NEW YORK – His eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America officiated at the Divine Liturgy on Christmas Eve at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan.
At the end of the Liturgy the Archbishop bestowed upon Fr. Nicholas Karloutsos, the newly appointed Dean of the Cathedral, the ofikion of Ekonomos. The Archbishop praised Fr. Nicholas and reminded the congregation that he is a third generation priest along with his grandfather, also Father Nicholas, and his father, Fr. Petros. The Archbishop also said that he assumed the pastorship of the Cathedral in difficult times.
During his homily, among other things, the Archbishop said the following:
“Christ is Born! Glorify Him! I greet all of you this evening with these first words of Saint Gregory the Theologian’s Christmas Homily, preached over sixteen-hundred years ago! Four-hundred years later, this stunning praise inspired Saint Cosmas, the Bishop of Maiuma in Gaza, who was the adopted brother of Saint John of Damascus. They inspired him to write the Canon of the Feast of Christmas that we all know: Χριστὸς γεννάται, δοξάσατε!”
His Eminence added that “we sing these hymns tonight and tomorrow in order to join with the Angels of Heaven, who appeared to the Shepherds in the field and filled the night sky with the hymn: ‘Δόξα εν υψίστοις Θεώ και επὶ γης ειρήνη, εν ανθρώποις ευδοκία – Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’
Is it not marvelous that before every Divine Liturgy, when we close the Orthros, the Doxology that includes the Celestial Hymn of the Angels is chanted? And why? Because every Divine Liturgy is an opportunity to give birth to Christ the Lord in our lives.”
The Archbishop continued:
“The cave in Bethlehem that the Lord shared with the beasts of the stable is an icon of the human heart. Inside each and every one of us is an untamed element, an instinctual reactivity that often strikes out against others. When we hurt or injure others in thought, word, or deed, it is because we are reacting out of our own pain. Like an animal, we are insensible to the pain of others, and so, we strike out. If it becomes a habit of self-protection, it really is soul-destroying and heart-numbing. But when we welcome the Lord to our innermost selves – through His immeasurable love for us, and in the Holy Sacraments, He makes His home inside of us.
“As it says in the Gospel of John: ‘And the Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us.’ And when He makes His home within us, He tames all the savage movements of our minds and hearts that lie just beneath our conscious awareness. We are not afraid of God, because who is afraid of a newborn baby? He comes ever so gently into our hearts. He does not spurn us if we are poor and destitute of virtue. His goodness nourishes us, just as He suckled at the breast of His Holy Mother. For our strongest advocate with the Lord is the Theotokos, who humbled herself to enter the cave. Remember, she was the daughter of rich parents, Joachim and Anna. But she was obedient to God – not out of fear, but out of wisdom and faith. She entered the cave to give birth, and in so doing, opened the gates of Paradise.”