Greek Easter

by Terence MacNamee

This year Greek Easter falls at the same time as Western Easter. The ways of calculating the dates of Easter in the two religious traditions are different. But it is pleasant to think of Greeks celebrating Easter at the same time as the rest of Europe. It reminds us that Greece is a part of Europe. Recently, as a British academic on Corfu told a Swiss journalist, Greeks have been shocked to “experience the crisis as a guillotine that has separated them from the rest of European Union. Many of my friends in Corfu do no understand how, after their being made to feel they were an integral part of Europe, Europe now sees them as a lot of pariahs closer to Asia than to itself.“

Greece’s neighbours the Turks have been trying to get into the European Union for a while, pleading that they are European too, or almost. After the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Atatürk gave them a modern secular nation-state based on the European model. Yet the feeling in the West has always been that Europe ends with Greece. Go any further, and you’re in Asia. Now the Greeks must be feeling that Europe is not too sure about them either. Do they belong to Europe or to Asia? In fact, at one time not so long ago, when the English talked about “Orientals” it included the Greeks. The Greeks have defined themselves in opposition to the Turks, of course; they see themselves as being the last outpost of free Europe rather than a bridgehead of Asian despotism, which is what the Ottoman Empire was to them.

The truth is that Greece has a unique peripheral position. It is at the Eastern edge of Europe, on the edge of Asia, and its tradition is to form a meeting point for the two. It is open to Europe, and it is open to Asia. Not many countries can claim that. Let Greece stay that way, and let the Greeks, rejecting any uneasiness about their status, continue to fulfil their historic mission of bringing together Europe and Asia – Europe and the Middle East in particular.

That will be my thought and my wish as I celebrate Greek and Western Easter together this year.