Words from the Pulpit
Prior to his retirement, he served as a Greek Orthodox parish priest for many decades in Australia. Every year his strong voice would deliver powerful commemorative services on behalf of those who had fallen for their faith and their homeland, whether it was for our Greek National Day, or for 28th October, or in memory of other significant events in Greece’s troubled history. Father’s voice was melodic and strong, and deeply emotional. His words affected all his parishioners, young and old.
For the younger members, the events that were being commemorated were distant and story-like, yet his words penetrated our minds and hearts. We were the generation that had grown up in peaceful times. Wars were not part of our immediate experience and, yet, when Father told the story of the sacrifice that our forefathers had made, we were deeply affected. What was it that made his telling so different to the stories we had heard from our own parents or grandparents? I had often wondered and once did ask him about his memories of the war. He responded, in his matter of fact way, ‘you can never forget these things, never!’
He revealed that as an 18 year old youth he had seen horrific scenes of dead corpses decaying in heaps. These bodies were those of his compatriots, caught up in a senseless war because of the civil and political unrest that had been generated by external and internal dark forces after the Second World War in Northern Greece.
Despite becoming ill and not being able to eat for two weeks after having to bury these bodies, he had been humbled by what he had seen. In his own words he stated, ‘I believed that all these people could not have died for nothing; they died for us’. He was a young man and could have seen these events in a negative way and yet he chose to not allow himself to become cynical about humankind. He consciously chose to side with hope, where others of his generation had become so disillusioned that they did not want to believe in anything. He was subsequently ordained a priest after a few years and then took the migrant journey that many of his compatriots had taken.
In his new home in Australia he had to contend with many problems such as adjustment, a young family, and the demanding position of a parish priest among people who had had similar experiences. He understood his parishioners deeply, and encouraged them to maintain a positive remembering through his sermons. That was why his words were so effective, not only for those who had had similar experiences, but also for us who were the children of that troubled migrant generation. His words reflected a life lived according to the conscious decision to remember in a positive way the events of the past. It was this decision and his faith that had given him the strength to move on from a war-ravaged past. ‘Without faith’, he would often say, ‘life is very difficult to bear.’
Source: Lychnos October/November 2017