30 June 2017

The Greeks have a word
for it: (3) bread

A selection of morning bread in the bakery next door in Platanes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

One of the delights in trying to engage with another language is realising the reasons things have different names. I try to – but usually struggle very badly – to read menus in restaurants here in Greek, but sometimes I can get it wrong, often with humorous consequences.

Last night, the menu in Marem where I was eating opened with ψωμί με Συνοδευτικά (psomí me sinodeftiká). Why would I be interested in bread with a covering letter? But starters are also ‘little things brought together.’

And there are different names in different places for the same food. Κουκουβαγια (koukouvagia) on the menu is not owl, but the name in many parts of Crete for ντάκος (dákos) – a starter of dry rusk bread topped with tomatoes, crumbled feta and oregano. In eastern Crete it is known as κουλουκοψωμο (kouloukopsomo, supposedly because this is the bread that is fed to the puppy dogs under the table.

When I thought about this last night, I wondered whether Christ was discussing dakos with the Syrophoenician woman when he spoke about taking the children’s food and throwing it to the dogs (Mark 7: 27).

Even here, Greek can be confusing, for there not only do the Greeks have a word for bread, but they have two words for bread, and here Christ uses the word ἄρτον or ἄρτος (artos), and not ψωμί (psomi).

In classical Greek, artos meant ‘cake,’ a ‘loaf of wheat-bread,’ or collectively ‘bread.’ But in modern Greek it is now more commonly used in the context of Communion bread in Church, having been replaced in the broader context by the word ψωμί (psomi), although artos is also found in common compound words such as αρτοποιός (artopoiós), baker, and αρτοποιείο (artopoieío), bakery.

The word for bakery is a reminder of the word artos for bread (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Greek often has two words where English may only have one. The Greek word for red is Κόκκινος, κόκκινη, κόκκινο (Kokkinos, kokkini, kokkino), and refers to a ruby red.

Some ‘colorful’ expressions in Greek include Κοκκινίζω από το θυμό μου (kokkinizo apo to thimo mou), ‘I turn red from (because of) anger,’ and Κοκκινίζω από ντροπή (kokkinizo apo dropi) I turn red from shyness, embarrassment.

But in formal settings, you find another word, as in Ερυθρός Σταυρός (Eritrhos Stavros), Red Cross.

Last night’s menu included a salad with apple and ρόδι (rodi). The English word for a pomegranate indicates an apple with seeds, while the Greek word speaks of its colour.

The roots of the English name were soon confused and forgotten, so that the pomegranate was known in early English as the ‘apple of Grenada,’ confusing the Latin granatus with the name of the Spanish city of Granada, which derives from Arabic.

The colour garnet derives its name from the Old French grenat, and in turn from the mediaeval Latin granatum meaning ‘of a dark red colour.’ This derivation may have come from pomum granatum, describing the colour of pomegranate pulp, or from granum, referring to red dye.

In Greek, the pomegranate is ρόδι (ródi), from the same root that gives us words such as rose, rhododendron and perhaps even the name of the island of Rhodes. In Greece, ρόδι or pomegranate is also used to make koliva, a mixture of wheat, pomegranate seeds, sugar, almonds, and other seeds served at memorial services.

My experiments in learning the names of foods last night were not as embarrassing as those of a journalist I met in Rhodes 20 years ago who saw παϊδάκια (spare ribs) on the menu and for a moment was stricken with horror as she though the reference was to παιδιάκιά (small children). That would have shocked the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter too.

Rodi or pomegranate in a salad in Marem last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

A new challenge facing
the new Primus in Scotland

With Bishop Mark Strange at a recent conference in Edinburgh

Patrick Comerford

Bishop Mark Jeremy Strange, the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, became the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church this week. He was elected at an Episcopal Synod in Edinburgh on Tuesday [27 June 2017] in succession to the Most Revd David Chillingworth, who was born in Dublin and who stepped down this month after eight years in office.

Bishop Strange was born in 1961, and studied theology at the University of Aberdeen and Lincoln Theological College. He was ordained deacon in 1989 and priest in 1990. After serving as a curate and a vicar in the Diocese of Worcester, he returned to Scotland in 1998 and was elected Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness in 2007.

After his election as Primus this week, Bishop Strange said: ‘I am humbled by the confidence shown in me by my colleagues and I will seek to serve the church as Primus with love and strength.’

Bishop Mark is married to Jane – a teacher in Inverness – and they have a son and two daughters.

His election comes immediately after the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to permit same-sex marriage. The vote earlier this month amended canon law on marriage, removing the stipulation that it is between a man and a woman.

His election also came days before today’s planned consecration by a group of objectors of Canon Andy Lines as a ‘missionary bishop’ for Europe. Andy Lines is the chief executive of the mission agency Crosslinks, which fundraises using images of poverty in Africa yet uses funds raised in Ireland to organise and support conferences on debates that are internal to the Anglican Communion, including sexuality.

Gafcon said the decision to appoint Andy Lines was a ‘missionary bishop’ came in response to the vote in the Scottish general synod. But the response and the decision had been prepared weeks in advance.

Gafcon said: ‘This consecration comes in the context of a global reformation that is happening in the Anglican Communion. While Anglican provinces such as the Episcopal Church (USA), Anglican Church of Canada, and Scottish Episcopal Church are rejecting the authority of the Bible, faithful Anglicans are uniting through Gafcon to proclaim and defend the unchanging truth in a changing world.’

Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury has written to all other Anglican Primates warning them about Andy Lines’s appointment. But Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney, Bishop Richard Condie of Tas¬mania, and other Gafcon bishops are expected to take part in today’s illicit consecration.

It must come as a surprise to some while they say Andy Lines is a ‘missionary bishop’ for Europe, the event is taking place in the Edman Chapel at Wheaton College in Illinois. It has echoes of the furtive consecrations of ‘wandering bishops’ or episcopi vagantes.

As for Wheaton College, it is not an Anglican foundation and it is not open to the normal standards of academic inquiry. It requires its teaching staff to affirm a belief in an historical Adam and Eve, although they can teach animal evolution. Two years ago, Wheaton disciplined Professor Larycia Hawkins, who agreed with Pope Francis Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and she subsequently resigned.

The people taking part in today’s consecration described themselves as ‘conservative evangelicals.’ But it is hard to see how they can be described as either when they neither want to conserve or value Anglican traditions, nor want to prioritise mission over confrontation.

The Greeks have a word
for it: (2) philoxenia

Welcome to my world ... a front door in a back street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Irish people like to think of Ireland as the land of a hundred thousand welcomes. English people have always put a high value on hospitality – although I fear the ‘Brexit’ referendum a year ago and its aftermath raises doubts about whether hospitality is widely cherished as an English value today.

But our concepts of welcome and hospitality come nowhere close to the way these values are expressed by Greeks.

The baker beside my apartment welcomed me back as I was buying bread for breakfast yesterday morning, and wanted not only to assure me that he remembered me but to be assured that I remembered him. In the newsagent, I was asked how long I am here for ‘this time’ – it not only conveys the memory that I have been here before but contains the hope that I would be here many more times too.

The Greek concept of welcome implies that the stranger is becoming a friend. It is not a tourist marketing ploy. It is not a cheap expression of gratitude for return business. It is simply a part of the Greek nature and culture to welcome the stranger or the foreigner. And the Greeks have their own word for it – φιλοξενία (philoxenia).

In classical Greece, hospitality was a right, and a host was expected to see to the needs of the guests. The ancient Greek term xenia, or theoxenia, expressed this ritualised guest-friendship relation: welcoming the guest was welcoming a god. In classical Greece, someone’s ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing.

The Stoics regarded hospitality as a duty inspired by Zeus himself. The word φιλοξενία (philoxenia), from φῐ́λος (phílos), a loved one who is more than a ‘friend,’ and ξένος (xénos), a ‘stranger’ of ‘outsider,’ is used by Plato, Polybius, Philo of Alexandria and others to express the warmth properly shown to strangers, and the readiness to share hospitality or generosity by entertaining in one’s home.

It is a word that is used constantly in the epistles in the New Testament.

Saint Paul speaks of κοινωνοῦντες τὴν φιλοξενίαν διώκοντες (Romans 12: 13), or the importance of contributing to the needs of the saints (those inside the Church) and extending hospitality to strangers (those from outside who must be welcomed).

In Hebrews 13: 2, the author uses the phrase τῆς φιλοξενίας μὴ ἐπιλανθάνεσθε when saying: ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’

To be hospitable (Φιλόξεον, philoxeon or φιλόξενος philoxenos) or to show hospitality (ξενοδοχέω, xenodocheo) occur too in I Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 8, I Peter 4: 9, and I Timothy 5: 10. For example: ‘she must be well attested for her good works, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality (ἐξενοδόχησεν), washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way’ (I Timothy 5: 10).

One of the requirements of a bishop in the New Testament Church is to be ‘hospitable,’ to be welcoming to strangers (I Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 8).

But the NRSV translation shows its weaknesses in these passages. It is not enough to translate the words as hospitality or welcome; it is hospitality towards the stranger, it is welcoming the outsider, the stranger, the foreigner, the person who is different who comes among us. And in the list of priorities, care for others, for children and hospitality to the stranger come before looking after the needs of church members, described here are washing the saints’ feet.

The concept and the duty of philoxenia is in contrast to φιλία (philia), for it is easy to love those who are like us, from the same family or locality, and is in contrast to xenophobia, the fear of the stranger or the other, which is both unfounded and obsessive – and which has grown in Greece in recent decades and found expression in disgusting far-right groups.

The Christian virtue of philoxenia has its roots in the injunctions to hospitality in Leviticus 19: 18 and 34. We are not just to love our neighbours as ourselves, but: ‘The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’

Despite what is being said in the current debate dividing Anglicanism and many other Christian traditions, the sin of Sodom (see Genesis 19) was to refuse to welcome the stranger. The Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 109, makes it clear. For 1,700 years after the destruction of Sodom, ancient Jews linked the destruction of Sodom to the refusal of hospitality, not to homosexuality.

What we often call ‘hospitality’ is really entertaining, and typically we offer it to friends who will reciprocate by inviting us back. Hospitality to strangers is not entertaining friends or neighbours. Philoxenia is much more than that. Philoxenia turns on its head xenophobia and any other irrational attitude to those who are different, those who are strangers, those who come from the outside.