Thursday, November 25, 2010

St. Catherine's on Sinai Here in Thessaloniki

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US! Here in Greece, of course, they don't celebrate, but today the Church celebrated St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Together with our friend Angela, a convert from Scotland, and Margarita, a convert from Columbia (South America, not South Carolina), we went to a new monastery dedicated to St. Catherine in nearby Thermi. This monastery, which is still under construction, is a dependency or metohi of the famous St. Catherine's Monastery on Sinai in modern-day Egypt.

In the photo above, Angela and her daughter Myrna are helping Pelagia feed the babies some kolvya in the church just after the end of the Liturgy.

The inside of the church. As you can see, it's not nearly finished yet. For the moment, they only hold Liturgy here once a year, on the feast day of St. Catherine. The monastery is being funded, at least in part, by a lay organization called "The Friends of St. Catherine's Monastery."

Above and below, Myrna is playing on the church steps with Phoebe. Above, you can see they've poured the concrete skeleton for the buildings around a central courtyard next to the church.

The faithful were treated to juice and chocolates to celebrate the church's feast. The babies really enjoyed this. Above and below, you can see that Paul is very interested in his chocolate.

The emerging monastery.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Russia Revisited

Another member of the Friends of Mount Athos who accompanied us on our trip to Russia this summer, John Arnell, kindly spent the time to collect photographs and sounds from our trip. I, in turn, have posted them on the internet so that everyone can see them. I also managed to make, after some trial and error, a video of the photographs and sounds he collected.

The photographs, 410 in all, are from John and his wife Jenny, as well as Peter Lea and Philip Oswald. In the links below, you can click to see each collection of photographs separately. There is also a link to the video, which has all 410 photographs together, in chronological order (i.e., not divided according to photographer). Each photographs displays for 3 seconds, making the video just over 20 minutes long. The four recordings John made from our trip are played in the background, some being repeated to cover the time.

The photos here are just a few I picked out from the 410 because they happened to have me in them. :)

The photo above was taken on the second day of our trip to Russia in August, at the men's monastery of the Resurrection in Uglich. For more, see my original post here.

Here is a nice photo of our group, or at least some of it.

The photos above and below here were taken on Saturday, August 28, at the Dormition Cathedral inside the Moscow Kremlin, where we celebrated the Liturgy with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. For more, see my original post here.

To watch the video, click here. I suggest that, unless you have a dreadfully slow internet connection, you click on the word "Large" in order to get the highest resolution display. Also at the bottom right hand corner of the photo there should be an icon to click that makes the video fill your whole screen. Also note that you can download the video by clicking the download button alone the top of the screen. The video is being hosted on a pay site to which I currently have a free trial membership, so it will probably only be available until about Christmas. The links to see the photos by themselves are below.

For photos from John and Jenny Arnell, click here.

For photos from Peter Lea, click here.

For photos from Philip Oswald, click here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Family Portraits

We recently had professional family photos taken here in Panorama, and we thought some of you might enjoy seeing them. Above is a photo of the whole family.

Above is Paul and below is Benjamin, both looking very preppy in their outfits. :)

Here's Phoebe in the dress that her Yiayia Sophia wore when she was a little girl, and which Pelagia also wore when she was a little girl.

For more photos from the session, click here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Election Day

Sunday was Election Day in Greece, and, boy, do the Greeks love their politics! You could really say that it's the national pastime, or at least it becomes so in the condensed election season.

In order to avoid any perception that the Greek priests in our parish were advocating for one party or another, or one candidate or another, Fr. Alexis and Fr. Panayiotis thought it best to let me give the homily this Sunday. I managed to limit myself to a very digestible 8 minutes on the Gospel reading of the day. Apparently, my Greek was fairly decent as well. Preaching in my native language will be a breeze after this!

After Liturgy, I went for a coffee with my Serbian friend Danica and her friend, Igor, who was in Thessaloniki for a visit. The weather has been beautiful this week, so we went out to play with the babies in the yard. Igor took a couple nice photos. Above is Benjamin and below Paul, as played a little soccer.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

More Photos from Our Feast

Here are a few more photos from our feast on Tuesday and Wednesday, courtesy of my friend Paris. Above is a photo of the box of relics that we borrowed from the Monastery of St. Dionysios. The large relic at top is from St. Paraskevi, and the smaller one at bottom from St. Prokopios.

Above is a photo of Ioannis, Metropolitan of Lagada and Exarch of Central Macedonia, with a few of the clergy from Vespers on Tuesday night.

This is me with Elly, our neokoros, and Nikos and Panayiotis, two of the members of our parish council, after Vespers.

From the Divine Liturgy on Wednesday morning.

Metropolitan Ioannis before the Great Entrance.

The Great Entrance, as seen from the women's balcony above. You can see just the first part of the line of priests. You can just see me at the very bottom.

Paul hanging out in the church with his godfather, Paris.

This is from the end of the Liturgy, when Fr. Alexis thanked the bishop for celebrating the feast with us. You can see me in the forefront on the right.

These are our parish's relics, which were also on display for veneration along with the relics of Sts. Paraskevi and Prokopios. In the center is St. George. In the top left (going clockwise) is: Sts. Theodore, Arsenios, Evgenia, and Barbara.

For a few more photos from Paris, click here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Our Parish Panegyri: The Translation of the Relics of St. George

On Tuesday night and Wednesday, our parish celebrated the feast of the Translation of the Relics of St. George the Great Martyr. Since our temple is dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of Panorama, we celebrate both his feasts with great vigor. Unfortunately, his main feast, on April 23, often gets overshadowed by Pascha, so this feast stands out more. It is our tradition to try to bring some relics to the parish for the feast. This year, Fr. Alexios arranged for us to borrow, from the Monastery of St. Dionysios on Mt. Olympus, large pieces of the relics of St. Paraskevi and St. Prokopios.

On Monday afternoon, I went with Fr. Alexios and Fr. Gregory, a hieromonk and friend from the nearby Metropolis of Lagada, to the monastery to pick up the relics. Although the monastery buildings today are quite new, the monastery itself actually dates back to about the 5th century. That monastery, which was originally located higher up on Mt. Olympus, lasted all the way until World War II, when it was bombed by the Germans. One can take a hike from the current location of the monastery and walk amongst what's left of the old monastery.

Because of its age, the monastery has built a small museum which houses the treasures it was able to preserve from the Germans, including a whole room dedicated to its collection of relics. After meeting with the monastery's abbot, a monk took us to the relic room and opened up the case, taking out the hand-carved wooden box containing the relics of St. Paraskevi and St. Prokopios. They then had a hand-written filing system in which we basically "checked out" the relics.

On Tuesday evening, at 5:30, we had the official reception of the relics at our parish. The clergy and the people gathered in town square, just below the church, and met the relics, which were brought by police escort. Our friend Fr. Gregory, the hieromonk, got out of the car and the clergy and police officers venerated the relics before we processed up the street into the church (see below).

Inside the church, we placed them on a proskinitarion (a special stand that holds sacred objects that are set out for veneration) and prayed a litany.

We then awaited the arrival of Metropolitan Ioannis of Lagada, who was coming to join our celebration. Lagada is a region just outside Thessaloniki, to the northeast. Metropolitan Ioannis, until being consecrated the new bishop there about six months ago, served for many years as the Protosyngelos (chief priest) of the Metropolis of Thessaloniki, so he has many connections to Thessaloniki and our parish.

In the photo above, you can see two of his deacons censing during the Festal Vespers, which lasted a little over 2 hours.

From inside the altar, you can see the Metropolitan presiding over Vespers from the throne.

Metropolitan Ioannis truly has a charisma for preaching. He gave a wonderful sermon on St. George and the importance of sanctifying both body and soul at the end of Vespers, after the artoklasia, which you can see laid out on a table in the center. We had 3 deacons and over 20 priests at Vespers. After the service, the clergy and parish council members had a nice dinner and conversation with the bishop.

The next morning, Metropolitan Ioannis came back again to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with us. Here he is, in the photo above, venerating the relics of the saints as he entered our temple.

Here he is covering the gifts at the end of the proskomidi.

Censing the Holy Table during the Liturgy.

On Wednesday morning, we had 3 deacons and 11 priests for the Liturgy.

Censing the people.

Offering the gifts "on behalf of all and for all."

After the Liturgy, at which the Metropolitan again preached very inspiringly, we went for coffee and then lunch with the bishop. It was also his birthday, so we offered him a cake and sang "many years" to him at the end of our visit.

For a few more photos, click here and here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Parish Gathering

On Monday evening, the parish had a get-together for fellowship, music, and a talk about the important role of grandparents in society.

The event was held at the elegant Panorama Hotel, which is next to my house, and there was a 10 euro entrance fee. After the minimal cost of the coffee that was served, the rest of the money was donated to "Melissa," a home in Panorama for kids with special needs. The money will be used to take the kids out to do things they enjoy.

The evening began with a 10-minute talk on the changing roles in society, and how grandparents play a crucial role especially in caring for children today, as both parents now have to work. The talk encouraged everyone to value the contributions of our elders and not take them for granted.

The evening was then followed by two choirs. The first, from Panorama's group of retired persons (see above and below), sang a few traditional songs.

The second choir (see above and below) sang several traditional Pontian songs (i.e., songs from the Greeks of Asia Minor), which feature a lyre and a guitar. I like this music very much.

As you can see below, the event was quite well-attended. This was aided, no doubt, by the fact that elections are coming up this Sunday, Nov. 7. (In Greece, elections are always held on Sundays, to be sure everyone has the day off and is able to vote, which is actually required by law.)

This also means that in the days leading up the elections, several things happen: 1. All the public works for the whole year take place now. All those annoying potholes are filled, especially if they happen to be near an important person's house. 2. All the candidates suddenly become very devout, attending every Liturgy (and handing out literature afterwards). They are also very eager to be seen in public with priests, so there's much more venerating of the priest's hand in these weeks.

Of course, this is the same in the U.S., where the candidates usually want to be photographed in church in the months leading up to the election, and then are usually never seen there again.

One difference in the election process here that I particularly like is the duration. Since elections aren't on a fixed schedule, but are rather announced periodically, the election season is blissfully short, usually about a month. This is a welcome relief from the 2-year marathons, which no doubt the U.S. will soon be entering for the 2012 presidential election.