Address of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Consecration of the Right Rev. Joachim Cotsonis to the Episcopacy
Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
December 22, 2019
Your Grace, Bishop-elect Joachim, our beloved brother and concelebrant,
In the Epistle reading today, we hear the roll call of the “heroes of faith.” It is a catalog of men and women who loved the Lord with all their heart and soul and strength and mind. Some sacrificed their earthly goods for God; others gave their lives. These heroes of the Old Testament were forerunners of the Christian martyrs, who would also follow the path of total commitment to God. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the early Church.
When the early days of “red martyrdom” had passed, the Church recognized also the holiness of the “white martyrs.” These were the ascetic Fathers and Mothers: men and women who showed their total love for God through lives of fasting and prayer.
Yet, there is another kind of spiritual discipline—the asceticism of scholarship. A life of study, a life spent advancing knowledge—this is its own form of self-denial. It is also form of spiritual guidance. True scholarship requires solitude and sacrifice; it requires total commitment and a sense of service to others. It requires a dedication to the highest standards of excellence.
Αιέν αριστεύειν—“Ever to excel.” This idea inspired the heroes of ancient Greece, as it also inspired the heroes of the Christian faith. It is one of the timeless values of Hellenism that the Church adopted for Herself, down through the ages. It is an ideal that has shaped you: as a son of the Greek Orthodox Church, as a scholar, and as a clergyman. You have shown the utmost commitment to the visual expressions of our Faith. This lifelong labor—a labor of love, indeed—has made you a world-class expert and art historian. Your love for books and your achievements in the field of Library Science have also blessed our students at Hellenic College and Holy Cross.
Because you exemplify genuine scholarship and academic excellence, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected you to be raised to the Episcopacy. As the resident bishop at our theological School, you will be both a living icon of Christ and a dynamic model of scholarly excellence.
This is a high calling. It is a calling to a quiet kind of heroism that is often in short supply. It is a calling to self-denial and self-sacrifice. It is a calling to total commitment to the well-being of the Church.
You will succeed only insofar as you love the Lord with all your heart and soul and strength and mind. In the days ahead, there will be challenges. There will be difficulties. There will be confrontations and sorrows, headaches and heartaches. As a priest and a professor, you were no stranger to such things. And now, serving Christ in the office of bishop, you will walk τήν ὁδόν τήν στενήν, “the road that is strait and narrow,” in a new and different way.
But you will not be alone on this path of ascetic struggle.
You go forth today with the blessing and prayers of His All-Holiness, our beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who extends his fervent paternal regards on this day, as do all the members of the Holy and Sacred Synod.
You go forth with the prayers and brotherly love of the entire Holy Eparchial Synod of America, who advanced your name for election to the episcopacy.
You go forth with the love and benediction of your dear parents of blessed memory, Alexander and Demetra. Your love and devotion for them in this life was matchless and measureless. And now, as they are at rest in the Lord, they will be intercessors for you in your labors for the Church.
Above all, you go forth today with the heavenly protection of our Most-Pure Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Panagia always honors those who honor her. The Mother of God will reward your devotion with a special grace from above. She is the first and the foremost of the “heroes of faith.” She will guide and assist your episcopal leadership in the ways of excellence and scholarly dedication. Her love and her purity will be like a glorious seal upon your ministry in the years ahead.
May the Lord God remember your Episcopacy in His Kingdom, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.