29 May 2020

Romiosyni isn’t an intellectual ideology, nor it is merely a reference to the past. It’s an authentic and true experience, which many people still live today, since they’re in tune with aparticular attitude to life. This is a way of life radically different from the Frankish [=Western European] model and was lived not only in monasteries and places where ascetics dwelt, but also in the social milieu.

The representatives and spokesmen for this way of life were the confessors of the faith, the holy Fathers who lived with the people and who have left us their writing as a legacy; the martyrs who bore witness and suffered death for the glory of God; the holy ascetics who strove against the passions and the demonic forces; and the new martyrs during the time of Turkish rule, who contributed to the preservation of the true life of Romiosyni and whose martyrdom really was a feast day for the enslaved Romans [citizens of the empire of New Rome, i. e. ‘Byzantium’]. Just what Romiosyni means is apparent from the life and teaching of Saint Kosmas Aitolos and the life and martyrdom of Saint Georgios in Ioannina.

If you study carefully the life and social mores of the inhabitants of Greece, Asia Minor, the Black Sea, Thrace, the Lebanon and elsewhere, you’ll see that people lived in a culture the basis of which wasn’t reason and rights, but the heart and duty. Love of God and love of other people were highly developed. Generosity of spirit and nobility of outlook, sacrifice and contribution, love and freedom were the basic features of life. We can see this in the recent great elders who shepherded their flocks, guided by a genuine knowledge of what Romisyni was, such as Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian*. It’s revealed in the hewn rocks of Cappadocia and, indeed, in the whole way of life of the inhabitants of those regions. Even the Crypto-Christians demonstrate the character of Romiosyni, since they were never subjugated spiritually even though they were forced to submit bodily.

We believe that this way of life has never faded from the heart of the Greek people, since many live like this among us. In my own pastoral service, my contact with many people has shown me precisely what Romiosyni is and who the Romans are. Some time ago, I wrote about two such personalities. It would be pertinent here to present a  part of my description of these two Romans.

About one I wrote:

‘Imbued with the Greek Orthodox tradition, nourished with  the mores of folk piety, with pain and yet, at the same time with serenity, he reminded me of ‘wounded Romiosyni’. Exempt from learned  and disputatious discussions, he lived in authentic communion with God and other people. He experienced ‘the people of God’ existentially. He had authentic, unalloyed, pure life experiences. He exuded a fragrance of the ethos of the Church. Because he knew what the Church is and knew how to spread compassion to all. He found light, life and nourishment in giving, in self-emptying, in tears, in the transcendence of the ego. So when you approached him, you realized he spoke the mother tongue, which is the language of the Church.

Humble, simple, calm, meek, sincere, tolerant, full of love and compassion and content with his turbulent life. The fear of God was instilled in him and he would never dare do anything that God wouldn’t have wanted him to. He had a sensitive heart, which comprehended the real intentions of the enemy’.

About the other I wrote:

‘She was a simple woman of the people, but she was a power-house. Within society, she functioned as strong and healthy lungs. She herself breathed and helped others to breathe, too. She was a simple woman of the people, but a very wise one. Her wisdom surpassed human knowledge. And this wisdom was the fruit of unknown knowledge. Her life was a reflection of wounded Romiosyni. Her life was pain and joy, a cross and a resurrection. In a sense, you might say it was the incarnation of the sufferings of the Greek nation. She had the heart of a mother. Her heart beat for everyone, not merely to preserve biological life, but to provide support to people. You might say she was a mother to all humankind. She loved Our Lady, because she understood her. She would spend hours on end praying for the whole world. She made no distinction between friends and enemies, relations and strangers. Everyone was her acquaintance.  She prayed for the Patriarch, for the bishops, the priests, the monastics, the missionaries and everyone else. She prayed even more for the dead. In this way, she really felt the unity of the world, without any romantic notions or illusions. Her prayer overflowed with tears and weeping. Her heart was sensitive. She read and conversed with her heart. She was extremely sensitive. And this wasn’t just feminine sensitivity, but it was combined with masculine boldness and courage, and in this way made a harmonious and balanced whole. She believed in God’s great love and was able gently to comfort all those in pain. She had gone through so much pain herself and therefore knew how to provide consolation. And her love for Our Lady was also the fruit of this sensitive and affectionate heart.

She had no concept of ‘rights’. She knew her duty well, the duty of love and nobility. Her life was entirely one of giving. Contributing. She loved and she tired herself out. She knew how to love and how to express it. Even her minor weaknesses were clothed in fine raiment. And so they, too, seemed beautiful. How could you forget the sacrifice and the giving? How could you overlook the generous nobility?

She lived in God’s light, in the light of love and hope, of patience and forbearance, of pain and joy. Her ceaseless prayer was the name of Christ. Her veins ran with the nectar of Orthodox Tradition. She drank milk, not from a bottle, but from the living breast of the Church’.

All this demonstrates the nobility of Romiosyni, which has been preserved to this day.

Fr. John Romanides, who made us aware how precious Romiosyni is and also studied the difference between the Romans and the Franks [Germans], describes in detail the essence of Romiosyni and the status of the Romios [Roman]. Allow me to present some aspects of his research, without analysis.

‘Romiosyni isn’t proved. It’s described. It needs no defence. It’s simply what it is. You either accept it or reject it. This is why the children of the Romans either remained firmly and faithfully Roman or became Frankified or Turkified.

And today, some remain Romans, and others become Americanized, Russified, Frenchified or Anglicized. In other words they become Greekified**.

Romans aren’t ingenuous day-dreamers. And they never become spiritually or bodily subservient to their allies. They will be loyal to any agreement they’ve entered into, but will remain ideologically unattached.

This doesn’t mean, however, that they accept only what is Roman and nothing foreign. They accept whatever’s good and make it Roman. Just as they will follow their interests in terms of alliances, by the same token they will take from the wisdom and science of other parts of the world, but will adapt it to their Roman culture. They never confuse the natural sciences with culture, because they know that even barbarians can acquire and promote the natural sciences, in order to subjugate people and destroy them.

This is why Romans know they’re spiritual leaders, even for those who are technocrats or economic leaders.

Yes, Romans have absolute confidence in their Romanness, but they are neither fanatical nor bigoted and not in the least xenophobic. On the contrary, they love strangers, but not to the point of naivety.

They do so because they know that God loves all people, all nations, without discrimination and without preference. Romans know that their Romiosyni holds the truth and is the highest form of culture. But they understand that God loves them no more than He loves other peoples. God loves those who have the truth, but He loves those who proclaim lies just as much. He loves those who are holy, but loves even the devil equally.

This is why Romiosyni is self-confidence, humility,  and generosity of spirit, not bogus swaggering, effrontery and egotism. The heroism of Romiosyni is a true and enduring condition of the spirit, not savagery, barbarism or rapacity.

The greatest heroes of Romiosyni are numbered among the saints’.

Indeed, Romans are the greatest saints, who take share in the cathartic, enlightening and deifying energy of God. Through this participation, they sanctify the whole of their way of life, personal and social; they create culture and encourage the arts; they accept new features of life and integrate them into the authentic life-style of Romiosyni.

We want to live in Europe as Romans, so as not to lose our humanity and to help those Europeans who are seeking Romiosyni, the state of Europe before Charlemagne.

Given all this, we realize that we belong neither to the West or the East, but rather that we live in both the East and the West, Romans in our outlook and life.

‘Romiosyni will be lost when the world ends’.

* And his spiritual son and heir, the recently canonized Saint Païsios the Athonite, whose newly-composed dismissal hymn is pure ‘Romiosyni’ – language, music and sentiment.
** This is perhaps a little confusing. The first generic name given to the members of the confederation of related tribes who descended from the north was ‘Greeks’, after a mythological hero. Some of their descendants were the Hellenes. This then became the generalized name for the people, and also their pagan religion, until the foundation of New Rome by Constantine the Great, when the inhabitants of the Christian empire obviously became Romans. The simplest way of understanding Romiosyni (= ‘Romanness’, although it also has geographical implications, since most of the Balkans share in it to some extent) is to think of what you love as ‘typical Greek’: Orthodox Tradition, the Church and all the endearing minor traditions, the Fathers and their writings, hesychasm, monasticism, but also an evening at a provincial taverna with music, singing, dancing and local food. This is Romiosyni. A ‘fine dining experience’ in Athens isn’t.