August 8, 2020
Holy Trinity Archdiocesan Greek Orthodox Cathedral
New York, New York
My beloved Archdeacon Eleftherios,
Today, in the presence of the Angels and all the Saints, in the presence of your Levitical family – your father and mother who are devoted servants of the Church, your brothers and sisters, in whose company you first learned the truth of Christ,
In the presence of Hierarchs, Priests, and Deacons with whom you have ministered,
But most importantly, in the presence of our High Priest the Lord Jesus Christ – you ascend to the λειτουργία of presbyter.
As all ordinations to every rank of the one and holy Priesthood of Melchizedek – in which we share by the grace of the Holy Spirit – you receive this blessing bowing down before the Holy Altar, as human hands convey this Apostolic ministry.
My beloved Archdeacon, always hold in your mind and heart the place where you receive this grace, for it is the the holy Τόπος from which every aspect of your priesthood emanates.
The Altar is our foundation, the Cornerstone and Fountainhead that is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, from Whom every blessing flows.
The Alpha and the Omega of your ministry in the Church is before the Altar. Even the most mundane task of everyday life is surrounded in light by our connection to the Altar. For it is on the Altar that the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist unfolds before our eyes, in order to enlighten our souls.
Here, in simplicity of heart, everything you need to know is revealed. All your preparation, all your education, all your guides and mentors who are with us today – they all fade before the direct experience of God. For in the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, we call upon fire that mystically ignites upon the Altar and transforms bread and wine into the Divine Body and Blood – even as it once ignited upon the Altar of Stones built by the Prophet Elias – to recall the People of Israel back to the Lord their God.[*]
But our sacrifice far exceeds any of those offered under the Old Covenant. For we offer the One Who Offers. We present on the Altar the One Who presented our Humanity – divinized and perfect – to the Father of Lights in the Heavenly Tabernacle. Thus, it says in the Epistle to the Hebrews that we have
… boldness to enter into the Sanctuary by the Blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, which is His flesh.[†]
Therefore, my beloved Archdeacon, in ascending into the Priesthood of Christ, the Divine Liturgy that you will celebrate is the same Liturgy as is celebrated in Heaven, and the same Liturgy as was first remembered in the Mystical Supper, on the night in which the Lord Jesus gave Himself up for the life of the world.
As you stand here, before this community of love and memory, your beloved wife and children, your dear mother and father, each member of your family, your friends, your co-workers in Christ – all of us hold you deeply in prayer. Each of us has a special feeling and thought about you at this wondrous and sacred moment.
Let me share with you my thoughts. For I have held you dear this past year, as you have labored through very difficult times to serve me as your Archbishop. And as my Archdeacon, you have ministered in a way that is more personal and closer than most.
You are yet a young man, with a long life before you. You will be taking on heavier responsibilities now, even as you take upon your neck the yoke of service that is the ἐπιτραχήλιον of a priest. You will have many challenges and numerous opportunities. And you will be entrusted with much. Therefore, I commend unto you the same counsel that the Apostle Paul gave to his spiritual son, Timothy. He wrote to him:
Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Train yourself for godliness; as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
And let no one disregard you for your youth, but be an example to the faithful in your speech, in your conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.
Do not neglect the gift you have.[‡]
My dear and much beloved Archdeacon Eleftherios,
You have been given many gifts. Just look around at your family and friends, the Hierarchs, Priests, and Deacons who are praying with us. They did not come about by accident. God has called you. God has equipped you for ministry. And in this ἂσκησιςdevoted to godliness, you must never waver, you must never falter, and you must never despair.
God is our only hope, our only refuge, and our only sure and certain helper. And He will help you fulfill your high calling in Christ, which has brought you to the steps of this Altar, where you will receive blesséd grace and spiritual fortitude.
So now, my dear spiritual son, come forward in faith, in love, and in awe of God to embrace your λειτουργία of faith, of love, and of the awesome mystery of God’s Divine and Holy Presence in the world, as a Priest of our Holy Orthodox Church.