At Easter, We Count Heads

On Good Friday, life stops.

What seemed essential until yesterday, the joys and sorrows and everything else, have become insignificant.

The great news, the stunning event of global and cosmic significance, a fact that no one ever witnessed but which almost all Hellenes believe passionately, overshadows everything: On Good Friday Christ makes His great, everlasting sacrifice. He delivers His spirit on the Cross. (See also last week’s Greek language Periodiko titled, ‘The Cross as a Sign of Orthodoxy and Life’).

“It is done,” He declared. It is and it sounds terrible to hear in any language, but especially so in Greek: Τετέλεσται!

But this is not the end. On the contrary, it is the beginning.
The Beginning of Spring. A new life.
The Resurrection. The salvation of man.

These days, during Holy Week, our churches are filled. The traditions of centuries continue. The clergy renews its ties with the rest of the people.

The nation and community is united. We become one big family.

In the Greek-American community last week, we count heads. Which families were present in Church and which were absent? Have they moved away? Have new Greek families been added to the area and the parish?

We also have this strange experience here in the United States of celebrating our Easter one week after the Western Christians – although every few years, but not every 4 as is popularly believed, we celebrate Easter on the same day. But because of their greater numbers they monopolize the public aspect of the holiday – so the Pascha of the Greeks is not also a national holiday – and their Easter traditions are considered the standard form, ours is an exotic element in our American communities.

But there is some good that comes of this for us. It differentiates us. It strengthens our sense of identity. It strengthens us.

In the Greece of the crisis, the churches on Good Friday – according to the correspondents of The National Herald who work in our office in Athens – were crowded. But there were also signs of people escaping to the countryside. What are they to do?

They need a break from the stress and strain of city life. The Easter feast might be more joyous in the villages, and maybe the Easter dinner table will cost them less, too.

But when they return to Athens, to everyday life, the melancholy will return for many…

This year, the Patriarchal Church of Constantinople felt better, felt safer with the presence of the leader of Greece’s leading opposition party.

A Holy Week that highlights the importance and interest of Greece in the Patriarchate.
A tangible promise of it’s continued, future support.

These days, however, our beloved Cyprus, this tortured island, is enduring an unprecedented tragedy: The murder of at least seven people by a member of its Armed Forces.

One wonders, of course, how this can happen? How? There is no logic in such cases. And so there are no answers.

Only sadness.


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