His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Homily for the Divine Liturgy of the Ascension

Greek Orthodox Church of our Savior

Rye, New York

June 10, 2021

Your Grace(s) and dear Fathers,

Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I am so very pleased that we have come together as servants of our Sacred Archdiocese, here at the Church of our Savior in Rye. We have gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to partake of our annual fellowship with co-workers and their families.

Indeed, we have faced tremendous difficulties through this era of the pandemic, and I want to take this moment to express my personal gratitude to each and every one of you, for your faithful and diligent service in these trying days, weeks and months. Without your steadfast dedication to ministry and your unwavering commitment to the smooth operation of the Archdiocese, we would not have arrived at the good turning point where we presently find ourselves today.

All of you have risen to the challenge – and even ascended, if I may use the word on this day of the Lord’s Ascension. And I do use it purposely, because we are called by our Lord to rise and even exceed every threshold in our vocation of service to one another in His Holy Church. What a worthy thought to hold in our hearts on this the eve of the Patronal Feast of our beloved Ecumenical Patriarch, under whose leadership we all serve!

The Lord’s οἰκονομία for our sake – His Divine Plan of Salvation – did not conclude with the Resurrection, which came inexorably after His Passion, Death in the flesh and Burial. No, the story did not end there.

Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into the Heavens, so that the Holy Spirit would descend and spread throughout the world. Through the Church – which is the Body of Christ – the Holy Spirit infuses the material world with the Divine Presence. And that Presence is found in us, as stewards of creation. After all, we are the ongoing incarnation of God in this world; for we are flesh of His flesh, and we carry the Divine Spark through Baptism in our souls.

Therefore, my dear Brethren in Christ, how do we participate in both the Ascent of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Descent of the Holy Spirit?

Look around you right now! Behold this magnificent Church of our Savior. Everywhere you turn, the glory of the heavenly places is represented. In the Divine Liturgy, as well as in all the Services of the Church, we pass through the liminal point that leads into Heaven. As the Evangelist John says in the Revelation: “I looked up and behold: A portal opened in Heaven.” [*]

Every time we participate in the Mysteries of the Church, we enter into the celestial places, which the Lord entered on the Day of His Ascension.

“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are reflections of the true reality; but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”[†]

If you understand this saying of the Apostle, then you understand how it is that – through His Ascension – our Lord opened the realities of the Divine life to us.

And as it is with the Ascent of the Son of God, so it is also with the Descent of the Spirit. The Spirit actualizes these realities in our hearts, by filling us with the presence of God.

And what are the signs of that presence? Nothing less than the very characteristics of God, as manifest by the Lord in His earthly existence. We can ask ourselves, then:

Did the Lord come to be served, or to serve?

Did the Lord come to stand in judgment over others, or to show mercy and compassion?

Did the Lord come to bear a grudge and hold resentments, or to forgive?

Did the Lord come to withhold His grace, or to give without measure?

And finally, did the Lord come to sow division, dissension and discord, or to love unconditionally?

My dear friends: We all know the answers. But we can only enact these answers when we practice what we preach. And whatever lacks within our persons and personalities, can always be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Just as at an ordination of a clergyman, we pray for ‘divine grace to heal that which is infirm, and complete that which is lacking.’ We always have recourse to the “Throne of Grace” in Heaven to accomplish our ministry on earth.

Therefore, let our fellowship here today be reflective of this celestial Liturgy. And let our ministry to all those in our Sacred Archdiocese be marked by the grace, mercy and love that are the manifestations of the Spirit – again, as the Apostle says:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. [‡]

Indeed, let this be our aspiration and means of ascent to a heavenly life on earth and a divine ministry in the Church. Let us apply ourselves as individuals and as the community of the Archdiocese. And thus, we shall be worthy of the Visitation of His All-Holiness that is coming in the Fall of this year, and of the vocation that God has placed in our hands.

Through the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God and of all the Saints. Amen.

[*] Revelation 4:1.

[†] Hebrews 9:24.

[‡] Galatians 5:22.