July 13, 2023

Homily Two on the Holy Hieromartyr Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina

 By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The feast of Saint Pankratios, which we observe today (July 9) and which is not known to most Christians, shows us the ecumenicality (universality) of the Church, as it was revealed on the day of Pentecost, being the sanctified Body of Christ.

Saint Pankratios lived in the years of Christ and the Apostles and came from Antioch in Syria. He received Holy Baptism in Jerusalem, then went to the Black Sea and lived as an ascetic in a cave. There the Apostle Peter met him, took him with him to Antioch and the parts of Cilicia, and there the Apostle Peter together with the Apostle Paul ordained him Bishop for the city of Taormina in Sicily.

Saint Pankratios, as Bishop of Taormina, taught the word of God, celebrated the holy Mysteries, and at the same time performed many miracles and demolished the idols worshiped by the people of that region. As a result, the ruler of that region, whose name was Boniface, believed in Christ and built a sacred temple.

The beneficial presence of Saint Pankratios in the area contributed to the conversion of many idolaters to Christ. However, the disciples of the heretic Montanus, with the help of a general, managed to kill him and thus he is counted among the holy Bishops who were martyred for the glory of Christ.

The case of Saint Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina, Sicily, shows on the one hand the power of the Church, as it was manifested immediately after Pentecost, and on the other, its universality.

The power of the Church can be seen from the fact that it is not a human organization or a social organization, but is the Body of Christ. In the Old Testament, the Lord of glory, the Son and Word of God appeared to the Patriarchs, the Prophets and the Saints, without a Body. When we speak of the Lord of glory, we mean the Son and Word of God who, when He appeared to His friends in the Old Testament, was in the Light, which was uncreated, that is, He was not made, He was not created, but it was His divinity. Those who were found worthy to see God, saw Him as Light.

This Lord of glory who appeared in the Old Testament without flesh, became human, i.e. took on a human body, so now the Body of Christ is also in the Light. This is how the three Disciples saw him on Mount Tabor, and the Apostle Paul on his way to Damascus. And this God-man Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, on the day of Pentecost received the Apostles into His Body, for the Church became the Body of Christ, Christ became the Head of the Church, and of course the Christians who were baptized became members of the Body of Christ.

This means that the Church is the Body of Christ and not a human body and a human organization. This is how all the miraculous events that take place in it are explained.

Secondly, the case of Saint Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina, also shows the universality of the Church. It must be clarified that ecumenism is one thing and ecumenicality (universality) is another.

Ecumenism is connected with relativism, that is to say, everything is relative, and that all Christians, while they have great doctrinal differences, since the Western Christians were cut off from the Orthodox Church, are branches of one tree. We cannot accept this as Orthodox Christians.

However, ecumenicality shows that the Church extends to the whole world, as the Body of Christ and a community of deified, as Orthodox life, as a spiritual and theological organization. The Church spread and was organized throughout the world, east and west, north and south, and everywhere the Triune God is glorified and everywhere people are sanctified.

Saint Pankratios was born, as can be seen in his life and conduct, in the east, was an ascetic in the north and a missionary in the west. This is the ecumenicality of the Orthodox Church which was established on the Revelation of God and on the power of the Resurrection of Christ and in general on the energy of the Triune God, that is why it is called "catholic".

This ecumenicality of the Church fills us with joy, fullness, praise to God. This is how we should live and think.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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