Although there are many pairs of Holy Unmercenary Healers named Cosmas and Damian, the two biggest feast days seem to be July 1 and November 1. July 1 is dedicated to the Unmercenary Healers from Rome, who were martyred in 284.
It seems that the July feast is celebrated with particular festivity because it's in the summer, when Greeks traditionally have headed for the cool of mountain villages such as Portaria. This year, we had the honor of having the bishop come to celebrate Festal Vespers with us on Sunday evening, June 30.
Above you can see him as he arrived at 7:00 PM for the start of Vespers.
We had worked hard the preceding days to clean and prepare the church, and I laid out some relics of the saints, which we are blessed to have at the parish, for the faithful to venerate. Above, you can see the bishop venerating them as he entered. Behind him is Archdeacon Kallinikos, his nephew according to the flesh.
And here the clergy are receiving the bishop's blessing at the beginning of Vespers.
Here are some of the faithful receiving his blessing. My mother-in-law, Kh. Sophia, took all these photos. She took this one from what is called the women's balcony, but what is known something in the US as the "choir loft."
Parishioners lighting candles as they enter the church. I'm not sure exactly how many people we had at the service, but I would guess about 200.
Icons and the relics of the saints.
Archdeacon Kallinikos censing.
Another nice photo of the faithful lighting candles.
Here we are at the entrance, with the whole church singing "Phos Hilaros" (Gladsome/Joyful Light), which is the oldest hymn not found in the Bible still in use in the church today -- ca. 300 AD.
While the bishop was visiting us, he also granted my request to tonsure our chanter Nikos a reader.
The office of the reader, which is one of the so-called "minor orders" of clergy, is largely forgotten in Greece. So the bishop used the occasion to give a wonderful, edifying talk about the ministry of the chanter/reader.
Stay tuned for Part 2.