“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” These words, uttered by Juliet Capulet to Romeo Montague capture the struggle and tragedy of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. Having fallen in love, the couple recognizes they are doomed as members of two warring families. Yet with these words, Juliet tries to convince Romeo that a name is an artificial and hollow bond, and that she loves the person who is called “Montague”, not his family nor its name. Romeo, out of his desire for Juliet, rejects his family name and vows, as Juliet asks, to deny his father.
The name of this new blog for Family Life Ministry is “Sunday Lunch.” My parents of blessed memory, John and Charlotte Catherine Tsahakis, inspired the name years ago. They taught me and my two brothers that Sunday belonged to the Lord. “Sunday” in Greek means “Day of the Lord.” Whatever we did that day should be a worthy offering to Christ Jesus. Coming home from church, we ate lunch together as a family of God. We learned to share His bounty, exchange fellowship, and hear about His teachings, and consider how we could live them. It was a time when our friends could be invited to join us, but we were never permitted to visit others’ homes and miss our family’s “Sunday Lunch.” That is, unless there was a church luncheon, which we would stay for and enjoy.
Lunch entrees on a rotating basis included fried chicken, pork chops, roast beef, oven-baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and fresh garden vegetables. We passed the food our mother prepared and learned to share with one another. Our mother excelled in making homemade cream pies, and our father emphasized the Mediterranean diet by offering us lots of fresh fruit. We always sat in fixed places; our parents at the ends of the table, and my brothers and I in between them.
Sundays began with worshipping in church and attending Sunday School. Then, we went home and shared “Sunday Lunch.” Its name always rekindles in me unforgettable and beloved stories imparted to us by our parents. Each lunch was a new adventure into the origin of our family in Greece and the United States. One week we felt sad after learning of the loss of a family member. Another occasion we would lose ourselves in laughter as my brothers and I chuckled at the old-fashioned ways of life in the villages and farms of our ancestors. Indeed, we discovered the successes and failures of our family. Our parents considered these lessons essential for us to learn. They encouraged us to share them, treasure them, and pass them on to our children. We listened more than we spoke. After all, my father reminded us that the youth always should listen more and talk less so we could learn from the elders who were wisest. When we “got older” and had more wisdom, we would be called upon to share our experiences and insights with those who were younger and less informed. With this new blog, I pray I can offer some semblance of assistance and always for the glory of God. I welcome your comments for this and future installments.
One story from “Sunday Lunch” that I treasure is the reason I was named “George.” My father, born in 1898, was born outside of Rethymnon, Crete. His family attended a church dedicated to St. George. When he was 15 years of age, his parents sent him to the United States via an ocean vessel from Piraeus, Greece to Ellis Island in New York. The first day he “set foot” in America was April 23, 1914. My father told me he previously had promised God and his father that if he were blessed to be married and have a son, they would name him Nicholas, in honor of my Dad’s father. That April 23rd, after touching U.S. soil for the very first time, he knelt on the ground and thanked God for his safe voyage. In thanksgiving, he pledged that if he had a second son, he would name him in honor of his village church of St. George. There he was baptized and there he felt safe as he grew in Christ with his beloved family. My father kept this promise when he and my mother named me George. Knowing this makes me feel grateful and honored.
Through my childhood years, both my parents emphasized the importance of dedicating the time right after church to their family and to share and teach their children. I well remember their prayers and hopes that we would make the same offering to our families if we were so blessed. Presbytera Marinda and I faithfully offered the tradition of “Sunday Lunch” to our three children, and now that they’re grown, we continue to practice it in our homes as an essential part of each “Day of the Lord.” It enables us to connect with our family and our faith.
It is in this spirit, that I dedicate this blog in memory of all our parents who had the foresight, strength, and determination to focus their families on God and one another through the connection we call “Sunday lunch.” As I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, “Sunday Lunch” was commonly practiced. I never felt we were “different” because the families of my friends were joined similarly. What an opportunity for every family to share and enjoy!
As we grew older, my parents entrusted my brothers and I to set the Sunday lunch table, to learn to cook, and to wash the dishes and pots and put everything in order. We were then free to play, call our friends, do homework, and enjoy the rest of Sunday. Simply put, we learned to integrate and “live out” the lessons we were taught and reminded.
Unlike Romeo and Juliet, who in the quote above mistook one’s family name as arbitrary and easily discarded to gain one’s desires, we were reminded that our name was the only legacy we truly possessed. It would survive even after our death. The names of our patron saints date back centuries and will survive until the Second and Glorious Coming of Christ. St. George is a real mighty hero to me. I bear his name, and through stories I learned of his life in Christ, I became aware and confident how I could respond when challenged with temptation and hardship. Our ancestors had fought and sacrificed amidst religious and ethnic persecution both in Greece and as immigrants to the U.S. They were the reason our family names were respected and honored.
As children, my brothers and I came to understand the importance of honoring and preserving our Christian name and especially the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our parents taught us the ultimate praise of our Lord’s Name: “Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)
During many years of “Sunday Lunches”, I learned I would never want to deny my family name, my saint’s name, nor my Lord Jesus Christ’s name. They connect me with my family, my heritage, my religious faith, and with God Himself. They reassure me of a sense of belonging and being loved by God. They unite me to all those in His Holy Body, the Church. I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me in the school they lovingly called “Sunday Lunch.”
In the installments ahead, my aim is to help others understand the importance of confronting and balancing the needs of our life amidst our daily struggles and temptations. Within the backdrop of the world we find ourselves, and by sharing notable lessons from countless others to me, I pray readers will find these insights worthy of sharing with your family and friends at your “Sunday Lunch.”