Archbishop Elpidophoros Homily at Great Vespers and Stavrophoria May 17, 2024

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros

Homily at Great Vespers and Stavrophoria

May 17, 2024

Hellenic College Holy Cross

Brookline, Massachusetts


Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord,

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!

Christ is Risen!


Tonight, my beloved Community of Hellenic College and Holy Cross, we begin in earnest our celebration for the Commencement Exercises of tomorrow. With this Vespers and Stavrophoria of the Graduates, here at the conclusion of the Second Week of Pentecostarion, the Week of our Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, as we chanted this evening in the Prosomoia of the Feast.

It seems to me most fitting that Commencement is falling during this week that highlights the Twin Thomas, and his struggle to come to fulness of faith in his Master. We all know that precious moment recorded in the Gospel, as he cries out “my Lord and my God” from the depths of his anguished soul. * It is his flash of recognition, when he suddenly beholds the Risen Jesus, the same One he vowed to die with.† And so the Twin becomes one and not two, one with his Lord, and one with himself.

For you who are now graduating and descending from this Hill of

Hope to enter the world at-large, and for you who remain here to teach and to learn, the Twin Thomas is an exemplar of the highest order.

His struggle to make sense of the confession of his fellow Disciples, with his own need for proof positive answers, manifests the profound spiritual and intellectual contest that always surrounds the dynamic between faith (πίστις), and knowledge (γνῶσις).

Here at our revered Σχολή, you have spent years integrating them, so as to achieve what Saint Paul would call “faith”: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.‡ But at the same time, the Apostle exhorts us to be enriched with knowledge; in fact, as he says in First Corinthians: ἐν πάσῃ γνώσει. §

But knowledge is not the same as information; as data and facts. True gnosis, as the Greeks have always understood it, is experiential! It is insight gained through encounter, through undergoing something transformative, something that changes you. And so, we return to our Twin, to be your final instructor on this night before your graduation. His declaration about his own need to experience the Risen One is as revealing, as it is dramatic:

Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and unless I put my finger into the wound of the nails, and I unless I stick my hand into His side, I will never believe! **

Thomas wanted to know! He wanted to experience the Resurrection for himself. Not just take it on the word of others … what some people would call “taking it on faith.”

As you leave this sanctuary of theology, and take up your own crosses to follow Christ, I hope you will remember this struggle of Thomas. I pray the cross you receive tonight reminds you that your word for others, your message, your faith, is not transferable just because you will it to be.

When we preach, when we teach, we are doing so to invite others to the experience of the Risen Lord – not to convince them. The other Disciples only said to Thomas: We have seen the Lord! †† They shared their experience in order to invite him into his own. And Thomas obliged by being as demanding as he could be!

But our Lord is merciful and long-suffering, and knows the hearts and reins of each and every one of us. ‡‡ Jesus led Thomas to faith through experience, through the insight demanded when He challenged him:

Bring your finger here and probe My hands. And take your hand and put it into My side. Doubt no more. Believe! §§

Such mercy! Such loving-kindness! Such love of the Creator for His creation! This is how we teach and preach. This is how we take the double, the Twin, and make him whole. This is how faith and knowledge come together, and experience is joined to belief, unto salvation and eternal life.

As we celebrate your accomplishments, and your Commencement

tomorrow, I pray that you will always remember Thomas in your dealings with others as they strive to live the Christian life. We can inspire others, educate and inform them, but ultimately, we have to invite them into the experience of our Lord Jesus Christ – Risen from the dead – for themselves.

Thus, we shall prove to be true Stavrophoroi – those willing to carry the cross of supreme love and to invite and welcome others into their own experience of our Loving God, Who is Risen from the dead.

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!

Photos: GOARCH/Dimitrios Panagos

Archbishop News