Friday, September 06, 2013

Feast of St. Phoebe the Deaconess and Equal to the Apostles

In recent weeks, we've been slowly working to clean out and reclaim our north side chapel dedicated to St. Anthony, which is attached to Holy Unmercenaries.

I have found three old icons with St. Anthony the Great, all of which have him with another saint. The first one, dating to 1809, has St. Anthony together with St. Athanasius the Great. The second one, dating to about 1838, and currently located on the iconostasis (or templon) of the main church, has St. Anthony together with St. Athanasius the Athonite. The third one, dating to 1860, has the saint depicted together with St. Theodore of Tyre. The first and third icons are above-average size and seem to have been originally in a small iconostasis, such as one that would fit such a chapel.

The presence of the St. Athanasiuses is explained by the fact that the south side chapel is dedicated to one or the other (probably St. Athanasius the Great, but I'll get to that another time). Oral tradition says our main church was built in 1791, and it has a dedicatory plaque that seems to indicate it was consecrated (or finished?) in 1801. It's pretty clear that the two side chapels were appended later, but the 1809 icon indicates it was almost immediately later. The icon of St. Anthony with St. Theodore, which dates to 1860, and which we are having restored now in order to display it for veneration in the chapel, could mean that the chapel had a dual dedication (the feasts being close to one another), or, perhaps more likely, it could mean that an important donor was named Theodore. The iconostasis, which you can see in the photo above, is clearly dated on the back also to 1860.

Here is a photo of the outside of the chapel, with the main church along the right. Above the door is a rather modern icon of St. Anthony, but almost certainly there was once an older icon there that filled the whole space. To the left is an icon of St. Phoebe, who was the immediate cause of this cleaning work. I had the idea of celebrating festal vespers for St. Phoebe, whom the Church celebrates on Sept. 3, in this chapel. I also found a complete service to her in Greek, which we sang for the Vespers, Artoklasia, and Liturgy the next morning. The text refers to her as "the Deaconess and Equal to the Apostles." I hope some day to translate the service, as well as the complete service I found for St. Benjamin. 

Here we are coming out of the chapel for the Artoklasia. Phoebe is carrying the icon of her saint in procession.

Here we are walking around the table three times.

Phoebe holding her saint's icon as we offer the prayers.

Two chanter friends of mine came to sing the service. As you can see, there was a decent turnout to honor the saint.

Here, we chant: "Rich men have turned poor, but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good thing."

Some times, we pour the blessed wine from the artoklasia into a cross-shaped cut on the bottom of the loaves.

The chapel needs more work and cleaning, but we hope to slowly gather volunteers and money work on it. Previously, it (and the other chapel) were used mainly for storage, since the parish's storage room is extremely limited. But we're trying to find another solution in order to restore both chapels to their proper use.

ADDENDUM (16 October): I give you here the English translation of St. Phoebe's apolytikion, just completed by Benjamin's godfather:

Tone 3

Shining with divine grace
and versed in faith in Christ
by the chosen vessel of our Saviour,
you performed God’s work.
With divine zeal you went to Rome, bearing the words of the Apostle,
Deaconess Phoebe,
entreat Christ our God,
to illumine our souls with His All-Powerful Spirit.

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