Tuesday, March 08, 2005

We interrupt this blog...

Here is a very nice article written about our beloved Metropolitan Anthony (May his memory be eternal). I admit, this article made me a little misty... after reading it, please scroll down for the newly added Lenten recipes:)

Dying Wish Honored
Greek Orthodox spiritual leader buried at monastery.
By Diana Marcum / The Fresno Bee
(Updated Thursday, March 3, 2005, 1:16 PM)
Metropolitan Anthony Gergiannakis' last wishes were fulfilled with his burial Wednesday afternoon at the Monastery of Theotokos. Bishop Anthimos Olympos, second from left and wearing the metropolitan's vestments, presides over the graveside service. Gergiannakis told the bishop he wanted his funeral to be a
celebration of life.

DUNLAP — The dying wish of a man who never let the word "no" stop him was honored Wednesday when Greek Orthodox leader Anthony Gergiannakis was buried at a secluded monastery in these Sierra Nevada foothills.
It took nothing short of a state Senate bill for Gergiannakis to lie, not in some official cemetery, but here, on top of a hill just beginning to bloom with wildflowers, behind the altar of a Byzantine cathedral he envisioned and made reality.
He was buried facing east where rain clouds fingered deep green mountains — his church believes that Christ will come in clouds from the east. He was covered with dirt from his native village on the island of Crete and pebbles from the Acropolis, mixed with the California earth of the monastery he loved.
It was the metropolitan's longtime wish to be buried at the monastery, but for years the church made no progress getting permission from the county or state. Under state law, burying a body outside of an official cemetery without special approval is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail.
But last fall when Gergiannakis, spiritual leader to thousands in the western United States, fell ill with an aggressive cancer, his confidants pledged that he would have his final wish.
He died on Christmas Day. About 40 days later, on Feb. 1, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 28, allowing burial at the Monastery of Theotokos, the Life Giving Spring. It was a day of religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, which believes the dead stay close to the living for 40 days before making their way to paradise.
Wednesday, on what would have been his 70th birthday, Gergiannakis was laid in his final resting place. Senate bills usually take from 10 months to two years to process — Gergiannakis' was passed in less than 30 days.
Gergiannakis trained his friends and followers well in how to achieve things others think impossible.
"Every person who called me said, 'You have to understand how much of a force he's been. He got so much done. He served so many people,'" said Republican Senator Chuck Poochigian of Fresno, who rushed the bill through the Senate.
"It was obvious that none of them would accept anything short of getting it done. Just like he'd never accepted anything less."
When Father Jim Pappas of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno hears Gergiannakis' voice in his head — and that is often — he hears the trademark growl, "What are you waiting for?" — Gergiannakis' response to every good idea. "He was always pushing to the next dream," said Father Demetrios-Earl Cantos, chaplain of the monastery.
Gergiannakis was a risk-taker who played to win, whether it was building a monastery in the Sierra foothills or playing golf, backgammon and gin rummy. He loved to cook and feed friends and strangers at big, rollicking dinner parties.

Though he had risen to the heights of church hierarchy, conducting services in the gold crown of a king, he retained some village ways. He would yell "Stop the car" so he could pick dandelions at the side of the road, then cook them with olive oil and lemon.
He was known for his laughter, although he could also be stern, and for his open-mindedness. In a church steeped in Greek culture, Gergiannakis insisted that everyone — Greek or not— was welcome.
Among the more than 500 mourners at his burial were Greek Orthodox priests with blond hair, and priests with Asian features, a testament to Gergiannakis' welcoming philosophies.
Services wrapped in solemnity began with nuns in morning prayer, then a two-hour liturgy with nuns and priests and lay people praying together. Men and women stood on separate sides of a cathedral that was bathed in gold candlelight and ancient traditions. The women wore long skirts and covered their heads. Incense burned and overhead a sweeping brass chandelier slowly spun, symbolizing the movement of angels.
"If he were here, he would want all the people to know the movement means the unity and symphony of all that have gone before us, and all that are here worshipping," said Bishop Anthimos Olympos. The bishop and Gergiannakis were close friends for more than 50 years. When Gergiannakis came out of a coma before his death, he told the bishop, "Come close, give me your ear. Pethéno — I am dying." Then he gave a huge smile and said "I am at peace. I want my funeral to be an occasion of the celebration of life. I want there to be joy."
"He made me promise not to cry at his funeral," Bishop Olympos said. It was a promise that the bishop could not keep.
He shed tears many times as mourners gave graveside testament, always ending with words, in Greek or English, meaning "May his memory be eternal."
But one promise was kept. There was joy. There was joy during the lunch as parishioners feasted on salmon — because if it's Greek, it's fish, said a former islander, because it is a reminder of the saltiness of life, said a priest's's mother, and because Gergiannakis loved salmon, saideveryone said.
There was joy as friends and followers exchanged stories of Metropolitan Anthony's accomplishments and exploits.
And in the afternoon, when Gergiannakis' body was put in the grave, nuns played brass bells that echoed across valleys, rolling gray clouds let in stripes of pale sun, mourners gazed at green hills frosted with dandelions and wild mustard — and there was joy in a job well finished.
"He's buried where he wanted to be buried, after living the life he wanted to live, " said Dave Gray of Castro Valley. "And he lies there because people carried on his legacy of getting things done."

1 comment:

Xenia Kathryn said...

What a beautiful article!!!
May his memory be eternal.