Home Church & Religion Zoodochos Peghe Celebrates Feast Day Led by Archbishop Elpidophoros

Zoodochos Peghe Celebrates Feast Day Led by Archbishop Elpidophoros

By Sophia A. Niarchos

OYSTER BAY, N.Y. – With the magnificent voices of Protopsalti Eustratios Gaitanas and several other chanters of the Direct Archdiocesan District expressing words of praise in hymns to the Theotokos for the healing power of the waters provided to those who partake of them, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Archbishop Elpidophoros officiated at vespers for the feast day of Zoodochos Peghe on Thursday, April 28, in the Bronx, N.Y.

“We rejoice with the Virgin Mother of God, who is the wellspring from which all the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ flow,” he said in his sermon, “for she gave her Creator the human nature in which we all share and which is redeemed by the Resurrection. Our Panaghia is the source, the fount of the Holy Church into which we are all baptized and washed clean in the waters of baptism by which we are buried into the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, she becomes a fountain of healings; for she is perfectly united with her Son in love and in compassion for the world. 

“This magnificent feast of the life-giving fountain holds a very special place for me also personally as a Constantinopolitan,” he continued, “because to this day we still have the famous church of Zoodohos Peghe in Constantinople where the aghiasma still flows with miracles…. You have your own fountain that we blessed with those waters.”

He encouraged the people to consider what gifts they could give God and each other just as the Panaghia gave her word to the Lord. 

“I want to encourage you to continue in your good works and your holy undertakings. Remember that the Virgin is your leader and your protector. She will never fail you….”

In Greek, he spoke of the different names taken by the Virgin Mary all over the world: Soumela in Pontos, Vlachernae in Vlachernes, Constantinople; and Zoodohos Peghe in Valoukli, Constantinople. He told of the institution of the feast day, which spread to all the Orthodox world – not just the Hellenic world – beginning more than 200 years ago and how unusual it is to find churches whose name is connected to a specific place outside of that place.

“When a feast day is connected with a particular place, how can you call other places the same as the location itself?” he asked rhetorically, explaining that “the people loved the Panaghia of Valoukli, so everywhere [they] built and named churches after her and celebrated the feast the Friday after Pascha in all of Orthodoxy. He added that there was a practical reason for celebrating the feast on Renewal Friday; namely, after celebrating Easter throughout Asia Minor, it took the people those five days to journey – by caravan and on foot – to the source of the miraculous waters.

“…[T]hey set up camp and stayed for days, waiting their turn to be able to take some holy water and light their candles, make their “tama” (pledge), rest a little, and then return…to their homelands. And we complain that it took us 1½ hours to come [here tonight] to venerate the Panaghia.”

His Eminence also expounded on the definition of “zoodohos,” adding an interpretation that refers to the acceptance of the Virgin Mary of “the very God, Christ,…eternal Life” within her.

Following his remarks on the significance of the feast day, Archbishop Elpidophoros called forth the youth of the community to be consecrated as readers, referring to them as “soldiers of the church, the future of Orthodoxy in America… the hope of our future.” He called their attention to those whose eyes were upon them and instructed them to “[M]ake us proud; make them proud; make the church proud…. Be always in the Church, supportive of the Church; and if any one of you has the call and the wish and the love of the church so much that he wants to succeed us, the clergy, be assured that we will support you.

“To be a priest is the greatest honor that you can ever have in your life…, an honorable service to God and to our fellow human beings.” He explained options for education that included and encouraged becoming a clergyman but were not limited to that calling. 

Calling each reader forward, he prayed over them and blessed them, asking them their names and commenting on some of them, pointing out, for example, the recent feast they celebrated (Anastasios, George), or the nature of the saint after whom they were named (Mihali, the Archangel). Others who were consecrated were Dionysios, Spyridon, Louka, Dimitrios, Christos, Christos, Elias, and Nikolaos. After each child was blessed, His Eminence raised his hand high and exclaimed, “Axios!” (“Worthy!”) to which the congregation replied, “Axios!” with one especially sweet little boy’s voice calling out loudly, sometimes preempting the archbishop, other times, the crowd’s affirmation.

In his remarks, Fr. Vasilios Louros, the presiding priest of the community, praised the multiple and admirable achievements of the lay people of his community and especially those of Archbishop Elpidophoros in protecting the clergy and parishioners of the church, as well as his multiple and admirable achievements including fundraising help for Greece and encouraging vaccination against COVID-19.

The evening ended with a light repast and beautifully coordinated performances of Greek folk dances by the costumed children of the Greek American Institute.