For years, when I visit a building in Constantinople that belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I am impressed with the cleanliness, the care, the noble condition in which they maintain it. As if time does not wound it at all.
It doesn’t matter whether this building is a sacred church, a school, or a cemetery – or whether it is occupied and in use or not, they maintain it in exceptional condition.
I repeat that these acts evoke pride. This mindset radiates a nobility with deep roots through the centuries.
It is a strong tradition, to care for these places like the apples of their eyes, efforts analogous to their keeping their ecclesiastical and other religious traditions.
The reasons for such dedication were expressed in the speech of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – published in our Greek Edition on February 10 – at the funeral service of the last Dean of the Theological School of Halki, Metropolitan Maximos of Stavroupolis. These words shed much light on the motives of their noble mission.
He said: “Maximos of Stavroupolis, that pained clergyman, was seen to have supervised the operation of the School, but even after the closure of the School, he always made sure that it had a proper, presentable appearance. And he used to quote [the poet Kostis] Palamas: “Unkempt and unadorned I will not send thee to Charon.”
So, they maintain and adorn everything, whatever belongs to them. They grit their teeth and struggle to keep it all intact, these few who are left, in case Charos asks for them.
What a great lesson for us and for all!
And the lesson is just this: that we must express our love, pride, and passion for what we have, for what we do.
And let me say that this wisdom must be taught in the United States, about our own institutions.
In the same speech, the Patriarch said something more shocking – something that is familiar to Phanariots, others in the Polis and to Greeks in general, but perhaps not fully understood by others, especially we Greek-Americans who live in freedom, who did not tread the tragic historical path of the Greeks in Turkey.
He said: “When I first visited Athens as Patriarch – in 1999 – I went to the grave of my predecessor Patriarch Constantine VI, and to the grave of the our [seminary’s] Scholarch, and I had the blessing of God to bring them both here, to the place where they belong, the place to which we all belong. It is the land of our fathers, land nourished by our blood. Only in this earth will we find eternal rest. Eternity be their memory. Happy Easter”.
Exactly right: “It is the land of our fathers, land nourished by our blood. Only in this earth will we find eternal rest.”
Only those who come from Constantinople, from Pontos, Ionia – only those who know about the pain, the blood, the genocides that those people were subjected to, not for any other reason but because they were Greek Christians – only they can understand the meaning of these courageous, historic words of the Patriarch.