Lots of times I get asked why we aver our belief in the one, holy, CATHOLIC, and apostolic church. The answer lies in the meaning of the word itself. "Catholic" means "universal" -- the same everywhere. We dipped into that truth about the church this morning, celebrating Pentecost at St. Paul's Church in Athens which labels itself Anglican/Episcopal.
Everyone was very friendly and welcoming -- as it should be. Coffee hour was held outside afterward and we had a couple really good conversations with a couple of gentlemen -- both British expats. But the real treat for me was the worship.
It was utterly familiar, yet had some different accents. They had a few wonderful and appropriate additions to the liturgy in light of the fact that we were celebrating the falling of the spirit on the apostles in the cosmopolitan city of Jerusalem. Athens can say the same thing. I couldn't help but hear in my mind, as we were hearing with our ears the list of all the peoples who saw the apostles speaking in each one's own language, a modern version. Instead of "Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Cappadocia . . ." I was hearing "Greeks, Brits, Americans, Frenchmen, Syrians, Liberians, Kenyans, Afghanis . . ., all hearing the Word afresh in their own languages. The setting was wonderful for such a re-hearing. And a terrific reminder that Scripture is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword...
The city of Athens is huge and sprawling. Apparently half the country's population lives here. There are many sections that are dirty and infrastructure is lacking--for instance the sidewalks are a mess, broken, uneven, neglected. Given the incredible stresses on the Greek economy right now, and the austerity measures imposed by the EU, things are really stretched. Apparently there are hundreds of thousands who need to avail themselves of feeding programs. Add to this the fact that there is a huge stress on things from the volume of refugee need...this place is stretched. Perhaps even in an economic depression.
I'm glad we can add just a little to the economy here. They really need tourists here more than ever.
Our guided program starts this evening-in about a half hour. Tomorrow we see the Parthenon and the Akropolis Museum, then leave for one of the islands--Tinos--a traditional site of Greek Orthodox pilgrimage.