«I was in prison, and you came towards me»( Matth. 25, 36)
(Archim. F. Gervasios J. Raptopoulos’ speech to the prisoners in Malandrinos’ prison*)
My beloved prisoners,
Having you in mind and in our hearts we got the long way from Makedonia to arrive here, to you.
Why do we do this?
Why do we visit the prisons even though some of the people who are kept here are thieves, others are killers and criminals? Doesn’t this fact inhibit our way towards the prisons? No, not only it doesn’t inhibit our visit but it also makes it even more exigent, necessary and more urgent.
Why does this happen? It happens because Jesus Christ particularly loved the prisoners. He did not love the illegal act each one committed, only the Man. That is what we also do. We do not deal with the crime, which is an issue concerning the Greek Justice; we only deal with the human being as a God’s creature and image.
Our canon of virtue is Jesus Christ.
We get our power from Christ’s behavior. Even though he knew that Zackheus was wrongful, He chose to go to his home. Why did he go? He went because He loved the sinful publican. On the other hand, Jesus told that he had come to the earth not to call righteous but sinful people to penance. His most beloved people have been the sinful people all over the world. He loves sinful people. who are in prison and those who are outside it. You know well that sinful people are found not only inside the prisons but also outside them.
The eternal life.
But, dear prisoners, let’s take our eyes from this world, from its glories and its splendor and let’s lay our attention, our heart, our mind and our eyes up, very high, to the heaven. Let’s bear a longing in our hearts, a yearning for the eternal life, for the heavenly city. That’s why we have come to this prison today, to talk about the beauty of God’s reign to yo
But did we come only for this reason?
No, there is also one more reason. We came here to wish you: “Long live you”. We did the same for the prisoners in the prison of Amfissa. We came here to sing the Christmas Carols. These boys and girls, who are not allured by nihilism and debauchery, are going to sing them for you.
The great message
But we also came here to bring you a great message. A great piece of news? That Jesus loves all the prisoners of the whole world much more than He loves us, who are free. Don’t think of the sin you did, whatever it is. Whatever your sins may be, everything can be wiped clean by God’s mercy which is endless, like the endless sea. Suffice is to say in a heart-break: “God, I regret for what I did”
And when the time comes for you to take the way back for home, I wish two releases to take place in your life: One release from Malandrinos’prison and the other one from your passions’ prison.
So we have a year’s change. A new year.
The previous year has gone. It’s almost dying. And joy to us who are alive and can say it! But as the old year is leaving and the new one is coming, this change brings us a new message. The one I have already talked about. And it also brings a debt. The year is changing. We should also change. We should also hate our past. You should also change your sins that guided you here, in Malandrino. The year is changing. Our life, everyone’s life, should change, too.
What have we been till now?
Were we blasphemers.? Did we blaspheme against Christ’s and All-Holy Mother’s of God name?Did we swear our Mother, our Father, who are the most sacred and holy persons. But, kids, come to change. No more curses. No more bad words. But let’s glorify God’s name by our mouth. Let’s chant the eternal Jesus’ love in our own way. It is the love that makes our lives sweeter and nicer. Are we blasphemous? Let’s change. Are we drunkards? Let’s not drink a drop of alcohol anymore. Alcohol is a flame that burns our innards. It is much worse than the fire, the conflagration in Peloponnesus** that has burnt forests, houses and people. The alcohol fire burns the lungs, the liver, the pancreas, the kidneys. Everything is burnt out. And after all these, here the terrible cancer comes, which leads to an agonizing death. Are we bad-tempered? Do we get stirred to blood easily? Let’s prevail over our nerves. Let’s think twice before we utter one word. If we first think, then we don’t get angry. Anger leads to Malandrino directly. Someone said rightly: “Anger is the soul’s drunkenness” And when the soul gets drunk, it cannot see around. When someone is angry, he can kill a human being. He kills both his father and his mother. He kills both his brother and his sister. And when he gets into a trial, he tells to the Chairman: “Pity me, Mr. Chairman! I didn’t understand what I had done! My mind was in a haze due to anger. And I killed with this dark mind». So he enters the prison with dark hair, being young and he gets released with grey hair, if not white, being old. What did he manage? He wasted his life by his own hands…. !!
Dear prisoners, you languish in Malandrino’s prison, listen to me! Listen to what I’m saying to you! The year is changing. The old year is leaving and the new one is coming. Let’s change our lives! Let’s become blessed! Blessed people can be found everywhere, even in prison! I know that the prison life is hard. I know it’s a hard cross. But it’s also a good chance to come to ourselves, like the Prodigal Son, who also “came to himself”, a moment, a saving moment. Let’s think of the cost of the sin we committed and change our lives. Getting released, let’s become perfervid preachers of our life change. Let’s declare that it was in the prison life has been in conformity with Jesus’ will. It was there that you decided to live henceforth on your own labor, in dignity, in consistency and in honesty.
So here is the change of the year. But also here is the change of the life. That is the message and the saying we came to bring you. And I will finish my speech using an example.
There was a man who had lived sinfully for 63 years. He was drunkard and prodigal. His mind was elsewhere. Then, at the age of 63, he met the Truth. He found Jesus, the Savior of the world. And he changed his life. But he lived only for seven years since then. He lived seven years of a new life. When he was about to die, he asked his relatives to do him a favor. He asked them to carve these words on his grave: “Here lies a seventy-year-old man, who lived only for seven years”. It was only the years that he lived along with Jesus’ will. He had deleted all the other 63 years of his life, as they were years of hell, years of horror. He only counted the years of his spiritual change as the years of his real life. The angels got his beautiful soul and they transferred it to the eternity of heaven, to the nice presence of Jesus Christ, where there are the angels’ hymns, the saints and all the blessed people.
My kids, I’m talking to you as if I were your father, with a lot of love and agony for your salvation. Listen to my voice, to my invitation. Let’s turn our mind and our heart, up there, beyond the stars and the galaxies, to the eternal life that is beautiful and shining. We only should think of it and get inspired by it to live in virtue and for goodness. May this leads us to the holiness, to the salvation of our precious and valuable soul.
Dear prisoners, I salute you.
But I will come back to Malandrino. When I return, I want to hear that a lot of you have changed, that they have been transformed, that they became “robbers” and that they robbed the heaven as the robber who was on the right side of Jesus Christ. It was for him that St. Augustine had told: “He had been a very clever robber. After he had robbed the whole world, at the end he robbed the Heaven”.
God bless you!
*this is a F. Gervasios J. Raptopoulos’ speech in Malandrino’s prison (29-12-2007)
** a large part of Peloponnesus had been burnt in 2007