13 February 2013

Cyprus Napkin Holder and the Orthodox Sunday School

When we were living in Cyprus, we were in a duplex with our landlord and his famliy on the other side.  While having a late night supper with them one evening on their front veranda (a common Cypriot summer practice), we we admired the napkin holder, which bore a scripture passage in old Greek script.

 The verse on the napkin holder was Philippians 1:13 in the "original Greek" (as American pastors are so fond of saying), "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  The son, about 12 or 13, mentioned he had won this as a prize in his Sunday school class.

This led to a discussion about Sunday school and Bible study in the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.  We were intrigued to discover that they use this term "Sunday School" familiar in American churches.

They explained that not all the classes were on Sunday.  I saw that the word on the inscription was Catechismos, the equivalent of "Catechism Class."  So we asked if this was just for the youth preparing for adult membership.

The older daughter answered they have Sunday School and Bible study classes for all ages, like churches I grew up in.  This was interesting, since we knew that in the British and European context, "Sunday school" is commnly only for children.

I had already learned that the Eastern Orthodox have a simpler Confirmation process than the Roman Catholic and other western churches.  What is called "Confirmation" in the west is just handled at the Baptism, going back to an early practice in Christian history.

I learned later that this was indeed the ancient practice, called the Charisma ("The gift").  This involves an anointing of oil, to signify the receiving of the Holy Spirit, as in the New Testament references, which few western chuches still observe.  In Orthodox practice, this joint baptism and Charism varies in time from a few weeks to a few months old!

Learn more about Cyprus and its fascinting, deep-history culture at these links on my website:
Across the Greek Divide
Cyprus: Notes and Perceptions
Eastern Orthodoxy
  This article links to several other sources of information
Eastern Orthodoxy - Presentation
Prayer for Cyprus
History and Art in Cyprus
Italians, Etruscans and Greeks: Genetics and Ethnicity

For More on Cyprus
History of Cyprus
The Church of Cyprus - Official Site
For More on Eastern Orthodox Churches
Autonomous Orthodox Churches of the World

This blog article includes material first published in November 2000 in The Cyprus Sentinel, a periodic newsletter on cross-cultural communication, published in Nicosia, Cyprus

No comments: