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.

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