Archbishop Elpidophoros HC/HC Paterexhortatory Graduation Address May 18, 2024

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros

HC/HC Paterexhortatory Graduation Address

May 18, 2024

Hellenic College Holy Cross

Brookline, Massachusetts


President Katos,

Your Eminences and Graces,

Members of the Board of Trustees,

Faculty and Administration, Clergy and Laity,

Graduates of 2024, your families and friends,

Sisters and Brothers in the Risen Lord,


Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!

Christ is Risen!

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!


This moment of achievement is certainly a moment of pride for all of you – the Graduates, and for your families and loved ones as well. You are all to be congratulated for your accomplishments at this vital Institution of our Church in America. All of you will go on to even greater heights – some as clergy of the Sacred Archdiocese serving our parishes; some in academia, expanding the footprint of Orthodox Christianity in the intellectual landscape of America; others still into all kinds of ministry at every level of Church life across our great country.

But as the word itself implies, a “commencement” is just the beginning. It is like that moment in the Gospel, iconographically called, Τό Χαῖρε τῶν Μυροφόρων, when the Risen Lord Jesus instructs the Myrrh-Bearing Women, the Witnesses of His Resurrection, to tell His Disciples to return to Galilee:

Then Jesus said to the Women, “Fear not! Go and proclaim to My brothers that they are to depart for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.”*

Why Galilee? Because that is where He first called them. As if to say, you are always at the beginning of the journey of faith; not because you never advance, but because every moment is available to begin anew.

In truth, the only moment – the only Kairos you possess, is the present one. The past cannot be undone, and the future is not yet done. We act only in the present, and when we are fully aware that this is so, we find ourselves in the Eternal Now of the Living God.

Therefore, my dear Graduates, do not take this hour of recognition as an endpoint, a terminus from which you will begin something else, something different. The Ὁδός, the Way remains the same. The path that our Lord Jesus Christ traversed on his way to the Cross, the same path that, as Saint Isaac the Syrian says,

“has been trodden from the ages and from all generations by the cross and by death. … [for] the path of God is a daily cross.”†

Wherever your individual life choices lead you, the Way of God will be ever before you. And it is up to you to consciously decide to commit to that path, as the Lord said to His Disciples:

“If you want to follow Me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross day by day, and follow Me.” ‡

Therefore, although it may sound antithetical to the day’s festivities, one can never graduate from the Holy Cross. Until our uttermost breath, the Cross abides as the Alpha and Omega of our salvation.

If we truly desire to follow Christ, then we must be his lifelong pupils. There is a beginning of the knowledge of God, but not an ending. We never cease learning from Him, for He is the Teacher of Teachers Who says:

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke easy and My burden is light.” §

And the principle of self-denial is not one of mortification, of an exchange – we give up this, so that God gives us that. This is the primitive notion of relationship to the Divine – the “Do ut Des” – “I give, so that Thou mayest give,” that is the hallmark of egocentric religion. A true Christian denial of self is the affirmation of another. We give, so that others may receive, remembering the saying of the Lord recorded in the Book of Acts:

“It is more blesséd to give than to receive.” **

Finally, we must move from intention and willingness, to purpose and action. From a desire to follow Christ, to actually following Christ. And that is where our own crosses must be taken up and carried.

Our crosses are the choices we make, not what has been imposed on us by others. The choice to love, rather than hate. The choice to forgive, rather than bear resentment. The choice to heal, rather than harm. The choice to be generous rather than tight-fisted – either emotionally or materially.

We can never absolutely control how others will react to us, or how they might treat us, but we can accept the responsibility for our own response, as did the Lord Jesus, Who willingly ascended the Cross for all our sakes. And by our choosing, even in the most coercive situation, we find freedom. Because it is only as we freely choose to be persons of integrity, of virtue, of mercy, of compassion, of love, that we find ourselves in the Way, following Him – the Way of the Cross. Thus we become His disciples, and the world recognizes us as His disciples, for He said:

“This is how all people will know that you are My followers, if you love one another.” ††

My beloved Christians, this is not an easy path, not an easy way to live. It requires the kind of self-denial that goes well beyond options on a menu during Lent. It means we give up our self-cherishing egos, so that we may be free to give to others. It means we that we pay as much attention to how we live, and not only what we do and say.

But the beauty of this kind of life is that we have One Who has obligated Himself to us, to help us carry our crosses. He owed this debt to Simon of Cyrene, because Simon carried His Cross on behalf of us all. ‡‡

Therefore, my beloved Graduates:

Let this day of your Commencement be a day of beginning, of a return to the spiritual Galilee where you first encountered the Living Lord in your conscious awareness.

May the path you follow always be at one with the Way, the Ὁδός of the Lord.

May the Holy Cross always be before your eyes, so that your own path through life may be a Via Crucis, a Way of the Cross, that leads you from the many Golgothas of this world to the Garden Tomb. There you will find Eternal Life springing forth from the Rich Man’s grave, Who is, in truth, none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, Risen from the Dead and by far the richest Benefactor of humankind, worshipped together with His Eternal Father, and the All-Holy, Good, and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!

Christ is Risen!


* Matthew 28:10.

† Homily 59.

‡ Luke 9:23.

§ Matthew 11:29-30.

** Acts 20:35.

†† John 13:35.

‡‡ Cf. Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26.

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