Viewpoint: The Thyranixia of Two Eastern Long Island Greek Orthodox Churches

(Posting date 21 September 2013)

Viewpoint: The Thyranixia of Two Eastern Long Island Greek Orthodox Churches

by Catherine Tsounis


“My children,” cried Papa Fotis “it is here…that with God’s aid we shall take root….It is the soul of Greece, our soul!…Virgin Mother, ..Our Lady, look down on our village, give its women patience and love…Give to the men the strength to work and never despair, that dying they may leave behind them a yard filled with children and grandchildren! Give, our Lady, a peaceful and Christian end to the old men and women! Here is thy Gate, Our Lady of the Gate: enter!” This paragraph is taken from Nikos Kazantzakis chapter on “the Planting of a Village”, from his masterpiece,The Greek Passion.

On the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Kimisis tis Theotokou) Feast Day, persons from the East End of Long Island and tri-state area experienced a rarely seen event in history: the Thyranixia or “The Opening of the Doors” of the new Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons. A Vespers service August 14th, began the two day religious Feast Day. Five hundred persons attended the unique service on August 15th.

Transfiguration Church First Prize Thyranixia.
Photo by Tom Tsounis
My memory retreated thirty-seven years ago. On Sunday, August 8, 1976, the Transfiguration of Christ Church in Mattituck Long Island held its Thyranixia and Consecration by His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America. “You will never see an event like this again in your lifetime,” said a parishioner. The event coincided with the Bicentennial of the United States. The East End was mesmerized by the photograph of His Eminence, dressed in black with a Byzantine cross, accepting with sincere emotion, flowers from two young girls, Penelope Lichas and Joanne Korakis. It was submitted to the Southold Rotary-sponsored Bicentennial Photography contest. This photograph by Tom Tsounis won first prize in the Bicentennial category, Black and White division (January 27, 1977, Suffolk Times). 1976 saw the Transfiguration of Christ Church of Mattituck as putting the first roots of the Greek Orthodox faith in Eastern Long Island.

Rev. John Codis with clergy at Vespers.
Photo by Stavroula Raia.
Persons, who remain in 2013, remember the Consecration and Thyranixia Byzantine chants through the farm fields, by His Eminence, Presbyter Rev. Timotheos Tenedios and clergy. They encircled the church three times with a container of Holy Relics. His Eminence dramatically reentered the Church by knocking on the doors three times with his gold staff. The honor of being the first layman to enter was bestowed upon Yanni and EliasKulukundis, the sponsor of the church.

Every aspect of the Consecrationrite, which included the exposition of the Holy Relics, the washing of the altar table and anointment of the church, was described by His Eminence in terms of its rich Byzantine tradition. This was derived from the practices of the early Christians. The conclusion of the ceremony came with the offering of oil to the vigil lamp, accompanied by a donation from the sponsor. Mr. Kulukundis donated one thousand dollars and pledged seventy-five thousand for a community center. (August, 19, 1976, Hellenic Times, August 18, 1976, Orthodox Observer, August 12, 1976, Suffolk Times). Father Constantine Makrinos, the present presbyter, explained “a sleepless light is over the relics of Sts. Theona, Iakovos the Monk and Anastasia sealed in the Holy Altar Table.” Friendships were cemented that day that lasted a lifetime. 
Thirty-seven years later, the East End had the opportunity of seeing a second Thyranixia (The Opening of the Doors) in a church with a church that has features of Agia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul). Vespers on Tuesday evening, August 14th, were held in the Johnides Cultural Center. The priests who participated in the liturgy included: Rev. Vlahos; Rev. Moraitis; Rev. Strouzas; Rev. Joseph Fester;Archpriest Sergei Glagolev; Rev. John Codis; Rev. Alexander Karloutsos; Rev. Constantine Lazerakis and the Sisters of the All Saints Monastery.

The Archbishop blessing. Photo by Stavroula Raia.

“It is my privilege and blessing to deliver the Vespers sermon,” explained Rev. John Codis. “Heartaches, lawsuits and prayers brought us closer to God and this moment. I had a choice. The faithful in the parish helped me become what I am. Kimisis Church guided me to make decisions.” Rev. Alexander Karloutsos added “Father John Codis is a great son of the church and of Rosemary Codis.” Father John Codis was raised in the parish, in addition to Rev. Demetrios Kehagias, son of the first priest Rev. Nektarios Kehagias and Presvitera Despina. Father Codis’ grandparents, Rita and Nick Codis, had friends at the Transfiguration Church on the North Fork. Refreshments were served by the Philoptohos under the great tent.The Thyranixia began August 15th morning with a Doxastikon of the Lauds in the Johnides Cultural Center. His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America was the celebrant. Assisting clergy were the following: Father Basil Summer, Archpriest; Father Alexander Karloutsos, Protopresbyter; Father Constantine Lazarakis, Oikonomos; Father John Codis, Efimerios; Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos and Deacon Eleftherios Constantine. At the conclusion of the Doxastikon of the lauds, a procession began from the Johnides Cultural Center to the outer doors of the new church.

“We give thanks to You on this auspicious day gathering us here to celebrate the sacred “Door Opening of this venerable church….,” said His Eminence. “We ask you to send forth Your abundant blessings on those here present and upon this new church, the works of our hands. …May it be a haven and shelter for those in distress, a refuge for those in turmoil and a source of edification and sanctification for all your people. May our prayers be acceptable to You through the intercessions of our most holy Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary.” The Archbishop blessed and hit the doors with his episcopal staff. He opened the closed doors with Mrs. Daisy Moraitis entering first, assisted by founders Pericles and Toula Bakas, Coula Johnides, Bob Gianos, Greta Nikiteas along with Presvitera Xanthi Karloutsos in spirit. Mrs. Daisy gave her “blessings to all and good health.”

His Eminence preparing entry into church.
Photo by Stavroula Raia.

Mrs. Daisy Moraitis entering first, assisted by founders
Pericles and Toula Bakas and Coula Johnides. Photo
by Stavroula Raia.
The doors opened a unique Byzantine church with a dome. Never did I expect to see in rural America a church meticulous in detail to a Byzantine design. I noticed several green columns, such as those in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Sitting with us wereKarineBakhoum, PascalRiffaud and their daughter Isabelle, with son Jean Baptiste serving in the altar. “This new structure and Cathedral is so beautiful it takes our breath away,” said Ms. Bakhoum, a Coptic Christian and immigrant from Egypt. “I look forward to many special moments here to express our faith and to see my children married here someday.” Countless prominent persons in society attended. For more information, visit Many from Europe have never seen a Thyranixia because the churches are one thousand to fifteen hundred years old. The community presented His Eminence with a sculpture in the frame of an icon created by Paul Maus. His Eminence gave the community the gift of an Epitafios of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. A Luncheon followed at Nammos, hosted by Tom Makkos and Family.Parish Council President Peter Nikiteas gave a moving speech at the conclusion of the Luncheon. “All of this would not have been possible without the vision and persistence of the original founders. They took many difficult steps. Our leaders had the vision to take it even further. Now, you and many others have taken this dream and turned it into a new reality. This new sanctuary will serve our children and their children’s children.”

President Nikiteas explained “we are a family..We work together. We argue with one another. But in the end, we make things happen with the help and guidance Fr. Alex and Fr. Constantine. I feel as blessed as should you. We have come this far. But there is much more to do. I know we can achieve our goals if we work together and reach deep down inside ourselves to do our best. I thank you for being my family. Most of all I want to thank God for guiding us to this special day.”

Liturgy in new church. Photo by Stavroula Raia.

The community presented His Eminence with a
sculpture in the frame of an icon created by Paul
Maus. Photo by Stavroula Raia.

Dr. Peter Michalos said “we know how hard Dimitrios Hatgistavrou worked behind the scenes.” Dimitrios Hatgistavrou tenure as Parish Council President lasted from 2006-2011. He oversaw the building project of the new ecclesiastical complex with real dedication. He is the second generation of the Hatgistavrou family to serve Kimisis church. His pleasant personality made all guests welcome in the community. He is a self-made man with a strong work ethic. Self-sacrifice, thinking of others first and himself second, are the cornerstones of his beliefs. President Hatgistavrou’s family is from Macedonia, of Asia Minor roots. His late father Angelo established his family as one of the first fifty families to initiate the movement to build Kimisis Church in Southampton. Maria Melemenis Hatgistavrou is one of the major forces in the life of the Philoptohos. Most Greek-American businessmen are the backbone of our Greek Orthodox Churches, Greek language schools and regional organizations. This is part of the legacy of Dimitrios Hatgistavrou: remembering his roots. The new church will have his personality imprinted on it. The many parishioners who helped are listed in the church book, Thyranixia. For more information on this historic book, contact
I grew up on the East End when there were only potato fields in 1961. The creation of the Southampton Greek Orthodox complex is the result of a combined effort of clergy, community, Archons and others. The bottom line is this: Rev. Alexander Karloutsos is the prime mover. It is his Legacy. No one had this grand vision of a Cathedral, near the former train tracks of Southampton. Greek Orthodox and Orthodox parishioners are scattered through the South Fork. A middle class neighborhood walking distance to the church does not exist. Rev. Karloutsos created a Herculanean accomplishment with Presvitera Xanthi Karloutsos.

His Eminence gave the community the gift of an
Epitafios of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Photo
by Stavroula Raia.
This historic moment made me think of a religious leader who changed my life: Rev. Michael Karloutsos, the father of Father Alex. He was a tough, down to the point priest who faced reality head on. Father Michael was my husband’s youthful mentor, who was at my wedding and baptism of my daughter. He would be proud that his son accomplished a dream. Rev. Alexander Karloutsos’ Legacy can be traced to his traditional Greek Orthodox upbringing, learning from his unique religious mentors, during the turbulent 1960’s and 1970’s (Vietnam War era). Rev. Michael Karloutsos’ granddaughter’s husband, Presbyter Rev. Constantine Lazarakis, is continuing this Legacy. “Cooperation is important for all churches,” said Rev. Lazarakis. “There is a unique cooperation between the five churches on the East End, serving our people.”

Links: John Mindala

(Posting date 21 September 2013

HCS encourages readers to view other fine articles ( ) penned by Dr. Catherine Tsounis and press releases about the Modern Greek Studies program at St. John’s University, where she is an adjunct professor. For more information about Dr. Tsounis, see her biographical sketch at

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