Cypriot hierarch: Church has been in struggle for 2 thousand years now
Bishop Epiphanios urged us not to forget that the Church has always been in struggle, but "our ark of salvation is unsinkable".
The hierarch of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, Bishop Epiphanios of Lirda, believes that despite the Church’s continual struggle with negative external influences, “our ark of salvation is unsinkable”, because the Lord Himself said, “I will create My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16: 18). In an interview with the Monastic Bulletin, the abbot of the stavropegic monastery recalled that even Saint John Chrysostom compared it to a ship which during a storm can tilt in one direction or the other but never sinks, because Christ Himself is at the helm.
“Church members must first of all pursue a personal struggle for holiness,” the bishop emphasizes. “Those who have strengthened in faith can help those who are hesitating and have not yet found the right path. Strengthening in faith through personal achievement, the formation of Christian self-awareness is a reliable way to resist negative external impacts.”
Discussing the experience of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Cypriot hierarch noted that "the experience of the Church, as well as the experience of the knowledge of God and communion of God, is the same for all”. “Do not start from the geographical location of the Christian,” says Bishop Epiphanios. “God is everywhere. And it is very important that people bear in mind one thought: God loves a person and wants that a person always stays with God, communicates with God, because this communication will lead to salvation.”
According to the hierarch, he was deeply impressed by the spiritual experience of Metropolitan Arseny, Abbot of the Sviatogorsk Lavra, who spoke at the international conference "Monasticism and the Modern World."
“Having finished his service in the army, His Eminence Arseny, then still a young man, began to seek the singer’s place in the church choir, but he was told that this was possible only for people over fifty years old. At that time, the future metropolitan was a little over twenty, but he had the courage to appear before the authorities and demand this place for himself,” said the hierarch. “<...> All this shows that despite difficult circumstances, love for God lived in the hearts of people and they were not afraid to show it.”
Vladyka believes that it is necessary to use different means to attract people to the Church. “A good film based on the life of a saint, or beautiful lines, set to spiritual music, can be an incentive for awakening Christian feelings for someone who has no personal experience with Christ. Saint Gregory the Theologian resorted to such means. He created songs of a spiritual content, from which young people learned about the basics of Christian dogma and came to the Church.”
The most important means, according to the bishop, is a personal example of parents. He recalled “one Russian man, who was an atheist and completely cut out the Church from his life and in general everything connected with God, but he could not abandon his mother, whom he constantly saw praying on her knees in front of the icons. Her example turned out to be much more important for him than all the external circumstances of his life.” Fathers and mothers must follow the commandments of God, showing their children the path to God, the hierarch emphasized.
As reported by the UOJ, the Abbot of Sviatogorsk Lavra, Metropolitan Arseny, led the service in Cyprus as part of the international conference "Monasticism and the Modern World".