Saturday, August 29, 2009

Babies' Third Day Bath with the Godparents

On Tuesday evening, the third day after the baptism, the godparents--as is the tradition here in Greece--gathered at our house to give the babies a bath. The practical purpose of this tradition is to rinse off the holy oil and then to dispose of the water in a suitable manner. And, of course, spiritually, it is a time for the godparent and godchild to bond. Above, you can see everyone gathered in the kitchen.

In the above two photos, Pres. Pelagia was helping Paris learn the ropes.

One down, two to go. Benjamin is up, with Phoebe on deck.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trip to Mt. Pelion

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At 9:00 AM Monday morning, Fr. Alexios, Fr. Panayiotis, and Paris came by in our parish's van and picked up Pres. Sophia, Anastasia, and me for an all-day outing down to Mt. Pelion, which is located around Volos.

After about 2.5 hours, we made our first stop just outside Volos at the base of Mt. Pelion, at the chapel dedicated to Panagia Goritsi. As you can see from the photo above, the church is built into a cave. It has beautiful mosaics.

Here we are standing outside the church, which is located right on the water. From left to right, Fr. Panayiotis, Pres. Sophia, Anastasia, and me.

We then started our tour around Mt. Pelion. Fr. Alexios, who is from the area, was taking us in a complete circle around the mountain, which takes about 3 hours to drive. Not far into the drive around the mountain, he took us for a stop at the little mountain village of Milies. We went into the village's little church to venerate the icons, and ended up getting a fascinating tour from one of the church's parish council members. The church was completely frescoed, including a massive scene of the Second Coming in the exo-narthex, and it was all the work of one monk, who painted the church over a 33-year period in the mid-1700s. Above you can see Pres. Sophia examining his work.

The church was absolutely fascinating. Since it was built in the 1700s, during the period of the Ottoman yoke, the church was purposely designed to appear, from the outside, as just a house, so that the Turks would not be tempted to steal from it or desecrate it. This was why, interestingly, the door to the church (as is so typical of that time period), is so small -- it was to prevent the Turks from riding into the church on their horses. This concern to hide the church from the Turks also led to an ingenious acoustic system. The roof is composed of a series of small domes, each of which has 4 large clay pots situated upside down in it. These act much like the cones in a speaker and resonate with different pitches -- treble, bass, etc. There were also hollow spaces under the floor to help absorb sound. The purpose was to limit echoing and keep the sound inside the building, so that the Turks would not be aware outside. The effect, though, was also to create an incredible acoustic system. The man giving us the impromptu tour had us demonstrate by having the priests sing an apolytikion from the front of the church, and the rest stand in the back. The sound carried as clear as a bell. The man told us that a European Bach Appreciation Society had even come to perform several concerts in the church in order to utilize and study the church's acoustics. Above is a photo of the church from the outside.

After the church in Milies, we drove on for awhile around the mountain, finally stopping at a nice spot with a view, as you can see from the photo above of Anastasia. Immediately above is a photo of all the guys.

After that stop, we kept driving for quite awhile, taking in the view of both the gulf on the west and then the Aegean once we came around to the east side. Finally, we stopped at Chania for lunch, and, as it was past 4:00, we were all starving. We had a huge meal, full of traditional Volos specialities, such as milk cheese. We also had local meats, including venison from Mt. Pelion and lamb. Above, Fr. Panayiotis is eating a goat soup.

After a great lunch, we got back in the van and headed on to the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria, located in Portaria. This women's monastery is a dependency of Philotheou on the Holy Mountain, and has Elder Ephraim as its spiritual father. Gerontissa Efpraxia was a nun here before going to the US and becoming the abbess of the monastery in Goldendale, WA. Above, Ana and I stand in the courtyard.

The guys at the entrance to the monastery. We arrived just as Vespers began and, unfortunately, we had to leave immediately after Vespers.

Before making the trip back home, we made one final stop in Makrinitsa. Here you can see Ana along with the typical stone roofs.

Pres. Sophia stops to take a photo of the view down on the city of Volos.

We went inside the little church dedicated to St. John the Baptist (in the very back center of the photo), walked around the village's main square, and then started heading back.

Volos and the gulf in the background.

This huge old tree stands right in the middle of the town's square, next to the church.

Photo of one of the mountain villages on Mt. Pelion.

We had a quick coffee outside overlooking the city of Volos, and then got in the van for the long 3-hour journey home. We finally arrived after 11:00 PM, having had a long but blessed day. For more photos from the day, click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Babies' First Sunday Communion

The next day after the baptism, Sunday, the babies got to go again for Holy Communion. In the morning, as they were getting ready, Anastasia was playing with Paul, and he seemed to smile for the first time (see above).

Everyone walked to church. Here you can see James carrying his godson, Benjamin, and Pres. Pelagia carrying a baby. Pres. Sophia, Anastasia, and our friend Angela's daughter, Sophie, also helped.

Here they arrive in the back of the church, and everyone is happy to see the babies and say "Axios" to the new godparents.

Paul's godfather brings him for Holy Communion.

Benjamin with his godfather.

Phoebe with her godmother.

James, Anastasia, Pres. Pelagia, the babies, and Sophie at the front door to our apartment building. James hosted a BBQ at his house for lunch to celebrate.

For more photos, see here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


On Saturday morning, the babies were baptized at our parish of St. George's here in Panorama. I celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the morning, and then there was a short break before the baptism began at 11:00 AM.

In the photo above, you see four of the five priests just before we began the prayers for making the babies catechumens. Immediately to the right of me is another Fr. Gregory, a friend who lives in Harilaou (a section of Thessaloniki), and who has a parish out in a village outside Thessaloniki. To the right, in the pink shirt, is my Byzantine music teacher, Manolis Yiannopoulos, recently elected a professor at the university. To the right, in the foreground, is Fr. Alexios, followed by Fr. Panayiotis, the two priests assigned to St. George's.

The godparents were: for Paul, our good friend Paris, a Greek who lives here in Panorama; for Benjamin, our dear friend and neighbor, James Lillie, an Englishman; and for Phoebe, our niece, Anastasia, an American. So it was an international affair. Here you can see Anastasia with Phoebe and me during the prayers for the making of a catechumen.

Here the sponsors and the babies, after renouncing Satan and all his works, turned to the east, toward the church, and accepted Christ. You can see Sister Makrina from the monastery in Goldendale, WA on the left. We were blessed that she and our beloved Gerontissa Efpraxia from Goldendale were able to be with us.

Here the babies are getting undressed for the baptism. From left to right, Paris' sister Litza, Anastasia, Pelagia, Sophie (our friend Angela's daughter), and James Lillie.

Here Paul is being anointed with oil before he is baptized. Paris, the godfather, is holding the oil cupped in his hands, while his sister holds Paul and Fr. Alexios anoints him.

Who would have thought it, but babies slathered in oil and then dunked in water can be quite slippery! Fortunately, I didn't lose anyone at the bottom of the font.

Now it's Benjamin's turn. After the priests anoints the baby with oil, the godparent (here, James) covers them completely with the oil.

Benjamin being baptized (which simply means, in Greek, to immerse or plunge).

Here Anastasia holds the oil as Fr. Alexios anoints Phoebe. The mom, Pres. Pelagia, got to serve as Anastasia's assistant.

Finally, it's Phoebe's turn. I'm sure all the kids will thank us later for posting so many photos of them naked on the internet.

Here Fr. Alexios is tonsuring Paul. Under his arm, you can see Anastasia and Gerontissa Efpraxia's sister-in-law, Sophia, looking on.

Freshly baptized, the babies get changed into their baptismal gowns, which Pres. Sophia made.

Here we are making the Dance of Isaiah around the baptismal font. Everyone was so happy that we did it four or five times. :)

A view from the balcony. I am standing in front of the font, while each of the godparents is holding their baby on the other side.

I saved Holy Communion from the Divine Liturgy, which was celebrated just before the baptism, so that the babies could commune right away. All three babies received it with great ease! Fr. Alexios said it was the first time in all his years as a priest that he saw babies so eager for Holy Communion.

Afterwards, as is the tradition in Greece, the parents sponsored a meal to thank the godparents and all those who had come together to pray for the babies at the baptism. Toward the end of the meal, Fr. Alexios forced me to say something, so here I am talking about something.

Here Fr. Alexios' wife, Pres. Georgia, holds Paul, while Paul's adoring godfather plays with him.

From left to right, front row: Sister Makrina with Benjamin, Gerontissa Efpraxia with Phoebe, Sophia with Paul, Pres. Sophia. Back row: me, Fr. Alexios, and Pelagia.

For many more photos, you can click here to see 200 taken by Pres. Sophia.

Babies at the Beach

After the monastery, since it was such a hot day and we were so close to the shore, we decided to head over to the little town of Metamorfosi (the Transfiguration), which is located on the second leg of Halkidiki. Even Pelagia and I had never been to the beaches of the second leg, which are reportedly more natural and even more beautiful than the beaches of the first leg, which is closer to Thessaloniki.

In the photo above, Anastasia is strapping in Phoebe, with Benjamin on her other side.

Here the girls and the babies are wading in the water, with Paris sitting on the dock taking a photo.

Here Paris took a photo of all of us. I was talking to a man who approached us, curious about the triplets. The two little girls in the water also came over to see the babies.

Here I'm putting Benjamin's feet in for his first time in the ocean. :)

Here Pelagia is holding Phoebe as the suns sets on the water.

We then headed back home, having had a wonderful day out.