Homily at Divine Liturgy Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA – Homilies
Homily of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
At the Divine Liturgy
Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral
October 16, 2022
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Today we gather in this magnificent cathedral to celebrate the Eucharist and give thanks to God for the hundredth anniversary of this historic community. It is no coincidence – I think – that today is also the Sunday of the Fathers of the VII Ecumenical Council in Nicaea. Nor is it a coincidence that of the seven ecumenical councils, the first and the last took place at Nicaea. It is as if the Fathers of the Church had understood that the fullness of the words of the Credo that we recite at each Liturgy is found in the teaching of the Holy Icons. For the Seventh Ecumenical Council gave the Church the definitions which have forever assured the true teaching and theology of the Holy Images – the Icons which adorn our Churches to this day.
In the celebrations you celebrated during the centenary year of your cathedral, you also looked back in time at the living images of God – the heroes of your community – who gifted this church and cathedral to you. alive.
You know many of their names, like the names of the Saints who are inscribed on their icons. And those whose names are unknown to you, they are no less important. Because it is thanks to their sacrifices, their labors and their dedication that you have this cathedral today.
Look around you at the icons of this Living Church of God. You see saints, martyrs, ascetics, hierarchs, priests and deacons – all champions of the faith and of the Church. Your community heroes are no different. Their images may be in photos, or on pages of church records, or even simply in memory. But they are essential to the success of the Church, just like those depicted in the Holy Icons.
There is a just recognition that we owe them both. For, as it was once said: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. * It is also true that the toil and sweat of our immigrant ancestors is tilling the fertile soil – weeding and watering – so that today, a hundred years later, we have a bountiful harvest of the fruits of their works.
Our recognition of their sacrifice is a moment of deep gratitude – of eucharistic gratitude to God and to them, for their faithfulness to the traditions of all our spiritual fathers and mothers. Their adherence to the faith of the Ecumenical Councils, which finds its ultimate expression in the teaching of the Holy Icons, is an eternal gift. So, my brothers and sisters, what will be our gift to future generations? To those who will celebrate the Bicentenary of this Holy Place, a hundred years later?
My friends: Just as we revere the images of saints and cherish the images of our ancestors, let us also honor the image of God in each person of this blessed community. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on every point of view that life offers. It would be an impossible prospect. But it does mean that we must do everything we can to recognize the intrinsic worth and goodness of our brothers and sisters. Because each of us is created in the image and likeness of God.
Sometimes it’s harder to do inside the Church than outside! Maybe it’s because when you live and work close to others — even your family — it’s often harder to appreciate them.
But appreciating them is our vocation, our vocation.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” †
These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is easier to venerate the Saints in their icons, because they have reached perfection in the presence of God. But living icons are right before our eyes; on the benches sitting next to us; in the coffee hours after church across the room.
I can assure you of this, my dear Christians:
Every effort you make in your community to make it a communion of love and mutual respect will be the gift that will lead you to your Bicentenary. And why is that? Well, it’s because your children and your children’s children will want to be part of such a community – a place of acceptance, respect, compassion and, above all, love.
Therefore, consider this happy anniversary, which coincides with the commemoration of the Seventh Ecumenical Council – the Council of the Holy Icons – as a signal and a starting point for the next hundred years.
And through the prayers of Saint George the Great Martyr and Bearer of the Trophy, you will reach your Bicentenary and much more, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and His infinite mercy and love for humanity. Amen.