Homily

By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

At the Service of Paraklesis

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church

Brooklyn, New York

August 2, 2022

 

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Tonight, we gather to beseech our Mother – the Mother of the Lord – for healing in our bodies and souls. These Paraklesis Services are a gift to us during this Δεκαπενταύγουστο season. For they are an opportunity for us to open our hearts to the needs of others. We fast from material things in this spiritual season, but we also feast on the love and compassion that inspires our presence at these services, as we call to mind others’ sufferings, when we submit their names to be read.

Whether it is the Great or Small Paraklesis, there is a hymn that commences with these words, which is chanted after the Third Ode of the Canon:

Πρεσβεία θερμή, καὶ τεῖχος ἀπροσμάχητον,

ἐλέους πηγή, τοῦ κόσμου καταφύγιον….

A fervent intercessor, and wall unshakable,

A wellspring of mercy, and shelter for the world….*

Here, we are describing the Theotokos, our defender and protector, both in heaven and on earth. What I would like to suggest to you this evening is that we take to heart these four extraordinary characteristics of the Mother of God in our own lives, and we do so on behalf of others.

We call the Theotokos “a fervent intercessor,” and so she truly is. But each one of you who has brought names to be commemorated at this evening’s service is also an intercessor, simply by writing them down and giving them to be read. But you can also be a fervent intercessor, too.

During the chanting of the service, and especially in the reading of the names, open your heart to God’s love for all creation. Think of this moment of prayer not as some formal recitation, but as a spiritual song. The names flow together in a harmonious sound that you urge heavenward with your love. This will warm your heart, and you will imitate the Theotokos herself, who is fervent on our behalf.

We also call her “τεῖχος ἀπροσμάχητον, a wall unshakable.” Because she is sturdy and unyielding in her defense of us. Should we not also be firm in our upholding and safeguarding of others in every way? Not simply in these services, but in our everyday lives?

How many times have we heard someone attacked or gossiped about, and been silent in their defense? Such silence is sinful, because it lets untruths go unanswered. The Theotokos is always countering the false narratives of our lives and bringing us to truth. And so, we should do the same for each another as well.

We also call the Mother of God “a wellspring of mercy.” Personally, when I hear this title, my mind travels to Baloukli and the Life-Giving Fountain. The Panagia nourishes us and quenches our thirst with her mercy. Think of our Lord on the Cross when he cried out, “I thirst!” † Even the Roman soldiers who crucified Him allowed Him something to drink, even if it was vinegar. Therefore, let us seek to quench the thirst of those around us – be it emotional, spiritual, or even mental. Let us not deprive them of the same mercy that we receive from God. When such mercy flows through you, you will feel the promise of the Lord Himself:

“Those who drink of the water that I give them, they will never thirst forevermore. The water that I give to them will become a fountain of water within them, springing up to eternal life.”

Finally, my beloved brethren, let us follow the Mother of God in bearing responsibility for the world, by being as she was, “a shelter for the world.” But what does this mean in practical terms? It means that we must pray for the world. That we dedicate our intentions for the world. That we remember every aspect of the world with compassion and love. These are not generalities, but they are specific to the motives of our hearts. We have brought these motivations into the Church this evening. Let us pray that they will be purified from every selfish intent.

If we follow the Mother of God in these four characteristics, we shall change our own lives and the lives of those around us. While this is something that is not simple or easy to accomplish, we have the greatest intercessor of all, the Most Holy and Ever-Virgin Mary, to help us.

And so, through her holy prayers, may we complete these days of her Fast and arrive at her glorious Dormition, so that we can become a little more like her, and be deemed worthy of the Kingdom over which she presides as our celestial Queen.

Amen.

 

* Kathisma of the Paraklesis.
† John 19:28.
‡ John 4:14