Saturday, March 5, 2016

You're not Greek unless. . .

To be truly Greek is to be baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church. The number of times a person attends church afterwards is not relevant nor is that person's lifestyle. Simply, you must have been baptized in the Orthodox Church to make the claim.

I did not make that plunge until Nick and I were twenty years into our marriage. I had taught Sunday school at the Orthodox Church and dragged my kids every week to those services and to church celebrations while Nick worked. In fact, Nick was there so rarely that at one church-filled Easter service Father John jokingly looked at him standing under a gargantuan chandelier and made a hand movement for him to move aside, first looking up at the light fixture and then at Nick, as if to say, just incase God enjoys irony.

Years before, however, as a young mother, having married outside my own faith and feeling the strain of being an outsider, I agreed to have our children undergo this major Greek blessing.

Nikki was baptized by Father John in St. John's Greek Orthodox Church on Long Island at the oblivious age of six weeks, as was common among my side of the family, the Catholics. However, Thomas was baptized by Father Basil from Senitsa. The ceremony took place in the Margariti church in Greece and at two and a half years old, Thomas was old enough to protest and call out to us while Nikki tried to execute an escape.  

Here is an excerpt from  the memoir, The Nifi:

     I helped Akis gently lift my son from his mangled clothing. Thomas liked his adolescent Godfather very much, as he was someone who always seemed to have time for fun, but that unwelcome new activity was now creating a scowl of distrust on Thomas' face. 
     "No! Go out." His little finger pointed to the church door, but he was quickly whisked away and was being carried up to the caldron of holy water near the altar, his cries escalating.
     I kept one hand on his warm back as I tried to keep pace with the others. 
     "I'm here honey. . . I'm here."
    "Hey, what are you doing to my brother!?" Nikki grabbed at the robes of the priest as he took the screaming little boy in his arms. She was readying to execute some kind of rescue as she pulled back her leg for a kick and I wondered at the wisdom of subjecting small children to such a ritual. 
     The relatives stood about with big smiles, talking and pointing at Nikki as she continued her efforts.


  1. this is an incredible memory that you shared with us. One day perhaps even now your children are smiling over this! Bravo to Nikki !!