In Their Own Words: Father John Routos
Let Orthodox priest Father John Routos introduce you to the man who became Santa Claus
Father John Routos kindly agreed to meet us at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester. As in many Eastern-based Orthodox churches, St. Nick is a prominent figure there. Somehow, he transformed into the character we call Santa Claus, who brings Christmas gifts to children everywhere. Below, Father Routos offers some thoughts on this and other matters of faith.
I was born Greek Orthodox and from a very young age wanted to become a priest. I grew up in Manchester and attended local schools and churches.
Of course priests exchange presents with their family members, members of the church, friends, etc. In doing so, we imitate the gifts of the Magi and St. Nicholas’ spirit of giving.
When we truly love, we should be willing to sacrifice our own needs of life to bring a greater joy to the lives of others.
We lose the value of each other when we worship too much stuff.
People seek to fill the emptiness of their spiritual life with material things. That’s why the emphasis should be on others, and not ourselves
The stories of St. Nicholas abound, but all involve generosity. His parents had wealth and left everything to him, which he distributed to the poor.
There is one famous saying, I believe it’s Russian in origin, that “on the earth we have the Tsar but in heaven we have St. Nicholas.”
It means he was their heavenly protector that they could always turn to.
In Greek, you wish people “Kalá Hristoúyenna.”
Icons in the Orthodox churches are not, as sometimes assumed, objects of worship, but are considered “windows into Heaven” that help the faithful to convene with the saints and share in their spiritual experiences. Many of the icons of St. Nicholas Church were painted in the 1940s by Xenophon Gamzas. The icon of St. Nicholas being displayed by Father Routos is a contemporary work by Manchester iconographer Christopher Gosey.
Photographer assistants: Wendo Mendelini, Zoe Cacavas and Rick Broussard. Special thanks to Father Thomas Fitzgerald of St. Nicholas Church. For information on the church and more facts about St. Nicholas, visit stnicholas-man-nh.org.