Remarks of Michael and Mary Jaharis Upon Receiving Honorary Degrees from Hellenic College-Holy Cross – Announcement of Five Million Dollar Gift to School

27 05 2008

Brookline MA: Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology on Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thank you:

Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
Your Eminence Metropolitan Maximos
Your Eminence Metropolitan Methodios
Your Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos
Your Grace Bishop Ilia Katre
Your Grace Bishop Savas
President Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou
Vice Chairman Dr. Thomas Lelon and the Board of Trustees

Mary and I are truly honored and touched to be here today and we thank you for bestowing upon us the tribute of an honorary doctorate. We are especially glad to receive this honor from Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology, an institution which has been serving Orthodoxy and Hellenism and preserving their legacy for several decades.

First of all, we would like to extend our wholehearted congratulations and good wishes to the Class of 2008 graduates. Graduates, you have worked very hard to get to where you are sitting now and it is an honor to be here to address you, your families, friends, colleagues and members of the clergy.

Within the context of your academic studies here at Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology, alongside distinguished and dedicated faculty and peers, you have learned and created your own set of the ‘best practices’ of spiritual leadership and teaching, youth leadership, and community management and administration.

Alongside your friends and professors, you have worked towards enlightenment — each contributing your gifts, talents, research and hard work to this network, creating the groundwork for great potential and participation for future collaborations and community leadership locally, nationally and internationally. Preparing to become a priest and lay leader for various services in the “Omogeneia” is not an easy task – and you have done a great job in spite of the difficulties and challenges of today’s world.

Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology is a very special place — it is the only fully accredited four-year liberal arts college in the Americas centered upon Orthodox Christian beliefs and enriched by the ideals of a Hellenic classical education. For over seventy years as a Seminary and over forty as a liberal arts college, it has been and still is a place of spiritual and academic enlightenment for talented young people wishing to dedicate their service to the Lord and His Church and to the members of our Orthodox Christian community.

Today, the student body represents over twelve countries including Albania, Bulgaria, Canada, Egypt, United Kingdom, Greece, Kenya, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia and Uganda – and as I have heard, at the campus Agape service one can hear the gospel read in not just Greek or English – but also in Albanian, Romanian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Kiswahili – that’s great!

As many of you know, in the initial phase of Greek immigration to the USA, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, no formal religious or educational processes evolved until women and children came along to form families and establish an Orthodox Christian Greek-American community and culture. It should be noted that the primary objective of their families was the inclusion of Hellenic and Orthodox studies as part of their children’s overall education. Even in those early years, the inextricable relationship between Hellenism and Orthodoxy was apparent. Higher education originated in Greece over 2500 years ago and even today in this country remains a formidable asset of our schools and government.

Another phenomenon, which still holds true today, related to these early families and our families now, should be noted. Those families who wished – and wish and attempt to maintain Greek traditions, education and Orthodox religious teaching in this country, are served by the programs of the Church – through parishes under the spiritual leadership of Hellenic College/Holy Cross alumni such as yourselves.

For over four generations, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and its parishes have been the first to introduce and celebrate new members of all ages into our faith and community – whether through baptisms, weddings, or weekly services – as well as offer spiritual guidance and support. The Church is the primary place where different generations of Greeks, Greek-Americans, and many non-Greeks coalesce for religious, educational, cultural and social purposes. There is an inextricable link between the Greek concept of higher education and its relationship to Orthodox Christianity and to Democracy, — and to the foundation upon which our nation was built upon.

As Professor Carl Richard recently stated in a lecture in Washington DC, “The Greek classics exerted a profound influence on the founders of the United States. The Greeks provided mixed government theory, the principal basis for the U.S. Constitution, and the theory of natural law that supports the U.S. Bill of Rights. The Greek classics also contributed a great deal to the founders’ conception of human nature, their understanding of the nature and purpose of virtue, and their appreciation of society’s essential role in its production. The classics offered the founders companionship, solace, and the emotional resources necessary for coping with the deaths and disasters so common in their era. They provided the founders with a sense of identity and purpose, assuring them that their exertions were part of a grand universal scheme. In short, the Greek classics supplied a large portion of the founders’ intellectual tools.”

The values of Hellenism and Classical Greece are still evident in our country’s democracy – however, as time passes, and modern life becomes more complicated, it seems as if people and society as a whole are having a harder time connecting to God.

When we look at or read about the world outside our door, more than ever, there seems to be an urgent need for spiritual enlightenment and guidance – namely: love, unity and peace – values at the very core of Orthodoxy.

Today, on a macro-level, our local and national ministries enlighten, educate and promote an understanding through and of our Orthodox faith, Hellenic culture, — the relationship of the two to each other and to America’s multicultural landscape. In many ways you, the graduates of HCHC, will be the Ambassadors of Orthodoxy and Hellenism, preserving our legacy, our faith and values to our community, to future generations, and to people of other cultural and religious backgrounds. In addition, you will be assistants to and builders of the various ministries of the Church.

On a more personal level, local ministries have a great influence on our individual identity, our character and our role as enlightened Orthodox Christian citizens of our community, country, and world.

As priests and lay leaders, you will be the connection for individuals to our Church and to God – a living image of Christ. The priests of today and of tomorrow need to be individuals with sound theological knowledge who are in substantive touch with today’s reality. They need the special ability to both connect individuals to God and to communicate God’s message to individuals. The progress — and very existence — of our community and culture rests on our clergy as we advance into the 21st century.

Through your studies here at Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology, you have received the finest education for your vocation and gained the knowledge and tools necessary to become citizens of the world as well as educators and spiritual leaders to our current and future generations.

For both Mary and me, the Church has provided a foundation of values upon which we built our identity, family and service – love, peace, unity, perseverance, faith and philanthropy.

My parents immigrated to the United States from the Greek island of Lesvos; Mary’s from Peloponisos. I was born and raised in a Greek community in Chicago and have memories of the Church and its role in our lives and community — most importantly as a place of worship and also as an educational institution and social gathering center – for many generations of Greek Americans.

As a child of immigrants, our Church was a place where everything connected – spiritually, culturally, and socially. Attending services with my Mother (my Father having a daily 18 hour job was absent) marked the beginning of my identification with, participation in and service to Hellenism and Orthodoxy. It inspired what eventually evolved into a life long tradition of service and faith. The Church was where I was first introduced to the beautiful liturgical tradition and sacraments of our Orthodox Christian Church. Attending weekly services as an altar boy was the beginning of my spiritual growth and connection with God.

Our Church was where I made life-long friends and also one of the first times I laid eyes on my wife, Mary (she was in the parish choir). Greek School was where I learned how to read and write in Greek. Initially, it was also our only connection to Greece – as travel was much more difficult then.

I have to admit that as a child I underestimated the astounding influence of the Church. However, as an adult I began to fully understand and continue to appreciate the influence of this institution and the impact of faith on my personal experiential connection to Orthodoxy and Hellenism. As a father – and now a grandfather – watching my own children and their children go through such experiences and also, connecting with other colleagues and friends makes me truly appreciate the spiritual, cultural and educational continuity and opportunities the Church has provided. Therefore, being here today, everything has come ‘full circle,’ — and it gives me great personal satisfaction to support the Church’s existence and growth — so that our parishes and clergy can continue to play an important role for future generations.

It is these experiences that have instilled such a deep sense of gratitude, inspiring Mary and me to dedicate our service to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its ministries. Our faith has molded us into the people we are today and is the foundation for our values and cultural identity. Therefore we feel an immense sense of gratitude – one that inspires us to support the Church, its ministries and programs – and cultural institutions related to Hellenism and Orthodoxy — for the enlightenment, education, and enjoyment of future generations. In 1831, James Cook Richmond an early American author, clergyman, and philhellene stated: “Philhellenism and Philanthropy are identical in all generous minds.”

This sense of gratitude and philanthropy inspired me to actively participate as a Founder in organizations such as Leadership 100 and most recently, to be one of the ten original founders of Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism.

These organizations are truly devoted to supporting the Greek Orthodox Church by developing scholarship programs, technology/resource/and infrastructure upgrades for programming at institutions such as Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology as well as local parishes.

Leadership 100, as many of you know, has supported the education of many of you here today in your role as future priests.

Faith, on the other hand, encourages educational programs that promote the development of academic studies, scholarly research and artistic/creative projects in relation to Orthodoxy and Hellenism. Faith works to support the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, under the leadership of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, in creating the ministries and educational programs that promote an understanding of our Orthodox faith and Hellenic culture. Faith assists and supports the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Ministry-based initiatives that incorporate and promote the development and use of new technologies such as online educational programming and resources, film and television, and other digital technologies.

Our mission is to fund a diversity of innovative programs about Orthodoxy and Hellenism whether for grass-roots level local programming, multi-institutional partnerships, or high profile large scale events and collaborations. A commitment to excellence and realistic long-term sustainability is at the core of the development of new programs to support the advancement of Hellenism and Orthodoxy in the United States.

For example, Faith funded a grant to the National Ministries for enhancing the technology infrastructure at Hellenic College / Holy Cross School of Theology for updating the School’s computer lab and technology infrastructure. Faith is now in discussions with His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios to bring together the most talented educators in an effort to provide exceptional Greek and Orthodox studies program textbooks which would be made available to all private and/or parochial schools in the country.

Philanthropy is defined in different ways. As you all know, the origin of the word philanthropy is Greek and means love “phil” for mankind “anthropou”. Today, philanthropy includes the concept of voluntary giving – donating money, goods, time or effort — by an individual or group to promote the common good or improve human quality of life.

So as you graduate and leave this wonderful campus to serve God, our community, and society, dedicating your time and effort to provide spiritual enlightenment, sustain cultural continuity, and share your knowledge we would like to conclude with this beautiful quote from the late, His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos:

“Finish your each day with the reassuring truth that tomorrow is another day. A day unsure as it may be, but a day which is yours with all the brilliance of its sun, with all its flowers and birdsongs, and all the uncertainties, the fears, the anxieties and the hopes, as well. Remember, that you also have to make it easier to accept each day, to dissipate any clouds that may threaten to darken the sun. Do not allow the darkness to envelop your soul.

When you see it approaching, you keep it at a distance with your Christian courage and determination. There are so many blessings surrounding you every day. Enjoy them; rejoice in them all.”

“Orthodoxy is a religion and theology that places no boundaries or barriers along the way of those who search for happiness in unity, in peace, and in justice.”
(Archbishop Iakovos Grand Banquet, Clergy-Laity Congress, July 3, 1996)

Graduates, we salute you for your accomplishments thus far, and thank you in advance for your contributions to society and the work you are about to do to create a better future for unity, peace, justice and enlightenment.

Congratulations and best wishes for success!

Thank you.


Remarks of Mrs. Mary Jaharis upon receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology on Saturday, May 17, 2008

First of all, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the graduates. You have traveled a long journey on your spiritual – and scholarly — paths and now you are ready to guide others upon their own paths.

It is a pleasure and an honor to be here today to celebrate this commencement with the accomplished graduates, their proud families, esteemed guests and distinguished faculty. My husband and I are especially happy to have the opportunity to announce our gift to Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology on such a joyous and celebratory occasion.

In appreciation for and recognition of the outstanding work that this School does in preserving and promoting Orthodoxy and Hellenism, my husband and I have decided to offer our support in order to further enhance and increase the effectiveness of this work.

Our offering is in the form of a donation of $5,000,000 to Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology to endow a chair for the study of the New Testament and to create a Byzantine Studies Center.

Two million dollars of this gift will endow a Chair for the Study of the New Testament. This endowed chair will be named in honor of our beloved Archbishop Demetrios and will be dedicated exclusively to the field of the New Testament, a field essential in any School of Theology — and also, very important for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, as it is well-known that the New Testament was originally written in Greek.

The remaining three million dollars from this gift will fund the Institute for Byzantine Arts and Culture which will focus on five key areas of interest and research: Byzantine Iconography, Byzantine Artifacts, Byzantine Architecture, Byzantine Literature and Byzantine Music. The Center will host special seminars, national as well as international conferences, and exhibitions in addition to normal semester activities such as regular courses and course intensives. It is our hope that the Institute will be a great resource for the school as well as a premier research center for national and international academic and intellectual exchanges and cultural programs related to the beautiful and interesting arts of the Byzantine era.

The details and specifics of the offerings will be decided by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios in consultation with the Jaharis family and the President of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology.

For over two thousand years, the Orthodox Church has carried on the Apostolic tradition of Christ’s teachings. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, this School and our parishes have continued this great tradition, sustaining and promoting our rich cultural, intellectual and spiritual legacy throughout their existence in America. Michael and I are pleased to offer a gift to the School that will enrich the academic programming of Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of Theology and the study of Orthodoxy and Hellenism into the future.

Thank you.

Congratulations to Axion Estin Foundation Symposium

11 02 2008

Congratulations are due to the Axion Estin Foundation for their second Symposium on Byzantine Music Education. I’ve included a commentary on the symposium that was published in The National Herald, 2 February 2008 Edition. Some of the commentary seems to ring some bells. This poor soul is stricken with the disease of love for the traditional Psaltic Art; may God have mercy on his soul!

The Art of Byzantine Chant: Music to a Growing Number of Americans’ Ears

By Christopher Tripoulas
Special to The National Herald

Last week, a three-day symposium on Byzantine Music Education took place at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, focusing on how to build a Byzantine choir. On the evening before the seminar, world-renowned chanter/musicologist Lycourgos Angelopoulos and the Greek Byzantine Choir performed at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, undoubtedly one of the world’s premier museums.

For almost one week, one of the most recognizable and traditional aspects of Greece’s cultural legacy was on display center-stage in perhaps the world’s most cosmopolitan city. When the largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere and the largest urban university in the United States both decide to publicize and promote an issue simultaneously, it’s a big deal. These institutions attract the attention of people from all over the city, even the nation…and maybe, just maybe, some of the decision-makers in the Greek American Community too.

In its press release, the Met mentions that the Angelopoulos concert is presented in cooperation with the Axion Estin Foundation. It is worthy – pardon the pun – to offer the individuals comprising this organization a well-deserved round of applause. In one well orchestrated week’s time, they will have managed to do more to promote Greek Culture than many other much larger, more illustrious and better funded organizations! This is pretty remarkable when considering that this not-for-profit organization is still in its infancy, having only been founded in November 2005. During that time, it has organized two major conferences, in addition to a weekly radio program that is currently in its fourth year.

One-fourth of the foundation’s trustees and officers hold doctoral degrees. This is not noteworthy simply because these individuals possess a high level of education (there are plenty of educated clergymen out there for instance who haven’t lifted a finger to promote Byzantine music; even in their own parish). It is important because it allows bridges to be built between this living, breathing expression of Greek art and the world of academia. Let’s not forget that Byzantine chant represents a piece of the Hellenic legacy that captivates the interest of people worldwide, while holding it own in modern Greek society up until today. People can come into direct contact with this centuries-old art form, as opposed to just reading about it in history books.

This past week, we witnessed cultural diplomacy in the making. Oddly enough, the architects behind this skillful diplomatic display did not come from some powerful national federation, well-financed government institution, or even from within the “official” Church hierarchy. This ray of hope came from a group of bright young people (including second and third-generation Greek Americans) who love their heritage and use their education and cultivation to share their cultural inheritance with others.

Looking at the online list of sponsors, there are even two non-Greek, non-Christian entities who have contributed to this cause; namely, the CUNY Graduate Center Department of Ethnomusicology and the New York State Council on the Arts. If you visit AEF’s website, you’ll see a handful of recognizable names (countable on one hand) from the Greek American Community, one major ethnic Greek association, a handful of businesses, and two public benefit foundations.

With the exception of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians (which is so incongruous that it can be equated to P. Diddy, the Dixie Chicks and the NY Philharmonic singing at a taverna), there appears to be little sign of any direct contribution from Archdiocesan coffers, and even less from any Greek Orthodox parishes. All and all, one clergyman is listed on the foundation’s website. And yet, somehow, this relatively young and inexperienced organization is doing more to advance Byzantine music than most “heavy hitters” in the Greek American Community combined.

There are other organizations and chanters out there who are interested in helping this musical treasure grow and spread not only within the Greek American Community, but in American society at large. The complaint from many of these well-meaning individuals is lack of funding and lack of interest from the powers that be.

As the old saying goes “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” but for many of our churches, she’s not just singing, she’s bellowing. This historic musical genre, which contains many of the original scales of Ancient Greek music and serves as the basis for Greek (and Middle Eastern) folk music is being overlooked. We’re graduating priests that don’t know how to chant, much less care to learn. We’ve replaced the chanter’s robe and traditional Byzantine melodies with technicolor dreamcoat satin robes, sashes and pipe organs. In some places, church sounds more like the seventh-inning stretch at a baseball game or a dinner party at Castle Dracula. Even the priests who do care are afraid to do anything to change things because they don’t want to insult the wife of the Parish Council President who sings in the choir and thinks she’s the second coming of Maria Callas.

Isn’t it paradox that the largest Greek Orthodox Community in the United States or many Orthodox cathedrals throughout the country won’t even perform one Sunday liturgy with the traditional Byzantine hymns (the ones that the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art and the City University of New York find so interesting)? When was the last time any comparable institution wanted to present an exhibition on Greek European choir music? The answer is probably never, because such a thing doesn’t exist. It’s like mixing beer and wine. Each element has its own unique history, but just because you put them together, doesn’t mean the concoction will work.

One well known church used to hold fundraisers so it could broadcast its Western-style Sunday liturgy (complete with organs…peanuts and crackerjack) on a Greek-language TV station! No viewership? No duh? I’m willing to wager that interest in Sunday morning soccer games suddenly skyrocketed during that same period. Let’s not forget the famous Patriarchal liturgy at Madison Square Garden (don’t feel bad if you missed it, this is bound to happen at some similar engagement) when European sheet music toting choirs did their utmost to deconstruct Byzantine hymns that generations upon generations of Orthodox Christians almost innately know how to sing. It was like Tschaikovsky disassembling La Marseillaise in his 1812 Overture. Obviously, the phrase a cappella is not in their vocabulary.

Despite growing international recognition, it seems like the art of Byzantine chanting will continue falling on deaf ears in some places. For those that realize its importance, one step in the right direction is to start bringing children to the chanter’s stand, and not only inside the altar. At some point, most kids outgrow being altar boys, but they never outgrow being chanters. This is also a marvelous way to improve children’s knowledge of Greek and expose them to some of the finest literary and musical masterpieces in world history.

For the moment, the funds and real support do not seem to be coming from the Church administration. It’s up to foundations like Axion Estin, individual parish efforts, and the tireless labors of Byzantine musicologists to preserve and promote this historical treasure. The good news is that these individuals seem to have gained the ear of major American institutions. Maybe as interest from universities, art institutions, and conservatories grows, more and more decision makers in the Greek American Community will start to listen too.