Along the short route between Parramatta train station and my office I walk past St John’s Greek Orthodox church. Usually it is shut up but occasionally I get a glimpse in when it is open early in the morning on special feast days. There are Yiayias dressed in black trickling in, and as the doors open for them the smell of incense tumbles out onto the street. I can see the icons and the candles lined up in the bed of sand out the front – not too many because not that many people go to church early in the morning on a weekday!
I know that I would go crazy if Greek church was my only church, yet mornings like these still pull painfilly at my heart. I can recognise all the sights, smells and sounds and they bring back many memories. Part of me yearns to go inside and experience it all again, but I never do. I know that now the language and cultural barriers are insurmountable. Even if I enter the building I will still be an outsider.
It’s ironic of course. From a Christian perspective these people are my brothers and sisters. From an ethnic perspective I share their history and ancestors. But these ties are just ideals which mean nothing without real relationships. With no-one in the building actually waiting to welcome me, I’ll never get to experience the connection I’m supposed to have with the saints at St John’s Greek church in Parramatta.
On a completely tangental note, I think that St John that Baptist is totally up there as one of the coolest saints you could name a church after. I know I’m biased from churching at Ashfield, but it’s true. He literally pointed to Jesus, physically enacting the thing that all churches are supposed to be doing. You can see him doing it in the picture above!