OCEAN, NJ – By the grace of God and in keeping with the apostolic tradition of the laying on of hands, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidoforos of America ordained Archdeacon Philotheos Tomczewski to the priesthood on September 10 at the Greek Orthodox Church St. George in Ocean, NJ. Family, friends and members of the clergy were present for the ceremony.
The speech of Archbishop Elpidophoros during the ordination is as follows:
“Beloved Archdeacon Philotheos, your years of service as Deacon and Archdeacon of this God-protected metropolis of New Jersey have now come to an end. And like all true beginnings, you are only at the beginning of your ministry.
Here, in the presence of your family and the very many friends you have in the Metropolis and beyond, you ascend to the next stage of the one and holy Order of Melchizedek – the Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are now assuming the heavy responsibility of a priest in the Church of God. Along with this responsibility comes a different aspect of ministry – the mission of shepherding a flock.
As you know, the diaconate began as table service, to free the apostles from worldly duties [Acts 6:1-6]. Over the centuries, however, this service at tables became service at the Holy Altar, as well as a ministry centered around the bishops of the Church. Nevertheless, your advancement to the Honorable Presbyterium in no way limits your service to the Holy Altar – in fact, it enhances it.
Because the priest in front of the altar (and not on the side, as is the case of the deacon), is the representative of the bishop in power in the local parish. This is why, beloved Archdeacon Philothea, you will henceforth bear this imprint of episcopal authority. In the doubling of your stole, so that it folds over both of your shoulders, you are harnessed to the ministry of the Divine Liturgy. And in the fact that you will now kneel on both knees – not just on one, as you did during your diaconal ordination – you will receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to serve as a Presbyter.
As such, your first assignment will be your home parish of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore, from where our beloved brother, His Grace Bishop-elect Constantine of Sassima, departs for new ministries after decades of faithful, pious and successful service to your home. community. I truly feel a wonderful sense of continuity and commitment that is exemplified by you two as faithful sons of the Cathedral of the Annunciation; because you both have deep roots in this historic parish. However, let’s not forget that the cathedral’s first full-time priest, Father Constantin Douropoulos, was ordained by Saint Nektarios. This legacy of piety and faith has endured over the decades, and it was particularly cultivated by the late Father Constantin Monios, whose ministry at the Cathedral was a constant inspiration to all and had a great impact on you and your relatives.
Therefore, Archdeacon Philotheos, your ordination here today and your upcoming service at Baltimore Cathedral is the completion of a circle in your life, which begins a deeper journey.
You begin your ministry as a priest and your vocation as pastor of the People of God. And you are called to be a good shepherd, in imitation of the Lord who said: “The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the good of the sheep” [John 10:11].
My dear Archdeacon Philotheos, your ministry will be that of a true shepherd, who protects and nurtures his sheep with the pure teaching of our Holy Orthodox Faith. You will guide them towards the green pastures, cultivated for centuries by the Holy Fathers, together with the great theologians and the saints of our Church. You will nourish them with the Sacred Body and the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is the essential action of our Priesthood.
Therefore, when conducting divine services, always pray as if it were your first liturgy, your last liturgy, and your only liturgy. If you maintain this priestly awareness throughout your ministry, you will always stand in the grace of God and be fed yourself, just as you feed the flock.
So cultivate your inner life and dwell with God in your heart, where you will find the strength and wisdom to serve the People of God, leading them by your humble example of love, compassion and humility.
Enter now into this joyful service of the Lord. Amen.”