But what are these to his renown for eloquence, and his powers of instruction, which have won the favour of the ends of the world? As yet we have been compassing the foot of the mountain, to the neglect of its summit, as yet we have been crossing a strait, paying no heed to the mighty and deep ocean. For I think that if any one ever has become, or can become, a trumpet, in his far sounding resonance, or a voice of God, embracing the universe, or an earthquake of the world, by some unheard of miracle, it is his voice and intellect which deserve these titles, for surpassing and excelling all men as much as we surpass the irrational creatures. Who, more than he, cleansed himself by the Spirit, and made himself worthy to set forth divine things? Who was more enlightened by the light of knowledge, and had a closer insight into the depths of the Spirit, and by the aid of God beheld the things of God? Whose language could better express intellectual truth, without, as most men do, limping on one foot, by either failing to express his ideas, or allowing his eloquence to outstrip his reasoning powers?
One of the pervasive evils [Kontoglou criticised] was Xenomania: excessive and indiscriminate love of things of foreign origin and the uncritical acceptance of them. . . . Xenomania is still a widespread disease of the Greeks. It is one of the reasons that they disparaged the Byzantine heritage and the Orthodox tradition.
Sadly, the most notable example of this xenomania to the visitor around this time of year is the very recent wholesale adoption of ‘Santa Claus’ in all his obese, kitschy glory. But because, in Greece, St Basil has a much stronger connection with gift-giving traditions than St Nicholas of Myra, the aggressive marketers of Santa to the Greeks have very craftily named their product ‘Άϊ-Βασίλη’, a very colloquial ‘St Basil’. I will comment no further as I may well lapse into profane language. But happily, someone has responded by producing the unusual, but more Orthodox icon I’ve posted above (available from Uncut Mountain Supply). As a xenos, even if a little paraxenos, I exhort all Orthodox Greeks to acquire a copy of this icon for your children, attend the divine services and make a Vasilopita on St Basil’s feast (even if you must do it on the New Calendar!), sing the Kalanta, and for heaven’s sake, leave ‘Santa’ out of your Nativity celebrations!