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.

1 comment:

Aaron Taylor said...

For some reason, I want to say his last name is Joseph 'Wright'...