Distinguished and honourabe guests,
My dear young brethren of the graduating class,
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
I greet you all with the love of Christ who has ascended into Heaven! Hamjambo!
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
Every year, for the last 37 years, I find myself, by the grace of God, standing before a group of young men, who, having successfully completed the prescribed course of study which has been laid out as necessary preparation for the entrance into that high office which they aspire, I convey to them the congratulations and admonitions of the Orthodox Church. Yes, it is a moment of congratulations and admonitions; congratulations for this lofty achievement which is just but a beginning of a long path of study ahead of you; and admonitions which in this case are not in the sense of reprimands or reproaches but more-so cautions and warnings; yes, because the path you now set upon has been walked before by many; Apostles, Prophets, Church Fathers and many countless Saints, who all bear witness of the treacherous path ahead where Satan lays in wait for the weary traveler.
This brings us to the verse above from the Book of Jeremiah. A ceremony such as this is not an end of something but actually a beginning, hence the term commencement. You have traversed 3 tedious years of Theological studies, you have written well researched papers and come to terms with undisputable dogmatic truths probably not known to you before, you have studied the Fathers of the Church and the lives of the Saints and probably questioned whether you are worthy of the path they treaded on. All of the people here gathered have set out great expectations for you to live upto. You are therefore at a crossroads, my dear young brethren.
You are being sent out to evangelize. This is a moment not foreign to the history of Christendom; the Apostles were at this junction at one time, they came to this same crossroad and had to search far and deep before choosing which way to go. They had the chance of escaping the tribulations by heading back to their fishing trade, yet they didn’t. They asked for the ancient paths which Christ had taught them and asked for the good way which the Spirit they had received was guiding them onto and they walked in it.
At this crossroad, you will realize the reality that God has not created every person to be a priest or deacon, some will be catechists and some Chanters, some will be counsellors and others administrators. These are the outcomes of a crossroad. We therefore, today, resolve not to place our expectations on you young graduates as opposed to God’s expectations, because we doing so we set you up for failure, we instead leave you to be all that God created you to be.
Whichever path you choose from this crossroad, go forth and evangelize! This means you will bring the good news to all the spheres of humanity, thereby transforming it from within and making it new. Evangelization is dynamic, rich and complex, don’t attempt; in your search for purpose and direction; to define it in a partial of fragmental way, any attempt at that will only impoverish and distort it. Proclaim Christ to those who do not yet know him, preach and catechize, confer baptisms to the converts and perform all the other sacraments.
Center your life on Christ. Keep the helm of salvation upon your heads, remembering to protect your thinking from ungodly teachings. Remembering where you come from and where God is taking you. Keep the breastplate of righteousness on at all times to protect the word of God which has been written upon your hearts. Wear the belt of truth which holds all of your armor together for your spiritual protection, the truth which is Jesus Christ. These are my admonitions to you, my beloved young brethren.
The Seminary study and life has been life a training yard, a gym or a field. In that yard you have run the mile, lifted the weights and completed that set of exercises which allow you to put on the armor and go forth into war. If you have rightly used that course, you most certainly realized how little you know and how much more you have to learn. You now feel the emptiness that comes with realizing how many days of toil and nights of watching and prayer you now have to spend, before you can truly start to consider yourselves as in any degree entitled to the characteristic of well instructed theologians. There are many hills and valleys to traverse in you theological life, your studies have only just begun. Whichever path you choose, resolve with the help of the Lord, to execute it to the very end. Purpose to retain and improve the acquaintance; which you have striven to acquire; with all branches of theological study. To this end, count on our support.
As you go forth, regard the ministry not as a profession or an office to be held as a bounded duty, and at the pleasure of the congregation among whom it is discharged, but as a mission from a bleeding savior to a dying world. It is a mission from a reconciled father to children whom he calls to Himself.
I once again congratulate you, go forth and toil for the Kingdom; be ambassadors worthy of your calling. Hongera wanangu!
God bless you all.
Archbishop Makarios Tillyrides,