A chestnut blessed by Greece’s most profit bringing saint was put on display in Agios Dimitrios Church in the city of Agrinio in Central Greece on July 11th.
The chestnut attracted hundreds of faithful Greeks who lined up to see, touch and probably kiss in respect the precious fruit that was blessed by Father Paisios almost three decades ago.
Pilgrimage to a chestnut? That’s true Greek Orthodox para-religious reality.
The event triggered a huge debate in the country, a turmoil in social media and confusion among the believers.
Pilgrimage to a chestnut? To a boiled chestnut? Rational believers and non-believers stunned and still stun in eternity.
Priest Konstantinos Kastanis, proud owner of the blessed chestnut and in charge of Agios Dimitrios Church justified the exhibition. Speaking to Skai TV, Father Konstantinos said that Father Paisios had given to him personally the boiled chestnut in 1990 – four years before his death.
“The Elderly gave the chestnut to me personally, he gave a group of students a handful chestnuts in October 1990. I kept it as a souvenir. It has been rotten after all these years,” the keeper of the holy chestnut said.
Responding to criticism, he stressed that the chestnut was never displayed for pilgrimage. It was shown, however, to Sunday school students and believers who wanted to see how a boiled chestnut looks like after all these years, he added.
“There was not a specific vigil for the chestnut,” priest Konstantinos said adding that at the end of the afternoon mess to honor Agios Ioannis Vrahoritis, some believers asked to see the chestnut.
“We put it on display, some took it and observed it. “It is one thing to say ‘worship’ and another thing to “touch in order to see it is imperishable,” the priest underlined making a clear distinction between worshiping a chestnut and investigate the decay level of a fruit.
A week later and the debate did not abate. Two days ago the Holy Metropolis of Aitolia and Akarnarnia distanced itself from the ‘event’. It said in a statement that it follows with ‘grief and pain the turmoil and the confusion created by the wrong exposure of an item blessed by Father Paisios.”
In recent years, media of the nationalist-orthodox press have turned Father Paisios or Elder Paisios into the Saint of All Greek Orthodox Saints through a number of real and some rather unreal prophecies they attribute to him.
“The icon of Father Paisios cried a tear short before Erdogan stated to review the Treaty of Lausanne,” a website dealing with Orthodoxy issues claimed a year ago.
The poor holy man Paisios has been exploited to levels unprecedented level. Together with their faith, believers bring also money.
His slippers were displayed for pilgrimage in Cyprus.
When a church in Argolida announced a pilgrimage to the reading glasses of Holy Father Paisios, a superior power rigorously stopped the planned event.
The Holy Metropolis in charge said it had not ‘blessed’ the reading glasses event.
Such pilgrimages to personal items touch the boundaries to idolatry, the official Greek Church seems to believe.
But what is idolatry?
“When we won the Euro trophy in 2004 and Archbishop Christodoulos raised it and kissed it, was it idolatry and pilgrimage?,” father Kostantinos asked during his interview with Skai TV.
Father Constantine definitely challenged the millions of Greeks who worship a round leather ball as “the round Goddess.”
PS In times of crisis, people tend to go nuts. In Greece, people go chestnuts.