The Greek women of Zalongo danced in the face of tyrants and won a victory from defeat.
The fall of Rome, Greek speaking Rome, came in 1453 and the Christians of the Middle East and Europe became second-class subjects of a great Empire for four hundred years. The Greeks might have vanished, but they endured to win freedom in a revolution that began in 1821. For four hundred years the Greeks endured and resisted when they could. They fled to mountainous regions, mountaineers are always freer, and existed on the margins. They robbed from the tyrants to invest in liberty!
In 1803 the Souliote, one large group of mountaineers that had gained some autonomy, were crushed by the Ottoman Empire. One group of women and children in the village of Zalongo faced death or slavery and hurtled themselves off cliffs rather than face degradation. Some reports suggest they danced as they died, singing rather than screaming. Like many martyrs, the singing and dancing women of Zalongo inspired independence two decades later.
In times that grow difficult, looking to those who faced harder times is encouraging. How should we then live?
Even a glance at horrible times shows us how thankful we should be. Tyrants are not destroying our liberties with armed force to kill us and sell us into slavery in the United States. The atheist regime in China is acting this way and the courage of the Christians there should cause us to support the suffering and thank God for our relative blessings.
This is what Christians do.
Minor difficulties are not persecution, irritations are not earthquakes, unless we are so self-centered that we come to think every cosmic event is about us. Admitting pain, irritation, difficulty is good, but acting out or over dramatizing such times is not. What will we do when hard times really do come? How can we look at the difficulties of those in the past who faced greater troubles? What can these souls teach us?
One lesson is that when the end comes, when every option to fight or escape is gone, a dance is not the worst way to go. Our leaders might also choose to die like the priest Samuel. When faced with defeat and the loss of his town, he went to the powder room and blew it and himself to Kingdom Come. The tyrants would not get the powder and the cause gained a folk hero.
Naturally we pray for peace. We are reminded of the wisdom of the Fathers who urged us not to seek martyrdom. However, with Saint Ignatius, we also know not to fear martyrdom if such times come. These times are upon Christians all over the world today. What are we doing to relieve their suffering? How can we disinvest in the slave labor campus of the atheistic regime that enslaves the great nation of China?
In our lesser troubles, our daily irritations, the dancing women of Zalongo remind us to face all things with joy whenever we can.
Today may we pray for the souls that danced at Zalongo, remember their courage, and vow to join them in Paradise.