CONSTANTINOPLE – In a powerfully moving atmosphere, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated on August 15, the feast day of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegian Monastery of Panagia Soumela of Trabzon, presided over by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, assisted by Their Eminences Metropolitans Emmanuel Geron of Chalcedon and Meliton of Philadelphia.
Present in the church were His Excellency Mr. Michael-Christos Diamesis, Ambassador of Greece in Ankara, the Honorable Ms. Georgia Sultanopoulou, Consul General in Istanbul, local officials, a representative of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, Archons of the Ecumenical Throne, and pilgrims in limited number — as part of the measures taken to combat the pandemic – from Greece, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries.
His All-Holiness, in his address, referred to this year’s pilgrimage to the historic Monastery of Pontus, in which the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey carried out extensive maintenance and renovation work over the past five years.
“Admiring the greatness of the Mother of God, we also gathered, like the God-bearing and God-preaching Apostles at that time, in this ancient dwelling, the most Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegian Monastery of Panagia Soumela, to venerate ‘her divinely glorified and exalted body.’ We ascend to Mount Mela, the mountain of the Panagia, fulfilling, together with the Pontians everywhere, our heartfelt promise to celebrate her every year on this sacred rock, in its small and at the same time spacious palace, singing and chanting of ‘your glorious Dormition, higher in honor than the Sovereign Thrones, Ancient Lordships, Powers and Cherubim and the awesome Seraphim,’ thus interrupting the silence in terms of hymns and worship of the last few years.
The Patriarch also said “and behold, despite the ordeal of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed by it, the Panagia ‘transformed in the divine glory,’ welcomes today the pious pilgrims from Greece and Cyprus, Russia and Georgia, Romania and Turkey, Ukraine and the Danube countries, and from the ends of the earth, Pontians and lovers of Pontus. She welcomes us, always overshadowing us with ‘her radiant and divine grace,’ together with the founders of the same Holy Monastery, the monks Sophronius and Barnabas, and the blessed previous monks and pious Christian Pontians from Trabzon and Kerasounta, Samsounta and Sinopis, Matsoukas and from the neighboring renowned Monasteries of Peristereotas and Vaselonos. The Lady of the Angels welcomes us, together with the Pontian Saints: Eugenios of Trabzon, Phocas, Bishop of Sinope, Vlasios, Bishop of Sebastia, Athanasios the Athonite, born and raised in Trabzon, Eleni the virgin martyr, David of Komnenos, Paraskevi the new martyr, the forty holy martyrs who were martyred in the lake of Sevastia, and of the saints consecrated during our humble Patriarchate, George of Karslidis and Sophia the Fool for Christ. The Theotokos welcomes us today into spiritual bliss, uniting the earth with heaven, to hear her pious people sing with joyful hearts.”
His All-Holiness then pointed out:
“Today, the souls of the blessed Komnenoi, John II, Alexios II and, of the same name, Alexios III, of Basil I and Manuel III, together with the angels and archangels, the saints and martyrs of the faith, the hierarchs and all the righteous, are rejoicing in prayer for the glory of the Mother of God. So also are the souls of the Ottoman Sultans, who from time to time benefited from this Holy Monastery, including Bayezid II, Selim I, Murat III, Ibrahim I, Mehmet IV, Suleiman II, Mustafa II, and Ahmet III. All of them, because they were devoted to the Qur’an, which recognizes and honors the Panagia as a prophetess, loved and supported, strengthened and honored in various ways the Holy Monastery and its monks, renewing privileges and institutions in favor of her and the fathers abiding in her.
“There is no doubt that the honorable Turkish Government is following the pacifying and unifying example of the aforementioned Sultans of the Ottoman period, because it carried out the costly radical renovation and repair of these grounds, and we received the generous permission from her and, after cooperation and aid from the local authorities, we celebrate the All-Holy Dormition of the Panagia in this historic Monastery. We express our gratitude for all this, for the compassionate support and understanding allowing us to celebrate the Divine Liturgy here for the eighth time, the ancient offering of the Most Holy Theotokos, and we assure both the officials and the people that we are present today in the midst of them as ambassadors and angels of peace and solidarity, full of love.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch then referred to the theological significance of today’s feast. “Today, our gathering around the Panagia brings to mind the image of the Apostles and the hierarchs, who gathered to bury her most life-giving body, but instead became witnesses of a miracle. The death of the Panagia did not follow the conditions of nature and the decay of human things. The Panagia, through her Dormition, ‘departed to the source of life’ as the ‘mother of life,’ conquering the conditions of nature. That is why we did not come here to bury, nor to weep and mourn for the loss of the Mother of all Christians, but to honor her and confirm the miracle; to venerate the Mother of God with great reverence and faith. And at the same time, to commemorate our fathers before the uprooting and to boast of the beauties of the Pontus, the towering mountains, the picturesque villages, the tall trees, the dense vegetation, the gentle cliffs, the verdant ravines, the peaceful streams and the remains of the old Romaikon houses and schools, churches, and cemeteries.”