Homily by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew During the Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Cathedral
New York City, October 31, 2021
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Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, shepherd to this great and God-protected Eparchy,
Your Eminence and beloved Archbishop Demetrios,
Venerable Hierarchs and devout Clergy,
Honorable Archons and dearest children in the Lord,
We are deeply grateful to Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros for your gracious words on behalf of the venerable Hierarchy present here today.
With boundless joy, emotion and contrition, we are gathered together in this splendid Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, where we have celebrated the ever festive Divine Liturgy, offering glory to the Lord of glory and giving thanks for His saving gifts to our Church and Nation, as well as to each one of us. When we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, the heavens are opened, while everything is filled with light and flooded in resurrection. Indeed, the Church lives in and through the Divine Liturgy. Our liturgical and spiritual life, but also the organization, the canonical structure, and the pastoral care of the Church are expressions and extensions of its eucharistic identity. In the Holy Eucharist we experience the entire mystery of Divine Economy. As St. Nicholas Cabasilas says so eloquently, “If we could behold the Church of Christ . . . we would see nothing other than the Body of the Lord.” (On the Divine Liturgy 38, PG150.452–453) In this respect, the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann rightly stated in his Journal that “the Church was founded in order to perform the Eucharist.”
It is hardly coincidental that the Orthodox Church, which is blessed by God, the giver of all gifts, to be the heir and protector of the sacred deposit of the Apostles and Fathers, is constituted by the Saints and Martyrs of the faith, the effulgent liturgical life, the undivided unity of faith in God and love for neighbor, the devotion and dedication with both soul and body to God and the divine fervency of its pious clergy, the ascetic struggles of its monks and nuns, and the life of its faithful that simultaneously reflects the Crucifixion and Resurrection in a “communion of deification,” the Christ-like service to humankind and the world, the hope of eternal life: Our Church, we say, is the Church that has saved and preserved the Divine Eucharist at the very core of its life.
We belong to Christ. In Christ, the incarnate pre-eternal Word of God, was revealed the truth about God and man, the truth about our origin and destiny, our ethos and culture, our life’s meaning and our identity. Christ is the nucleus of our Orthodox Tradition. Nevertheless, it is clear that when we refer to Tradition, we do not turn to the past, but to the Truth, which is the living and life-giving presence in the life of the Church. Such is the saving Truth offered by the Church to its faithful by granting them direction for their lives, as well as inspiration and strength in their creative work, so that they may give witness to the world about their faith, love and the hope that is in them, always “in reference to the leader and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ” (Heb 12.2).
In this spirit, then, we congratulate you, venerable brothers, for your Christ-loving ministry in the Body of the Church, for your holy concern and spiritual sensitivity toward the rational flock entrusted to you by the Mother Church, which you serve with modesty, prudence and discernment, in faithfulness to the inherited deposit and in dialogue with the signs of the times, with divine strength and sincere love, always in full knowledge – in accordance with our holy predecessor, St. John Chrysostom – that “the loss of even a single soul is so detrimental that no word could ever describe.” (PG60.40) At the summit of the ladder of values in church ministry lies the sacredness of the human person, the earthly and heavenly destiny of human beings as “God’s beloved.”
With these thoughts, we pray that the God of love may bless and strengthen you all, brothers and children. We convey to all of you the blessing and prayers of the Mother Church of Constantinople, the all-sacred and martyric Center of Orthodoxy, where the identity and culture of the Orthodox people was molded. And we invoke upon all of you the grace and mercy of our God, who is worshipped in the Holy Trinity.
Our liturgical assembly today includes the elevation of Archimandrite Christophoros Oikonomides, Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of New Jersey, in recognition of his service to the Church and his spiritual ministry, to the office of Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne, as well as of thirty-five distinguished lay members of our Community to the office of Archon of the Great Church in the framework of promotions determined over the last two years.
In addressing you, honorable Archons, we observe that the titles of archons conferred on you and henceforth borne by you, represent significant public and ecclesiastical ministries and offices in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire and our Orthodox Church. They presuppose education, legal knowledge, diplomacy, linguistic skills, high intelligence and, above all else, devotion to the sacred mission of the Church and our People’s sacred traditions.
Archons have always offered manyfold and invaluable contributions to the Church and our Nation, and they continue to this day their service, organized into two Brotherhoods – the Order of St. Andrew, to which you all now belong, and the Brotherhood of “Panagia Pammakaristos” comprising members outside of the United States. These around 1500 Archons throughout the world contribute in many ways and effectively to the support of the multidimensional and sacred work of the Mother Church, as well as to the defense of its inalienable rights, as demonstrated by the immense and admirable initiatives of the Order of St. Andrew under the dynamic leadership of Archon Actuarios Anthony Limberakis.
Honorable Archons, you too are from this moment appointed guardians of the sacred traditions of our Church and the noble values of our Nation. In your person, you combine piety and nobility, modesty and creativity, an ecclesiastical attitude and spirit of service, loyalty to Tradition and a spirit of modernity by offering so much to society, economy, science, progress and civilization. We are certain that this honor bestowed upon you today by the Ecumenical Patriarchate will release within you renewed energy to support fresh activities.
The Mother Church blesses you. It is proud of you for this sacred association and good witness, for your presence and contribution. Your Patriarch appreciates you, loves you, prays for you and your families. We ask that you transmit to your children, the new generation of our Community, the love for the Church and for our our most precious civilization.
Once again, wholehearted congratulations. Axioi!
All news related to the official visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the United States (October 23 – November 3, 2021).
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