Archbishop Elpidophoros Homily for the Great Vespers of Ss. Constantine & Helen May 20, 2024

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros

Homily for the Great Vespers of Ss. Constantine & Helen

May 20, 2024

Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church

Brooklyn, New York


Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord,

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη! 

Christ is Risen!

Tonight, my beloved Christians, we commence our annual celebration for the Feast of your Celestial Patrons, the Equals-to-the-Apostles, Saints Constantine and Helen.

The former saw the fiery Cross in the heavens, and by the sign of this Cross, conquered in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The latter was blessed to uncover the very same Cross upon earth, and to grant this great and holy Relic to posterity, for the healing and the salvation of souls.

Tonight, I want you to think about the mother and the son we celebrate, the God-crowned Constantine and Helen. They are inseparable; the Christian roman Empire came through the son, but the son came through the mother.

The cross of Constantine became the inspiration for the Chi-Ro upon his imperial standards, thus becoming the model of the Byzantine Theocracy that lasted more than a thousand years. Our beloved and most holy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is the continuation of that deeply religious commonwealth, and serves the entire human family by precisely and solely spiritual means.

The Holy Relic of the True Cross discovered by Saint Helen became the crossbeam upon which the Shrines and Temples of the Holy Land were founded, which themselves became the waystations to innumerable pilgrims. To this day, for every pilgrim making their προσκύνημα in these sacred precincts, the presence of Saint Helen remains as a towering figure that has made the holy places which our Lord Jesus Christ traversed available and accessible.

Therefore, beloved Christians: Take a look at the cross that you wear as a baptized Orthodox Christian. Decide how you are going to wear the cross. Will you accept it as the binding truth of your life in every aspect? In the cultural sea in which we swim? The political tides in which we are roiled? The social ocean that encompasses ever living person? Can you place the Cross atop all your concerns, even as It crowned the Holy Hill of Golgotha where our Lord was crucified.

As we sing at its Holy Exaltation, which marks it discovery:

Σταυρός, ὁ φύλαξ πάσης τῆς οἰκουμένης·

Σταυρός, ἡ ὡραιότης τῆς Ἐκκλησίας,

Σταυρός, Βασιλέων τὸ κραταίωμα

Σταυρός, Πιστῶν τὸ στήριγμα·

Σταυρός, Ἀγγέλων ἡ δόξα, καὶ τῶν δαιμόνων τὸ τραῦμα.*

There is no greater teacher, no greater master, no greater pastor for your life. The Cross is the guardian of the whole world; and it is the guardian of your souls.

The Cross is the beauty of the Church, and there is nothing more beautiful in a human being than their transformation by the Cross of Christ.

The Cross is the strength of kings. Saint Helen knew this. Saint Constantine knew this, and although we have no more kings, the Cross is the pillar by which all governments are measured: in terms of mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and ultimately, love.

The Cross is the support of the faithful. It is the one tree that will never be toppled by the squalls and storms of life.

The Cross is the glory of the Angels, and the defeat of the demons. For the Angels marvel at how such an instrument of suffering and death could be the ladder to eternal life, and the demons tremble at its presence. The sign of the Cross can repel legions of devils.

Therefore, my beloved Christians:

Take up the Cross tonight as did Saints Constantine and Helen. Let it shine in the heavens of your mind’s eye at all times.

And let it ground you in the reality of our salvation in Christ, Who is Risen from the dead, through the power of the Holy and Life-giving Cross.

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!

* Exaposteilarion of the Feast of the Exaltation

Photo: GOARCH/Dimitrios Panagos

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