BOSTON – For 38 years Dr. Lewis Patsavos has humbly offered essential and valuable services to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America as professor of Canon Law and Director of Field Education. Dr. Patsavos received an honor he has long deserved, being named Archon Protekdikos of the Ecumenical Throne. The recommendation was made to Patriarch Bartholomew by Archbishop Demetrios of America and the honor was bestowed upon the dedicated professor by the Patriarch himself on Sunday, November 1, 2009 at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York.
In an interview with The National Herald professor Patsavos said, “I am deeply grateful to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios for having nominated me to be an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This honor was especially meaningful in view of the fact that it was personally bestowed by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch during his recent visit to America. I accepted it with deep reverence and humility as an expression of appreciation for my 38 years of teaching ministry at Holy Cross School of Theology and “diakonia” to both our Archdiocese and venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
He also said, “I see it as a call to deeper commitment and service. The premise upon which I have always exercised my professional responsibilities has been: “To whom much is given, much will be expected.” To be assigned the sacred duty of training and educating our spiritual leaders has been an overwhelming privilege and a daunting task which has not been taken lightly. Similarly, to be consulted, as I have been, time and again, about the Church’s canonical position on matters affecting her life in the world and the life of her faithful members has been a gift of the highest magnitude. I consider both blessings the greatest reward which can be entrusted to a layperson.”
Asked about the challenges facing our Church and Greek American Community, Dr. Patsavos said, “as a Church, we are confronted with the formidable task of spreading a message in a world saturated with all kinds of influences conveyed by the mass media and telecommunications in ways never before imaginable. Many of these influences stand contrary to what the Church teaches. Added to this are various trends within the Church herself which make it difficult for her message to be heard. The message of the Church is clear: salvation in this turbulent and dangerous world comes only in Jesus Christ! When this message becomes clouded with other, non-essential messages and influences, its effectiveness becomes compromised.”
He continued added that, “as Orthodox Christians, we have the fullness of truth in conveying the message of salvation as intended by our Savior. The difficulty in spreading it effectively, however, lies in the fact that we are surrounded by negative elements within and without which interfere with what is essential. To put it as succinctly as a great preacher once did: “It is important to know who we are, but it is essential to know Whose we are.” So long as we never forget this latter pronouncement, despite the interferences and distractions from time to time, the Church’s message will ultimately prevail.”
Dr. Patsavos explained the role of the Field Education Program in the education and training of seminarians: “besides teaching the courses in Canon Law at our seminary, I was also responsible for directing the Field Education Program there. This year we are observing the 35th anniversary of this program. When I was first asked by the then Dean of the School of Theology, Fr. Stanley Harakas, to organize a program which would integrate theory and praxis, I saw this as a great challenge. After 35 years, I can say with much satisfaction that the program has become an integral part of the curriculum and a factor in my own development as a canonist. I say this because just as the canons are the living expressions of the dogmas of the Church, the practical experience gained through field education is also the living expression of the theory learned in the classroom.”
The professor continued by saying, “it is important to note that experimentation in devising the most effective means of imparting ministry to our people is essential to the program. This relates to what was said earlier about imparting the message of the Gospel in a way which reaches the hearts of all those who comprise the body of Christ in the local parish. One must learn to impart it in a way which can be understood by the young and the old, the professional and the workman, the native and the immigrant, and so on. This is a daunting responsibility, one which requires both flexibility and adaptability, characteristics of our canonical tradition. That is why I said there was more of a relationship between Canon Law and Field Education than I would have originally thought possible,” and he added, “one thing is certain in this entire enterprise. Nothing in the preparation of those students who seek ordination reveals to them more convincingly the skills they must develop if they are to be successful in ministry. The corollary to this statement is that no vocation (as opposed to profession) has more demands put upon it than that of the spiritual shepherd.”
Professor Patsavos was one of the most beloved and dedicated spiritual children of the late Archbishop Iakovos. He said that, “My association with Archbishop Iakovos began when I was first entrusted to his spiritual care by my parents as a Sunday school student and altar boy at the Annunciation Cathedral in Boston. That relationship grew steadily over the years and impacted my life perhaps more than any one single influence. This was due undoubtedly to the powerful presence of his personality, as anyone who has known him intimately can attest. I can say without hesitation that from those formative years in my life, he was my inspiration.”
Archbishop Iakovos, Dr. Patsavos said, “demanded perfection and was an austere task master. Although this was true, all those influenced by him sensed his sincere concern and love, as evidenced by the many loyal friends whose relationship with him stretches back to the time of his deanship at Annunciation Cathedral. Furthermore, strong friendships were forged among these friends and continue to this very day. In fact, many of those I hold as my closest and dearest friends are persons with whom I share the same memories of his person, and the same reverence and unfading love for his memory.”
Dr. Patsavos concluded, “he was my mentor and supported all the decisions related to my professional life. Throughout his life he challenged and agonized, always seeking what he thought was best for the Church. In the latter years of his life, he was still deeply involved in the current events surrounding him. His ability to assess them with clarity and vision continued unabated. He enjoyed reminiscing about the past and looking ahead – sometimes with optimism, sometimes with pessimism – to the future. What is important is that he retained his passion for the life of the Church up to the end. I believe he would have been pleased with the honor bestowed upon me!”
Contact Theodore Kalmoukos at email@example.com.