Wednesday, January 30, 2019, His Grace Bishop Macarie Drăgoi of the Romanian Diocese of Northern Europe was in the midst of the righteous believers in Uppsala, Sweden. On this occasion, the Romanian hierarch served the Holy Liturgy of the Day and spoke to those present about the three capital things for the mission of the Church that we learn from the Three Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom: communion, as true the purpose of communication, philanthropy as unconditional love and the restoration of human freedom and theology as a conversation with God and man.
The children present, having been given the Holy Sacraments, received the book “The Gospel of Christ presented by the Holy Apostle Luke” from Father Bishop Macarie recently published at Basilica Publishing House of the Romanian Patriarchate and other gifts.
After the ministry, His Grace Macarie visited, along with his Parish Priest Dan Virgil Păcurar, the maternity in Uppsala, where the wife of Fr. Dan recently gave birth to the third child.
The Word of teaching of Father Bishop Macarie:
“Beloved, why are the Three Holy Hierarchs, John the Golden-Mouthed, Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian, so important to the Church and to us today? What does their missionary work tell us and how can we use it as a source of inspiration for our own ministry and testimony? These great hierarchs of the Church faced the angry emperors, the betrayal of the Church, the resentments of the powerful and rich. They swam against the gigantic current of heresies of the day, and they crossed with dignity social and political crises. They confessed and performed wonderful acts for the poor and the needy. They have melted and crucified their bodies, and they have given all their skill and huge culture for the glory of the Church’s prosperity, they have put their souls at stake for the mistreated widows and have healed the demonized and the lepers. They went all the way in their love for the Church of Christ, giving themselves to Him in full. That is why Christ is offering them back to us as help, reinforcement, inspiration, and pillars of the Church.
Of all their deeds, I shall recollect today the significance of some of their works, of course, few of the so many and wonderful ones they have written. These are works that can also inspire us today in our missionary work.
St. John Chrysostom writes, in the introduction to the Homilies to Matthew, a very important thing. He points out that initially, Christian communities did not have written Gospels. Not out of negligence, but because they knew them by heart, with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wrote in their hearts the Gospels and all understanding and enlightenment was lived under this inspiration, as well as the party together with the brothers – united in the consciousness, as we also find out in the Acts of the Apostles. Only when this communal and personal experience in the Spirit began to weaken, the necessity of transposing the Gospels in writing arose. The manuscript, therefore, was regarded by St. John Chrysostom as a crutch, as a tool that supplements a weakening in the intensity of the connection to the Spirit. And, of course, St. John Chrysostom used in full this “crutch”, this instrument, while remaining one of the great writers of the Church. What does this parable of St. John Chrysostom say to us? He tells us that we need to be very aware of the limits of the means of communication with which we do pastoral and missionary work. The goal of our mission is to reach that plenary state of holiness, full of the Spirit, face to face, in which the Gospel becomes incarnated of each and every one of us and in the state of us together. We, unlike anyone else, are not just trying to convince or influence through communication. For us communication makes no sense if it does not end in communion. Moreover, we must be very aware of the limits of the means of communication we use. Many have the impression that if there is today the opportunity to communicate very easily to large audiences through new technologies, the solution for the Church should be the action in this direction. Of course, the Church must be present in the online environment, it must use caution with this crutch, this tool, but if the writing and the physical support were regarded by St. John Chrysostom as a second-hand solution, let us ask ourselves what opinion would Saint John have about these environments of simulation and addiction? Therefore, the Church uses online environments with the firm purpose of bringing us into the real environment of the Eucharistic community that always happens face to face. They are not the “solution”, but only an environment that became inevitable.
St. Basil the Great, celebrated today, is the one who laid the foundations of his Vasiliade epoch. He built a real city dedicated to the care of the poor and the sick. The main significance we can take from this model is the need to gain an increasing autonomy of the Church in its philanthropic work and not only. Vasiliada did not just mean taking care of the poor, it also meant protection for them. Nowadays, philanthropy, whether belonging to the state, to various NGOs or institutions, is almost never carried out for the sake of the poor. It is accompanied by various conditionalities, obligations and social modeling that the recipients of these “services” have to assume. There is a lot of ideological philanthropy nowadays, through which we seek to change the mentalities – mainly the “retrograde”, in order to be replaced by the others, the “progressive” factions that would solve the situations of social injustice. Modern philanthropy is accompanied by man’s training. Only in the Church and only the Church guarantees that care for the poor is a work aimed at restoring human dignity and respecting his freedom. The philanthropy of the Church is and must be an act of unconditional love, following the pattern established by our Savior Jesus Christ Himself.
St. Gregory the Theologian, the third Hierarch to be celebrated today, is known for his work of recovering the nobility and the height of theology. In his time, as St. Gregory himself remarked, theology had become a sort of everyday conversation ever carried on by anyone. Everyone thought of things high and difficult, no matter how clever, but especially, regardless of his spiritual condition. In such a context Saint Gregory the Theologian arrives in Constantinople dominated by Arian heretics. St. Gregory restores the true nature of theology. He has shown, with his example, that theology is inseparable from intense spiritual life. Theology is not a quarrel of talk, it is not careless chat, it is not even a discourse about God, it is a conversation in the Spirit for our enlightenment. Conversation in the bosom of the Most Holy and Life-giving Trinity. We see today that many serious ecclesial and theological topics are approached with too much ease, and often fall into a vain quarrel of words. Do we still have ears for the whisper of God from so many words that fill the air?
So, my beloved, three things we learn from the Three Hierarchs, among the many things we learn continually from them, but I stop at these three things: communion as a true purpose of communication, philanthropy as unconditional love and restoration of man’s freedom and theology as a conversation with God and man, because the true theologian is the one who truly prays. Amen!”