His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Homily on the Feast of Saint Gregory the Theologian
January 25, 2020
Saint George Orthodox Cathedral
Daly City, California
Beloved Clergy and Faithful of the Vicariate,
Today my heart is overwhelmed with joy as I stand in your presence – in this Cathedral of Saint George – and behold your faces beaming with the love of God and the faithfulness that you demonstrate as a community of believers. This Vicariate, under our Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate and Archdiocese is a true success story of Orthodox Christianity in America: a shining example of how tradition, culture, language, and spiritual heritage all live together, nurturing and nourishing each other in a dialogue of love, peace, and faith.
By your determination and your resolve, you have kept faith with the Mother Church of Jerusalem. You have remembered and honored the well-springs of belief that you inherited from the lands of Palestine and Jordan. And have been shown to be the most loyal children of your Mother Church of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarchate which loves and cherishes you as a most precious community of believers here in the United States. You have even gone beyond the borders of language and culture to embrace many converts to Orthodoxy – both clergy and laity. This is a great and wondrous testimony to your strength of purpose and commitment to our Holy Orthodox Faith, a commitment that I can plainly see you are passing down to the future generations in the faces of your beloved and precious children.
Therefore, what better day for my first visit with you, and the solemn liturgical celebration of our kinship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, than this Feast of a truly remarkable Archbishop of Constantinople, Saint Gregory Nazianzen, whom the Church calls “Theologian”. Although his own ecclesiastical life was difficult and filled with many political and social challenges, he overcame them all and achieved the vision of God that, to this day, informs us how to speak about God – what is called “theology” – how we understand God in Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God.
And you, my beloved children in the Lord, are accomplishing the same achievements as this great Saint every day as you live your Orthodox Faith. Whenever and wherever human beings gather in any organized way, there will always be questions and challenges. This is only natural. What is supernatural is our ability, through the love of God the Father, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the operation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, to rise above the small differences and see a vision of the magnificent love of God that He has for every creature.
This is what Saint Gregory the Theologian did, even as he suffered many indignities and injustices. He overcame every obstacle to preserve and uphold the Faith, and in so doing became a permanent star in the heavenly constellation of the Saints. We call this constellation “The Three Hierarchs” – whose own Feast-day comes in just five days, when, with the other shining stars of Basil the great and John Chrysostom, the Church celebrates the luminaries who enlighten our path.
And so you also, my beloved brothers and sisters, are also called to be a Divine constellation in the celestial firmament: a constellation of God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, and God’s compassion. Like the stars in the night sky, you all shine with a differing glow – some brighter, some farther, some closer – but all of you stand in relation to one another. Together you manifest a pattern of all those elements of the Faith I mentioned before: tradition, culture, language, and spiritual heritage. You are all part of the picture of this precious Vicariate, and indeed of the whole Body of the Church. That is the inner beauty of the Church, that we are all members of one another, as Saint Paul writes to the Romans (12:5).
Therefore, I rejoice with you this day and I shall carry the memory of our communion in the Holy Spirit with me long after I leave. I pray that you also will remember my paternal words to you, and look upon one another with love, and see the brightness in each other, knowing that God Himself has placed you together into this venerable and honorable Vicariate like the stars in heaven, and that together with your esteemed clergy, you are the Church, the Body of Christ, the Chosen and Elect of the Household of God.
May God always keep you and your families in His perfect peace and harmony. Amen.