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!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hamburg


Another day, we visited L√ľneburg's "German Salt Museum" -- yes, it's always a thrill a minute with the Edwards!

We found this gigantic puzzle of a scene from L√ľneburg's salt market of yesteryear within the old factory-turned-musuem.


Afterwards, we stopped for a snack at a cafe.


In the afternoon, when our friends' kids came home from school, we all went to an indoor pool complex that was really fantastic. Everyone (including the kids) gets their own "watch" when they come in, and this unlocks your locker, opens doors, lets you buy ice cream, etc. The kids had a great, great time at the pool, which had water slides, a wave machine, etc. They even had complementary baby swimming diapers, and Damiani really enjoyed herself. Here you can see Pelagia and Benny in the locker room afterwards, half-joking that they were as tired as Damiani.


The next day, we went into Hamburg and explored the city. We took a water boat tour, had salted fish sandwiches on the docks (well, I did), and then headed to the very creative Miniature Wonderland Museum.


The kids loved it. They watched model airplanes land and take off from the model airport for a long time.


Here we are at a strange cube building that serves as an information station for Hamburg's famous (or infamous, for its budget overruns) opera building, which is a marvel of acoustic engineering. You can see the new building in the background of the photo above -- the building with a wavy roof under the red crane. The cube building above plays different operas and classical music from each of the horns.


We then headed to this park on the waterfront. Like all the parks we saw in Germany, this one was amazing. You can see Damiani having a good time in the basket swing above.


This is Phoebe in a "living maze," which they constructed and constantly tweak using growing bamboo plants.


Right next door, we found a great Thai restaurant for dinner. We choose the traditional seating, sitting on the floor. To accomplish this, the restaurant had simply raised the floor in the section of the restaurant, leaving only the area at the base of the table at the original height. This was a perfect play area for Damiani!


On our last full day, I took the kids to the Hamburg zoo. The polar exhibit was particularly impressive. Above, we caught the seal feeding.


We also watched one of the polar bears play right next to us for a long time.


The zoo also sells cut vegetables and fruits that visitors can feed to certain animals. Characteristically, Paul was the bravest.


Especially with the elephants! Feeding them was a highlight.

Finally, we had to head back to Greece. We got up early in the morning and made our way through rush-hour traffic to the get to the airport in time. We made it, with four small kids, to the gate. Five minutes later, they announced that the French (surprise!!) were on strike and our plane was stuck in Paris. After a 3.5 hours delay (with some vouchers to spend), we finally made it back safe and sound to Greece.

For a few more photos from the trip, click here.