Friday, August 08, 2014

Byzantine Chant and Mission

At the beginning of July, I was asked to speak at the first international conference for the academic study of Byzantine chant, which was held here in Volos. Over 60 speakers spoke on a wide array of topics related to the interdisciplinary study of Byzantine music. I was asked to speak on chant's connection with my field of alleged specialty, mission. All the papers were recorded and published on YouTube. Here's mine (don't worry -- it's in English).



Monday, August 04, 2014

Feast Day Liturgy - 1 July 2014


At long, long last, here are the photos from our feast day Liturgy for the Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian back on July 1. Our bishop, Metropolitan Ignatios, was supposed to come, but he fell ill with a bad cold and was unable. So we celebrated Liturgy with two archimandrites and my friend, Dn. Gabriel.


The was a great group of friends chanting together for the Liturgy.


Here we are the Little Entrance.


Blessing the reader of the epistle.


The deacon prepares to read the Gospel from the bishop's throne.



Pelagia's sister, Kh. Makrina, was visiting, along with her son Symeon, who, despite not knowing Greek, very ably assisted in the altar. Here he is leading the procession for the Great Entrance.


Fr. Athanasios giving the homily.


At the end of the Liturgy, we also blessed the water for the first of the month.


Having begun at 7:00, we ended around 11:00, and then enjoyed sitting outside with some refreshments.

For more photos, click here.

Και του χρόνου!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Festal Vespers for the Holy Unmercenaries


On July 1, our parish celebrated its primary feast -- that of the Holy Unmercenary Healers Kosmas and Damian of Rome. The festivities began in the evening of June 30 with Festal Vespers and Artoklasia. 

In Greece, these feasts are called panegyri, which literally means "everything all around," i.e., everything circling around the center of events, the church. In keeping with this spirit, Pres. Pelagia organized a small exhibition of local artists outside in the church courtyard. Our friend, a local potter, for example, made decorative crosses.


Here is a photo from above, in the women's balcony, down to the icons and relics of the saints.


Another photo from the balcony of the entrance at Vespers. 


Here, the whole congregation sings the "Gladsome Light," one of the oldest hymn in the church, dating to the 3rd century.


Here you can see some of the floral decorations adorning the top of the Beautiful Gates, and the icon of the Holy Unmercenaries.


At the artoklasia, we processed outside around the church with the icon and relics of the saints.


Here the procession passes around the front of the church.


And here we set up a platform on the south side of the church, in front of our house, for the artoklasia.



As you can see, we had quite a crowd.


Handing out the artoklasia.



For more photos of the Vespers, click here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Damiani's First Birthday


Back at the beginning of June, we celebrated Damiani's first birthday. She's walking everywhere now. Here she is, above, walking even on the tricky cobblestone paths around our house -- with the help, of course, of her big sister.


The weather is getting hot. Here are all the kids enjoying homemade fudgecicles on our balcony.



Here we are at one of the playgrounds in Portaria.


And here's Damiani opening her presents on her birthday. Of course, her brothers and sister were only too glad to help.



Pelagia made a colorful butterfly-shaped cake. Here all the kids are helping Dami blow out the single candle.


Here's Damiani climbing the steps into the chapel of St. Tryphon. You can see the kids' bikes in the background -- they like to ride them around the porch surrounding the church (one of the the only flat spaces in hilly Portaria).


And here she is cleaning up some ice cream.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Feast Day 2014 at the Chapel of Sts. Constantine and Helen


As usual, we celebrated Festal Vespers and Liturgy for the Feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen (May 20/21) at our chapel dedicated to them. Built in 1861, it was a functioning men's monastery until World War II. The ruins of some of the former men’s monastery’s cells lie along the north side of the church. In addition to this feast, the parish also celebrates the Universal Elevation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14) at this chapel. Like the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries, it features two side chapels built around 1867. The northern chapel is dedicated to St. Menas (Nov. 11), while the southern one seems to have been dedicated to St. Anthony. The side chapels are in need of renovation and are not currently used.


Here's a photo of the old wooden roof, which is traditional for basilica style churches.


We had lovely weather and a big crowd in the evening for Vespers and Artoklasia.



Here are the some of the early offerings for the artoklasia, as well as kollyva for the saints.




And here we are during the procession. My friend Fr. Georgios, who lives in Portaria but serves in Zagora, joined us. Two young boys carry festal icons.



Trif and Brittany, friends from Yakima, WA, were visiting and took these photographs.





I found a truly wonderful homily on St. Constantine which I read toward the end of the service. There is much discussion about whether he should be considered a saint, and this homily answered that question definitively. Many people asked me for copies.



Here's a photo from the entrance to the church, facing Volos.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cleaning of the Icons in the Altar


Thanks to a generous donor, we were recently able to professionally clean and restore the icons in the altar area of our main church. The icons are undated, but appear to be from perhaps the mid-1900s. Although there was some minor water damage in a couple spots, the main problem was simply the years of accumulated smoke. Above, for example, you can see a sample square that was cleaned around St. George's face.


This is a "before" photo of the "More Spacious than the Heavens" icon in the apse above the Holy Altar. the time. There is a clear Western, Renaissance influence.


The row of hierarchs sits below the icon of the Mother of God. The hierarchs are traditionally depicted around the Holy Altar as concelebrating the Divine Liturgy. In our case, there are two figures depicted on either side of the altar. All are hierarchs, except--oddly--St. George on the far right side (seen above). This is an elementary theological violation of tradition, since St. George--although a powerful saint--was not a priest, and therefore should not be depicted as concelebrating at the Holy Altar. I therefore suspect that the donor at the time, or perhaps the priest, or even the iconographer, was named George.


Here we have a photo from the cleaning "in progress." You can see that the Mother of God and the left side had gone through the initial cleaning phase.


And here it is at the end.


And here are the saints at the end.


Undoubtedly, though, the most remarkable transfiguration was at the prothesis, or the Table of Oblation. The icon restorer, who is a member of our parish, cleaned the above icon as her own personal offering for the church. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a photograph of it beforehand. But I have stood inches in front of the above icon for many hours over the last two years, and the icon was so covered in smoke that I could recognize almost nothing of it. It was in much worse shape than the others. Now it is as you see it above.


Finally, I asked the icon restorer also to clean this small icon of an angel, which is located on the bottom of the women's balcony that hangs over the entrance of the church. Everyone walks right below the icon, only three feet away from their head, and most have never noticed it because it was so black and indistinguishable. Now it appears as above.

Glory be to God!