Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bible and Tradition

Many Christian Denominations argue whether they should believe and abide by the Bible and Tradition or only the Bible. However, we probably need to define what Tradition is. Is it a conservative attitude to Christian beliefs? Is it unchanging? Does it evolve? An Orthodox understanding of Tradition is merely the explanation of the Bible, through the Church Fathers, who were enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Their interpretation is the one adopted by the Church, in order to have a single attitude and explanation of Scripture, showing thus uniformity within Orthodoxy. The Church Fathers also tackle social and philosophical issues, showing how a Christian should live, not only during their epochs, but diachronically. Moreover, Tradition is also how we act and what we do within an ecclesiastical environment and during services. This last feature exists in all Denominations, whether they accept the notion of Tradition or not.

A Biblical paradigm, highlighting how both Bible and Tradition, i.e. interpretation, are needed is the following one, from the 8th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, showing how Biblical stories are not simple ones, having a deeper understanding. “An Ethiopian dignitary was reading the prophecy of Isaiah while he was in his chariot. Philip the deacon heard him and asked: ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ The Ethiopian’s response was, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ He was right, and the acknowledgement of his weakness was the first step in his journey from the words to the Word. Following this, Philip told the Ethiopian dignitary things that the book could not tell him, and led him to a faith that he could not reach on his own. He explained to him how the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah was Jesus Christ, and how Christ was the deeper meaning of the book…For this reason the theology and the tradition of the church and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit are indispensable tools in our attempt to penetrate Scripture”[1]. The Holy Spirit allows us to read Scripture in the correct manner.

[1] Andreopoulos, Andreas, This is My Beloves Son – The Transfiguration of Christ, (Brewster, Massachusetts, 2012), p. 17

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tom and Jerry… An American or English Tale?

Most people imagine that the famous cartoon characters Tom and Jerry have their origin in the USA. In fact they have their origins in an earlier period on the other side of the Atlantic. The tale begins in 1821, during the Georgian epoch, when the British capital was enjoying a boom in publishing. It was a time when books, pamphlets and newspapers were being produced in great numbers as literacy and the want for reading material was increasing across society.

Among the most innovative of the new publishers was Pierce Egan, a sporting journalist, who began a new series of publications in 1821 entitled ‘Life in London or the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorne Esq and his eloquent friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees Through the Metropolis’.

This eventually became so popular that other publishers began producing various pirate versions of it. In a couple of months it had even turned into a stage play; however, the title changed to ‘Tom and Jerry or Life in London’. This same story found its way, through an entrepreneur émigré, who transformed it into the cartoon we all know today. The basic idea remains intact, in a new form of course, i.e. a cat and a mouse.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

St. Panteleimon Church, Rhodes

The Church of St. Panteleimon is located in the eastern part of the old town of Rhodes, near the city walls. It was built in order to commemorate the victory of the Christian defenders of Rhodes against the Ottoman besiegers. The siege began on the 23rd of May, 1840, and it ended two months later with huge losses by the Ottomans, on July 27th, the day that the Orthodox Church celebrates St. Panteleimon. 

After the invasion of Rhodes by the Ottomans, the church was abandoned, due to the fact that all the Christians were forces to live outside the city walls. According to Albert Gabriel, who visited Rhodes in 1923, the church was used as a residence by a family of Jews. Under the Italian rule it was used as a prison and under the English administration it was used as a police station. Finally the church was given to the Orthodox Church, after the incorporation of the Dodecanese. It was consecrated on Palm Sunday, April 25th  1948, by Bishop Timothy of Rhodes. A beautiful feature of this small church is the fact that it depicts, all around its walls, the life and the martyrdom of Saint Panteleimon, giving this a detailed biography of this famous Christian Saints. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Ancient City of Philippi

Philippi is one of the great cities of the ancient Greek world. Philippi has had its share of fame. It was built along the ancient Roman trade route called the Via Egnatia, which stretched from Rome to Constantinople. Remains of this route can still be found in the northern Greek region of Macedonia.
Philippi also entertained great names of history like Mark Antony, Octavian, Brutus and Cassius as they faced off in the marshlands west of Ancient Philippi in the “Battle of Philippi”. This city was known as being the gateway to Europe and it is not surprising that Philippi played a large role in changing the direction of the Roman Republic.
Philippi is also interesting from a Christian perspective. Here you can follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul as Christianity was first spread to Europe through Philippi.

The hills around Philippi contained a high concentration of gold and silver according to the Greek historian Strabo. The original settlement, Krenides (Crenides), was a colony of powerful Thassos, the island state to the south. Due to the abundance of fresh water springs in the area, it was named Krenides (many springs).  Because of its location on the mainland, it was subject to Thracian raids and was constantly under threat. 
In 356 BC, the colonists in Krenides, invited the powerful Macedonian king Philip II to help them in defending themselves from the northern invaders. The opportunity of gaining gold helped him to make his decision. Philip took control of the city, enlarged its size and fortifications and named it after himself – Philippi. 
Philip then managed to increase the output of the local goldmines to produce 1000 talents a year. At 2011 values, Philip’s annual income would have been about 1.6 billion dollars.  He quickly amassed a fortune that bought him an army, which eventually enabled his son Alexander the Great to conquer the world.

By 168 BC, the Roman machine was on the march. They conquered Macedonia and kept Philippi as one of its principal cities.  A large part of Rome’s success was their great infrastructure. They built paved roads across the empire.  Philippi was to benefit from this as the Via Egnatia came through the city in the 2nd century BC. This road opened up the east-west route from Asia Minor to Rome.
The Roman Empire took a turn as the Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC in Rome by two Senators, Brutus and Cassius. These two fled to raise an army in an attempt to conquer Rome. From the other side, Mark Antony raised an army and marched east.  On October 23, 42 BC, the two Roman armies met on the plains just west of Philippi and clashed in what was to be known as the “Battle of Philippi”. The outcome of this battle marked the end of the Roman Republic.

About the year 50 AD, a new era was about to dawn on this city. Christianity had been spreading rapidly across the Middle East, down to Africa, and up through Asia Minor. One of Christianity’s foremost missionaries, Apostle Paul, was in Troas (formerly Troy)– just across the water from Neapolis (present day Kavala). At night, Paul received a vision telling him to “step over into Macedonia and help us”. 
Paul along with Luke and Silas got on a boat and made the trip, passing the island of Samothrace and then on to Neapolis.  Taking the Via Egnatia, Paul and his companions travelled the 15 kilometers further to Philippi. It was Philippi that had the claim of being the first European city to hear the message of Christianity.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Today the Triodion begins, introducing us into the period before Lent. A built up is apparent, leading all of the faithful and the life of the Church towards the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. The first Sunday is dedicated to the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, emphasising the fact that we should be humble in front of God. Lying in His presence and judging others will do us no good in this life or the next and during the final judgement. God sees who truly prays, who is truly humble and who truly repents. The parable is as follows, given to us from Luke’s Bible (19: 10-14),

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed tis with himself. ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’. And the tax collector standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breasts , saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jane Austen Stamps

 The new Royal Mail First Day Covers are dedicated to Jane Austen, who lived between 1775-1817 in the quiet Hampshire countryside. She wrote six of the most important novels in the English language, even more popular now than when they were first published.

Her most famous work include the worldwide famous story, “Pride and Prejudice”, followed by “Sense and Sensibility”, “Mansfield Park”, “Emma”, “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion”. It is refreshing to see that literature and books are remembered and appreciated, especially today, where the digital world is playing a protagonistical role in daily life. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Is the Orthodox Church Missionary?

Speaking to many Western Christians I have been asked and I have been pushed to defend the fact that the Orthodox Church is a Missionary Church, as are the Roman Catholic, the Anglican and the Protestant Churches. It is apparent that Western Christianity seems, and probably is, more missionary than the Eastern Church. However, this is understandable since the Church in the West was facilitated by the Empires, such as the British, or kingdoms, such as Spain and Portugal, who had the opportunity, the power and the money to produce missionary work worldwide. On the other hand the Eastern Church has been, for centuries, under persecution, foreign empires and powers who have supressed its existence, making it thus impossible for missionary work in for example the Third World; however it is a notion which coexists with the Church. Nevertheless, this is constantly changing, where the Orthodox Church is growing its missionary work, as seen through the works of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and so on.

The Orthodox Church is Apostolic; the Greek word αποστέλλω points exactly the idea of being sent out, i.e. the missionary idea that is a definitive characteristic of the faith. There are a number of paradigms emphasising the existence of missionary work within the Orthodox World, starting from the New Testament times with the activities of St. Paul among the Gentiles, moving on to the medieval era with the development of a new alphabet by Saints Cyril and Methodius to help evangelize the Slavic peoples, the Russian monks who spread Christianity to Alaska, the missionary work of our epoch, undertaken in Asia and Africa, following what St. Mark writes: “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”(Mark, 16:15).
The Orthodox understanding of mission is synonymous with the term “philanthropia”, following the second commandment, i.e. “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Orthodoxy through its mission, unlike many practices seen in the New World by Western Christianity during past centuries, respects the freedom of the human person, the distinctions on a cultural, linguistic and artistic level, rejecting therefore the notion of conversion through force. Nevertheless, it is also important to highlight that the Church’s mission is not only to be practiced in the Third World, in non-Christian lands. It is crucial to identify that even at home, even within the Church mission and philanthropia is crucial in order to prosper and live a Christian life. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Titanic II to be built

We have all seen the movie, we have all heard the story, but I don't believe anyone thought that we would see a new Titanic. However an Australian entrepreneur and a Chinese shipyard have decided to realise this fantasy and give birth to Titanic II. This new luxury liner will be completed by 2016. She will be sailed to Southampton and repeat the maiden voyage that the original Titanic endeavoured to accomplish in 1912. The design will be an exact copy of the original, with a number of high tech gadgets and modern facilities. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How it all began. FA celebrates 150 years

Football is today the largest sport in the world. However, this sport would not have been the global force that it currently is, without the intuition and commitment of one man, Ebenezer Morley. On Monday 26th October 1863, in the heart of London, a city of oil lamps, hansom cabs and top hats, Ebenezer Morley, a solicitor and sportsman living in Barnes in south-west London, believed that football should have a set of rules in the same way that the MCC had them for cricket.
Therefore, the captains, secretaries and other representatives of a dozen London and suburban clubs met at the Freemason’s Tavern in Great Queen Street, near to where Holborn Underground Station is located today. Their goal was to form an Association with the object of establishing a code of rules for the regulation of football.

The FA’s intention was to standardise the rules to iron out differences, not to create a new game. Morley became The FA’s first secretary, later its president and he drafted modern football’s first rules at his Thames-side home. Football owes its current identity to the ideas and actions of this man.
It took six meetings for the FA to finally approve those rules. The first match under them was played at Limes Field, a couple of minutes’ walk from Morley’s house, on Saturday 19 December 1863. Barnes and Richmond drew 0-0 after 90 minutes of play. Before these regulations and the formation of The FA, football was in a hybrid state. Today it spans a world that is caught up in its magic.  
This year the FA is celebrating its 150 years of life, emphasising how football plays a central part in sports, not only in Britain but worldwide.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Aerial Bombing, a new type of warfare

States, and now terrorist organisations, endeavour to find new and more efficient ways of afflicting the enemy, showing thus superiority. Aerial bombing, especially since 1945, has altered the way with which wars are fought, climaxing to the Yugoslavia attack by NATO forces only via the air. Despite conventional war being regulated in many respects, aerial warfare is governed by no rules.
Since the Korean War in the 1950’s ethical issues have arisen, scaring of the West by bombing uncontrollably due to the negative press and propaganda that could arise back home, which would mean an enormous political cost.

Vietnam was a different story, remaining to this day controversial; it is often being criticised as indiscriminate and disproportionately harmful to Vietnamese civilians. Rolling Thunder bombing campaign (March 1965-October 1968) was a combination of interdiction and industrial bombing designed to degrade North Vietnam’s ability to continue the war and hence show the seriousness of the U.S.A. in the matter. It was known as one of the most constrained military campaigns in history. Nevertheless, many states and organisations went against this practice describing it, as The New York Times did, as “Stone Age barbarism. On the other hand Pope Paul VI condemned the bombings from the Vatican.
During the Persian War restrained bombing continued in order to minimize casualties. Thankfully, a number of potential targets, such as those that were culturally or religiously sensitive, were placed on a protected ‘joint no fire target list’. All of these actions were carefully planned in order to maintain an international support for military action against Saddam Hussein.

The Yugoslavia war (1999) was a unique case, in regards to past wars. It was the only instance where ground troops were not used, from NATO’s side. Despite the media and many sources claiming that there were limited casualties, mistakes were evident since countless buildings were destroyed, including hospitals and houses, bringing Serbia down to its knees. Unfortunately, collateral damage is always a reality when in war with another state or group.
Ethical issues inevitably occur. How is a war fought when one actor is fighting from the sky and the other from the ground? It is true that no NATO lives were lost during the Yugoslavia campaign; however, collateral damage was a reality, destroying Serbia, which is still endeavouring to revive its previous state. Technology has progressed, new planes have accurate and clever bombs; nevertheless, it does question the future of mankind… What could happen when something goes wrong? 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Greece in London

“Up Greek Tourism” is a crowd funding grass roots initiative, promoting Greek Tourism, especially now that the Mediterranean country is going through an economic crisis. Up to now this group has funded a tourism campaign billboard in New York (Times Square), Washington DC and now London, Piccadilly Circus.

This initiative highlights how Greeks from all over the world wish to promote their country. Nevertheless, Greeks do this on a daily basis, through the Greek restaurants, the food, the wine,  the music, the plate smashing, the culture and religion, which each Greek takes with him when he moves to another country. We have all promoted Greece, the Greek islands, the Greek beaches, sea, sun, food, filoxenia etc. This billboard in London is part of this promotion of Greece to the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Jam Factory

The Jam Factory, Tiptree and Wilkin & Sons Ltd is home to the Little Scarlet Conserve, where skills and tradition blend to produce some of the world’s most outstanding preserves.

Wilkin and Sons Limited have been making the world famous Tiptree preserves in the Essex village of Tiptree for more than 115 years. Today products leave Tiptree destined for any of more than sixty different countries. On sale in fine food stores at home and overseas, Tiptree is also served on top airlines, in five star hotels and on cruise ships.