St Paul a loving pastor of zeal: Patriarch

03 Dec 2008

By The Record

St Paul has daily impact on people, says Greek Orthodox patriarch.            

The real deal on St Paul: Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, delivers an address on “Enhancing the Ecumenical Dialogue” at Jesuit-run Fairfield University in Connecticut on November 14. Before delivering his remarks, the archbishop received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Fairfield. CNS photo/B.K. Angeletti, Fairfield University.

By Pete Sheehan
HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CNS) – St Paul the Apostle’s writings and ministry have a daily impact on people almost 2,000 years later and "an ocean away," and the Pauline year is not long enough to fully appreciate his legacy, Archbishop Demetrios told an audience in Huntington.
The patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in the US said St Paul’s influence is apparent if often unnoticed today and pointed out how often St Paul is quoted, not just in church circles, but in everyday life.
"Fight the good fight," "labour of love," "the wages of sin" and "suffer fools gladly" are among the common expressions from the 13 letters in the New Testament attributed to St Paul, Archbishop Demetrios said.
Yet the apostle’s legacy is "more profound," he noted.
Archbishop Demetrios, who is a Pauline scholar, made the remarks on November 23 in delivering the sixth annual Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua lecture on pastoral theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in the Rockville Centre Diocese.
An estimated 250 people filled the hall for the lecture, which is named after the retired archbishop of Philadelphia who was a graduate of the seminary in Huntington.
Catholics and Orthodox Christians are celebrating a Pauline year from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009.
Joined by other Christian leaders, including Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Pope Benedict XVI opened the year of St Paul at an evening prayer service in Rome. He said the apostle’s courageous witness to the faith should serve as a model for contemporary Christians.
In his lecture Archbishop Demetrios spoke of St Paul’s "pastoral genius" in taking the Gospel of Christ to the larger world and establishing a body of thought that has endured so long.
A prime characteristic of St Paul’s legacy, the archbishop said, was his "adherence to the absolute nature of the truth of the Gospel." St Paul saw the Gospel "not as an abstract, theoretical truth," but a truth grounded in the person of Jesus, who died and is risen, he said. Christ crucified represents "the medicine of first resort for every spiritual weakness," he continued, and thus there can be "no possibility of compromise." According to St Paul, to be a pastor is to offer that Gospel with integrity, added the archbishop.
St. Paul insisted on overcoming human distinctions among believers, the archbishop said. "There is a school of thought" that divisions within a group must be accepted as part of the fallen human condition, but St Paul rejected such thinking, he said.
"What is the church" but the body of Christ, allowing for no divisions, the archbishop explained. St Paul specifically denounced distinctions among Jews and Greeks and rich and poor because any such distinctions are to be subordinated to unity in Christ, he said.
"We encounter the word ‘brother’ 34 times" in St Paul’s writings, Archbishop Demetrios said, driving home the point that in Christ "any other distinction is secondary."
In addition, St Paul emphasised "the plan of God for salvation for all people," Archbishop Demetrios said.
St Paul traveled "the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire" in his zeal to draw souls to Christ, he continued.
Closely related is St Paul’s adherence to the pastoral care of souls, which the apostle freely expressed in his writings, Archbishop Demetrios explained. St Paul wrote to his disciples that he prayed for them and thanked God for them.
"What an incredible difference it would make if every pastor" showed such zeal for his people, the archbishop said.
While "self-styled apostles" took advantage of the people to whom they preached, he said, "St Paul took the opposite approach," accepting nothing and refusing "to be a burden."
Rather, St Paul demonstrated "pastoral passion," comparing himself to a father or to a nurse caring for a child, the archbishop said.