Archbishop Elpidophoros delivered a Homily for the Great Vespers of the Dormition on August 14, 2023 at the Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Southampton, New York.
“Be faithful to the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His servants who minister to your needs here in Southampton,” said Archbishop of America in his homily.
“The Virgin Mother – your Mother – will always help you on this path of righteousness. Through her holy intercessions,” he added.
Read the full homily of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America:
Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is a such a joy and a blessing to be with you – the faithful priests and stalwart people of Koimisis, here in Southampton. This parish is a jewel of the Archdiocese, not only because of its magnificent architecture and art, but because of your two extraordinary clergy – Father Alex and Father Constantine – and of course, all of you, the faithful Orthodox Christians of the East End, who are missionaries of love.
I’m sorry that I cannot be here for Blue Dream this year, but I know that this amazing event will continue its beautiful traditions of generosity, philanthropy, and community. You should all be very proud of the success of this wonderful event, both for your parish and for the community-at-large.
We have gathered tonight to celebrate your Feastday – the Feast of your parish. Your feast celebrates the Mother of us all – our Mary – our Panagia – the Ever-Virgin Theotokos, she who gave birth to God in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. She is the one who gave us the Body of Christ, Which we now incarnate through our in-gathering as the Church.
The Church, the Body of Christ, was formed from her human nature, as the Apostle Paul reminds us:
Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθε τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου, ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ, γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός ….
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman ….*
You can never overstate the significance of this verse of Holy Scripture. It states the reality of the Incarnation in a very concrete way. Moreover, it demonstrates the essential part that the Mother of God plays in our salvation. And it is a part that does not end the day after Christmas. It stretches through the lifetime of our Savior and into eternity. For the Mother of God entered into Eternal Life and into the Resurrection of her Son, as was foretold by the Psalmist David when he sang:
Ἀνάστηθι, Κύριε, εἰς τὴν ἀνάπαυσίν σου, σὺ καὶ ἡ κιβωτὸς τοῦ ἁγιάσματός σου
Arise, O Lord, into Your rest; You and the Ark of your Holiness. †
In this parish, if you look up into the dome, you will see these words painted in its surrounding border. It is the prophetic cry announcing the Dormition of the Virgin centuries before it happened.
For the Virgin is the Living Ark of the Living God. The ark of the covenant, which disappeared from history and has been the stuff of popular legend, is said to have contained three things objects: ‡
1) A golden jar filled with the manna that fed the Israelites in the desert.
2) The rod of Aaron, that budded, though dry and hard, to prove who should be the priest.
3) The tablets of the Law delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.
These holy relics of the Old Testament are prefigurations of the truth of the Virgin, and of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
First, the golden jar of manna. The manna is an image of the Eucharist, and how the Lord feeds us with His very Body, because he is the true Bread of Heaven that came down to nourish the world. And the Virgin is the στάμνος χρυσῆ – the jar of gold; for she was uniquely precious to hold Him in her womb.
Second, the rod of Aaron that burst into life, is an image of the Theotokos herself. For she gave birth, though she was a Virgin, and the High Priest that came forth from her – in the order of Melchizedek – is the true mediator between God and humanity.
Third, just as the Virgin lived a life fulfilling all of the purification rites and rules of the Old Testament, the Lord Himself exceeds the Ten Commandments, bringing us to the most perfect law:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your thoughts. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like the first, You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself’.” §
And so, my beloved Christians, on this Feast of the Dormition, we behold the Ark of God’s Holiness – the Theotokos and Virgin-Mary – being received into Heaven in the same resurrection that we shall receive through God’s grace and mercy.
I pray that your Feast will always inspire you to imitate her life and her virtues. Become yourselves precious vessels, filled with the Bread of Heaven, through lives based in forgiveness and compassion.
Be faithful to the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His servants who minister to your needs here in Southampton.
And fulfill the greatest law of all – the law of love.
The Virgin Mother – your Mother – will always help you on this path of righteousness. Through her holy intercessions … Amen.
Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America