© Photo credits: GOARCH / Dimitrios S. Panagos
By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
At Great Vespers of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Rassophoria and Stavrophoria
Holy Cross Chapel – Hellenic College and Holy Cross
September 13, 2022
Beloved Brother Hierarchs and Reverend Clergy,
Dear teachers and staff, students and families,
Dear friends and supporters of this blessed Hellenic College and Holy Cross community,
It is a great joy for me to be among you again, at the beginning of your academic year and at the beginning of our ecclesiastical year. These annual rites of passage here at our School are part of the essence of this holy place, where the continuity of our faith is expressed around the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy, Precious and Life-giving Cross.
We are also days away from the anniversary of 9/11, which was truly a crucifixion moment for America and, indeed, the world. Although so much has changed since that fateful day, our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese bears the responsibility of bringing the faith, hope, light and love of Jesus Christ to Ground Zero with the rebuilt St. Nicholas National Shrine and resurrected.
Even as I speak to you, Father Loukas of Xenophontos is installing the magnificent iconographic program within the Church – a program that was designed by our own Bishop Joachim of Amissos at my request. And by the grace of God, it will be the most seen and most visited Orthodox Church in this hemisphere.
That we have the presence and talent of Mount Athos infusing this national shrine with the brilliance and beauty of our Orthodox faith, is evident here on this campus, with the opening of Ἅγιον Ὅρος : ἡ Κιβωτὸς τῆς Ὀρθοδοξίας – a celebration of the history and significance of the Holy Mountain for all of us.
I want to bring your attention to this wellspring of tradition that is embodied here in the United States because you – the students, faculty, and administration of our precious school – are charged with nurturing and cherishing the fullness of this tradition. .
Tonight we begin our celebrations of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and we recognize that we are “the People and the Legacy” of which we sing in the festive apolytikion. For you, future leaders of our communities – clerics or laity – understanding your role as “People and Heritage” is vital and of the utmost necessity for the health and well-being of the Church.
Tonight many of you are receiving the Cross and the Rasson – the outward signs of what I hope is your inner disposition. For individually and together they symbolize what it means to be the saved “People” and the blessed “Heritage” of which you sing – not just today, but every day!
Simply put, but never to be forgotten: we are saved by the Cross – by the sacrifice of ineffable love and compassion with which our Lord Jesus Christ willingly ascended an instrument of pain and death, and transformed into an “Invincible Trophy and Weapon of Peace.”
When we wear this symbol, we testify that our path is the Stations of the Cross. That we follow his example of love, compassion, forgiveness and mercy by carrying our own self-sacrificing cross. And our blessed Heritage is symbolized by the Rasson; for it is a garment of service, of ministry and of mission. As heirs to the apostolic and patristic faith, it is incumbent upon all of us to teach and preach, to preserve and propagate the Faith which “established the Universe”.*
And this school is the practice ground—a training ground—on which you all hone your skills and deepen your convictions, so that your service to the Church will be both pleasing to God and timely to the Body of Christ.
If you receive these symbols for the very first time, or if you return to this sacred hill to continue your formation in Christ, remember this: it is not the adornments of the body that are transformative; they are rather those of the soul.
And speaking of transformation, this evening has a very special element – one that is rarely seen at this service. Because we honor someone who exemplifies what it means to live like the people who carry the
Crosses in their hearts, and which ensure the transmission of the Heritage of the Church to the following generations. I speak, of course, of our gracious sister in Christ, Helen Carlos.
Helen, please come forward; for I am honored to award you the highest distinction of our Sacred Archdiocese: the Medal of Saint Paul.
Helen Carlos was a hero for this school. Her contributions – both financial and spiritual – along with her devoted husband, Ron Hilliard, literally saved the life of our precious school. She has served with excellence as a board member, both financially and as chair of the fundraising committee, leading to successful results for Hellenic College and Holy Cross on many levels.
However, perhaps his greatest achievement on behalf of our seminarians is his creation and support of the St. Helena pilgrimage. This trip, offered to all major seminarians, takes them to the Phanar, the Sacred Center of our Faith. They also go to the Holy Land, to Thessaloniki and, finally, to Mount Athos. In addition to the spiritual aspects of the pilgrimage, there is also an intensive Greek language component and exposure to Hellenic history and culture, which is only possible from such personal contact.
The St. Helena pilgrimage is fundamental and transformative for our seminarians, providing them with a profound context in which to engage in their postgraduate work and prepare for ordination.
Helen, you are truly worthy of this medal. For like Saint Paul, you spread the Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with all your efforts – known and unknown. It is therefore only fitting that you receive this recognition on the feast day of our School, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which you embody in all aspects of your life.
Helen Carlos received the Medal of St. Paul, the Archdiocese’s highest honor, for her services as a member of HCHC’s board of directors and as chair of its fundraising committee, as well as for its creation and its support for the pilgrimage to Saint Helena, which is offered to all major seminarians of the school.