Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In Case I Don't Die - A Greek whisper to Europe


«No, don't look at me like that... I won't make you feel uncomfortable. No more than necessary. You know that this video could begin or end with an imposing shot of the Acropolis. Or the Olympics. Or the deep blue waters of the Aegean. Or with people losing their jobs and homes. Or others sleeping in tiny carton boxes. Or others driving luxurious cars. But this shall not happen. Because this video wasn't made to impress nor to shock you. Because these words are not a scream. They're a whisper.

I could be reading this in English, or German, or French, or Spanish or Portuguese, or Finnish. But this won't happen. Because I want to speak to you in my language. The same way I'd like you to think in yours. Whatever language you speak. In every language. Because they're all ours. Because we're all European citizens. Proud people. And we have the right to be different. Provided we're happy with everyone's fundamental right to happiness. The people of my generation. And your generation. No matter what that is. And whatever the gender, or the religion, or the sexual preference is and every ambition and dream as well. Because the right to survival, to work, to optimism, the right to live, in every sense, is mutual.

My words are a call for a mutual hug. And an honest, a sincere, “I like to see you smile”. In the years to come. That's what European Integration is all about. Now is our chance. The so-called “Apathetic Generation”, “Generation-Y”, the generation of deprivities, the “screen generation”, the melancholic generation, the “lost generation”, can be the first generation in modern history who will some day recite the story of dreaming about something better. And making it happen. We can be that generation. The proudest. Us Greeks became the guinea pig of austerity. Because we dared to implement it. And we made it. In paper. And yet we are dying. In life. Now we dare to be the guinea pig of hope. For a fairer Europe. With lots of hard work. With honesty. Together. Don't leave us alone. Don't be afraid. I want and I can contribute. I can bear it. As long as I have the right to smile. You?»

Monday, March 30, 2015

Anthropos

Since the beginning of time mankind has tried to evaluate its position in the world, within creation. Who are we? What are we? What is our role and place in this world? What is the purpose of our life? According to the philosophical or religious beliefs of someone, these questions receive very distinct and unique answers. How does Christianity understand these questions? What is an Anthropos? This is a large topic; nevertheless, below is an interesting answer to this questions: 


‘Anthropos is radically different from all other created beings by his ability to transcend himself. Gregory of Nyssa thus ridicules the philosophers who thought they were glorifying man by saying that he was a microcosm. From the biblical perspective, man infinitely surpasses the world by the spirit of life, that divine spark, that God breathed into him. Man (Anthropos) was created after all the other creatures but in line with God’s eternal project, a project which sin can disturb but not totally destroy. In this divine plan, man is destined to reign over the world, explore it, and delight in the beauty of the cosmos. Such a royal dignity implies a profound solidarity. In the words of Gregory Nyssa, humanity is a “free mirror” which by turning toward God the Sun receives and communicates light. If humanity separates itself from God and wanders away from him, man and the world are plunged into darkness.’[1]   



[1] Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth, The Ministry of Women in the Church, (California, Oakwood Publications, 1991), p. 84. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dancing House, Prague

Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is a very historic city, with very historic and old buildings. However, an exception to this rule is the Dancing House, which occupies a fine position alongside the Vlata River. This rare spectacle, of a modern glass building surrounded by historic architecture, was built between 1992 and 1996. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Stockholm Cathedral, Sweden

The Stockholm Cathedral, also known as Storkyrkan (The Great Church), is dedicated to St Nicholas, being the main church of the Diocese of Stockholm, Church of Sweden (Lutheran). The church is located in the Old Town (Gamla Stan) right next to the Royal Palace. The exterior and interior of the church are a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Medieval styles. Through this mixture of styles the expansion of the church building is evident, since the 13th century.





Stockholm’s medieval Cathedral, built in 1279, houses unique objects such as the St George and the Dragon sculpture (1489), the legendary Vadersoltavlan (1535) and Lena Lervik’s sculpture ‘Joseph and Mary’ (2002).
Since 1527, the Cathedral has been a Lutheran church. A wide range of religious services and concerts are held. The wedding of T.R.H. Crown Victoria and Prince Daniel took place in 2010 in Stockholm Cathedral.





The statue of St George and the Dragon is work mentioning further, due to its prominent size and place within the Cathedral. It was unveiled in 1489 as an altar monument for the shrine to St George. Its commissioner, Sten Sture the Elder, had put to flight the forces of King Christian of Denmark, thereby rescuing Stockholm from the Danish invaders. The legend of St George and the Dragon tells of a terrible dragon that demanded human offerings from the town of Selene as its price for not laying waste to the town. The day the King’s daughter is to be sacrificed, St George comes riding by. On condition that the town’s heathen inhabitants convert to Christianity, he slays the dragon. In St George it may be that Sten Sture saw himself as the knight who conquered the Danish ‘dragon’, thereby saving the princess, i.e. Stockholm. For people today, this imposing monument provides inspiration to take up the struggle against evil – wherever it might appear. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tradition as the Life of the Church

Orthodoxy is known for highlighting, and in many cases over-emphasising, Tradition. Scripture and Tradition go hand in hand in the life of the Orthodox Church. One cannot exist without the other. Numerous exegeses of Tradition exist, and have been examined on this blog. Below is a description given to us by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, who sees Tradition as the life of the Church:


‘An Orthodox Christian would never describe Tradition, as some have done, in terms of “a collection of experiences and hopes that belong to the past.” For him, Tradition is the very life of the Church in its continuity as well as in its ever-flowing newness. Both continuity and creative newness in Tradition are the work of the Holy Spirit. Tradition is certainly expressed in the beliefs, doctrines, and rites: it is also expressed, though to a limited extent only, in the popular traditions . . . At the same time, Tradition transcends them all. It is essentially a dynamism of faith, hope, love. Tradition has its origin in the Pentecost event and even before that in the meeting on Easter morning of some women with the risen Lord; it is a shock wave that is reverberating around the world and throughout the centuries. Tradition carries an energy, a yeast that never stops causing the heavy dough of institutions to rise. From it springs an eternally new event, and ever new, and ever to be renewed, meeting of each believer, in communion with all the rest, with the Lord of the Church. This is what we call “the communion of the saints.”’[1] 



[1] Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth, The Ministry of Women in the Church, (California, Oakwood Publications, 1991), p. 94. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Annunciation of the Theotokos

Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Theotokos. It is a symbol of the glorification of the Virgin Mary, but also of mankind. Due to this event we identify the glorification of God, of Mary, whereby the salvation of mankind is able to take place. This is expressed in the following hymn from the matins of the Annunciation:


‘Today is revealed the mystery that is from all eternity. The Son of God becomes the Son of man, that, sharing in what is worse, He may make me share in what is better. In times of old, Adam was once deceived: he sought to become God, but received not his desire. Now God becomes man, that He may make Adam God. Let creation rejoice, let nature exult: for the Archangel stands in fear before the Virgin and saying to her “Hail,” he brings the joyful greeting whereby our sorrow is assuaged. O Thou who in Thy merciful compassion wast made man, our God, glory to Thee.’[1] 
‘Mary’s glorification is basically the glorification of the merciful God who loves man, who loved his creature so much that he emptied himself for his salvation. The incarnation is the continuation of the good work of the creation, the good work Adam’s sin turned away from its goal. The meaning of the incarnation is universal and cosmic.’[2]



[1] Mother Mary, Kallistos Ware, The Festal Menaion, (London, Faber and Faber, 1959), p. 460.
[2] Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth, The Ministry of Women in the Church, (California, Oakwood Publications, 1991), pp. 191-192. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Theodoros Kolokotronis Statue, Mytilene

Theodoros Kolokotronis is one of the greatest national heroes of Modern Greece, fighting against the Ottoman Empire during the Independence struggle of Greece in the 1820s. Many cities and historical places all around Greece have his statue, in order to show their respect to this national hero. Here, we find the statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis in Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos.
Also known as the Elder of Morias, Kolokotronis was born in Messinia. His farther participated in the rebellion supported by Empress Catherine II of Russia (1770), and was killed along with his two brothers by the Turks. As a result, Kolokotronis and his mother moved to her hometown in Arkadia, where he was raised. In 1805 he participated in the naval missions of the Russian fleet, during the Russian – Turkish War. In 1806 a decree was announced for his persecution. He was chased by the Turks all over the Peloponnese and eventually managed to escape on a boat to the then Russian territory of Kythera. In 1810 he went to Zakynthos and was enlisted in the Greek corps of the British army.


In 1818 he became a member of the Filiki Etairia, a secret organisation, which prepared the way for the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire. He was a leader in a number of military actions during the Revolution in Southern Greece.
When part of Modern Greece was Independent, he supported its first Governorn, Ioannis Kapodistrias and his policies. However, in 1833 he had a conflict with the Regents and King Otto, resulting in his imprisonment in the Palamidi Castle, in Nafplio, which was the first capital of Greece. In 1834 he was sentenced todeath; however, after Otto’s coming of age, he received a royal pardon and became an Advisor to the Country. Kolokotronis died in 1843 after a stroke, while returning from a celebration at the palace.


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Church and Hellenism

The Hellenic world has played a major role in the formation of the Church as we know it today. It gave its language to the New Testament and to a number of books of the Old Testament, whilst also allowing to understand the deep meanings of Theology through its words. Without the Hellenic language, philosophy, theology and world (in general), the Church would have been very different. Below, Dr Nicolas Zernov explains the relationship between the Church and Hellenism, explaining:


‘God is love, but the burning flame of divine compassion consumes all that is impure. This and other fundamental convictions borrowed from the Jews gave the Church its stability and enormous power of resistance. But its ability to expand, to penetrate into new fields, to meet the variety of human needs, and to satisfy very different requirements and aspirations the Christians learned through their contacts with the Hellenistic world. The greatest of its contributions was the Greek language. It is of the utmost importance in the history of the Church that, though its founder spoke in Aramaic, his voice reached the wider circle of mankind in Greek, for in that tongue the books of the New Testament and many of the Patristic commentaries on them were written. No other language could have served this purpose so well, for it was able to express philosophical concepts with a vigour and subtlety unattainable elsewhere, and at the same time to convey the profoundest religious feelings with poetry and grace. The Hellenized world also helped the Church to see the unity of mankind, and the fundamental similarity of men’s intellectual and spiritual problems. From the Greek philosophers and writers the Church learned the art of logical thinking and scientific speculation. The Greek was not only a worshipping creature, like the Jew; he was also a thinker and an artist, and the Christian Church found an honoured place for these types of human activity. The Greeks provided the Church with its theologians, with men who critically examined the text of the Holy Scriptures, who interpreted it in the light of contemporary thought, and formulated its main doctrines with the help of philosophical terms. Thus the Church was fertilized by two Eastern traditions, Judaism and Hellenism, the latter of which had already combined Greek philosophy with oriental mystic religions.[1]



[1] Zernov, Nicolas, Eastern Christendom, (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1961), p.22. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

St Nicholas Church Lesser Town, Prague

One of the most impressive churches in Prague is undoubtedly St Nicholas Church Lesser Town, located in the Old Town, at the centre of the Lesser Town Square. This is the largest of Prague’s churches founded by the Jesuits. Construction on this church building began in 1732, on the site of a former parish church, the records for which date back to 1283.







From 1870 to 1914, St Nicholas also housed the Russian Orthodox congregation. Later it was in use as a warehouse and it even housed a garrison. Today the church is owned and managed by the Hussite Church. Great organ classical music concerts are given almost every day in St Nicholas. Interestingly enough, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played the church’s organ during his stay in Prague. 







Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bridges – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The newest Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to Bridges. Throughout history, bridges have made connections and improved communications, and also added character and a sense of geographical distinction. While many bridges are an expression of functional beauty, some outstanding examples were born of a leap of faith and imagination, created from new materials and pioneering methods of construction. Indeed, some of the most innovative structures crossing streams, rivers, valleys and roads have been built in the UK.



The bridges depicted in this new collection are all from the United Kingdom. They are Tarr Steps (Emoor National park, Somerset), Row Bridge (National District, National Park, Cumbria), Pulteney Bridge (Bath, Somerset), Craigellachie Bridge (Craigellachie, Moray, Scotland), Menai Suspension Bridge (Anglesey – Porthaethwy, Menai Bridge, North Wales), High Level Bridge (Newcastle-upon-Tyne – Gateshead, Tyne and Wear), Royal Border Bridge (Tweedmouth – Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland), Tees Transporter Bridge (Middlesbrough, East Yorkshire), Humber Bridge (Hessle, East Yorkshire – Barton-upon-Humber, Lincs), Peace bridge (Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland).   

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Royal Crown, Stockholm

One of the most prominent tourist attractions in the Swedish capital is, undoubtedly, the crown on the bridge between mainland Stockholm and Skeppsholmen, located right opposite the Royal Palace in the Old Town of Stockholm. Following the new tradition, evident in many European cities, the love locks are placed just below this Swedish attraction. Let us hope that it does not get out of control, resulting in their removal.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pride vs God

All of us have a certain degree of pride, when it comes down to our successes, achievements, looks, goals in life, possessions etc. However, how does Christianity understand this reality? Does this contradict with our communion and relation with God? Is it a great sin? C.S. Lewis gives an interesting exegesis:


‘As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death trap. Luckily we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.’[1]




[1] Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, (London, Collins, 2012), pp.124-125.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Proceedings of the Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, Centenary Conference

A major Conference was held at King’s College London on 15-16 November 2014, to mark the Centenary of the birth of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Sourozh (1914-2003), head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain for over 50 years and renowned as one of the great spiritual leaders of the 20th century. Many in the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius will remember his invaluable contribution to its life and work, after his arrival as a young priest in 1949 as its lecturer on Orthodoxy opened a new chapter in its history.


For the centenary this conference had a high profile, in the eminence and statue of speakers, and in the scope of talks and their exceptionally high standard. Metropolitan John Zizioulas of pergamon and Lord Rowan Williams were among the eight speakers reflecting on Metropolitan Anthony’s life, vision and teaching, against the background of the theme of the Conference: ‘The Glory of God is a Man Fully Alive’ – words of St Irenaeus of Lyons quoted by Metropolitan Anthony, and which he himself never ceased trying to live.
The conference was unusual not only as a rare opportunity to hear renowned theologians and scholars speaking about a great Orthodox pastor and theologian whom they had known and revered, but also in its very diverse, multi-denominational and dedicated audience, so many of whom had known and worked with the late Metropolitan. The outcome of this was the impressive depth and integrity of dialogue between speakers and participants which ran through the entire conference – in the Round Table on Saturday, and in Metropolitan John’s untiring answers to questions on Sunday. These opened up a spiritual and theological discourse which is already inviting further exploration and research.
In late March/ early April the Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation (MASF) will publish the conference proceedings in their entirety as a book. This will include:
Introduction, with quotes from Metropolitan Anthony of the conference theme;
Talks (with question/answer sessions); Round Table and panel Discussion in full; the full Conference Exhibit of photographs of Metropolitan Anthony with commentary and quotations from his works; and information about the Foundation’s Archive: an invaluable collection of his published and unpublished writings, recordings and films which is now available for research.
Cost of the book will be in the region of £10, plus postage. Orders can be placed with the ‘metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation.’ Please contact:
Telephone: 01869347457; 07415983900


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Unity in Christ

This issue, unity in Christ, is a complex one. It entails Christology and Ecclesiology. If Jesus Christ is one then the Church should be one. Therefore, what exists today, with the existence of countless churches and ecclesiastical groups is a paradox. Nevertheless, how do the Orthodox understand this topic?


‘Orthodox theology understands “unity in Christ” as a communion in the risen and ascended Body of the New Man. “You are dead,” writes St. Paul, “and your life is hidden in God with Christ” (Col. 3:3). There is, therefore, a particular manner in which we achieve this closeness to Christ which makes the Church to be one. This manner, which Paul calls “communion,” transcends intellectual conviction, moral commitment or ethical principle.’[1]



[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 116

Monday, March 16, 2015

Methymna, Lesvos (Greece)

Methymna, which in the medieval period was renamed Molyvos, had since antiquity been Lesvos’ second most important city after Mytilene. On the top of the mountain, the castle of Molyvos is located, ensuring control of the narrow passage to Asia Minor and the Gulf of Adramyttion.








Currently, one can find here a number of artefacts and clues from its diverse past, where different civilisations, cultures, empires and religions had Lesvos under their control, including Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece. Among the ancient ruins in Methymna we find a part of the paved Hellenistic main road from ancient Methymna to the countryside (3rd century BC 1st century BC). 








Sunday, March 15, 2015

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

Every Orthodox Monastery has a number of buildings, which it needs in order to function and also in order to accept visitors. One of these buildings is, of course, the refectory, where the monks, the nuns and the visitors come together during lunch and dinner to eat and drink together. It is a type of Agape, i.e. a meal which brought together all the Christian faithful in the ancient Church.







Here we see the two refectories from the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England. In the one the meals are given to the monks, nuns and faithful, whilst in the second is where tea and coffee is given, especially to the visitors who come to the Monastery. Following the iconographic tradition evident in the other buildings, the Katholikon and the other Churches and chapels, we can identify that the saints and the living faithful are constantly in ‘communion’ and in relation with each other.