Divine Liturgy with His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas

Published on 11 March 2024 at 13:50

On Sunday, 10th March 2024, we had the honour of welcoming His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas, accompanied by his Archdeacon Dr George Tsourous.

Numerous faithful from the North East came to pray and receive communion, including founding members of the parish from 1976, now aged over 90 years, whose joy was an inspiration for everyone. 

The chanting was led by Efstathios Mentzas, Protopsaltis from the Church of the Three Holy Hierarchs in Leeds with his son David, and Liliana Banev, our Parish’s lead chanter. They were supported by the team of students and pilgrims led by Andreas Samoutis and Edward Hookway. 

At the end of the service, His Eminence blessed our two new Readers Dr Georgios Antonopoulos and Symeon Banev. 

Archbishop Nikitas presented the youngest members of the parish with copies of the Child's Liturgy Book prepared and illustrated by Sr Gabriela from the Community of St John the Baptist in Essex.

The Archbishop's visit concluded with a festive reception lovingly prepared by the community.

Epistle Reading 

Reading from St Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (8:8-13;9:1-2)

Brethren, food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Gospel Reading 

Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (25:31-46)

The Lord said, "When the Son of man comes in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'

Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?'

Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Sermon of Archbishop Nikitas 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

In the Gospel today we have one of the stories that Jesus told to instruct the people who came to hear His word. It is also a story that instructs us even today as we prepare in just one week or so to enter Great and Holy Lent.

It is a Gospel passage that is here to remind us that Lent and the tradition of fasting is not about food. For food saves no one. Jesus Christ came into the world to save us all. And through His word and through His life, He taught and continues to teach us what is necessary and proper. And this morning's Gospel passage indeed emphasises what is necessary for us to do as Christians.

Jesus gives the example of a shepherd, of someone who is going to separate the sheep from the goats. And He means those people who have acted properly in life and those who have not, those who ministered to those in need and those who did not.

Life, my dear sisters and brothers, is not about what we have or what we gain. Rather, it is about how we live and what we do, especially with what God gives us.

The Gospel does not emphasise material gains or goods. It talks about comfort, giving comfort to those who suffer. 

It speaks of visiting those who are in need and those who are ill.

It talks about sharing love, which we so often forget to do.

It talks about our lives and our humanity and how we relate to others.

There is a story of a monk on Mount Athos who once said: “I fear the day of judgement, for when it comes and all things are called into account what will happen to me?” And then he said, “more than I fear the day of judgement I fear the moment when the Lord will summon me before him. But more than that, I fear the voice of Christ who will ask me to give an account for my life. But more than that, I am afraid of the response that I will hear”.

Too often in our lives we look at things subjectively, and we need to look at things objectively. We need to look at our lives and at how we are called to live as Christians and as the people of God.

We need to think about the other who may be alone and isolated, the individual who is poor and suffering, those people who have not yet come to know the joy and the love of Jesus Christ.

And if we do not reach out and comfort these people, then we’ve failed. And we should ask ourselves, what will we say in that moment of judgement, in the final days when we will come to stand before Jesus Christ?

There was an elderly priest in the United States whose name was Father Evagoras Konstandinidis and he told people: during the Lenten season, take a coin, a dollar, whatever you have, and each day, put it aside. And at the end of the Lenten season, take that money and give it to the poor. Give it to those in need.

Because Lent is not about what we eat and what we don't eat. It's about our relationship with God. It's about our relationship with others. It's about our relationship with ourselves.

We need to examine our lives, just as St. Paul did and the Disciples, the Church Fathers and those great ascetics. But even more so, I would say, like the simple people of God who fill his churches and come in faith.

As we move toward the Lenten season, don't worry about olive oil and vegetable oil. Don't worry about coffee made with, powdered milk and liquid milk and dairy products. Worry more about how we live as people, how we relate to others. Have we shown them the joy of the resurrection? And have we given them Jesus Christ? For He is the solution. He's the answer. He's everything in life that we need. For without Him, we have nothing in our lives.

I pray that you will continue to grow and flourish with the wonderful guiding hand and leadership of Father Nikita. This church, this community is coming back to life. And we're going to stand by you and with you.

You see, the world needs the church. This land needs Orthodoxy, and we need you. The church isn't the priest, the deacon, the psaltis or choir and the bishop. The church is the people of God who come together. And we come together from different parts of the world. You can hear my poor American accent! We all come from different parts of the world but we become one through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. And may He guide you and lead you through these days to the glory of the resurrection, when we shall see His light and be glorified in Him.