His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America - Address to Sub-Deacon Avrilios Mandoras at His Diaconal Ordination

© Photo Credit: GOARCH / Dimitrios S. Panagos

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Address to Sub-Deacon Avrilios Mandoras at His Diaconal Ordination

March 25, 2023

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

New York, New York


Beloved Sub-deacon Avrilios,

On this magnificent Feast, before the Holy Altar of this Temple dedicated to the Annunciation of the Theotokos, you stand, as if it were, in presence of the Archangel Gabriel.

Now, you await the Angelic invitation to come under the shadow of the Holy Spirit, and to receive the ministry of Christ in your heart, as the Virgin once received the Incarnate Lord in her womb.

You come on this day of the Virgin, to consecrate your life to the path that she chose, the path that brought forth our Lord Jesus Christ into the world. First as a little infant, then as a child, then as a full-grown man.

You must understand, Dear Avrilios, there are stages to the development of ministry in the Church of God, just as there were stages of His development in the world.

Today, you commence with the Diaconate, which imitates the ministry of the Bodiless Powers. For just as the Angels are ‘ministering spirits,’* so the Deacons of the Church are helpful ministers of the Liturgy.

You will perform no Sacraments as a Deacon. There are no blessings to give, or consecrations to enact. Yours is the role of helper, of a server at the Table of the Lord.

I, myself, spent many years as a Deacon at the Phanar, and I would not trade that experience for anything. It was a time of learning, a time of helping. It was a time experiencing in own’s own daily routine and practice the fulness of the Theotokos’ servanthood, when she said:

Ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη Κυρίου· γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου.

“Behold! the handmaid of the Lord! May the word that you have spoken happen to me.” ‡

I pray that your time as Deacon may be as fruitful and rewarding for you as it was for me. So often, because of pastoral pressures, Deacons last only for a day, a week, or a month – and then the Presbyter ordination arrives. But I truly believe that there is wholeness in the ministry of the Deacon – a truly Apostolic Office – that is worthy of a good duration.

Today, beloved Avrilios, on this wondrous day of the Annunciation, God becomes a human being, as Saint Paul elucidates in Philippians:

καἰ σχήματι εὑρεθεἰς ὡς ἄνθρωπος.

And He is found in human configuration. §

So what is required of you, as you take on this ministry of a Deacon? What σχῆμα do you aspire to?

I pray that your σχῆμα will always be the configuration of the Divine Spirit, Who molds us, as we allow ourselves to be nurtured by the waters of truth. Clay that is moist is pliable, and can take on the shape that the Divine Potter encourages. But clay that is dry and brittle cracks under the least amount of pressure. That is why the ‘waters that spring up unto eternal life,’ as the Lord told the Samaritan Woman, are needed. To keep us flexible. To give us a plasticity of soul that – far from making us weak – makes us strong. It is the tree that bends in the wind that survives the hurricane.

To have this underlying suppleness of spirit is a way tapping into the very Energies of God, that the Saint of Thessaloniki – whom you know so well – understood among the Hesychastic Fathers.

On this Day of the Annunciation, the Lord found Himself in human σχῆμα, which He received from His Mother. Today, you begin to find yourself in the σχῆμα of the Divine, which you receive from the Mother Church of Constantinople. Your inner transformation will be slow – over the course of your lifetime, which we pray will be long and fruitful.

The Lord Jesus mastered every aspect of our human condition in three short decades. If you might master only one aspect of the Divine Life in God, you might say with Abbot Pambo, who was trying to master a single verse of the Psalms:

“In all of nineteen years,” the Saint of God said, “I have only just now succeeded in accomplishing it.” **

Therefore, Beloved Sub-deacon Avrilios:

Enter into this joy of the Lord, where your service will imitate the Angels, and even excel them, as hard is that is to believe, and especially on this day of the Annunciation. Because, as the Apostle Peter says, we minister in “things which Angels desire to look into.” ††

Fear not as you enter on the journey of transformation.

“Αὔτη ἡ ἀλλοίωσις τῆς δεξιᾶς τοῦ Ὑψίστου.”

“This change has been wrought by the right hand of the Most High.”


* Cf. Psalm 103:5.

† Cf. Acts 6:2.

‡ Luke 1:38

§ Philippians 2:7.

** Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus, Book IV, Chapter 23

†† I Peter 1:12.

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