By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
At the Service of Great Vespers
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
November 19, 2022
Your Grace, beloved Brother in Christ, Bishop Apostolos of Medeia,
Dear Fathers and Brethren in the Lord,
Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Tonight, we rejoice with renewed enthusiasm at this Great Vespers, because we are also celebrating the fortieth anniversary of your parish, which is dedicated to the Most Holy Name of the Holy Trinity. We commence here with prayer, and we will continue afterward in the church hall with a festive meal and celebration.
Especially in this year of anniversaries – which includes the one hundredth anniversary of our Sacred Archdiocese as the premier Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – it is most important to mark the milestones of our communities. From coast to coast, I have had the great pleasure of sharing in the festivities of many parishes on the occasions of their anniversaries – whether one hundred, fifty, or even twenty. But the fortieth anniversary of your parish is a significant landmark – one that is filled with meaningful prototypes from Holy Scripture.
We all know about the wandering of the Israel of old in the desert for forty years.[*] But you are the New Israel, and these past forty years you have occupied the Promised Land of Salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
We also know, according to Scripture, that forty years is the time that it takes for a new generation to arise.[†] This is a very meaningful realization for your parish at this juncture. Since you commenced, a new generation has arisen in your midst, and another is about to. They are as much a part of the future of the community as the founders. And looking forward together with them is the way to grow and prosper as a community.
But the number “forty” is applied in Scripture to much more than just years. We know that our Lord fasted for forty days in preparation for His ministry.
The Lord also spent forty days with His Disciples after the Resurrection, preparing them for their mission to take the Gospel to all of creation. These instances show us that “forty” is a season of preparation for an even greater mission.
And that, my beloved Christians, is what I hope you will engage with in your fortieth anniversary as a parish. To look clearly and specifically at all that you have accomplished (and it is a great deal indeed!), and from this point, to take on an even greater mission.
It is one of the wonders of our faith, how at every moment and in every place – or as the prayer says in Greek: ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ καὶ πάσῃ ὥρᾳ – we have the opportunity to start anew and commence the work of God. The vision of God’s love and the mission of God’s Church is always available to us, if we are prepared to do the work.
Your parish has grown and flourished these last forty years. You struggled and were victorious. But now is not the time to rest on your laurels. Now is the time for you to be all the more urgent in your ministries – to those near and to those far, as the Apostle Paul advises. [‡]
A comprehensive vision of love for every member of this parish – from the babies brought up for Holy Communion, to the College Students who are away at school. From the elderly who reside in community homes and need outreach, to the Greek School students who are trying to connect their language and cultural experience to the Church.
Everybody matters in the Church. Everybody belongs in the Church. There are no strangers in the Church, only new sisters and brothers to discover.
Therefore, let us leave this prayer service here tonight, and let us recommit ourselves to fulfilling the ultimate mission of this Parish of the Holy Trinity – to be the incarnation of the love with which God creates, God redeems, and God sanctifies.
May it always be so. Amen.