An Orthodox Thanksgiving Day prayer for when we find ourselves among non-Orthodox.
by Metropolitan of Florina Augoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
We translated and published this short talk because we at Orthodox Witness are inspired and strengthened by his words which still ring true today, in our days of apostasy and betrayal of the Faith, and wish our readership the same inspiration and strength.
My dear ones,
We must confess a bitter truth.
Those who believe, who struggle to keep their Orthodox faith are few. A great and immense current is steering many Orthodox away from their faith.
I am going to say something that I have never said. You may call it egotistical, but I will give you a measure, whereby to measure the priests, bishops, and all of the clergy and all the theologians. What is this measure? What is the main characteristic of a priest? To gather prosphora? To celebrate beautiful services? To deliver grace-filled sermons from the ambon and to make a few damsels teary-eyed with his profound thoughts? What is the single characteristic of a priest and a bishop in our difficult age?
The main characteristic of the bishop and the priest is a fighting spirit, boldness. It is what the apostle Paul said that, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [2 Tim. 3:12] If you see a priest, if you see a theologian, if you see a metropolitan or an archbishop who is not persecuted, but welcomes the love and appreciation of all, then the words of Christ apply, “Woe to you when all people speak well of you” [Luke 6:26]; know very well that he is not on the correct path. The same thing applies to someone who calls himself Orthodox, but does not want to go against the flow, this avalanche that is coming down to destroy the world. The Orthodox priest goes against the flow. Saint Athanasios the Great was one, who by himself carried on his shoulders, like the mythological Atlas of old, the whole of Orthodoxy. Saint Mark Eugenikos was another one, who carried in his arms the whole of Orthodoxy. Saint Photios the same. They were few, but they didn’t win by their numbers; they won by their faith. Because the value of a faithful priest, the value of a faithful bishop, the value of a faithful archbishop, the value of a layman or a woman, is worth more than the entire world. Therefore, let us not be scared by this betrayal of our faith that is happening left and right.
I recommend one thing to you: Don’t tell me: but he is good, or, this other one is a great theologian, or, that other one is a great speaker, or, that this one opened Plato’s academy and when you hear him it’s wonderful! … Check to see if he has a spark of Saint Mark Eugenikos, a spark of Saint Photios, a spark of Patriarch Keroularios, a spark of Elder Papoulakos (who though an illiterate monk stood up against the entire world).
I say these things, mindful of my position as a Greek and as a bishop who bears an immense responsibility. We are ready to sacrifice everything. I dare say (perhaps for the last time from this pulpit) to those of you who love Christ, those of you who love the Church: We have on our side our most holy Virgin, we have on our side all those who have struggled and those who continue to struggle for our Orthodox faith.
Those who are with the devil, let them sit down and shut their mouths. Because their cowardice is of the devil, their temptations are of the devil, their arguments are of the devil, through which they seek to cool off a handful of people who suffer torture, torment and persecution for the faith of our Christ.
We have always had as our slogan the oath of the teenagers of Athens, the lads of ancient Greece, who from atop of the Acropolis swore, saying, “Whether alone or with others, I will defend what is sacred and holy.” I too, an insignificant soldier, declare with boldness: Whether alone or with others I will defend to the last drop of my blood what is sacred and holy in our faith. And you, instead of a vain applause and instead of praise, both of which mean nothing, raise your prayers, because few are the Orthodox Christians left, and the battle is spreading, and we will soon find ourselves before new events. Lucifer has been campaigning and raging to eradicate the Orthodox faith from the hearts of the people, not only in our small Greece, but also in every corner of the earth. I don’t know what will happen.
I don’t know what persecutions those of us bishops and the other clergy who surround us, who have ceased to commemorate Athenagoras will suffer. I don’t know to which Mount Athos we will take refuge. I know one thing: whatever happens, if the stars happen to fall, if the rivers run dry, if the world is turned upside down, one thing I know – I steadfastly believe that, in the end, Orthodoxy will prevail. When the moment of the persecution of the Orthodox will come, then we too have our plan, as all the faithful do. And all of you – the 3,000 of you that are here – scatter what I have told you everywhere. Let the one become two, the two four, the four eight … becoming a great wave of the sea that will cleanse our homeland in such a way that Greece will become a star in heaven, an Orthodox place, a paradise of Orthodoxy. Amen.
Translated by Fr. E.H. and A.H.
Original article, in Greek, http://www.augoustinos-kantiotis.gr/?p=35798. From the book of former Metropolitan of Florina Augoustinos Kantiotes, THE CHRISTIAN IN THE END TIMES, 2nd Edition, 2008, pp. 39-41.
The photo of Fr. Augoustinos is from https://www.katanixis.gr/2019/02/blog-post_719.html#more which also carries the article in Greek.
In March of 1970 Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina, Greece (+ Aug. 28, 2010) ceased commemoration of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. Before him Metropolitan Amvrosios of Eleftheroupolis had already ceased commemoration, followed by the third hierarch, Metropolitan Pavlos of Paramythia. All twenty monasteries of Mount Athos did also cease commemoration, including Saint Paisios. Neither the Church of Greece nor any of the other autocephalous Churches condemned the Ecumenical Patriarch for not expressing the Orthodox phronema with his actions. After three years they resumed the commemoration. None of them broke communion with those who did not joined them during that period.
See also the “Open Letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios” published in 1985 in a translation appearing in his website.