The Church Messenger - October 6, 1996

Episcopal Reflections...

The Žezl Is Passed

On Saturday, Sept. 21st, a new Archbishop for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was enthroned and the Žezl was passed. His Eminence, the Most Reverend Archbishop Spyridon became the fifth Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the first native born Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne in the Western Hemisphere. This historic event has filled all Orthodox Christians in our country with new hope and new expectations, and our Diocese has a new Exarch.

Archbishop Spyridon presents a thoughtful and powerful new voice for renewal of the spiritual and ecclesiastical life of Holy Orthodoxy. He is an American, born and bred, and yet he is an ecumenical citizen -- with experience, education and cultivation both in Orthodox Greece and Constantinople, as well as throughout Europe. This broad base of life experiences gives Archbishop Spyridon advantages hitherto unknown in an American Hierarch. He is neither overwhelmed by the American dream, nor underwhelmed by his ecumenical and truly cosmopolitan perspective. He brings a unique combination of culture, spiritual and ethnic heritage, and solid ecclesiological foundations. He is most certainly the Hierarch most capable of leading the American Orthodox into the Third Millennium of Christianity. As President of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America, he will lead us where we ought to go -- to a unity forged in the furnace of Orthodox spirituality, Orthodox theology, Orthodox liturgy and Orthodox canonical tradition. We can feel confident in both his capability as a leader and his vision as Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

And he is no stranger to the Carpatho-Russian faithful. He was my classmate at the Theological School of Halki some 30 years ago, and he was most recently our co-celebrant, companion and Special Representative of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW at the 1992 Sobor. It was there that many clergy and laity had the fortunate opportunity to meet and become acquainted with His Eminence, when he was the then Metropolitan of Italy.

At that time, Archbishop Spyridon became our friend. Now he has become a father in Christ for all of us, in his unique role as Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. All of us look forward with eager expectation to his first visit to Christ the Saviour Cathedral, where he will greet him not only with bread and salt, but love, respect and the deepest devotion.

The Žezl he bears in his hand has been entrusted to him and bequeathed to him by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He has been set over all the other arch-shepherds of the Church; to gather us rightly together that we may fulfill our duties, as the Apostle says, "decently and in good order." The staff is a symbol of healing, bearing the ancient sign of Ascelpios, the healer of ancient Greece, in the form of the Cross.

The Žezl reminds each and every one of us that it is the Cross which supports us on our long journey, and which guides us in our constant struggle for holiness. We pray that the Cross of Christ may indeed be the firm support and foundation of Archbishop Spyridon's ministry. As he lifts it high to show us the way to follow, let us look to that healing symbol for our own salvation, and follow the new Archbishop as he leads all of American Orthodoxy on a new path of unity in Christ and His Holy Church.

At the conclusion of the Enthronement in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, His Eminence Metropolitan Joachim of Chalcedon, the Special Representative of Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW, presented Archbishop Spyridon with a magnificent new Žezl from His All Holiness. It was a most generous and beautiful gift, surpassed only by the gift of Archbishop Spyridon to us. Let us be thankful to our beloved Patriarch for his goodness to us in sending us this devoted servant of God. And let us welcome Archbishop Spyridon with open arms and open hearts.

Eis Polla Eti Despota! Axios! Axios! Axios!

† Bishop Nicholas

[ The Church Messenger - October 6, 1996 - p. 2 ]