Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Night at the Taverna...

5 hours of Παρεα in a Greek Taverna tonight and my head is aching from talking and listening to the soulful strumming of the bazooki and rich Greek folk music (Παρεα is a obviously a Greek word, but one that has no English equivalent...simplest translation: company of friends). I walked out of the Taverna at 1:30am having arrived at 8:30pm and looked back to see the windows still aglow with the lively chatter of people who had been there as long as us. T

hen my eyes were drawn a bit to the left and I saw the dark virtual flashing blue of a glitzy internet cafe directly adjacent to the taverna and it struck me as such a stark contrast. In the Taverna people can sit for hours and talk to one another another, whereas the internet cafe, full of young people playing computer games (sure, this is not ALL that they are used for, but it’s a pretty fair generalization) sucks each person into their own individual world and even if it indirectly relates to others--a social life without actually having to be social. The irony of these two establishments siting directly next to one another was mind boggling.The lively chatter of the taverna can only remain alive for so long if at least one member of the party is able and willing to listen to the other. This requires a certain sense of patience and humility--a virtuous life.

The internet cafe should not overshadow the depth of history, human potential and communal creation that exists in the tradition of the taverna. This was not my first time visiting such an establishment, and they never ceased to amaze me. The wholesome quality, the vibrant energy and the human element enlivens the soul.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rioting in Greece...

Dear Friends and Family,

Assuredly some of you, at least, have seen in the news that riots are spreading across Greece and centralized in Athens (primarily) and Thessaloniki (secondarily). I wanted to let everyone know that I am safe, and not to worry, but DEFINITELY to pray. These riots are arguably the worst that Greece has seen, and the devastation and destruction left by the anarchists, communists and other leftist groups involved in the rioting will take months to recover from. Many stores have been totally destroyed or burnt. Yet the violence is focused strictly between rioting leftists and police.

In the wake of so much destruction, one cannot help but turn inside and ask some of the most fundamental questions of life and Faith: how could a human being be so destructive? How could this have gotten so out of control? What is my role in all of it? What can I DO? As the shocking site of gutted stores meets the eye, the smell of smoldering trash fills the nostrils, and the feeling of lingering tear gas stings the face, there is a call to turn inward and pray--for all of the residents and workers in Greece who are affected by the destruction, and for the rioters themselves who seem so full of rage that they do not know what they do.

It is very surreal to sit at my computer and read CNN and BBC articles about an event that is occurring down the street from where I live. Not too much else to say.

Lord have mercy!

All is well, other than this. Just had a test for Greek class, and life continues as usual.

miss everyone and can’t wait to be home for Christmas!

with love in Christ,

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Elder Paisos' Grave: Souroti for the Morning

Yesterday a friend and I took a 1EURO and 2 hr long bus-ride a bit outside of Thessaloniki where one can find the monastery of St. John the Theologian. This hesychasterion (a type of monastery...the root of the word coming from the Greek work meaning “quiet” or “silence”) was founded by the late Geronda (Elder) Paisios. His grave is there, as well as a large relic of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian. Geronda Paisios is arguably the most venerated “saint” of the last century in Greece and beyond (saint in quotations because although he is venerated by the people, he has not yet been officially declared a saint). If interested, one can find his biography and some teachings HERE. He is a very inspiring character, exhibiting a simple yet quite profound love for God and neighbor.

HERE is another good link to a bio about Elder Paisios, some of his teachings and photos.

We were taken back by the peaceful atmosphere at the monastery, quite unlike any other monastery we had visited. Quite amazing.

The Library is On Strike Today...

Well, after packing up all of the books, heading off to the library for full day of studying, I was (only slightly) surprised to find the front gate to the library chained with a large declaration pasted on the front proclaiming the harsh injustices that are being imposed upon the poor library workers. Hithertofore, the library would be closed until further notice. Please keep in mind that this Library services a university of well over 60,000 students. Ah well, such is life in Greece. It’s good to know that the system (in general and in Greece) is not infallible.

Anyway, this must not overshadow the wonderful events of the previous weekend as a small excursion was made to Grigoriou Monastery on the Mountain. On the bus from Thessaloniki there were 3 American boys doing an exchange program in Athens. One of them is Russian and baptized Orthodox and others are Lutheran and Catholic. They merely heard about Mt. Athos from different sources in Greece and wanted to check it out. They came to Grigoriou and met some of the monks. It seems as though they enjoyed their stay (constantly saying how they wanted to return), and were all very serious and humble young men. On the ferry ride back into the “world” there was an Orthodox young man coming back from the mountain from the States and we discovered some unexpected mutual friends. Surely, these providential encounters shouldnt come as too much of a surprise, given the international interest in Athos, but it was quite a nice experience.

Not too much else to say. I’ll be heading home for Christmas at the end of December, which I am very excited about.