His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Homily for the Divine Liturgy
September 24, 2023
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Charlotte, North Carolina
Your Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios, Dear Brother in the Lord,
Beloved Brothers, Metropolitan Gregory of Nyssa and
Metropolitan Dimitrios of Xanthos,
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
To be gathered in this magnificent Cathedral for the celebration of the Holy Liturgy, is the perfect consummation of your Centennial Celebration. For the Eucharist is where we offer our most profound thanks unto God, for all the blessings that he has bestowed upon us.
One Hundred Years of blessings! Through all the lives that have passed through these sacred doors. The Deacons cry out: Τὰς Θύρας! Τὰς Θύρας! And my mind and heart turn to all the Liturgies, Baptisms, Marriages, Chrismations, Funerals, Holy Weeks, and all the prayerful, worshipful moments of this blesséd Charlotte Community. For all of these in the past – for today’s service – and for all the prayers to come – we say: Ἐν Σοφίᾳ Πρόσχομεν!
Let us attend always to our worship, and offer our very best to God.
Let us attend to the Message – the λόγος – the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that our actions match our words.
And let us attend to the mission of the Church, to bring the Gospel of
Redemption and Salvation to every creature, as the Lord enjoined His Disciples.*
In today’s Gospel, we see the beginning of that mission, in the calling of the Fishermen, Peter, Iakovos, and John, by the Sea of Galilee. The Lord commandeered Simon Peter’s fishing vessel to deliver his divine Message. What a wonderful image this is of the Church, for upon the sea of life, the Church is an ark of salvific teaching, to all those who are willing to listen.
It is remarkable that the Gospel does not tell us what our Lord said on that particular day, but it must have been stunning for Peter to be sitting in his boat, and listening to this young Rabbi from Galilee as He spoke to the multitudes. Sometimes our faith is not just about the words, but about their deeper meaning in our hearts and minds.
We have all been on a placid lake when someone says something offshore, and we marvel at how clear their voice is. How our Lord’s voice must have carried over the waters that day to find the hearing of each and every one! As it says in the Psalms:
“The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory has thundered; the Lord is upon the many waters.” †
I can even imagine the fish of the sea responding to His call, for as we shall see, they do suddenly appear in the story.
Indeed, my beloved Christians, we do not know what the Lord Jesus said that day, but it clearly inspired something deep in Peter’s inmost being. For this is what happened next:
When Jesus finished speaking, He said to Simon Peter, “Launch out into the deep and cast out your nets for a catch!” Peter responded by saying to Him, “Rabbi, we worked all night long and didn’t catch a thing! But, at Your word ... I’ll throw out the net!” ‡
We know the rest of the story. And it does seem that the fish were listening to their Creator as well, for the catch was so great, that the nets began to tear, and the boats began to sink! The Greek original says the following about the reaction of these good fishermen:
Θάμβος γὰρ περιέσχεν αὐτὸν καὶ πάντας τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ.
Astonishment – even bewilderment – seized Peter and all his companions. §
They could not believe their eyes! And Peter was overcome with guilt and shame. For he did not yet understand the redemptive mercy of God.
But our Lord is always gentle, even when confronts and reproves us. He transformed them in that moment, Peter, Iakovos, and his little brother John – from “fishermen” to “Fishers of Men” – every man, woman, and child!
Therefore, as you – the Faithful of the Charlotte Cathedral of the Holy Trinity – enter your second Century, I commend you to the message of this Gospel Reading.
Attend with your hearing, your inmost desire, to what God is speaking to you. Ἐν Σοφίᾳ Πρόσχομεν.
Be prepared for God’s most abundant blessing to continue shower over your lives, like those fish that nearly sank the boats and ruined the nets.
And through your actions, your words, and your intentions, draw others into your nets of love and into the safety of your glorious boat here in Charlotte – the ark of salvation, our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church.
May the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – bless and keep you in the knowledge and love of God; now and forever, and unto the ages of ages.
* Cf. Mark 16:15.
† Psalm 28:3 (LXX).
‡ Luke 5:4-5.
§ Luke 5:9.
Photos: Helen McGinnis