In my novel What’s Left, Cassia is a member of a Greek-American family that lives at a distance for their Greek Orthodox church. While that faith shares practices and teachings with a number of other Eastern Orthodox denominations, some of its customs that she takes for granted do puzzle her classmates.
Here’s some perspective.
Number of Greek Orthodox adherents in the United States: Between 440,000 to two million in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, depending on the counting method being used. They are spread among more than 500 parishes and served by roughly 800 priests. The Antiochian archdiocese has 83,700 adherents and 206 parishes.
Number of followers in the Orthodox Church in America (evolving mainly from the Russian Orthodox): 115,000 estimated, with 456 parishes.
Other Orthodox representation includes two Serbian archdioceses, plus Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Macedonian, Assyrian, Coptic, and two Armenian organizations.
Date of Christmas: January 7, concluding the 12 days of Christmas.
Date of Easter: Based on the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar used in the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, the Orthodox date can fall anywhere between April 4 and May 8 on the Western calendar. (The Greeks call it Pascha, for Passover.)
The highest level of leadership: The Metropolitan, or archbishop. The Roman Catholic Pope was once one of them.
Icons: The interior of the churches, especially, are replete in stylized depictions of Jesus, the Holy Mother, and many saints. Many of these are murals on the ceiling.
The iconostasis: An icon-covered wall runs in front of the altar and has a large central door as well as two smaller doors at the far end of either side. During the service, the priest often passes through these.
The priests are typically married.
Fasting: It’s not a total avoidance of food but rather constrained by intricate limitations. The longest periods of fasting are Advent, before Christmas, and Great Lent.
In all frankness, it’s the dreariest month. In a flash, the trees are bare. The switch from Daylight Saving Time has many folks going to work before daybreak and coming home after sunset. Still, we can try …
Harvesting root crops.
Chill mornings with fog wisps rising from ponds and rivers.
Election Day. We can always hope for a miracle. A return to sanity, for starters.
Ministry and Counsel retreat – even years in Deerfield, Massachusetts; odd years in Winthrop, Maine.
Days can be warm enough to work outdoors … or go for a hike.
No bugs. Beware of ticks, though.
Neighborhood souper. Everybody brings a pot of their own creation, then eats what everyone else has concocted. It’s outdoors, though, rain or clear.
Tagging a Yule tree.
Thanksgiving dinner. Why mess with tradition?
Community Thanksgiving service. It’s turned into a showcase for local church choirs.
When it comes to election results in most of the locales I’ve lived in, I’ve awakened to find myself in the minority. Sometimes, discouraged, I’ve wondered if it’s even made sense to show up to cast my ballot.
On the other hand, believe me, being victorious can feel unbelievably vindicating.
That said, let me argue that casting your vote is not about winning. It’s about taking a stand.
Here are ten reasons you need to do it – especially if you live in the United States today.
It’s witness. The Bible presents a sequence of prophets and faithful individuals who have publicly done what’s right, no matter what. There’s good reason to have a multiparty system and its loyal opposition. Voting is one way of strengthening your own convictions.
It’s protest. In the current political climate, persecuted people and other nations need to know that not all Americans accept the tragic and reckless actions our government has been taking. History needs to know there have always been people of integrity, even when the current turns toward fascism.
You’re a reader. That means you’re better informed than the average Fox channel viewer. At the least, you cancel his vote. (Whew!) Better yet, you one-up him. (Yay!) Go for it.
As an informed voter, you can know who the big PAC money is supporting and cast your ballot against their candidates. Remember, in the end, the PACs want you to pay your taxes for their benefit. Defend yourself.
Some good people are running. Contrary to nihilistic conservative voices, not all candidates are crooks – in fact, that argument begins to sound like a mea culpa. Win or lose, honorable candidates need support in knowing they’ve done the right thing in campaigning. Otherwise, you’ve endorsed corruption and we’ll all pay dearly. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
Officeholders often feel alone when it comes to being true to their own moral values They need individuals to confirm their intuition. You can sway them in the direction events take, even into the next term.
Public policy decisions affect real actions for good or bad. You can back a candidate who’s going to solve problems rather than make more. And please, don’t settle on blank promises like “create new jobs” – ask what it actually means in detail. A job at Walmart won’t put much food on the table or pay the rent, not where I live, and will likely wipe out someone else in the process. Frankly, I’d rather have the someone else. Yada yada. Also listen for what they leave unsaid. Anyone remember hearing anything about taking over the Internet in our last national balloting?
Nurture future leaders. I’m encouraged to see talented fresh faces stepping up to the challenge across the nation. They need a boost. And we need theirs. Confirm their idealistic aspirations.
Screw the bastards. You can vote against incumbents and register your complaint, at the least. Rotten apples are destroying the barrel and need to be purged. This may be our last chance to trash them and wash the container. Don’t lose it. Let the good win out, please. Just look at what the partisan takeover of the Supreme Court is doing to the nation’s workers.
Defend your liberty. In essence, not voting is the same as not having the right to vote. Think about that. It’s time to come to the defense of your essential rights or else lose them. Democracy is being assaulted by reactionary forces.
My new novel Daffodil Uprising is a meatier, more emotional work than its earlier incarnation, Daffodil Sunrise.
Here are ten reasons.
The people and events are now seen from Cassia’s perspective. Just look at her snide commentary for amusement and relief. Really.
Many of the characters have been renamed, starting with the one who would become her father in What’s Left. They’re more fully developed, for sure. In the previous version, the dorm inmates ran as a pack. Now they’re spread out by age and interests, and three of them serve as wise elders for the newbies.
Her father’s reasons for coming east to Indiana are more clearly defined. As a photographer, he’s part of a fast-track program in the fine arts.
Two new characters introduce elements of fantasy and paranormal. The Victorian elements in the earlier version are now amplified.
The focus in now more on their emotions in reaction to the happenings.
The story is now character-driven, more than erupting from the plot.
This is about boyz, especially, trying to make sense of a confusing world, even before they get to the girls.
This version, for all of its light playfulness, is now more baroque and brooding. That matter of loving a flower child, for one, is far more difficult than you might imagine. Or, for her, that matter of sticking with someone as flawed as Cassia’s future father could produce a really baffling relationship.
More dark sides of the era are introduced. It’s not just early questions about vampires or ghosts on the campus, but the violent fringe of the time, too. Just what are they to make of the protest bombings or the drug overdoses, for instance? Or their failure to live up to the responsibilities of living together?
This is clearly focused on the Sixties rather than reaching out into what would come after. It’s the making of a hippie, in particular. Hey, just don’t blame him.
You’re dressing better than usual, paying attention to the personal hygiene, even cleaning the car or apartment. My guess is this could be serious, especially if you’re coming down with any of these symptoms.
It’s ALL magic when you’re together. Everything else becomes secondary.
You glow in your darling’s presence. Yes, lightness.
Make that giddiness. And fumbling.
You’re convinced this is fresh history. The past is just that. Life’s beginning anew or maybe for the first time, ever. You’re even talking funny. To match your emotions and wit.
You like their car or dog even though you’ve always been an ardent cat-hater or dog-kicker.
You agree to go places or do things you’ve never ever imagined yourself venturing.
You feel joined at the hips and shoulders … and not just the lips.
You’re Superman and Wonder Woman at last.
When you’re apart, you’re falling through space … without a parachute.
You get knowing looks … from strangers.
The obvious signs must be endless. Which ones can you add?