Tachydromos - March 8, 2001

The Lonely Path of Integrity

Some Thoughts on Justine Frangouli's Book

by G. Papoulias

Our much-wandering friend, Justine Frangouli-Argyris comes from Odyssean regions. She may not be Homeric, but she is certainly Kazantzakian. She belongs to the Greek Diaspora. She is a much-travelled person, and thus as much in perpetual motion as she is supple in her movements.

She is the child of a priest and as such has all the sensibilities and experiences required to give her the capability of describing the life of a religious leader in the most effective manner.

THE LONELY PATH OF INTEGRITY is an exquisite intellectual product that has come with some delay, but it has come.

To begin with, I regard the title chosen for her book as apt enough. The cover is simple with soft colors and lends a special tone to the outward appearance of Archbishop Spyridon.

I know Justine to be a woman with passion. The contents of her book have proved to me that she described the facts of the Archbishop's life without touching up her account and, above all, dispassionately. These facts bring before the reader certain vivid pictures, on the one hand, and the man's spirituality, on the other.

A book written with the simplicity of Justine's style makes a short but highly significant period of Spyridon's career come to life and brings the reader face to face not with the book's epilogue, but with its lyrical skepticism and all the spectrum of questions and doubts formulated by the author.

Archbishop Spyridon is a religious leader highly educated. His contribution to the promotion of inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations is indisputable. What he really aimed at becomes obvious in his ministry as Archbishop. His problem is not how to promote any faith, but the faith. And since "man is a composite creature," partaking of mortal and divine essence, he has the power to be saved by giving precedence to the divine element in his make-up.

Archbishop Spyridon rejects a Christianity of inactivity that expects everything from God without any active participation in collective activity. He sharpened his perception so as to garner the most important (ideological) elements of the specific American environment in which he had been called upon to serve as pastor and to live. Then, having shaped his own system of values, he attempted to convey it in a full and clear manner so that his flock could comprehend his theological discourse.

Archbishop Spyridon is a clear-sighted custodian of our spiritual tradition.

The Phanar (in reality) does not operate according to our own worldly laws of logic. It operates according to the Sacred Canons, as implemented by Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon. Wordly interventions and interferences reached a climax in the case of Archbishop Spyridon. One sees a divinely-founded Church expecting and being forced to solve her problems by means of secular wisdom.

Instead of seeing the elections of bishops determined by the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the Sacred Canons, unfortunately we only see them determined by the high-handedness of secular figures. Our bishops, instead of being Chief Shepherds, are transformed into administrators of wordly interests of every description.

The term "Abba" (from the Aramaic abba = father) describes a venerable figure and goes back to the fourth century, when the foundations of monasticism were laid. In other words, Abbas were the ascetics, the anachorites, the athletes of the Faith; UNCOMPROMISING figures of INTEGRITY. The abbacian humbling of Archbishop Spyridon is not (in my view) humiliation, but an act of inner self-elevation. An ABBA of INTEGRITY chose spiritual withdrawal -anachoresis- through his LONELY PATH.

[ Translated from Greek ]

[ Ελληνικός Ταχυδρόμος (Montreal) - March 8, 2001 - p. _ ]