Thursday, December 31, 2015

Psalm 83 (84) – The Blessedness of Dwelling in the House of God

84 How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, even faints. For the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young— Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; They will still be praising You. Selah 5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion. 

8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah 9 O God, behold our shield, And look upon the face of Your anointed. 10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God. Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold. From those who walk uprightly. 12 O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Temple of Apollo, Ancient Corinth

Walking around Ancient Corinth one can easily see the Temple of Apollo, which dominates the highest point in the archaeological site in Ancient Corinth. From there the visitor is able to see the Gulf of Corinth. The Temple is believed to have been built around 540 BC, where it replaced a previous temple, from the 7th century BC. Before excavations began in this area, the only thing visible were the columns from this temple, indicating to the archaeologists and the locals that there are ancient ruins in this area.

Apollo’s Temple is built in the Doric style, as seen from the simple style of the columns. When it was intact it had 6 columns across and 15 along. Unfortunately, today there are only 7 columns standing. However, interestingly enough, the columns at this temple are monolithic, meaning that it is not made up of pieces, but it is cut and stands as one piece. Another significant feature to be found at Apollo’s Temple in Ancient Corinth is that the floor beneath each colonnade rises in a convex curve. This is the earliest known occurrence of this type. Interestingly enough, this feature was later used at the Parthenon, on the Acropolis, in Athens. According to some descriptions of the Temple, and more specifically from Pausania, there was a bronze statue of Apollo located within the Temple. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Prokopi, Cappadocia

Prokopi, today Urgup, in Cappadocia, is 50 kilometres west of Caesarea. The ancient name of this town was Osiana or Assiana, but was renamed to Prokopi, taking the name of the Church of St Prokopios, which is believed to have been in that town.

The Greeks had three churches in Prokopi. The most ancient one was St George, located near the house where St John the Russian lived, since 1729. There was also the Church of St Basil, built on top of the underground Church of St Anargyroi, which was consecrated in 1834. In 1892 the Church of St John the Russian was consecrated. There, the saints’ relics were kept, since he lived and died in Prokopi.

With the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the Christians of Prokopi moved to Greece, forming New Prokopi, on the island of Euboea. They eventually moved the relics of St John the Russian, where they have built a new Church.[1]  

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Avaton on Mount Athos

Many today talk about the prohibition of women to visit Mount Athos, located in Northern Greece. It is the only place in the world where women are not permitted. It is not only a building or a town, but a whole peninsula. The avaton principle has been faithfully observed by all the Monasteries of Mount Athos without exception ever since they were founded. The Athonite community has retained its status for millennia, being an autonomous, self-governed part of the Modern Greek State. It is the only place in the world were Byzantine time is maintained.
Many women during different periods have attempted, and some achieved, to enter Mount Athos, only to be deported shortly after. Deportation is the only measure taken against a woman who violates the avation. The avaton is still a reality on the Holy Mountain, due to the fact that the monastic community wishes to respect and preserve tradition. Mount Athos is the Virgin Mary’s Garden, where She is the only woman permitted to be there.

The customary origin of the avaton is also confirmed in the legislation in force, namely Article 186 of the Constitutional Charter of Mount Athos (1924), effective since 1926 through its ratification by the Greek State by the Legislative Decree of 10/16 September 1926. According to this provision of the Constitutional Charter, the entry of females in the Athos peninsula is, according to the ancient custom, forbidden. However, from the point of view of public law, this provision was a lex imperfecta, since it did not provide for sanctions in the event of violation. Only the measure of deportation from the Mount Athos territory could be taken against a woman violating the avaton.
However, this provision was subsequently complemented by a law penalising the violation of the avaton, as a result of the disembarkation of several ladies on the Mount Athos territory during the 9th International Congress of Byzantine Studies, convened in April 1953 in Thessalonica. Legislation Decree 2623/1953 stipulated that the violation of the avaton incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a period between two months to one year, which, according to the general provisions of the Penal Code, can now be commuted into a pecuniary penalty.
For more details on the Mount Athos Avaton please visit the following link:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

St Stephanos Church, Keslik Monastery, Cappadocia

St Stephanos Church is one of two churches in the Keslik Monastery, located in Cappadocia (central Turkey). This monastery is not that well known, it is not one of the most famous monasteries in the area; however, it does maintain an Orthodox Cappadocian beauty and mystery, evident in all the Churches and monasteries in Cappadocia.

In St Stephanos Church one may see the dominance of the cross, a theme prevalent in most churches in this area. The colours used are not widely used today in the Orthodox Churches (such as the colour yellow, instead of gold, which is used today), showing a unique iconographic tradition and understanding of a different place and a different era.

Another feature, which is alien to many Orthodox countries and not practiced in our current epoch, is the existence of graves within the church itself. This is practiced in the West. However, the east did not widely practice this. In Cappadocia, however, it is the case, prevailing in most monastic communities. This shows that the local Church was the centre of a person’s life and death. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Philaret of Moscow – ‘Glory to God in the highest’

Below is a beautiful and brief Christmas sermon given by Philaret of Moscow explaining the angels’ hymn ‘Glory to God in the highest.’

‘God has from all eternity enjoyed the sublimity of His glory . . . His glory is the revelation, the manifestation, the reflection, the garment of His inner perfection. God reveals Himself to Himself from all eternity by the eternal generation of His consubstantial Son, and by the eternal procession of His consubstantial Spirit; and this the unity, within the Holy Trinity shines forth imperishable and unchangeable in its essential glory. God the Father is the Father of glory (Eph. i, 17); the Son is the brightness of His glory (Heb. i, 3) and He Himself has that glory which he had with the Father before the world was (John xvii, 5); likewise, the Holy Spirit of God is the Spirit of glory (I Pet. Iv, 14). In this glory, uniquely proper to Himself, God dwells in perfect felicity above all glory, without having need of any witness, without admitting of any division. But as in His mercy and His infinite love He desires to communicate His blessedness, to create for Himself beings capable of sharing in the joyfulness of His glory, He calls forth His infinite perfections and they disclose themselves in His creatures; His glory is manifested in the celestial powers, is reflected in man, and puts on the splendour of the visible world; He bestows it, and those who become partakers thereof receive it, it returns to Him, and in this perpetual circumvolution, so to say, of the divine glory the blessed life, the felicity of the creature consists.’[1]

[1] Choix de sermons et discours de son Eminence Mgr Philarete, French trnalsation by A Serpinet, Paris, 1866, I, pp.3-4. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ecumenical Patriarchs Christmas Encyclical, 2015

X Bartholomew
By God’s Mercy
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the plenitude of the Church
Grace, mercy and peace from the newborn Savior Christ in Bethlehem

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The sweetness of the holy night of Christmas once again embraces the world. In the midst of human toil and suffering, crisis and challenge, greed and hatred, anxiety and despair, the mystery of the divine incarnation presents the same charm as a truly tangible and ever contemporary reality, urging “the inhabitants of the world to learn righteousness” (cf. Is. 26:9), for “today our Savior is born” (Luke 2:11).
Unfortunately, however, in our age, many people think like Herod, that illicit and utter slayer of children, annihilating their fellow human beings in manifold ways. When Herod’s self-centeredness distorted his mind as an earthly leader, he was paradoxically threatened by the birth of an innocent Child. Therefore, Herod chose the annihilation of the Child as the most appropriate way of protecting his earthly power.
To escape his murderous intentions, the Infant Jesus, about whom the angels spoke, was forced to flee to Egypt, becoming (as we might say in today’s terminology) a “political refugee,” together with Mary, his most-holy mother and Theotokos, as well as the righteous Joseph.

In our time, which is considered a time of progress, many children are forced to flee as refugees with their parents in order to save their lives, which are undermined by diverse enemies. This is truly a disgrace for the entire human race.
For this reason, on the occasion of the nativity of the Child Jesus, our genuine Redeemer and Savior, we proclaim from the most-holy Apostolic, Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne that every society must guarantee the safe development of children and respect their right to life, education and normal upbringing, which may be secured by their nurture and formation within the context of the traditional family, based on the principles of love, compassion, peace and solidarity, which are gifts offered to us today by the incarnate Lord.
The newborn Savior invites everyone to receive this message of salvation for all people. It is true that, in the long course of human history, people experienced many migrations and settlements. Yet we would have hoped that, after two world wars as well as numerous proclamations for peace by church and political leaders and institutions, modern societies would be able to secure the peaceful coexistence of people in their own lands. Unfortunately events have shown otherwise and shattered our hopes, because huge masses are today obliged to set out on a bitter road as refugees in the face of annihilation.
This ever-escalating situation, with the constantly swelling wave of refugees, increases the responsibility of those of us who are still blessed to live in peace and some comfort, in order not to remain insensitive to the daily drama of thousands of our fellow human beings. Instead, we are called to express our practical solidarity and love, knowing that every gesture of love toward them is ultimately attributed to the newborn and incarnate Son of God, who came to the world neither as king and ruler, nor as tyrant or aristocrat, but rather as a naked and defenseless Infant in a tiny manger, homeless like many thousands of people at this very moment, and forced from his earliest years to migrate to a distant land in order to survive the hatred of Herod. The innocent blood of today’s refugee infants spills onto the earth and into the sea, while Herod’s insecure soul “bears the guilt.”
This divine Infant, born in Bethlehem and headed to Egypt, is the authentic guardian of today’s refugees, who are persecuted by modern-day Herods. This Child Jesus, our God, “became weak to the weak” (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22), in every way becoming like us who are weak, wearied, at risk, as refugees. Our support and assistance to the persecuted and displaced, irrespective of race, ethnicity and religion, resembles the most precious gifts of the wise men to the newborn Lord, like the invaluable treasures of “gold and frankincense and myrrh” (cf. Matt. 2:11), an inviolable and permanent spiritual wealth that remains incorrupt to the ages and awaits us in the heavenly kingdom.
Let each of us offer whatever we can to our refugee brothers and sisters, in whom we see the person of Jesus Christ. Let us offer the precious gifts of love, sacrifice and compassion to the small Child Christ born in Bethlehem, imitating his tender mercy. And let us worship him with the angels, the wise men and the simple shepherds, as we cry out “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people” (Luke 2:14), together with all the saints.
May the grace and abundant mercy of the refugee Infant Jesus be with you all!

Christmas 2015

Your Fervent Supplicant before God

Thursday, December 24, 2015

St Ahmed the Calligrapher

Upon hearing the name Ahmed, one would say that this is not a Christian name. Nonetheless, the Orthodox Church has St Ahmed, a Turk, as a Saint of the Church. The holy New Martyr Ahmed was born in the 17th century to a Muslim family in Constantinople, the capital of the then Ottoman Empire. In accordance with Ottoman law, due to the fact that he did not have a wife, he had a slave instead. In his case he had a Russian woman. Additionally, he had an old Russian woman slave living with them too. Both the women were very pious.

On feast days the old Russian woman would go to Church. She would bring back with her the antidoron, blessed bread given at the end of the service, giving it to the younger woman. She would also bring with her Holy Water. Every time this occurred and Ahmed was close by, he would smell a beautiful and indescribable fragrance coming out of her mouth. He would ask her what she was eating to make her mouth smell so fragrant. Not realising what was happening, the slave would say that she was not eating anything. Nevertheless, he persisted in asking. Eventually she told him that she was eating the bread which had been blessed by the priests. She also explained the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that miracles still take place.
When Ahmed heard this, he was filled with longing to see the Orthodox Church and how the Orthodox received this blessed bread. Therefore, he summoned a priest and told him to prepare a secret place for him, so that he could go when the Patriarch was serving the Liturgy. When the appointed day arrived, dressed as an Orthodox, he went to the Patriarchate and followed the Divine Liturgy. While he was in church, he saw the Patriarch shining with light and lifted off the floor, as he came out of the alter and through the holy doors to bless the people. As he blessed, rays of light came from his fingertips, but though the rays fell on the heads of all the Orthodox, they did not fall on Ahmed’s head. This happened a couple of times, and each time Ahmed saw the same thing. Therefore, Ahmed became Orthodox. He remained a secret Orthodox for some time, concealing his new name; that is why we do not know his Christian name.
One day Ahmed and certain noblemen were eating together. After the meal they sat talking and smoking, as is the Muslim custom. In the course of the conversation they began to discuss what the greatest thing in the world is. Each one gave his opinion on this topic. One said that the greatest thing in the world was for a man to have wisdom. The other stated that a woman is the greatest thing in the world, whilst the last one that good food is by far, the most delightful thing in the world.
When Ahmed’s turn came, filled with holy zeal, he cried out that the greatest thing of all was the Faith of the Orthodox. Confessing his Christian belief, he boldly censured the falseness and deception of the Muslims. When the others heard of this, they were shocked. Followed by rage, they dragged Ahmed to a judge, so that he could be sentenced to death. He was beheaded and became a Martyr of the Orthodox Church on 3rd May 1682. His memory is commemorated on the 24thDecember.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The link between Tomb and Womb

In the life of the Orthodox Church we can easily identify the link between the festivities. Such is also the case between the Birth and Death of Christ. This relationship is evident through the Byzantine hymnological tradition, for example we sing a similar hymn in both festivities: Today he is Born of a Virgin…, Today He is hung…St Ephrem wishes to show this relationship, to emphasise the link between the virginal womb with the sealed tomb of Christ. Both of these declare the mystery of the Risen Christ. St Ephrem proclaims:

‘By your resurrection you convinced them about your birth, for the den was sealed and the grave was secured – the pure one in the den and the living one in the grave. You witnesses were the sealed den and the grave. The womb and Sheol shouted with joy and cried out about your resurrection. The womb that was sealed conceived you; Sheol that was secured, brought you forth. Against nature the womb conceived and Sheol yielded. Sealed was the grave which they entrusted with keeping the dead man. Virginal was the womb that no man knew. The virginal womb and the sealed grave like trumpets for a deaf people, shouted in its ear.’[1]   
Additionally, St Augustine also comments on this link between Tomb and Womb, explaining: ‘He is believed to have been conceived on 25 March, and also to have suffered on that day. Thus to the new tomb he was buried in, where no mortal body was laid before or after, there corresponds the womb he was conceived in, where no mortal body was sown before or after.’[2]

[1] St Ephrem of Syria, Hymns on the Nativity, 10.6-8. Trans. K.E. McVey (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist press, 1989).
[2] Augustine, On the Trinity, 4.2.9., Trans. E. Hill (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1991). 

Monday, December 21, 2015

His birth as the beginning of His death

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, celebrated at Christmas, is undoubtedly the Queen of all Christian celebrations. Without it we wouldn’t have the Crucifixion, the Resurrection or any other important event from Jesus’ life. That is why it also maintains a link with these other festivities in the Christian calendar. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh explains,

‘To understand the meaning of the saving death of Christ, we must understand the meaning of the incarnation. Each of us is born into time out of non-being. We enter a fleeting, precarious life in order to grown into the stability of Eternal Life. Called out of naught by the word of God, we enter into time but within time we can find eternity, because eternity is not a never-ending stream of time. Eternity is not something – it is Someone. Eternity is God himself, whom we can meet in the ephemeral flow of time and through this meeting, through the communion which God offers us by grace and love in mutual freedom, we can also enter into eternity to share God’s own life, become in the daring words of St Peter, ‘partakers of the divine nature.’
The birth of the Son of God is unlike ours. He does not enter time out of naught. His birth is not the beginning of life, on an ever growing life; it is a limitation of the fullness that was his before the world began. He who possessed eternal glory with the Father, before all ages, enters into our world, into the created world, wherein man has brought sin, suffering, death. Christ’s birth is for him not the beginning of life, it is the beginning of death. He accepts all that is inherent in our condition and the first day of his life on earth is the first day of his ascent to the cross.’[1]

[1] Anthony of Sourozh, Creative Prayer, 2004, p.73.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Come ye faithful, let us see, where Christ the Saviour hath been born

Come ye faithful, let us see, where Christ the Saviour hath been born; let us follow with the kings, even the Magi from the East, unto the place where the star doth direct their journey. For there, the Angels' hosts sing praises ceaselessly; shepherds in the field offer fitting song, while saying, Glory to God in the highest to Him this day born within the cave from the pure Virgin and Theotokos in Bethlehem of Judea. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Encyclical Letter for Christmas, Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain

To the Most Reverend Priests & Deacons, the Most Honourable Chairmen and Members of the Parish Councils of the Churches, the Ladies’ Auxilliary Committees, and the Christbearing Flock of the Holy Archdiocese of Thyateira, Great Britain & Ireland.
Dearly Beloved Brethren & Children Beloved of the Lord.
Once again, Christmas has arrived to re-ignite the souls of men, and to renew the joy and blessed hope felt by the Magi and the Shepherds on the Holy Night of the Birth of the God-Man Christ, in Bethlehem of Judaea, more than two thousand years ago. Once again, we will hear the angelic hymn, “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will towards  men”(Luke 2:14), prophetically announcing the New Age which the God-Man Christ ushered in for the human race. Ever faithful to the message of Christmas, the worshipping and praying Church, continues to celebrate the Mystery of the Divine Nativity, chanting “ Thou wast born secretly in the cave, but heaven spoke through a star and proclaimed Thee to all, O Saviour. And it brought to Thee Magi, who worshipped Thee with faith;have mercy upon them and upon us”(Vespers Troparion of Christmas).

It is for good reason, that we Christians have continued to ceaselessly glorify Him who is the Cause of the joy and the agelong expectation of the Nations, for “in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things“ (Hebrews 1:2-3).This is why “on this day, let the heavens and the earth rejoice prophetically, let angels and us men keep spiritual feast, for God has appeared in the flesh”(Great Compline Hymn of Christmas).
Let us therefore, dear Brethren and Fathers, cast off all the sadness that afflicts us as persons and as a community. Let us look past every unsightly spectacle that we are exposed to on a daily basis through television, internet and newspapers. Let us not forget that Christ came to the inhabited world for both good and evil persons, whom we encounter along our path every day. Let us pray for peace and justice to prevail amongst Mankind. Let all warring factions be reconciled in the Middle East and in other places of the World, that the will of God may triumph in our lives.
Righteous it is indeed, to commemorate also Our Lady Theotokos and Mother of God, who “full of grace, found ample space to contain the uncontainable nature, and through whom God and flesh worked together, in an ineffable encounter” (St. John Chrysostom, T10, pg.946). In a manner both wondrous yet human, the All Holy Virgin co-operated in God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the World, and together with the wise Joseph the Betrothed, journeyed together from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and from there commenced upon the bitter road of exile into Egypt.
Christmas provides us with a bright opportunity to cultivate the virtues of the Divine Infant: simplicity, humility, self-sacrifice, self-denial and a sharing of our possessions with the poor, the sick, the orphans, the widows, those in prison, the strangers, the homeless and all those who have become aggrieved by society and the heartlessness of people. Only thus can we truly and genuinely rejoice these Holy Days where we commemorate the earthly Visitation of the God-Man Christ amongst us. Let us plead for Him to remain forever with us, that He may enlighten us in our sorrows and that He may heal the wounds of our bodies and souls. Let us seek refuge in our Churches, where we may celebrate like true children of the God-Man Christ, and let us partake there, of the Immaculate Sacraments unto remission of sins and life everlasting. It is with such sacred thoughts and expectations, that I am communicating with you all. I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas. May the Newly-born Christ visit and bless you in your homes. May He sanctify your souls and bodies, and may He may grant you the joy and peace shared by all pious Orthodox Christians who have lived through the centuries, and who have preserved the Mystery of the Nativity of the “Spiritual Sun of Righteousness” Jesus Christ, so as to bequeath it to us as a most precious and holy entrustment, for His glory unto the ages of ages. Amen

Christmas 2015

Archbishop of Thyateira
& Great Britain Gregorios

For the Greek version please see: 

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Greek ‘Christmas Tree’

The Christmas tree is one of the most identifiable Christmas objects in the world. However, despite existing in all Christian societies and cultures today, we do find a number of unique features in different countries and traditions. Such is the case with Greece, whereby the traditional ‘Christmas Tree’ is actually a boat.

When looking at Greece’s ancient, Byzantine and modern history, it is apparent that it is an important maritime country. Today it has one of the largest fleets in the world, whilst also the thousands of islands contribute to this maritime tradition. Therefore, the boat, the sea and anything to do with maritime life, is significant for each Greek. The traditional boat, as a Christmas symbol has a long history. During the Christmas period people would decorate a small, mainly wooden, boat, symbolising therefore their thankful spirit for the safe return of their loved ones, who were on a boat at that time. 

King Otto, in 1833, first introduced the Christmas tree in Greece. This resulted in the decline of the boat. Even today, where not every, or most, families in Greece have a loved one working in anything to do with the sea, Greece still maintains this tradition, especially on the Greek islands. Interestingly enough, a few years back, in the middle of Athens they placed not a tall and glamourous tree from Northern Europe, but a large boat, showing everyone the true and centuries old Greek tradition. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Small Shrines (Proskinitaria)

When visiting an Orthodox country, especially from the West, one comes across a number of different things, buildings, customs, traditions etc. The Hellenic Orthodox world promotes the idea of a domed church, a reality which is also being continued and established when Orthodox faithful build new churches in the West.

One unique feature found in an Orthodox country, and in this case a reality found in Greece and Cyprus is the shrine, known in Greek as proskinitari (προσκυνητάρι), to be found on the side of a street, on the pavement, either in a busy area, in the villages or the cities, even in gardens. There are many different kinds of shrines, depending on the material used, on how expensive and elaborate one wishes to make it.

They are placed there for a number of reasons. They might indicate the faithfulness of the person who built it. It can also show that at that certain place a good or even a bad event took place. Normally, in many countries we see that when an accident occurs or a murder or a very bad event in general takes place, then flowers are placed in that place. In the Hellenic world, a shrine is built, giving thus a religious aspect, showing the importance of prayer towards God. If you’re even in Greece or Cyprus, look for them, and see the varied shrines which exist all over both countries.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review - Offbeat Cyprus: If Walls Could Talk

I have shown, a number of times, my interest in street art and the many various messages we find on the walls from a number of countries. That is why, when my friend Emilio Demetriou-Jones published his first book with street art and messages from Cyprus, I was intrigued. Emilio’s book, entitled Offbeat Cyprus: If Walls Could Talk, is a limited edition photography publication, showcasing Cypriot graffiti and street art. The themes found in this interesting anthology of pictures are anti-fascism, austerity, the debt crisis, philosophy, anti-racism, Euroscepticism, LGBT rights, gender equality and many more.

The author explains: ‘Upon returning to Cyprus in July 2015, I noticed that the walls of many places I visited were adorned with graffiti that was not only visually striking, but often carried massages that were profoundly self-reflective, daringly critical, intentionally tongue-in-cheek, anti-status quo, and at times darkly humorous.’ (p. 2).

The pictures here show the beauty and significance of street art and the messages we find on the walls, depicting exactly the sentiment of the people of a modern, European society, which is going through a number of problems, as is the case with all societies and countries around the world. I have to say, my favourite quote from this book is: ‘Κάποτε σκότωσα ένα μυρμήγκι για πλάκα αλλά αυτό πέθανε στα αλήθεια – Once I killed an ant as a joke, but it actually died.’ This phrase, as the author explains, ‘is a metaphor for humans acting without thinking and considering the consequences until too late.’ I would like to thank Emilio for his wonderful dedication, which did surprise me. I wish him more publications and all the best!

If you wish to purchase this very interesting and great book please visit:   

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Domed Church, Cappadocia

The Domed Church, located in the Soganli Valley, Cappadocia, central Turkey, it is one of the most interesting Churches in the region. Most Churches in Cappadocia are built in the mountains, following a cave form. However, this Church looks like a Church from its exterior, mainly due to the fact that the dome is prevalent on the top, hence the name. It is two layered and its inner parts are decorated with frescoes, as most Churches in the region. The dome was built on four pillars. This Church took its final form in the 14th century.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Londinoupolis is 5!!!

Londinoupolis is now 5 years old. In these five years many topics have been examined, highlighting certain topics, such as religion, personal travels, visits at churches, talks and events (mainly in Britian) and many more. The readership of londinoupolis has grown, surpassing half a million. 

In the next year previous themes will continue to dominate the blog's interests, such as religion, churches, talks etc.; however, new topics will be examined, whilst others will be emphasised, such as the Olympic Games, due to the fact that it will be an Olympic year. Therefore the history of the Olympic Games will be evident here and there. 
Since this is a celebratory blog-post, I would like to thank those who read londinoupolis and for the comments people send me and tell me when they see me. The support and suggestions are always welcome. So, Happy Birthday londinoupolis....And thank you for being part of this blog. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Object of Christian Life

What is the object of Christian life? Many have asked this question and many have endeavoured to answer it, in order to follow a true Christian life, according to Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. St Seraphim of Sarov gives an over-simplified exegesis of the object of Christian life, which, nevertheless, gives a clear indication of the spiritual tradition of the Orthodox Church.

Prayer, fasting, vigils, and other Christian practices, although wholly good in themselves, certainly do not in themselves constitute the end of our Christian life: they are but the indispensable means for the attainment of that end. For the true end of the Christian life is the acquiring of the Holy Spirit. As for fasts, vigils, prayers, alms and other good works done in the name of Christ – these are the means whereby we acquire the Holy Spirit. Note well that is it only those good works which are done in the name of Christ that bring us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Other actions, even good ones, not done in the name of Christ, can neither procure us a reward in the life of the age to come, nor win us the grace of God in the present life. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ has said: He that gathereth not with me, scattereth’ (Matt. Xii, 30). In other words, there is for the Christian no such thing as an autonomous good: a work is good in so far as it furthers our union with God, in so far as it makes grace ours. The virtues are not the end but the means, or, rather, the symptoms, the outward manifestations of the Christian life, the sole end of which is the acquisition of grace.’[1]

[1] Lossky, Vladimir, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 1991, pp.196-197. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sin according to the Orthodox Church

Sin seems to have been a popular theme in many religious discussions, not only today, but since the beginning of religion. Christianity gives an interesting understanding of sin. Additionally, there is no one definition of sin. The Orthodox world understands it differently to the West. The East in general understands theology using medical terms, whilst the West prefers legal terminology. Many Church fathers examine this important and popular theme in order to teach the faithful of what sin is, how we can stay away from it and what it truly means for our salvation, theosis. Christos Yannaras, in his book The Freedom of Morality gives a great exegesis of what sin is, from an Orthodox point of view, trying to explain that sin is ‘the failure to become oneself.’ (p. 11).  

‘The falling away is sin, αμαρτία, which means missing the mark as to existential truth and authenticity. The patristic tradition insists on this interpretation of sin as failure and “missing the mark”. . .
The church fathers refuse to view sin hypostatically, as a hyspostasis of life different from the only form of existence that gives substance to life, the divine personal goodness. Sin is not a nature, an evil nature which exists hypostatically as the opposite pole to the divine existence and life of love. There is nothing in God’s creation which is hypostatically and naturally evil, not even the devil himself. Sin is failure, a failure as to existence and life: it is the failure of persons to realize their existential “end,” to confirm and conserve the uniqueness of their hypostasis through love. . .
. . . Sin is a mode of existence contrary to existence and contrary to nature since it fragments and destroys nature; it means separation from being exclusion from life. Starting from such a concrete and existential concept of sin, the Orthodox tradition has refused to confine the whole of man’s relationship with God within a juridical, legal framework; it has refused to see sin as the individual transgression of a given, impersonal code of behaviour which simply produces psychological guilt. The God of the Church as known ad proclaimed by Orthodox experience and tradition has never had anything to do with the God of the Roman juridical tradition, the God of Anselm and Abelard; He has never been thought of as a vengeful God who rules by fear, meting out punishments and torment for men.
God is not the “judge” of men in the sense of a magistrate who passes sentence and imposes a punishment, testifying to the transgression. He is judge because of what He is: the possibility of life and true existence. When man voluntarily cuts himself off from this possibility of existence, he is automatically “judged.” It is not God’s sentence but His existence that judges him. God is nothing but an ontological fact of love and an outpouring of love: a fullness of good, an ecstasy of loving goodness. . . (pp. 33-36).

Sin is the measure of our awareness of separation from God, of separation from life – it is the measure of our conscious recognition of death. And it is only through conscious experience of death that man can approach the revelation of life, the possibility of rising with Christ. Thus sin becomes a starting-point for repentance, μετάνοια . . .’ (p. 40). 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Meaningful Prayer

Praying is one thing. Praying correctly and with meaning is another. How should we pray? What is the formula? Many say, I pray but I don’t get any response. However, what response are we waiting for? And how do we know that what we ask for is truly what we want and need at a given time? We need to endeavour to achieve a meaningful prayer, as Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh explains:

‘Unless the prayer which you intend to offer to God is important and meaningful to you first, you will not be able to present it to the Lord. If you are inattentive to the words you pronounce, if your heart does not respond to them, or if your life is not turned in the same direction as your prayer, it will not reach out Godwards.
So the first thing is to choose a prayer which you can say with all your mind, with all your heart and with all your will -  a prayer which does not necessarily have to be a great example of liturgical art, but which must be true, something which should not fall short of what you want to express. You must understand this prayer, with all the richness and precision it possesses.
You must also put all the heart you can into an act of worship, an act of recognition of God, an act of cherishing, which is the true meaning of charity, an action which involves you in the mind, in the heart, and an action which is completely adequate to what you are.’[1]

[1] Anthony of Sourozh, Creative Prayer, 2004, p.41. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Church of Adolf Fredrik, Stockholm

Formally, there was a wooden chapel on the exact site were we find the Church of Adolf Fredrik. The current church was built between 1768 and 1774. It takes its name after King Adolf Fredrik, who laid the foundation stone. The church is in the shape of a Greek cross with extended arms to the east and the west. It was built in the spirit of neo-classicism with elements of the rococo.

The church is located in the middle of a graveyard. Among the many graves both old and new, there are several which usually attract attention. These include the graves of Prime Ministers Hjalmar Branting and Olof Palme, and those of the actors Anders de Wahl and Thor Modeen. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Light-Giving Candle (Φωτοδόχος Λαμπάδα)

The icon depicted here is a rare one. Personally I had never seen it before, showing the Virign Mary, the Theotokos being, together with her Son, the light coming out of the Light-Giving Candle, as stated on the icon. In Prophet Zechariah’s book (4:2) we read: ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.’ The Theotokos is symbolised in this passage; the one who held the light of the world, who carried in her body the Son of God. This light is shared throughout the Christian community, within creation, to those who believe in Jesus Christ, who had claimed: ‘Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.’ (Matthew 5:15). Without this light, without this candle, the beneficial rays of the divine light is impossible to exist.

Candles and light play an important role within our Christian lives. Upon entering a Church we light a candle; during a memorial service we hold a candle; a candle is also part of our prayer; during Holy Saturday in a darkened Church we sing ‘Come receive the light…’ whereby we receive the Resurrection light from the priest. After this event we sing the joyous hymn ‘Christ is Risen’ making us all part of the joyous event of the Resurrection. Therefore, the Virgin Mary is the one who leads us, through her ministry, to the light of Christ, since she was the Light-Giving Candle, showing thus her significance within the whole history of creation and her unique place within the Body of the Church.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dedicating Churches and Images to Humans

In the Old Testament we observe that no Temple (Church) or Image is dedicated to any human being. This would be considered blasphemous, since this would infer worship to false gods or truths. This, however, is not the tradition followed in the post-Pentecost period, whereby we have thousands, and maybe millions, of churches dedicated to saints, i.e. humans, and even more icons of saints, who are considered Christ’s friends. What changed? DO we not believe in the Old Testament? We need to understand this as an evolutionary process, whereby the New Testament surpasses the Old. We do not currently live in the age of the law, but in the age of Jesus. He points out the faith, by completing the law. St John of Damascus gives an interesting and brief explanation of why the practice has altered:

‘. . . And of old, Israel neither set up temples in the name of human beings nor celebrated their memorial – for human nature was still under the curse and death was condemnation, therefore they were enjoined that one who even touched the body of someone dead was to be reckoned unclean – but now, since the divinity has been united without confusion to our nature, as a kind of lifegiving and saving medicine, our nature has been truly glorified and its very elements changed into incorruption. Therefore temples are raised for them and images engraved.’[1]

[1] St John of Damascus, Treatise III on the Divine Images, 9. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Oxford

The parish of St Nicholas is a parish of the Diocese of Sourozh, of the Russian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Moscow). The parish was founded with the blessing of Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun, administrator of the diocese, in the summer of 2006. Although the parish is recently established, the tradition of Russian Orthodoxy has been maintained in the city of Oxford for over fifty years. The first Russian Orthodox Church in Oxford was founded in 1941, when Hieromonk Nicholas (Gibbes) arrived to live there. Fr Nicholas, formerly Charles Sydney Gibbes, had been employed by the Russian Imperial Family as the English tutor to Tsarevich Alexis. After the family's assassination, he eventually returned to England, settling in East Oxford. There he established a small Orthodox church within the medieval chapel of St Bartholomew (Bartlemas).

In 1949 he purchased a house on Marston Street and established a chapel there, dedicated to St Nicholas the Wonderworker. The community which grew up around Fr Nicholas was the first significant Orthodox presence in Oxford, and his witness and ministry attracted a number of converts to Orthodoxy.
A permanent Russian Orthodox parish, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Mother of God, was established in the 1950s, and with the establishment of the House of St Gregory and St Macrina in 1959, services were held there in a house chapel, which was shared with the Greek Orthodox Community of the Holy Trinity.

In 1973 the two parishes, having outgrown the house chapel, moved to a new church built in the garden of the house, as a permanent place of Orthodox worship which continues to this day. Many benefactors, both Orthodox and friends of Orthodoxy belonging to other Christian traditions, helped to make it possible to build the new church. From the outset, the church on Canterbury Road was envisaged as being a home for Orthodox of all local traditions.
In July 2006, a proportion of the Annunciation Parish members voted to move from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in order to follow its former rector, Bishop Basil of Sergievo who had already made this move. Those parishioners who chose to remain in the Diocese of Sourozh within the Patriarchate of Moscow, petitioned Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun, the temporary administrator of the Diocese, to form themselves into a new parish. Thus, the Russian Orthodox Parish of St Nicholas the Wonderworker was formally established in September 2006. Fr Stephen Platt, formerly the parish priest of the Parish of the Annunciation, was appointed as its first rector. As such, over fifty years after the foundation of the original chapel of St Nicholas, Oxford again has an Orthodox parish dedicated in his honour. 

After a number of 'homeless years' when the parish was forced to rent worship space, the community acquired a derelict Anglican church which in 2010 was renovated to become a most attractive place of Orthodox worship.
St Nicholas Parish is a multi-national community, comprised of Orthodox Christians of many ethnic backgrounds, who live, work or study in the Oxford area. Students, families with children and people of all ages and professions - both 'cradle' Orthodox and converts to Orthodox Christianity - are sure to find a warm welcome in this community.  The inscription over the church porch proclaims the prophesy of Isaiah: (Is 56: 7) 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ This is the hope and expectation for the community - to become a house of prayer where all could worship the Lord of all.[1]

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Poros Clock Tower

On the small and picturesque island of Poros one finds the Clock Tower, which is the island’s landmark. This clock tower was built in 1927, located on the highest point of the island. The view from there is fabulous, being able to oversee part of the island and the opposite Peloponnese coast. Due to its white colour, this clock tower attracts many graffiti and quotes which visitors like to write, leaving something from their visit to this beautiful Aegean island.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas 2015 – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The new Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to Christmas. Every year the Royal Mail chooses a different theme for this festive period. This year the theme is ‘The Star of Bethlehem.’ The star of Bethlehem is one of the best-known and most recognisable images of Christmas, often found on the top of a Christmas tree or in the design of a card. St Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the baby Jesus was visited by wise men – learned star-gazers from the East who had seen a new star rising in the sky and interpreted it as a sign of a new age dawning. 

Both the Old and the New Testament use the imagery of a rising star – sometimes the morning star – to speak of the new age of God’s presence, God’s love being made visible as never before. In the background is the belief found in the Psalms: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God,’ the patterns of the starry sky show the eternal wisdom of God. And when those patters shift and something new comes into view, it is the sign of a new perspective on God’s glory and love coming into focus.