The Hieratic Synaxis of August took place yesterday,
Thursday the 1st of August 2013, at the Sacred
Metropolitan Church of the Dormition of the
Theotokos, in Kastoria.
During the Synaxis, both His Eminence as well as
Archimandrite Athanasios spoke about and clarified
to the Clergymen of the Metropolis various
ecclesiastic and administrative matters. His
Eminence also analyzed the content of the
exhortative encyclical that was given to all the
Parish Priests, which pertained to the virtue of
More specifically, what graciousness is, what the
characteristics of a gracious person are - and more
so of a gracious Clergyman - stressing
characteristically that "If a priest is not at least
gracious, then all his ministry goes to waste."
Below is the full text of the encyclical by His
Eminence the Metropolitan Seraphim:
To all the Reverend Presbyters of
My beloved Fathers,
I greet you in Christ, with very much love
We are preparing ourselves again
this year - with the help of God and with the
bounteous intercessions of the Most Holy
Theotokos and of all the Saints - to celebrate
the "Mother of God's Pascha of the Summer",
which is the Dormition of the Most Holy Lady
Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
On the occasion of this event, I
would like once again to communicate with you
and deposit my agony over what is happening in
our homeland as well as around us, regarding the
factor of the people's daily strain under the
numerous tribulations and difficulties, and
especially about those who are raiding our
country and homeland to this day, without seeing
the slightest sign of help.
Of course above all this and
beyond it, is the Hand and the Providence of
God. However, what is absent is our
participation in the move forward.
That is why the words of Saint
Gregory the Theologian apply in our days: «You
ask how our affairs are also so bitter: [...]
the sea voyage is by night, there is no torch
anywhere, Christ is sleeping...».
Allow me to deposit to your love
a few thoughts borrowed from the Holy Fathers of
the Church regarding a virtue that is scarce in
our day and age; a virtue that is missing from
the persons of our Clergy, but also from all of
us: it is GRACIOUSNESS.
First of all - what is
graciousness? It is not simply a virtue, but a
resultant of many virtues.
It is not merely the guide to
proper behaviour, containing certain rules of
social life, but the fruit of an inner life
which comes as a result of the presence of the
Holy Spirit in the space of our soul.
Graciousness is the overflowing
of one's soul towards fellow-man. It originates
from the excess of the heart. It is born within
a reborn and renovated heart.
It is the resultant of a struggle
for an upward course. It expresses itself in
every person - young and old.
The content of graciousness
is underlined for us by the Apostle Paul:
«...Be kindly affectionate to one another with
brotherly love, in honor giving preference to
one another...» (Rom.12,10).
It is lauded, furthermore, and
admired by the Fathers of the Church: «Man must
not be arrogant or a flatterer, neither should
he also reach audacity, or stoop to
subservience, given that "inconsiderate
behaviour is wrong"»,
as Saint Isidore the Pelusian stresses.
Secondly - A gracious person is
simultaneously a discerning one.
He becomes "weightless"; that is,
he does not become burdensome, to each and every
He always applies the words of
the Apostle Paul in his life: «And in everything
I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and
so I will keep myself» (2 Cor.11:9).
He does not ask for anything; he
gives. In that way, he preserves both his
freedom as well as his dignity.
A gracious person avoids
harshness, and even more, audacity, which is
repulsed by people, because he is aware that
audacity is not a strength but a weakness.
And one reaches the point of audacity, when - as
the Fathers of the Church stress - he does not
implement boldness with measure.
Graciousness never goes as far
as using abusive language and vulgarity.
It does not familiarize itself with disrespect
and impertinence, which, according to Saint
Theodore the Studite, is a «huge and devastating
evil». Besides, Saint Ephraim the Syrian
will say that impertinence is the mother of
Thirdly - A gracious person
never talks about himself.
He never presents himself as a
saviour. He does not create followers or groups,
but always behaves with prudence. In general, he
is a balanced personality.
A gracious person respects and
honours the elderly, not hypocritically, but
spontaneously and honestly, in every way and at
every moment in his life.
A gracious person is patient,
consistent, willing, careful, pleasant,
grateful, and he never becomes tiring and a
A gracious person is one who
controls the quality of his behaviour: first of
all inside himself, and then also inside his own
home. Because one cannot be a tyrant at home and
towards his own, and at the same time be
seemingly pious to those outside. One
cannot appear barbaric to his children and at
the same time wear a broad smile for all the
True graciousness begins from within
the space of our heart; it is expressed inside
our home, to our family members, then to our
fellow-man, and it is addressed to everyone,
A gracious person always
willingly and sincerely apologizes, not for the
sake of appearances, but because he can feel his
conscience bothering him.
A gracious person is
simultaneously meek. He is tolerant. He does not
resort to the passion of anger. He is
discerned for his sobriety. But most of all, he
is careful with his use of words. He thinks
before he speaks, how he will speak, if he
should speak, and when he does speak, he will
say what is appropriate.
Whispering is absent from a
gracious person, as Saint Basil the Great says,
«also speaking unbecomingly», as Saint
Gregory the Theologian reminds us.
A gracious person furthermore is
even about his gaze, which quite often can
offend his fellow-man. That is why it is written
that a gracious, modest and respectable person
has, as his motto, the words of Saint Gregory
the Theologian: «observe, decently».
My beloved fathers, I have
conveyed all the above to you, because this
virtue of graciousness is inclined to diminish
in our day and age, even from the persons of our
In my ears are echoing the words
of the Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra
Monastery: «If you can't become saints, at least
A Clergyman, especially in our
days, must be a par excellence gracious person:
Gracious in our home.
Gracious to the people of our
Gracious and beneficial to
people who are suffering.
Gracious to the various Public
Services, from which we daily seek assistance.
Gracious to every person,
regardless of his status.
The various localisms and the
supposed privileges that we think we have are
rejected and condemned by our Church.
That is why I am addressing a
fervent request to your love: Let us embrace
this virtue of graciousness, which is the
fragrance of many virtues. Only thus will we
succeed in attaining our spiritual balance and
calmness in the space of our heart, and that
love and peace be offered to our fellow-man who
is in such need of them.
If the priest is not at least
gracious, then all his ministry goes to waste.
In view of the Most Holy Mother's
feast of the Dormition, I would like to remind
you once more, as I did in the previous years,
of the following and request that you show your
1. Perform Vespers on a daily
basis in the Holy Temple, followed by the
Paraclesis Canon (the Minor or Major one) to the
Most Holy Mother, in accordance with the Typikon
of the Church, having previously notified your
parishioners of the Sacred Service and the exact
time that it commences. I would like to
recommend, fraternally and paternally, to not
omit every day - in your homes and before the
holy icons - to chant the Paraclesis Canon to
the Most Holy Mother, and also, every evening,
along with the Evening Service, to read the
Service of Salutations to Her. You will have the
blessings and the grace of the Holy Mother, Who
will shelter you and your families.
2. For the benefit of your
parishioners, you should perform liturgies more
frequently during this period, perhaps even on a
daily basis. It is a sacrifice and an offering
that will nevertheless provide many blessings.
3. In this context of Divine
Worship, you should perform a short Night-Vigil
on the 13th towards the 14th of August, thus
preparing your faithful for the grand feast-day
of the Holy Mother. Have with you the Typikon of
this Sacred Night-Vigil. You can even arrange to
perform the Sacrament of Holy Unction and in
that way also prepare your flock. (A reminder
that on the feast-day itself of the Dormition of
the Theotokos, MEMORIAL SERVICES ARE NOT
4. We must pay attention to
fasting. Fasting during the 15 days of
August is without oil on week days, except for
Saturdays and Sundays. We should ensure that we
observe this first, after having informed the
people about the significance of this Fast.
We must of course inform all the various Church
Clubs as well as our Christians that they should
not break the Fast on the eve of that important
Feast-day of the Holy Mother, which will result
in no-one partaking of Holy Communion on the
5. We should exhort the faithful
to participate in the Mystery of Holy Confession
and Holy Communion.
6. If your Parish Church
celebrates on that day, prepare it suitably for
the feast-day (cleanliness, adornment of Icons,
comeliness of the entire Temple).
Furthermore, ensure that there is a timely
announcement of the schedule of Holy Services
for the Eve and for the Main Feast-day.
7. At the lead of this feast day
is the Sacred Metropolitan Temple of Kastoria,
which celebrates on the 15th of August and where
Major Celebratory Vespers and the Praises to the
Holy Mother will be performed on the 14th of
August at 7pm, then in the morning of the
Feast-day a Hieratic Divine Liturgy and in the
afternoon of the same day at 6.30pm, the descent
of the Holy Icon of the Theotokos from the
Metropolitan Temple to the Sacred Monastery of
the Panayia Mavriotissa.
8. The participation of all of
you in the Sacred Night-Vigil that will be
performed at the olden and historical,
celebrating Sacred Monastery of the Panayia
Mavriotissa on the 22nd towards the 23rd of
August on the occasion of the Apodosis of
the Dormition of the Theotokos. It is the
Apodosis - the reciprocation - of the respect
and the obligation that we have towards the
maternal protection of the Panayia. It is worth
dedicating a few hours of the night to Her, Who,
in spite of our sins and mistakes, continues to
shelter us and intercedes.
9. During this period, the
following also celebrate: the Sacred
Monastery of Panayia Faneromeni, of the Saint
Kyriaki community (30 and 31 August) and the
Sacred Monastery of Panayia of Kleisoura (7 êáé
This way, my Fathers, we will
have the opportunity to help the souls of the
Christians for a spiritual detoxing: to relieve
them with the Mystery of Holy Confession and to
nourish them with the Mystery of the Divine
Eucharist; to lead them to the Most Holy
Theotokos, and to project to all of us the Holy
Mother - the Mother of our Lord and our Mother -
as the role model for our own lives.
With my wish that you may all
have the blessing of the Holy Mother richly, in
your lives, in your families' and your
parishioners'. I also beseech you to pray
for my insignificant person, both at the Sacred
Altar as well as in your personal prayers.
OF KASTORIA, SERAPHIM