His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Homily at Great Vespers and Stavrophoria
May 17, 2023
Hellenic College Holy Cross
Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Christ,
Christ is Risen!
Tonight we adorn our celebrations for the Commencement of our precious Σχολή, with the awarding of Alumni Crosses to those observing their tenth, twenty-fifth, and fiftieth anniversaries of graduation. It truly is a moment when we see the march of the “long black line” of clergy and lay leaders who have emerged from the School with distinction and with their own distinctiveness.
We are very proud of Hellenic College and Holy Cross, for together they form the Seminary for our Nationwide Church. If you examine the word itself, a Seminary is like a nursery for plants – a place where seedlings are nurtured and prepared for planting elsewhere.
The same is true of this institution. You come here to be nourished, to be cultivated as Orthodox Christians for service in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. But this is not where you are ultimately planted. All of our alumni here tonight could share stores of their own adventures.
For here, on this Hill of Hope, we prepare you for ministry, and for the building up of the Body of Christ. To achieve the level of preparation that is needed, we follow the model that the Apostle Paul speaks of in his First Epistle to the Corinthians:
It is not the one who plants, nor the one who waters, but it is God, Who gives the increase! *
All of us here tonight have our own inclinations and predilections – tastes, if you will – for certain aspects of our Holy Orthodox Faith. For some, it is the aesthetics of music and form. For others, it is certain Fathers and Saints. For still others, it is the canonical or the liturgical tradition.
All of these are incubated here at Hellenic College and Holy Cross. They are tended by your professors and they are enshrined in the tremendous resources of the School, particularly its Library, named for the ever-memorable Archbishop Iakovos. The Library is like a great greenhouse with every planting of the Orthodox Tradition blossoming in the pages of its wonderful collections. Thinking of all the wondrous harvests that are possible because God gives the increase, I recall the creation on the Third Day, spoken of in the Book of Genesis:
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth”: and it was so. … and God saw that it was good. †
All of you have come here to do the work necessary to be equipped for the work of ministry, for the edification of the Body of Christ, until we all arrive at the unity of the Faith and the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. ‡ And it is from this nursery of faith and teaching, you are prepared to go forth into the world in the Holy Name of our Savior, bearing the fruits of each. But the one planting that is always the same for all of you, is the Tree of the Cross.
The Cross is the Tree of Life – or perhaps better, the Tree of New Life. The Cross unites us vertically to our God and horizontally to one another. It is the latticework upon which the True Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ, brings forth abundant fruit, as He promised:
“I Am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. He removes every branch in Me that bears no fruit, but He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it may bring forth even more fruit.” §
My beloved Christians: This is why we wear the icon of the Cross of Christ. This is why we encourage our graduates with the Cross. To remind us of the fruits that we are called upon to manifest in our loves and in our ministries. May we always be found worthy of this Cross, and find ourselves in the marvelous harvests that God has prepared for us to reap. Knowing that indeed, one plants, another waters, but it is God Who give us the increase. Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!
* I Corinthians 3:7.
† Genesis 1:11,12.
‡ Ephesian 4:12-13.
§ John 15:1-2.