His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Speech during the ordination to the priesthood of Deacon Bartholomew Mercado
Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
Toms River, New Jersey
December 11, 2021
Beloved deacon Bartholomew,
At this moment, you are standing in front of the Holy Altar, in the presence of the Pleroma of the Church. All the ranks of the priesthood are here, as well as the laity. And you stand in your diaconal robes – to which you have brought honor and dignity through your ministry – ready to receive, from my humble hands, the great gift of becoming a Presbyter of the Holy Church of God. Today your Orarion is transfigured into an Epitrachelion, which symbolizes the yoke of service and obedience to Christ. As the Lord himself said:
, καὶ καρδίᾳ, ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν · τὸ φορτίον μου ἐστιν.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.[*]
Could there be a more perfect invitation to the priesthood? The High High Priest is calling you, my beloved deacon. He calls you to accept his yoke which binds you to him. He calls you to learn from Him – from His patience, His mercy, His patience, His compassion and His love.
He calls you to learn from his example – an example of meekness, meekness, and willingness to be lowly of heart, which means avoiding pride and embracing humility.
We are approaching the Holy Nativity, when the Lord deigned to be born in a Cave and placed in a Manger for our salvation. How the angels must have marveled at seeing the Creator of all take such a modest place in his own creation!
Therefore, my beloved deacon, think of these angels when you serve, when you minister, when you preach, when you teach, and when you perform your duties in the Church. What will they see in you? Will they marvel at seeing a true companion of the Lord? It is my fervent and sincere prayer that they do so! Indeed, if you imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in your priesthood, you will have a resting soul. For truly his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. For whatever challenges you will face, whatever obstacles you will be called to overcome, the Lord has already overcome them all. As he says:
νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον!
I conquered the world! [†]
Therefore, my dear Bartholomew, take courage in taking this decisive and far-reaching step in your personal and ecclesiastical life. You are named after the great ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew. His humility and dedication – in harnessing the vast responsibilities of the Throne of Constantinople – are a shining light to the whole world. And by sharing his name, you also have to put up with his demeanor and manners.
Your very name will constantly remind you of what is best in serving the Church as a priest. There is no better example of what it means to serve the Church than His Holiness – as we saw just a few weeks ago, when we were honored with his apostolic presence.
I know that your dedication to our Patriarch is genuine and most sincere. Therefore, I urge you to always look at his example and draw inspiration from him. See him as your own fellow yoke, who will carry your burdens with you, so that you can serve Christ and His Church in purity of heart and with effective spiritual purpose.
If you receive the yoke of the Epitrachelion today with an open heart, good will, and pure intention, you will have the grace to live as a priest with a peaceful mind – one who relies on the Lord, trusts in the Lord. Lord and rely on His understanding. [‡]
Now come and receive his divine yoke of the holy priesthood. And be forever linked to Christ by the joy of the ministry, which by grace is verily easy and light.