Happy Greek Independence Day!
Find out about Agia Lavra, the church where the revolution began, in my Church Hopping column on Burnside Writers Collective.
And read my previous post on the history of March 25 being Greek Independence Day here.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.
~Isaiah 1: 13-17
In the Greek Orthodox faith today is Καθαρά Δευτέρα — Clean Monday. Clean Monday is to Greek Orthodox believers what Ash Wednesday is to Catholic believers. It’s the start of Great Lent. Well, technically it begins at sunset the Sunday before.
Lent is thought of as a time of abstaining. We fast from meat and dairy. But it is more than that. It is also a time of taking on new, better habits. Today we not only wash ourselves from our past wrongdoings, but we work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.
Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.
Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!
Mmm… smell that smoky aroma? It can only mean one thing! Today is that special Greek holiday known as Tsiknopempti. Literally, it’s Charred Meat Thursday.
Yes, that’s right. We have a whole holiday devoted eating meat. Tsiknopempti is the preamble to Great Lent. Basically, you eat a whole lot of meat now because you’re going to be fasting for a long time. Longer, in fact, than the 40 days of Great Lent, since the meat fast starts ten days before that.
Do you fast?
Previous posts on Tsiknopempti:
The title say it all, and I’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s just get on with it!
photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr., taken by Dick DeMarsico via Wikipedia
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
We need to keep on dreaming and keep on working for a better future. I was saddened and frustrated to hear about these two recent incidents:
I don’t post a lot about pop culture, but these two headlines grabbed my attention. What is wrong with people? So hurtful and bigoted.
And this is why I felt uneasy about so much of the negativity I read after the passing of Amiri Baraka. The poet wasn’t one to mince words, and while I don’t agree with everything he said … neither did he: there were times he moved away from earlier statements. Yet one must think about the time period in which he grew up and was writing — the March on Washington, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the assassination of Malcolm X, the publication of Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster” – and not be blind to the racism many people still face today. Sometimes strong rhetoric is needed to get one’s point across.
Stuart Mitchner’s “Looking for Amiri Baraka and LeRoi Jones on Martin Luther King’s Birthday” sheds some much-needed perspective on Baraka’s poetry and tells of Baraka’s tribute at the 2011 Community Celebration of King at the University of Virginia.
Baraka’s work through the Black Arts Movement gave others a voice.
We need writers to continue to challenge the status quo. We need writers to share their experience. We need writers to share their dreams. We need writers to share their nightmares. We need writers to be honest.
We cannot censor writers. We need to give writers a larger platform.
We need readers to read widely. We need readers to read outside of their personal experiences. We need readers to go straight to the source. We need readers who don’t rely on recaps, articles, blog entries, and soundbites. We need readers to speak up for the types of books they want to read.
This isn’t about school assemblies or having a day off of work. This isn’t even just about the facts. A study recently came out that said reading literary fiction improves compassion. We need to publish and promote more voices, and we need to read those voices.
Here’s a look at St. John’s Church, which is where more than 700 people met the day of his “I Have a Dream Speech”:
image by Jim Maggas via Wikipedia
After a weekend of trudging through dirty city snow, I was surprised—and thankful!—this morning to discover the temperatures had risen enough to melt away the large icy barricades surrounding every crosswalk. I changed out of my snow boots and put on ballet flats. Ballet flats! In the winter! Even my puffy black jacket didn’t seem necessary, but perhaps that’s because a few days before it had been so cold I was wearing my jacket in my apartment.
The warmer winter temperatures had perfect timing. Today is the day in the Greek Orthodox religion where the priest throws a cross into the river and boys jump in to save it. We call it Theophany, but many religious New Yorkers would more likely know it as Epiphany. It refers to the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan River and is the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. You can read my explanation here.
I wouldn’t recommend actually jumping into the river yourself, but I have witnessed the Blessing of the Water ceremony. If you ever get a chance, it’s quite a sight to see here in New York City!