Saturday, March 29, 2014

Parish Trip to Pteleos and the Monastery of Ano Xenia

On Thursday afternoon, our parish took a trip to visit the Monastery of Ano Xenia. Before we went there, though, we first stopped to visit the new parish of our good friend and bus driver, Fr. Stavros, in Pteleos.

Here Fr. Stavros said a few words to the people inside the main church, which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos.

He also brought out the parish's relics--which included St. George, St. Haralambos, and St. Prokopios--for our group to venerate.

Afterwards, a local cafe, located behind the church, in the village's main square, treated us all to a coffee. Then we headed back to the bus. Above, you can see the church in the background.

You can see a reflection of the front of the church in the door, as Paul and Fr. Stavros get ready to drive.

On the way out of town, Fr. Stavros stopped briefly at the local women's co-op, which makes traditional sweets, jams, etc. Many of the women in our group work at Portaria's co-op, so they enjoyed meeting their counterparts. The ladies there treated us all to free samples of their handiwork.

We then headed on to the monastery, where the abbot, Fr. Nektarios, had graciously arranged to do a Presanctified Liturgy for us.

The monastery was founded in the late 10th century, although there is some evidence that an earlier church was there from the 7th century. The monastery was torched by Cardinal Pelagio in 1213, during his two-year mission east to Constantinople (during the period of Latin occupation) to close Orthodox churches. According to tradition, he also killed 800 of the monastery's monks.

The monastery was again burned by Italians in 1942, as retribution for the monastery's support of the resistance movement (although the katholikon, or main church, was spared). Finally, the monastery suffered extensive damage during the major earthquake of 1980, which damaged much of the Almyros area, west of Volos.

The frescoes, some of which you can see above at the entrance to the main church, are from 1663, and follow the famous Cretan School of iconography, whose most famous representative is Theophanes.

Probably because of the monastery's remote location in the mountains, the monks built a dependency in the 13th century that is 12 km closer to Volos. Today, that monastery is known as Kato Xenia (Lower Xenia, as opposed to Upper Xenia), and because it is quite near the main Athens-Thessaloniki highway, it is generally more well-known. It today houses a vibrant women's monastic community.

In the photo above, you can see the abbot, Fr. Nektarios, serving the Presanctified Liturgy.

Here's Phoebe in the courtyard. Since 1980, there have been extensive renovations, including the buildings surrounding the main church, which you can see in the photo above.

After the Liturgy, the monks treated us all to a coffee in their guest area and Fr. Nektarios spoke to us.

Fr. Nektarios is on the left, and to the other side of me (and Benny) is Fr. Titus, the monastery's hierodeacon, who has labored at the monastery for more than 50 years.

For a few more photos from the trip, click here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Greek Independence Day

In Greece, March 25 marks not only the Feast of the Annunciation, but also Independence Day, commemorating the successful 1821 revolution against the Ottomans.

Of course, it is a national holiday, and typically school children go to church in the morning, and then participate in some sort of celebration, which usually involves reciting poems in honor of the day, sing songs, a parade, etc.

Our parish doesn't have a school, so right after our Liturgy concluded, I headed down the hill to the neighboring parish of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, where the kids' school is located. Here's a video of their celebration in the courtyard outside the church, next to the monument honoring all those who died.

Here's part of what the kids recited:

Στα πολύ παλιά τα χρόνια
Ο Χριστός πριν γεννηθεί
Παναγιά στην εκκλησία
Πήγε να προσευχηθεί

Ξάφνου φάνηκε μπροστά της
Ένας άγγελος λαμπρός.
Μη φοβάσαι της μιλάει
Εδώ με έστειλε ο Θεός.

Άκουσε το θέλημά του
Το τρανό το ξακουστό
Ένας χρόνος πριν περάσει
Θα γεννήσεις τον Χριστό.

Monday, March 10, 2014

First Salutations to the Theotokos and the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Here are a couple photos of the icon of the Theotokos, as we set it up in the middle of the church for the first Salutations service on Friday. We also left it there for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in which we processed outside around the church with icons. As is often the case in Greece, we had a big turnout this Sunday.

One of Phoebe's friends, Kyriaki, from Alli Meria came with her family for church on Sunday, and stayed afterwards to visit.

And here's Phoebe in the kids' room with her Sarakosti, which the kids made at their school. If I understood correctly, it's something like an Advent wreath designed to mark the time until Pascha: one of the legs is folded back or removed each Sunday.