Thursday, March 31, 2016

St Jean Church, Cappadocia

St Jean Church is a two floor building, found on entering Gulhesir, Cappadocia. The most impressive icons are on the upper level of the Church, whilst the lower one maintains a simpler decorative format. The lower floor has a cross shape and a barrel vault. The central dome, unfortunately has collapsed. Animals, geometrical and crucifix designs are used to decorate the Church in red ochre, which has been applied directly to the rock. The upper Church, on the other hand, has three apses and is barrel vaulted. Apart from those on the main apse, the well preserved frescoes were covered in a layer of black soot. The church’s present state is due to the restoration and conservation done by Ridvan Isler in 1995. According to the inscription on the apse, the Church can be dated back to 1212 AD. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Let my prayer rise as incense

The hymn below is chanted during the Presanctified Divine Liturgy, the Liturgy celebrated every Wednesday and Friday during Great Lent. This hymn is one of the unique characteristics of this Liturgy. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An Event to mark the Third Anniversary of the Abduction of the Metropolitan of Aleppo

On the 22nd of April 2016 a symposium will take place to mark the lapse of three years since the abduction of the Metropolitan of Aleppo, Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, abducted on 22nd April 2013, together with his fellow Metropolitan Paul Yazigi.

The event will consist of keynote speakers, songs, poems, and the book-launch of the Festschrift, developed as an appreciation of Mor Gregorios’ contribution to academia. The Festschrift benefits from 100 selected friends of More Gregorios as world-wide contributors, who have shared their memories with us. Supporting this event will show solidarity for both abducted bishops. The event will take place at the Brunei Theatre, SOAS - University of London, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG, at 18:00 – 21:00. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Wise Sayings of Solomon

Reading the Holy Scriptures and the Church Fathers it is often that we find how relevant and timeless their wisdom and words are. In many cases, we feel that these books and words were written today, for us, answering our current problems and thoughts. Maybe it is a further indication that wise words, inspired by God, have a certain power and relevance for all faithful. This is also evident in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, where we find the wise sayings of Solomon (chapters 10-15), where we read:

10 The proverbs of Solomon
A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.
2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing,
But righteousness delivers from death.
3 The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish,
But He casts away the desire of the wicked.
4 He who has a slack hand becomes poor,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
5 He who gathers in summer is a wise son;
He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.
6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
7 The memory of the righteous is blessed,
But the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise in heart will receive commands,
But a prating fool will fall.
9 He who walks with integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will become known.
10 He who winks with the eye causes trouble,
But a prating fool will fall.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a well of life,
But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
12 Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all sins.
13 Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding,
But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.
14 Wise people store up knowledge,
But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.
15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
The destruction of the poor is their poverty.
16 The labor of the righteous leads to life,
The wages of the wicked to sin.
17 He who keeps instruction is in the way of life,
But he who refuses correction goes astray.
18 Whoever hides hatred has lying lips,
And whoever spreads slander is a fool.
19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of wisdom.[a]
22 The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.
23 To do evil is like sport to a fool,
But a man of understanding has wisdom.
24 The fear of the wicked will come upon him,
And the desire of the righteous will be granted.
25 When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more,
But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.
26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
So is the lazy man to those who send him.
27 The fear of the Lord prolongs days,
But the years of the wicked will be shortened.
28 The hope of the righteous will be gladness,
But the expectation of the wicked will perish.
29 The way of the Lord is strength for the upright,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.
30 The righteous will never be removed,
But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
But the perverse tongue will be cut out.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.
11 Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight.
2 When pride comes, then comes shame;
But with the humble is wisdom.
3 The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.
4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
5 The righteousness of the blameless will direct[b] his way aright,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.
7 When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish,
And the hope of the unjust perishes.
8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
And it comes to the wicked instead.
9 The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices;
And when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.
11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted,
But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.
12 He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor,
But a man of understanding holds his peace.
13 A talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.
14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
15 He who is surety for a stranger will suffer,
But one who hates being surety is secure.
16 A gracious woman retains honor,
But ruthless men retain riches.
17 The merciful man does good for his own soul,
But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.
18 The wicked man does deceptive work,
But he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.
19 As righteousness leads to life,
So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.
20 Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord,
But the blameless in their ways are His delight.
21 Though they join forces,[c] the wicked will not go unpunished;
But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered.
22 As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout,
So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.
23 The desire of the righteous is only good,
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
24 There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.
25 The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.
26 The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
27 He who earnestly seeks good finds favor,
But trouble will come to him who seeks evil.
28 He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage.
29 He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind,
And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.
31 If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth,
How much more the ungodly and the sinner.
12 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge,
But he who hates correction is stupid.
2 A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn.
3 A man is not established by wickedness,
But the root of the righteous cannot be moved.
4 An excellent[d] wife is the crown of her husband,
But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.
5 The thoughts of the righteous are right,
But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
6 The words of the wicked are, “Lie in wait for blood,”
But the mouth of the upright will deliver them.
7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
But the house of the righteous will stand.
8 A man will be commended according to his wisdom,
But he who is of a perverse heart will be despised.
9 Better is the one who is slighted but has a servant,
Than he who honors himself but lacks bread.
10 A righteous man regards the life of his animal,
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
11 He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread,
But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.[e]
12 The wicked covet the catch of evil men,
But the root of the righteous yields fruit.
13 The wicked is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
But the righteous will come through trouble.
14 A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth,
And the recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But he who heeds counsel is wise.
16 A fool’s wrath is known at once,
But a prudent man covers shame.
17 He who speaks truth declares righteousness,
But a false witness, deceit.
18 There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise promotes health.
19 The truthful lip shall be established forever,
But a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
But counselors of peace have joy.
21 No grave trouble will overtake the righteous,
But the wicked shall be filled with evil.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
But those who deal truthfully are His delight.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.
24 The hand of the diligent will rule,
But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.
25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.
26 The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray.
27 The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting,
But diligence is man’s precious possession.
28 In the way of righteousness is life,
And in its pathway there is no death.
13 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
2 A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth,
But the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence.
3 He who guards his mouth preserves his life,
But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.
4 The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.
5 A righteous man hates lying,
But a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame.
6 Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
But wickedness overthrows the sinner.
7 There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.
8 The ransom of a man’s life is his riches,
But the poor does not hear rebuke.
9 The light of the righteous rejoices,
But the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
10 By pride comes nothing but strife,
But with the well-advised is wisdom.
11 Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished,
But he who gathers by labor will increase.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
13 He who despises the word will be destroyed,
But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.
14 The law of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
15 Good understanding gains favor,
But the way of the unfaithful is hard.
16 Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool lays open his folly.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
But a faithful ambassador brings health.
18 Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction,
But he who regards a rebuke will be honored.
19 A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul,
But it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil.
20 He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
21 Evil pursues sinners,
But to the righteous, good shall be repaid.
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
23 Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
And for lack of justice there is waste.[f]
24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
25 The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul,
But the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.
14 The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.
2 He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord,
But he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.
3 In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
But the lips of the wise will preserve them.
4 Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.
5 A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it,
But knowledge is easy to him who understands.
7 Go from the presence of a foolish man,
When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way,
But the folly of fools is deceit.
9 Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is favor.
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be overthrown,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief.
14 The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways,
But a good man will be satisfied from above.[g]
15 The simple believes every word,
But the prudent considers well his steps.
16 A wise man fears and departs from evil,
But a fool rages and is self-confident.
17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of wicked intentions is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
But the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 The evil will bow before the good,
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor,
But the rich has many friends.
21 He who despises his neighbor sins;
But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?
But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good.
23 In all labor there is profit,
But idle chatter[h] leads only to poverty.
24 The crown of the wise is their riches,
But the foolishness of fools is folly.
25 A true witness delivers souls,
But a deceitful witness speaks lies.
26 In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is a king’s honor,
But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.
29 He who is slow to wrath has great understanding,
But he who is impulsive[i] exalts folly.
30 A sound heart is life to the body,
But envy is rottenness to the bones.
31 He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
32 The wicked is banished in his wickedness,
But the righteous has a refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding,
But what is in the heart of fools is made known.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a reproach to any people.
35 The king’s favor is toward a wise servant,
But his wrath is against him who causes shame.
15 A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
5 A fool despises his father’s instruction,
But he who receives correction is prudent.
6 In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
But in the revenue of the wicked is trouble.
7 The lips of the wise disperse knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.
8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight.
9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But He loves him who follows righteousness.
10 Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.
11 Hell[j] and Destruction[k] are before the Lord;
So how much more the hearts of the sons of men.
12 A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.
13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord,
Than great treasure with trouble.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs[l] where love is,
Than a fatted calf with hatred.
18 A wrathful man stirs up strife,
But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
19 The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns,
But the way of the upright is a highway.
20 A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment,
But a man of understanding walks uprightly.
22 Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
23 A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!
24 The way of life winds upward for the wise,
That he may turn away from hell[m] below.
25 The Lord will destroy the house of the proud,
But He will establish the boundary of the widow.
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
But the words of the pure are pleasant.
27 He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house,
But he who hates bribes will live.
28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
And a good report makes the bones healthy.[n]
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.
32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom,

And before honor is humility.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

What is Hell?

Many have endeavoured to explain what hell is. What does one find when he is sent there? How can we know these things before death? What does the Church say about hell and the devil? Many Church Fathers have attempted such an analysis. Even today, many wish to explain their views on this important and frightening theme. Even non-theologians or people outside of the Church wish to give their input on this topic. Christos Yannaras, in his book The Freedom of Morality, explains the position given by Sartre and Dostoevsky. Yannaras claims:

‘. . . “hell is other people,” as again Sartre says in In Camera. . . this statement clearly means that hell for man is not an individual punishment, objectively imposed. The element of punishment in man’s hell is other people. The failure of personal existence to form an ontological hypostasis, its decline into natural individuality which claims an absolute right to existence of itself, places it in opposition to the individual natures of the “others.” Thus the “other” becomes the affirmation of my existential failure, my inability to transcend my natural will which has come to be identified with the self-defence of the biological and psychological ego. The “other” is hell because he torments me with the revelation that I am tragically condemned to my individual autonomy, incapable of existing free from natural predetermination, loving and loved.

Before Sartre, Dostoevsky had defined hell in the same perspective, only more fully: “Hell is the torment of not loving.” This definition means that other people simply provide the occasion for my own hell, while its cause is to be found in my own inability to relate, my own incarceration in the egocentric autonomy of my individuality. So hell becomes the more agonizing when the “other” is not an individual at an existential distance which nullifies the possibility of a relationship, but a Person whose loving self-transcendence and self-offering call me to existence and true life, while I cling to my individual autonomy. Hell is man’s free choice; it is when he imprisons himself in an agonizing lack of life, and deliberately refuses communion with the loving goodness of God, the true life.’ (pp. 32-33). 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Theotoke Parthene, Chanted by monks from Mount Athos

The following video is the famous hymn, Theotoke Parthene, chanted by monks from the Mount Athos monastery of Simonopetra:

Virgin Mother of God, hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women; and blessed is the fruit of your womb; for you gave birth to the Saviour of our souls.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Annunciation of the Theotokos

Today is undoubtedly one of the most important days in the Orthodox calendar. The Annunciation shows the relationship between God and man and also God’s love for mankind. Without the Annunciation and the coming of the Son, we, the created world, would not have been saved. This festivity has four meanings: a theological, an anthropological, a soteriological and finally a mariological one.

‘The Church’s hymnography celebrates with wonderment the woman who was called upon to “contain Him that nothing can contain.” It also calls the community of faithful to turn toward the God of love who ineffably lowered himself to become man so that mankind could realize the vocation for which it was created: to participate in the divine life. All creatures are called upon to join in the jubilation of the announcement that God’s project is about to be realized:’[1]
‘Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice: for the Son who is coeternal with the Father, sharing His throne and like Him without beginning, in His compassion and merciful love for mankind has submitted Himself to emptying, according to the good pleasure and the counsel of the Father; and He has gone to dwell in a virgin’s womb that was sanctified beforehand by the Spirit. O marvel! God is come among men; He who cannot be contained is contained in a womb; the Timeless [One] enters time; and strange wonder! His conception is without seed, His emptying is past telling: so great is this mystery! For God empties Himself, takes flesh, and is fashioned as a creature, when the angel tells the pure Virgin of her conception: “Hail, thou who art full of grace: the Lord who has great mercy is with thee.”’[2] (Stichera from Lauds of the Annunciation).

[1] Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth, The Ministry of Women in the Church, (California, Oakwood Publications, 1991), p. 192.
[2] Mother Mary, Kallistos Ware, The Festal Menaion, (London, Faber and Faber, 1959), p. 443. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Church of the Annunciation, Nea Makri

The Church of the Annunciation is located in the Holy Monastery of the Annunciation and St Ephraim, Nea Makri, near Athens. Interestingly enough, the Church has two iconostases, which separate the main part of the Church and the sanctuary. In the one we see the Annunciation icon, in the other we find the moment Abbes Makaria found the Holy Relics of St Ephraim, who was martyred on the grounds of the monastery, on the 3rd of January 1950.

The feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary comes nine months before Christians, i.e. 25th of March. It is the celebration of the announcing of the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary. St Luke, in his Gospel writes:

“26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”[c] 29 But when she saw him,[d] she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:26-38).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Funeral of Archimandrite Fr Ephrem Lash

It is with great sadness that we announce the repose of our beloved priest, Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne, Fr Ephrem Lash. He passed away peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday 15th March 2016 having gone home from the Church services for the beginning of Lent and spending a lovely afternoon with the parishioners.
Fr Ephrem served at the Greek Orthodox Parish of Ss Anthony the Great and John the Baptish, Holloway, North London. He was parish priest of this Church since 2006. He was a renowned scholar, an Athonite monk of the Monastery of Dochiariou, a learned man of Oxford, a member of a number of societies, including the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, the Orthodox Theological Research Forum and many more.
He often used to speak at conferences, where he spoke about his experiences, the ‘old ladies’ from his parish, and of course the main theme of most of his talks was translating the texts from the original languages of Scripture into English. Fr Ephrem brought much light, love and laughter to the community and to the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, in general. He will be remembered for his wit, his kind care and concern for all, regardless of who they were or where they came from and his cheerful character. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

Funeral Arrangements
Thursday 31 March 2016
Greek Orthodox Church of Ss Anthony the Great and John the Baptist (1, Sussex Way, Holloway, Islignton, London N7 6RT)

9.30 – 11.15: 9th hour, Vespers and Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
12 noon: Funeral Service by His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain.
These will be open casket services to allow mourners to pay their final respects.
14.30: The Burial will take place immediately after the funeral service at St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley, North London (278 High Rd, London, N2 9AG).
Following a wake that will take place at Grafton Primary School, Eburne Rd, Holloway, Islington London, N7 6AR.

Instead of flowers there will be a donation box in loving memory of Fr Ephrem, towards the many needs of his small parish of Ss Anthony the Great and John the Baptist.

May his memory be eternal!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chora Church, Constaintople

Chora Church Orthodox Monastery, currently known as Kariye Museum, contains one of the best preserved collections of Byzantine mosaics and frescoes in the world. Built in the 11th century and decorated in the 14th, it is one of the key attractions in modern day Istanbul, reminding the visitor of the glorious and creative Byzantine epoch.

The first Church on this site was built in the 4th century AD as part of a monastery complex outside the city walls of Constantinople, which at that point was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. However, the present building dates from the 11th century AD. As one enters this magnificent Church one sees a beautiful mosaic of Jesus Christ, entitled Ιησούς Χριστός Η Χώρα των Ζώντων (Jesus Christ The Country of the Living), hence why this monastery is called Chora. Also it received this name because it was originally situated in the countryside. The Church was situated within the new walls around the city that Emperor Theodosius II built later. Nevertheless, despite in the city, the Church retained the name Chora.  Through the following centuries, the Church was damaged by earthquakes and was largely abandoned.

During the years 1077 to 1081 AD the Church was rebuilt by the mother in law of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, Maria Ducaena, in the form of an inscribed cross, a popular architectural style of the period. After having been again damaged by earthquakes, restoration work on the Church was done in the 12th century by Isaac Comnenus. During 1315 to 1321, a major reconstruction effort was commissioned by Theodore Metochites during which most of the mosaics and frescoes seen to this day were added. The mosaics remain among the finest examples of the Palaeologian Renaissance.

When the Church was converted into a mosque in the 16th century AD, the Byzantine mosaics were covered in plaster. A minaret was built on the outside; however, early in the 20th century, the minaret toppled during an earthquake, and fell onto one of the domes, destroying it and its mosaics. While remaining a mosque, the building continued to deteriorate.

The mosaics were first uncovered in the 19th century; however, the government ordered that those in the prayer hall section of the mosque be re-covered. American archaeologists uncovered the mosaics for good during World War II and the Church turned mosque became a secular museum in 1947.

There are about 50 mosaic panels that date back to the beginning of the 14th century in the Chora Church. Most of these are in very good condition. Each of the four major sections of the Church are covered with mosaics. Those in the external narthex generally relate to the life of Jesus Christ. Those in the internal narthex generally relate to the Theotokos. The main frescoes in the parecclesion (the chapel) are the Resurrection (the masterpiece which all the icons of the Resurrection in the Orthodox iconographic tradition copy) and the Second Coming.

In another important scene within the Church, Christ Enthroned is depicted receiving the donor of the Church. The scene follows the Byzantine convention of depicting an architectural donation with an image of Christ in the centre and the donor kneeling besides him, holding a model of his donation. The donor, Theodore Metochites, kneels on Christ’s right in the clothes of his office and Metochites offers to Christ a representation of the Chore Church in his hands.

Additionally, a beautiful feature within this Church are its domes, which in many respects are unique. They are greatly detailed, depicting many figures within a small space. The most intriguing ones depict Jesus Christ with His ancestors and The Virgin Mary with the Angels.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

British Humanitarians – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The newest Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to British Humanitarians. From struggles in Victorian England against hypocrisy and violence, to campaigns to feed the dispossessed and the young in the wake of two world wars, there were many battles waged by these six outstanding individuals conducted across time, frontiers and under very different circumstances.
Among these British humanitarians are three women and three men who went beyond symptoms to attack the causes of inequality, deprivation and ignorance, mending shattered bodies and minds, and rescuing the vulnerable. There were driven human beings, sharing two significant characteristics - a natural concern for their fellow citizens of the world and a single-minded desire to help those in need.

Nicholas Winton (1909 – 2015). In 1939, Nicholas Winton played a crucial role in saving 669 Czech children from certain death at the hands of the Nazis by organising safe passage to the UK through his Kindertransport work. During 18-hour days in Prague, he visited refugee camps, conducted interviews and complied lists of children’s names for evacuation. He continued his vital work in London, finding foster parents, arranging transport and lobbying governments.
Sue Ryder (1924 – 2000). After serving in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, Sue Ryder volunteered for relief work in Europe, where she helped the displaced, orphans and concentration camp survivors. In 1953, she established the Sue Ryder Foundation, and over the next few years the organisation would set up more than 80 homes worldwide for people suffering from physical or mental problems.
John Boyd Orr (1880 – 1971). A leading expert in food and nutrition, John Boyd Orr advocated improvements in the global supply of food to provide “sufficient food for all mankind.” In 1945, he was appointed the first director – general of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation. The following year, he established an International Emergency Food Council to address the post-war food crisis. In 1949, Boyd Orr was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Eglantyne Jebb (1876 – 1928). Dedicated to improving the welfare of children, Eglantyne Jebb founded the ‘Save the Children Fund’ in 1919. In the early 1920s, she drafted the ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Child,’ which was brought before the League of Nations’ Assembly in September 1924 and unanimously adopted by the League. It was one of Save the Children’s first breakthroughs in improving the lives of children across the world.
Joseph Rowntree (1836 – 1925). Joseph Rowntree began his quest to enhance employees’ lives while working for the family confectionery business in York, introducing welfare programmes, medical services, pension schemes and sick benefits for the workforce. In 1904, he used half of his wealth to set up three trusts that were created to give support to social research and adult education, and to build respectable but affordable housing for the working classes.
Josephine Butler (1828 – 1906). In an age when voteless middle – and working-class women were subjected to inequality and exploitation, Josephine Butler campaigned ardently for the rights of women. Most famously, she was pivotal in the battle against the Contagious Diseases Acts, which denied certain women their civil rights. Her attention was also drawn to fights for women’s suffrage, education for women and against child prostitution.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Olympic Games and the Greek Calendar

The Greek calendar was based on the conception of the four-year Olympiad. When Greek historians referred to dates, they most often referred to a year (i.e., first, second, third, fourth) within the Olympiad that the event occurred. The winner of the stadium race in a given year had the Olympiad named in honour of him. The first Olympiad is therefore known as that of Koroibos of Elis, the winner of the stadium race in 776 BC.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dishonouring the Image

Icons and Orthodoxy go hand in hand. However, due to the iconoclastic controversy, the existence of icons were brought into question. How should we act towards the icon? What does the icon symbolise? St John of Damascus examines this issue in depth in his three Treatises on the Divine Images. However, other hierarchs, saints and Church Fathers expressed their views. The most holy and most blessed Archbishop of Theoupolis [Antioch] and Patriarch, Anastasios, on the Sabbath, to Symeon, bishop of Bostra, explains:

‘Just as in the absence of the Emperor his image is venerated in his stead, so in his presence it would be strange to neglect the archetype and venerate the image; but this does not mean that, because it is not venerated when the one for whose sake it is venerated is present, it must be dishonoured. . .
For just as he who abuses the image of the emperor suffers punishment as if he had dishonoured the Emperor himself, even though the image is nothing other than wood and paints mixed and blended with wax, in the same way he who dishonours the figure of someone offers an insult to the one whose figure it is.’[1]

[1] Anastasios of Antioch, Fragment on the Sabbath, (PG 89.1405). Quoted at Nicaea II. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Passion in Eastern Christianity – Day Conference in Oxford

On Tuesday 22 March, from 10.30 am until 7.30 pm there will be a colloquium organised by the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, the House of St Gregory and St Macrina, together with the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, Regent’s Park College, Oxford. The theme of this event will be The Passion in Eastern Christianity.

Speakers for this event include Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, Professor Andrew Louth, Dr Niki Tsironis, Dr Alexander Lingas. There will be a public lecture at 5.30 pm by Bishop Angaelos, OBE (Coptic Orthodox Church). All welcome.

For planning purposes it would be helpful to know numbers in advance, so please email to let the organisers know that you would like to attend. Everyone is welcome to turn up on the day. There is no charge. For registration and further details please contact:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Saint Aristobulus

Aristobulus of Britannia, also known as Saint Aristibule the Old, Apostle, Martyr, and First Bishop of Britain, is one of the Seventy Apostles, revered as having brought the Orthodox faith to the British Isles. The Orthodox Church celebrates his feast day on March 16th, on October 31st (together with Sts Amplias, Apelles, Stachys, Urban and Narcissus) and on January 4th with the Seventy Apostles.
Aristobulus, Apostle to Britain, was a Jewish Cypriot Saint, numbered among the Seventy Disciples. Along with the Apostles Urban of Macedonia, Stachys, Ampliatus, Apelles of Heraklion and Narcissus of Athens he assisted Saint Andrew. St. Aristobulus was also the brother of the Apostle Barnabas. We also find him referred to in Roman 16:10, ‘Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.’ He has been identified with Zebedee, the father of Sts James and John. He is said to be St Peter’s father in law, and to have been followed to Britain by his brother Barnabas. Like the others, Barnabas returned, but Aristobulus is said to have met a martyr’s death at the age of 99 in the mountainous heart of Wales.Previous to this, he preached the Gospel to the Celts of Northern Spain, i.e. Celtiberians, whilst on his way to Britain.

The Greek Martyrologies read: "Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of St. Paul the Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to the whole world, and ministered to him.  He was chosen by St. Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very warlike and fierce race.  By them he was often scourged, and repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many of them to Christianity.  He was there martyred, after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island."
Haleca, Bishop of Saragossa, attests: "The memory of many martyrs is celebrated by the Britons, especially that of St. Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples (Halecae Fragments in Martyr.)." In 303, St. Dorotheus of Tyre in his Acts of the Seventy Apostles wrote, "Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans, was made bishop in Britain."
Such was the Apostle Aristobulus' acclaim amongst the Brythonic Celts that a region was named after him, i.e. Arwystli, which later became a small medieval British kingdom, and continues to this day as a district within the county of Powys, Wales. It is believed he was martyred in Wales although there is no documentation for this.[1]