June 9, 2023

Orthodox and Romios: Two Identical Words

By Metropolitan Andreas (Nanakis) of Arkalochori, Kastelli and Viannos -
Lecturer of the Theological School at Thessaloniki

"Immerse yourself in the open spirit of Romiosini... throw off the shackles and rigidity of the nationalistic view... Romiosini means tolerance, understanding, mutual respect, patience, a willingness to reconcile and endless love" (Patriarch Bartholomew, 2022).

In the modern Greek state, we have the two main books about the Romios [Roman] and Romiosini [Romanism], Ponemeni Romiosini, from 1963, by Photis Kontoglou, who was from Aivali in Asia Minor, and Romiosini, from 1975, by Fr. John Romanides, who was from Cappadocia.
Romios, is also the name of the satirical weekly newspaper of George Souris from Syros. Its publication began in 1883, two years after the marriage of Souris with Mari Konstantinides from Chios, and was interrupted in 1918, a year before the death of the author-publisher.

"Romiosini" spoke deep within the heart of Hellenism, when Mikis Theodorakis set Yiannis Ritsos to music, who in his wider poetic collection Agrypnia, in 1954, included his work "Romiosini". In 1966, "Romiosini" was published independently and in the same year it was set to music by Mikis Theodorakis. The people deeply experienced its messages, embraced the work, and "Romiosini" becomes "a possession forever".

We are in the second decade after the end of the civil war (1949), in a deeply divided Greece. "Romiosini", with its message of national unity, is sung in the stadiums and squares of Greece, as well as the Hellenism of the diaspora, in America, Australia and Europe.

The appropriation of our national names, Hellas and Hellenes, mainly by the victors of the time, brings the name of our imperial civilization to the Greek foreground. "Faithful king and emperor of the Romans", is the name of all the emperors of Constantinople.

After the fall of the City, in 1453, the sultans formed, in the midst of the sufferings of the time, the Millet system. All Orthodox Christians - Greek-speaking, Albanian-speaking, Slavic-speaking, Vlach-speaking, Arabic-speaking, Turkish-speaking - are called Romans and make up the "Rum millet". The Muslims, the Jews, the Armenians have similar millets. A condition for being a citizen of the Ottoman empire was to be a member of one of the religious millets.

Those who use the terms Romios or Romiosini should be well aware that Romios and Romiosini are concepts identical to Orthodox and Orthodoxy and that in the ecclesiastical and administrative structures of Romiosini is Greek culture which has the first say, with the official language of Romiosini being Greek. The Ecumenical Patriarch and the patriarchal structures of the empire were the custodians of Romiosini. Romiosini is not an ideology. It is praxis, applied praxis, after apprenticeship to an Elder who possesses experience of Divine Grace.

In this Ecumenical culture of the empire we have the deep and strong roots of Romios and Romiosini, where the terms are identified with every Orthodox of the empire. Romiosini empirically consists of the differentiation between thinking and praying. The highest form of hesychasm is the praying, and in fact through noetic prayer, Saint Gregory the Palamas, to respond to the rationalism of Barlaam of Calabria, who died in Avignon as a Roman Catholic Hierarch (1348), wrote the discourse: "On the Sacred Hesychasts". As Archbishop of Thessaloniki, in 1350, he wrote: "On Peace With One Another", having reached a settlement in his Metropolis, which had been deeply injured by the movement of the zealots (1342-1349). The causes of the conflict were spiritual, and the Saint documents it: "...because hatred entered the hearts of men, in cooperation with the devil."

In the Turkish occupation, the Aleiptes Saints were the New Martyrs, who were Romans but had converted to Islam and now wanted to return to Romiosini, preparing themselves with daily spiritual struggle, prayer, fasting, and the Divine Liturgy. For such a conversion, the Islamic Koran imposed the death penalty on the convert. But, after the spiritual preparation by the Aleiptes, who had converted to Islam, they endured the torture and went to their martyrdom strengthened by the Grace of the Paraclete, which abolishes the natural law, in this case, the martyrdom of pain from torture. Those who converted to Islam, when they obeyed their will and went to become martyrs, they could not bear the martyrdom, they became cowards, they denied Christ again, but the Aleiptes had prepared physically and spiritually to endure to the end.

From the book of Saint Paisios, Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian, published in 1975, we got to know the charismatic Saint Arsenios. He is Hatzi-Efentis in the television series Saint Paisios. Saint Arsenios and Saint Paisios are the successors of Romiosini in the Greek state, as are Saints Porphyrios, Iakovos, Eumenios the New and Saint Sophia of Kleisoura.

We read in the book of Saint Paisios that the Turks wanted to make it difficult for Hatzi-Efentis, Saint Arsenios, in his spiritual work, and after his prayer Hatzi-Efentis raised his hands to the sky, and "clouds gathered and rain began - a deluge of strong wind – and the whole village of Sinasos shook. The Turks asked for forgiveness. The Saint made the sign of the cross over the village and nature calmed down." Saint Arsenios, Hatzi-Efentis, does not give orders to the Orthodox community. He troubles them with divine signs and that is why they followed him.

The Elders of Romiosini pray fervently, and if the heavens agree, they receive information from the Grace of the Divine Word, they acquire experiential and revelatory experience. They abolish the natural laws that we everyday people know. Human reason, with its thoughts about our worldly accomplishments, often praises us and confirms us to ourselves and to those around us. It promotes our egos. The ideal and model for the Romios, his life's activity, is his holiness and salvation, which presuppose the virtue of self-restraint.

Because of the pandemic, the Elder had every right to forbid his subordinates to get vaccinated, on the condition that, as another Aleiptis, he would give them a spiritual, daily rule, which they would apply in order not to contract the coronavirus. Many confessors, among them it is said to be a Bishop, obeyed the elder and died from the coronavirus. This is not Romiosini. In Romiosini, the Elder's heart is informed by the noetic energy of Divine Grace.

Greece and Europe are suffering. The problem is spiritual and certainly not solved by reason and mind alone. This is Barlaamism. The solution to the spiritual problem is not provided by an ideological manifesto, even a Christian one, which will clash with the other parliamentary, ideological creations of this changing world. Romiosini answers the indeed pan-European, spiritual problem. Its essence, the mystery of God, which is forever hidden, is eternally unchanging. It is the inner contents of the container. The shape of the container is shaped in relation to the changing terrestrial world. City states, empires, nation states. Romiosini's response to the changing world is empirical, revelatory, the fruit of an informed heart. Doesn't the strangulation of the Church in Russia with the current tsarist power teach us?

Romiosini, which is identified with the Orthodox faith, does not prioritize the national identity of the Orthodox faith. We experienced it with the nomenclature of North Macedonia. And finally, established within Romiosini is the respect for the earthly hierarchy, which according to Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, is a reflection of the heavenly hierarchy.

Our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew summarized all of the above and much more by saying: "Immerse yourself in the open spirit of Romiosini... throw off the shackles and rigidity of the nationalistic view... Romiosini means tolerance, understanding, mutual respect, patience, a willingness to reconcile and endless love."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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