Sunday, December 30, 2012

Feast of the Dormition in Portaria

Here are some much belated photos from the eve of the Dormition of the Theotokos here in Portaria. There are two parishes here in Portaria, and each parish has a procession with a bier after Vespers on the eve of the feast. The two churches wind their ways through their respective parishes, finally meeting at the village's main square, where they celebrate an artoklasia together. Above is a photo of me and Fr. Agathonas, the priest of the town's other parish, as we meet in the main square.

The square was packed with people. Above you can see all the bread we blessed in order to accommodate all the people.

The chanters from both parishes.

As is the custom in Orthodox countries, the elected political leaders have a special place in the front.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

St. Modestos

Today, our friend Haralambos ("Bahbi") brought us some wood for our new wood-burning stove. To get it to us, back along the cobblestone paths, he used one of his horses to carry the 18 burlap sacks full of cut wood. 

This was only fitting, since we had just finished Liturgy for St. Modestos, patron saint of animals, in our chapel dedicated to the Holy Archangels (above). The chapel has a large icon of St. Modestos and there seems to be a long-standing tradition of celebrating the saint in that particular chapel. The weather this morning was very rainy and windy, but normally (so I'm told) many of the farmers and shepherds would bring their animals to the chapel for the agiasmos.

We then saw first-hand why this was so important. These were not simply cuddly pets to be pampered, but actually integral to people's livelihood, a significant part of their lives. It is thus no wonder that the people have traditionally asked for St. Modestos' intercessions for their animals.

Here's Bahbi when he arrived. Somewhat paradoxically, he was on his cell phone!

You can see the horse, which he told me is pregnant with a mule, has a burlap sack on each side. You can see our main temple, dedicated to the Holy Unmercenaries, in the background.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cleaning Up

Pres. Pelagia has been working on cleaning our main church's chandeliers. The next big one, which you can see to the right, is from Venice and pre-dates electricity. At some point, it was retrofitted for electricity.

And here's Paul getting ready for his Greek military service, should he ever acquire Greek citizenship...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Our First Parish Pilgrimage

Despite the fact that Greece is a small country about the size of a medium-sized state in the US, it has over 1000 active monasteries, which the faithful really enjoy visiting regularly. Thus, many parishes in Greece organize pilgrimages to various monasteries, a tradition which I would like to continue here.

For our first pilgrimage, I picked the Holy Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner near the village of Anatoli, in the region of Agia, about 2 hours from Portaria. It lies at the far end of our metropolis' borders.

For the bus, I contact Fr. Stavros, who owns and operates his own bus tour company. It is, of course, highly unusual in Greece for a priest to have a secular job, but Fr. Stavros is one of the first priests ordained in Greece without a salary from the state. Due to the financial crisis, the government has tried to reign in government jobs, and these new regulations also apply to the Church. (Of course, the Church provides, on a sort of indefinite lease, vast amounts of land to the government in exchange for these salaries, a fact the government now would like to forget.) Some "conservatives" in Greece have reacted against the ordination of non-salaried priests who have to hold another job. In any event, I was happy to support Fr. Stavros, who was a great help in assisting me to organize our first parish trip.

So, first I arranged the bus and date, and then we made announcements in town, hoping to fill up the bus' 50 seats. To my surprise, the seats went quickly, as the people love taking these parish trips to the monasteries. 

So on Saturday, December 1, at 1:00 PM, we were off. Pelagia and the kids came, too, as you can see in the photo above. The kids loved the great view from their front seats.

We arrived just after 3:00 and the nuns were waiting for us. They even rang their bells as we arrived. We proceeded straight into the monastery's main church, where we celebrated a beautiful Paraklisis to the Mother of God.

Afterwards, the nuns took us to their arhontariki (guest reception room), where they treated us to coffee and "mountain tea," which is an herbal infusion made from various local herbs they gather and dry themselves. The monastery has over 30 nuns, who hail from 13 different countries. Many of them are converts, including 2 young American girls, one from near Seattle and one from near Chicago. There are 7 novices and over the half the nuns are under 40. The abbess is Greek, while the second in command is an English convert.

One of the Greek nuns (above) spoke to us for about an hour about the monastery and the work it does, which centers around making various food products, which we would call "organic" and "free-range." They are famous for their milk and cheese products from their own cows and goats, including non-homogenized and non-pasteurized milk.

Here you can see the kids on the floor, eating Greek cookies from the nuns.

One of the fireplaces in their guest area. Their spiritual father was a Fr. Dositheos, who reposed a few years ago. On the mantle, there is a sign with a quote from their elder: "Above all, sisters, do not judge."

Their trapeza, or refectory. The nuns have been at the monastery only since 2000, so there is still much renovation to do to the original monastery, which dates from 1100 and then 1550. Some monks from Karakalou on Mt. Athos tried to re-found the monastery from about 1980-1985, but eventually abandoned the project. I would assume this was related to the monastery-building work of Elder Ephraim, but I'm not sure.

This is what the Greeks call a "sompa," a wood-burning stove.

After the talk, the nuns set up a display of their goods and the people eagerly supported the sisters' work.

A section of the wall from the original monastery. The sisters are hoping to collect the funds to preserve it.

On the way back to Volos, the abbess helped me arrange a stop at a nearby restaurant, run by spiritual children of the monastery. They were waiting for us with a variety of fasting-friendly foods.

For a few more photos, click here.