March 4, 2022

The "Blasphemous" and "Impious" Sermon of the "High Priest of Bacchus" Regarding Carnival

By Panagiotis Andriopoolos

Much has been written from time to time about the famous homily of the late Elder Meliton of Chalcedon about "Carnival" (Metropolitan Church of Athens 3/8/1970).

We focus on two important texts that illuminate its implications for ecclesiastical life today.

Reading them, and having in mind, of course, the eponymous speech, one comes to the conclusion that even if only this homily had been delivered by this eminent - in his time - hierarch of the Ecumenical Throne, it would have gone down in history.

The first text about this homily is by the Great Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Professor Aristides Panotis.

The second text is by Konstantinos I. Belezos, Assistant Professor of the Theological School of the University of Athens, published in the insert of the Sunday paper (3/17/2013) of the newspaper Eleutheros Typos under Religious Readings, which has as its topic “Meatfare and the Christian Religion".

The text of Aristides Panotis is quasi-autobiographical, since he himself lived the whole background behind the homily of Meliton of Chalcedon in the Metropolitan Church of Athens and describes it with such energy, as if he were living it again. His personal relationship, after all, with the late Meliton made him an earwitness and eyewitness of all the relevant events. That is why, as he notes, “as the eyewitness, I will tell you under what conditions exactly 43 years ago a real statement of the Elder was written and heard, and it was heard on the radio from the Metropolis of Athens thereby disturbing the ears and the consciences of the arrogant rulers and disturbed the elected 'without choice' on hierarchical thrones and especially the imaginary 'pious' of the pharisaic 'highness'."

After Panotis analyzes the reasoning behind Chalcedon's speech, he concludes that “after pointing out these truths, it was natural not only for the accountable recipients of the Elder's words to react, but also for all kinds of misleaders of the piety of the Church's conscience with protests and reports to address the Holy Synod using all manner of dogmatic inconsistencies and canonical contradictions to evaluate Chalcedon as a villain." But this had the opposite effect because in the Bulletin of the "Episkepsios" published by the Patriarchal Center of Geneva, an overwhelming theological and patristic foundation for the Elder's words was given, which forever closed the impudent precedent of organizational malice."

The other text, by Professor Belezos, is an exhaustive, we would say, study on the homily of the Elder of Chalcedon.

Belezos also refers to the strong reactions caused by the homily at that time - with complete bibliographic documentation - but also to the essence of the homily, ie to its high theological content, incompatible - as it seemed - with the Greek religious reality. He also analyzes the linguistic idiom of the homily, its structure (preaching technique) and emphasizes with emphasis the amazing skill of Meliton in the interpretation of the biblical discourse and its updating according to the respective and timeless needs of man.

I quote below some excerpts from the article by Belezos regarding the reactions provoked by the homily:

"At a time when Greece was living under a military dictatorship and the spirit of piety related to associations prevailed, Meliton's sermon aroused unprecedented interest, such that had not previously been caused by a sermon from the pulpit of the Metropolitan Church. However, he also drew the wrath from individuals and groups of religious people who had been connected, during the previous two decades, in an unprecedented struggle against the carnival events, especially those of Patras ...."

Who was in charge of this "struggle"? But of course Augoustinos Kantiotes of Florina, an archimandrite. According to Professor Belezos, Augoustinos "misunderstood, as expected, those who attended carnival, who in disguise can express their deepest need for inner transformation, and took his sermon as personally directed against him. Starting from a rather ecclesiastical assessment of the situation, he directly accused the preaching of the Metropolitan of Chalcedon as being 'anti-orthodox', 'impious', 'blasphemous' and 'scandalous'. He described the 'unfortunate' Meliton as the 'greatest and most evil hypocrite', because under the guise of an Orthodox hierarch hid the high priest of Bacchus, inviting the Christian people to a manifestation of worship to the xoanon, and his 'sermon' was a 'sermon of surrealist art, contemptuous and catalytic of the glorious past of the Church.' Using all these descriptions, Augoustinos telegraphed Meliton before the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece (March 13, 1970) and demanded, out of all canonical order, that Meliton be 'tried' and 'deposed' as an example" (!!!)

Half a century has passed since then and the scene is - well - the same. Meliton was then denounced and had to be "deposed". Today, "deposings" are demanded from the descendants of Kantiotes, for many hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne! The pretext is the same: "cacodoxy", "ecumenism" and other similar ridiculous things. What a deep lag for our Church, so many years the same scenario?

By the way let me repeat: the "ecumenism" that is called a "panheresy" does not exist. It exists only in the sick imagination of some gnats who constantly want to sow weeds in the body of the Church. And if some modern, virtuous and sanctified theologians and pastors use the term, it means nothing. That is, it does not express the Church's conscience about what "ecumenism" is supposed to be. Words about "panheresy" are a joke and contemptible at the same time.

Fortunately, the Ecumenical Patriarchate still preserves the tradition of the Metropolitan of Chalcedon, and this is a consolation, ie the theology of reconciliation and unity. Because, as Professor K. Belezos aptly notes, "this is, after all, the mission of the Orthodox Church in the world today: to restore the demand for unity, and above all Christian unity, and to be able - by the power of the Holy Spirit - to work for the healing of the wounds of the past and assemble everyone in it."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.