Saturday, February 28, 2015

Doorways in Stockholm

Walking around Stockholm one comes across a number of beautiful buildings. These buildings have, of course, beautiful entrances, showing the grandeur of the building and the city. Below is a collection of pictures from all around the Swedish capital, depicting the beauty of old doorways, following an architectural style not evident in modern buildings, which prefer a more simplistic design. 











Friday, February 27, 2015

Petraki Monastery, Athens - Greece

Petraki Monastery has existed for more than 1000 years. The ''Katholiko'', i.e. the central church within the monastery, is built in the Byzantine style, the oldest style of church architecture in Southern Greece.





The Monastery was renovated in 1673 by the Physician priest and monk, Parthenios Petrakis. Parthenios and his successors protected the Monastery from barbarian assaults and endowed it with lands, properties, and other materials necessary for its maintenance. A considerable quantity of Greek and foreign documents, dating between 1672 and 1820 are preserved in the files of the Monastery. They reveal that the greater proportion of the property belonging to the Monastery entered in to its possession through personal gifts and spiritual dedications made during those years.




The Monastery is known for its intensive and remarkable philanthropic programme. For example, during the Ottoman domination of Greece it:
a. Offered free medical care and treatment on request,
b. Developed and maintained an elementary, primary and secondary school,
c. During 1806- 1821 established the “Deka school” - education focused upon the Greek language and classical Greek,
d. In 1812 founded a school for scientific research in 1812.





Τhe Monastery had an important role in supporting the Greek people during their struggle for independence and freedom. After Greece acquired independence in 1821, the Monastery continued to contribute to the welfare of the newly established Hellenic State.




From 1834- 1846 the monastery served as a military hospital. In 1922 it received refugees from Asia Minor. It has also provided accommodation for theological students studying in the School of Theology, at the University of Athens. Later on a separate building was constructed dedicated to the needs of theological students.



During the Second World War the Monastery distributed food to the poor and at the same time provided free medicine to the neighbouring population. Since the establishment of the modern Hellenic State in 1833 the Monastery has donated 170 parcels of land for welfare purposes. To the Greek Government it gave several acres of land for constructing central institutions like the National Gallery and buildings associated with the Greek Universities.





Nowadays the monastery is still known as ‘’MONI PETRAKI’’. It continues to live out its significant and spiritual role within the Orthodox Church. It remains a unique place of prayer and consecration through its worship and dedication to the Lord.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Basis of Christian Theology

What is the basis of Christian Theology? The correct and easy answer would be God, meaning the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is the ultimate object of Theology. Many have given glimpses of the Truth of God, based of course on what has been revealed to us by God. Reading Vladimir Lossky’s book The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, the author gives a small explanation on the basis of Christian Theology, claiming:




‘The revelation of God the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the basis of all Christian theology; it is, indeed, theology itself, in the sense in which that word was understood by the Greek Fathers, for whom theology most commonly stood for the mystery of the Trinity revealed to the Church. Moreover, it is not only the foundation, but also the supreme object of theology; for, according to the teaching of Evagrius Ponticus (developed by St Maximus), to know the mystery of the Trinity in its fullness is to enter into perfect union with God and to attain to the deification of the human creature: in other words, to enter into the divine life, the very life of the Holy Trinity, and to become, in St Peter’s words, ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ Trinitarian theology is thus a theology of union, a mystical theology which appeals to experience and which presupposes a continuous and progressive series of changes in created nature, a more and more intimate communion of the human person with the Holy Trinity.’ (p.67).     

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Author of the Presanctified Liturgy

During the Lenten period the Orthodox Church celebrates a number of services, which it doesn’t during the rest of the ecclesiastical year. This is due to the mournful character of the period, where the Divine Liturgy of St. John and St Basil is not celebrated within the week. It is an evening service where we have a link between vespers and Liturgy, where the main purpose is the frequent communion during this period.



It is believed that the Presanctified Liturgy was written by St James the brother of Christ, Basil the Great, Epiphanius of Cyprus, John Chrysostom, Pope Gregory of Rome or Patriarch of Constantinople Germanos I. However, recent research shows that neither one of the above are actually the true authors of this Liturgy. Therefore, the true author of the Presanctified Liturgy is unknown to us, unlike the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St James, St Gregory, St Mark and many more, which are celebrated all over the Orthodox world during the rest of the year. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an interesting idea and ideal. We all acknowledge its significance in our lives, especially in our Christian expression of life; however, how easily is it applied in our daily acts and thoughts? It seems to me that it is a respectful idea and thought, when applied to others, believing that we can be exempt by its ‘burden’. ‘Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.’[1] This is a powerful sentence, which explains the fact that we tend to like what Christianity has to offer us; nonetheless, we feel that we are or should be exempt by many of its beliefs.


An interesting notion is to understand forgiveness in stages. You can’t expect to forgive your enemies, before first forgiving your loved ones, your neighbour. By forgiving those closer to us, we are inevitably able to also love them, understand them and accept them. When establishing the forgiveness towards those close to us, we are then ready and mature to evolve and forgive those who are not close to us, and maybe our enemies. This, of course is a revolutionary idea. How does one forgive his enemy? However, by forgiving ones enemy, we come closer to God. In the Gospel of Matthew (6:15) we read: ‘But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ We should all have this in mind, when thinking of reaching the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God, of being in communion with Him. 



[1] Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, (London, Collins, 2012), p.115. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fasting according to Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov

Entering this Lentern period we are called to fast, not only from food but fast spiritually and bodily. Many explanations exist in regards to the fasting tradition of the Orthodox Church. Below, Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov, from the Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptish (England), gives his views on fasting, stating:


“How can we think of Great Lent without being afraid? At the beginning of my life on Mount Athos, Great lent was for me a great feast: of preparing oneself to receive the revelation of our resurrection. If we welcome this abstinence from food with inspired prayer, then not only will our body be able to bear it easily, but many illnesses will be healed. Those who are blessed with good health, and can abstain from food for some weeks, reach a state of spiritual bliss. The passions are calmed. A vivid feeling of peace and the presence of God accompanies prayer. It is unfortunate that nowadays we often lack this endurance. Nowadays, it is not possible to impose the rules of the Church to their full degree. Since you are all different from each other, fast each one according to your measure.
The trouble with fixed rules is that they appease the consciences of those who can keep them, and give them the feeling that they are saved. That is very naïve. The Pharisees, the ascetics and theologians of the Old Testament, fasted too, but this was not enough. Christ said: ‘Unless you exceed the virtues of the Pharisees, you cannot be saved.’”[1]  



[1] Sakharov, Archimandrite Sophrony, Words of Life, (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2010), pp. 34-35. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Attica

The Holy Monastery of The Holy Trinity, in Mati, Attica, near Athens, was founded in 1966. Within its complex a foundation was established, named Lireion. This foundation houses an orphanage and an old people’s home, catering for the needs of people less fortunate than us. Currently the orphanage consists of fifty children. Ages vary, having kids as young as 1 months old up to 20 years of age. If anyone is in the area, it would be good to visit this monastery and help in any way possible. The monastery is to be found in: Iera Moni Ag. Triados, T.K. 190 09, Mati Attikis. Telephone number: 0030 22940-79.240-3. 




Saturday, February 21, 2015

Riddarholmen – the historical nucleus of Stockholm


Riddarholmen is the historical nucleus of the Swedish capital, with buildings from several epochs. The oldest is Riddarholm Church, which was inaugurated around the year 1300 as part of a monastery. The monastery was founded by the Franciscan order around 1270 on land donated by King Magnus Ladulas. The king chose the church for his last resting place and was buried there after his death in 1290. Magnus Ladulas was son of Birger Jarl who is thought to have founded Stockholm in the 1250s. From 1634 and up to 1950, Riddalholm Church was the royal burial site.



In 1527, during the reign of King Gustav Vasa, the Reformation took place in Sweden. It led to the Crown confiscating the Church and the monastic property, in order to break the power of the Church and raise funds for defences. On the west side of the island two cannon turrets and a middle wall were built. The turrets are preserved in the lower levels of Birger Jarl’s Tower and in the south tower of the Wrangelska Palace.



In the 17th century, Sweden grew into a great power and Stockholm’s urban environment was modernised. The Crown donated building land to the higher nobility, who in the 1630s and 40s built palaces in contemporary Renaissance style. In the latter half of the 17th century, conversions and extensions were carried out in imposing Baroque style. Some of the era’s leading architects were hired. Jean de la Vallee and Nicodemus Tessin the Elder designed the Wrangelska Palace. After the castle fire of 1697, the palace remained the royal residence for 57 years.





In the 18th century, the Crown began to take over the palaces. They were made state administration buildings and seats of Sweden’s supreme legal institutions. In the 19th century and up until about 1950, Riddarholmen was also a point off entry for shipping on Lake Malaren. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Christianity in the Middle East: present challenges and future possibilities

The Centre for Eastern Christianity,
Heythrop College, University of London
Jointly convened by the British Trust for Tantur
Saturday 28th February 2015 



Christianity in the Middle East: present challenges and future possibilities
10.30 arrivals and coffee and registration
11.00: Bishop Antoine Audo SJ Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Syria:
Christianity in the Middle East: Present Challenges and Future Possibilities read through the Experience of Syria
Response by Dr Suha Rassam
11.45:  Mariz Tadros University of Sussex
Coptic Christianity in Egypt Today
1.00-1.45  Lunch break  (bring your own packed lunch, hot drinks provided)
1.45:  Revd Vrej Nersessian (Former Curator of Eastern Christian Collection The British Library):
The Armenian Christian Tradition: history, theology and ecclesiology
2.45:  Anthony O’Mahony (Heythrop College, University of London):
Christian Ecumenism in the Middle East past, present and future challenges to the Global Church
3.30  Any questions panel with the speakers
4.15     Depart


Saturday 28th February 2015 at University of Notre Dame London – Centre 1 Suffok Street, London SW1Y 4HG (off Trafalgar Square).

All are welcome: For practical planning we need people to fill in an application form and return with £5 cheque made out to The British Trust for Tantur and sent to the Right Revd John Went, The Rectory, Latimer, Chesham, Bucks HP5 1UA. [http://www.tanturbritishtrust.org.uk/2015/01/conference-invitation-christianity-middle-east-present-challenges-future-possibilities/]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Relationship between Scripture and Tradition – St Basil the Great

The Orthodox Church has always emphasised on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. One cannot exist without the other. Below is a small extract from St. Basil the Great (also known as St. Basil of Caesarea) who, in his Treatise on the Holy Spirit, claims:


‘Among the doctrines and teachings preserved by the Church, we hold some from written sources, and we have collected others transmitted in an unexplicit form [Mystikos] from apostolic tradition. They have all the same value . . . For if we were to try to put aside the unwritten customs as having no great force, we should, unknown to ourselves, be weakening the Gospel in its very essence;  furthermore, we should be transforming the kerygma into mere word.’[1]



[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 16. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Mosaics - Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex – England

The iconographic tradition of the Orthodox Church consists of two main categories, i.e. icon paintings (whether these are small icons, or wall-paintings) and mosaics. The latter reached its greatest height during the Byzantine epoch, where we have the most famous examples. The Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, in Essex (England) has a number of great examples of this iconographic tradition. It is, however, interesting to identify that they are located on the exterior of the monastery buildings, whilst in the East, they are mostly found indoors. Nevertheless, they are an additional testimony of Orthodoxy in this area of England.