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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER I Farewell

Conversion Of A High Priest Into A Christian Worker by Meletios Golden

CHAPTER I Farewell

It was the year 1903, on a very beautiful day, one of those April days, that are well known and appreciated by those who have been fortunate enough to travel around the purple bathed Mediterranean coast, that his royal highness, the prince of Greece, Andreas, went abroad to meet his sweetheart, who afterwards became his wife and princess of Greece. It was a confidential royal talk, the betrothal of Prince Andreas, but for the newspaper man, who learns everything, and he can keep a confidential talk as much as Mrs. Green did when she promised to her husband to keep all to herself that confidential talk they had one night, and the first thing in the morning speaking to Mrs. Jones over the fence she confidentially delivered that confidential talk and in the same manner all over fences and telephones, wherever they were procurable, to save the time, the talk went round the town and came back to Mr. Green's ears, and he only blamed himself for being the fool to trust his wife. So, when Prince Andreas, came down to Piraeus, the seaport of Athens, to board on the fashionable French S. S. Messengerie-Maritime, he was surprised by the throngs of people that gathered at the pier to greet him |good luck| in his royal love affairs, because the Greeks pay more attention to the royal love affairs, than they do in paying their royalties to fatten more highness and highnesses than any other Kingdom on the face of the earth.

The Kingdom of Greece, little more than two millions of people, pay to King George, for his annual allowances six times as much as the ninety millions of people to the President of the United States. And every creature of royal blood, in Greece, draws as high an allowance, as nearer to the throne his or her rights happen to be. Besides, many thousands of acres of the best land in Greece, is granted to the members of the royal family; thus causing the immense emigration of all these Greeks, whom you meet in every corner, in the United States, trying to make an honest living, by shining your shoes, or working in the construction of railroads in America and Mexico.

The Greek, though born and raised among the most beautiful vineyards that made the historical and famous Nectar for the Gods, yet when he leaves his home to go abroad, he takes his last glass of intoxicant, till he settles himself, in a new adopted motherland, and makes a comfortable home for the queen of his heart, because home life is the ideal of every Greek and he is a model as head of the family, in his moderate means trying to raise children to his generation and give them the best he can afford. Hopeful, that some Socrates or Demosthenes might develop out of his offspring. The Greek has never been identified with any unlawful or criminal movement of the so-called Anarchistic or Socialistic. The Greek at all times and under all circumstances is an example as a law-abiding citizen.

Greek history is the pride of all the civilized world, and in the opinion of a most distinguished sociologist, the United States is the Greece of this age, and he thinks that it is the irresistible law of gravitation and sympathy that the tide of emigration draws the Greeks from the ancient Greece into this new and glorious Greece. And the writer was very little surprised when told that Boston is the Hub of America, or in the language of the Archaeologist, the Athens of the United States, and there and then he made his resolution to make his home in Boston, should he ever find the way clear to come to America. The joyful dream of his life has become reality, and for the last six years from his personal observations traveling a little more, perhaps, than the average American traveler, from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Coast, he is privileged to know that the spirit of the Ancient Greece is not only confined in the Hub, but, hospitality and the love of art and beauty prevails in the very heart of every true American man and woman, even in the remotest village and hamlet, and he has yet to know the time or the place where he did not feel perfectly at home. Therefore, there is no regret on his part for bidding farewell to the land of the Gods and the city which had been the birthplace of taste, of art and beauty and eloquence. The chosen sanctuary of the Muses. The prototype of all that is graceful and dignified and grand in sentiment and action.

History and philosophy, oratory and the elements of mathematical science claim as their birthplace the city of Athens, where Paul, the greatest apostle of Jesus Christ, uttered his immortal oration to the Athenians, on the Areopagus (Mars Hill). And he, dignified, temperate, high-minded and learned in all wisdom, of his age, Paul, confessed that he was standing in the midst of the highest civilization, both of his own age and of the ages that had elapsed.

Paul, with his face towards the north having immediately behind him the long walls which ran down to the sea, affording protection against a foreign enemy. Near the sea on the one side the harbor of Piraeus, on the other that designated Phalerum, with crowded arsenals, their busy workmen and their gallant ships. Not far off in the ocean the Island of Salamis, ennobled forever in history as the spot near which Athenian valour chastised Asiatic pride, and achieved the liberty of Greece. The Apostle turning towards his right hand to catch a view of a small but celebrated hill rising within the city near that on which he stood, called the Pnyx, where standing on a block of bare stone, Demosthenes and other distinguished orators had addressed the assembled people of Athens, swaying that arrogant and fickle democracy, and thereby making Philip of Macedon tremble, or working good or ill for the entire civilized world. Immediately before him looking upon the crowded city, studded in every part with memorials sacred to religion or patriotism, and exhibiting the highest achievements of art. On his left, somewhat beyond the walls, the Academy, with its groves of plane and olive-trees, its retired walks and cooling fountains, its altar to the Muses, its statues of the Graces, its Temple of Minerva, and its altars to Prometheus, to Love, and Hercules, near which Plato had his country seat, and in the midst of which he had taught as well his followers after him. But the most impressive spectacle laying on his right hand, that small and precipitous hill |The Acropolis| where clustered together monuments of the highest art, and memorials of the national religion, such as no other equal spot of ground has ever borne. The Apostle's eyes, in turning to the right, would fall on the north-west side of the eminence, which was here and all round, covered and protected by a wall, parts of which were so ancient as to be of Cyclopean origin. The western side, which alone gave access to what, from its original destination, may be termed the fort, was, during the administration of Pericles, adorned with a splendid flight of steps, and the beautiful Propylaea, with its five entrances and two flanking temples, constructed by Mnesicles of Pentelican marble at a cost of 2012 talents, which is the equivalent of about four millions of American dollars. In the time of the Roman emperors there stood before the Propylaea, equestrian statues of Augustus and Agrippa. On the southern wing of the Propylaea was a temple to the Wingless Victory; on the northern, a Pinacotheca, or picture gallery. On the highest part of the platform of the Acropolis, not more than 300 feet from the entrance-buildings just described, stood and yet stands, though shattered and mutilated, The Parthenon, justly celebrated throughout the world, erected of white Pentelican marble, under the direction of Callicrates, Ictinus and Carpion and adorned with the finest sculptures from the hand of Phidias.

Northward from the Parthenon was the Erechtheum, a compound building which contained the temple of Minerva Polias; the proper Erechtheum, called also the Cecropium, and the Pandroseum. This sanctuary contained the holy olive tree sacred to Minerva, the holy salt-spring, the ancient wooden image of Pallas, etc., and was the scene of the oldest and most venerated ceremonies and recollections of the Athenians. Perhaps, for this reason, King George of Greece, in celebrating his 25th anniversary on the Throne, he gave upon this rock of Acropolis, that remarkable banquet to all crowned visitors, 175 in number from every royal family of Europe. At this memorable event, the writer held the office of |man at arms| on the Acropolis, although he was the youngest officer in the Royal Gendarmery of Greece, at the time.

Between the Propylaea and the Erechtheum was placed the colossal bronze statue of Pallas-Promachos, the work of Phidias, which towered so high above the other buildings, that the plume of her helmet and the point of her spear were visible on the sea between Sunium and Athens. Moreover, the Acropolis was occupied by so great a crowd of statues and monuments, that the account, as found in Pausanias, excites the reader's wonder, and makes it difficult for him to understand how so much could have been crowded into a space which extended from the southeast only 1150 feet, whilst its greatest breadth did not exceed 500 feet.

On the hill itself where Paul stood, was the temple of Furies, and in the court house of Areopagus, there was the altar to Athene Areia.

In all historical probability, Paul, stood exactly on this place when, |=to the unknown God=| as his text, he delivered the understanding of |The True and Living God,| who made the world and all things therein, and he made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.

The writer, consequently, in bidding farewell to his beloved Athens, he knew that he was going as a brother among members of the same family of humanity in a land where man is free to worship God, not in hypocrisy and deceit, but in Spirit and in truth.

On the same beautiful April day that Prince Andreas was going abroad, the writer went aboard on the same S. S. Messengerie-Maritime, unaware of H. R. H.'s presence there, notified only at the last moment by the agent of the company, Mr. Christopher of Piraeus, who was on board himself going to Italy on a business trip. Mr. Christopher, by being a member of the same fellowcraft in which the writer was the Grand Chaplain, he took pains to secure a very comfortable stateroom for his brother Chaplain.

Now I was following Mr. Christopher and an officer of the S. S. to locate myself in the suite provided for me, and as we were obliged to pass through the reception hall there I found myself face to face with the King George, and the following dialogue occurs.

King -- Where are you going, Father?

I -- On a recreation trip, Your Majesty. (I should have said, on a reformation trip.)

King -- I hope you will have a bon voyage.

I -- Your Majesty's wish, God grant it to be so, and I pray that His Favour shall crown with joy, all the desires of H. R. H.'s, the Prince, in his journey.

King -- With your prayers, Father, I believe H. R. H. will be well successful.

And with one of his well known diplomatic smiles that contain manifold meanings, King George bid us farewell, and in a few moments the big whistle blew and a gentle vibration of the boat gave the notice that we were on the move. I went into my cabin and looking through the hole that was doing duty of a round window, I beheld the monument of Themistocles passing slowly, and when I could see that no more, I felt something melting in my heart and over-flowingly coming up into my eyes in the shape of two drops of burning water. I took them on the tips of my fingers and after kissing them with all the tenderness of a loving heart, I sprinkled them into the apeiron, farewell to my loved ones left behind me, while the big S. S. in full steam was now carrying me faster and faster into the unknown and uncertain.

I did not leave my cabin and there took my meals for two reasons; first, H. R. H. expressed the wish to take his meals at the regular first-class dining table, with all the mortals therein, and I had little desire to meet him anyway; and second because I wanted to be alone to indulge undisturbed in my thoughts and study them and keep notes of them for my future use.

The history tells us that it took thirty years for the greatest philosopher that was ever born to give his definite opinion as to the immortality of the soul. And if a philosopher like Socrates, after thirty years of constant study, he knew one thing, that he knew nothing, it is absurd to dare say that we shall ever know more than Socrates did, and in regard to the most perplexed problem of the human soul we can only rejoice in the fact that we are placed in a more advanced position above Socrates, that we can look upon these problems with more light, and that is the light that comes from Galilee.

Alone as I was in my cabin I thought of Socrates, I thought of Confucius, of Buddha, and in fact I thought of the many ancient and modern leaders of great movements, and of new thoughts, my admiration is insistent to everything that is noble and pure in sentiment and praxis, but there is only one leader, whom my spirit admires the best and I worship him with love and devotion, the man who gave his life for me. I knew I was free through his death and I was happy. The Hierarchical church was opposing me unreasonably; my own dearest and nearest relatives did not understand me, their strongest argument being, how could I sacrifice such a high office and deny a promising greater future and still be in my right mind?

Not being satisfied in my own heart, much less convinced in my mind, I made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in order to find out whether Jesus was the only Saviour of mankind without the necessity of a priest. It was then and there, while kneeling on my knees upon that rock of Golgotha that came to me with startling force and clearness that I must be a follower of Jesus Christ and not a representative. All men may live on the Christ-like way and be happy, but the man who dares personify himself with the authorities belonging only to Jesus, that man must be a faker; |Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends| and I knew Jesus was my friend, the only friend left to me, while every other friend had forsaken me. In that little cabin I felt his companionship, and looking at the clock on the dresser I beheld in the mirror a pleasant face smiling at me. The hour was nearly midnight and I retired, singing |He promised never to leave me alone.|

The voyage from Piraeus to Naples is said to be the best and grandest in Mediterranean, and in company of a royal fellow traveller might have been interesting even to the most eccentric Yankee, but to me it was a monotonous event, and the second evening while I was walking for some exercise on the deck, H. R. H. came up to me graciously expressing his regrets for not seeing me at the table, and inquiring if I was not feeling well, but he soon noticed my laconical way in excusing my absence, and he withdrew, leaving me alone in my admiration of a grand view on a moonlighted nature in the Mediterranean. And the only thought occupying my mind was; how soon could I get to America? For this reason perhaps, I decided to take steamship for New York at Naples, Italy, instead of going to Marseilles, chief seaport of France on the Mediterranean, thus forfeiting my rights on S. S. Messengerie-Maritime, that had been paid from Piraeus to Marseilles.

Happily, Mr. Christopher was also representing the S. S. Co., of Fabre Line, and the S. S. Germania of the same company was scheduled to depart from the harbor of Naples in a few days. It certainly was a pleasure and an opportunity of which we took advantage to visit the most interesting places in and around Naples, the city of far famous and at the same time notorious, for there the stranger notices, in every step, the beauty of Italian art and the Neapolitan filth combined in the most peculiar texture.

Making good use of the little time which we had at our disposal, we took the train and went up to see the City in which the Pope entombed himself a living mummy rather than to co-operate with the civilized world in building God's Kingdom on earth.

In looking over my memorandums I have just discovered a description that I kept about the Eternal City. The historical facts therein are supported by undisputable authority. And I think it apropos beneficial to my readers, if it will be placed at their hands before the closing of this chapter.

On the river Tiber, about fifteen miles from its mouth in the plain of what is now called the Campagna, stands the famous capital of the Western World, and the present residence of the Pope, the City of Rome. The surrounding country is not a plain, but a sort of undulating table-land, crossed by hills, while it sinks towards the southwest to the marshes of Maremma, which coast the Mediterranean. In ancient geography the country, in the midst of which Rome lay, was termed Latium, which, in the earliest times, comprised within a space of about four geographical square miles the country lying between the Tiber and the Numisius, extending from the Alban Hills to the sea, having for its chief city Laurentum. Here, on the Palatine Hill, was the city of Rome founded by Romulus and Remus, grandsons of Numitor, and sons of Rhea Sylvia, to whom, as the originators of the city, mythology ascribed a divine parentage. The origin of the term Rome is in dispute. Some derive it from the Greek Romee, |strength,| considering that this name was given to the place as been a fortress. Cicero says the name was taken from that of its founder Romulus. At first the city had three gates, according to a secret usage. Founded on the Palatine Hill, it extended, by degrees, so as to take in six other hills at the foot of which ran deep valleys that in early times were in part overflowed with water, while the hill-sides were covered with trees. In the course of the many years during which Rome was acquiring to herself the empire of the world, the city underwent great, numerous, and important changes. Under its first kings it must have presented a very different aspect from what it did after it had been beautified by Tarquin. The destruction of the city by the Gauls caused a thorough alteration in it: nor could the troubled times which ensued have been favourable to its being well restored. It was not till riches and artistic skill came into the city on the conquest of Philip of Macedon, and Antiochus of Syria, that there arose in Rome large handsome stone houses. The capture of Corinth conduced much to the adorning of the city: many fine specimens of art being transferred from thence to the abode of the conquerors. And so, as the power of Rome extended over the world, and her chief citizens went into the colonies to enrich themselves, did the masterpieces of Grecian art flow towards the capital, together with some of the taste and skill to which they owed their birth. Augustus, however, it was, who did most for embellishing the capital of the world, though there may be some sacrifice of truth in the pointed saying, that he found Rome built of brick, and left it marble. Subsequent emperors followed his example, till the place became the greatest repository of architectural, pictorial, and sculptural skill, that the world has ever seen: a result to which even Nero's incendiarism indirectly conduced, as affording an occasion for the city's being rebuilt under the higher scientific influences of the times. The site occupied by modern Rome is not precisely the same as that which was at any period covered by the ancient city: the change of locality being towards the north-west, the city has partially retired from the celebrated hills. About two-thirds of the area within the walls, traced by Aurelian, are now desolate, consisting of ruins, gardens, and fields, with some churches, convents, and other scattered habitations. Originally the city was a square mile in area. In the time of Pliny the walls were nearly twenty miles in circuit: now they are from fourteen to fifteen miles round. Its original gates, three in number, had increased in the time of the elder Pliny to thirty-seven. Modern Rome has sixteen gates, some of which are, however, built up. Thirty-one great roads centered in Rome, which, issuing from the Forum, traversed Italy, ran through the provinces, and were terminated only by the boundary of the empire. As a starting point a gilt pillar (Milliarium Aureum) was set up by Augustus in the middle of the Forum. This curious monument, from which distances were reckoned, was discovered in 1823. Eight principal bridges led over the Tiber: of these three are still relics. The four districts into which Rome was divided in early times, Augustus increased to fourteen. Large open spaces were set apart in the city, called Campi, for assemblies of the people and martial exercises, as well as for games. Of nineteen which are mentioned, the Campus Martius was the principal. It was near the Tiber, whence it was called Tiberinus. The epithet Martius was derived from the plain being consecrated to Mars, the god of war. In the later ages it was surrounded by several magnificent structures, and porticoes were erected, under which, in bad weather, the citizens could go through their usual exercises. It was also adorned with statues and arches. The name of Fora was given to places where the people assembled for the transaction of business. The Fora were of two kinds -- fora venalia, |markets,| and fora civilia, |law courts, etc.|

Until the time of Julius Caesar there was but one of the latter kind, termed by way of distinction Forum Romanum, or simply Forum. It lay between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills: it was eight hundred feet wide, and adorned on all sides with porticoes, shops, and other edifices, on the erection of which large sums had been expended, and the appearance of which was very imposing, especially as it was much enhanced by numerous statues. In the centre of the Forum was the plain called the Curtian Lake, where Curtius is said to have cast himself into a chasm or gulf, which closed on him, and so he saved his country. On one side were the elevated seats or suggestus, a sort of pulpits from which magistrates and orators addressed the people, usually called Rostra, because adorned with the beaks of ships which had been taken in a sea-fight from the inhabitants of Antium.

Near by was the part of the Forum called the Comitium, where were held the assemblies of the people called Comitia Curiata. The celebrated temple, bearing the name of Capitol, of which there remain only a few vestiges, stood on the Capitoline Hill, the highest of the seven: it was square in form, each side extending about two hundred feet, and the ascent to it was by a flight of one hundred steps. It was one of the oldest, largest, and grandest edifices in the city. Founded by Tarquinius Priscus, it was at several times enlarged and embellished. Its gates were of brass, and it was adorned with costly gildings: whence it is termed |golden| and |glittering,| aurea, fulgens. It enclosed three structures, the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in the centre, the temple of Minerva on the right, and the temple of Juno on the left. The Capitol also included some minor temples or chapels, and the Casa Romuly, or Romulus, covered with straw. Near the ascent to the Capitol was the asylum (Cities of refuge). We also mention the Basilicae, since some of them were afterwards turned to the purposes of Christian worship. They were originally buildings of great splendour, being appropriated to meetings of the senate, and to judicial purposes. Here counsellors received their clients, and bankers transacted their business. The earliest churches, bearing the name of Basilicae, were erected under Constantine the Great. He gave his own palace on the Caelian Hill as a site for a Christian temple. Next in antiquity was the church of St. Peter, on the Vatican Hill, built A.D.324, on the site and with the ruins of temples consecrated to Apollo and Mars. It stood about twelve centuries, at the end of which it was superseded by the modern church bearing the same name.

The Cirei were buildings oblong in shape, used for public games, races, and beast-fights. The Theatra were edifices designed for dramatic exhibitions: the Amphitheatra (double theatres, buildings in an oval form) served for gladiatorial shows and the fighting of wild animals. That which was erected by the Emperor Titus, and of which there still exists a splendid ruin, was called the Coliseum, from a colossal statue of Nero that stood near it. With an excess of luxury, perfumed liquids were conveyed in secret tubes round these immense structures, and diffused over the spectators, sometimes from the statues which adorned the interior. In the arena which formed the centre of the amphitheatres, the early Christians often endured martyrdom by being exposed to ravenous beasts.

In modern Rome there are various things to excite the curiosity of the stranger, but in my observations I could only see four elements predominating above everything, monks, nuns, priests and beggars. They form a continued procession all day long of the most spectacular carnival that could be seen in any of the Babylons of the world.

And now while in Rome, we might ask the question: Who founded the church at Rome? The question is equally interesting, if not important to the Protestant and to Catholic. The Romish church assigns the honour to Peter, and on this grounds an argument in favour of the claims of the Papacy. But strict search in and about all the obtainable sources of knowledge, it does give no sufficient reason for believing that Peter was ever even so much as within the walls of Rome. Thus, by all inspired documents there is one title clear left to Pope and his scheme, |unaccountable falsifier.| As an ordained High Priest in the Greek Orthodox Church, I have been for many years studied in this particular subject. The Libraries in Mount Athos gave me all the opportunities that the high and exalted position, which I held, could afford, to find the truth concerning the claims of the Pope. The Fathers of the Church, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostomus, and all the host of Ecclesiastical authorities agree unanimously that the Lord Jesus never intended to concede any right of supremacy, to Peter, over the other apostles. Otherwise He (Jesus) would never have said those wonderful words (Matt.20, 25, etc.), and Peter himself disclaiming the assertions of the Papacy (Pet.1, 5, 3, etc.). And it is certain that there is no instance on record of the apostle's (Peter) having ever claimed or exercised this supposed power, but on the contrary, he is oftener than once represented as submitting to an exercise of power upon the part of others, as when, for instance, he went forth as a messenger from the apostles assembled in Jerusalem to the Christians in Samaria, and when he received a rebuke from Paul. Now as a matter of fact, if Peter was ever Great, that was, when he repented for denying his Master. Repentance, therefore, is the only hope left for the Pope, if he ever expects to hear the blessed voice |Feed my sheep.|

In these days of enlightenment and progress, while humane feelings are taking the place of spite and hatred among the civilized nations, and religious prejudice is giving way to good will and tolerance, Rome is, from the Vatican point of view, the stumbling-block of every honest effort in the purification of the individual heart and the uplifting of the millions of souls that are downtrodden under the sandals of hyenical monks. When the Pope, a few months ago, rejected Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Fairbanks, two models of manhood and virtue, he made it clear to the world that he is suffering incurably, from barbaritis, and that his case is hopeless. But, it is to be hoped that as Rome is already regenerated politically and socially, so, we pray that in not far distant day, Rome, shall also be regenerated spiritually.

In the meantime we shall continue our journey, and now we hurry back to take the S. S. Germania from Naples to New York. And when I was well located on board, I kissed good-bye to my friend and brother Christopher, thanking him for his assistance and bidding to the old world FAREWELL! FAREWELL!

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