Humility and Love in Africa

If you ever arm yourself against a passion, ally with this virtue.” Because “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet”(psalm 90:13), that is , as I myself would say, this virtue is stronger than sin and despair and treads down the devil and the dragon of the body.” (“The Ladder of Divine Ascent” by St. John Climacus/ of Sinai, Step 25- On Humility)

My brothers, Christ is Risen!

We are already in the season of Pentecost, but each one of us obviously remembers the road we traveled to reach this blessed season.

The virtue of humility is presented as a principle by our Church, at the beginning of the Triodion period to emphasize the reality that remains eternally irrefutable: humility is an ally and a shield on the way to virtue.

When the gospel juxtaposes the two opposite personalities of the Pharisee and the Publican on the first Sunday of the Triodion, it essentially juxtaposes two different worlds. On the one hand, it is the world of self-righteousness, arrogance, hard-heartedness and coldness that stands upright and proud. On the other hand, prostrate, humiliated, wrapped in the spirit of self-condemnation, striking his chest, crushed and acutely aware of his unworthiness and spiritual poverty, is the world of self-consciousness. We can see the Pharisee staying unrepentant of his “non-existent” mistakes, unlike the repentant Publican, who does not even have the strength to look up to heaven because of his sinfulness. In the end, however, the former is abominable before God, while the latter returns to his home justified.

Why is the first world so rejectable while it is full of achievements of a virtuous life? This is immediately noticeable if we look at the scene that has been set from a third point of view. Then we will see in the first, arrogant world the complete absence of love, while in the second one its fullness towards God, which leads man to interior contrition but ultimately to God’s desired sympathy as well.

And one finally finds out that the road of humility really leads to love. “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Faith, hope, love, these three do not exist today, and love is greater than these” (1 Cor. 13:13), Paul will end up confessing. But also St. John of Sinai will reach this very top on his skyward ladder (Step 5, “On love, faith and hope”).

The purpose of our life is precisely this love. “And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. (A’ Corinthians, 13:2). This is what every “Pharisee” forgets despite being full of gifts and spiritual achievements. We simply come to add that this very pursuit of grace hides humility within it, and so the road becomes ambiguous, in the middle of these two extremes of perfection.

And we, as humble ministers of God’s Mysteries, come, with the little experience we have earned in the field of Mission in Africa, to validate the above.

The Lord has led us to a world we did not have the chance to know in our youth. A world humbled, poor, where livelihood is a luxury, medical treatment is a good only for the few. The diseases are deadly with mortality plaguing indiscriminately, even at young ages. Also, the morals of this world are primitive. Spirituality, is often below zero, and the warmth of church life that nourished us for so many years, now subdued, hardly fills the gaps that even this different language creates.

And yet! This is where the good God led us, testing our love and our humility. And suddenly we became beggars who are called to rescue the children entrusted to us by the Church. Like that tragic but also majestic mother of the Gospel, who accepts even the derogatory characterization of being called a dog in order to give her child a little “food” of redemption from the “crumbs which fall from her masters’ table” .When you love, you humble yourself and any offensive comment you bear is nothing compared to the desire to save your child, your brother, your father, your mother. But then, through this humiliation, you see the face of God Who is none other than the face of your fellow man, who now becomes a relative in the struggle of your salvation, on the way to God, to the end of the scale, to the perfection of love.

My brothers, by the Grace of the Triune God, we are at the stage of putting the roof on our first parish church in honor of St. Anna. I inform you that close to the existing plot, we have also bought a second one for the construction of our St. Nectarios School. We just have to pay it off. The amount required comes to 10,000 euro; as for the school, 50,000 euro is enough for its first wings.

Saint Anne and Saint Nektarios church

Once again, we become beggars of your love for the good of a world that lacks it. We would like to remind you that the Church treats souls, but the school forms consciences and morals. After all, we cannot possibly preach Christ and Love without charity.

Before closing, I would like to thank the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, the good Board members of the Association that embraced us from the first moment with love and interest in our struggle to establish our Church, thanks to which, at this moment we are finishing the most difficult and expensive task phase. We need 20,000 euro for the completion of our first church. We are making an earnest appeal for assistance to anyone who can help through the Fraternity. This will be the first parish Church in Eastern Congo.

In the mite of the widow of the Gospel, let us not forget that it was not the value of the coin that counted before God, but the excess of her preference, which is why her offering counted more than any other.

CHRIST IS RISEN! I humbly pray that the light of the Resurrection will always lead us to our personal Pentecost and to the collective Joy and Love of our Triune God.

With many Paschal wishes in Christ,

Archimandrite Polycarpos Diamantopoulos  

Patriarchal Vicar of Kisangani

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