Endure as the Greeks Endured (The Greek Bicentennial)

Endure as the Greeks Endured (The Greek Bicentennial) April 3, 2021

In the United States, some are tempted to impatience or unseemly panic. Instead, we should keep calm, exercise patience, look to our roots, and endure. One ideological root for America is Greece. One great theological root for the Church is Greece. 

We learn from Greece, God-blessed Hellas, that the Faithful people endure.

We are not afraid.

Things have been much worse for the Faithful in the past and are much worse for those facing the atheistic regime in China. We can thank God that the Faithful in the Deep South are no longer governed by Jim Crow laws as once they were. Each era brings progress and peril: the decadence is real, but so is the progress. The drinking fountains of Houston are no longer segregated, even if there is growing moral confusion about what to do with bathrooms.

The bicentennial of the rebirth of Greece in 1821 should remind us that enduring is the greatest victory over tyrants. History is apt to rush from the fall of Constantinople (1453) to the War of Independence and ignore a history of resistance almost twice as long as American existence. 

These are people who when they had to do so took to the mountains. There they lived and fought back as they could: robbing from the tyrants so the poor could survive. Great saints built monasteries on great pillars of stone, nearly inaccessible to the foe. Local priests kept classical, Christian education going for hundreds of years with little or no external support. The Faithful endured.

There is a Greek Republic, because the Faithful endured. Bishops died, patriarchs were murdered, Greek children were snatched from their homes to serve as slaves to the tyrants, but the Greeks never stopped believing in final victory. They did not all convert to the state religion, despite the convenience and great gain from doing so. They did not loose language, education, or culture. Often the humble parish priest, far removed from politics, kept the ethnic hope alive. The nation that had gladly planted other nations, given them written languages and liturgies in their own tongues, refused to cease to speak the language of democracy, biology, philosophy, and theology. The Greeks endured due to love of God and country. 

These loves have to stay in proper order and the culture of Hellas understood this order. The Church had helped create a commonwealth of many people groups. Dostoevsky could write masterworks in Russian, Tchaikovsky compose liturgically, because the Greeks made it so when the Russians looked to Hellas for culture. When they fled to the West in the long captivity, they continued the work of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) and gave the texts and languages of the New Testament and the classical philosophers to whosoever would learn. Hellenic education was the school for the much of the world: Athens, Antioch, Alexandria, Aksum . . .

The next time you hear patriotism demeaned or an enduring love for the best of a people mocked, then ask if this is not the language of the tyrannical functionary. Could the Orthodox in Greece have endured with such an attitude? What of the present faithful in embattled Syria? The man who loves his own people appropriately can never accept universal, political, tyranny. He will reserve in his heart some small place for the folks at home, for the history taught to him in his mother’s tongue. He will love God and his country under God.

Our College and School irritated Facebook by celebrating the bicentennial of Greek independence. Since the multinational Ottoman Empire no longer exists, we are confident the present Sultan did not complain and keep cause our advertisement from being placed. We are not moved, we are taught to endure. This is nothing, less than nothing, compared to the real suffering in bleeding Lebanon and Syria. Instead, as any philhellene would do, we look to our own motherland, this Republic, and pray that God shed His grace on her.

We will endure in our love for the gifts of Greece, Palestine, Syria, Aksum, Mother Russia, and lands too numerous to name. This bicentennial all Christians are philhellene.

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