Homily By Archbishop Elpidophoros of America At the Vespers of the Feast of Saint Eleftherios the Hieromartyr Saint Eleftherios Greek Orthodox Church


By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

At the Vespers of the Feast of Saint Eleftherios the Hieromartyr

Saint Eleftherios Greek Orthodox Church

New York, New York

December 14, 2023

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

Returning to your wonderful community every year – a parish of historic significance in the life of our Sacred Archdiocese – is always a joy for me. The Holy and Great Hieromartyr Eleftherios, your Celestial Patron and intercessor before God, is one of the great Saints of our Church, especially for those in the clergy.

This remarkable Hieromartyr, and his holy mother, Anthia, exemplify the faith and fortitude of the early days of our Church, before the acceptance of our Faith in Christ by the Roman Empire. As many of you know, Saint Anthia had been a disciple of the Apostle Paul, during the days when he preached in Rome, before the great persecution by Nero.

Both son and mother represent a special relationship that in a mystical way, mirrors the relationship of our Lord Jesus Christ with his own Mother, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Eleftherios was the youngest man ever to be ordained – a truly remarkable occurrence in the life of the Church: a deacon at fifteen, a priest at eighteen, and a bishop at twenty.

And when the Lord chose to inhabit our world for our redemption and salvation, He came to us as an infant – vulnerable, small, even weak by comparison. But His youth did not invalidate His Divinity. Rather, it manifested it.

In like manner, the youth of Saint Eleftherios did not nullify his spiritual efficacy; in fact, it magnified it.

For you see, my friends – God works his mightiest of miracles often in the smallest ways. He chooses persons and situations that do not seem powerful and mighty, to accomplish His Divine Will.

How could a new-born Baby be worshipped as God Incarnate? Yet, that is exactly how we encounter the Lord at Christmastime. We are forced to look deeply into the mystery of life and death, and to shed our notions of power and glory. And we are compelled to see in humility, and even in poverty, the splendor and mightiness of God.

I am sure that it was the same for many of the flock of Saint Eleftherios. They looked at this young man, with barely a beard upon his chin, and they wondered how the Church could entrust him with their spiritual lives, especially in the risky atmosphere of the frequent persecutions of Christians. Yet, Saint Eleftherios proved to be a champion for the Faith, and a worthy spiritual Shepherd to his flock. He even turned the heart of Felix, the Roman Officer sent to arrest him, to the Gospel, and he joined the Saint in Rome with his mother Anthia, to face the unjust judgment of Emperor Hadrian.

There is an icon of the martyrdom of the Saint and his mother that is extremely touching, because it recalls the Panagia standing by the Cross of our Lord. Anthia is covering her son as the executioner wields his sword, and afterward, she received the same punishment. The sword that struck down her only son was like the sword that the Holy Theotokos received, prophesied by Symeon the Elder when the Lord was a mere Forty days old:

“Behold, this Child is laid down for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and as a sign of contradiction. And as for you, a sword will pass through your very soul, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”*

The grief of a mother witnessing the murder of her only child spans every generation and culture. Whether it is Saint Anthia, or the Panagia, their pain is presented to us empathetically, so that we would identify with the pain of others.

There is a freedom in this kind of acknowledgment, a still, small voice that whispers in our hearts. It reminds us that these sacrifices are not in vain. They are, in fact, miracles of faith and love, which inspire us to act with more mercy, forgiveness and compassion in the world.

Thus, my beloved Christians, Saint Eleftherios is true to his name – he demonstrates the path of spiritual freedom for us. And his holy mother, Anthia, whose name means “blossom,” manifests the power to bring forth such love in the world.

Through their holy intercessions, may we also find the freedom to give bloom to such virtues – of faith, hope and love – that we will truly be worthy of the gift of our lives, bestowed upon us by God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who is worshipped and glorified, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

A Merry Christmas to you all,

And a Happy and Healthy New Year of the grace of our Lord in 2024!


* Luke 2:34-35.


Photos: Ita A.

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