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.

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