Friday, February 28, 2014

Parish Trip to the Monastery of the Late Elder Athanasios Mitilinaios

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Yesterday, we took a parish trip to the Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos and St. Dimitrios perched on a hill just outside the seaside village of Stomio. The monastery is famous as the home of the late Elder Athanasios Mitilinaios (+2006).

We left Portaria at 1:30, stopped in Volos to pick up some people, and arrived at our coffee stop at 3:00, at a mall in Larissa, which is about halfway to the monastery. It was a beautiful sunny day, and Benny and Phoebe (Paul was home with a slight cold) spent the whole playing at the outdoor playground.

Our driver and my friend, Fr. Stavros, and I took some coffees to go and sat outside with the kids, while most of the others had a coffee at this cafe. We were also joined by my new friend Fr. Dcn. Nikolaos and his family. 

We arrived at the enormous monastery at 5:00 just as it was re-opening from the midday rest. The monastery is quite historic. We know that the area has been settled since at least by the 6th century BC, since a graveyard from that period was found nearby. It also seems that the monastery was built on the ruins of an ancient pagan temple, possibly dedicated to Poseidon. Around the 4th or 5th century, a small church was built on the site of that temple. Later, a monastery developed. Tradition dates the monastery to the reign of Justinian (6th century), but others date it later. 

The inscription above the door into the old part of the monastery dates its founding to 1492, the same year Columbus "discovered" the New World. In the 16th century, the monastery held 300 monks. Today, it has about 10.

The grave of Elder Athanasios, located in the courtyard of the new part of the monastery.

Another view of the new part of the monastery, which is the first part one enters.

And here we are again in the new courtyard, with the door to the old part on the right. A chapel is located in the background to the left. One of the monks gave us a talk in there about the history of the monastery and the importance of the fast before we saw the rest of the monastery.

The kids running around the courtyard.

Here we are entering the monastery's (past and future) main church, which is being reconstructed. In the background you can see the cells that once encircled the main church.

Our friend Babis having a good time on the bus with other parishioners.


Μονή Αγιου Δημητρίου Στόμιο The Catholicon (main church) follows the Athonite type, with three apses and 4 corner chapels. Its upper part has been destroyed, but is currently renovated by the 7th Ephoria of Byzantine Antiquities. Its façade bears a loft extending to a part of the north and south sides. According to an inscription kept at the monastery, the Catholicon dates from 1543. Its wall paintings from 1758 were destroyed during a fire in 1868 and only traces are salvaged in the four chapels. The paintings belong to the workshop of the painter Theodoros. The 1492 inscription salvaged at the gate testifies to the Byzantine past of the monastery, whose Catholicon was discovered during  the excavation works under the modern church.
Special characteristics of the monument
One of the most representative samples of Byzantine architecture, as this was preserved in the 16th century and an important sculptures’ museum (5th, 6th, 11th centuries).
The above is taken from a tourist website. The aerial photo gives a good idea of the monastery's size. The entrance is to the right.

Fr. Symeon, who guided us, showed us the best preserved chapel of the four corner chapels, dedicated to St. Nicholas. The frescoes there from 1758 have been almost completed saved and restored, and feature scenes from the life of the saint.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Kids' Ski Lesson

Last year, the boys had their first ski lesson at the ski center in Hania, just 20 minutes up the mountain from us in Portaria. We promised to go again this winter, but the winter has been so mild that there really haven't been many chances.

A couple weeks ago was our chance. On Saturday morning, our friends Apostolis and Stavroula accompanied me and the triplets up to the ski center, where the kids had a ski lesson. Although Phoebe had been too afraid to try it last year, this year she was gung-ho. While we waited for our lesson to start, and to fortify themselves, the kids first "repaired" to the ski lodge for a hot chocolate.

Here's Benny.

And Phoebe.

Paul on the tow-rope.

Paul heading down. You can see the ski lodge off to the right.

Phoebe really liked skiing and they're all eager to go again.

Here's a little video.

And here's Benny collecting his skis to return them to rental center.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Feast and Relics of St. Tryphon the Great Martyr and Holy Unmercenary Healer

As I mentioned before, our main church of the Holy Unmercenary Healers has a side chapel dedicated to St. Tryphon and St. Athanasius the Athonite, which we have been working to renovate. To celebrate St. Tryphon, therefore, on Feb. 1, I arranged to borrow some relics of the saint from the Holy Monastery of St. Dionysius of Olympus, which has a large collection of holy relics.

It is fitting that our parish's founders selected St. Tryphon for a side chapel, since he is numbered among the Church's 20 Unmercenary Healers.

Three dedicated women from the village prepared flower decorations to adorn the relics and the saints' icons (see above).

On Friday night, Jan. 31, we celebrated festal vespers for the saint. The side chapel, of course, is quite small, and since it was cold, we actually celebrated Vespers and Liturgy in our main church, but we left the side chapel open for the faithful to venerate. My hope is to liturgize in that chapel for the feast of St. Athanasius the Athonite on July 5.

I was joined for the celebration by my friends Fr. Stavros and Fr. George.

The relics were placed on a decorated table in the middle of the church.

A photo of the relics from the balcony in the back of the church.

With Fr. George and Fr. Stavros.

Fr. Stavros read a homily at Vespers about the life and miracles of St. Tryphon.

A faithful family with several family members named Tryphon offered the artoklasia.

Here we are processing with an icon of the saint.

Blessing the bread, wine, and oil at the artoklasia.

On Saturday morning, we celebrated Orthros, Liturgy, and the Blessing of the Waters for the first of the month. Then on Saturday evening we prayed the paraklisis to St. Tryphon along with Vespers.

On Sunday, the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord and Savior at the Temple, we brought the relics to our chapel of the Dormition, where we celebrate all the feasts of the Panagia.

Finally, after Liturgy on Sunday, a parishioner and friend of mine drove me and the relics back to the monastery. May we have the prayers of St. Tryphon, St. Paraskevi, St. Haralambos, and St. Kosmas!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Parish Trip to Litohoro

On January 30, we took a parish pilgrimage north, to the Holy Monastery of St. Dionysius of Mt. Olympus, in the village of Litohoro. We left Portaria at 1:30 in the afternoon, stopping on the way at the Holy Shrine of St. Paraskevi in Tempe.

Here we are crossing the bridge over the river to get to the shrine of St. Paraskevi.

Below you can see the small church. The main north-south railroad track actually used to run on top of this church. In the old days, I've heard, the train would stop so that people could light candles there. They even had a hole in which they could drop their coins down into the church's main collection box.

There's a cave, with a very small entrance, to the ancient spring of holy water. It was just the right size for the kids.

Here's our friend Despina trying to go down. She gave up before she got to the end.

Here are the kids running back across the bridge.

And here's Benny driving the bus with Fr. Stavros. Our next stop was the Monastery of St. Dionysius. Our purpose there was not only to venerate the monastery and its saint, but also to pick up a reliquary that was being loaned to us for a few days. I had gotten a blessing from the bishop and the monastery to borrow an old reliquary containing the relics of St. Tryphon, St. Paraskevi, St. Haralambos, and our parish's own St. Cosmas the Holy Unmercenary, in order to celebrate the feast day of St. Tryphon on Feb. 1 in our newly restored side chapel to the saint. More on that in the next post.

Because I was preoccupied with getting the relics, I didn't manage to take any photos at the monastery. Next time!

For the return trip, a faithful parishioner had brought his own car, and we rode back together with the relics in silence.