When they are baptized, Greek Orthodox Christians take the name of a saint whose life was inspiring or spiritually meaningful.
They call the feast day of that saint their personal “nameday” and celebrate it by sharing the saint’s story with others and through giving.
“If you are out at a restaurant (on your nameday), you are expected to pay the bill,” said Father Stephen Callos, who has served in Cleveland Heights since 1982. “It is common for celebrants to attend church and then go home, where friends come to visit you, and you treat them to a sweet, a snack or a meal.”
The congregation at Sts. Constantine and Helen, 3352 Mayfield Road, celebrated its parish name day Saturday, May 21, with a Divine liturgy followed by the annual nameday luncheon.
Keeping with tradition, the tab for the meal was picked up by the church through a special fund. Also per tradition, here’s the story of Sts. Constantine and Helen – the parish and the saints.
Plans to establish a Greek Orthodox church in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs were launched in the early 1950s. By the end of 1957, the church building was erected on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights, and services were held.
The church was named after St. Constantine, known as the first Roman emperor to become a Christian, and his mother, St. Helen, who was credited with influencing her son’s conversion to Christianity. It was designated a cathedral in 1967.
“We’re perceived as a closed community,” Callos said. “It is a welcoming community. ‘Greek’ describes our heritage more than limits our congregation. This historical reality does not negate the universal calling of the church to be a spiritual home for all who seek salvation.”
Services are conducted mostly in English with a few hymns and prayers in Greek to honor that heritage and for the benefit of those for whom Greek is their first language.
“The choir is a group of our most dedicated parishioners, who lead the singing and add beauty to every service,” said Callos, who currently serves as president of the Greater Cleveland Council of Orthodox Clergy. “In our tradition, almost everything in worship is sung — 80 to 90 percent is sung.”
Greek culture will be featured in music, Hellenic dancing and authentic Greek foods at the parish’s annual Greek Festival Aug. 18-21.
For more on the Greek Orthodox Christian faith, watch Dennis Wholey’s conversation with Callos for the “I Believe” program.