The writings of Bill Mousoulis
Glimpses of Greece:
never forget my introduction to
August 2008. After decades of settled
and happy living in
I wanted to experience something different, that only travelling would give
me. After I landed at
airport, I took the train to Larissa, and at the train station there, I had to
wait for another train, to go to
to me was a young man, 25 or so, who looked exhausted. He was Bulgarian, but spoke Greek. He was in training to become an Orthodox
priest, and was on his way to
to do some work. Looking like
Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, perhaps this young man had just re-enacted Christ’s
40 days and 40 nights in a desert without food. I didn’t know whether to speak to him or call for an ambulance!
I’d travelled to
to find some passion,
some depth, and the riches of cultural exchange between the different European
countries, then I was getting it already.
not a believer. Not in any normal sense
anyway. Kierkegaard tortured himself
over this problem, and concluded that believing (in God, in Christianity)
required a mammoth effort, an irrational “leap of faith”.
this faith is predicated on need, a deep, existential need. A need for purpose, and
validation (a cooler word for “salvation” perhaps). I can’t begrudge this of course – it’s just
that I don’t have this need myself.
not a believer, but I admire the “spirit” let’s say, of the whole
the spirit that exists within all the individual priests, their great
dedication to this incredible mission/vocation in their lives.
Greek Orthodox priest is a distinctive figure, with his long black
cassock. Whenever I see any of them
(especially out of context, i.e. away from their churches), I often wonder
about them, about how they deal with the constant dilemma of being a sacred
figure (or certainly an intermediary) in a very secular world.
course, this is not a problem for the 1,500 or so priests/monks living in the
enclosed area of
Australia, Catholic and Protestant priests can
be renegades, literally hanging out with prostitutes (as Christ advised), but
the vocation is seen as “pure”. Recently, there has even been the situation where the governing Church
bodies have suspended Father Christos Mitsios for attending soccer matches (and
also being outspoken).
of it is indeed an “image” problem – it is odd seeing a priest doing
practically anything outside of the
formal church context. I’ve seen them
clearly looking uncomfortable in various situations – travelling on trains,
ordering souvlakia, even just walking down the street. It is complex. They are respected figures, but there’s also been church scandals in recent years.
in any field, some priests are arrogant, some humble. Some smart, some dumb. Human, all-too-human.
angriest priest I’ve seen was the grumpy old fellow who was driving along a major road in
when he stopped his car, got out and verbally abused a woman. “Go to hell!” he kept yelling at her, as she
was dumbfounded. And I’m sure he could
arrange it too!
favourite priest-in-public moment was when I saw a priest walking along in a
jolly Franciscan friar kind of way, and bend down and pat one of
stray dogs. It was a nice, humble
act. We are, after all, “All God’s
creatures great and small”.
terms of formal settings, I of course have witnessed some weddings, baptisms,
funerals. But there was one service that
gave me goosebumps. It was a religious
carnival in a small village on Mount Pelion, just off
Volos. It was a midnight service, and I wandered in at
fathers, who art on Earth … Amen.
© Bill Mousoulis 2010
This article first appeared in Neos Kosmos, 2010.