Homily At the Great Vespers Service, Saint Demetrios Church, Seattle – Homilies

Homily of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

At the Service of Great Vespers

Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church

Seattle, Washington

September 24, 2022

Your Eminence and beloved Brother in Christ, Metropolitan Gerasimos,

Your Grace Monsignor John,

Reverend Fathers of the Holy Metropolis of San Francisco,

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord:

I am very happy to share this centennial celebration weekend with your parish and with the wider Orthodox community of Seattle. I must point out that your parish and the archdiocese are the same age! A hundred years of youth – each!

I say “young”, thinking of the wonderful phrase of the prophet Isaiah:

Ἔσται γὰρ ὀ νέος ἐκατὸν ἐτῶν…

For the young man will be a hundred years old…*

The same Prophet, who saw the sacrificial offering of the Suffering Servant, also had a vision of God’s future blessings in His loving restoration to the world. In this verse we see someone, a hundred years old, called “young!”

And that is how I hope you will see yourselves as a church community. In the light of God’s redemptive love, you are “a hundred years young”, that is to say, you are only at the beginning of your ministry and your mission, as Ekklesia of the Lord.

In saying this, we respectfully view the past – the contributions of your parents and grandparents, the physical and spiritual ancestors and ancestors of this parish – as the life force that has fueled you thus far. But what I would like to say to you is this: do not rely on their laurels.

Νῦν ὁ καιρός! Now is the time for you to engage in the mission they have entrusted to you with even more vigor and commitment.

We are celebrating Vespers tonight. This beautiful serve is often seen as signaling the end of the day. But in fact, it’s the beginning of the next day. For as Scripture says:

And the evening and the morning were the first Day.

We mark the beginning of a new day of God’s providential love for the world with the oldest and most beautiful Hymn of Vespers, Φῶς Ἱλαρόν. We sing :

O Joyous Light of the holy glory of the immortal Father, the heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ. Now that we have reached sunset and see the evening light, we sing to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is appropriate, at all times, to praise you with a joyful voice, O Son of God, who gives life. Behold, the world sings your glory.

Vespers offers us such a magnificent image to behold. “Now that we have reached sunset and see the evening light…”

You see, my beloved friends, the sunset reveals the Evening Light – the eternal Light that we proclaim at Easter when we shout victoriously:

Δεῦτε λάβετε φῶς, ἐκ τοῦ ἀνεσπέρου Φωτός….

This hundredth anniversary of your wonderful parish is a time of beginning – and certainly not a time of conclusion!

The “evening light” that these vespers recognize is “the true light that enlightens everyone who comes into this world”. In this light you will proceed as a community of believers, a community of love and compassion, for the next hundred years. Your children’s children will know your works. For just as you built on the foundation that was laid for you, they will build on the foundation that you lay for them – Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.§

This is why we raise our voices in unison to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And that is why it is appropriate at all times to praise with a joyful voice the Son of God, the Giver of life.

This is why, my dear Christians of this precious parish of Saint Demetrios,

Celebrate this holy anniversary with pride and gratitude – especially among the men and women, and clergy, who have served this parish for the past hundred years.

Recognize that the light of Christ is within each of you and it will shine as brightly as you allow it and cultivate it.

Evening and morning were the first day.

But there are still so many days to come!

Through the intercession of the Great Martyr and Bearer of Myrrh Demetrios, whose Holy Name adorns your Church and whose martyric presence eclipses your lives.

Amen.

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