Sunday, 1 September 2013

Enjoying the sea and sunshine in
truth on a Sunday in Rethymnon

The waves were shoulder high on the beach in Rethymnon this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

There is a report in many of the local newspapers in Crete about a 53-year-old man who has been charged in Iraklion, the island’s capital, with charges of owing the state over €1.5 million. According to the reports, the man is a Cretan lyra artist.

As I played in my mind with the word associations of lyras and liars, I was wondered whether people in Crete are offended when they hear Saint Paul’s saying:

It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1: 12).

Saint Paul said this in his letter to Titus, a Greek Christian to whom he had given responsibility for the oversight of the fledgling church on the island of Crete around the year 64.

In writing to Saint Titus in Crete, the Apostle Paul is quoting the Greek philosopher Epimenides who was also from Crete. The saying is well-known in philosophy as a logical paradox, the liars’ paradox or the Epimenides paradox, for it reveals a problem with self-reference in logic.

Simply stated, the paradox is this: Is Epimenides a liar, in which case what he says is untrue and Cretans are truthful? Or, as he is a Cretan too, does he know what he says is truthful, although he allows for no exceptions?

This statement, because it was uttered by a Cretan, is true if and only if it is false.

Epimenides was a contemporary of philosophers like Aristotle and Plato, who also refer to him in their writings.

When Athens suffered a terrible plague, the city elders were at a loss to know how to deal with it. They believed the city was cursed because of their treachery against the followers of Cylon who were slain after they had been promised an amnesty. Turning to the Oracle for wisdom, she said there unknown god had not been unappeased for their treachery, and she advised the elders of Athens to send a ship to Crete to fetch Epimenides who would know how to appease the offended god.

Epimenides challenged the belief that was then popular in Crete that Zeus was dead, and declared that all Cretans were liars.

Saint Paul is playing on the humour that this paradox gives rise to as he tells Saint Titus to exercise caution as he tries to grow the church in Crete, but to adhere to his faith in the Risen Christ.

In Tsouderon Street in Rethymnon, we are surrounded by numerous churches, and were woken by the bells chiming in unison shortly after dawn this morning [Sunday 1 September] long before any of them began celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

However, the nearest Anglican church is quite a distance away. The Church of St Thomas the Apostle one of the few Anglican Churches in Crete, has a chapel in the small rural village of Kefalas in the Apokoronas area of Crete, 30 minutes east of Chania. The nearest town is Vamos, 6 km west of Kefalas.

Without a car, and relying on public transport, we could have gone to one of the local Orthodox Churches. However, instead, we went to church this morning in the one Roman Catholic Church in Rethymnon, the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua, which is run by the Franciscan Capuchins.

This small neoclassical church stands on the corner of Mesolongíou Street and Salamínas Street, behind the old port and close to the Fortezza. It opened in 1890, although there has been a continuous albeit small Roman Catholic presence in the town since the arrival of the Venetians in the early 13th century. An older church in the basement beside the present church was used by the Capuchin Friars from about 1855 and served as a church again briefly in the 1980s while the main church was being refurbished.

The Mass was mainly in German and Lain, although the lessons were also read in Italian and Greek. It seems there is a tiny Greek community of Roman Catholics of long-standing in Rethymnon, but most of the congregation seemed to be German-speaking tourists.

Strolling through the back streets of Rethymnon late on Sunday morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Later, we strolled through the back streets of the old town in Rethymnon, and then spent a few hours on the long sandy beach that stretches as far as the eye can see east of Rethymnon.

You only had to step out a metre or two to find the waves were shoulder-high as they thundered in to crash against the sand. But I still spent some time in the water, enjoying the sun and the sea. The temperatures for the past few days have hovered between 28 and 31, and it was a pleasure to enjoy God’s creation and the sun on a Sunday.

As for the paradox posed by Epimenides, consider this: a liar is one who tells lies, not one who tells lies and only lies. You can say “I am a liar,” and be telling the truth, because a liar is not prohibited from telling the truth. A paradox would be if Epimenides said: “Everything Cretans say is a lie.”

And, in truth, this, I know, is not true.

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