21 November 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Monday 21 November 2022

The grave of Nikos Kazantzakis on the walls of Iraklion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the final week in Ordinary Time this year in the Calendar of the Church, the week between the Feast of Christ the King and Advent Sunday.

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

I was reflecting on the theme of Christ the King yesterday. For the rest of this week I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, a reflection or thought from the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

‘He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins’ (Luke 21: 1-2) … the Treasury at Delphi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 21: 1-4 (NRSVA):

1 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

The funeral of Nikos Kazantzakis in Iraklion 65 years ago

Nikos Kazantzakis, 1:

Last month marked the 65th anniversary of the death of the Greek writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis in Freiburg, Germany, on 26 October 1957.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) is a giant of modern Greek literature, and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature on nine separate occasions. His books include Zorba the Greek, Christ Recrucified, Captain Michalis (also published as Freedom or Death), and The Last Temptation of Christ (1955). He also wrote plays, travel books, memoirs and philosophical essays such as The Saviours of God: Spiritual Exercises.

His fame spread in the English-speaking world because of the film adaptations of Zorba the Greek (1964) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

For Cretans, his outstanding works are his semi-autobiographical but posthumous Report to Greco (1960) and his Freedom and Death (1946), set in Iraklion during the struggle against Ottoman oppression. Freedom and Death first appeared in Greek as Captain Michailis, and the eponymous hero is the author’s own father. The characters are the people of 19th century Iraklion, the settings are its streets, churches, fountains, mosques, and houses.

His epic version of the Odyssey occupied Kazantzakis for 10 years. But his other work includes poems, plays, travel books, encyclopaedia articles, journalism, translations, school textbooks and a dictionary.

In his later years, Kazantzakis was banned from entering Greece for long periods, and he died in exile in Germany on 26 October 1957. When his body was brought back from Freiburg, the Greek Orthodox Church refused to allow any priests to provide rites or ceremonies in Athens.

Western writers often claim Kazantzakis was denied an Orthodox burial because of his unorthodox views, or because of The Last Temptation. But Aristotle Onassis provided a plane to take his coffin to Iraklion, and Kazantzakis laid in state in the Cathedral of Aghios Minas. Those who came to pay tribute included the Archbishop of Crete and the resistance leader and future prime minister, George Papandreou.

My friend Manolis Chrysakis, the proprietor of Mika Villas, a popular destination in Piskopiano for Irish tourists, denies his great-uncle was ever excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church, and insists he was never disowned by the Church of Crete, which is semi-independent and under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Manolis and his family in Iraklion and Piskopiano are proud of their kinship with Nikos Kazantzakis: they are descended from the sister-in-law of ‘Kapetan Mihailis,’ the eponymous hero of the Kazantzakis novel based on his father’s adventures and published in English as Freedom and Death.

His tomb is marked only by a simple wooden cross framed by a flowering hedge and an undecorated gravestone with the pithy epitaph:

Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα.
Δε φοβούμαι τίποτα.
Είμαι λέφτερος.

– Νίκος Καζαντζάκης

I fear nothing,
I hope for nothing,
I am free

– Nikos Kazantzakis

Looking across Iraklion and out to the Mediterranean from the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis on the Martinengo Bastion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Prophetic Voice of the Nation.’ This theme was introduced yesterday by Bishop Matthew Mhagama, from the Diocese of South-West Tanganyika in the Anglican Church of Tanzania.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Almighty God, we thank you for the service of missionaries. May we remember their work and grant us the ability to do mission well.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Cathedral of Aghios Minas in Iraklion, where Kazantzakis laid in state during his funeral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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