Monday, August 6, 2012


Motorcade to Todos Los Santos

Father John Chakos
How important is it for a bishop to visit his flock in Guatemala? I was soon to find out with our visit to the parish of Todos Los Santos (All Saints) in Cuchumatan. In a welcome, not unlike that given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, we were eagerly greeted a few miles from our destination by a couple of hundred villagers in native garb, waiting to escort us in a long motorcade of large and small trucks, cars and vans. The procession of the faithful began slowly, winding its way along the serpentine road through the majestic green mountains. A bright morning sun and it's penetrating rays illumined our way, greeting us at each bend of the road with yet another scene of exquisite natural beauty. Our lead vehicle, a white Toyota pick-up equipped with a loud speaker, heralded the auspicious arrival of Archbishop Athenagoras and his entourage of clergy from North America, Columbia, Brazil and Mexico, to the surprise and amazement of many by-standers. A new era was beginning for the much beleaguered Orthodox Church in Guatemala. It was coming upon the land in the strength and glory of its two-thousand- year apostolic tradition in the person of His Eminence Archbishop Athenagoras of Mexico, riding on the wave of faith that began on the holy day of Pentecost. How appropriate that the early church of martyrs, mystics, missionaries and unmercenaries would come to celebrate its new birth in the village of Todos Los Santos.
      The road to Todos Los Santos is a downward spiral from the cool heights of the Altiplano to a much warmer climate that bottoms out into a valley with the lush mountainside for a stunning backdrop. It was on this idyllic stage that the eager hearts of the people of the tribe of Mam awaited the coming of the successor to the apostolic throne of St. Andrew. The long motorcade wound its way through the village streets to the acclaim of the inhabitants. This was a moment for them to savor. As we approached the church, we saw a multitude of the town folk waiting to greet us. Greetings in the Mayan culture are no ordinary events. A friendly wave of the hand or simple blessing 

will not suffice. We had to walk into the crowd and touch, hug, kiss and warmly greet almost every person there. The Archbishop, himself being a warm, loving person, graciously and eagerly fulfilled the required courtesies of the apostolic visit.
      Because the sanctuary could not accommodate the hundreds gathered, a makeshift, open air stage was pieced together in front of the church. From there, the

     Crosses for the Faithful

Archbishop and his priests warmly greeted the faithful, whose vibrant woven vesture, itself a spectacle to behold, contrasted with the black robes of the clergy. Two distinct and historically unique cultures, that of ancient Byzantium and that of the Mayan People, were facing one another for the first time, each respectful of the other and eager to learn more. Just as Jesus reached out to the Samaritans and Paul to the Gentiles, so the Orthodox Church cannot confine itself to the particularities of any one ethnic group. The message of the Gospel is for all. The incarnate Christ wants to take on the flesh of each one of us, transforming our uniqueness into yet another  manifestation of His glory.

Byzantium and the Maya stand together as the one church of Christ

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