His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Saint Matthew

Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

August 8, 2021

 

Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We are yet in the midst of the Holy Days of Δεκαπενταύγουστος, when the Church intensifies prayer and fasting, as we prepare for the Little Pascha of the Theotokos’ Dormition. During these same days, we have just celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor. This extraordinary event in the life of the Lord foretells the Passion and the Anastasis – the same Resurrection that is coming to the Virgin Mother of God on the third day after her falling asleep.

These wondrous feasts remind us of what a glorious Faith we have inherited from our spiritual ancestors. These godly forebears reach back across the millennia, to the Prophets of Israel. They are the “great cloud of witnesses” to our Faith, spoken of in the Book of Hebrews.[*] They are all the righteous women and men who have lived the Faith of Jesus Christ through the centuries: Church Fathers, Monastic Mothers, Martyrs, Healers and Wonder-workers. We know many of their names and call them “Saints.” But many of their names are known only to God.

Those whose names are not spoken of in the life of the Church, but who are – in their own time – the guardians of the Faith, are all around us. We may not recognize them, but our recognition does not establish the value of their contributions. As the Lord Jesus said:

When you do a kindness, do not let your left hand know what you right hand is doing, so that your acts of mercy may be hidden from view. And your Father, Who sees and knows what is hidden and secret, will reward you openly.[†]

This is the essence of the philanthropic heart. To do little acts of mercy and kindness, that may not be publicized or reported, but nevertheless change the world. There is an expression for it called “the Butterfly Effect,” which is the idea that a very small action can have tremendous consequences. And this is especially true in a community.

When a stranger comes to your Church, are they greeted by a smile? You have no idea whether your glance – friendly and open – will change someone’s life. Because the need of the other person may be so much greater than your own. That smile, even if you are not having such a good day, can change a life.

In today’s Epistle reading, we heard the following concluding verse:

Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. [‡]

“Welcome one another.” Such a simple instruction. Such an easy thing to do. But you see what the basis of it is, and what comes of it.

In all our Churches and communities across the country and around the world, we are called to welcome those who arrive at our threshold. And we welcome them because the Lord Jesus Christ welcomed us first. He made space for us in the Kingdom of Heaven, as He said to His Disciples:

In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am crossing over in order to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to it Myself, so that where I am, you may also be. [§]

In the entirety of the New Testament, the Greek word, μονή, translated here as “mansion,” occurs only in this verse and in John 14:23. As you know, it is the origin of the word “monastery,” the place where one dwells alone with God – the space where God welcomes us into His presence.

This is the welcome of Christ for all of us. And if this is His way with us, then – by following Him as His Disciples – our way is also to welcome one another as well.

Therefore, my beloved Christians, let us practice our Faith in the small ways that have much greater impact than we imagine. They all redound to the “glory of God;” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, praised and glorified, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

[*] Hebrews 12:1.

[†] Matthew 6:3-4.

[‡] Romans 15:7.

[§] John 14:3-4.