B y the Grace of
our Lord, our most recent pastoral visit to the Holy Diocese of Sweden
was sealed with a powerful symbolism: the snow, exuding wholesomeness,
chasteness, and the purity of Creation in the midst of the white Light
of the Holy Trinity. "And His raiment became shining, exceeding white as
This was the first time in the eight years
of our visits that beautiful Sweden greeted us bedecked like a bride in
her snow-white garment. We were given hospitality amid the joy of our
Small Flock, our multicolored and multinational family, in the warmth of
the New Commandment.
* * *
Furnished with the heartfelt best wishes of His Beatitude, Archbishop Kallinikos and of the Hierarchs of our Holy Synod, which had convened the previous day, we flew to Stockholm, via Munich, on Friday, January 9, 2016 (Old Style). We were accompanied by our usual travelling companions, the Reverend Father Jiři Ján and Subdeacon Monk Antonios Hagiokyprianites.
We devoted the few days of our sojourn in Sweden to contact 2
and prayer with our clergy and people, mutual edification, catechism, and dealing with organizational and liturgical matters of our Holy Diocese.
On Saturday, we liturgized at the Convent of St.
Philothei in Villberga, with the participation of a small group of our
Sunday, we concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with all of our clergy at
the Episcopal Residence, with the sisters from the Convent providing the
chanting. The beautiful Church was filled
with faithful "of all of the nations." The Gospel reading (in Swedish
and Greek) for the Sunday after Theophany ("Repent ye...") afforded us
the opportunity to describe the characteristics
of constant and genuine repentance. A large number of the faithful
communed of the Immaculate Mysteries, and at the end of the Liturgy
everyone sat down together at the parish agape meal in simplicity of heart.
That evening, we held our customary parish synaxis,
during which we discussed the fundamental relationship between
repentance and compassion, as opposed to judgment and condemnation.
Mother Magdalene, a native Swede, did the interpreting. Several
heterodox, and even a non-Christian, were also in attendance.
On Monday, we visited Stockholm’s snow-swept Skogskyrko-gården Cemetery, where we chanted a Trisagion at the graves of two of our Orthodox brethren for the repose of their souls. 3
also met with people who may constitute the future of our Holy Diocese
in Sweden. Indeed, the future appears to be quite promising, since
extremely capable and gifted people are being drawn to our jurisdiction.
In good time, we will write more specifically about this very important matter, which is, in fact, related to our endeavors to found a men’s monastery.
We must make special mention of His Grace, Bishop Johannes, who has remained bed-ridden for many years in great pain.
His own particular martyrdom continues. His sufferings notwithstanding,
he continues to offer edification and consolation to the People of God,
joyful in the midst of his pain and grateful in the midst of his affliction. We
visited him, conveyed to him the best wishes of our Archbishop and
Hierarchs, took his blessing, embraced him, and sang festal hymns for
him. He asked us to convey to our Archbishop one request: to pray for
him. Perhaps his end is approaching....
* * *
On Tuesday, around 3 p.m., our brethren saw us off, wishing us a good journey back to Greece and a speedy return in May for the Feast Day of Sts. Constantine and Helen, the Patronal Feast of our Episcopal Residence.
Glory, worship, and thanksgiving to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen!