His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Homily for the Vespers of the Dormition
Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church
Southampton, New York
August 14, 2021
Beloved in Christ,
As I stand here tonight with all of you, under this magnificent dome, in this Church of exquisite beauty and deep theology, I cannot help but call to mind a verse from a Psalm of David. He speaks of the Mother God as the “daughter of the King.” And this is because the Prophet David sings her praises before the Incarnation and her holy Motherhood, and even before her betrothal to God, when she was received into the Temple of the Lord at the tender age of three.
Remember, my dear Christians, that at the moment of the Incarnation, the Holy Virgin Mary – this teenaged girl who was yet a woman – was at one and the same moment:
The Daughter of God;
The Bride of God;
And the Mother of God!
No wonder that the hymns of this Great Vespers cry out:
Ὢ τοῦ παραδόξου θαύματος!
What a strange and marvelous wonder! [*]
But to return to the mystery of the Virgin’s relationship to God, as exclaimed by the Prophet David and witnessed in the beauty of this church in Southampton, the Psalmist says:
All the glory of the daughter of the King is within…
Πᾶσα ἡ δόξα τῆς θυγατρὸς τοῦ Βασιλέως ἔσωθεν…[†]
What a truth and a reality for this very Temple in which we pray. Yes, the architecture of your Church is wonderfully inspired by the greatest model of our Church, Hagia Sophia. But the glory is within. The story is within. The λόγος of the Church, her message and, indeed, her Good News is within.
This is why the Virgin is the par excellence model of the Church, because her glory and beauty are inside, wrapped in godly virtues:
Like mercy, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, fidelity and, above all, love.
All the glory and beauty that we behold in the adornments of your Church – the holy icons and carved embellishments of the liturgical furnishings – are designed to reflect the inner beauty of heart and soul that the Virgin exemplifies. Together with the comeliness and grace that we are called to as well.
Therefore, my dear sisters and brothers,
I invite you to a new experience of this magnificent edifice that you have built, under the guidance and wise counsel of Father Alex and Father Constantine, as well as the Committee of your fellow parishioners.
They selected a world-class expert to help you prepare the vision of this temple – His Grace Bishop Joachim of Amissos, who is presently guiding the reconstruction of Saint Nicholas National Shrine. And you chose an extraordinary iconographer, too, our dear friend, George Philippakis, to execute this vision.
But it is all of you who bring this glory to life, by the very living of its message! Every icon tells a story. Every image in this Church, each a visual feast for the eyes, is designed to nourish your souls. And from this spiritual sustenance, we are called to grow into living icons of God, who exemplify and practice all the virtues of the Holy Virgin. And just like her, this cultivation is within our hearts, our minds and our deepest selves.
Thus, my friends, the story of our lives becomes like hers – redemptive, salvific, and inclusive of others and their needs. She gave the greatest gift ever received by the human family: God enfleshed in human nature. And because of her faithfulness and her love as a Mother, now she reigns in Heaven, a celestial Queen and Advocate for us all.
For the Theotokos accomplishes great things for those who will follow in her ways of love and compassion. As the Psalm concludes:
“Those who follow after her shall be brought unto the King,
those near her shall be brought unto You [O God].
They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing,
they shall be brought into the Temple of the King.” [‡]
May it always be so for all of you, too, my dear friends.
May you always enter into this earthly Temple with gladness and rejoicing, that you may one day enter into the Heavenly Temple of our King and our God, to live with our Panagia and Her Son throughout eternity.