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

Arlington Sermon

Last Sunday, after His Eminence visited our Sts. Anargyroi parish, he celebrated a vespers service at St. Athanasios in Arlington.  The Philoptochos chapter there is named for St. Barbara, so the vespers was for the eve of her feast.  Here is the sermon delivered by Fr. Manoussakis:

Sermon on the Feast of Saint Barbara

Delivered at the Church of St. Athanasius, Arlington

By the Very Reverend Fr. Panteleimon Manoussakis

(on the 3rd of December 2017)

Your Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston;

Reverend Fathers;

My beloved Brothers and Sisters—those of you who stayed within the Arc of the Church and, in particular, those of you who chose to remained outside the walls of the Church;

We have gathered this evening here in order to commemorate Saint Barbara. Every saint in the Church’s calendar is like the icons on either side of the icon of Christ in the iconstasis. If you look at the icon of the Virgin Mary on the one side and at the icon of St. John the Baptist on the other, you will notice that both of them point away from themselves and towards Christ. It is as if they were saying “pay no attention to us, but direct your gaze to Him.” If this is the case for the Theotokos and St. John how much more, then, it should be the case for each of us priests.

No-one among us priests, regardless of how pious, saintly, successful, or kind we may be, could consider the Church as his personal estate or the priesthood as his personal accomplishment. We clergy ought to resist the temptation of personality cult—to avoid that is, to make ourselves the center of people’s attention so that we can allow Christ to shine through us, as if it were through some transparent material. When our devotion is centered on the person of the priest instead on Christ, of whom the priest is only a sign and reminder, then that priest has failed. Such a priest becomes an obstruction that hides Christ from his parishioners. In short, he becomes a “Christ” instead of Christ, that is, an “anti-Christ.”

The same secular mentality that gives rise to the temptation of a personality cult leads also astray those among our faithful who behave as if the Church belongs to them, instead of them belonging to the Church. We often meet people who seem to understand their communities as a self-regulated, semi-autonomous church, over which they demand to have the first and final word. This, however, is not the structure of the Church. The Church is hierarchical, a term that has become particularly detestable to our democratic ears. To our modern minds “hierarchical order” conjures up negative associations of forceful submission, inequality, and domination. Yet, an authentic understanding of order belongs to a worldview of a cosmos in which every single thing has its place and is allowed to be the kind of thing it is. Without hierarchy, there is nothing to protect us from the tyranny of sameness masquerading as equality. Under such equality, however, all degrees of difference are lost and with them the proportionality that ascribes to each of us our proper place. St. Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Nor can any part of the body demand that every other part be equal. A human body whose every member is a foot is not more tolerant or democratic; it is simply monstrous. Without difference, order, and proportion there can be no beauty, goodness, and truth—and above all, that characteristic that pertains uniquely to the Church, namely, unity.

How is this unity to be achieved? Is it perhaps by confessing the same faith? That alone does not suffice, for faith alone becomes abstract and thus it degenerates into an ideology. Is it perhaps by a common rite of worship? Yet, aren’t there schismatic who followed the same rubrics in their worship as we do? Then, where from could we derive that much desired unity, that oneness for which we pray in our liturgies? Oneness, my dear brothers and sisters, is a characteristic of the One, but we are many and for as long as we remain many we cannot become the One Church unless we are in communion with the One of our Eucharist, namely our Bishop. This is the salvific role of the Bishop: to gather the scattered members of the Church into the unity of the one bread and the one chalice of the Eucharist which he has the right to celebrate. He alone is the celebrant. He alone is the unifying principle. He alone can establish a holy altar around which we, the many, can gather in order to form the one body of the Church. He alone can make the many one by bestowing on each and every one, through and by the holy sacraments, the dignity that belongs to the citizens of God’s kingdom. Without the Bishop, there is no Church. Without the Bishop, we are merely a number of people unrelated to each other. As twenty students in a classroom don’t make up a class unless they have a professor, and as fifty musicians cannot make an orchestra without their conductor, so too five or five hundred Christians in a room by themselves could never become the Church without their Bishop. Take, if you wish, the most beautiful building, adorned with splendid icons and iconography—without the Bishop, it can never become a church, but it would remain bricks and stones. The Bishop alone has the prerogative to consecrate the buildings of our churches where our salvation is wrought. And only the Bishop can consecrate the holy altar from which our sanctification flows. Even though we, priests, perform the sacraments and celebrate the Eucharist, we can do so only in the Bishop’s absence and on his behalf. In every local church there is in fact only one priest, the Bishop. He unities us to each other and, through him, we are united with the faithful of other local churches, with all the churches across the world. If, for a moment, a parish were to consider itself independent, then there would be nothing to unite it with the faithful across the world and throughout history—that is, with the Church as a whole. Such a parish would inevitably end up in self-isolation.

To this twofold secularization of the Church that manifests itself both though a narcissistic personality cult and through a divisive autonomy we respond by commemorating our saints—men and women with genuine ecclesiastical ethos. Neither did they claim their rights, nor did they allow others to claim them as their right, but rather they “sought God’s righteousness” (Ps. 118:94). “When they were cursed, they blessed; when they were persecuted, they endured it; when they were slandered, they responded with kindness” (cf., 1 Cor. 4:12-13), so that they may receive abundantly the grace of the only God. To Him belongs all glory, amen.

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December 7th, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Christmas Reflection From His Eminence

Below is the Christmas message from Metropolitan Methodios.  You can find the original – in both languages – here.

We live in a world of constant turmoil, of financial crisis, of poverty and unemployment, of disillusionment and uncertainty, of confusion and unrest, of pain and suffering. War rages in that part of the world where Christianity flourished for centuries but now is inhabited by only a handful of faithful. Thousands of refugees continue to flee their homelands for far-away countries that are not always welcoming. On a daily basis, we are inundated with news of one crisis after another, of one suicide bomber after another. It is to such a world that the newborn Savior comes this Christmas to bring “Peace on Earth and goodwill among men.”

Christ comes into the world to reconcile man with his Creator, “to lead us up to heaven and grant us his Kingdom which is to come” (Prayer of the Anaphora). He comes in an age of unbridled consumerism — in an age of plenty — where poor and abandoned brethren suffer and die of hunger and thirst, victimized by our indifference. He comes this Christmas to free those enslaved by tyrants. He comes to console those exploited and stripped of their dignity. He comes to heal the wounds of victims of racial and religious hatred and those victimized by all forms of intolerance and discrimination.

It is to such a world that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes. The Son of God lowers himself – He stoops down to our limitations, to our weak and sinful states. St. Paul writes, “though he was in the form of God he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7.) He lays in a manger so that we may understand that the power of God appears in our midst without any of the trappings of what we define as power and might.

The infant Savior comes this Christmas to re-ignite our souls. To instill in our hearts the same joy and hope felt by the Magi and the Shepherds that “Silent and Holy Night” in Bethlehem. He invites us to cultivate the virtues of humility and simplicity, of self-sacrifice and love. He comes to encourage us to be more aware of, and sensitive to, our neighbors. Not just those who live in our neighborhoods. Not just Christians of Orthodox faith, but men and women of ALL faiths. Not just those whom we know, but especially those whom we know as “NONES.”

Brethren,

The feast of the Nativity of the Lord who “emptied Himself taking the form of a servant” is an opportunity for us to be more humble. To be more sensitive to the needs of the poor and of the sick, of orphans and of strangers, of the homeless and hungry. The Son of Almighty God chose humility to reveal to us who He is. He was born in humility. He lived in humility. He humbled Himself even unto death. It is only in humility that we can comprehend the meaning of His Birth.

I pray that our hearts be transfigured into mangers of humility worthy to become the birthplace of the Incarnate Lord. May His presence radiate in our lives every day of the New Year 2017.
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston

December 2016

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January 3rd, 2017 by Fr. Greg

Day 23: Christmas Trees

I am catching up on my blogging topics this evening – it has been that kind of weekend.  I was happy to see Christmas trees as a topic because I mentioned them as part of my intro story during my sermon today.  While the Christmas tree became popular in America for several reasons, the single biggest factor was the publication of the below engraving, featuring Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their tree, in 1850.  Once the image started making the rounds, people wanted trees and decorations.  At one point, Woolworth was selling $25 million a year worth of imported German Christmas ornaments.

And again the same problem.  Hmmm.  Well, you can check out the illustration here.
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December 8th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Rod Serling, Canned Food, And The Eighth Day

When you read Rod Serling’s wiki bio one of the first sections is on his military service.  This makes sense not just because it came chronologically right after his early life but also because of an incident that he experienced in the Pacific Theater of the war that helped inform his offbeat sense of creativity which shaped his best-known creation The Twilight Zone.

I have heard variations of the story (and used it as a lead-off in a sermon), but basically what happened – and you can read about it in the article – Serling and his fellow soldiers were on an island in the Pacific and, while maybe not starving, they certainly weren’t feasting (my current background photo on Facebook reflects something similar – British and Sikh soldiers operating a radio while in the process of destroying the Japanese army at the Battle of Imphal during the war).  While out in the field a package containing food (k-rations, which included canned food, our assigned topic on this eighth day of the 40 Day Blogging exercise) was dropped from a plane and ended up killing his friend.  Serling saw the irony in the whole situation – the package that was to save or sustain them ended up killing one of them.  After hearing this story everything about The Twilight Zone made sense to me.

Here is a picture of Serling in uniform next to his dad:

1944-rod-serling-dad

 

40DAYSBLOG

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November 22nd, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Paschal Message Of His Eminence

Paschal Message
Of His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios
May 5, 2013

This past year, the Pew Research Center and the Gallup poll reported that a small percentage of Americans are active in their religious communities, and few are attending worship services. But, why is it that on Easter night our churches are filled with hundreds of brethren, even those who attend rarely, if at all? I’m convinced it is a flickering light that draws us to the empty tomb to be engulfed by its unwaning light, to partake of the joy and hope of Easter. Perhaps we do not know why, but, nevertheless, something draws us to church tonight to accept the gift of Life victorious over death. What draws all of us to church is a faith inculcated to the depths of our hearts-one often unconscious and inactive, but very much present. What draws us to church tonight resembles what attracted the Myrrh bearing women whose secret hope was surely not to find and anoint a dead corpse, but to see their Savior alive, risen from the dead.

 

We sinners come to the tomb with our doubts and our failures hoping that we may be exalted in the light of a resurrected faith. We come to have our doubts consumed by the flame which flashes from the tomb. We come hoping our hearts may be filled with divine gladness, that our eyes may glow with the light which radiates from an empty grave. We come that our souls may be filled with joy, and our voices with the victory hymn which echoes to the ends of the earth.

 

Momentarily, we will hear the Gospel of St. Mark informing us that the myrrh bearing women fled from the empty grave bewildered and trembling. In another Gospel we read that on the same day, two disciples, Luke and Cleopas made their journey to Emmaus in sad disappointment because their great hope in Jesus had apparently died with His death and burial. They didn’t recognize the Risen Lord.

 

Sadly, and all too often, we do not recognize the Risen Lord on our life’s journey either. The Gospel of John records Thomas’ doubt in the Resurrection. Like us tonight, those closest to Jesus were blinded by their fears, their doubts, and their fallen expectations. Not unlike the Myrrh-bearing women, we find the tomb a fearsome place.

 

The powerful imagery (which we heard in last night’s service) of the Prophet Ezekiel walking through a valley filled with dead men’s bones is an apt description of so much that is happening in our world. The signs of sin and death devastate us. The moral decay and violence which mark our society-as they did recently in Boston, Cambridge and Watertown-can so overwhelm us, that the hope present in our Lord’s Resurrection eludes us.

 

Like the disciples on their way from the Easter event of Resurrection, we can turn so in on our self-interests-our plans and dreams, our shattered hopes and moral shortcomings-that we fail to recognize the Risen Lord in our midst. And, like Thomas, we can set the narrow limits of human knowledge as the boundaries of our undertaking, rather than grasp the limitless horizons of faith.

 

As have Christians for 2,000 years, let us overcome our fears and our doubts to proclaim that, indeed, Christ is Risen. Easter is the new Passover. It is the Resurrection of Christ which leads us from spiritual slavery to freedom, from sin to righteousness, from sadness to joy, from darkness to light, from death to life, from a culture of cruelty to a community of compassion, from this world to the kingdom to come.

 

My brothers and sisters, on His cross Christ bore our individual sins and shortcomings, our weaknesses, our spiritual sickness and death. Rising from the tomb, He raises Adam and Eve and every one of us to newness of life in Him. It is this message that we are called to share (the message of faith and love) to a world that knows too much pain and division. Let us proclaim to all the world, “Come, receive the light from the unwaning light and glorify Christ who is risen from the dead”.

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May 13th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Menstruation And Holy Communion

Metropolitan Methodios distributed the writing below to us at our monthly clergy brotherhood meeting this morning.  It is from St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine of Canterbury and is the last word on the “issue” of women receiving communion while menstruating.  Some of his language reflects the time in which this was written (6th century) but the bottom line is that a woman’s period should not keep her from receiving communion (no matter what Yiayia may say about it : ).

A WOMAN SHOULD NOT BE FORBIDDEN to enter the Church during the times of her monthly period; for the workings of nature cannot be considered sinful, and it is not right that she should be refused admittance since her condition is beyond her control. We know that the woman who suffered an issue of blood, humbly approaching behind our Lord, touched the hem of his robe and was at once healed of her sickness. If, therefore, the woman was right to touch our Lord’s robe, why may one who endures the workings of nature not be permitted to enter the church of God? And if it is objected that the woman in the Gospels was compelled by disease while these latter are bound by custom, then remember, my brother, that everything that we endure in this mortal body through the infirmity of its nature is justly ordained by God since the fall of man. For hunger, thirst, heat, cold and weariness originate in this infirmity of our nature; and our search for food against hunger, drink against thirst, coolness against heat, clothing against cold, and rest against weariness is only our attempt to obtain some remedy in our weakness. In this sense the menstrual flow in the woman is an illness. So if it was a laudable presumption of the woman who, in her disease, touched our Lord’s robe, why may not the same concession be granted to all women who endure the weakness of their nature?

A woman, therefore, should not be forbidden to receive the Mystery of Communion at these times. If any, out of a deep sense of reverence, do not presume to do so, this is commendable. But if they do so, they do nothing blameworthy. Sincere people often acknowledge their faults even when there is no actual fault, because a blameless action may often spring from a fault. For instance, eating when we are hungry is no fault, yet being hungry (in our present way) originates in Adam’s sin. Similarly, the monthly courses of women are no fault. They are caused by nature. But the defilement of our nature is apparent even when we have no deliberate intention to do evil, and this defilement springs from sin. So may we recognize the judgment which our sin brings upon us. And so may people who sinned willingly bear the punishment of their sin unwillingly.

Therefore when women, after due consideration, do not presume to approach the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord during their monthly period, they are to be commended. But if they are moved by devout love of this Holy Mystery to receive it as pious practice suggests that they do, they are not to be discouraged. For while the Old Testament makes outward observances important, the New Testament does not regard these things as highly as the inward disposition, which is the sole criterion for allotting punishment. For instance, the Law forbids the eating of many things as unclean, but in the Gospel the Lord says: “Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a person, but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” He also said, “Out of the mouth proceed evil thoughts” (See Mark 7:18-20). Here Almighty God shows clearly that evil actions spring from the root of evil thoughts. Similarly the apostle Paul says: “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. And later he indicates the cause of their corruption, adding, “For their very minds and consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15). If, therefore, no food is unclean to one of a pure mind, how can a woman who endures the laws of nature with a pure mind be considered impure?

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November 20th, 2012 by Fr. Greg