His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
HC Graduation Address / HC Paterexhortatory
May 21, 2022
Holy Cross Hellenic College
Your Eminences and Graces,
Faculty and Administration, Clergy and Laity,
And above all, the Graduates of 2022,
I am so happy to be here with you this week and on this very special day, my second Hellenic College and Holy Cross graduation in person – but my first as Archbishop of America!
It was 2004 and I was teaching here for a semester. Who could have predicted at that time the enormous obstacles and difficulties that awaited us so many years later?
But you persevered. You have triumphed. You held on, and all of you – student, teacher and administration – were determined to complete your school year, despite the pandemic.
None of us should underestimate the accomplishment of this launch ceremony. Amid the greatest and most pervasive societal challenge in living memory, this campus persevered. And you, the 2022 Graduates, are the sign of our victory in Christ.
My brief address today is traditionally called a “Paterexhortatory,” a father’s affirmative admonition. But I must tell you all that, seeing the achievements of our precious Σχολή – how you have all united to bring stability, firmness and security to this vital institution of our national Church – you fill me with encouragement.
As Archbishop and Father in Christ, I stand here for the eightieth graduation of this school, in the year of the centenary of our sacred archdiocese, and I am filled with hope and enthusiasm for the future of Orthodox Christianity here in the United States.
That’s not to say we don’t have daunting challenges even now, or that the road ahead is smooth. As Saint Isaac the Syrian says:
God‘s way is a daily cross. No one ascended to Heaven by ease…”1
But this place is dedicated to the Holy Cross. You have been enveloped by the teaching of the Cross all your years on this Hill. The Cross is the key to unlock all impenetrable doors. The Cross is the ladder by which we can scale all unimaginable heights.
There’s nothing you can’t do when your lens is aligned with its four sacred points. On the vertical axis, through the Cross, you are united with God, whose love is so great that he would like to die on dead wood to make it bloom for eternity with spiritual fruits. On the horizontal axis, this same love transforms your relationship with each creature. The Cross is our bridge to all of creation, spanning all differences to bring us into the lives of others through sacrificial love.
The Way of the Cross is endless. Like your studies here at Hellenic College and at Holy Cross, they are the beginning of your education, which is a lifelong calling.
Therefore, I urge you to constantly aspire to a deeper and deeper understanding of your faith and your place in the world. God’s purposes are immutable, but can be revealed under any conditions. But it requires your vulnerability. Your will that the God of Revelation reveal to you who you really are. Your readiness to be face to face with God, exposed to his brilliance and power, so that, as Saint Paul says:
… Ἀνακεκαλυμμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν Δόξαν κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ εἰς Δό
… with our faces uncovered, contemplating as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory….2
My beloved graduates, your families and the Hellenic and Holy Cross College Community:
Today is your start day, and this campus is your embarkation point. Your journey of faith continues as your journey in life leaves these shores. Like the Disciples in the boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, a storm will arise from time to time. But the Lord is always near, walking with us – even on the waves of water, so that we can always come to our safe haven on the other shore.
As you advance, make sure your ship is always the Church of Christ. Your veil is the Holy Scripture. And your mast is the Holy Cross.
So you will sail the great ocean of this life with confidence, knowing that your means of transportation is unsinkable, establishing you all in unshakable faith.
Christ is risen!
Photos: GOA/D. Panagos