Our Greek Orthodox Community is very blessed to have so many Archons near and present with us. They are sterling examples of a faith fully and zealously lived and champions of truth, freedom, and human dignity. On this first Sunday, following the Feast of Saint Andrew the First-Called Disciple, it is only fitting, therefore, during this Advent Season of Thanksgiving, that we pause, applaud, and give thanks for them and their sacrifices to protect and preserve our Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch and all that for which it stands, endures, and proclaims.

The word “archon” comes from the Greek word meaning a leader, a ruler, a prince, a lord, an official, or anyone in a position of authority. For us today, they are leaders who have made their mark in their respective fields and professions with concomitant dignity and distinction and, therefore, “lead””by example in the areas of business, commerce, medicine, education, science, government, and the law–to name just a few.

Most important of all, and transcending these accomplishments, our archons take the lead in defending the Greek Orthodox Christian Faith and Its Spiritual Shepherd, the 270th successor to Saint Andrew the First Called Disciple and the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople, His All Holiness Bartholomew. Thus, For their successes, accomplishments, and commitment to defend the Ecumenical Patriarch, they have been rewarded with the ancient and venerable title of “archon.”

Established by Saint Constantine the Great (declared “Equal to the Apostles”) the City of Constantine (New Rome) was the capital of the Byzantine (East Roman) Empire for over 1100 years. Along with Rome and Alexandria, one of the three great cities of the ancient world, the City was a bastion of civilization and Orthodox Christianity. It was here that Ecumenical Synods defended, defined, and spread the Truth of the Teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church for the salvation of the world. It was here that the classics were taught and preserved. It was here that Christianity and Western Civilization made a stand, endured, and prevailed, for unlike buildings and monuments, the Truth and great ideas are eternal.

Today, this once great City is the home to only a few thousand Orthodox Christians. Since its tragic Fall on that fateful day of Black Tuesday, May 29th, 1453, due to centuries of oppression and persecution, the Greek Orthodox Faithful have dwindled in numbers to the point of being a little, loyal remnant localized in a small area. In the midst of these declining numbers and vanishing resources, the Ecumenical Patriarchate still stands as a bright shining beacon to those who believe in religious freedom, freedom of expression, the sanctity of creation, civilization, and the dignity of man. These are principles upon which every principled person can agree. These are principles and eternal truths that transcend ethnicity or tribe, race or sex, or any man-made boundary. These truths cannot be squashed, shackled or contained, for they are endowed by God and not granted by man.

Our Ecumenical Patriarch embodies these truths, and in the midst of his modest conditions, he stands tall and declares from afar that we must have love and respect for everyone if we want to have a true and lasting peace with one another and a sacramental relationship with creation. Love and mutual respect are the only solutions; otherwise, humanity, and creation itself, for which we are responsible, will continue to suffer and moan.

Our archons are constantly and valiantly striving to protect our Ecumenical Patriarch and that which he represents. Like shining swords around his throne, they are his defenders and have thus earned the title “Defender of the Faith.” As just one example of their good work, they have obtained 51 Religious Freedom Resolutions in 42 States seeking justice and religious liberty for the One Holy and Apostolic Church and all religious minorities. We applaud and commend them for their continuing efforts to fight the good fight and champion all that is good, noble, and just in the world for all peoples, in all places, and for all times.

In recognition, and in honor of them, we gladly hold this Artoklasia service for them and their families. For as the Orthodox hymn of this beautiful service declares: “…those who earnestly seek the Lord will not be in want of any good thing.”

Faithfully gratefully yours in Christ, Rev. James T. Paris.

To learn more about the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, visit www.archons.org