Sunday, January 20, 2008

Our First Greek Wedding

Well, Thursday evening, I served Vespers for St Athanasios at the saint’s church in downtown Thessaloniki with His Eminence Metropolitan Anthimos, Archbishop of Thessaloniki. Of course, there were many priests and deacons there, including our spiritual father and the two priests of our parish here in Panorama. They introduced me to the bishop after the service and I spoke with him briefly. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos, but you may have seen me on Greek TV, if you get the Church’s TV station on your satellite dish. ( ;

(Yes, seriously, the Church has its own regular TV channel devoted solely to broadcasting services and related programs.)

On Saturday morning, we had liturgy as usual at our parish here in Panorama and then on Saturday evening we were blessed to go to our friends’ wedding downtown. They are Justin, an American, and Kalliopi, a Greek girl. They met while she studied in the States and now they’ve moved back here to start their life together.

I was asked to serve along with our spiritual father and three other priests. They asked me to say all the deacon’s parts in English, as well as the Epistle and the Gospel, for the benefit of Justin’s friends and family. It was a beautiful and joyous wedding.

The reception following the wedding was held at perhaps the most famous hotels in northern Greece, the 5-star Makedonia Palace. All of our friends were invited to the wedding, so it was really fun.

In the last photo, you can see a shot of our table. At left is Herman Middleton grabbing something to eat as he got up from the table. Obscured behind him is Fr Spyridon. Continuing clockwise, we have our neighbor, James Lilly, our Greek friends Efrosini and Christos, Justin’s friend Vincent, Ann Lilly, and Pelagia.

The top photo, naturally, is of Justin and Kalliopi as they entered the church. The second and third photos are from the service.

At the very bottom is a short video of some of the dancing from the reception. Greek dancing is really fun – Pelagia and I are both trying to learn it. It seems relatively simple, but it’s not. At the end, one very kind Greek woman gave us lessons off to the side. She explained that the basic Greek dance is a 12-step count, but that the leader (the first in line) sets the particular step, and everyone else is supposed to follow. Usually, then, they change leaders every few minutes, so the dance changes, too. It’s very fun.

The wedding was great and we were very glad to be invited, so that we could experience a real Greek wedding.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Divine Liturgy and Baptism at a 1500-Year-Old Church

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On Saturday, the Forefeast of Theophany, I was blessed to serve at the Divine Liturgy with our spiritual father, Fr Spyridon, at his church in the center of Thessaloniki—Panagia Acheiropoiitos. This church was completed by the year 470 at the latest, and was built in honor of the Mother of God after the Fourth Ecumenical Council declared her to be Theotokos in Ephesus in 431. It is one of the three oldest churches (all 5th century) in Greece. Unlike St Demetrios (one of the other 5th century basilicas), Panagia Acheiropoiitos has remained basically intact for the last 1500+ years. The name, incidentally, means “the Mother of God, made without hands.” It refers to an icon which miraculously appeared in the 12th century and which seems to have been divinely made. The icon, unfortunately, was lost during the period of Ottoman occupation.

First it must be said that this church is absolutely enormous. Unfortunately, therefore, photos of the inside don’t usually come out. It was really a great blessing to serve in such a church, where so many millions of faithful have prayed for so many years. The size of the church is also awe-inspiring. It seemed to take forever to cense!

After the Liturgy and the Blessing of the Waters, there was a short break before the baptism of the youngest child of our friends here in Thessaloniki, another American couple, Mark and Laura Montague. Their newest baby, Sophia, was baptized in the small side chapel. (All the photos are from this service, and were taken by another American friend, Peter Chido. For more photos, click here.)

Since there was such a large American presence at the baptism, I got to read the petitions in English, and Fr Spyridon even read a couple prayers in English, which was cute.

In the top photo, Pelagia is talking with our friend Angela, and English woman who converted to Orthodoxy many years ago and moved to Greece. She is now married to a Greek man and has three children.

The second photo shows a line-up of Americans who are studying here in Greece. From left: me, Mark Montague, John Harper, someone I don’t know, and Joseph (whose last name I can’t remember right now).

The third and fourth photos are, obviously, of the baptism. The priest is Fr Spyridon. In the last photo, you can see the baby’s sponsor, Stavroula, and the baby.

Tomorrow, for the Feast of Theophany, and on Monday for St John the Baptist, we will be at our parish church here in Panorama, St George’s.