Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Liturgy in Volos

This is actually an addendum to a post from a few weeks ago. I just received these photos from a friend who also attended the conference in Volos, and I liked them. For a few more, click here.

These are from the Holy Liturgy on Sunday, May 10, at the Church of the Ascension in Volos, Greece.

The four bishops serving are Metropolitan Athanasios of Chalcedon (EP), Metropolitan Alexander of Nigeria (Alexandria), Bishop Maxim of Western America (Serbian), and Metropolitan Ignatios of Volos (Greece). You can spot me in there somewhere, too.

Take a look at the Metropolitan Alexander's African-inspired vestments in the photo immediately above.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Roman Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue in Thessaloniki

A significant event took place at the University of Thessaloniki yesterday. The Theology School hosted the latest in a series of dialogues between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church. The single-day program featured a slew of heavy hitters, including the joint chairmen of the commission for dialogue: Walter Cardinal Kasper and Metropolitan John (Zizioulas).

I wasn't able to attend the whole day, but I was there in the morning for Kasper and the Ecumencial Patriachate's Archdeacon Maximos Vgenopoulos, and again in the evening for Professor Petros Vassiliadis and Metropolitan John Zizioulas.

A fairly wide range of opinions were expressed, which promised to make it a true dialogue. Professor Dimitris Tsellingidis (who attends our parish here in Panorama) was the most skeptical of the ecumenical process, which drew criticism from several fellow professors and speakers. Professor Vassiliadis was probably the most in favor of the process, saying that the East and West needed each other.

The photo at top is of Vassiliadis, and the photo immediately above is of Kasper.

The evening concluded with what promised to be the highlight, Metropolitan John (Zizioulas)--see photo at bottom. I find him to be an extremely lucid thinker and an excellent speaker, who is able to get right to the heart of issues. His talk was on the "Past, Present, and Future" of the dialogue with the Roman Catholics, but after about 10 or 15 minutes of his talk (when he reached the point of discussing the controversial topic of the Ravenna document from 2007), protesters in the back began shouting comments.

Protesters had been manned outside the building all day in the hot sun, holding signs and handing out literature. In the photo immediately below, you can see some of their signs. The one in the middle reads "Ecumenism=Betrayal" and the one on the right is a partial quote from Saint Kosmas Aitolos which says "You should curse the pope [because he will be the cause of harm]."

Metropolitan John tried to continue, and the chairman of the session pleaded with the protesters, but to no avail. They couldn't contain themselves and the situation soon spun out of control. The chairman finally ended up trading insults with the protesters, and Metropolitan John simply went and sat down.

They then moved to the question and answer period, and most of the questions were from the fellow panelists and directed at Professor Tsellingidis. There were lots of interruptions, but Professor Tsellingidis was finally able to answer the questions. It was late, so I went home before the concluding speech by Professor Stamoulis. I don't know what happened next.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dessert at the Dam

On Sunday evening, we wanted to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather (and Pelagia and our babies wanted some ice cream), so we drove over to the dam in Thermi, the next little town over from us. There we sat and enjoyed the ducks swimming on the water and a fresh waffle with ice cream, whipped cream, nutella chocolate--and a banana (for nutrition). :)

In these photos, you see Pelagia working on a piece of a quilt for our niece Marie.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Athens with Metropolitan John Zizioulas

We arrived in Athens around 7:00 on Sunday evening, and stayed with Bishop Maxim's good friends, the famous iconographer Fr. Stamatis Skliris and his wife Marina.

Fr. Stamatis took us out for a very lovely dinner on a rooftop restaurant, with a view of the Acropolis (see second photo above).

It was really wonderful to get to know Fr. Stamatis. When they were younger, he and his wife spent a year living at the Monastery Celije in Serbia, with their spiritual father, Fr. Justin Popovich.

When they returned to Athens, they were blessed to know Elder Porphyrios. He was full of stories about his experiences with these holy men.

The top photo is of Fr. Stamatis' work area in his house, with an icon of St. John the Theologian on the stand. The photo immediately above is of a new icon of Christ, which he went to Paris on Monday to present in an exhibit.

On Monday, Fr. Stamatis and his wife left for Paris, where he was putting on an exhibit at the Serbian Cathedral to benefit Kosovo.

Bishop Maxim, meanwhile, was invited to Metropolitan John Zizioulas' house at 1:00, and I was allowed to tag along. We spoke with the Metropolitan at his house for nearly 2 hours, and I even got to ask him about my dissertation. His dissertation is perhaps the leading Orthodox work to date on leadership in the early Church, so I had a chance to ask him some questions I had about his work.

Finally, his assistant, George, came by, and Metropolitan John treated us all to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Here we got to talk to him about, among other things, the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Conference, starting June 6 in Geneva, at which he will serve as chairman. The conference will tackle many of the thorny issues regarding the Diaspora, so the conversation was of particular interest to us.

The photo immediately below is of Bishop Maxim and Metropolitan John as we walked to the restaurant. The photo at the very bottom was taken at the end of a very nice lunch.

At 5:00, we walked the Metropolitan back to his house. I took his blessing and then left to head back to Thessaloniki. With the newly completed national highways (and only a small amount of speeding), I made it back home to Thessaloniki actually in just under 5 hours -- completely exhausted but full of experiences.

For more photos of the whole weekend, click here.

Liturgy with the Bishops

After Bishop Maxim's session at the conference, we broke for lunch. At top, you see Bishop Maxim eating with Metropolitan Ignatios, Archbishop Ieronymos, and Pantelis Kalaitzidis, the director of the Academy for Theological Studies.

There was no break after lunch -- the conference plowed on until about 8:00 PM, at which time Metropolitan Ignatios took everyone for dinner in the little village town of Makrinitsa, at the top of nearby, historic Mt. Pelion.

During dinner and the van rides there and back, I had some very interesting and helpful conversations with two speakers from the conference, Rev. George Hunsinger and Fr. Alexander Rentel.

On Sunday morning, we went to the largest church in the city, dedicated to the Ascension, where I was privileged to concelebrate with 4 bishops, 11 priests, and 4 deacons.

Besides Bishop Maxim and Metropolitan Ignatios, the other bishops were Metropolitan Athanasios of Chalcedon (who served as protos) and Metropolitan Alexander of Nigeria, another speaker at the conference, who had a very interesting set of vestments that were inspired by an African theme.

In the photo immediately above, you can see the bishops around the altar.

After the liturgy, the clergy were treated to a nice breakfast there at the parish, and then we returned to the conference. The conference went on until about 2:30 or 3:00, at which time it concluded.

Bishop Maxim and I skipped out on lunch and headed down to Athens (about 3.5 hours south of Volos). The weather here has been beautiful, so we made one stop in Kamena Vourla, a popular seaside stopping point (as you can no doubt see for yourselves by the picturesque photo below.)

A man came by selling paintings, and you can see Bishop Maxim in the photo at the very bottom looking through the man's selections.

"Church and Culture" Conference in Volos

On Friday, Bishop Maxim flew into Thessaloniki to attend an international theological conference on "Church and Culture" in Volos. I picked him up at the airport and we drove down to Volos, arriving quite late on Friday.

On Saturday morning, we joined the conference. Bishop Maxim presented his paper on "Neopatristic Theology in the Post-Modern World" at noon. For another paper that he recently delivered (in English), see our new diocesan blog here.

When he finished, around 12:30, the conference took an unscheduled break in order to welcome His Beautitude Ieronymos, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, to the conference. He made a few remarks on the conference's topic, and then sat to listen to the rest of the session. The second speaker, a professor from Moscow, delivered his paper, and then the floor was opened to questions. Bishop Maxim's paper generated quite a bit of interested and enthusiasm, so most of the questions were directed to him.

The photo at top is of Bishop Maxim and me outside the conference room before his paper began.

The second photo is of Bishop Maxim delivering his paper. In the foreground to the right is Metropolitan Athanasios of Chalcedon, another speaker at the conference, who is third in the hierarchy of the throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The photo immediately below is an overview of the crowd during Bishop Maxim's talk. Here, Metropolitan Ignatios of Volos is saying a few words to introduce Archbishop Ieronymos, who had just arrived.

Finally, at the very bottom, you see Bishop Maxim answering a question from the audience. To the left, Archbishop Ieronymos, Metropolitan Athansios, and Metropolitan Ignatios listen.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Pottery Exhibit at the Turkish Bath

My mom arrived on Monday to help us, and the timing was perfect, as Pelagia is now getting quite big with the triplets.

We went out on a little excursion to celebrate Pelagia's birthday today. The first stop was a pottery exhibit of an acquaintance of ours. The neat part was where it was held -- a famous old Turkish bath house called the Bey Hamam.

We once went to another old Turkish bath house here in Thessaloniki for a concert, and both venues were great.

In the top photo, you can see my mom looking up at the ceiling, which you see in the two photos below.

In the photo immediately above, you can see Pelagia and my mom looking at one of the pottery pieces against a wall of the old "hot room" (I believe), with another table of pottery in the foreground.

Next we went to lunch at the Indonesian restaurant, which is run by our friend Gregory, an Indonesian convert to Orthodoxy and a relative of Fr. Daniel Byantoro.

Then we ended with a coffee, sitting outside at Starbucks next to the Kamara (the Arch of Galerius) in the center of Thessaloniki. We were joined by our friend Philip Navarro and enjoyed the beautiful weather (sunny, highs these days around 75-80).