Τhe Graduation Ceremony for our Theological Academy was held with great success.
Just as every year, the dinner was held at the Cultural Centre of our Metropolis, where over five hundred (500) people gathered to celebrate.
The evening’s program began with prayer and the singing of the national anthems of Greece and Canada, led by Metropolitan Sotirios.
Everyone congratulated the persons in charge of the Cultural Centre, notably for the excellent food, especially Mrs. Anastasia Sotiropoulos, who is both the President of St. Nicholas G.O. Community in Toronto and responsible for the Cultural Centre, along with Fr. F. Pappas, Parish Priest of the aforementioned community.
The speakers that evening included: Fr. C. Papadeas, Dean of the Theological Academy; Mrs. S. Rassias, President of the National Philoptochos; Fr. Yvan Mathieu, Dean of the Theological School of St. Paul’s University; Mr. J. Anas, President of the Archons of Canada; and, the Hon. A. Ioannidis, Consul General of Greece in Toronto.
The program continued with a musical interlude led by Fr. O. Drossos. The choir was comprised of students and graduates of the Academy, along with the Toronto-area clergy. It was an excellent performance. Those gathered clapped at the end of every piece. Many of the musical pieces were chanted or sung by all those in attendance as well.
After the interlude, Mr. Chrysostom Gitsali, the class valedictorian, spoke so wonderfully in both Greek in English.
The final speaker of the evening was Metropolitan Sotirios, giving fatherly exhortations to the graduates, students and clergy on the theme, “My Father is always at work and I also work” (John 5:17). His Eminence explained that part of the Holy Scriptures, describing God’s work regarding creation in general, and also specifically about mankind. Furthermore, he asked from the students, graduates and clergy to follow the example of God the Father – the Creator – to work constantly and without ceasing on bettering themselves in both body and soul, and also to try to enhance society through their parishes.
Metropolitan Sotirios also discussed the recent expansion of the Metamorphosis Greek Orthodox Day School of our Holy Metropolis, which will cost approximately $1,500,000. The first million in costs will be contributed by the Metropolis and the other half a million will be generously donated by parents and grandparents of current and past Metamorphosis students.
Metamorphosis Greek Orthodox Day School has more than three hundred (300) pupils currently enrolled and has a list of over sixty (60) waiting to be registered.
His Eminence also announced the creation of an Endowment Fund for the Theological Academy, which will raise five million dollars so that the Academy continues to ensure the Greek Orthodox Faith.
The conclusion of the program was the benediction prayer, with everyone chanting “Christ is Risen!”
Everyone was very impressed and spoke highly about the progress of the Theological Academy, which has twelve (12) students this year.
There were many dignitaries invited to the event, which included Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Both Fr. T. Paraskevopoulos, the Master of Ceremonies and President of the Presbyters Council, and Metropolitan Sotirios thanked everyone, especially the professors of the Theological Academy who offer their services gratis.
Following is His Eminence’s homily.
“My Father is always at work and I also work” (John 5:17)
Fatherly exhortations to the students and graduates of our
Academy, along with the clergymen of our Holy Metropolis
By Metropolitan Sotirios
“My Father is always at work and I also work” (John 5:17). The Truth Himself speaks and His words are true. Christ speaks. The Son of God. The True God. Truth Incarnate.
The universe is to a large degree unexplored. Many things, though, are known. Stars die and stars are born. The Father – the Creator – is always at work. He creates.
More things are known about our planet. People are born. People pass away and die. Nature “slumbers” during the winter months, “awaking from its sleep” in spring. Who knows? Our planet one day will also see its end. And here, the Father creates with man as His assistant.
Students, graduates of our Theological Academy, and clergymen: you know who your Creator is. You have decided that you will follow Him. That you will serve Him. That you will emulate Him.
The Father is at work. And the Son is as work. You also must work systematically. Work so you may personally progress, and that society may advance.
When I say for you to progress, your physical health is called to improve by doing the following: Proper diet. Daily exercise. Sleep no later than 10 p.m. Your mind freed from stress. Use of logic to avoid stress. Avoidance of harmful substances.
For your spiritual health, it means: The intellect should reflect on the good, and never on the evil. Pray without ceasing. Participation in the Sacraments of the Church, especially Holy Communion and Repentance. Repentance and Confession is not merely for laypersons. It is for clergymen also.
If you follow the aforementioned daily, then your work will be easy. Make sure you take care of the following, also. Make sure your parish is spotless. Everything should be in its place. Before every divine service, everything should be in its place. During the divine services and Divine Liturgy, offer yourselves to the Lord entirely. Celebrate every Divine Liturgy as if it is your first and as if it will be your final Divine Liturgy. Live with your entire being.
You have so many other things that you will need to engage and act during your ministry. Finding and/or training chanters. Organizing a parish Choir. Training your Sunday School teachers. Organizing your Sunday School, Youth Group, and camp programs. Organizing spiritual retreats and Bible Study groups. Training your Altar Servers. Supervising the life of your whole community. The Priest is the spiritual father of the Community. Just as a father would act for his family, so too a priest must do for his Community. He is the father and the soul of the Community.
Is that a long list? Does it seem like an insurmountable mountain? Do you believe the tasks cannot be accomplished? No. Remember the words of Christ: “My Father is always at work, and so am I.” The Only-Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, is at work. You all are sons by grace, and thus you must work, as the Father and the Son do. You must be the example to all members of your Communities, so that everyone will work. In that way, you will have a healthy and vibrant Community. A Community that is both alive and progressive. A Community that is working here on earth, but that focuses towards the heavenly.
Dear students, graduates of our Theological Academy, and fellow clergymen: do not be afraid of work. It will make you healthier, happier. As you work on your personal betterment and the progress of society in your ministry, this will guarantee you the Heavenly Kingdom. This, of course, can be achieved only with the grace and the unending mercy of God. I pray that each one of your steps in your daily ascent be blessed by God. Until that ascent – the work you must do – is finished. At which time, we will all arrive at the Heavenly Kingdom. The embrace of our God.