Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roasting Goats for Pascha

I arrived back home in Thessaloniki around noon on Pascha Sunday, and we then headed over for a big feast at Paris' house, where they were roasting not one, but TWO, goats on a spit. (In Greece, lamb and goat are interchangeable.) Above and below, you can see Paul helping his godfather, Paris, and Paris' uncle get the goat off the spit just after they took it off.

Paul helped put out the coals with the hose.

Here's Phoebe playing a little soccer in the yard.

And here are Paul and Phoebe eating cake for desert. As you can see, they liked it -- they were trying to lick every last crumb off their plates. Paul even got some on his face to save for later.

For a few more photos, click here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pascha in Xinovrysi

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Christ is risen!

I spent Holy Wednesday through Pascha serving the parish in Xinovrysi, a small village in Mt. Pelion with permanent residents numbering about 90 (summer population of about 150). I also went there to celebrate their feast, the Dormition of the Theotokos, last August.

The little village is just 4 km from a pristine eastern shore out onto the Aegean. Here are some photos I took one evening on a walk. Above, to the left in the background, you can see the island of Skiathos.

The village is about 50 km from the city of Volos, but it takes about an hour to drive.

Xinovrysi has only a couple bed & breakfast type places for the many summer visitors, a couple restaurants, and a small general store. For everything else, one needs to drive over to Argalasti, a village of about 1200. Above is a photo of the town square.

Xinovrysi (or Xinovrisi) is 7 km from Argalasti along some winding mountain roads.

Another photo of Argalasti taken from a cafe. The town's church, dedicated to the 12 Apostles, is opposite.

Xinovrysi's little parish has about 7 country chapels. I tried to visit a few of them in the few hours between services. Above is St. Paraskevi's, which is very close to the main church.

Here is a relatively new chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas in Vounenois, which was built by a village resident who had gone to America and done well financially. Above is an icon of the saint over the door.

A view of part of the village from the door of the chapel.

The chapel, which is just up the hill from the chapel to St. Paraskevi.

Down closer to the water is this chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

Some of the parish's dedicated women were up until 3:30 AM decorating this bier. Many of the flowers are from parishioner's gardens.

The cross, which dates to the 19th century. The iconostasis in the background is original and dates to the church's construction in 1819.

Another chapel, dedicated to St. George. Just at the end of the overhang you can make out the chapel to St. Nicholas, and just below that and to the right, the chapel to St. Paraskevi. You can see them a bit better in the photo below taken from St. George's.

For a few more photos, click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Babies at the Interactive Science Museum

Back on Sunday afternoon, April 10, we went with Paris and the babies to visit the Science Museum in nearby Thermi. They have an interactive exhibit that the babies really enjoyed.

Above and below are photos of Paris and Paul walking into the museum.

Here are Paris and Paul looking at their thermal images at one exhibit.

Afterwards, we had a brief coffee at the outdoor cafe which overlooks the gulf.

Here's Benjamin playing in some of the grass as we headed back to the car. The museum, in a design inspired by Archimedes' lever, is in the background.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Akathist Hymn

Christ is risen!

I have some catching up to do in terms of photos. First on deck are a few photos from our service here in Panorama on Friday evening of the 5th Saturday of Lent, dedicated to the Akathist Hymn.

The Friday evening Akathist services are among the most well-attended services in Greece, so much so that our parish offers them twice, once at 7:00 PM and again at 9:00 PM. On the 5th Friday evening, in which we did the full service, the second service was done as part of Orthros, which then led into a vigil.

Above and below are photos of me singing one of the stasis.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Acts 17 (RSV): [9] And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedo'nia was standing beseeching him and saying, "Come over to Macedo'nia and help us." [10] And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedo'nia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. [11] Setting sail therefore from Tro'as, we made a direct voyage to Sam'othrace, and the following day to Ne-ap'olis, [12] and from there to Philip'pi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedo'nia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days; [13] and on the sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. [14] One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyati'ra, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. [15] And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us. [16] As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. [17] She followed Paul and us, crying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." [18] And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour. [19] But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the rulers; [20] and when they had brought them to the magistrates they said, "These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city. [21] They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice." [22] The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. [23] And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. [24] Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

[25] But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, [26] and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's fetters were unfastened. [27] When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. [28] But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." [29] And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, [30] and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?" [31] And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." [32] And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. [33] And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. [34] Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God. [35] But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, "Let those men go." [36] And the jailer reported the words to Paul, saying, "The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore come out and go in peace." [37] But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now cast us out secretly? No! let them come themselves and take us out." [38] The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; [39] so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. [40] So they went out of the prison, and visited Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they exhorted them and departed.

On Thursday, I went with the couple from Texas to Philippi and Neapolis (modern-day Kavala) to see the places where St. Paul had travelled -- in fact, where he first set foot in Europe to bring the good news of Christianity. The first photo is a map of the archaeological site. The second photo is an overview shot of the lower part of the site, which is dominated by the ancient agora or market. Immediately above is a shot from the upper part of the city. In the back on the left are remains of ancient pagan sanctuaries. Below is a photo of the inside walls of one of them. You can still make out some of the artwork on the walls.

This is the traditional site where Sts. Paul and Silas were held prisoner, and where the earthquake loosed their fetters.

To the right is the bema in the marketplace. This is likely where Sts Paul and Silas appeared before the magistrate.

Here are my friends from Texas wandering in the middle of the marketplace. We were quite fortunate to be about the only ones at the site at that time. The weather was also perfect.

Here's my friend wandering around the edge of the agora, with the remains of the 5th century Christian basilica in the background.

The Via Egnatia, which ran right next to the market.

Here is the 5th century baptistery, which was part of a substantial pilgrimage complex that included guest rooms, baths, a huge octagonal church, and the bishop's residence with plenty of food storage capabilities to feed all the pilgrims.

The baths next to the pilgrims' quarter.

Above is the ancient, pre-Christian theater. You can see where they would keep wild animals in rooms underneath the stage and then dramatically bring them up through a shaft in the middle of the arena with a kind of elevator operated by a pulley. These were brutal, gladiatorial type contests.

Above is the area directly below the center of the arena, the elevator shaft, so to speak.

For more photos, click here.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Tour of Thessaloniki and Beroia (Veria)

Some time back, a couple from Texas, who were planning a trip to Thessaloniki and northern Greece, came across an informational website I help out with, and wrote me to ask if I would help them get around northern Greece so that they could see the places the Apostle Paul went.

I spent four days this past week going around with them and here are a few photos from our travels. Above is a shot of the remains of what seems to be an important administrative center in the city around 200 BC, during the time of Philip V's reign as King of Macedonia.

We also stopped by Galerius' palace complex (ca. 300 AD) in the heart of Thessaloniki. Above is a photo taken from the entrance of the Octagon, which was probably a throne room. The apse, directly across from the entrance, was probably where the imperial throne would have been situated. Suppliants would then make the long walk across this enormous room in order to approach the emperor. This room was turned into a church later in the fourth century and the apse, naturally, was used as the altar area.

It seems that this kind of apse, opposite the entrance, was standard in reception rooms, including those in the homes of the wealthy (although, obviously, much smaller than this one). This is one reason it is speculated that Christians in the first century may have met in these receptions rooms (triclinium) of the wealthy members of the community.

As always, the ancient ruins never prevented the city from continuing to live. Here is one of the buildings next to the ruins of Galerius' palace, built over some walls.

Here is a photo from inside the Rotunda, part of Galerius' enormous palace complex. It was probably intended as a mausoleum for Galerius, but he was never interred here. The Christians also turned this into a church later in the 4th century. While we were in there, one of the city's stray dogs came in and climbed up the scaffolding to the very top. You can make out his eyes if you look carefully. He was interested in hunting down one of the city's stray cats who was also up there. The scaffolding is up so that workers can try to restore the building's mosaics.

On Wednesday, we went to visit the Royal Macedonian Tombs at Vergina. We then went over to Beroia (Veria) to see the bema (steps/pulpit) from which St. Paul preached. Sts. Paul and Silas went to Veria after being chased out of Thessaloniki. See Acts 17:10-15 (RSV): [10] The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroe'a; and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. [11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessaloni'ca, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. [12] Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. [13] But when the Jews of Thessaloni'ca learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroe'a also, they came there too, stirring up and inciting the crowds. [14] Then the brethren immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. [15] Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

The mosaics above and below are on either side of the bema from which St. Paul preached. Above is a depiction of the man of Macedonia appearing to St. Paul while he was in Asia Minor and imploring him to come to Macedonia (see Acts 16:9). Below is a depiction of St. Paul preaching to the Jews of Veria, who examined the Scriptures "to see if these things were so" (see 17:11 above).

And here I am, standing on the bema where St. Paul preached. Below is a shot of the whole monument. It's quite sad and ironic that you can see a minaret just behind this monument commemorating the spot where St. Paul brought Christianity.

On Wednesday night, after our touring for the day, I was invited to a presentation of a new book that I translated. It's a dual-language (Greek/English) pilgrim's guide to the religious sites of the Metropolis of Ierissos and the Holy Mountain, which is located in the eastern part of Halkidiki. The book presentation was hosted by the local Thessaloniki club of people from Halkidiki, and it featured the Metropolis' protosyngelos (chancellor), who authored the book. He gave a presentation, with photographs, of some of the religious sites and history of the area. Fr. Chrysostomos is a monk of New Skete on Mt. Athos and, in addition to this duties as protosyngelos, travels frequently to the Congo where he teaches theology at the missionary school there.