Sunday, July 28, 2013

Damiani's Baptism Within the Liturgy

On Saturday, July 13, we baptized Damiani within the Divine Liturgy. Our good friends Justin and Kalliopi came from Thessaloniki to be the godparents. Also coming from Thessaloniki were Paul's godfather and Benny's godfather, as well as our friend Angela and her family. Kalliopi and Justin arrived late Friday due to work, so Saturday morning was the first time they met little Damiani. Here's Kalliopi as she sees the baby for the first time in the exo-narthex of our church.

Here are the triplets eyeing traditional presents (candies) that the godparents give out after the baptism.

My friend and current chant teacher, Kostas, came, along with this two sons, to help Nikos chant.

Here's Kalliopi holding a sleeping Damiani during Orthros. According to the late, great Liturgics Professor Fontoulis, the ancient typikon had the service of exorcism during Vespers the night before, but since it was not possible for everyone to arrive in time, we did it immediately before the baptism, which came at the end of Orthros.

Here's a great photo of Benny and Pres. Pelagia.

Here are the kids checking out the baptismal font as we read the prayers of exorcism.

And here we are during the baptism. The "Blessed is the Kingdom" which begins the baptismal service simultaneously begins the Divine Liturgy.

Anointing the baby with oil.

The godparents rubbing the baby with oil, preparing her--according to some interpretations--for spiritual battle.

We were blessed to have Fr. Joseph and Kh. Sophia here for the baptism, so Fr. Joseph had the honor of baptizing his newest granddaughter. The Greeks were shocked both by the fact that we baptized the baby so "young" (they're afraid the baby will die from exposure to the water, apparently), and the fact that we fully immersed it (they usually sit the baby in the water and pour water of his/her head). One woman even had to step outside because she was so afraid that the baby was going to drown.

Here are Pres. Pelagia and Kalliopi as they dressed the baby in the white dress that Kh. Sophia made.

The proud godparents.

After the chrismation, tonsuring, etc., we moved on to the readings from the baptism, which were simultaneously the readings for the Liturgy. The Liturgy then continued from the Gospel, which my friend, Dn. Gabriel, read. He also studied in Thessaloniki and attended church in Panorama with us but is now here in Volos. He came, along with his father, who is a priest in Corfu. They are both Romanian but of Greek descent.

Before the Dismissal, Pres. Pelagia came to make the traditional three "metanoias" to the godparents, kiss their hands, and receive the baby. Here she is with Damiani Sophia (the middle name in honor of my mother-in-law) at the end of the Liturgy.

Here is some of the crowd enjoying coffee at the end of the service, which went from 8:00 until 11:30. I was pleasantly surprised how packed the church was. I used the baptism within the Liturgy as an opportunity to expound upon the real meaning and importance of baptism, which unfortunately is often obfuscated here in Greece by worldly "customs." From what I can tell, the message was well received.

After coffee and pitas, we then lit the grill to prepare lunch for our out-of-town visitors, which we ate in the cool shade of the big trees in the courtyard shared by our house and the church.

One of our friends brought homemade ice cream, which this photo captures Benny thoroughly enjoying.

For more photos click here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 12: Forty Days

On Friday, July 12, Damiani turned 40 days old, so her grandfather, Fr. Joseph and I, read the "Churching" prayers for her and Pres. Pelagia.

I believe it is the Russian tradition to leave the child on the solea in front of the Beautiful Gates for the mother to take.

Here is Pres. Pelagia picking up Damiani from in front of the altar area.

As you can see, the kids were excited by the service, which was preceded by the arrival of our friend Angela and her family, as well as Benny's nonos, James. Slowly our friends were trickling in from Thessaloniki for the baptism the next day.

Stay tuned for the next post.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Part 3: Feast-Day Liturgy

On Monday morning, July 1, the day of the feast, Archimandrite Agathonas and I began Orthros at 7:00.

Here we are at the Little Entrance.

You can see our festal icon on the templon decorated with fresh flowers for the feast.

At the Epistle reading.

Our chanter Nikos and his friend, Christos, who is a professor of European music at the local University of Thessaly.

During the Great Entrance.

From the old colored panes in the window high above the altar.

Many have asked me what this tradition is about and I must confess ignorance. Usually in the villages, as the priest communes, one of the church council goes around with a collection basket and another often (but especially on feasts) goes around with perfume, sprinkling it into people's hands. I don't know yet exactly why they do this.

Our friend Popi helps Phoebe up for Holy Communion.

At the end of the Liturgy, we blessed the waters for the beginning of the month.

The faithful gather holy water for the month for their houses after the Liturgy.

And here's a photo of Popi with my mother-in-law, Pres. Sophia, as they decorated the front of the church with ribbons for the feast.

For more photos from the morning, see here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Part 2: Artoklasia

After the Aposticha and before the Apolytikia, we processed outside with an icon of the Holy Unmercenary Healers and circled the church, together with the faithful, as the chanters sang the hymns from the Litia.

Processing along the south side of the temple.

Along the north side.

The bishop, followed by the faithful.

We then stopped at a raised wooden platform in the church courtyard (which we also use to read the Gospel and declare "Christ is Risen!" at Pascha) for the artoklasia.

As you can see from the photos above and below, we had a large turnout of probably about 250-300 people.

The bishop took the opportunity to speak to the people about the Holy Unmercenary Healers Cosmas and Damian, and their significance in the broader life of the church.

Here is an excerpt that I've translated from the Diocese's website.

In his speech, [the Metropolitan] referred to two points that relate to human life, in connection with the work of the saints: "The feast of the Holy Unmercenary Healers gives us the opportunity to review some of the basic truths of our faith in terms of our human existence. The first and greatest truth is that we are psychosomatic entities, not simply material. That's why serious medical science now admits that the treatment of many physical diseases depends largely on the health of the soul. This is what the Holy Unmercenaries did. They not only treated the body but also the soul. They communed Christ to people. The second truth is absolute respect for human life from the moment of conception. Today there is much debate about the beginning of life and it is not merely theoretical, as it has enormous and sometimes tragic consequences. The refusal to identify conception with a full human life makes it possible to terminate a pregnancy and deprive that life of the right to see the light of day. The Church defends human life from the moment of conception until the last breath. Life is God's gift and does not belong to us; we, therefore, cannot make decisions about who will live and who will not. Unfortunately, in our time, the so-called economy of medicine despises these truths, but, thanks be to God, there are now doctors who continue the example of the Holy Unmercenary Healers and our Church continues to produce unmercenary doctors, such as Saint Luke the Physician.”
For our Church, man is a miracle, a living image of God to whom we are called to minister and respect, without discrimination and divisive reasons which are not consistent with the faith and the Orthodox tradition. Can you imagine Christ or the Holy Unmercenary Healers discriminating? First they healed them and then they called them to Christ. This is our tradition, which we have to practice especially in our time, where our faith will be measured to the extent of our participation in the suffering of others.

As you can see, we were joined by Fr. Stavros, Fr. Agathonas (the priest of the other parish in Portaria), Fr. Alexios from a nearby parish, and Fr. Ioannis from our neighboring parish of Katohori.

We then handed out the blessed bread to the faithful. Here the bishop is giving Phoebe a kiss after he gave her some of the sweet bread.

Here I am handing out the blessed bread.

The bishop giving bread to Paul and Benjamin.

The boys were excited about it!

Afterwards, we treated everyone to some pitas and refreshments and a few minutes of conversation with the bishop, before he had to leave.

Afterwards, many people stayed to enjoy more conversation, and the souvlaki which someone was roasting and selling for us. Above you can see the table with the local politicians of Volos, the nearly dozen chanters who came to help us celebrate, etc.

For many more photos, click here.