Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Parish Trip to the Holy Monastery of the Archangels

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On Saturday, we went on the second of what we hope to be monthly parish pilgrimages to monasteries and other holy sites. This time, we went to the Holy Monastery of the Archangels, just over an hour away from Portaria.

This women's monastery was built on the ruins of an existing monastery just 20 years ago or so by the spiritual daughters of a married priest, Fr. Antonios, who, now retired from his duties in Volos, lives and serves at the monastery with his wife. The monastery is particularly well known for its radio station, 87.5, which broadcasts all its services, as well as readings from Synaxarion, homilies, etc. Many people in my parish have the radio station on constantly.

We arrived around 4:00 and venerated inside the monastery's original, small church (above and below). We were then taken to the archontariki, or reception area, where we were treated to coffee, cookies, and a talk by the abbess of the monastery (see photo at top). Abbess Nikodimi noted that archontariki means reception area for archons, or leaders, VIPs, etc. Every visitor to the monastery is to be treated like an archon, and thus the archontariki is typically very plush, in order to demonstrate philoxenia, or hospitality, to the monastery's guests. She noted, however, that the nuns' own quarters, were quite spartan in comparison.

After the coffee, we stopped by the monastery's well-stocked bookstore, and then headed to the new, large main church for Vespers.

Here's a photo of our chanter and his wife just outside the main church. Just like from our house, you can see the gulf in the background.

Fr. Stavros, our driver, and I were both honored to be invited to serve Vespers with Fr. Anthony, live on the radio. We were a bit nervous, but everything went well. Fr. Stavros even got a text message from a friend who recognized his voice on the radio.

After Vespers, we stopped at the nearby village of Agria, on the waterfront, for dinner, before heading back to Portaria.

We were fortunate to have 60 people on the trip, actually more than I had planned, and thus there was some confusion as people jockeyed for seats. With Greeks, I now realize that I have to be a sort of referee or traffic cop, much like in the line for Holy Communion or antidoron. :)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Portaria Christmas

The kids, especially Benjamin, like playing with my camera. Here's Benny's photo of our living room and Christmas tree. 

In Greece, the tradition of gift-giving is associated with St. Basil, who is celebrated on Jan. 1. In our metropolis, the bishop invited all the kids of the clergy and chanters to the metropolis on Jan. 2 for a party in which he gave each and every kid his/her own present. (To give you a rough idea, there are over 200 clergy in our metropolis.) It was really nice. Above is a photo of our chanter, Nikos, with his young daughter.

The kids' had a two-week vacation from their pre-school. So they helped us finally get around to painting the kitchen. As you can see, they were a big help.

Our house (the church's house) was built in stages. The first house, which consisted basically of just a kitchen and bedroom, along with an outhouse, was built around 1950. The ceilings were made of thatch, which you can see in the photo above. Several priests, with large families, lived in that house, which was typical of traditional houses. Today's houses in Greece have grown slightly bigger, with influence from the West.

We woke up to snow for the first time on Jan. 8. Granted, it was only about an inch, but in Greece, that is enough to shut down the schools and bring about a near national emergency. So the kids and I had a snowball fight outside the church.

Fr. Dn. Riginos (from the local saint of nearby Skopelos, feast day Feb. 25), who specializes in such work, came by this week to give us a quote for cleaning and repairing our main church's old polyelaio (chandelier). He told us that our chandelier is one of the oldest in the region, dating to the late 1800s and originating from Rostov, Russia. Of course, it predates electricity, and subsequent local electricians later added electricity. We are now raising money (1200 euros, twice the average month's salary) to have it properly cleaned and repaired where needed.

There were several good ice spots near our house, and the kids loved playing on them. Here they are playing with the ice that formed around the church's fountain.

The front courtyard of the church at sunset.

Paul, as usual, was the first to throw himself headfirst down this ice patch and slide down the incline.

For a few more photos, click here.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Feast of St. Nicholas, Portaria

The other parish in Portaria is dedicated to St. Nicholas, who also happens to be the patron saint of Volos. Just as in Thessaloniki, St. Dimitrios' Day is a holiday for everyone, in Volos, St. Nicholas' Day is a holiday. There are two churches dedicated to St. Nicholas in the area, one large one in the city, and this one in Portaria, which was built in 1856. Above you can see the church's icon of St. Nicholas. To the left is a large relic from St. Gideon the New, whom the Church celebrated on Sunday.

On the feast day of St. Nicholas, I closed our parish and went to St. Nicholas for both Vespers and Liturgy, so that the whole village would come celebrate the saint in the temple dedicated to him. Above you can see the artoklasia prepared, as well as a beautiful kolyva for Saint Nicholas.

At Vespers, Bishop Damaskinos of Velestino came to preside. As you can see, the church was originally a cathedral, and it was heavily influenced by the Russian style of the day, which came through Mt. Athos. 

The church was originally a cathedral, since the area of Thessaly had not yet been liberated from Turkish occupation in 1856, and the bishop often resided up in the mountains, further from the Turks' power in the city.

My friend Dn. Gabriel, of Romanian descent, came to serve.

A silver box with a small relic of St. Nicholas.

After reading the prayer for the blessing of the kolyva for the saint, the bishop then blessed the artoklasia along with the 12 or so priests and one deacon.

In the morning, I was one of four priests serving the Liturgy, the other three being archimandrites.

Here I am censing during the Alleluia before the Gospel.

For a few more photos, click here.