His Grace Bishop Varlaam of Ploieşti on Tuesday spoke about the persecutions to which the Church was subjected in the past, but also about the current persecutions. Regarding the confession of Christ, the hierarch said that it must be fulfilled by the example of our lives, by works.
On the feast day of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius the Myrrh-Gusher, the Patriarchal Auxiliary Bishop Varlaam reminded that even today, in different parts of the world, where the Church continues to be persecuted, there are Christians who are killed for confessing Christ. They will receive, like the martyrs in the history of the Church, according to the Saviour’s promise, an “unseen crown of glory.” He added that God has promised us all this crown if we keep His word.
Confession by deeds
Bishop Varlaam called for a confession by deeds that “becomes an invitation for others to live Christianity in its fullness.”
“Confession is made by fulfilling the words of the Saviour, by the example of our lives.”
“That is why, Christians were hated because they were chosen by Christ from the world and lived another life (…) of an unspeakable nobility and spiritual elevation, as described by the anonymous author of the Epistle to Diognetus: Christians live on earth, but they live like angels in heaven. Therefore, they aroused envy and hatred of the world in all circumstances. Let us confess Jesus by our faith, by our attitude towards those around us, but, above all, by our deeds.”
The Patriarchal Auxiliary Bishop pointed out that the example of the martyrs and of St. Demetrius, in particular, must inspire us to confess Christ.
“We are called to confess Him by our life enlightened by the presence of the Holy Spirit and shining by good works, which we are called to fulfil as proof of our faith in Christ who died and rose for us and our salvation,” His Grace noted during his homily on October 26.
Persecution is not over
Referring to the persecutions, the hierarch said that they began in the first days of Christianity and “we tend to believe that they ended with the release of the Christian faith by the Holy Emperor Constantine the Great, through the Edict of Milan, but the history of the Church and even our experience shows us that these persecutions, according to the word of the Lord, have never ended.”
“From the Holy Archdeacon Stephen to the present day, this word of the Saviour is being fulfilled in full: If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also,” the hierarch noted.
His Grace referred to the bloody persecutions of the 3-4th centuries, initiated by the Roman emperors, which aimed at the destruction of Christianity. But the result was completely different, the patriarchal auxiliary bishop remarked.
“The effect of killing Christians was not their extermination, but their multiplication, the strengthening of the Church, and its spread to the ends of the earth.”
The century of martyrs
Bishop Varlaam of Ploieşti recalled that the 20th century was called the “century of martyrs,” in the context in which fascism and communism were directed against Christians.
“Communism has claimed millions of lives, and we have the testimonies of prison survivors who spoke about how a lot of personalities ended their lives, who on the deathbed forgave the executioners, as did the Christians of the first centuries, even until our time.”
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the outdoor altar on the Patriarchate’s Hill to honour the feast day of Saint Demetrius the Myrrh-gusher.
Saint Demetrius lived in the 3-4th century and was the son of the ruler of the city of Thessaloniki. He is celebrated by the Church on October 26. In iconography, he is depicted in military apparel, holding a spear in his hand, a weapon through which he suffered martyrdom.
Photography courtesy of Basilica.ro / Mircea Florescu
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