August 11, 2023

My Elder Saint Kallinikos, Metropolitan of Edessa (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos) - 4 of 5

4. His Pastoral Activity as Bishop

I will now tell you about his pastoral activity as Bishop and Metropolitan of the Sacred Metropolis of Edessa, Pelle and Almopia, which I got to know very well, since I was the closest person to him.

He was a tireless shepherd and was always interested in his flock.

The basis of his entire pastoral ministry was the mystery of the Divine Eucharist, that is, he wanted to constantly perform, if possible, the Divine Liturgy every day. He used to say that "the divine liturgy is our party." He planned to go to the villages two or three times a week, even when there was no saint being celebrated, because he wanted to minister and see his flock. He left early in the morning to be at 7 o'clock in the most remote village, even when it was snowing. I remember a case where a lot of snow fell and he said: "We will go to liturgize in the village." There was half a meter of snow and he left Edessa in a military car to go liturgize and not leave people unliturgized.

And, of course, together with the Divine Liturgy, he also connected the sermon. He spoke in a compunctionate way, in a way taken from his heart, what he said was nothing he thought up, but was empirical.

Of course, he was involved in the reconstruction of Sacred Temples, Sacred Monasteries, he made tours throughout the province, created Camps and operated the Camps throughout the summer season with his co-workers and had a good staff and good co-workers, created Boarding Schools, Nursing Homes and so on.

I have no intention at this moment to tell you what exactly he did as a good shepherd of God's people. I would simply like to present to you some impressions from people who knew him.

First of all, I will read the impressions of his successor on the Metropolitan Throne of Edessa, Metropolitan Joel, who was then a Preacher and who was ordained both Deacon and Presbyter by Kallinikos and ordained him a spiritual father and was found worthy to be his successor on the throne of the Sacred Metropolis of Edessa.

In a preface to a book of mine that I am writing about Saint Kallinikos, His Eminence Metropolitan Joel writes very comprehensively:

"The late Bishop especially sacrificed himself for the Diocese entrusted to him by God. He did not take advantage of his office for selfish reasons. On the contrary, he was 'all things to all people' (see 1 Cor. 9:22), in order to lead the souls of his flock to paths of salvation. An excellent minister, a persuasive preacher, poor in material things, rich in love, a friend of the Church's tradition, a clergyman with a deep ecclesiological conscience, forbearing to the extreme, a priest who had the rare gift of the absence of envy, i.e. unenvious, a friend and admirer of pious clerics, praiser of his associates, excellent scholar of Holy Scripture, spotlessly clean in his appearance and in his liturgical vestments, zealous for monasticism, beloved by the monks of the Holy Mountain, well-known for his spirituality among his fellow bishops, brilliant in administration, a man of God. He succeeded in his lifetime in developing, together with his preacher associates and other clergymen, great catechetical work in his Sacred Metropolis and in establishing gatherings of clergy and laity. His life ended after a serious illness and he surrendered his luminous soul to his Savior Jesus Christ."

The same Metropolitan Joel of Edessa, in the text he sent to the Synod for the canonization of Kallinikos, wrote, among other things:

"The late Metropolitan Kallinikos was a very virtuous personality who left the reputation of a holy man in his Metropolis, but also in other places where he presided over the Church. There are not a few supernatural signs, such as healings and apparitions, in which he indicated that he lives on even after his holy repose."

A distinguished Priest, an Archimandrite, who worked here in Athens, and has a great name, the late Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos, who was a friend of Saint Kallinikos and with whom he had a close communication and every day they spoke two or three times on the phone, when Kallinikos reposed he wrote, among other things:

"Through his repose, our Church became poorer. Kallinikos of Edessa was an example of humble attitude, meekness, kindness, modesty, forbearance, hard work, moral integrity, non-avaricious. Full of the fear of God, faith, hope and love, he glorified the name of God throughout his life and honored the Orthodox Church like few others."

It is important who says these things, because someone can say great things, but when they are said by people who had wisdom and knowledge and knew him, like Father Epiphanios, then they have a weighty importance.

The abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, in Kalamos, Attica, whom Saint Kallinikos ordained both as a Deacon and a Presbyter, wrote the following after his repose:

"The years that have passed - from my first acquaintance with him until this moment, and it is more than thirty - constantly convince me that I have not met a second Kallinikos and from what experience now teaches me, I am not going to meet such."

The hieromonk Father Paisios Kyriakos, who is spiritual father of the Sacred Monastery of Saint Hilarion of Meglen and was subordinate to the great saint and famous ascetic, Saint Paisios the Athonite, and was loved by Saint Paisios to the point where he gave him his name at his tonsure, he gives us the following testimony in a letter he sent to Metropolitan Joel of Edessa, about Saint Kallinikos:

"When His Eminence Kallinikos came to the Holy Mountain, in November 1976, for my ordination to the Diaconate, he had the opportunity to meet for the first time then with the Holy Elder Father Paisios. Then of course His Eminence was very happy and benefited, but the Elder (Paisios) also said to me: 'For the first time I see such a Bishop! Until now I have not seen anything like Kallinikos.'" This is what Saint Paisios said. And he continued: "He made such an impression on him. And when approaching the exit from this life, the Bishop said: 'I hope that the mercy of God will accompany me,' and I conveyed it to the Elder (Saint Paisios), and Saint Paisios said to me: 'Not only does God's mercy accompany him, but God's mercy pursues him,'" which means that he had a very great Grace within him from God.

Someone else from his flock, who is an agronomist-soilologist, Prodromos Koukoulakis, who knew Saint Kallinikos gave a perfect description of him after he reposed. And I think that by reading this, even those of you who do not know him, will roughly understand what Saint Kallinikos was like. He writes:

"Metropolitan Kallinikos was always a worthy hierarch. Gifted and decorated with many and rare virtues, he was distinguished mainly by his extremely orthodox phronema and by his constant desire to shepherd those "hungry for the word of God" like a farmer of his Metropolis, in accordance with the commands of the Lord... Kallinikos as a man was a simple man and unpretentious in his manners, austere and ascetic, loving neither money nor silver to the extreme, lenient towards others and strict towards himself, a faithful observer of the sacred canons, meek and gentle, stable and pure in life, decent and modest. His form was reminiscent of Byzantine iconography (this is very characteristic because, when one saw him officiating, he looked as if a saint had descended from the Holy Bema on which he is painted), it was seemly and his figure directly radiated the majesty of the holy fathers. That which par excellence characterized the life of Kallinikos and which he applied with passion was the 'live in obscurity.' Kallinikos came and went unnoticed by people, but with the living presence of God within him. He had the one and only ambition, to be seen as a worthy Christian and a worthy Bishop. He constantly begged God to have mercy on him at the resurrection of the dead. Characteristic of his burning desire is the fact that in his will he asked that the phrase 'I expect the resurrection of the dead' be inscribed on his tomb. In this direction, he spent all his strength until his last breath."

He was also a good preacher, as I told you before, he spoke very beautifully. I could tell you some features, but I don't have time at my disposal. Above all, he loved very much to speak and recite passages from Holy Scripture, passages from Saint John Chrysostom, passages from Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite and Saint Kosmas the Aitolos, and above all he used the "Gerontikon", the "Lausaic History" and the "Leimonarion", i.e. books about elders from which he extracted various incidents to use in his sermons, but also in his private meetings with people.

The passages he used from Holy Scripture were many. Above all, he loved passages that talked about the futility of human life, such as the example of Saint James of Brother of God: "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14).

He had a sense of the futility of life, in contrast to the word of God that remains throughout the ages, that's why he liked to use the passage of the Apostle Peter: "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever" (1 Pet. 1:24-25). In this direction, he also used the passage of Saint John the Theologian: "The world is passing away, and the lust thereof; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 Jn. 2:17).

Another passage that he constantly remembered and said with all his heart is the passage of the Apostle Paul that refers to the appearance of Christ both in the heart of the deified man and in His Second Coming: "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4). I even remember that, when he was in the Hospital in London, for a whole day he kept repeating this passage, from the morning he woke up until the evening.

And of course he had his own expressions, which he kept saying. I will mention two of them.

The one phrase was: "Heaven will speak," which he used to say when he was slandered. He also went through difficulties in his life, since there is no man without difficulties and without slander and without accusations. However, he usually did not answer, did not justify himself, but said this phrase. This shows that one must have confidence in God's Providence. When I told him whether we should make an announcement and refute the slanderous things they were saying, he replied: "Heaven will speak, my father." And indeed heaven spoke with his canonization.

And another phrase he kept saying: "By virtue of the spiritual law." I said to him, what are we going to do with so-and-so? And he answered: "By virtue of the spiritual law." Above all, he respected the spiritual law, which means that what one does in life, he is responsible for both in this life and in the next.

Also, usually in every problem that arose, without making any special remark, he repeated many times: "Lord have mercy," which had many meanings and this was an example that he always had the prayer of Jesus in his nous.


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