The Year of the Eucharist and of the Brâncoveanu Martyrs in the Romanian Orthodox Church
The year 2014 has been dedicated in the Romanian Orthodox Church to the Mysteries of Holy Confession and Holy Communion, as well as in honor of the Holy Brâncoveanu Martyrs, on the 300th anniversary of their sacrifice for their witness to the Christian Faith. This is a blessed opport-unity to seek to understand the importance of these two Mysteries and to reflect on witness to the Christian Faith in our world.
St. John of Kronstadt, one of the best known liturgizing fathers, said, “The Liturgy is the Mystical Supper, the Supper of God’s love for the human race. Around the Divine Lamb on the Holy Diskos gather the living and the dead, the saints and the sinners, the Church militant and the Church triumphant.” The Liturgy is the banquet or wedding feast of the king’s son in the Holy Gospels; it is the love of God poured out upon the world, calling us to the joy of celebrating together in the wedding feast of the eternal Kingdom. Love and joy are the most apt terms with which to describe in humble human language the great mystery that God reveals to the world in the Sacrifice of His Son. We respond to love and joy with participation and gratitude. The Liturgy means love and joy on God’s part, and on our part participation and thanksgiving. To speak of the Liturgy means that we participate and give thanks. The Liturgy shows us how we can understand a mystery, how we can to a certain extent lift away the veil of the mystery and become partakers in the revelation of God.
This understanding through participa-tion refers in the first place to the object of the mystery. It is said concerning St. John of Kronstadt, that through celebrating the Di-vine Liturgy he gained divine under-standing: “God, in His being, is the Blessed God, the God of unspeakable glory, a life-giving but also an awe-inspiring glory... in all cre-atures... wonderful glory has been revealed, great honor.” This understanding brings peace and joy: “In the moment when he par-took of Communion you could read in his face a spiritual joy, a peace, a heavenly calm, an elan, and a power. His face was flooded with a light that seemed itself to transmit light.” These few words help us to understand the theme for 2014.
And if we talk about the sacrifice of the Holy Brâncoveanu Martyrs we will certainly ask what is the role of witness to the Faith, and what is the witness expected of us Christians in the 21st century. Nicolae Iorga describes the scene of the execution of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu, his four sons, and his counselor Ianache, a scene reminiscent of the very Sacrifice of the Savior. When the sultan demanded that he convert to Islam, Prince Constantin responded, “I have protected my inheritance, I have preserved my faith. In my own faith will I close my eyes, I and my sons.” The representatives of the western powers looked on at the scene, as in earlier days the Scribes and Pharisees. And before their eyes, on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, August 15, 1714, the crown of martyrdom was received by Constantin, Constantin, tefan, Radu, Matei and Ianache. Holy martyrs, examples of Christian confes-sors, intercessors in heaven for us.
The dedication of the year 2014 to these two themes indicates that the year will be rich in opportunities to study the understanding and experience of Christian faith, as well as the mission to which Christ has called us.
Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas