Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Elder Paisios and Halkidiki

Tuesday was Djina's last day in Thessaloniki, with the bus leaving for Belgrade at 9 PM, so we made the most of it. The weather has been sunny and hot (85-90), so it seemed like a good time to take in the beautiful beaches of Halkidiki.

First, we stopped at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Souroti, where Elder Paisios is buried.

The top photo is of Elder Paisios' grave. The second photo is of the courtyard around the church. In the background you can see people at Elder Paisios' grave, which is located behind the church.

Afterwards, we drove on to the first leg of Halkidiki and stopped at the town of Kallithea. (See third photo.) There we sat on the beach and read. Djina even gave me another Serbian lesson on the beach!

We then found a traditional Greek restaurant for lunch (see bottom photo) and then headed back to Thessaloniki. the Athonite is buried. We venerated his grave and took some of the earth from the grave as a blessing. We also went inside the church and venerated the relics of St Arsenios the Cappadocian.

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

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Morning at St. Sava's

On Sunday morning, we went downtown to attend Liturgy at the small Serbian church attached to Hilandar's konaki (guest house) in Thessaloniki. There I was blessed to serve with a hieromonk from Hilandar and a married Serbian priest who is also studying theology in Thessaloniki. It was a multi-lingual service -- I did a mixture of Greek and English, while they did a mixture of Slavonic and Serbian.
Afterwards, we went with some Serbian friends to the nearby Starbucks. (You can see us sitting there at the end of the video, which is about 1.5-mins long.)

While we were there, the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki pulled up to attend something at Panagia Dexia church, which is right next to the Starbucks. I love the Metropolitan's license plate (M. of Th.), so we had to get a photo.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Liturgy in the Crypt of St. Demetrios

We took the top photo as we walked along the water. The famous White Tower is in the background. We headed to the Metropolitan Cathedral, which houses the relics of St. Gregory Palamas. Djina was thrilled and overwhelmed to be able to venerate this great saint.

Afterwards, we took a break and sat at the Starbucks near the White Tower. (You can see us there in the second photo, with the White Tower in the background.)

Finally, we headed to St. Demetrios for the Divine Liturgy which they celebrate every Friday night in the catacombs underneath the church. It has been my dream to serve in a liturgy there! This area underneath the church was originally the Roman baths where St. Demetrios was martyred around the year 300. As soon Christianity emerged from the shadows of persecution a few years later, the Christians turned the site of the saint's martyrdom into a church dedicated to him. Later, around 450, the magnificent temple you see today was built on top of the site of the martyrdom. The saint's relics were kept in the altar in the church upstairs, but so much myrrh poured from them that they built a pipe from the altar down to the crypt. There a basin (which you can see at the beginning of the video) collected the myrrh for the faithful to take.

The third photo is taken in the courtyard outside the church. The video is a 3.5-minute collage of pieces from the Liturgy. The service ran from 9:30 until about 11:15. Afterwards, we came back home to Panorama, elated and exhausted. For a few more photos of the day, click here.

A Serbian Pilgrimage to Thessaloniki

On Friday afternoon, we took Djina into downtown Thessaloniki. There we met up with our friend Brendan, who stayed with Djina in Belgrade back in December, when he came with us there for my ordination.

We took her first to Hagia Sophia, where St. Gregory Palamas preached about the uncreated energies of God. This enormous church features beautiful mosaics in the dome dating from about 1200. I took the top photo of everyone in front of this church.

Next we walked over to the Monastery of St. Theodora. Because of its location right in the heart of the city, it is not really a traditional monastery. Rather, it serves as housing for the monks who live in the city to study theology. It features the bodies of two Thessaloniki saints, along with some lovely modern iconography. The second photo is of us in the courtyard and the third is of one of the icons.

We then headed over to Aristotle Square and then turned down to circle back to the Metropolitan Church of St. Gregory Palamas along the water. The last photo is of Aristotle Square.

A Week in Serbia

On Friday, May 16, I left for Belgrade with my friend Philip (another American studying theology here). There was some question whether we would be able to go at all -- there were a spate of strikes here in Greece, including one by tanker truck drivers which halted the flow of gasoline for one week.

Fortunately, the strike broke the day before we left and I got gasoline for the trip. We had a smooth trip on Friday. About 2 hours south of Belgrade, we stopped at Ravanica monastery, which is located just 10 km off the highway.

The top two photos are of the monastery. We were blessed to venerate the incorrupt relics of St. Prince Lazar, who died defending Serbia and all Europe from the Ottoman Muslims at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. We walked around for a bit and even ran into a young Serbian girl who had just gotten back from 18 months in the US at a tennis training camp. She was nice enough to translate for us.

Then we hit the road again and continued on to Belgrade. We were staying with our friend Djina in New Belgrade, but she wasn't home from work when we arrived, so we went down to the Danube River to have a coffee on one of the houseboats that serve as cafes. (See the bottom photo of Philip at that cafe.)

On Saturday morning, I woke up early to meet my bishop, Bishop Maxim, at the Patriarchate. The main purpose of my trip to Serbia was to meet with him, as he was in Belgrade for the meeting of the Synod of Bishops.

We had coffee with Bishop Luka of Western Europe, Bishop Gregorije of Hercegovina and a few other clerics, including the dean of the new (incredibly large) St. Sava's Cathedral.

Afterwards, I went with this priest, Fr. Daniel, to St. Sava's to see the latest progress inside the Church. (This magnificent church is just 6 meters smaller than Hagia Sophia in Constantinople -- out of respect for that church.)

On Sunday, Bishop Maxim invited us to Pozarevac, about 1 hour south of Belgrade, to serve at the liturgy in Bishop Ignatije's cathedral there, along with Bishop Luka. We drove there with two Serbian friends who knew the way.

Afterwards, Bishop Ignatije hosted us for a very nice meal. We finally returned to Belgrade in the afternoon.

On Monday morning, we attended a liturgy at the large St. Sava's Church, which had been a dream of mine. Almost every Serbian bishop participated. There were 35-40 bishops serving, 35 priests, and 5 deacons. It was amazing -- I've never seen anything like it.

Afterwards, we met one of Djina's friends, Milana. Djina teaches at a language school, and Milana is the Greek teacher there (although she is Serbian). After having coffee at the church, we went to a really nice section of the city and had lunch.

On Sunday evening, Bishop Maxim invited us to attend the opening of an exhibition of iconography by modern Serbian iconographers. Again, nearly the whole synod of Serbian bishops was there.

Afterwards, we had a drink at an outdoor cafe with two bishops from FYROM who study in Thessaloniki with us (although we hadn't met previously).

On Tuesday, Milana took us for some sightseeing at the Patriarchate and Kalemegdan, Belgrade's picturesque fortress which overlooks the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. We met a Serbian deacon, Dn. Oliver Subotic, who edits the Theological School's journal, for lunch and had some very interesting conversation.

On Tuesday night, we had vigil at the Theological School for the feast of both St. John the Evangelist (the patron of the church) and Mid-Pentecost. The vigil began at 8:00 PM and concluded at 2:30 AM. Metropolitan Amfilohije, the acting Patriarch of Serbia, served, along with Bishop Maxim, 10 priests, and 8 deacons (including me). Metropolitan Amfilohije also ordained a deacon during the liturgy.

Wednesday was a quiet day, catching up on my translation work and having another lesson in Serbian from Djina. (Yes, now I am trying to learn a little Serbian!)

On Thursday morning, I met Bishop Maxim at the Theological School to talk for awhile and get his blessing before we left. We finally headed back here to Greece in the afternoon. Our friend, Djina, even came with us in order to make a pilgrimage to St. Demetrios and the other holy relics and sites in Thessaloniki. So she is currently staying with us here in Panorama until Tuesday. (We're also continuing my Serbian lessons.)

Unfortunately--and uncharacteristically--I didn't take many photos during this trip. My friend Philip has a few extra photos, so when he gets them to me, I will post them!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Nursery Murals

Here's a special message from Pelagia to her Grandma Joyce. The photos are from a nursery that Pelagia painted a few weeks ago. I think she did an amazing job! And the baby photos are of our latest nephew.

Hi Grandma! Here's a link to the pictures of the Nursery that I painted recently. I included the pics of Nicholas that mom sent me too. Enjoy!