Troy Polamalu Rules!

God bless Troy Polamalu and his witness for Orthodoxy.   I’m amazed that companies spend millions on 30-second Super Bowl ads knowing full well that most people who watch them aren’t going to run out and buy their products.  Instead I watched Troy Polamalu bow his head in prayer or cross himself at least a dozen times during yesterday’s Super Bowl. That’s the kind of “advertising” that’s beyond price; that says faith is something of value; that men of true character aren’t ashamed to be labeled as Christians.   The combined advertising/outreach budgets of the Orthodox Church in America, the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Greek Orthodox Diocese of America couldn’t have produced even one Super Bowl ad spot as powerful as Troy commanded with a simple sign of the cross.

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I know making the sign of the cross is a personal act, that it’s done out of personal piety and for unselfish reasons, but it can’t be anything less than a publicly visible symbol.  With the simple swipe of his right hand, folded into a living expression of the mystery of the Trinity and the nature of Christ,  Troy witnesses for the theology and fullness of the Orthodox faith.  It’s there for everyone to see, but as effortlessly and unselfconsciously as he does it the act never comes across as cheesy, forced or phony.   Just as it is meant to be.   It is a sign of someone who has submitted himself to the mercy of Christ and his Cross during every waking moment of his life.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechesis (Lecture 13) cannot have made it any more clear when he insisted that

Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified [Christ].  By the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in our goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are traveling, and when we are at rest.

Making the sign of the cross should be as basic to everyday living as breathing and I am so happy to see a godly man who isn’t afraid to make this most visible expression of faith.   And for one day Troy Polamalu wasn’t a convert or cradle-born, Greek or Russian or Syrian Orthodox, but an Orthodox Christian representing American  Orthodoxy in which all of us were united by the common sign of our faith.

For more on Troy Polamalu’s faith, read today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story

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7 Responses to “Troy Polamalu Rules!”

  1. Joe Says:

    Re: “And for one day Troy Polamalu wasn’t a convert or cradle-born, Greek or Russian or Syrian Orthodox, but an Orthodox Christian representing American Orthodoxy…”

    I get your enthusiasm and I share the joy this Orthodox American’s (not American Orthodox) witness. But in the interest of full disclosure, he represents the traditional Orthodoxy of Mount Athos brought to America by one Elder Ephraim. Now this point is an important one to make, given how much vilification comes from the “American Orthodox” towards the work of Elder Ephraim and his disciples in the U.S. and Canada. Please make a special note about the last line of his quote.

    Here’s what he said on NFL.com:

    TAMPA, Fla. — The last time Troy Polamalu confronted the Arizona Cardinals, his immediate pregame preparation was astonishing. Polamalu, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Pro Bowl safety, describes it simply as divine.

    The Steelers were in Phoenix on Sept. 30, 2007 for a regular-season bout against the Cardinals. Polamalu rested as he was driven into the early morning for more than an hour to Florence, Ariz. Polamalu is a Greek Orthodox Christian. He journeyed to meet what he calls his Abbot Father Ephraim and to worship in a monastery. The services began at 3 a.m. MST and lasted until nearly 7 a.m MST. Then the trek back to Phoenix.

    Then kickoff at 2:15 p.m MST.

    “Some people might see that as a lot, but I saw it as a must, an opportunity to see my spiritual father,” Polamalu said. “I go there five to six times a year because that is where he is. This life that I struggle to live, I try to do so in the eyes of my spiritual father.”

  2. tinag46 Says:

    Joe – Thank you for pointing out this information. I’m very familiar with Elder Ephraim and the great monastic work he’s doing in America. I’m 35 miles door to door from Holy Archangels Monastery in Kendalia and have seen them grow from an abandoned Islamic mosque once sponsored by the Shah of Iran to a beautiful, thriving traditional monastery.

    My point was not to denigrate or call into question anyone’s affiliation with the Ephraimite monasteries. I just wanted to highlight that we do have a a uniquely American church united by a common faith. However, what I’d like to see is more unity, more cohesiveness. (This isn’t related to this post but my one major problem with the monasteries of Fr. Ephraim is their exclusive use of Greek for liturgical services. Greek is fine for Greece, but in my opinion, monastic language in America should be primarily in English. You can have a traditional Athonite monastery, but make the services accessible to everyone – not just overzealous converts and Greeks who think Greek is as holy as Latin.)

    Someday we will identify ourselves as Orthodox Christians without the need to put ethnic appelations on the front of things. Orthodoxy is so little known in America that we often identify our church as Greek or Russian just so non-Orthodox know what we’re talking about (who hasn’t heard of a Greek fest or the Russian Orthodox church of the czars?), or you’ll have to admit there are plenty of people who can’t separate their Orthodoxy from national identity. I’m not saying they should discard their ethnic identity, just put the Church first.

  3. Joe Says:

    Re: “You’ll have to admit there are plenty of people who can’t separate their Orthodoxy from national identity. I’m not saying they should discard their ethnic identity, just put the Church first.”

    The witness of Troy Polamalu is a fruit of the labors of the Athonite (“Ephraimite” is pejorative that was coined by the enemies of Elder Ephraim) monasticism planted in this country by the Greek Orthodox, so it is ironic that you would try to use him as a standard bearer for your American vs. Greek/ethnic Orthodoxy. Instead of being diminished by his communion in a parish and, count ’em, two monasteries within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, this Somoan American has found food to meet his spiritual appetite so that he increases in the Faith.

    I am an Asian American who has also found “Church first” Orthodoxy courtesy of my Greek and Russian elders. I and my family had to leave an all-English-truly-American-Expression of Orthodoxy jurisdiction because they were so hung up on “American Orthodoxy” that they forgot to put the Church first. So yes, I will admit that there are plenty of people who can’t separate their Orthodoxy from national identity. They should just put the Church first and work on being Orthodox Americans instead of American Orthodox.

  4. ::Sylvia:: Says:

    I think this is a great article. The comments are a little off track however. As far as the Greek Orthodox monasteries go, I think it’s very simple. They are Athonite monasteries, Mount Athos is in Greece. They are also (for the most part) under the Greek archdiocese. Therefore so are their services.

    I’m so tired of the “English vs. Greek” debate. I believe it’s another ploy of the devil’s to separate the body of Christ (the faithful).

    Those really concerned with their spiritual life in Christ will not find the language a barrier but rather a bridge to ancient Christianity, which was largely written and spoken in Greece. The Elder Ephraim’s monasteries are thriving with Greeks and non-Greeks alike, so those who have a problem with the language choose to have the problem.

  5. tinag46 Says:

    Thank you for the observations Sylvia. The subject of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries always seems to generate so much polarization among Orthodox Christians, when the fruit of what’s being accomplished is so evident. Some of it’s simple misunderstanding and some of it’s from the Devil.

    My point with the issue of language is that as a convert I’ve seen so many people fall into the belief that services aren’t holy enough for them unless they are in Greek, Slavonic, etc… I’ve known converts (and I’ve been there) who did things that in retrospect seem entirely over the top. Overzealousness is a fire that quickly burns you out or those around you. I’m not saying that one can’t find their spiritual home in a parish or monastery that is not English-speaking, but unless you’re that determined, you’re going to miss out on so much. If it were so easy to transmit the faith to non-Greek or Slavonic speakers, why are so many young people leaving the Church with only a vague idea of what is going on in the services? They know when to cross themselves, but so much of it is foreign to their ears.

    Didn’t the Apostle Paul say in Romans 10:17, So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
    You have to understand the words to “hear” them.

  6. Christina Archer Says:

    Troy Polemalu is great. He demonstrates the fact that one is Orthodox 24/7, seven days a week and 365 days a year. I am a catechumen and God willing, will be chrismated at some time. It doesn’t matter what type of Orthodox you are, whether Greek, Syrian, Russian or whatever. We are a part of the body of Christ. May His name be praised.

  7. dowcipy Says:

    Superb article, I would say thanks to writer because i have read here many exciting info. Im waiting for more posts. Best wishes 🙂

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