An ancient tradition continued at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York when Archbishop Elpidophoros of America bestowed the Cathedral’s Dean, Fr. Evagoras Constantinides, the honor of wearing a special cross that comes with the rank of “Economos,” considered a spiritual “promotion” in lay people’s terms.
Founded in 1913, the parish was the first New York City Greek Orthodox Church to be established outside Manhattan. Over the years, SS. Constantine and Helen grew to become one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese, with active educational programs for young people, including a thriving Greek school.
In 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that destroyed St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, just across the bridge from Brooklyn in Lower Manhattan, Saints Constantine and Helen became– and remains to this day– the temporary spiritual home to the faithful of Saint Nicholas at Ground Zero. In fact, at each Divine Liturgy, when the priest sing the Aplytikion, or hymn, of the parish, both the apolytikia of Saints Constantine and Helen and Saint Nicholas are sung, a tradition the parish has observed for 20 years and will continue to do, according to Fr. Evagoras, until the doors of Saint Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center are open again.
Clergy ranks, or “offikia,” are a means of rewarding clergy for their contribution to the Church, whether pastorally, theologically, academically, administratively, spiritually, socially, educationally, or by missionary or charitable works.
Practices vary amongst the various Orthodox Christian jurisdictions but the ranks are an important milestone in the priest’s life.
For married clergy, there are three ranks. The first rank is Presbyter, which a priest receives when he is first ordained. The second rank is Economos, which symbolically comes with the blessing to wear the epigonation (diamond shaped piece that hangs by his knee) and also a pectoral cross. The third rank is Protopresbyter, which roughly translates to “first priest” or “leading priest” and comes with the title “Very Reverend.”
For celibate clergy, there is one more higher rank, Archimandrite.
While each jurisdiction handles their “offikia” differently and there is no set rule in the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Elpidophoros has imported the tradition used at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which was different than the way his predecessor Archbishop Demetrios, elevated priests’ ranks.
The former Archbishop usually did not give priests the blessing to wear the pectoral cross until they were Protopresbyter, whereas Archbishop Elpidophoros follows the Constantinopolitan tradition of bestowing the cross with the rank of Economos. Although Demetrios had “elevated” Constantinides to the rank of “Economos” years ago, he didn’t have the honor of wearing the pectoral cross, which Elpidophoros gave him.
The elevation was bestowed on Fr. Evagoras, popular amongst his faithful for establishing numerous programs for young and old alike at the century-old Brooklyn Cathedral and years of dedication to the various ministries of the Archdiocese that he has served.
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