Sunday, November 15, 2015
Hellenes and Rhomaioi
"O heavenly King, the Comforter, Spirit of truth..." Said this prayer here yesterday. Jesus saves; Mary prays. St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church, Cherry Hill, NJ. One of their women's groups, a chapter of the Daughters of Penelope, was having an early Christmas bazaar. One thing struck me: perhaps understandably, all the banners in the church gym celebrated ancient, pagan Greece; still kind of ironic, especially at a church, from Christian Greeks, Rhomaioi, "Romans" whom British historians named Byzantines. (Their empire WAS the Roman Empire, in the exact sense Taiwan is Nationalist China. Anyway, providential that early on "Roman" and "Christian" became synonymous.) St. Demetrios Church near me is similar: the church stuff is fine, Byzantine; the undercroft is a mini-museum celebrating Hellenism, not Byzantium. Makes me think of a secularist element of Greek nationalism, rather like in the Irish kind; it's long been about Hellenism. Like with Katharevousa, the Greek government pretending people still spoke ancient Greek by pushing a version of it in the schools for a few decades.
The beauty of Byzantium is repentant gentiles, the Roman Empire, became entirely Catholic. The tragedy of Byzantium is they later got the wrong idea that if you weren't in their empire, you were outside the church.
Pan-Slavism is Byzantium redux: Russia and its satellites such as Serbia and Bulgaria. Catholic Slavs won't have it. It's another attempt at a universality opposed to the church's universality.