By Nicholas Karakas
The Greek Orthodox Church has to re-orient itself that while the faithful remain true and steadfast to the Lord, their households do not revolve around the Archdiocese. Everything seems to have come to a screeching halt. In response to the jolt of Covid-19, our expectations for our usual and habitual behavior of handling routine matters has or will possibly recast our lives. The nurturing and education of our children, the working overtime parents, contributions to church and community life and the new realities we will all encounter will all need to be answered. But surely you know about this.
Entering into a conversation with your children and grandchildren during this term of angst of the imminent crucifixion of our Jesus, and at the same time locked out of our Churches, unable to venerate the resurrection, is very important, not scary, but should be in a sincere and parental tone. In addition, not for overkill, but perhaps the Godparents on their own could be of inestimable importance and could play a role. Whether we send our children to public, private or parochial schools, or opt for homeschooling, regardless of how much we appreciated good teachers before, multiply that by a cool one hundred.
That whatever the costs of the Coronavirus to our nation, they will undoubtedly mount to many trillions of dollars, when one calculates the many small and large businesses which will succumb to business closures and people out of work will cause for themselves and their families. We have to realize the reality that government resources to bail us out are limited, that its exhaustive spending cannot make us rich, but could turn us into a country beholden to China which owns trillions of dollars of our debt already.
The only answer I have is to pray for our battered nation and hope we can quickly reach the other side of this pandemic.
So once again, I return to our faith and the Greek Orthodox Church. No need to remind us that this is the 21st century, except that those in the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the members of the Clergy of the various English-speaking countries: Canada, Great Britain, Australia and the USA, where the Archbishops continue to resist the use of the English language, yet demand and foster the Greek language.
For one, fellow readers, I adore the Greek language, it is the generic matron of most and the important languages. Anything that man has done, the inventions, rhetoric, the nuances, descriptions, science, mathematics, and solar can be described by the Greek language. Yet for all that, if we are currently viewing clearly and sorrowfully, the landscape for the GOC is that our youth, young and middle-aged adults are streaming off the Orthodox reservation to other Christian churches or possibly even becoming non-religious or atheists. All clergy, undoubtedly will admit to the loss of parishioners for this and other reasons for the mass exodus rather than admit to the truth. I think, and strongly exhort don’t kick me, that our GOC in the English-speaking countries should busy itself in re-shaping the liturgies into an ear pleasing tonality and choreographing the troparia to bring out the best in wording and voice quality. Then too, there is a need to address the overly ostentatious robes, high hats and unkempt frightening looking beards.
Frankly, this would never happen as the purists who early on have allowed the other Orthodox churches to use their native languages and spiritual customs, and who because of their defiant and obstreperous denial to any changes to the exodus will doom Greek Orthodoxy per se to miniscule enclaves practicing, their Orthodox Faith in small home groups.
I can only pray that these NO sayers and the stubborn Hierarchy could live another 50 plus years to witness what our Holy Greek Orthodox Church would be like as a result of their arrogance and intransigence.
So now fine readers, if you have come this far, you may maybe think that if I toned my acerbic writing down, I could probably get some kind of response from a Hierarch. To that I say thank you for reading and thinking this. But in my real life, I thank the Lord for caring one this far as I am in great health, still I am but a few steps from Sunset Hills. You may also say that I am angry. You bet I am. This feeling of anger and isolation was born in AB Spiredon’s reign when I served on the Archdiocesan Council and was unceremoniously dumped after two years, principally for speaking up and out honestly.
I think about my now adult daughters, Greek school, names day visitations, church Bible class, Sunday school and the now the grown children of friends and family who have now all gone to some other church venues. Come on now admit it, if this separation didn’t happen with your children, zoise se sas. You are certainly aware of children from other family and friends where parents lament losing their children from the faith.
So, what should we do now? We guys in the pews should demand that the AB, if he even has a splinter of a backbone, call an assembly, not the pussy cat Archdiocesan Council, but of professionals, knowledgeable lay women and men and clear headed, open minded clergy to address the important issues facing the Greek Orthodox Church. These pressing questions are important to our future, not us, but for our children, grandchildren and those yet to be born.
I apologize for this outburst. One gets tired at sounding the bugle and just a few respond. If I have done nothing else in this message, allow me to leave you with this Thursday reading of Mathew 26: 26-30, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Nick Karakas, Karakasn@yahoo.com
You did right dear Nick, as knowing that it is the only way progress will be made, His Eminence requested honest feedback. Many of us Know this πόνο/pain so vulnerably shared. The change will take place as we each do what interpreting Lk 6:21, Sts. Chrysostom, Theophylact of Ohrida, Symeon the New Theologian & of blessed memory, Avgoustinos of Florina recommend: “First weep for Our sins & then, for what our Savior’s Church has in some places, become..” Only by mercy,
Do though, pray daily for all the leaders esp, hierarchs (I Tim 2:2) as: i) it will be how we are again & again, reminded, “a φοβερό βήμα/fearsome judgement seat”; & ii ) ours (Esp., for those we are under) is a Spiritual Warfare (Eph. 6:12)
I am Anglo Greek and greek citizen to book, psychologist, και η ελληνική γλώσσα μιλάω, διαβάζω και γράφω αυτόματα, so yes what i say should bear witness.
I live in Bulgaria now, currently on lock down in this beautiful country. We have so much history between us. And i know the greek church in USA quite well.
And of course here we worship in modern bulgarian as modern Romanian in Romania.
And the bulgarian Church is on balance humble and modest.And coming back from the dead.
There are many issues and one could write a thesis but there is a marvelous book called ‘ how angels fall!’, about Orthodoxy in modern Europe. Worth a read as covering much of what we discuss. And should cause the greek Orthodox of America to look beyond their provincial horizons.
SO perhaps I can say how I see the Church.
With the fall of Communism the ice has melted revealing good and bad store in the theological cupboards . The good is the witness behind the iron certain of some 70 – 44 yrs of persecution and the sea of martyrs produced. And the lives of Bishop Luke, the eye surgeon. Bishop Antony Bloom and fr Alexander Men.Or fr Alexander Elchaninov for example. HEY do any of you guys even know who or what i am talking about? I doubt it with yr greek american Parish pump level.
Yet it also brought to to the surface the medevalism that some offer the faith in with such attitude as demanding normal worship now etc And talking in tone and content thst does not connect with today’ s understanding of reality and the bigoted attitude to others on the margins . And the exclusive concentration on sacramentals as magic and ritual and not Christ.
There are two extremes I see, each dead. One is learning the WRONG LESSONS from western Christianity, the shaven face and worse the one with token three hairs stuck on the chin!! and 19th c under takers suit and big dog collar not seen in Europe these last 50 yrs. Rows of rigid pews, or worse chairs, destroying any spontanaity in worship, and kitsch banality of old fashioned western type choir and organ, or worse harmonium and a race to the most anaemic Gospel of niceness. Devoid of any challenge or deeper spirituality, but hanging on to the jarring bishops ‘ crowns and byzantine emperor robes and pompous stupid titles and use of a language none of you understand and above all being governed from that Sea of greek delusion and corruption known as the Phanar from where yr current satrap hails. If i want western worship and superb organ music of Bach etc, I know where to go and with relevent sermon too folks!! And I could go on.
The other extreme is the retreat to medeval world of frankly medival obscessed ritual dead end, and talking in language that avoids the last 500 yrs.!! Adam and Eve and miracle working icons in excess as main focus and denial of what a virus does, and as you say beards out of the cave man era!! When the bearded appearance of any currently fashionable young man with perhaps a Pony tail or two ,
is what is asked for by tradition and common sense. Neither one extrene or the other. If not the rason, then normal clothes. Read the Diaries of the late Fr Alexander Schememn!! It is instructive that inspite of some rubbish coming from the Slav churches, that all my example are Russian. Not that there are not Greeks,lay and clergy, who understanding the times. And those as Mother Maria of Paris who speak to us. WHO U SAY? Look her up bro!!
Monks in different position but we talking Parish clergy.
And being truly revolted by the corruption of money and the Archon et al especially in yr GOA and dare I say it the worship of Athos as font of all holiness etc when YES THERE IS,known to God, but also frankly medeval crap trap and how to say, open financial corruption. Maybe worldly success and numbers have killed the spirit of earlier times?.
And rigid worship not conecting with the worshipped in word or action at all.
And the scandal of mock pseudo celibacy thst counts for life of a bishop with a comfortable batchelor life style above the level of the average parishioner. Words and not deed covered in gold and silk with talk of Christ only . Such a church is either a museum or a kitsch version of one. I am not sure which i hold in contempt more.
I could go on but I have thrown enough into the pot. What is wanted is neither a byzantine version of dying academic trendy 1960s Christianity or a fosilised museum piece. Again read fr Alexander Schememn.
There are signs if life and New horizons and monasteries thst are beacons of tradition in good sense and clergy who live in Christ and have living communities.
Greek America, ha a delusional Term. Wake up and get rid of Phanar and its demands and yr satrap. Thst would be a start.