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.