His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije and His Beatitude Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia kyr Stefan served the Holy Liturgy on 5 June 2023, on Pentecost Monday, in the ancient church of Saint Sophia in Ohrid, marking the solemn celebration of the first anniversary since the Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church presented the Tomos of autocephaly to the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Archdiocese of Ohrid, at the Cathedral Church of Saint Archangel Michael in Belgrade.
The concelebrants were Their Eminences and Their Graces Hierarchs: Ilarion of Bregalnica, Timotej of Debar-Kičevo, Petar of Prespa and Pelagonia, Grigorije of Kumanovo and Osogovo, Joakim of Polog and Kumanovo, Arsenije of Niš, Sava of Marča, and Petar of Toplica. At the end of the Holy Liturgy, His Beatitude Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia kyr Stefan awarded His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije the highest decoration of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Archdiocese of Ohrid, the Order of Saint Clement of Ohrid, First Class. On that occasion, Patriarch Porfirije delivered a sermon:
– Your Beatitude Archbishop, Your Eminences and Your Graces, brethren Hierarchs, first and foremost, let me express how deeply moved I am by your love and by this decoration that you have bestowed upon me. I sincerely thank You, Your Beatitude, and Your Church. Naturally, I am filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit that we are here today, in glorious Ohrid, gathered in this ancient, magnificent Orthodox church of Saint Sophia. I rejoice also because of the occasion, which marks one year since we celebrated the true and genuine Pentecost here in Ohrid and in Belgrade, which means that we celebrated the birthday of the Church of Christ and, of course, the occasion of presenting the Tomos of autocephaly to your local autocephalous Church in Macedonia.
Everything we have, everything we are, everything we think, and everything we say that is of value comes from God and belongs to God. Therefore, the gift that we can see each other as brothers and as sisters in the Church, through the Holy Spirit, is a gift from God. However, although God’s gift always comes, and God always gives, it is necessary for us to understand His will and serve to fulfill His will. This applies to each of us individually and to all of us as a community. Hence, today’s occasion for our celebration is an event that took place a year ago, in which Our Humbleness, as the most humble servant, modestly participated. In fact, thanks to your love, your humility, your prayers, and your faith, that gift has become a reality for all of us. Of course, the cooperation of brethren Hierarchs is also crucial. Faith, love, and prayers of now already-appointed Metropolitan Jovan and the Bishops who are together with him are important as well. When our eyes are open, and when we have humility in our souls, when we have faith and turn to God, the Lord acts within us, among us, and around us. But when pride and selfishness appear in our hearts, no matter how hard we try, no matter how gifted we are, no matter how we live in ascetic struggle according to the rule, the grace of the Holy Spirit does not act or, at least, the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be seen in that condition.
Today is the Day of Pentecost. It is the birthday of the Church – the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which means the Church of Christ, which is the body of Christ, and the Lord is the Head of that body. There are no longer multiple churches, but only One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church. Of course, there are organizations and administrations of Dioceses and Metropolitanates of autocephalous Churches, but each autocephalous Church, relying on Christ as its Head, is in inseparable unity with all other local Churches. At the same time, each autocephalous Church, as well as each Diocese, is a complete Church, because in every Church where the Holy Liturgy is celebrated, the whole, complete Christ is present. Therefore, the Church is above all divisions, above the establishment of any boundaries. This does not mean, of course, that there are no individual gifts and talents, that there are no gifts carried by specific nations. Every nation has its own character, but only when we experience that character as a gift of Christ, and not as a reason for opposition, distancing, and God forbid, conflicts and disputes, only then do we understand that the gift was given as an opportunity to glorify Christ, to make other nations recognize us as Christ’s people through our gift, and by multiplying our own gifts, we recognize the gifts of other nations as gifts of Christ, through which those nations enrich us. So, we enrich others with Christ, and others enrich us with Christ. Thus, as the Church, we are a diverse organism, and each of us is a member of that organism, a part of that organism, and at the same time, a complete organism and a complete Church.
This is best seen on the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate today. The gifts carried by nations did not separate those nations from one another when they were united by the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, the apostles gathered in one place, and three thousand people came from different nations. They spoke different languages and had different traditions, each had its own uniqueness. However, inspired by the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles went out before that people and spoke in their own language, the Hebrew language. Although the three thousand people gathered around them spoke a different language – that is, they did not understand the Hebrew language – they still understood everything that the apostles were saying to them because the apostles testified to the crucified and resurrected Christ, they spoke the language of the Holy Spirit, the language of love, the language that unites, the language that brings together different gifts into a whole and creates unity. That language is the language of the Holy Spirit. It is the language of love. When we speak the language of love, both as nations among each other and as individuals, even if the person we are addressing does not understand our language, they understand love and understand what is more important than any word, more important than any language. At the same time, even if we speak the same and identical language, if we lack the Holy Spirit within us, if we do not speak with love and humility, we will always be distant from each other. This applies to individuals, from families and onwards, it applies to nations, it applies to continents, it applies to the cosmos.
Your Beatitude, thank You for Your love, for the gift, and for the opportunity to serve in this church. Today, during the Liturgy, I learned that the last time a Serbian Patriarch served here was a hundred years ago. Here, let us not wait for every hundred years, but instead, come to us always in Belgrade, come to all the holy places in our Church, in Serbia, and wherever else, and let us also come here, to serve in Serbia and Macedonia; as we have served in Croatia let us serve throughout the world, wherever our people are according to God’s providence, and, thank God, they pray together, which means that even though they belong to other nations, they belong to one and only Church of Christ and, in that sense, belong to one, which is most important, people of God. May the Lord bless all of you, brothers and sisters, all the people living here in Macedonia, and fill them with the Holy Spirit. I am giving You, Your Beatitude, a scepter that when You serve the Liturgy our love may be with You and that You may guide the people that God has entrusted to You for many years, and lead them to the Kingdom of Heaven.