His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
HC/HC Paterexhortatory Graduation Address
May 21, 2022
Hellenic College Holy Cross
Your Eminences and Graces,
Members of the Board of Trustees,
Faculty and Administration, Clergy and Laity,
And most important of all, the Graduates of 2022,
Christ is Risen!
I am so happy to be here with you this week and this very special day, my second Hellenic College and Holy Cross graduation in person – but my first as Archbishop of America!
It was 2004, and I was teaching here for a semester. Who could have predicted at that time the tremendous obstacles and difficulties that would lie in wait for us, so many years later?
But you have persevered. You have triumphed. You dug in your heels, and all of you – Student, Faculty, and Administration, you were determined to complete your School Year, despite the pandemic.
None of us should underestimate the accomplishment that this Commencement Ceremony represents. In the midst of the greatest and most wide-spread societal challenge in living memory, this campus soldiered on. And you, the Graduates of 2022, are the sign of our victory in Christ.
* * *
My brief address today is traditionally called a “Paterexhortatory,” the affirming admonition of a father. But I have to tell you all, that seeing the accomplishments of our precious Σχολή – how you have all pulled together to bring stability, steadfastness, and security to this vital Institution of our National Church – you fill me with encouragement.
As your Archbishop and father in Christ, I stand here for the Eightieth Graduation of this School, in the Centennial Year of our Sacred Archdiocese, and I am filled with hope and excitement for the future of Orthodox Christianity here in the United States.
This is not to say that we do not have daunting challenges even now, or that the path ahead is smooth sailing. As Saint Isaac the Syrian says:
The path of God is a daily cross. No one has ascended into Heaven by means of ease….”1
But this place is dedicated to the Holy Cross. You have been enveloped by the teaching of the Cross all your years on this Hill. The Cross is the key to unlock every impenetrable door. The Cross is the ladder by which we can scale every unimaginable height.
There is nothing that you cannot do when your purpose is aligned with its Four Sacred Points. On the vertical axis, through the Cross you are united to God, Whose love is so great, that He would die upon dead wood in order to make it blossom for eternity with spiritual fruit. On the horizontal axis, this same love transforms your relationship to every creature. The Cross is our bridge to all of creation, spanning any difference to bring us into the lives of others through sacrificial love.
The Path of the Cross is an unending one. Like your studies here at Hellenic College and Holy Cross, they are the beginning of your education, which is a lifelong vocation.
Therefore, I exhort you to constantly aspire to a deeper and deeper understanding of your faith, and of your place in the world. God’s purposes are unchangeable, but can be revealed under any conditions. But it requires your vulnerability. Your willingness for the God of Revelation to reveal to you who you really are. Your readiness to be face to face with God, exposed to His brilliance and power, so that, as Saint Paul says:
… ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν δόξαν Κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν….
… with unveiled countenance, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory….2
My beloved Graduates, your families, and the Community of Hellenic College and Holy Cross:
Today is your day of commencement, and this campus is your point of embarkation. Your journey of faith continues, as your journey in life departs these shores. Like the Disciples in the boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, a storm will arise from time to time. But the Lord is always near, walking with us – even over the waves of the water, so that we might always arrive at our safe haven on the other shore.
As you go forward, make sure that your ship is always the Church of Christ. Your sail is the Holy Scripture. And your mast is the Holy Cross.
Thus, you will navigate the great ocean of this life with confidence, knowing that your conveyance in unsinkable, establishing all of you in faith unshakeable.
Christ is Risen!
Photos: GOA/D. Panagos