Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Holy Tuesday - Hymn of Kassiani

During the night of Holy Tuesday, we chant in the Churches the Matins of Holy Wednesday. The last troparion of the service is the hymn of Kassiani, a pious poet from Byzantium.

The Text:
Sensing your divinity Lord, a woman of many sins, takes it upon herself to become a myrrh bearer and in deep mourning brings before you fragrant oil in anticipation of your burial; crying: "Woe to me! What night falls on me, what dark and moonless madness of wild-desire, this lust for sin. Take my spring of tears You who draw water from the clouds, bend to me, to the sighing of my heart, You who bend the heavens in your secret incarnation, I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and wipe them dry with the locks of my hair; those very feet whose sound Eve heard at the dusk in Paradise and hid herself in terror. Who shall count the multitude of my sins or the depth of your judgment, Saviour of my soul? Do not ignore your handmaiden, You whose mercy is endless".

Monday, April 29, 2013

Behold the Bridegroom

The Orthodox Church has just entered into the mystical and beautiful Holy Week, where countless hymns are chanted, giving a unique and special feel to the period. The first hymn that stands out is the "Hymn of the Bridegroom". A beautiful Troparion, showing the beauty of Byzantine Music. The Hymn is as follows:

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.
The following videos are in Arabic and Greek...!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Frohman Statue, Marlow

Walking, around Marlow, just before the famous bridge, one can find the Frohman Statue. Charles Frohman was one of the greatest theatre impresarios to have ever lived. He rose from humble beginnings in a backwater in Ohio to run a huge number of famous theatres in London, New York and Paris. He was a great friend and supporter of J M Barrie and he staged the first production of Peter Pan in December 1904 at the Duke of York Theatre when no other producer would back it. The play was an immediate success and was run by Frohman in his theatres round the world until his untimely death. It has continued to enthral millions of children over the succeeding decades right up to the present day.

Frohman visited England every summer from 1900 and he often visited Marlow which he regarded as the most beautiful spot in the entire world, particularly admiring the view from The Causeway over the bridge and the river to The Compleat Angler.Sadly, he lost his life in the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915. He chose to stay on the sinking ship and was reported by a survivor to say "Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure of life," echoing the famous line from Peter Pan, "To die would be an awfully big adventure".
The stone memorial featuring a nymph was erected in 1924 by his friends and admirers including J M Barrie and Pauline Chase and is the only tribute in the world to this remarkable impresario and showman. The translated Greek text on the plinth is a fragment by the poetess Sappho which relates to the great joy and pleasure that CF took from life and that he gave to audiences the world over. Included in the current work is the change of Frohman’s date of birth shown on the plinth to 1856.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Robert Hooke Biodiversity Bell

Walking around St. Paul’s Cathedral, I came across this very weird bell that was designed by sculptor, Marcus Vergette and cast at Taylor’s Bell Founders in Loughborough from a mould of the same fossil-rich Portland limestone of which the base, St. Paul’s, and so much of central London, is made.

This is the final scale model for a much larger ‘geological’ bell to be tolled whenever a species goes extinct worldwide and will be sited at the MEMO Project on the Isle of Portland. During the aftermath of the Great Fire of London Robert Hooke first deduced that species could go extinct from giant ammonite fossils in Portland stone.
MEMO is a collaboration of scientists and sculptors determined to build a global monument recording global species extinctions into the future. The purpose is to capture the public imagination on the subject of biodiversity loss. A spiral design based on the fossil forms on the surface of the bell was granted full planning permission in 2012 for a spectacular cliff-top site on Portland overlooking the ‘Jurassic Coast’ World Heritage Site. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Conference Dedicated to Christos Yannaras: Philosophy, Theology, Culture

The Orthodox Theological Research Forum (O.T.R.F.) will this year focus on the work of the important contemporary Greek theologian, philosopher and writer, Christos Yannaras. A number of significant international Church leaders and scholars have been invited to honour this important figure. The subject matter of the conference will be divided into three main themes – philosophy, theology and culture, in order to address areas in which Christos Yannaras has made a significant contribution.

The conference will also include a musical offertory, written and performed by the Greek composer, Dionysios Savvopoulos, in honour of Christos Yannaras. Other speakers will include Archbishop Anastasios of Albania (in absentia), Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, Metropolitan Kyrillos of Abydos, Revd. Dr Andreas Andreopoulos, Dr Evaggelos Batzis, Revd. Prof John Behr, Dr Peter Bouteneff, Prof Konstantinos Delikonstantis, Dr Evaggelia Grigoropoulou. Prof John Hadjinicolaou, Revd. Prof Nikolaos Loudovikos, Revd. Prof Andrew Louth, Prof Neil Messer, Dr Aristotle Papanikolaou, Revd Dr Daniel Payne, Dr Norman Russell, Dr Elena Draghici-Vasilescu, and others.
Also, during the conference there will be morning and evening services within the chapel at St. Edmunds Hall, Oxford University. For more information and bookings (before the 31st of May 2013) please visit the O.T.R.F. site, http://otrf.webplus.net/index.html

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Variety of Ecclesiastical Music in Greece

Many believe that the Greek world has only one kind of ecclesiastical music, i.e. Byzantine Music. However, this is a wrong preconception. Within Greece there are two main distinct traditions in respect to church music, Byzantine which is mostly practiced and polyphonic that is mainly chanted in the Ionian Islands and some churches scattered around the country.
In order to understand this reality, one needs to examine Greek history, especially since the fall of Constantinople and the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. During the post-Byzantine period Greece was conquered by the Ottoman Empire; nevertheless, there were certain islands which came under the rule of the Venetians (such as the Ionian Islands, Crete and other parts of the country). Therefore, this brought a different new culture to the conquered country, introducing western art and music, which inevitably affected the ecclesiastical life and practice of these islands. On the other hand, many in Greece now have been influenced by the music chanted within the Slavonic tradition.

Within Greek Orthodoxy some argue that the ‘correct’ ecclesiastical music is only Byzantine music. However, Christians should be inclusive (as the Church is) and not exclusive. Shouldn't we merely understand this plurality as a beautiful feature within the Orthodox Church and Tradition? All traditions can co-exist. Which one is more spiritual? This, of course, depends on what each faithful is used to. Upon entering a church we see and venerate the icons, here the chanting, pray etc. All of these remind us of what we were taught, of what we believe. Therefore, what we are used to allows us to find the spiritual heights we wish. Thus, all traditions within the Orthodox Church have the same spirituality and importance.
Here we give four examples of the same hymn “Σήμερον κρεμάται επί ξύλου”, “Today he is put on the cross”, chanted during Holy Week. The first two are polyphonic/western style and the last two are chanted according to the Byzantine tradition.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meeting Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

In the Ecumenical Patriarch’s new book “Encountering the Mystery - Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today”, he describes his impressions of Elder Paisios, saying:

‘Father Paisios (1924-94), a simple yet profound monk…would visit my predecessor, Patriarch Demetrios, when I served as his personal secretary; I was most impressed by his silence. Anyone blessed to meet a living saint know the unique sense of stillness that characterizes such a person; a saint appears to live at once in this world and in the age to come. What was most surprising about Father Paisios was that he was utterly human, filled with spontaneity and far from any pretence. God’s light seemed to shine through the veil of his soul in a splendour, which made his visitor feel totally at ease and warmly welcomed. Later, I recall visiting him in his cell, just as so many others have done over the years. He would offer spiritual counsel as he shared an apple or orange that he had peeled. He was a genuine professor and missionary of the desert. What a paradox! An unordained monk hearing the inner life of an Ecumenical Patriarch! And he did so without the least self-consciousness. Spontaneity and sincerity are, sometimes, the humble context within which the Church functions most authentically’ (p. 65-66).   

Monday, April 22, 2013

Heresy according to St. Symeon the New Theologian

Who has access to the Holy Spirit? Is tradition static? Many today are amazed that we have new saints proclaimed even during our epoch…However; St. Symeon the New Theologian described how “it would be considered heresy and a subversion of Scripture to claim that later generations do not have access to the Holy Spirit or cannot acquire the same vision of God as given to the early Apostles, Fathers, and saints”[1], stating:

“Those of whom I speak and whom I call heretics are those who say that there is no one in our times and in our midst who is able to keep the Gospel commandments and become like the holy Fathers…Now those who say that this is impossible have not fallen into one particular heresy, but rather into all of them, if I may say so, since this one surpasses and covers them all in impiety and abundance of blasphemy. One who makes this claim subverts all the divine Scriptures. I think (that by making this claim) such a person states that the Holy Gospel is now recited in vain, that the writings of Basil the Great and of our other priests and holy Fathers are irrelevant or have even been frivolously written. If, then, it is impossible for us to carry out in action and observe without fail all the things that God says, and all that the saints, after first practising them have left in writing for our instruction, why did they at that time trouble to write them down and why do we read them in Church? Those who make these claims shut up the heaven that Christ opened for us, and cut off the way to it that he inaugurated for us. God who is above all, stands, as it were, at the gate of heaven and peers out of it so that the faithful see him, and through  his Holy Gospel cries out and says, ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’ (Mt. 11:28). But these opponents of God or, rather, antichrists say, ‘It is impossible, impossible’”. [2]

[1] Bartholomew, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch, “Encountering the Mystery – Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today”, (New York, Doubleday, 2008), p.41
[2] Symeon the New Theologian, “Catechetical Oration”, 39, 3-5, in the Classics of Western Spirituality series (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), p.311-313 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

First Day Cover, Great Britons

The new First Day Cover collection has an interesting topic, 10 Great Britons, who have contributed towards the greatness of Britain through their own individual endeavours.
Norman Parkinson. Born Ronald William Parkinson Smith, he was one of the world’s most celebrated portrait and fashion photographers: a perfectionist celebrated for his ‘action realism’ style.
Vivien Leigh. Leigh was an English actress who won Oscars for her powerful and iconic performances as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Peter Cushing. Peter Wilton Cushing was a British character actor who played a number of highly memorable roles including Professor Van Helsing, Grand Moff Tarkin and Sherlock Holmes.
David Lloyd George. Lloyd George was Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922 and was one of the true radicals in politics. Although born in Manchester, he was the first and only Welshman to hold the office of PM.
Elizabeth David. While studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, David developed a love of fine cuisine, which she shared with austere, post-war Britain through a series of ground breaking cookbooks.

John Archer. Born in Liverpool of Barbadian descent, John Archer was a prize-winning photographer who further distinguished himself by becoming the first ever Afro-Caribbean London Mayor.
Benjamin Britten. One of the UK’s finest ever classical composers. His works include a number of operas as well as the War Requiem, first performed at the consecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral.
Mary Leakey. An eminent archaeologist and anthropologist, Leakey’s discoveries were so significant that they forced scientists to radically change many long-held views about human evolution.
Bill Shankly. Bill Shankly was a Scottish footballer and manager who achieved his greatest successes at Liverpool FC, with whom he won three First Division titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup.
Richard Dimbleby. Widely acknowledged as one of the most respected figures in British broadcasting history, Dimbleby was the anchor of the BBC flagship programme Panorama from 1955 until 1965.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

St. Vedast alias Foster

St. Vedast is a beautiful Wren Church, located at the heart of the City of London. It was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire in 1666. However, it was, unfortunately, gutted again during the Blitz. St. Vedast is an Anglican church in the Catholic tradition, a parish church within the Church of England.

The church is dedicated to a French saint, little known in Britain, who was Bishop of Arras in northern Gaul around the turn of the 6th century. Vedast, also known in Latin as Vedastus, in Norman Vaast, in Walloon Waast and in French Gastos, helped to restore the Christian Church in the region after decades of destruction by invading tribes during the late Roman Empire and to convert Clovis, the Frankish king. Remembered for his charity, meekness and patience, he is buried at Arras cathedral.

His name in England has been corrupted from St. Vaast, by way of Vastes, Fastes, Faster, Fauster and Forster to Foster, the name of the lane at the front of the church. That is why the name of the church is Vedast-alias-Foster. St. Vedast was venerated in particular by the Augustinian priors in the 12th century, and they may be responsible for the foundation of the few churches dedicated to him. Only one other church in England is currently dedicated to St. Vedast, in Tathwell, Lincolnshire, a third parish in Norwich now being remembered only in a street name. Nevertheless, a number of the works and legends of St. Vedast are celebrated in the stained glass windows of the church. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Meditations for Great Lent

The period of Lent is a period were the faithful attempt to better themselves, by fasting, reading and following the rules and canons of the Church. Reading the hymns of the Church, the Bible and books on Lent give all of us an insight into the richness and mysteries of the Ecclesia. This new book ‘Meditations for Great Lent’, written  by Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou (a priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain) and published by Conciliar Press, is a useful  source for those interested in the beauty and spirituality of Lent. Despite tackling the topic from an Orthodox point of view, this book can be read by faithful of other denominations, who practice and follow the teachings of the Lenten period. Fr. Vassilios identifies the key points of Lent by using passages form the Book of Triodion (the book used for the services of this period by the Orthodox Church, which are full of spirituality and teachings that coincide with the atmosphere and treasures of this intriguing period). The chapters are separated in Lenten themes, examining the topics of humility, repentance, ascetic love, fasting from sin and others, leading to the happiness and glory of Pascha. 

Many today, in the Church, believe that fasting certain food is enough, criticising those who do not fast, forgetting therefore the Bible (Rom.14:3-4) which clearly goes against these judgements. This book, however, highlights that if we are to live a truly Orthodox lent “we are called to forgive everyone who has injured or offended us from the bottom of our hearts” (p. 48). Fasting spiritually and physically is crucial, if we are to follow the hymns and teachings of the Triodion. New ideas and understandings are analysed; the author states that “the spiritual struggle of Lent and of Christian life as a whole is not a matter of avoiding the passions, but of mastering them” (p.70), a refreshing idea, especially for those who try to abide by the virtues of Lent and the general Christian life in our modern globalised and digital societies, where most of the time sin is the easy option.   
This small, pocket size book contains the most important themes of the period of Triodion. These topics are explained in a simple language, approachable by all, taken from the services of the Orthodox Church. Therefore, I would suggest that whoever wishes to fully understand the Lenten period, before going to the Divine Liturgy on a Sunday, they should read a chapter of this book in order to further understand the hymns, the Apostle and the Bible readings in Church. This will bring the faithful closer to the true meaning and ideals of Lent, creating a “joyful expectation” (p. 87) for Easter. Moreover, this is a book that can be read every Lenten period, reminding us of our obligations, as Christian faithful, in becoming more virtuous by achieving the ultimate goal, i.e. theosis.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Conference on “The Liturgy: the Entrance into the Kingdom”

The Orthodox Fellowship of Saint John the Baptist is organising a conference on “The Liturgy: the Entrance into the Kingdom” between the 12th and the 14th of July 2013. This conference will take place at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire. Confirmd speakers, according to the poster for this event, are Metropolitan Jonah (Pafhausen), USA and Archimandrite Zacharias, Monastery of St. John the Baptist. Events are open to non-members. For more information visit the Fellowship’s site: www.ofsjb.org

The Fellowship was founded in 1979, and works with the blessing of the pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assembly for the British Isles and Ireland. It enables English-speaking members of the many Orthodox Church Traditions in Britain and Ireland to come together and through prayer, discussion and mutual friendship, deepen their commitment to, and understanding of, the one Orthodox Christian faith. Membership, therefore, is open to all Orthodox Christians. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Presanctified Liturgy

During my years in Athens, at the School of Theology, I had to give a sermon for the Liturgics Module at the chapel, located within the School of Theology. Since I gave it during Lent, my topic was the Presanctified Liturgy. Here I give you an English translation of the Greek original sermon.
The Orthodox Church celebrates mainly three Divine Liturgies, despite it also having other Liturgies that it celebrates rarely. The Three most popular ones are: 1. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 2. The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great and 3. The Divine Liturgy of Saint James. These are known for their joyful and celebratory character. However, these liturgies are not able to be celebrated during the weekdays of Lent, due to the fact that they do not follow the solemn and mournful character of the Triodion. That is why the Orthodox Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, so the faithful can have the opportunity to receive Holy Communion on a regular basis, because otherwise he or she does not live in Christ.
The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is a characteristic feature of this time of year, acquiring the unique beauty and solemnity that makes the spiritual culmination of the period of fasting. In particular, it is celebrated on a Wednesday and Friday of Great Lent, i.e. days with a mourning nature, the Thursday of the 5th week of Lent , Good Monday, Good Tuesday, Good Wednesday and whatever celebration falls on a weekday.
The name of this Liturgy describes exactly what it is. It is literally a Liturgy of “the Presanctified Gifts”. This means that it is not a Liturgy like the other ones that we celebrate during the year, where we have an offering and sanctification of the divine gifts. The actual gifts are sanctified during another Liturgy, which was celebrated on another date. Therefore, it is unlike any other evening service, because it gives the opportunity to the faithful to take communion. The priest, during this mournful period of Lent, every Sunday and even Saturday, extracts enough divine gifts needed for the Presanctified Liturgy of the week, from different prosfora from the one needed for the Sunday Liturgy. They are blessed during the specific prayers and are sanctified into the Body of Christ. Then they will be immersed into the Holy Chalice and will be stored into a special tabernacle for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Liturgy, celebrated during the week. The keeping of the Presanctified Gifts is an old liturgical practice by which the Church secures the possibility of Holy Communion to the faithful, when the external conditions of life, such as persecution or isolation of monks and hermits from the monastic brotherhoods, did not allow them to participate in the usual Eucharistic gatherings.
The service begins with the Great Vespers and places the entire service towards the objective of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the spiritual aim of Great Lent.  The hymns which are chanted are found in the Vespers service and simultaneously the preparations for the Divine Gifts are taking place. A special ritual accompanies the reading that takes us back to the time when the Great Lenten period was still the centre of the preparation for the Baptism of the catechumens. As we read the text from the Book of Genesis, a lighted candle is placed on the Gospel on the altar. The light is the liturgical symbol of Christ, who is the “Light of the World”, who illuminates the paths of our lives and warms our souls. The placing of the candle on the Gospel during the reading of the Old Testament symbolises the fact that all the prophecies were fulfilled in the Person of the Lord, who opened the minds of His disciples. The Old Testament leads to Christ as the Great Lent leads to the enlightenment of Baptism, which integrating the catechumens in Christ, opens their minds to understand His teachings.

The second part of this service begins with the Liturgy of the Catechumens, i.e. a set of prayers and requests especially for those preparing to be baptised, according to the ancient practice. After the catechumens leave, two prayers are recited introducing us into the Liturgy of the Faithful. In the first we ask for the purification of the soul, the body and the senses. In the second prayer of the faithful, it prepares us for the Entering of the Divine Gifts.
After the above parts of the service, the holiest moment follows, i.e. the procession of the Holy Gifts to the altar. This act reminds us of the Great Entrance which we all are used to from the Liturgies that are celebrated regularly.  What differs, however, is the liturgical and spiritual meaning assigned to it. During the Divine Liturgy, celebrated on a Sunday, the Great Entrance symbolises the offerings that the Church gives towards God; the Church offers herself, her life, the lives of her members and of course the entire creation as a sacrifice to God, as a representation of the one, unique and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In the Presanctified Liturgy there is no offering, there is no sacrifice and Eucharist, there is no sanctification, but there is an apocalypse and an announcement of the mystery of Christ’s presence within the Church. This entrance requires, of course, a very great solemnity because it illuminates, liturgically, the coming of Jesus and the end of a long fasting period, prayer and waiting for the arrival of aid, relief and joy that we expect. That is why, during the Great Entrance, the faithful kneel, because what the priest holds is not bread and wine, but they are already the Body and Blood of the Lord, whilst the priest remains silent.
The last prayer, said in the ieron of the church by the priest, summarises the meaning of the service of the Presanctified Gifts and the relations with the efforts of the period of Lent. The spiritual struggle of the Triodion period is tough, but the victory against the invisible enemies is certainly the good fight, for whoever attempts to undertake this venture. Therefore, we are reminded that the Resurrection is not far away.
In recent years, it is evident that there is an attempt to return the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts to its previous time, namely the evening hours, so therefore the all-day fasting brings a new and special meaning to the holiness of both this Liturgy and this period.   
This Liturgy is one of the most beautiful and mystical services of the Orthodox Church. Moreover, it is also a constant reminder for the frequency of Holy Communion within a Christian life; it is a voice from the depths of history, from the ancient living tradition of the Church. A voice that claims that the believer cannot live the life in Christ if there is no constant renewal of the communion with the source of life, the body and blood of the Lord. The faithful needs to constantly live a life in Christ, a task promoted by our Church especially during the period of the Triodion. What eventually saves us is neither fasting nor the chanting or praying alone, but what Saint Gregory Palamas stated, ‘to do all of these in front of God’. This relationship with God and the burning of the heart in view of the evening Holy Communion is exactly what gives a completely different meaning in every moment of the day that went by, and gives a true understanding and feel of the coming Resurrection, increasing thus the desire all Christians have, of having Christ in the centre of their lives. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Orthodoxy, an Exhibition in London

In order to mark the Orthodox Easter, the Feast of Feasts, which will be celebrated on the 5th of May, an exhibition is taking place at the Hellenic Centre (15th-17th April 2013), Baker Street, in the centre of London. This exhibition contains exhibits by three artists, three techniques with one subject, i.e. Orthodoxy. The exhibition contains photographic images by Doros Partasides, icons on broken glass by George Papadopoulos and icons on canvas by Eleftherios Foulides.

Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain states (in the prologue of the booklet given to all visitors at the exhibition), that: 
“There is no doubting that Art, all art, is influenced by Creation, which is itself the Work of God’s Hands. As the Psalmist exclaims in rapture, ‘O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all, the earth is full of your creatures’ [Psalm 103 (104): 24 NRSV]. This is the beginning of art and has inspired mankind from the beginning of human history.

As is well-known, Art has a very prominent role to play within the life of the Orthodox Church. When one thinks of the Art that has been inspired by the Orthodox Christian Faith, it is perhaps reasonable to immediately think of those magnificent works of art that either adorn or formerly adorned the buildings erected in cities, sanctuaries or monasteries under the patronage of Byzantine Emperors or under their influence and which are today recognised as ‘masterworks’ in the history of world art. It goes without saying that these works have their antecedents – they did not simply ‘drop out of the sky’ – and that Coptic and Armenian Christian art knew of these sources and were influenced by them; just as, in its turn, Byzantine art was itself an influence on art far beyond the confines of its Empire. Its art passed to many of the Balkan states and then further to Kiev and to the Russian principalities that developed into Imperial Russia. By the twenty-first century it is to be found throughout the world and nowadays it is deeply respected, loved and cherished for the message that it conveys (even it this has not always been the case)…”

The three day celebration will end with a lecture on Orthodoxy, given on the 17th of April, 7pm in the Friends Room – Hellenic Centre. The talk will be given by the professional iconographer Aidan Hart.   

Monday, April 15, 2013

Byzantine Music during the Triodion Period

The Lenten period or the period of the Triodion (according to the Orthodox Church), is characterised by its hymnological celebration, that leads us slowly but gradually towards Easter, the Feast of Feasts. The objective of this period is to prepare us with fasting and repentance, in order for us to greet the Holy Passion of Christ and His Resurrection. That is why the solemnity and the joyful mourning are pointed out through the services and hymns of the Triodion.   
Why do we name the period before Pascha as the period of Triodion? The terminology derives from two words, the Greek word for the number ‘3’ and the word ‘ode’, which derives from the ancient Greek word ‘ado’, meaning to chant (according to the ecclesiastical language), that are metrical hymns, recited melodically. The Canon, going through its evolutionary period, ended up being made up of 9 odes; however, during the period of Lent some Canons have only 3 odes. That is why the book we mostly use during Lent is called Triodion.
The economy of the Church, for the purpose of the catholic exercise and concurrence in prayer and fasting, introduces several stages that we must reach in order to be successful, spiritually and physically, during the period of Lent, leading to Easter and the Resurrection of our Lord. Therefore, we have the first weeks which prepare the ground, as did John the Baptist before the coming of Jesus Christ to the world. This first period prepares us and introduces us gradually to Lent, in order for us to understand the deeper meaning and the particular spirituality of the period of Triodion. After of course we experience the Holy and Great Lent, full of meaning, symbolism, theology, history, music, colours and poetry, which all together complete the Christian life by showing not only events and persons of our life time but also remembering other epochs beginning from Adam and Eve and ending at the Second Coming of Christ. Thus we identify that all of these events are part of the Ecclesia.

I believe it is important to emphasize the value and significance of Byzantine music, especially during the Triodion that is the art of prayer, being an ecclesiastical component. We could even claim that it is the salt of ecclesiastical life that cleanses and heals the soul of man, or as mentioned by the great chanter Thrasivoulos Stanitsas, “the language of Byzantine music is an eternal chant, by which our people come to a dialogue with God”. This music calms the faithful and brings them in communion with the Creator. As Basil the Great stated towards the youth, when comparing secular music and Byzantine music, “we need to seek the other (i.e. Byzantine and ecclesiastical music) which is superior and leads higher”.  Also we can identify the different sound from mode to mode, confirming that each sound of the ecclesiastical music affects the faithful in a characteristic way, highlighting thus the educational and therapeutic role of music within the church life of the Christian, which many times during this period has a sense of doxology, supplication, mourning and joyful sadness. The objective, however, is prayer and communion with God, which is also reached through Byzantine music, pointing out the purification and serenity of the believer. The ecclesiastical music of the Orthodox Church, as explained by the Protopsaltis Chrysanthos Theodosopoulos has “unmatched lyricism, inexhaustible wealth of ideas and an original and wonderful technique, combining in a wonderful way the structure, content and melody, creating seamless harmonic conjunction with the text”. That is why it is a necessary part of the divine worship within Orthodoxy.
Through this laconic description of Byzantine music, especially during the period of Lent, depicted here, we comprehend the importance of music and ecclesiastical art in general within Orthodoxy, leading all of us towards salvation. Despite the beauty of Byzantine music, we need to understand the hymns, which are full of theology, dogmatics, spirituality, church history. By reading and comprehending the hymns we are able to understand and live the period of Lent, leading towards the ultimate climax, i.e. the Resurrection that is the confirmation of the Old and New Testament, because without the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians, 15:14).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gods and Goddesses in Ancient Greek Mythology

Greek Mythology- God and Goddesses - History Documentary. A great video to watch, learn and discover Greek Mythology ,Gods and Goddesses and more. Myth is to justify an existing social system and account for traditional rites and customs. In ancient Greece, stories about gods and goddesses, heroes and monsters were an important part of everyday life. They explained everything from religious rituals to the weather, and they gave meaning to the world people saw around them.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Piazza Della Signoria, Florence

Piazza Della Signoria is among the most beautiful Italian squares, located in the historic city of Florence, occupying a large area.

The imposing complex of Palazzo Vecchio towers over the piazza on the north side. It began in 1294 as a palace fortress for the residence of the Priors, Arnolfo di Cambio conceived the building as a large block crowned by merlons. The characteristic feature is the powerful thrust of the Tower rising up above the palace and similar in style to the upper part of the mansion.