HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS
Metropolitan Nicholas has a way of making the complex minutiae of the Greek Orthodox Church, including the Constantinopolitan hierarchy, the apostolic traditions and the ecclesial communion, seem almost easy to grasp. He can distill his world view, however sophisticated, into a series of easy-to-digest paragraphs.
He is, in short, a great communicator.
Such a talent is vital for a man in his postion; Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Detroit, elected in 1999 by the Holy and Sacred Synod of Constantinople. Of all religious afflilations throughout our area, this one might be the least understood by lay people—it’s ties to the Roman Catholic church are many; it’s differences equally numerous.
For starters, His Grace (born Nicholas Pissare—‘Metropolitan’ is a title that indicates he is Bishop of a large urban area, in this case, Detroit and its environs, tantamount to Adam Cardinal Maida.)
The Orthodox Church has no Pope in the tradition of Roman Catholicism; rather, the Communion considers Jesus Christ to be the head of the Church and the Church itself to be his body. It is believed that authority and the Grace of God is directly passed down to Orthodox bishops and clergy through the laying on of hands—a practice started by the apostles, and that this unbroken historical and physical link is an essential element of their core beliefs.
As we learned while filming the Easter celebrations of the Greek Orthodoxy in several locations throughout Detroit, The Resurrection of Christ is the central event in the liturgical year of the Orthodox Church and is understood in literal terms as a genuine historical event. “In all the year,” His Grace explains with solemn, but joyful affirmation, “there is no greater day. It’s the call to Christians to reaffirm their faith; we can, in that celebration, visualize the Passion of Christ.”
His Grace is equally eloquent in describing the value his Greek upbringing had on him as a man, both Holy and secular. He describes his childhood in Great Falls, New York and his first call to the Ministry, which happened when he was four years old, attending St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Schenectady. He explains that he has never wavered from that goal in life—although he insists that his election to Bishop was a dream he’d not begun with. “That was God’s hand alone,” he says.
A Cum Laude graduate of Colgate University with a double major in French and Classical Civilizations, His Grace is well-versed in the historical importance of the Greek peoples throughout history, and points to the Greek character—combining strength, perserverance and faith—as being cornerstones to a legacy which has grown over thousands of years. Prompted by stories of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, in which three hundred Greeks held back hordes of Persians for three days, he insists that many of the Greeks under his pastoral care display the type of personas that insured that brave army a place in history.
“They’d stand with the three hundred,” he asserts with a broad smile.