became an earthly Man to grant humans eternal, heavenly life.
This year (2017), together with the defenders of the holy icons in front of the iconoclastic persecution (726-843), we commemorate the defenders and confessors of Orthodoxy during the communist persecution. This commemoration is a moral duty to our ancestors, who, in times hostile to the Church and to religion in general, have professed their faith in the crucified and risen Christ at the cost of the loss of liberty, or even the loss of their lives.
In particular, on his 40th death anniversary (1977-2017), we evoke the courage, wisdom, and missionary work of Patriarch Justinian manifested during the communist persecution, as well as the sacrifice of hierarchs, professors of theology, students, monastics, lay Christian intellectuals, but especially the suffering and sacrifice of over 1800 Romanian Orthodox priests, who were arrested, investigated, and thrown into communist prisons because they confessed and defended the Orthodox Christian faith during the atheist regime.
There are many testimonies that these defenders and confessors of Orthodoxy during the communist persecution have experience, through vivid faith and prayer, the change of their physical suffering into spiritual peace and joy, which mystically came into their souls from the crucified and risen Christ.
Their strong faith and courage to confess Christ in a time of persecution have expressed, in fact, the Church’s active, although silent, resistance against militant and aggressive atheism. Wherefore, the light of their sacrifice must be commemorated with gratitude and reverence because it is a source of spiritual strengthening in the Church’s life and mission today.
The suffering of the confessors in communist jails, the struggle of Patriarch Justinian Marina of blessed memory to defend the Church’s liturgical life and pastoral activity, as well as the liturgical ministry of iconographers and church painters, who enrich the religious, cultural heritage, must be cherished and kept constantly in our mind and heart.
In this regard, we urge all Romanian Orthodox priests, and all Romanian Orthodox faithful outside Romania to honour the holy icons in the spirit of our Romanian Orthodox tradition, and to cultivate permanently in their soul gratitude towards all those who have professed the Orthodox faith during difficult times.
We entreat the Compassionate God to grant you all good health and peace, joy and salvation, to protect you and strengthen you in every good deed, for the joy of our Church and of the Romanian people everywhere!
With appreciation, blessing, and love in Christ the Lord,
Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church