DENVER - Fr. Chris Margaritis was born in Gary, Indiana, having also lived in Ohio, New York, and Greece. He spent his teenage years in Tucson, Arizona, also the home town of his wife, Maria. He served as a parish chanter and youth director before graduating from Holy Cross School of Theology in 1982, ordained to the priesthood the same year, and has served parishes across the West in California, Alaska, Washington, Arizona, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and now Assumption Cathedral in Denver, Colorado.
Fr. Chris has served as Diocese Youth Advisor in California, founded four OCF University campus fellowships, worked in several summer camp programs and has been involved in five Archdiocese YAL conferences. He has presided over Pan Orthodox Clergy Councils, led a mission team to Africa and served for over ten years as co-editor of the Archdiocese Presbyter's newsletter.
The National Herald: Tell us about your background.
Fr. Chris Margaritis: I have been a priest 38 years, was a photographer, NYC cab driver, worked in restaurants and did some medical work intending to be an MD from High School.
TNH: What would you like to say abouit the role and services of the local Greek Orthodox church.
Fr. Margaritis: We serve people, teach the Orthodox faith, help in times of trouble, counsel, and do what we can to strengthen the Greek Orthodox community.
TNH: Churches are closed, fear, pain, doubt and insecurity prevail. How can the Church help us during these challenging times?
Fr. Margaritis: Faith is taught not by words, but deeds and sacrifices. Though we are shut down somewhat forcefully, we have not lost faith, and as normality returns, I am confident that our faith and perseverance through all things will again be on display, provided we are true to our Lord and the faith.
TNH: In Greece, there is a big debate on the issue of Holy Communion and whether it should be allowed while Coronavirus remains a threat. What are your views on the subject?
Fr. Margaritis: The Church has faced far worse and survived, Plague of Justinian for example. After 38 years of service, I have never even caught a cold by the eucharist. I am not worried about this at all. The spoon is superficial to begin with. The Church originated with the "common cup," shared lip to lip, then tongs and spoon as people receiving by hand were taking the host home for worship, which is forbidden by our faith; it is for consumption only. If we change the means again, well, it has happened before.
TNH: Have the church-goers suffered with the church lockdown?
Fr. Margaritis: Hard to say until they return. Cabin fever for certain, but so far all seem fairly well. Then again, what am I seeing locked up and locked out?
TNH: Once churches open, what precautionary measures will you be taking?
Fr. Margaritis: Whatever the law requires. We will sanitize after all services as well.
TNH: Can this Coronavirus environment influence/hinder our aspirations?
Fr. Margaritis: I don't see how a virus or bacterium changes who we are. Certainly disease will influence us, and some are permanent and are things to overcome, but life has its flaws and death is the worst of all. While non-believers consider such things natural, believers consider eternal life our true nature, and trust God in this and in all things ... even disease and death.
TNH: Is there enough emphasis put on the spiritual well-being and faith in the treatment of illnesses?
Fr. Margaritis: It does seem to be the constant theme in our sermons, so considering we also do the same at visitations, and for those who author books and articles, we do what we best can.
TNH: Is there a lack of faith in the new generation? Is there a contrast with the older generation?
Fr. Margaritis: There is a growing secularization, and the media keeps pounding leftist ideas and seems growing in anti-Christian sentiment, though this is not shown to Islam. Meanwhile, there is already an epidemic of cell phone and texting interaction which seems to be affecting actual human interaction. Couple that with the meanness of twittering and a new epidemic of narcissism, well, we have our challenges...
TNH: How tightly knit is the Greek community here in Denver, Colorado?
Fr. Margaritis: From what I've seen elsewhere, medium. People genuinely liked greeting each other after Church coffee fellowship, and some frequent certain businesses in groups and are quite personable. They stick together generally speaking though.
TNH: How strong are the local charities over here? Right now what can we do as individuals to help?
Fr. Margaritis: We have certain individuals who are most generous and keep things flowing. I wish we could do more, but we are often inundated with drug users seeking handouts to satiate their addiction. Hard to keep balance at times, sadly.
TNH: What is the economic impact on the churches during this crisis?
Fr. Margaritis: Immense, and the damage is not done. We don't have a mortgage, but we are also unclear on when things will lift, and how deep the losses will be.
TNH: We are living in the middle of a pandemic can anything good come out of it? What should we be learning?
Fr. Margaritis: It's too early to call that one. Much to worry about, much to hope for. We get back and we'll see, but we always remain positive and hopeful.
TNH: Who are the heroes in everyday life?
Fr. Margaritis: Right now the medical professionals. We have not overrun their systems yet, so that is good, but the curtailing of so called `non-essential' medical and other issues is vexing.
TNH: Which do you consider to be the core values in life?
Fr. Margaritis: Love the Lord and leaving the planet better than we found it.
TNH: What to you is the objective and meaning of life?
Fr. Margaritis: The same, but also working for and knowing something about the reality of God has been unequalled.
TNH: Tell us more about the great love of God and the great gift of life.
Fr. Margaritis: The relationship with God means you're never alone or lonely, that learning through faith is dependable when nothing else is, and that life despite its ups and downs is filtered through that love and remains always positive. Love is what God built us for, so when used, we are at our best.
TNH: Should we forget the search for happiness, and instead try to find peace in the face anxiety? Should we give the journey more attention?
Fr. Margaritis: Happiness is simply a state of mind, or better yet, a choice. If we say we are unhappy, it is so. If we say we are happy, that becomes true as well. The journey is inevitable regardless, as is anxiety, and the whole plethora of human feelings. Overcoming and growing is our lot, and when done so in faith, it again makes us operate at our best. Why be anything less? Excellence does not depend on if we are happy, anxious, or at peace, it is there because we chose it and worked for it through all emotions and obstacles.
TNH: Why do we fear to go beyond our boundaries?
Fr. Margaritis: Humans have far many more flaws than just being bounded. We hate, we lie, we kill, and in droves we deceive ourselves and can't see past our own noses for our self-conceit. We are deluded, trust no one, not even God, and are capable of terrible things. History in this manner repeats itself. God's kingdom is beyond all this, and it is the intent of the believer to follow God's will through His Grace; along with prayer, the Church mysteries, and plain effort with sustained will. In God, we will not only go beyond our boundaries, but actually discover what they really are, not what we think they are.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, “for God loves a cheerful giver.”
2 Corinthians 9:7.