Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Babies' Trampoline

Here's an overdue update of what the babies have been up to in March. Above is a photo from the beginning of the month when we went downtown. Here the babies are running around chasing the pigeons in the pedestrian area between Aristotle Square and St. Dimitrios'.
A week or so ago we stopped by Beatrix's Farm, which is a working farm near us owned and operated by a women from Belgium and her Greek husband. They enjoy letting kids come by and play with the animals. After feeding various animals, the babies got on the this tire swing for a ride.
Our friend Michael had a couple visitors from the U.S., including one Orthodox young man from Pelagia's home state of Washington (he's from St. Innocent's), so we took them out to Souroti to venerate the grave of Elder Paisios. After the babies venerated, they then took the traditional monastic blessing -- Turkish delight! Here Paul has a whole piece in his mouth. They each ate about three. Below they're playing in one of the monastery's fountains. Some of the sisters were chuckling at this.
On the way back from the monastery, we stopped for a few minutes at the mall so the babies could walk around inside. They fell in love with this toy store, which had huge remote control cars in the window.
The big excitement for the babies is that we set up a trampoline for them on Saturday. Here are some photos of them enjoying it on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday morning after Liturgy, we went to our friend Angela's house in the mountains in Halkidiki, about one hour east of Thessaloniki. The weather has been beautiful this weekend, and the babies enjoyed sitting out in the grass and playing with bugs. Above, you can see part of the village in the background.
Benjamin is excited as we all watched two bugs walk around on his hand. They looked something like box elder bugs.
Trying to find the bugs.
The bugs were walking on my hand and all the babies wanted a turn holding them.
Here they are crawling on Phoebe's dress.
Part of the village, called Vrastana (near Polygyros), in the background. About 800 people live in that village.
We had lunch outside with some of Angela's friends, including the village priest, Fr. Panteleimon, his presvytera, and their seven kids.
Then in the afternoon, when we got home, it was back to the trampoline. Here's a view of trampoline from our porch.
Pelagia had borrowed a sledgehammer to break up some concrete on the patio, in order to make more room for the trampoline. Paul actually lifted it off the ground and was trying to walk around with it. He also did a lot of work with the electric screwdriver that we had used to put the trampoline together.
For more photos, click here.
For similar trampolines, check out Bounce Inc. here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Annunciation in Panorama

On Friday, we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation, which is also Greece's Independence Day. The Greeks associated their liberation from slavery to the Turks in 1821 with mankind's liberation from slavery which began with the Mother of God's "let it be unto me according to your word," i.e. obedience to the will of God.

In the morning, we had Festal Orthros and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. According to the Typikon of the Great Church of Christ (the Greek typikon), when Annunciation falls on a Friday of one of the four hairetismoi services to the Panagia, that particular stasis is read by itself as part of Festal Vespers. (In the Greek tradition, major feasts not only have Festal Vespers the night before, but also usually the day of.) The feast day overrides the fast and we wear light-colored vestments. Usually, the priests in Greece wear either blue, green, or red. Blue is a favorite because it is also the color of the Greek flag.

To add to the festal nature, we also had the blessing to have His Grace Bishop Panteleimon of Theoupolis celebrate with us. Above is a photo taken as he entered the church.

Here we are taking his blessing before beginning Vespers.

Our proistamenos, or head priest, Fr. Alexios. You can see Bishop Panteleimon on the throne behind him.

Below, Fr. Panayiotis prepares to cense at "Lord, I have cried."

Above, we gathered at the bishop's throne for the beginning of the singing of the Third Stasis. Below, the bishop singing before the icon in the center of the church.

At the end of the service, we took a photo of the bishop with the clergy and "parish council" members (although I am very keen to emphasize that that term does not mean the same thing it does in the U.S.).

For a few more photos, click here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Holy Cross and Boston

I flew in and out of Boston, and I was fortunate in the brief time I was in Boston before going to New Skete to be able to attend, and participate in, the baptism of the first child of my good friend Razvan, whom I know from our time together at Brown University. Razvan and I helped re-establish the OCF program at Brown and the neighboring colleges. Click here for some photos from his blog.

When I returned to Boston from New Skete, we had a busy three days at Holy Cross School of Theology for the Graduate Student Patristics Conference at the Pappas Patristic Institute. Click here for a PDF with abstracts of all the papers that were presented. Above is a photo of me presenting my paper, which is a small part of my doctoral dissertation on St. Paul's view of ministry.

During my time in Boston, I was blessed to stay with the family of my friend Michael Tishel, another American studying here in Thessaloniki. I also had the chance to attend his parish, Holy Resurrection Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which is also the home of a wonderful Orthodox school, which I also had a chance to visit. After Vigil on Saturday evening, Popadija Paula, Michael's mom, took a few of us out to a nearby Cambodian restaurant for something to eat. I really enjoyed all the variety of food options in Boston. (I also had Indian and Ethiopian while I was there.) Although I love Greek food, it is nice to have something else once in a while. :)

On Sunday morning, I served Divine Liturgy with Fr. Patrick (center) and another presenter at the conference, Fr. Stefan (left), a Romanian priest currently studying in Belgium. (In the Russian tradition, they were purple on weekends in Lent, while in the Greek tradition we wear white.)

Boston is truly a beautiful city, with lots of parks. One day we took a walk through a park near the Tishel's house.

Thus ends my quick trip to the U.S., my first in three years.

Edwards in the USA: New Skete

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At the beginning of the month, I made a short trip to the U.S., as I had been invited by the Pappas Patristic Institute at Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston to give a paper on part of my dissertation topic. I used the opportunity to also visit New Skete, a unique Orthodox monastery in upstate New York (see map above). My professor here at the university specifically requested I write a chapter of my dissertation on this monastery, so I went there to do research.

The monastery is situated in the mountains very close to the border with Vermont and its Green Mountains. There was a lot of snow on the ground, and it snowed again while I was there, so it was quite beautiful. Above and below are photos taken just outside the main church.

Here you can make out the steeple of their small chapel dedicated to the Feast of the Transfiguration.

The outside of their main church, dedicated to Holy Wisdom.

The guesthouse, where I stayed, is just down the road from the main part of the monastery.

Here's a view of the main part of the monastery from the guesthouse as I walked up one morning.

A view of some of the scenery.

A photo of me with the monks inside their Holy Wisdom Church.

The branches and even the leaves were encased in ice. Above, the monastery is in the background.

The monks are famous from their dog breeding and dog training program, which have been the subject of several books and even a popular Animal Planet series calledDivine Canine. They took me on a tour of their kennels. Here, we visited a mom who had just given birth.

One day, we took a very peaceful hike in the woods through the snow.

Another view from just outside their main church.

For more photos, click here.

I'm happy to report that I got quite a bit of research done there, and I also enjoyed the quiet and peacefulness there during my 4-day stay. I'm now writing my chapter on New Skete.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Edit: More photos from John now available here.

More photos from Fr. Dn. Nathaniel available here.

We left the monastery around 7:30 Wednesday morning and made it to Meteora around 9:15, just as the monasteries opened. It was raining a bit, and there was a very heavy fog on the mountains, such that we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of us. We made our way first to the women's monastery dedicated to St. Stephen, where we venerated the skull of St. Haralambos. Stephen mentioned that his patron saint was St. Stephen the First Martyr, and the nun very kindly brought out one of his fingers for us to venerate. We then had a coffee and a nice visit with some of the nuns before we headed to the next monastery. The photo above was taken a short distance inside the entrance to the monastery.

As it happened, three of the six monasteries of Meteora were closed that day, but we only had time to visit three anyway, so it worked out perfectly. Our second stop was the men's monastery dedicated to St. Varlaam. Above is a photo of Fr. Joseph as he finished the long climb to the monastery's entrance.

We were fortunate to run into a young monk who actually remembered Fr. Joseph's and Kh. Sophia's names from their visit over 3 years ago. When asked how he remembered their names in particular out of so many tourists who flood the monastery, he replied with great simplicity: "You asked us to pray for you."

He gave us a full tour of the monastery, including the private sections, and allowed us to venerate the monastery's relics. Above is a photo of the group inside the monks' chapel that they use for their daily services.

Above, we are walking through the courtyard of the private section of the monastery -- the monks' refuge from the waves of visitors. We also were treated to a coffee and a nice conversation with another of the monastery's monks who has been there for the last 42 years.

Above and below, the views on the way down. As you can see, the fog lifted so that we could enjoy some fantastic views of the monasteries and the area in general.

We stopped at a lookout point to get some better views.

Here is our group up on a lookout point from which we could see five of the six monasteries.

Our last stop was the men's Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas. We were given a kind tour and coffee with Fr. Dimitrios, one of the monastery's two monks. Fr. Dimitrios, a relatively young man, was tonsured a monk on Mt. Athos by Elder Ephraim (now of St. Andrew's Skete; see earlier post), but came to this monastery to help.

We first surveyed the impressive iconography by Theophanis the Cretan in the small katholikon. Fr. Dimitrios also told us that at one time there had actually been a jail cell in the area for monks who were guilty of serious infractions. After they were released, they would spend their first days at this monastery, which was known for its more favorable weather. This, according to Fr. Dimitrios, is how the monastery got the epithet "Anapafsas," which is related to the Greek word for comfort or rest.

A photo of Theophanes' depiction of Adam naming the animals, in the narthex.

Our trip to Meteora had a fitting and memorable conclusion when Fr. Dimitrios allowed us to use the "elevator" to get back down, as he had when I visited with my father back in October. It seems this is a special treat for clergy. You can see Fr. Joseph, with the door open for a better view, in the photo above. He went back up to get Fr. Dn. Nathaniel and John, whom you see descending in the photo below.

We then grabbed some fuel and a small snack and headed back to Thessaloniki, hoping to get home by 6:00 so that we could spend some time with the babies before they went to bed, as this was the group's last day in Greece. We had come along the coast of Greece from Thessaloniki to Volos, and now we were returning via the mountains in central Greece, thus making a big full circle.

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Thus ends this adventure.

For many more photos of the trip, click here to see 735 very nice photos from Sava and Stephen.

I hope to soon get the rest of the guys' photos (hint, hint), so that I can also post them here.