With ecclesiastical splendour, the Great Vespers service was celebrated on Saturday evening 23 September 2023, on the occasion of the feast of the miracle of Panagia Myrtidiotissa at the celebrating parish of the Church of the Resurrection of our Lord, Panagia Myrtidiotissa and St Elessa in Kogarah, Sydney.
The service was officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messenia, who is in Sydney to participate in the 12th Clergy-Laity Congress of the Holy Archdiocese of Australia. Also present in prayer was His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, representative of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Congress deliberations; the invited Hierarchs from Greece: Their Eminences, Metropolitan Athenagoras of Ilion, Acharnes and Petroupolis; Metropolitan Gerasimos of Petra and Cherronesos; Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnos and Avlopotamos as well as the local Primate, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, accompanied by Their Graces, Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis; Bishop Emilianos of Meloa; Bishop Silouan of Sinope; Bishop Kyriakos of Sozopolis; Bishop Christodoulos of Magnesia (the Proistamenos of the celebrating Parish); Bishop Evmenios of Miletoupolis and Bishop Bartholomew of Charioupolis.
At the end of Vespers, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia warmly welcomed the visiting hierarchs, while also briefly referring to the special love and reverence that the Christ-loving people of Australia hold for the Most Holy Theotokos.
In continuation, and at the request of the Archbishop of Australia, the holy sermon was delivered by His Eminence Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnos and Avlopotamos. Metropolitan Prodromos described to the crowded congregation how the life of the Virgin Mary and her presence in the life of our Church relate to the Resurrection. After referring to various relevant events from her birth until Christ’s Resurrection, he summed up by observing that the relationship of the Virgin Mary with the Resurrection is also attested by the miraculous appearances of holy icons, such as the one that happened to a poor shepherd on the island of Kythera with the icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa. “Resurrection is the appearance of the holy shrines and the revelation of the holy icons of our Virgin Mary, which are scattered throughout Greece and throughout the Orthodox world”, he pointed out and added: “These innumerable sacred images do not fragment the person of Panagia but, rather, demonstrate that in every way the Virgin Mary accompanies our struggle towards the Cross until the time of the Resurrection”.
Moreover, Metropolitan Prodromos expressed his joy and emotion for his participation in a special feast, where “an emigrant Panagia celebrates”, as he characteristically observed. “A Virgin Mary celebrates who firstly finds rest in the shrine of our hearts” he pointed out and praised on the one hand, the first immigrants who, while leaving Kythera made sure to take with them in their hearts “the most precious treasure of the island” and, on the other, their descendants who keep the candle of faith lit to this day and transmit the flame to the younger generations of our Hellenic community”.
Finally, Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymnos and Avlopotamos addressed the Archbishop of Australia with words of praise; both for his personality and for the fruitful work he has accomplished during his pastoral ministry in the Church of the fifth continent.