OPINION

The democracy of death

A death, even when expected, is still a death. It is «Untaught material» (as Kiki Dimoula tells us in her «Ode to a Desk Lamp») for the departed and for those who remain, however many times we have been witness to the mystery of death and as equipped as we believe ourselves to be, others by philosophy and reflective poetry, who insist on the naturalness of the event, and others by their faith and the promise of an afterlife. The death of Nonna, the mother of Gregory Nazianzinos, was also expected, but this did not stop the great theologist from composing 51 inscriptions for her funeral in an effort to digest an event which, despite his intellectual acuity and the ideological preparedness that he gained from his faith, he could only see as a terrible loss.The death of Archbishop Christodoulos was also expected. And this liberated the ambitions of his hopeful successors, ambitions his closest associates deem insulting. Arguing that priests are also only human cannot compensate for the feeling of hubris provoked by the factionalism, even if briefly and tactfully expressed in public. The human qualities of the archbishop do not appear to have been taken into account in the long pre-prepared flattering (though not short of hypocrisy) obituaries. Future assessments will show whether the head of the Church of Greece for the past 10 years made history and in what manner. All we can say now is that he was a part of history, political and ecclesiastical. He was among the most profoundly political of bishops, passionately serving the ideal of a national Christianity that does not arise from the scriptures – and perhaps this is what touched so many people. «Which is king or soldier, rich or poor, righteous or sinner?» asks a Byzantine hymn. A harsh lesson on the «democracy of death,» but how better to sum up man’s lot?