ASTORIA – As one of the destinations of his visit to the United States, Elder Ephraim, Abbot of the Vatopaidi Monastery of Mount Athos in Greece, St. Demetrios Cathedral of Astoria High School, the only Greek-American high school in the country.
Students warmly welcomed Abbot Ephraim and his entourage with flowers, joined by St. Demetrios Presiding Priest Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, School Board Chair Nick Andriotis, teachers, and parents.
The students honored Ephraim with ecclesiastical hymns and Greek songs.
Fr. Papazafiropoulos said “it is a great blessing and honor that Elder Ephraim is visiting our Cathedral and Schoolfrom Mount Athos, the place of payer.” Papazafiropoulos expressed his love and respect for Mount Athos and said that he visits it often.
Andriotis said to Ephraim that “with special love and respect, I welcome you to the center of Hellenism outside of Greece. This is the labor and the toil of Athens outside of Greece. This community has been doing a great job for more than ninety years,” adding that “it saddens me that Greece has not appreciated this work, not with funding but with a good word.” Andriotis said to Ephraim that “your presence strengthens us.”
Ephraim in his homily emphasized the value of education and made reference to St. Cosmas the Etolian, saying that “he had established more than two hundred schools,” and noting that “schools create churches.”
Ephraim also spoke about the Athonias Ecclesiastical Academy supported by the Vatopaidi Monastery: “St. Cosmas the Etolian also Rigas Fereos studied there” and that it was considered a university at the timeof Ottoman occupation. He urged St. Demetrios’ students “to learn academically, but also the sacred things of God. You are in a country in which intellectualism prevails. We do not reject the advancement of research, but we go beyond that and say that along with education with should have piety and faith in God.”
Quoting St. John Chrysostom, he said that “even one person with zeal in his heart can change an entire city.”
He also said that “whatever a person does it is recorded in book of his or her conscience” emphasizing that “the scruple pf the conscience can be clear with the sacrament of holy confession.”
Touched by the student’s knowledge of Greek, he said he was “deeply moved being with you.”
He offered a silver icon of the Mother of God to the school and announced that “every year the Monastery of Vatopaidi will award with a silver icon to the academically distinguished students.”
The monks in Ephraim’s entourage showed a video of the Vatopaidi Monastery’s nave, the buildings, library, sacred items, daily worship practices, and the monks’ daily activities in the fields, the church, etc.
Ephraim gave each student a small cross as souvenir from Mount Athos.