Δευτέρα, 8 Μαρτίου 2010

Replying to an English-speaking young admirer of ancient Greece


The following letter had been sent some time ago as our response to a young person in a Greek community overseas, who, out of  her exceeding love for ancient Greece had turned to paganism (in other words, she had made the same mistake like many other of our fellow-men).
Without in the least wishing to downgrade the entirely personal character of that letter or the individual significance that each person has, we are publishing it with the permission of its author, because we believe that it contains information of broader interest for all those who seek the truth and who have a deep concern for it.
Theodore I. Riginiotes
Translated by K.N.
***

Dear young friend,
I thank you for your reply.  However, I think it only proper to add a few observations to what you have written.
I hope you are able to read Greek; if not, I would suggest that you learn the Greek language (both ancient and modern) thoroughly. This will facilitate you greatly when reading the authentic ancient Greek and Christian texts, without the assistance of translations. A translation may well contain errors or falsehoods.
On God.
I know of a certain god, whose son was a cannibal. His name was Poseidon and his son was called Polyphemus. We learnt about him in Homer's "Odyssey".  Personally, I would not like to have such a god...
I also know of a god who ate his children, and of a goddess who tossed her newborn child from the peak of mount Olympus because it was...ugly.  Their names respectively were Cronus and Hera. Again, I would not want to have such gods as my own...
I know of another god, who drove a mother insane and induced her to butcher her own son, simply because her son refused to worship him.  His name was Dionysus and we are told of this incident in the tragedy written by the great Euripides, "The Bacchae".  Nor is this god to my liking...
I know of yet another god who wanted mankind to remain in the dark and who sadistically punished the Titan who brought fire to them.  The name of that god was Zeus and the name of that Titan...well, you surely know it.  I would again not want to have a god like Zeus...
However, I know of a certain God, the creator of the universe and of mankind, who condescended to become a Man and Who gave Himself up to wicked people, allowing them to torture Him and kill Him.  And, even though they were killing Him, He forgave them.  He had nothing to gain; the only reason He did it was for the love He had for all people, like the way that someone feels for his loved one.  So, this God invited all people - including His murderers - to join Him through Love, so that they could become godlike themselves!  His divine name is Son of God the Father, Logos and Sophia (meaning "Logic" and "Wisdom"), while His human name is Jesus Christ.  This is the God I am extremely pleased to have; a God Who loves me, even when I don't love Him.
On shepherds and sheep.
My God is a strange God.  Not only is He a shepherd, He is also a lamb. He is a shepherd, who gives His life to save me from the wolves (John 10:11-15), but is also a lamb, because he allowed them to slaughter Him, the way that lambs are slaughtered. His disciples, albeit shepherds (pastors) of the Church, were likewise lambs that were slaughtered (Matthew 10:16-22 and Luke 10:3), just as every Christian is both shepherd and lamb, for the sake of aiding his fellow-man. (In the writings of Christian holy Fathers it is always stressed that people are characterized as "rational sheep" and not "irrational" ones.  They are thus referred to, when juxtaposed to "wolves", and not to people).
With a God such as this, Who Himself becomes a lamb to save me, I don't mind in the least if I too become a sheep to help others.
Albeit significant, ancient Hellenic philosophy tends to focus more on the intellect, therefore it finds it hard to comprehend love. Perhaps that is why you can't comprehend Christ's behaviour. He doesn't "break up families" (on the contrary, He unites them); whereas families had been broken up because many idolaters had put their children to death, simply because they were Christian. Such were: the father of saint Barbara, saint Govdela's father, or the father of  the Indian saint Johasaph and so many others.
So, do you really believe these sorts of fathers were free men, or beasts?  What is certain, is that the holy martyrs who gave up their lives for their faith were definitely not sheep; they were free men. Executioners and torturers are more reminiscent of sheep...
Similarly, when the Achaeans raped the women of Troy (Ajax raped Cassandra inside the temple of Athena), and when Polyxeni was sacrificed on Achilles' tomb, or when the Athenians sacrificed three prisoners in Salamis - were they your idea of 'free men' also, or were they beasts?  And what about the Spartans, who tortured the Helots and discarded all disfigured infants in the Kaiadas pit?  Were they also free men, not beasts?
What about the Athenians, when they attacked Sicily (and were destroyed there), and when they condemned Socrates, even Miltiades, Phidias and many others - were they free men also, or sheep?
I'm afraid that one can find beasts, sheep and free men everywhere. In the 3rd century, the neo-Platonist Porphyrios had complained about how too many Hellenes were performing human sacrifices in Arcadia!!! (Details in the Greek article: http://www.oodegr.com/neopaganismos/arxaio_xali/Thisies1.htm). Not forgetting that numerous inscriptions have been found that refer to people who sacrificed humans to the "gods". Were these people free men or sheep?
Other points.
I have 'provided' you with an entire library full of knowledge, however, to study an entire library would require a very long time (even many years), along with a sound knowledge of the Greek language.  You may feel confident now about what you believe in and may not wish to study it, but you should nevertheless not discard it. There will come a time when you will need to examine the 'other side' from within our books, and of course not from one or two of them, but from scores of them. Only then will you get a better idea of what Christianity is all about and what it teaches.
I too don't want a God for whose sake millions of people are killed. That is why I am - and will remain - an Orthodox Christian and never become a Roman Catholic or Protestant. It is precisely because I am an Orthodox Christian that I know I should never kill anyone, given that Christ conquered by being killed, and not by killing.  This is the way that my homeland Hellas will become the land of light and glory - through love and peace - and not through violence.  Violence and decadence now abound in Hellas, exactly because we have forsaken Christianity, and not because we are Christians.
Christianity is not 'Jewish'; it is for all mankind. That is the correct attitude, because, if I love  only my own homeland or only my family, it becomes easier for me to kill or totrure those who don't belong to them. And THAT is not light and glory, but sheer fanaticism and bestial behaviour.
You can distort pieces of the New Testament and present (or regard) Jesus Christ and His disciples as evil and mean. But that is not the truth. Quite simply, Christianity is about love and love is a difficult item.  Perhaps that is the reason you have noticed many Christians who don't love, but instead hurt others. These people also hurt Christ, and it is as though they are crucifying Him over and over again. But, they are not what Christianity is; Christianity is those humble people, who know how to love.  Search, and you shall discover them.  If you permit me, I would like to inform you that you can learn about such people, in books like the Archmandrite Sophrony Sacharov's: "Saint Siluan the Athonite" and "His Life is mine", published by the Stavropegic Monastery to St John the Baptist, Essex, England. Also: by Klaus Kenneth, "Born to HateReborn to Love". There are also the books by people such as the Orthodox Bishops Anthony Bloom and Kallistus Ware.... 
Dear friend,  I know I am not able to convince you to worship God, nevertheless, I am writing to you so that you will know what to do when you eventually become disillusioned by the callous, rationalist ancient Hellenic world and by your current circle of friends. When you do, just remember the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32) so that you can act likewise, and know that you can be alive in body and soul. You may not agree with what I'm saying now. It doesn't matter. I'm not saying these things for now, but for then.
In Orthodox Christianity there are certain spiritual centers (monasteries) where people who are wounded in soul are healed, through the orthodox method of love. In the English-speaking West, they are for example:
  • Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex , England ,
  • St Anthonys Greek Orthodox Monastery, Arizona,
  • St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California.
While travelling on your journey to Ithaca, pass by these also - either before or after the Laestrygons, before or after listening to the Sirens' song, befor or after the encounter with the Cyclops.  There you will surely see the smoke rising from your paternal home up to the heavens and you will say - along with fr. Peter Gilquist (a former Protestant who returned to Orthodoxy, together with a large number of researchers) - "Coming Home".
I hope to talk to you again, then.
Sincerely,
Theodore I. Riginiotes





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