Another Day, Another Nationality

Costumed Children Waiting to Dance

Yesterday was Scottish, today was Greek. Every Memorial Day weekend, Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in North Hills puts on a three-day Greek festival with food, dancing, and vendors. It is one of three Southern California Greek festivals that Martine and I attend. For Martine, the main attraction is spanakopita, Greek spinach and cheese pie, the baked goods redolent of honey and nuts, and he beautifully decorated church.

My preference is to see the children dancing. As they go through their steps, members of their family step forward and shower the dancers with one-dollar bills, which are picked up after the performance. And, although I was raised as a Roman Catholic, I have always had a warm spot in my heart for the Greek Church.

I sometimes wonder what will happen in the years to come as the younger generation grows more detached from the values of their parents. Many of the older parishioners still speak to one another in demotic Greek, while the children are just American kids trying to make their own way in the world. When the girls in the above picture grow up, will the old ways matter to their own children? What about the Greek language? the cuisine? even the religion?

Are we seeing the last florescence of children trying to adhere to their parents’ folkways? Perhaps not. Trumpf to the contrary, America is still seeing waves of immigrants, mostly from Asia and Latin America. As a Hungarian, I am closer to the European ethnic ways; though the Central Americans and Koreans and Persians also have a lot to offer.

A Halo for Judas Iscariot?

Twelve Apostles—All With Haloes—Watching Christ Entering Jerusalem

Twelve Apostles—All With Haloes—Watching Christ Entering Jerusalem

Today Martine and I attended the Valley Greek Festival at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in North Hills. Please excuse the lack of sharpness in the above photo. What is clear is that twelve men wearing haloes are watching Christ enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Now, my question is this: If these men are, in fact, the Apostles, why do all twelve have haloes, which would invariably include Judas Iscariot?

It was not until after Palm Sunday that Judas ratted the Messiah out to the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver. Afterwords, he felt remorse and hanged himself with a halter.

After Christ’s resurrection, Judas was replaced by Matthias:

Matthias was selected to replace Judas as recorded in Acts 1:15-26. The other man who was also in consideration was named Joseph or Barsabas, and surnamed Justus. Lots were cast and eventually Matthias was chosen. Acts 1:24-26 records the following, “And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” The Bible is sparse on additional details relating to Matthias, but it does say that Matthias was with Jesus since His baptism until his resurrection. Besides the book of Acts, Matthias isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. According to historical sources Matthias lived til 80 A.D. and spread the gospel on the shores of the Caspian and Cappadocia.

Judas Is Pointedly Depicted Without a Halo at the Cathedral of Moulins

Judas Is Pointedly Depicted Without a Halo at the Cathedral of Moulins

Note that at this time, Paul was not an apostle. He was known as Saul and actively persecuted the Christians until, on the road to Damascus, God spoke to him from the heavens:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

— Acts 9:3–9, NIV

One final observation. In his short story (in the form of an essay) entitled “Three Versions of Judas” published in Ficciones, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges speculated on a different role for Judas Iscariot in the story of Man’s Redemption:
God became a man completely, a man to the point of infamy, a man to the point of being reprehensible—all the way to the abyss. In order to save us, He could have chosen any of the destinies which together weave the uncertain web of history; He could have been Alexander, or Pythagoras, or Rurik, or Jesus; He chose an infamous destiny: He was Judas.
*  *  *  *  *
What, in fact, do I believe? I think twelve holy men depicted as wearing haloes are shown watching Christ enter Jerusalem. It is merely interesting to speculate whether Judas is one of them.

The Dance Goes On

Little Girls in Greek Costumes

Little Girls in Greek Costume

Yesterday afternoon, Martine and i went to the Valley Greek Festival at St. Nicholas in North Hills. It was a cool overcast day, but people came from all over the Valley to party. Unfortunately, there were some signs of increased organization and decreased quality, especially in the food service area. But it’s still fun, what with all the music and Greek dancing. (No, I didn’t dance: I was not born with the ability to move in time to music without causing pain to my dancing partners’ feet.)

We took our usual tour of the church. Greek Orthodox churches can be pretty spectacular, and St. Nicholas is one of them. In case you were wondering, yes, it’s Saint Nick, Santa Claus, after whom the church is named. For some reason, this year there was no Question and Answer session with one of the parish priests, which I rather miss. Although I was raised a Catholic, I have a lingering admiration for Orthodoxy.

Doctrinally, the major difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is a single word—filioque—in the Nicene Creed. Also, their priests can be married; whereas Roman Catholic clergy must remain celibate. Curiously, there are several different rites of he Catholic Church, under Papal jurisdiction, in which marriage is also permitted.