Friday, August 30, 2013

New Addition to Panagia Papariga

Our parish celebrates the Dormition and most of the feasts of the Mother of God in our largest chapel, which is dedicated to the Dormition. Just before the feast, through the generosity of two local donors, we were able to finally gives the chapel its Platytera -- "More Spacious than the Heavens" -- which is standard in every Orthodox church.

As you can see from the photos above, the space was quite barren.

The icon was done by an iconographer living right here in Portaria. As you can tell, the space is unusual, with the window off-center. One professor of Christian archaeology from Thessaloniki said he believes the church is quite old, i.e. before the fall of Byzantium. We know for sure that it was the central church of a monastery in the 1800s before being abandoned at some point. Locals recall the Germans using it to house their livestock when they occupied Portaria during WWII.

Fortunately, a saintly local woman took it upon herself to see the church reconstructed in the 1980s.

One of the donors was so pleased with this icon that she has now commissioned a small Pantocrator icon for the ceiling (although there is no dome, it being a basilica style).

For the feast of the Dormition, we had hundreds of people, both for the Festal Vespers in the evening and for the Liturgy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Monasteries of Evia

Before my in-laws left toward the end of July, we made a pilgrimage to the nearby island of Evia (or Euboea), which was also our first trip there. We went with our friends from here in Portaria, Babi and Popi, and their son Dimitris. The kids especially liked the half-hour ferry boat ride, in which we threw crackers to the seagulls.

The first stop in Evia was a small women's monastery dedicated to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, located near Rovies on the northwest coast of the island. Here is the view from the monastery.

Here's Pres. Pelagia with Damiani at the monastery. There, we talked with the three nuns there, and got a tour of the monastery, along with many refreshments and gifts of icons, books, etc.

The next stop was the nearby men's monastery of Osios David, which is famous as the home of the contemporary saintly Elder Iakovos. I highly recommend this book by my friend, Dr. Herman Middleton, to learn more about his life and counsels.

As you can see from this photo of the monastery's entrance, it was founded in 1535. Unfortunately, I sort of abdicated my photo-taking responsibilities to my mother-in-law, and then I somehow never got the photos of the trip from her.

We had a very nice visit, and even had the opportunity to speak with the present-day abbot, who took a break from hearing confessions to speak with us for a few minutes. We then sat and had coffee with one of the two or three remaining monks who were disciples of Elder Iakovos. He told us many stories and personal experiences he had with the Elder, including several miracles.

We also had the blessing to be taken into the Elder's humble cell, and to venerate his grave.

The next stop was the seaside town of Limni, where we met some friends from Panorama who have a summer home there. We had a lovely meal with them along the waterfront.

Our friend Evangelia grew up in that town, and so after we ate, they walked us along the waterfront, past her parent's house, to the nearby cave cell of St. Christodoulos of Patmos, which is preserved as a shrine.

Above, you can see the view from the cave cell down the stairs, directly onto the beach and water.

Fr. Joseph and Kh. Sophia standing in front of the cave cell.

Here we are walking back to the restaurant from the cave.

We had promised the kids a swim that day, so we stopped for a dip when we got off the ferry boat on the way back to the mainland.

Then it was back to Portaria.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lunch at the Farm

After visiting the monastery, we headed to the other side of the mountain village called "St. George Nilias" to a farm/restaurant that Pelagia had heard about from some friends.

There, the kids got to play and see the horses, while also having a fantastic lunch.

The farm/restaurant is built on the site of an old Byzantine watchtower, which kept on the lookout for pirates or other enemies approaching Volos by sea.

The food was fresh and great, and included the local Pelion/Volos specialties.

One of the women who runs the place got our crayons for the kids, including her son, to draw.

Then they all got to meet one of the horses.

Afterwards, we headed back to Portaria and, unfortunately, Kalliopi and her family headed back to Thessaloniki for work on Monday.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Visit to Holy Archangels Monastery

After Liturgy and coffee on Sunday, we decided to go on a little excursion with Kalliopi and her family. So we headed to Holy Archangels Monastery, which I had visited once before with our parish's monthly monastery field trip and liked very much.

The monastery originally dates to the 12th century, but was largely destroyed in 1310, probably by Catalan pirates. It was rebuilt, with the help of monks from Mt. Athos, who were probably escaping the hesychast disputes on Athos in the 14th century. Above is the oldest part of the monastery, the original chapel, with hand-carved iconostasis from about 1770. The wonderworking icon of the Archangel Michael dates to the monastery's beginning around the 12th century.

Here Fr. Joseph explored a new side chapel. The impressive ceiling is done in the traditional Greek style.

Here are the kids and Paul's godfather Paris checking out the real swords that have been left as "tamata" from grateful believers to the Archangel Michael.

Fr. Joseph and I examining the old frescos.

It happened that it was also the name day of the monastery's abbess, Nikodimi. So they invited us to stay for some festivities, which included the nuns performing various hymns and popular religious songs for the abbess.

Here is Justin with his father-in-law, Dimitris, and his two children, sitting in the monastery's courtyard.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Damiani's First Sunday Liturgy

The next day after the Liturgy, Fr. Joseph and I celebrated Liturgy again here at Holy Unmercenaries'.

Damiani's new godmother had the chance to again bring her for Holy Communion.

I don't know about elsewhere, but in Greece the tradition/custom is to lead the newly illumined with a lampada (large candle) to Holy Communion for three Sundays.

(In Greece, by the way, "lampada" means a large candle, while "candili" means an oil lamp. I've noticed these terms are often switched in the US, for some reason. I suspect it has to do with the fact that "lampada" sound like "lamp" and "candili" sound like "candle.")

Here's Fr. Joseph reading the Dismissal at the end of the Liturgy.

And distributing antidoron. Pictured above is the church's neokorisa (from Ancient Greek), meaning church cleaner/caretaker. The other, less official term, for her position translates literally as "candle-snuffer."

Here are people enjoying the cool breeze outside the church after Liturgy.

And here is our friend Froso holding Damiani as we had a coffee at our house afterwards.