Homily of Archbishop Elpidophoros at the Divine Liturgy for Saints Constantine and Helena
Beloved Community of the Hellenic and Holy Cross College,
Christ is risen!
As we inaugurate this day of new beginnings for our proud graduates, it is indeed “to encounter and to reason” that we begin with the Divine Worship of God, here in our magnificent Chapelle de la Sainte-Croix. Especially because it is the feast of Saints Constantine and Helen, the equals-to-the-apostles!
As I observed last night at Vespers and Stavrophoria, one saint saw the cross in the sky, and the other saw it under the soft green leaves of the baskiliko; and how Faith was transformed by the two visions!
In this Beginning – the beginning of new journeys and adventures for our graduates, let’s take some of the theoria that every Saint offers us even now. Let those who now leave this precious Σχολἠ look to the heritage of the Crowned of God for their future inspiration.
From mighty Constantine, the first Christian emperor of both ancient and new Rome, let us grasp the politeia of what came to be known as the Byzantine Empire. She bequeathed to the world a symphony of the profane and the sacred. It is not a mad rush to seek to transform society by the values of the Kingdom of God. We recite the Our Father so often that we may not hear the message:
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου, γενηθήτω ὸέ θέλημά σου ὡς ἐν ὐὐρανῷ καὶ ῐττοςὶ ἐς ἐς ἐς ἐς ἐς ἐς ἐςὶ
Realizing the Kingdom of God on this earth is part of our vocation as Orthodox Christians. It does not mean imposing our opinions and values on others against their will. It means working for the conversion of hearts and minds – through our ministry of love, compassion, mercy and generosity.
Saint Constantine unleashed a “noble experience”, as Steven Runciman once said. And that experience of bringing heaven and earth together as we await the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is as valid today as it was seventeen centuries ago.
The city of Constantine, which was the capital of the Christian Roman Empire, may have passed into history, but its spiritual reflection – the Ecumenical Patriarchate – is alive and well. The work of transforming our world into the Kingdom and Reign of God has never ended.
Violence and force – like what Russia is inflicting on Ukraine in the murky name of Orthodox values - will never succeed. This is not how society is transfigured, but it is how the very essence of what it means to be human is disfigured!
We can look back on our church’s history and how it has integrated into civil society – and we can be honest about the shortcomings, even as we are proud of our accomplishments.
This is why our vision inspired by the sign of the cross must be rooted in the theoria of Saint Helena, because she saw the very instrument of the death of our Lord in the flesh. And we are blessed to have a fragment of that same life-giving wood here in our chapel.
The reality of the Crucifixion can never be reduced to a simple symbol. There was roughly hewn wood. There were nails. There was the torment and brutality of this Roman execution. There are practical consequences for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not an academic exercise.
Therefore, my beloved Christians:
Here, in this school, let us pursue the vision of Saints Constantine and Helen. With one, we seek to transform the world around us. With the other, we recognize the high and high price that must be paid to make this transformation possible. The mother and her son will teach us every day, if only we open our eyes as they opened theirs.
Source: Orthodox Observer