Sunday, December 08, 2013

Celebrating the New Saint Porphyrios

On Sunday, my Byzantine music teacher, Kostas Karagounis, came up so that we could be among the first to hymn and honor the Church's newest saint, St. Porphyrios. We chanted from one of the services that has already been composed in his honor in our little chapel dedicated to St. Athanasius the Athonite and St. Tryphon. Pres. Pelagia and the kids came over.
Afterwards, my teacher came to the house for a bit, and the kids instantly jumped all over him, as you can see in the photo above.

Here are a couple other recent photos of the kids piled on top of one another.

Click here to see my post about our visit to Elder Porphyrios' cell.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

New Volos Firefighters

A couple weeks ago, the kids and I stopped by the Volos fire station to visit our chanter, Nikos, who works there. He let the kids explore the fire trucks and turn on the lights. The boys especially liked it.

Here they are pretending to talk through the loudspeaker.

We also met a very lovely women, Monica, who spent several years as a child in the UK.

And here are the boys with Nikos, getting rid to go out and fight a fire. Benny's driving.

For a couple more photos, click here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chapel of St. Athanasius of Athos and St. Tryphon

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been fixing up the two side chapels here at our main church, and also trying to unravel the mystery as to when they were built and which saints, exactly, they are dedicated to. Above is the southern side chapel, dedicated to a St. Athanasius (more on that) and St. Tryphon.

This chapel is smaller than St. Anthony's on the northern side, thus making it less practical for winter-time liturgies. This is one of the factors that leads me to revise my earlier opinion that the St. Athanasius in question is the Great (Jan. 18). In fact, I now think that it was probably originally dedicated to St. Athanasius the Athonite (July 5) and St. Tryphon (Feb. 1). Recently, a friend of mine, an expert on iconography, told me she suspected the Athonite was the original saint, because many Athonite monks settled in Pelion during the 1700s and 1800s, after being persecuted and driven out of Mt. Athos as supporters of the Kollyvades movement. Logically, they also brought their dedication to the founder of Athonite monasticism, St. Athanasius the Athonite, with them. (The longest vigil on Mt. Athos, clocking in at 18 hours, is to this saint, at Megistis Lavra.) I found an icon here of the Athonite and St. Tryphon, dating to the mid-1800s. (I'm now looking for donors, incidentally, to clean and restore the icon for 100 euros=$135). 

I had previously guessed St. Athanasius the Great for several reasons, but especially the fact that I found an icon of him and St. Anthony dating to 1809. I assumed it was the original icon for the chapels, and that the later icon, from 1838, with St. Anthony and the Athonite, was a later change. Now I think it must have simply been a festal icon combining the saints because their feast days are next to each other? Interestingly, the current icon above the chapel, which cannot date before WWII, is of the Great and St. Tryphon. But I think this must have been a later correction to a more popular saint.

I also found this icon of St. Tryphon, was dates to only about 1970 and was commissioned by the long-tenured priest here, Fr. George. I have set this one up in the chapel until the older, original one is cleaned.

The door in the center is the "secret" passageway to the altar area of the main church.

During the summer, the chapel's lack of size will be no problem, as people can easily sit just outside the chapel on the benches in the exo-narthex. There they can also enjoy the peaceful view over the water.

You can also see a strong iron bar in the photo, which is what barricades the door. The door to the chapel can only be opened from the inside.

In any event, I've found the services for both St. Tryphon and St. Athanasius the Athonite, and we hope to celebrate both the saints in this chapel with appropriate honor.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Our Bell Tower

I recently tracked down the keys to our bell tower and decided to take the kids up there for something to do. Above, you can see them scampering up the stairs after we opened the door. Benny was fighting a massive spider web.

Here's Paul just underneath the two bells.

The parish mechanized the bells just a few years ago. Now I can play several different rhythms with the touch of a button in the altar.

A view out toward the northwest. The building in between the tall evergreens is our Chapel of St. George, built in 1765. The big building in the distance off to the left is the hotel Xenia Palace. Just on the other side of it is our Chapel of the Archangels. In the upper right hand corner you can see the neighboring village of Makrynitsa.

And here's the view down to the church. The small building in the foreground on the left is where the oil heating unit for the church is. Below that, on the left, is the front of the church.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Feast Day at the Chapel of the Archangels

One week after our parish's feast day, we had another feast day at our chapel of the Archangels. Originally, it was a separate parish here in Portaria. The old church was severely damaged by a German bomb in WWII. After the war, the parishioners fixed a roof so that the chapel could continue to be used somewhat. When the current hotel, Xenia Palace, was built next to it, they also rebuilt the church, according to the same style, although slightly smaller. The dimensions are the same, except that they turned some of the inside area into a covered exo-narthex area. You can see the chapel above, from the southwest corner.

The altar.

Censing during "Lord I have cried," taken from outside the main entrance on the west.

Before the artoklasia, since there are some misconceptions about the angels, I read a homily with details from the Fathers about who they are and how they operate.

We spent all week cleaning up the church, and the eve of the feast, with artoklasia, drew an enormous crowd. I found the original festal icon from the chapel, dating to 1860. Below, you can see a young boy holding it during the artoklasia.

At the end of the service, I asked people to consider donating in order to restore the original icon of the archangels. Thank God, someone volunteered the next day to give the money for restoration (each icon is generally about 100 euros).

Here's a photo of the quiet before the beginning of Orthros on the day of the feast.

The chapel's other main feast, according to the village's tradition, is St. Modestos on December 18.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our New Parish Hall

Some years ago, someone left the parish a building, which was once a centrally located shop. The will stated that the building could not be sold or rented. So the decision was made to turn it into what we call in Greece a "spiritual center," or parish hall.

The project came up against many adversities, not just from the indifference of the people (as is often the case), but actually the outright hostility of a few members of the community toward the Church.

In any event, the project was at a standstill when we came, about half-finished. Interest in completing it was renewed, and you can some photos here, taken several months ago, of us installing a traditional wooden ceiling and painting the walls, through the goodness of some local donors.

Finally, this October, it was ready. Of course, we still are hoping to collect money to buy some new furniture and a wall heating unit, but it's useable. So one Sunday, after Liturgy, we headed to the parish hall, performed an Agiasmos, and had our first coffee and American-style "coffee hour" there. 

The building is only about 240 square feet, and it was packed. Since then, we've opened it every Sunday and feast day after Liturgy for coffee and socializing, and the people are very pleased with it.

We also started our first reading group, which we do hold there every Monday evening. We are reading Hieromonk Grigorios' book on the Divine Liturgy (which was recently translated into English).

Friday, November 08, 2013

Installation of the Pantocrator in Chapel of the Dormition

One of the faithful women here in Portaria had the idea to commission an icon of the Pantocrator to put in our large chapel dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. It's not a domed church, but rather has a peaked wooden roof.

In fact, the history of this church is complicated and not entirely clear. One professor of Christian archaeology in Thessaloniki, who has seen the church, believes that at least parts of it are quite old, i.e. at least to the Byzantine period. What we know for sure is that it was once a much larger church, constituting the central church of a monastery. At some point, the monastery closed, and during WWII, the Germans, who occupied Portaria, used it to keep livestock. Nevertheless, the people fixed it as best they could and continued to use it sporadically. A priest, Fr. Rigas, lived in one of the tiny monastic cells that still exist next to the church, and served here for a time. From there, the chapel got its common name "Panagia Papariga," or Fr. Rigas' Panagia (Mother of God) church.

After Fr. Rigas died, a pious woman named Georgia took an interest in the church, in the 1970s. She lived in the cell next to the church and used all her pension to fix up the church. It was fixed up on a much smaller scale, essentially keeping just the eastern third of the church. (It is thus appears disproportionately wide now.)

Anyway, back to the story at hand. Since the 1970s, the church has been reconstructed through the various gifts of local people. So this local woman, Foni, wanted to add a Pantocrator icon. She thus commissioned a local woman to paint the icon. On Tuesday, we placed it in the church. Of course, it would be ideal if the ceiling were a bit higher, but this chapel, like most chapels in Greece, are decorated according to the piety and abilities of the people.

Here's the icon after it was installed.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Our November Feast Day

There are 20 saints numbered as Holy Unmercenaries, and actually three different pairs named Kosmas and Damian. The first pair, from Rome, are celebrated on July 1. The second pair (and least known), from Arabia, are celebrated October 17. The final pair, from Asia Minor, are celebrated on November 1. We had festal vespers, with artoklasia, on Thursday evening. Fr. Maximos, our dean, came to celebrate with us and to give a homily. Above you can see a large restored icon of the saints.

Next to the icon, and adorned with fresh flowers, we laid out our relics of the saints.

We had a choir of chanter friends, for very nice chanting.

Fr. Maximos speaking.

Our icon of the saints on the iconostasis, adorned with fresh flowers.

This is an interested photo, taken through the window of our side chapel dedicated to St. Anthony.

This is a photo from the entrance to the church. As you can see, the service was well attended.

Here we are processing with another recently restored icon of the saints, again from the mid-1800s.

Fr. Ioannis, the priest of the parish just below us in Katohori, censing during the artoklasia.

A photo from the blessing of the loaves during the artoklasia.

On Friday morning, we had festal Orthros and Liturgy with the priest of the other parish in Portaria, Fr. Agathonas, together with Agiasmos for the first of the month. Again, the service was well attended, considering it was a weekday, and we heard many positive comments about how the church was decorated, etc.

For more photos from the feast, click here.