(EĞİRDİR - PISIDIA 14.7.2018)
"This is the day the Lord made; Let us greatly rejoice, and be glad therein" (Psalm 117: 24). The psalmist’s verse appears to be in the beginning of the opening of the new Temple of Jerusalem, which Zerubbabel rebuilt (as the Temple of Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar). There was great joy among the Jews who could once again worship God on Mount Zion.
Similar joy, Your All Holiness, also is flooding our hearts today. Who would have imagined that the Church-building which was abandoned for so many decades, would not share the fate of all the others in the area? And not only would it be renovated, but also reopen its doors to celebrate the Divine Liturgy!
Of course the first refugees from this small island always lived with dreams for return, but they left for eternal life with their dreams unrealized! Today, their descendants are called, along with all the other pilgrims, to worship in this Church, which their grandparents built in the 19th century, with so much faith and reverence. In what words can we express what we live here today? Let us recall the words of His Eminence Evangelos of the Ecumenical Throne, the scholarly Hierarch of Perge, who has lived through such moments: “We can hear the steps of our fathers, echoing through the centuries. In our souls we can hear the age old chants, united with our own chants of today! History, with its heroes and martyrs, has been fired up within us! Who can express how the mind has been stirred, reminding us of the memories that have been lost? We experience ‘the eternal miracle.’”
Your All Holiness, Could the late Father Gregory, the last priest of the village, have imagined in his last Liturgy here in October 1922 that the next Divine Liturgy would be performed by the Ecumenical Patriarch? How delighted his soul must be for this present marvelous event! With him and all the priests who offered the bloodless Holy Sacraments to this historical Church of the Unmercenary Saints, the Entrance of the Virgin Mary in the Temple and Saints Theodore’s The same divine joy will also be felt today by all the Monks and Nuns who served on this small island during the Byzantine times. Last of all the older nun, who survived in the nearby Monastery here and some years after the exchange thanks to the love of the local residents, who protected her and cared for her in her deep old age. As a cloud that surrounds us, we feel at this time the overriding spirits of all the holy Hierarchs, Martyrs, and other Saints who, with their blood and ascetic struggles, have consecrated this place. We feel them, and also all the fathers who in any way ended their life here and sleep in peace, together with our mothers and brothers whom we mentioned in today’s Holy Eucharist. In the Divine Liturgy is the whole of Christ’s Church.
Your All Holiness, it is also right and fair to emphasize that without the years of struggle for the restoration of this church building by the Mayor of Egirdir, Mr. Ömer Şengöl, (during his two terms as a Mayor), that it would be impossible for us to experience this present miraculous event. So we ask humbly, Your All Holiness, to express righteous praise and due thanks to the Honorable Mayor and his eminent associates for everything they did for the general renovation of the church building, and its ability to function today. In this work, the contribution of our Holy Metropolis was limited to the construction of the capitals of the columns, similar to St. Alypios Church in Antalya, and especially with the donation of Archimandrite George Stefas, (Protosyngelos- Chancellor of the Metropolis of Stagon and Meteoron).
Your All Holiness, with gratitude we humbly ask for Your Patriarchal blessing upon all the pious pilgrims who, in hearing that You were coming, were able to participate in the celebrations of our Holy Metropolis, and especially in today's unique joy. Some of them are ready to revive with song and rejoicing in the courtyard of the Church the annual feasts of old, with the participation of pilgrims not only from Isparta and the surrounding villages, but even from Smyrna!
Your All Holiness, in the history of the Mother Church, we have today witnessed another promising event of Your brilliant Patriarchate. After the inauguration of dozens of churches of Constantinople, Cappadocia, Pontus, Ionia, Aeolia, Pamphylia and other areas of Asia Minor, and the Patriarchal Divine Liturgies done there, today is added the Door Opening Ceremony of this Church. As far as I know, Your present Divine Liturgy here must be the first Ecumenical Patriarch's Liturgy not only in this Church, but also throughout the surrounding area. To this end, this fact is indeed a historical one.
We pray, Your All Holiness, to the Lord to give You health and endurance, so that for many-many years, more and more churches continue to open for the worship and glory of the Triune God.
We seek Your Patriarchal blessing.