His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Homily for the Service of the Paraklesis to the Theotokos
Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
Perth Amboy, New Jersey
August 11, 2021
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am very happy to be with you in Perth Amboy this evening, here in this precious Church of Saint Demetrios. Tonight, we lift up our voices to the Virgin Mother of God, and cry out to her:
Πρεσβεία θερμή, καὶ τεῖχος ἀπροσμάχητον,
ἐλέους πηγή, τοῦ κόσμου καταφύγιον…
A fervent prayer, and wall most unshakable
A merciful spring and shelter of all mankind…
These four attributes describe in great detail what we seek from the Most Holy Theotokos during these holy days of the Δεκαπενταύγουστος.
First, πρεσβεία θερμή. Her πρεσβεία is more than prayer. It is her advocacy, her petitioning on our behalf. In fact, it is her embassy to God for us, as she is our Ambassador to the Court of Heaven. And her advocacy is warm, fervent, urgent, and even heated! She will not broker anyone or anything to come against us ! She is the greatest defender of Christians, and she is unsleeping in her care for us.
We know that the devil himself is named “accuser,” or “Satan” in the Old Testament. He is called this because he comes against us in our minds and hearts. He wishes us to lose hope, to lose faith and, ultimately, to lose our love for one another and for God.
To answer this evil, then, which would try to drain us of our spiritual energy, we have our Panagia. She never ceases to intercede on our behalf. That is why we chant unto her in these holy days of the Fast of the Dormition. She defends each and every one of us, even when we condemn ourselves.
And remember, the Paraklesis is a service that can be used anytime, and indeed should be used when we feel oppressed by our own thoughts and feelings.
The Virgin Mother of God is also our τεῖχος ἀπροσμάχητον. Here in this beautiful Church, we are surrounded by walls adorned with the images of the Saints. They remind us that we have Heavenly Guardians who keep watch over our souls and bodies. But the Theotokos is herself a “wall unshakeable” around the entirety of the Church.
In Constantinople of old, which had peerless walls that were impenetrable for centuries, the Faithful always processed the Icon of the Virgin around these walls when they were under attack. This is because they knew that, even if the man-made walls were breached, the Faith would never be breached. For the Virgin is the invisible wall that surrounds the Church at all times and protects the Holy Faith.
Thirdly, the Theotokos is a fountain of mercy. Again, in Constantinople to this day, the sacred site of Ζωοδόχος Πηγή continues to flow and is a Shrine of the utmost importance. The Virgin is life-giving, because all life is a gift of mercy from God. It was from God’s merciful love that we have been created, and by that same mercy-filled love we have been redeemed. And whose love is the first and most important that any child knows? The mother’s love. Thus, even our Lord Jesus Christ learned of love in His Holy Mother’s bosom. That is why she is the wellspring of mercy for us all, because she had that role with her Son, and that part to play in our salvation.
Finally, we call her: τοῦ κόσμου καταφύγιον, a “shelter for all mankind.” But, more precisely, the Greek says: “refuge for the world.” The Virgin is that place where everyone can find shelter – spiritual, emotional and mental. She has a heart that is open to every human being, because she shared our nature, even as she freely and willingly shared that same nature with God, her Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
My beloved Christians,
In these final days of the Fast, let us earnestly pray to the Mother of God, acknowledging all her many benefits for our sake.
May she always be our Constant Advocate, our Wall of Protection, our Fountain of God’s many mercies, and our Mighty Refuge!