Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Celebrating St. Sava in Thessaloniki

On Tuesday morning, I went downtown to the little metohi (dependency) of Hilandar monastery on Mt Athos, which is dedicated to St. Sava, the first archbishop of Serbia and its most beloved saint.

There are currently three bishops living in Thessaloniki -- all three of the bishops from the Archdiocese of Ohrid, i.e. the area now known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. All three are basically living in exile from their home country because of a nationalist movement which has decided to create an autonomous "Macedonian" Orthodox Church to prop up its claims to statehood. The most famous of the three is certainly Archbishop Jovan, who many consider to be a modern-day confessor for the time he spent in prison in FYROM for the crime, essentially, of being Orthodox.

The other two bishops, Bishop Marko and Bishop David, currently study at theology at the university with me. Today, Bishop Marko celebrated the Liturgy for St. Sava. You can see him in the photos.

Our neighbor, Ann Lillie, went with me to the Liturgy. She and her husband love Serbia and used to come to this church 30 years ago, when they first moved to Thessaloniki from England.

After the Liturgy, we went upstairs to the konaki (a residence used by the monks and friends of the monastery) for slivovice (traditional Serbian hard alcohol), coffee, food and--my favorite--singing. As is wont to happen when you get a group of Serbs together who are celebrating, they spontaneously broke out into group singing. They sang traditional Serbian songs (which are influenced by ecclesiastical music) about Saint Sava, Kosovo, etc.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Well, it's finally time we make the big announcement. Pelagia is pregnant--with triplets! Glory to God!

We just got back from the doctor, and here are the latest ultrasound photos. Pelagia is in the 14th week, and the babies look perfectly healthy and normal. They are about 3.5 inches now, and we saw their arms, legs, eyes, nose, mouth, heartbeat--everything.

The doctor shocked us by even telling us the genders of the babies. We had read that normally this cannot be seen until 18-20 weeks. Of course, then, what he said is only an educated guess, but he seemed pretty certain--two girls and a boy!

Please pray for us and our unborn babies!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monastery of St. Athanasios in Kolindros

On Sunday morning, we were joined in Panorama by a Bulgarian hierodeacon from the famous St. John of Rila Monastery in Bulgaria. Fr. Makarios is the guestmaster at the enormous monastery, which--unfortunately, due to communism--now has only 10 monks.

In the afternoon, Fr. Alexios (the proistamenos of our parish) had the idea to make a trip to the Monastery of St. Athanasios in Kolindros, about 45 minutes southwest of Thessaloniki. Yesterday was St. Athanasios' feast day, and the monastery has a small relic from the saint, so we wanted to go there to venerate him.

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We arrived around 5:00 PM and did the Ninth Hour, Vespers, and Paraclesis to the saint with the sisters, who number 16.

Afterwards, we had a coffee with one of the sisters and some other pilgrims. Somehow, we got talking about Orthodoxy in America, and they were all fascinated to hear the stories of Americans converting to Orthodoxy.

The two photos above are of the outside entrance to the monastery. In the top photo is my friend Alexander, a Bulgarian friend of mine who also studies theology at the university, as well as Fr. Makarios, who is finishing his Masters Degree at the university.

These two photos are of the entrance into the monastery's main church. Pictured below are (l to r) Fr. Makarios, Fr. Alexios, and, of course, me.

There are a few more photos here. You can see the nearby snow-capped Mt. Olympus in one of the photos.