NEW YORK – His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America visited the parish of St. John the Baptist in lower Midtown Manhattan on Sunday after the Epiphany. The Archbishop was received with honor and reverence by the presiding priest Archimandrite Ioannikios Gregoriadis, the parish council and the faithful who participated into the Divine Liturgy observing all the protocols for the pandemic.
The Archbishop in his speech said among other things the following:
“Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, our rejoicing in the Holy Epiphany of our Lord is not yet complete, and I am delighted to share the Sunday after Theophany with you at this beloved parish of Saint John the Baptist. We continue with our celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, and we honor the Forerunner and Prophet John, your Heavenly Patron.
“We read in today’s Gospel about the beginning of the Lord’s preaching, whose hallmark was the same as His cousin John’s: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” But there was a moment, in between the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of the preaching of Jesus – after John the Baptist was arrested – when both John and Jesus were both baptizing. In the Gospel of John, we read: “John’s disciples went to him and said, “Rabbi, the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan…”
“To whom you bore witness…”
“Look! He is baptizing…”
“And everyone is going to Him!”
John replied to them, “No person can receive anything, unless heaven grants it. You are my witnesses; I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I am sent before him.’ The one with the bride is the bridegroom. The bridegroom’s friend, who stands by his side and listens to him, rejoices with special delight at the bridegroom’s voice. So this, my joy, is now complete. He must increase and I must decrease.”
In another instance the Archbishop said:
“Here we behold the exceptional and faithful humility of your Patron Saint. John the Baptist understands that his Divine Cousin is attracting more disciples. He sees Jesus engaging in the same ministry of baptizing. And his closest followers express their concern, and even displeasure, that another would take up his ministry and succeed at it.
“And this is the very moment that John bows beneath the spiritual authority of the One Who bowed under his hand to be baptized and fulfill all righteousness. Here, the Baptist bears witness to his role in divine Οικονομία, God’s plan for our Salvation.”
He also stated that “this wonderful parish of Saint John is a true example of the humility of your Patron, and I commend all of you for your commitment to the mission of the Church and our Archdiocese.”