Graduation Ceremony in Kenya 20/05/98 (English)
Message of His Beatitude, Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, at the Graduation of the Students of the Patriarchal Seminary "MAKARIOS III", Nairobi Ė Kenya
20th May, 1998
My dear brethren, co-ministers of Christís divine
Christ is Risen!
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ addressed the multitudes near the Sea of Galilee. After finishing His speech, He sent them away peacefully. His disciples and Apostles sailed out. Jesus, on the other hand, withdrew into the mountains to pray to His Father in solitude. A great storm arose and they feared for their safety. In the middle of the storm Jesus appeared walking on the water, calling, "Be of good cheer. It is I; donít be afraid" (Matth. 14:27). Peter asked Jesus to call him to go to Him, and Jesus complied. Peter started to walk on the sea, but was overwhelmed by his fear of the wind and started to flounder. He called upon Jesus to save him. Jesus immediately caught him and lifting him up, said, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matth. 14:31).
"Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matth. 6:33).
Service to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ begins within our hearts. It is a commitment to our God and Saviour. Peter had little faith, as his trust in Christ had its limitations. The result of this is that he could not walk on the water, as Jesus did. Instead, he was seized with panic and fear.
In Matthew chapter 6, verse 33, Christ teaches us that our first priority in life is to seek the Kingdom of God. Without His Kingdom, man is lost and without Christ he cannot achieve anything (John 15: 5).
Our Orthodox faith is established on Christís Holy Cross. The vertical line of the Holy Cross reaching downwards symbolizes Godís love towards man and the contrary signifies our love to God. The horizontal bar represents Godís love embracing all mankind and indicates our love for one another.
This is our faith: Godís unconditional love toward man and manís unconditional love for God who dwells in each of us.
The first pillar of our faith is the sacramental life and the Holy Eucharist. Without receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, Christ cannot dwell in us, nor we in Him. He has instructed us to partake in the Eucharist as the means to our salvation. Without the Holy Eucharist, there is no Orthodoxy. Our entire faith centres upon Jesus Christ and our imitation, celebration and commemoration of His life.
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
To accept Christ is to submit ourselves to His Will. We meet Him in the Holy Eucharist and within the Holy Scriptures where we find the Way to salvation. Every word of Christ is an instruction and a guideline for us to act on, in order for us to become a manifestation of His Glory.
Nothing was impossible for Christ. At the beginning of His Ministry, did He not change water into wine? Did not Christ heal the sick and gave sight to the blind? Was it not Christ who rose Lazarus from the dead? In the greatest miracle of them all, was is not He who rose Himself from the dead? In all these miracles Christís Divinity was manifested.
To be of service to Christ, one must imitate Him being the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). The role of the servant of Christ, is to serve Him as his King, Lord and Saviour.
A shepherd, protects his flock from all dangers. As a good shepherd, he is always vigilant and alert so as not to lose any of his sheep. He searches for them, even if they distance themselves from the flock or put themselves into dangerous situations. The shepherd lives a sombre and humble life. A servant of Christ, in todayís society is somewhat similar to a shepherd.
Christ assured us that, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (John14:20-21).
We are instructed time and time again in the Holy Scriptures to love one another unconditionally, equally, constantly and without any prejudice.
The very words of the Scriptures teach us exactly to imitate Him, so that by His Grace we may achieve our salvation.
"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort in love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition, or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2).
My spiritual children in Christ,
This is the occasion for which you have struggled earnestly for three years. Today, you, with Godís Grace, graduate from the Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary, here in Riruta, Nairobi-Kenya. Some of you are already priests, or deacons. Some of you will be catechists; others clergy in due time. Some may serve our Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, in other ways. You have persevered toward achieving your graduation. But, unless you put into practice what you have learnt, it will have very little meaning. Use the learning from your books and the lectures.
You are called to seek first the Kingdom of God and to built your faith in Christ, alone. You are called to practice a spiritual life which is a service of sacrifice.
Christ sent His disciples out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Christ calls you, through our Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, to do the same. You are the inheritors of the Apostolic faith and you must uphold it undefiled and unchanged. You are instructed to teach others to follow this Holy Faith. This is your ministry. It begins in your very own hearts when you learn to love and submit yourselves to Christ. You cannot carry the Word to another until you yourselves have put on Christ.
Your faith must become the light of the World, a reality.
You must express your Orthodox faith with those whom you live and work with. From this point, your ministry can grow and expand.
Let the seeds of our Orthodox Faith, planted in your hearts at this Seminary, and nurtured here at the Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary, find fruition in your service. Be loyal and faithful to our Church, and spiritually oriented servants of Christ, working hand in hand with one another, and with your Metropolitan, for the greater glory of Jesus Christ.
Go this day as an example of Christ, reflecting the good teachings you have received. Throw away that which has been evil within your hearts and repent. Depart from this Holy Place with love towards one another, with forgiveness and unity, so that you can enter into your new role as servants with Godís Grace.
+ PETROS VII
Pope and Patriarch
of Alexandria and All Africa