His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Address at the Ordination to the Diaconate of Sub-Deacon George Giavris
February 2, 2020
Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
Beloved Sub-Deacon George,
You stand in the temple of God before your Creator, Savior, and Lord, on a most sacred day. The very day when we commemorate His Entry into the Temple of the Law. There, in what is called the Second Temple, signifying the Second and New Covenant, in the Temple adorned by Herod, the same tyrant who tried to kill Him, our Lord Jesus Christ was presented as an infant of only forty days, by His Holy Mother and His fatherly guardian, Joseph the Betrothed. They were poor in purse, but pure in heart. They could only afford the most modest of offerings, two turtledoves prescribed by the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 12:8).
On that day, the Lord fulfilled the Law by his humble entrance, and He fulfilled the prophecy that He should “suddenly come to His Temple” (Malachi 3:1). He offered His perfect Humanity and most holy Divinity, like the two turtle doves offered by the Theotokos and Joseph, a foreshadowing of the Offering of Himself on His Glorious Ascension to the Father, Who is symbolized by the Elder Symeon taking the Lord into his loving arms. On the 41st Day after His Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ took, what is called in the language of theology, τό πρόσλημμα, our human nature – our very flesh, and crossed over the threshold into the Realm of Heaven. And all this so that our human nature could receive divinization, what is known as Θέωσις, what we receive every time we receive Holy Communion.
Moreover, by His Entrance an infant of 40 Days, the Lord brought joy, consolation, hope, and peace to the longsuffering Symeon and Anna, who though withered by age were not so in faith, and He overcame all their doubts and fears.
So it is with you, George, as you are brought before the Altar of the Lord today, to offer yourself in the presence of your family and friends – whose love surrounds you with the history of your life – a history that has brought you to this very moment. They carry you today by their prayers, just as the Mother of God and Joseph carried the Lord in their arms.
You enter into the presence of the Holy of Holies with humility, with promise, and with purpose. Prophecy is nothing else than the word of the Lord for His People. Therefore, I counsel you to listen well, to possess ὦτα ἀκούειν – “ears to hear” – as the Lord Himself advised, that your ministry in the Church may always be in accord with the word of God.
The turtle doves you bring are your willingness to serve the Lord with gladness, and your faith in the mission of the Church. Never fear that your offerings are meager, for they are accepted by the Lord.
May your service in the Church, your διακονία to the Faithful, be like that presence of the Lord in the Temple:
a ministry of joy,
a ministry of consolation,
a ministry of hope,
and a ministry of peace.
May you always know these graces in your life, a life that has already been dedicated to the Church in every way; by your devotion to the liturgical life of the Church in which you excel, by your theological studies, by your service to our Holy Archdiocese, and most importantly, by your service at the Phanar, the Sacred Center of our Holy Orthodox Faith.
And it is your devotion to the Mother Church of Constantinople that is being recognized with a great honor, an honor that up until now, was unknown in the Archdiocese of America. His All-Holiness, our Spiritual Father, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, has himself graced you and chosen the name by which you shall be known from now on: Michael.
This is a singular honor for you, your family, and for the entire Archdiocese of America! And it honors the memory of the thrice-blessed Archbishop Michael, who served the then Archdiocese of North and South America with a sanctity of spirit and a piety of life that is remembered to this day. And it also commemorates the late and blessed Metropolitan Michael of Austria, who gifted remarkable service to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the Church as a whole, and whose life was cut short some nine years ago. Today, in his memory and in your honor, I wear gifts from him to me, which I received at my own ordination to the episcopacy. I have no doubt that their holy memorials will inspire you throughout your years of ordained life.
The changing of one’s name is a symbol of the newness of life that we are called to live in Christ. It is a visible and indeed audible sign of the transformation of heart, soul, and mind that Saint Paul speaks of when he says:
“And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good, and acceptable, and the perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Beloved George, your Baptismal Name, Γεώργιος, means “the worker of the land.” You have indeed been shown forth as a most excellent worker, an exemplary laborer in the Field of the Lord. But just as your name changes, so you are now transported from earth to heaven.
As the Psalmist says:
“Αὔτη ἡ ἀλλοίωσις τῆς δεξιᾶς τοῦ Ὑψίστου”
“This change has been wrought by the right hand of the Most High” (Psalm 76:10, LXX)
From now on you will be known as “Michael,” which means, “Who is like God?” And your service in the Holy Altar will remind all People of God that there is none like unto God – no substitute, no surrogate, no counterfeit, no imitation – nothing that can ever replace the fullness of God in our life.
You will praise Him and fill His Church with the supplications and spiritual songs that remind us of God’s love for us, His mercy toward us, His compassion for us, and His promise of our salvation through Christ.
So now, enter into the Holy of Holies.
Present yourself to the Living God as an oblation of service and love.