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Eulogy for Vasilios “Bill” Papazafiropoulos

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Eulogy for Vasilios “Bill” Papazafiropoulos

Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Astoria, New York

June 9, 2021

 

Dear Fathers, Nektarios and Panagiotis,

Beloved daughter, Joanne,

Esteemed family and grandchildren, Mariana and Demetri,

Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord,

 

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!          [and in response: Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!]

Christ is Risen!            [and in response: Truly He is Risen!]

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!          [and in response: Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!]

 

We have come together today, in this beloved Cathedral of Saint Demetrios, to bid God-speed to a remarkable man – a father, grandfather, pious Christian and proud Hellene.

We gather as a family – and as an Archdiocese family – to honor a man who offered two sons to the Priesthood and to the service of the Church.

Saying goodbye to Vasilios, who was known as “Bill” by so many, is not made any easier by the number of his years, or his struggle with illness.

In fact, I feel that old age – while satisfying the desire to see those we love live a long life – makes the parting even harder, because our lives have been so filled with their presence. And Vasilios was a powerful and loving force not only to his children and grandchildren, but to so many in our community; that even if we tried, we could not count them.

Like his beloved Aspasia, who was called home two years ago to the day, and whose loving presence is equally missed, Vasilios was not only a pillar of the community, but the very bedrock upon which the community was built.

He came to this country in the aftermath of two wars – World War Two and the Greek Civil War. He witnessed firsthand what violence and hatred wrought in the world. I am not surprised that both of his sons entered the clergy, where we fight the good fight with the “Weapon of Peace,” the Holy Cross of the Lord.

And as for his courage in the face of illness? None of us can ever know the manifestation of God that happens deep within a soul of someone who struggles with illness. But this much is certain: like gold refined in the fire of the encounter with one’s own mortality, the purity of this preparation for entering the next world cannot be overstated.

By the mercy of God, all the dross of this life is burned away. On the exterior, we see only the weakness and the fragility. But in the inner person, there is a newness that is born of faith in the crucible of suffering.

As the soul draws closer to living in the direct and brilliant light of Christ, whatever was left of imperfections begins to vanish like smoke and melt as wax in the presence of God’s living flame of love. As we chant on the Holy Night of Pascha:

Ὡς ἐκλείπει καπνός, ἐκλιπέτωσαν, ὡς τήκεται κηρὸς ἀπὀ προσώπου πυρός.

Thus, today seems to be a most perfect day to commit Vasilios to the kingdom of heaven. For today is the Fortieth Day after the Lord’s Resurrection, and our service today is like that of Bright Week – completely Resurrectional in nature.

We bid farewell to Vasilios,

in the hope of the resurrection,

with the faith of the resurrection,

and declaring the resurrection.

There is grief and mourning in this moment, but there is the affirmation of our faith.

There is absence and loss; but how could there not be? Vasilios was a larger than life personality and the very essence of magnanimity – which means to be a “great soul.”

But his greatness lives on in you, his children and grandchildren. It lives on in the memories and stories shared by family and friends. It lives on, because he lives on, by the Resurrection of Christ.

May you all receive comfort and solace from the knowledge that he and his beloved Aspasia are together again, because they are together in Christ.

May you remember him with a tear and a smile – a tear to acknowledge your pain and loss, and a smile for all the joy you knew.

And may you also know God’s peace – the peace that surpasses all human understanding – and remain firm in the hope of the resurrection that we boldly proclaim today.

Therefore, my beloved fathers and dear friends, let us pray that the soul of the devoted servant of God, Vasilios, may now rest with his beloved Aspasia in the bosom of Abraham, in the mansions of the Saints and in the tabernacles of the righteous.

May his memory be eternal.

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! [Ἀληθῶς Ἀνέστη!]


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