March 1, 2022

Homily on Carnival (Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon)

 By Metropolitan Meliton (Hatzis) of Chalcedon (+ 1989)

(Delivered in the Metropolitan Church of Athens 
on Cheesefare Sunday, 8 March 1970)

My brethren,

The Lord scolded nothing as much as hypocrisy. And rightly so, for He saw in her that there is always the greatest danger of complete delusion, that is, the angelic-looking luciferian light. The power of hypocrisy is indeed awesome. Both for those who live it and exercise it, and for those who suffer from it. And hypocrisy is dangerous, because it corresponds to a deeper psychological problem of man.

Man wants to appear like someone he is not. Even before himself and before God. And so he escapes from truth and simplicity and of course from repentance and salvation.

In a few hours outside this church, outside its serenity, in the streets of this city, the Carnival parade will take place. Do not despise or ridicule them, or criticize me for mentioning it. It is not at all unrelated to the greatest problem of hypocrisy. Pay attention this year to the Carnival with respect and deep reflection. It is an ancient phenomenon and it is a phenomenon of the deepest and most anxious problem of the human soul, to be freed from his daily hypocrisy with an anonymous, dionysian expression of new hypocrisy.

Carnival is a tragic figure.

He seeks to be redeemed from hypocrisy by pretending.

He seeks to burn all the various masks he wears every day with a new, more improbable one.

He asks to evacuate what is repressed in his subconscious and to be liberated, but there is no freedom, for the tragedy of the Carnival remains unsolved. His deepest problem is to be transformed.

Here, then, is the place of the Church, near the Carnival. Near those who seek transformation, the central message of Orthodoxy - the Transfiguration.

Let us not condemn, then, the Carnival, but let us stand under his mask to hear his anguish, his plea and his tears.

I repeat, carnival demands the deepest message of Orthodoxy, wandering in the streets of the city: The Transfiguration.

And he is the most honest and honorable of the hypocrites.

You might think I'm joking. Absolutely not. There is no more serious problem for the Church at this time. It is not possible for the Church, and in fact the Orthodox Church, our Church, to be understood as irrelevant to life, to the times, to the agony of this hour, to the burning problems of this moment, merely as a city on a hill that is hidden and thought about. As a Church we are entangled in the journey of the human race, in this great adventure, called History, leading to the perfection of the eschaton.

Pretending it to be yesterday, we are absent from today and tomorrow is coming without us.

Speaking at the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Conference in Geneva, I had said: "Yesterday is long gone, not even today do we live, the day after tomorrow will overtake us." I repeat this more intensely today. Because it is the truth beyond self-hypocrisy, that the simplest, easiest way to deal with problems is to ridicule and criticize and contrast them, like the Priest and the Levite of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. But the wound is here and it is screaming.

Who can responsibly tell us that all these shocking events and phenomena of the new generation of humanity, the provocative music, the provocative dances, the provocative clothing, this entire global youth revolution, are outside of any historical, evolutionary reality? If all the small minded, all the willingly blind, all the antiquarians and all those who boast about the virtue of their time, conspire to criticize all these things, the Church owes it to them to stand with a theandric understanding, incarnated like her Lord in the midst of a new world, having come from afar, and to hear this anguished cry, which springs from all these things we consider provocative. This world, which is coming to the forefront of history, has something to say to us with all these phenomena.

The so-called provocation of us old people, should be taken into account by the terrible fact that one of the characteristics of our time is the enormous distance that exists in the succession of generations, that is, the generation that comes after me has a distance of three generations. How do we claim to understand this new generation that is coming, if we are not the Church of Christ constantly incarnate, constantly transfigured and constantly transformed?


We will not survive as separated Christian Churches and Confessions from this coming wave if we are not all united in Christ Jesus. It is time to get rid of the anti-patristic idea that the Church could only interpret divine Revelation up to a certain point in history. We must, in addition to the patristic spirit, assume as a Church the divine responsibility and courage and bravery of the Fathers and theologize Christ, the Gospel and the Church. Not with legalistic poison, such as, for example, a physical conception of the Church, but of the Church as the Body of Christ, living in the Resurrection.

My brethren,

We are now entering Holy Lent and within our depths we await the drama, the miracle and the experience of the Resurrection, the preeminent experience of the Orthodox Church. Let us walk towards this vision and experience, not unforgiven, not unforgiving, not in mere fasting of meat and oil, not in hypocrisy, but in divine freedom in spirit and truth. In the spirit of truth, and in the truth of the spirit.

Source: From the book Λόγοι καὶ Ὁμιλίαι, 1991, ἐκδ. Πανσέληνος. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.