At the Church of Panagia Soumela in the suburb of East Keilor, Melbourne, the only church in Australia dedicated to the “mother of the Pontians”, on the feast day of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia presided over the Divine Liturgy. His Eminence’s multi-day pastoral visit in the State of Victoria was completed with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, which marked the end of the divine services of the Dormition Fast.
His Eminence presided over the festive Divine Liturgy, joined also by Their Graces, Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis and Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta, Archiepiscopal Vicars of Melbourne and Northcote respectively, as well as the Proistamenos of the Parish of Panagia Soumela, Father Iordanis Krikelis, and by other clergy of the two Archdiocesan Districts of Victoria. A crowd of believers had flocked to the church from early on, to venerate the holy Icon of the Virgin Mary, but also to meet their Archbishop and Shepherd. Among others, the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Mr. Emmanuel Kakavelakis, and the President of the Intercommunities Council of Victoria, Mr. Tony Tsourdalakis, were present at the celebration of the great feast of the Theotokos.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios spoke appropriately to the congregation about the venerable person of The Mother of God, the spiritual mother of all Orthodox Christians, recalling that the feast of Her Dormition is called ” the Pascha of summer” in Greece. “Of course, we are here in winter,” he pointed out, “and we cannot say the same. But we can say that we have the blessing to celebrate a second Pascha in the middle of winter. And you know, it is better what we are experiencing here, because the weather is cold but we have this great blessing of the Virgin Mary that warms us spiritually”.
Afterwards, the Archbishop referred to the purity, honesty and genuine spirit of the Most Holy Theotokos, virtues which all people, especially Orthodox Christians, are called to imitate. Combined with the analysis of the Gospel passage of the day, which presents the hospitality offered to Christ by the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, in Bethany, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios pointed out that the Church is the preeminent place of freedom and acceptance of all people, recalling also that “publicans and robbers and prodigals, they all found a place in the Church.” On the contrary, hypocrisy is excluded, as he pointed out, which results from man’s unfreedom and from his need to pretend to be something other than what he is.
“In the New Testament,” he emphasised, “Christ did not accuse anyone except for liars and hypocrites.” “So the Church is not the place of hypocrisy”, he continued, “because the Church is not only what we live here, but it is also what we will live in the next life. Here too one can be hypocritical, but hypocrisy does not fit in the other life. What we are, that is what we will present before God.”
Concluding his address, the Archbishop paternally urged the faithful to cultivate their virtues and become holier and more spiritual, having the Virgin Mary as their model. His Eminence clarified that everyone’s past does not weigh on his spiritual progress, regardless of his weaknesses, falls and sins, a sincere change is enough to open the door of Paradise. “Let us leave behind lies and hypocrisy, let us leave behind our bad selves, look at Christ and take strength from the Virgin Mary, to make this great change in our lives through repentance. And nothing else is needed. Then God will save us”, underlined His Eminence in closing.