Sunday, August 09, 2015

Stopover in Komotini

At the beginning of July, we took a family trip to Constantinople/Istanbul, which is about 9 hours away by car. To break up the long trip, we spent a night in Komotini, an interesting city harkening back to the days of the Ottoman Empire, with large Muslim and Jewish minorities.

We found a hotel with a great swimming pool for the kids, which is just what they needed after 5 hours in the car.

After a swim, we went into Komotini to find some dinner. Here are the kids enjoying the ice cream at the end of the meal.

The next day, it was back on the road.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Holy Belt of the Theotokos

Our parish celebrated its feast day of the Holy Unmercenary Healers Cosmas and Damian on July 1 in grand fashion this year. First, the bishop, Metropolitan Ignatius, came to serve the Liturgy. We thus enjoyed a Hierarchal Liturgy, with the deacon reading from the ambon. In the photo above, you can see the bishop's back during the Gospel reading. In the background, you can make out the deacon perched up in the ambon.

My friend Fr. Gabriel from a neighboring parish also came to serve with us.

We also had the blessing to host two small pieces of the Holy Belt of the Theotokos, which are treasured at our Metropolis' Monastery of Panagia Xenia in Almyros (about 1 hour from here). The two pieces were given to the monastery in 1551 by Vatopaidi on Mt. Athos, which hosts the rest of the Holy Belt (that is known to exist). I don't know of any other pieces that exist.

I had spoken with the abbess of the monastery for several months about this, and she and the sisters finally agreed, as they loan out the relic very rarely. The Metropolitan also gave his blessing. Thus, the abbot and one of the sisters arrived with the Holy Belt at 7:30 on the morning of the feast day. We met the Holy Belt out on the main road and processed back to the church with it, where we continued Orthros until the bishop came a short time later.

At noon, we performed Holy Unction next to the Holy Belt and finally, in the evening, we celebrated Vespers together with the Paraklesis to the Holy Belt. The abbess and the other sister, who remained all day in the church next to the Holy Belt, then left about 8:45 to take it back to the monastery. 

We are very grateful to them and the bishop for this great blessing.