Kiki Economou Eulogy

Below is a eulogy delivered by Nicholas Gage in honor of his koumbara:

Kiki Economou Eulogy

Vasiliki Mihopoulou Economou was a good and generous woman who suffered the many misfortunes that came into her life with patience, dignity and rare tenacity. She was born in the middle of World War II in a remote Greek mountain village where she knew danger and hunger from the start of her existence. As a child she was uprooted with her mother and siblings by Communist insurgents and taken first to Albania and then to Hungary, where fear and privation were as frequent as rain and sleet. When she returned to Greece in 1954 she learned that she, her mother, brother and sister would go to America to join her father, who had emigrated to Worcester while his family was in Hungary. She thought her harsh days were over when the family reunited in America, but her struggles continued as she watched her parents’ marriage disolve and she had to forge her future in a strange new world with no paternal support. The clouds lifted for a while when she married Stavros Economou, opened the Marlboro House of Pizza and adopted her son Thanasi. The business flourished, they started several more, which also prospered. For many years Kiki and Steve shared their good fortune not only with relatives and friends, but with anyone who approached them with a hard luck story. Then Steve died 22 years ago, the businesses were sold, the money dried up. But you would never know how hard she struggled when seeing Kiki. She was full of cheer, affection, concern and willingness to help anyone in any way possible. If she couldn’t shower you with expensive presents any more, she would knit you a scarf or a shawl, or crochet a blanket for every baby that she heard was about to be born. If she couldn’t take you to fancy restaurants, Kiki would prepare a delicious dinner for you at home and make it even more enjoyable with her good humor. She was not always loved in the unconditional way she loved others, not always thanked in the way she appreciated any kindness shown her, but she was always forgiving, always ready to dismiss a slight or overlook an unkindness. Vasiliki Economu was a devoted wife to Steve, a loving mother to Thanasi, a doting grandmother to Kiki and Stavro, a caring sister, an adoring godmother, an understanding mother-in-law, a considerate koumbara, a loyal friend, a proud Greek, a faithful Christian. She was a woman of rare sensibilities, full of love, honesty and compassion. She gave much to all of us who knew her and takes a part of us with her as she embarks on her final journey. May her memory be eternal.

 

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March 22nd, 2018 by Fr. Greg

Values In Life

Below is a sermon delivered by Dr. Lewis Patsavos at our church on Cheesefare Sunday (the last day before Lent):

“VALUES IN LIFE”

SERMON FOR CHEESEFARE SUNDAY

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy (them), and where thieves dig through and steal. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy (them), and where thieves do not dig through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mt. 6:19-21 In this excerpt from today’s Gospel reading, our Lord among other things warns against the pleasures which can be stolen away. All material things are like that. None of them is secure. And if we build our happiness on them, we are building on a most insecure foundation. Suppose we live life in such a way that our happiness depends upon material possessions and then we lose them. Life is filled with examples of the losses which people sustain either by theft, negligence, or natural disaster. If we have built our happiness on them and they have suddenly vanished, then with our material possessions happiness, too, has gone. If anyone is wise, that person will build happiness on things which cannot be lost, things which are independent of the chances and changes of life. The person whose treasure is in things is doomed to disappointment and bound to lose that treasure, for in things there is no permanence, and no thing lasts forever. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Here is a saying repeated time and again by our Lord throughout His ministry. It is a truth of which we should remind ourselves whenever we are not clear on our priorities. In the struggle for wealth and material things, we often lose more than dollars and cents. There’s a trade-off: we lose a direct sense of dealing with each other, and the most profound questions people raise within themselves. In that very struggle, we tend to crush out, or thrust aside, the things that are most important in life and that sustain all of us – love, faith, the need to hope and fulfill dreams. It is quite possible for a person in one sense to make a great success of life by amassing a fortune and achieving fame, and in another sense to be living a life that is not worth living. The question to be put to ourselves is: “Where do we put our values in life?” We may put values on the wrong things and discover it too late. We may gain all the things we ever set our heart upon, and then awaken suddenly one morning to the realization that we have missed the most important things of all. A person may sacrifice honor for profit. We may desire material things without having any scruples about the way we acquire them. The world is full of temptations towards profitable dishonesty. As used here, the world stands for material things as opposed to the things of God; and of all material things there is this to be said: We cannot take them with us at the end; we can take only ourselves; and if we degraded ourselves in order to get them, our remorse will be bitter. They cannot help us in the shattering days of life. Material things will never mend a broken, desolate heart or cheer a lonely soul. If by chance we gained our material possessions and wealth in a way that is dishonorable, the day will come when conscience will speak, and we will know the agony of guilt and condemnation. The world is full of voices crying out that he/she is a fool who seeks happiness in material things! We may sacrifice principle for popularity. It may very well be that the person who is always flexible, easy-going and agreeable will be spared much trouble and discomfort. It may also be that the person inflexibly devoted to principle will be disliked. The real question however, the question all of us will have to face in the end is not “What did people think?” but “What does God mandate?” It is not the verdict of public opinion but the verdict of God that determines our destiny. We may sacrifice the things in life which endure for what is trivial and of instant duration. Life always has a way of revealing the true values and condemning the false as the years go by, because something base never lasts. We must learn to spend our life, not hoard it. The whole range of the world’s standards must be changed. The questions we ask ourselves ought not to be: “How much can I get?” but “How much can I give?” Not “What is safe?” but “What is right?” Not “What can I get away with?” but “How much more can I give?” We must realize that we are given life, not to keep for ourselves but to spend for others; not to nurture its flame but to extinguish it for Christ and for our neighbor. We must always remember that what is selfishly hoarded is lost, but what is generously given away is richly rewarded. Such has always been the teaching of the Christian faith. The Early Church always lovingly cared for the poor, and the sick, and the distressed, and the helpless, and those for whom no one else cared. The Church has always taught that “what we keep, we lose, and what we spend, we gain.” To repeat what was said earlier: the only thing we can take out of this world into the world beyond is ourselves; and the finer the self we bring, the greater our reward will be. If everything we value and set our heart upon is on earth, then we will have no interest in any world beyond this one. If all through life we see things in the light of eternity, then we will hold lightly the things of this world. If everything we count valuable is here, then we will leave this life with great reluctance. If our thoughts have always been focused on the world beyond, then we will leave this life with spiritual joy, because we go to God. Our Lord never taught that this life was unimportant. But He said and implied over and over again that its importance is not in itself, but in that to which it leads. This world is not the end of life, it is but a stage on the way. We should therefore never lose our heart to this life and to the things of this world. Our eyes should be forever fixed on the world beyond. May our spiritual journey throughout the lenten season about to begin help us in this effort. AMEN. Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos Professor of Canon Law, Emeritus Holy Cross School of Theology

 

 

 

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March 21st, 2018 by Fr. Greg

Cashew Cream Sauce

This post is a follow-up to the previous one about our Lenten celeb chef Athena Raptis Kamaris.  Athena made stuffed chard and also a variety of sauces to dip it in.  This sauce is great for Lent because it has protein and B vitamins.  

-1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

-1/2 tsp unrefined kosher salt or sea salt

-Black pepper, to taste

-1 box (10.5 oz) silken tofu or full fat coconut/cashew milk

-Dash of turmeric (optional) (note from Fr. Greg – not optional!)

-Cornstarch (to make a slurry for thickening)

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and mix until smooth.  Can be used cold as a spread in sandwiches, dip or topping for vegetables, baked potatoes, etc. 

For additional variety you can also add additional ingredients such as the following:

-Canned artichokes

-Roasted red peppers

-Roasted tomato

-Olives/capers

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March 8th, 2018 by Fr. Greg

Stuffed Chard

Our annual Celebrity Chef series kicked off during the first week of Lent with a great demonstration by Athena Raptis Kamaris.  Athena is the real deal when it comes to being a chef – creative, industrious, and fearless.  She made a bunch of stuff, but today I am featuring her stuffed chard.  In this recipe she uses bulgur but you can substitute quinoa to make it gluten- and grain-free.  I will post the sauces she made soon.

Stuffed Vegetables With Bulgur Wheat

-2 cups bulgur wheat

-4 cups boiling water

-Vegetables of choice for stuffing

-Onion, diced

-Garlic, minced

-Fresh mint, chopped

-Fresh parsley, chopped

-Low-sodium vegetable broth

-Black pepper

-Sea/kosher salt

-Currants

-…and any other vegetables and/or herbs of choice

Place bulgur wheat in a large bowl (bulgur wheat will expand). Add boiling water and cover tightly with plastic film. Set aside for about 20 minutes, uncover and fluff with fork.

Prepare choice of vegetables. If using Swiss chard, wash and cut stem of chard and set aside. In boiling water, cook leaves until tender. Lay out on sheet pan and let cool. Dice the stems, diced onion, and minced garlic. In saute pan, heat about 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and add vegetables. Saute until tender. Add currants, fresh herbs, salt, pepper, and any other ingredients you like.

Combine with bulgur and mix well. Begin stuffing vegetables.

Time of cooking will vary depending on vegetable of choice.

Swiss chard will cook in oven for approximately 40 minutes at 350.

Drizzle with sauce of choice.

Enjoy!

 

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March 8th, 2018 by Fr. Greg

Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve

Tomorrow is February 2 – Groundhog Day!  But more importantly it is the feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple – basically, Jesus’s and Mary’s 40 day blessing.  Being the 40th day after Christmas it marks the true end of the Christmas season and, liturgically, we start looking ahead, ultimately, to Easter.  We will have service in the morning and, at the end of liturgy, bless the candles in the narthex.  This practice, which comes from the elder Simeon calling Jesus “a light to enlighten the Gentiles”, lends the alternate name “Candlemas” to the feast.  Some thoughts:

-You will notice in church tomorrow the Christmas colors and flowers are gone, which reflects the end of the Christmas season.

-With this turn toward looking to Easter, there are traditional practices of figuring out when the weather will start changing.  Groundhog Day comes from a German Candlemas tradition.

-In some Western Candlemas traditions there is a notion that bad luck will strike the house or church that leaves up Christmas decorations past February 2 (I personally believe it is prudent to leave up Christmas lights year round but that is me).  Since I am writing this on the eve of Candlemas, I thought I would share a favorite poem concerning the above tradition.  It is by Robert Herrick, a 17th century English Poet.

Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.

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February 1st, 2018 by Fr. Greg

The Many St. Gregorys

Last week I celebrated my name day/feast day – St. Gregory the Theologian – and yesterday was the feast of the Three Hierarchs, of which Gregory the Theologian is one of them. I received some wishes yesterday for what is sort of a secondary name day feast for me. In all cases I am very thankful for people remembering; it seems that we are slowly losing the name day tradition, and this is a sad thing. In addition to the greetings I also heard from a lot of people that they were confused about the many different St. Gregorys – there are indeed a lot of saints bearing this name! Here is a quick rundown on some of the more well known saints (all dates refer to the Orthodox feast – in some cases they have a different date in the Roman Catholic church):

-The vast majority of people with my name in the Greek Orthodox Church celebrate St. Gregory the Theologian (Jan. 25), who lived in the 4th century. He is sometimes known as Gregory of Nazianzus, but this more properly refers to his father, Gregory the Elder, who is also a saint.

-St. Gregory the Illuminator (Sep. 30), active in the 3rd and 4th century, is the patron saint of Armenia. He brought Christianity to that country, which was the first to adopt Christianity as its official religion. The Armenian version of Gregory is Krikor. Mike Connors, who passed away almost exactly a year ago, starred in Mannix and his real name was Krekor Ohanian. I always wondered why he didn’t just go by Gregory Ohanian, but apparently Hollywood changed his name because it was too close to George O’Hanlon, an old-time Hollywood actor who, most importantly to me, voiced George Jetson in The Jetsons.

-St. Gregory the Great (March 12) was active in the 6th century and is also knows as Gregory, Pope of Rome and Gregory the Dialogist. This latter term is how he is known in the Eastern church and refers to his authorship of The Dialogues. Some years back our Metropolitan distributed to us a translation of one of his works which argued that women should NOT refrain from receiving communion when they are menstruating. I blogged about this at the time and will try to repost.

-St. Gregory of Nyssa (Jan. 10) is hugely popular in Orthodox circles and really in many Christian jurisdictions for his theological writings. He was active in the 4th century. His brother was St. Basil, and the two of them, along with Gregory the Theologian, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers – a reference to where they were from and were active.

-St. Gregory the Wonderworker (Nov. 17) was yet another saint active in the 3rd century and in Asia Minor. He is probably the coolest guy in this list because there is an air of mystery about him; few of his writings survive but his life is well attested and he was known for making miracles, hence his title.

-St. Gregory of Palamas (second Sunday of Lent). Gregory is the most recent saint on this list – he reposed in the mid-14th century. He was a key figure in the Hesycast controversy – a dispute in the Church about contemplative prayer (Hesycast comes from the Greek word for silence). We celebrate him on the second Sunday of Lent, which follows the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The idea is that his work was a continuation of the work of those who won the day in the Iconoclastic controversy.

There are many more saints who bear the name of Gregory. Like most if not all Greeks, I celebrate St. Gregory the Theologian, but I am thankful for name day wishes whenever any of these great saints are celebrated 🙂

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January 31st, 2018 by Fr. Greg

Haters Gonna Hate

I am in the stretch run of my doctorate, and in the process I have been going through old emails from the classroom portion of the program.  During the eight classes we were usually responsible for posting reflections on a weekly basis.  In the next few weeks I will post some of them; here is one, from a class called Ministry In A Secular World…

While the focus of this class is on ministering in a secular age or environment, this week’s readings from Mark – chapters 2 and 3 – deal with fanatical believers rather than secularists. This is good, because we have to deal with the problem of hateful fanatics as well as the secular culture. In fact, very often the fanatics keep people who have marinated in the secular culture away from the Church. A good example of this is on Facebook, where there are a bunch of Orthodox groups. Most of them are great. One very popular one is called, ominously, Traditional Orthodox (Canonical).

First of all, if you need to label yourself canonical you likely aren’t. In addition to this, the profile picture for the group is an icon of Jesus wielding a sword. I imagine this is in reference to the passage in Matthew about coming to bring the sword, but it is scary. The stuff that is posted is also scary. I was recently involved in a lengthy thread on the term “Papist”, which the people in the group were using. I explained that this is an offensive term, and their response was like “So? It is technically correct”. The discussion ended with people debating if I was a real priest because I don’t have a beard and I wear a “Roman dog collar”. The scariest part of this group is that non-clergy are part of it and many are new to Orthodoxy. Can you imagine investigating the faith and seeing these discussions? There is zero love in the group. I remain a part of it so I can keep an eye on what is going on and also to be a troublemaker with the haters.

Christianity’s destiny was set when Paul set his sights on the west (although we need to remember that for close to a thousand years the eastern church – the Church of the East – thrived and had missions all the way to Mongolia). But as the account in Mark reminds us, Christ had to deal with insiders who hated the truth. These people remain with us to this day, and they are an obstacle to ministering to our own people as well as to reaching out to the unchurched who live in a secular environment.

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January 29th, 2018 by Fr. Greg