Archbishop Elpidophoros of America presided over the Service of the Salutations to the Virgin Mary and stated, among other things, that “the struggle for freedom is far from over, as we witness even now in Ukraine”.
He also stressed that “Here in the United States, we enjoy the greatest degree of religious liberty to pursue our Orthodox Christian Faith in peace and security. Compare that, though, to the circumstances our Ukrainian Brethren are currently enduring, whose churches are being bombarded by their fellow neighboring Orthodox.”
In conclusion, the Archbishop urged the faithful to “rejoice in the many gifts that our Panagia bestows upon us.”
Read below his speech
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Homily at the Second Salutations to the Virgin Mary
Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
March 18, 2022
My beloved faithful,
I am so happy to join you and your fellow Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters throughout the region for this Service of the Salutations to our Holy Panagia.
Today, I had the joy of participating in the annual raising of the Greek Flag in Philadelphia – an elevation of our hearts and minds in honor of the Revolution for Independence in Greece. And as I saw the flag wave against the sky, my heart was filled with much emotion. For we are now in our Third Century since the inception of the Revolution, and the struggle for freedom is far from over, as we witness even now in Ukraine.
Our prayers to the Theotokos tonight are joined to the Virgin who presides in Kyiv in the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, that there may be peace and the complete withdrawal of the invaders.
As those who enjoy liberty in this “land of the free and home of the brave,” we are truly, doubly blessed. First, by our ancient heritage of democracy and the gift of Greek Spirit.
And second, as Americans, who live in the most prosperous and free society that human history has ever recorded. Here in the United States, we enjoy the greatest degree of religious liberty to pursue our Orthodox Christian Faith in peace and security. Compare that, though, to the circumstances our Ukrainian Brethren are currently enduring, whose churches are being bombarded by their fellow neighboring Orthodox.
Thus, my beloved friends, our prayers to the Panagia are even more crucial than ever. She has a mighty voice with Her Son and God, and she will hear our pleas.
For we are called to live our lives in accordance with the truth of our faith. With realization of all that God has accomplished for us. With courage and love. Not fear and selfishness.
In the Second Stanza that we chanted tonight, we heard the following:
Χαῖρε, δι’ ἧς ἐγυμνώθη ὁ Ἅδης, χαῖρε, δι’ ἧς ἐνεδύθημεν δόξαν.
Hail you through whom Hadës was stripped bare, hail you through whom we were clothed in glory.
How did the Virgin bring about this emptying of Hadës?
And what is this glory that she has provided for all of us?
The answer to both of these questions is exactly the same – it is the Incarnation of God. And this is the entire purpose and reason of the Feast of the Annunciation that we will celebrate next week.
For the Incarnation is the taking of our human nature by the Son of God. But He took that nature from the Virgin – that is, His flesh and blood, His bones and joints, His DNA and every aspect of human vitality. He was incarnate within her womb. There, the Lord, God grew as a human being for nine months, to be revealed as the Babe of Bethlehem on Christmas Day.
And it was in the human nature, received freely and willingly from the Virgin, that our Lord descended into Hadës after His sublime death on the Cross. There, He burst open the prison bars of Hell and rescued the souls of all the righteous who had been awaiting redemption since the beginning of the world.
Thus, the Virgin truly is the one through whom Hadës was stripped bare.
But she is so much more as well.
In putting on our humanity, the Lord has suffused our human nature with the glory that was His from the Beginning, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.[*] We see a hint of this glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the Lord shone forth like the sun in the presence of His Disciples.[†] And the fullness of this glory came in His Holy Resurrection, which is the redemption of every human being, and their being clothed in the glory of love and forgiveness. Thus, the Theotokos truly is the one through whom we are clothed in glory.
And so, my beloved Christians,
Let us rejoice in the many gifts that our Panagia bestows upon us. For in exercising her freedom before God, and accepting the Incarnation of His Beloved Son, she brings to us the possibility to live truly free – free from sin, free from Hadës, and ultimately, free from death.
Through her holy intercessions, may we always be found worthy of this – our liberty in Jesus Christ.