It is Clean Week, the first week of Lent, when we Orthodox sing the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete. At this time, even American Greeks stand for the services!
I am naughty to tease my brothers, but I do so as a witless introduction to an Orthodox History article on pews in Greek American parishes: “Pews (or lack thereof) in early Orthodox churches.” The common oral history is that Greeks and Arabs adopted pews because they used, borrowed, or purchased Western Christian buildings when they were too few, new, and poor to have their own properly arranged temples. Then, the story goes, the pewy habit stuck with them. The article states that this explanation contradicts the facts. It seems that Greek parishes installed pews on their own after the 1920’s. I blame the calendar change—the closest thing to Vatican II that certain Orthodox Churches have experienced—and the desire by Greeks to emulate the Protestant American establishment.
Such reminds me of a jocular statement by Dr. Kalvesmaki when he overheard other jurisdictions’ disparagement of pews in Greek parishes. He said that the pewless Orthodox have it so easy and convenient. For when Greeks bow and prostrate themselves in the services, they must contend with suitable obstacles and they have to shuffle to aisles. This facilitates ascetic growth, whereas wide open spaces in the temple are for the lazy and careless.