“O you Apostles from afar, being now gathered together here…”:
It sounds like a gentle touch that brings back childhood memories, somewhere in our home country, in the small picturesque church or the beauteous parish church, but always within the One Church of Christ, the Church of great sacrifices and major wonders. Hymns are sung to the Mother of the Redeemer, Mother and comforter of all Orthodox Christians, close and those from afar. The feast of the Assumption is the feast of the Church unity. It is from those distant places and from the ends of the earth that clouds grabbed the Apostles and transported them to the humble house of Gethsemane, to lay the body of the Most Holy Mother of God in burial. The All-Holy Virgin of silence, of tears, of pain, of the wronged, of strangers, of slaves, the Awesome Protection of those being persecuted, the Consolation of those in grief, the Blessed Virgin Mother of Life itself.
Following in the footsteps of the Apostles, we left the native land of the ancestors, “there, where pennyroyal and wild mint grew and earth sprouted her first cyclamen”, which is bathed in the grace of the Paraclete, and has remained steadfast in its faith in the Triune God for two thousand years now. And we came near the edge of the world, and now we send our voice to far-off places, a voice of early Christian times, the voice of a newly established Church. We appeal to our blessed brothers-countrymen, who still speak the language of the ancient philosophers and the Holy Fathers, whose people first accepted the preaching of the supreme among the Apostles Paul. The co-elect Church of Congo-Brazzaville knows where to turn to, even if her voice comes from afar.
The Apostles, present at the deathbed of the Most Holy Virgin, knelt before Her empty tomb… How could the Mother of Life be defeated by death? The laws of nature were truly defeated in You, Virgin immaculate! So on the ends of Africa, it is this Mother that we invoke and supplicate to, it is this Unity in the Church of Christ that we hope for and sing. We speak with filial piety to the same Mother, we nestle, rest and find peace in the same God-receiving bosom. It is Her that we resort to in times of trouble and affliction, different in nature from those of our home country, which, nevertheless, always remain causes of sorrow and distress. It is in Her, the same mother, that we find consolation and take refuge beneath the mantle of Her compassion.
We walk on a land so different from our blessed Orthodox homeland, but at the same time so thirsty for receiving the Grace of God, on a land that only in recent years has it learned to worship the True God and put up churches, sometimes makeshift, sometimes permanent, but it sets them up! And in them it has learned to plead with God, Who was revealed to humanity in Jesus Christ, in unbreakable unity with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, just like around the mournful, yet life-bearing deathbed of the Virgin, where the Apostles were called and gathered from afar.
We walk on a land where multiform and demonic temptations lurk to grab immortal human souls, mar the divine breath in them and lure them away to the dark and unredeemed paths of Hades through sorcery, sacrificial rites, idols and infernal ceremonies.
This is the voice coming from afar that we ask you to hear, brothers, and pray to the Mother of the Orthodox Christians for the consolidation of the missionary struggle initiated before us by bold and brave priests, remarkable spiritual strugglers. As for us, we continue on the way they paved in obedience to the Church. Brothers, be the bridge to the dissemination of the Virgin’s victory over death even in the most remote or inaccessible areas on this edge of the equator, so that the Name of the Most Merciful God may be glorified and praised in the arms of the same Mother “with one voice and one heart”, and His mercies may be “with all of you”.
† Panteleimon of Brazzaville and Gabon