Saturday, November 30, 2013

The New Church of St Andrew, Patra

Despite having a Church dedicated to St. Andrew, the local population of Patra wished to have a large Church dedicated to St Andrew, the First-Called Apostle. Therefore, in 1902, a new projct began of the foundation of a new, byzantine style Church, which was founded by the King of the Greeks, George I. There were a number of difficulties during the building of this Church that is why it took 66 years to complete. On the 26th September 1974 the Church was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan of Patra Nikodemos.

The Church can hold a maximum of 7000 worshippers, which makes it the largest Church in Greece. The central dome has a height of 46 metres. The uniqueness of this Church is found in its interior, whereby the sacred relic of the Holy Head of Saint Andrew is found, together with the Cross of his martyrdom, i.e. the X shaped cross.

Additionally, a beautiful feature of this Church is to be found on the wall behind the Holy of Holies, where the Platitera, i.e. the Virgin Mary with Her hands open, is seen blessing the city, which is painted right underneath her; thus she is blessing the city of Patra and its people, who endeavoured to undertake this impressive and massive project, in order to show their devotion to St Andrew, and therefore to Jesus Christ and His Church. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Holy Cross’s First stop in Britain

Today the Holy Cross began its two week stay in Britain by stopping at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of All Saints, Camden Town - London. The Holy Cross was greeted during Matins, in the middle of the Katavasias. Countless faithful came to venerate the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and receive its blessing, together with a number of priests and chanters, who came especially for this occasion. Not only Orthodox but also members of other Christian denominations visited All Saints Cathedral in order to be a part of this great event.

Fr George Zafirakos, during his sermon, explained how this is a significant occasion for the Orthodox community of Great Britain and also for the Cathedral in Camden, since this was the Holy Cross's first stop. Despite many officials (ecclesiastical and secular) having visited the Cathedral, this occasion is the most important one, since the Holy Cross of Our Lord has blessed the Church and its people, giving the opportunity to many Orthodox who have not yet visited the Holy Lands to venerate and receive the blessing of the Cross.

For the full program of the visit please see here!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dogmatic Theology is Polemic

Depending on what book or source one reads on theology or religion, we find the use of a different language, words etc. Reading many books on Orthodoxy and academic work I have found that academic theology is very polemic, not proclaiming the ‘love’ factor of Christianity. Dogmatic theology is part of this. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos, in his book The mind of the Orthodox Church, explains how there is a reason for this:

“Dogmatic theology is polemic, which means that it has been created mostly to oppose the heretics who have appeared and distorted the theology of the Church, with direct consequences for man’s salvation. The terms ‘essence’, ‘hypostasis’, ‘nature’, etc., have been created to oppose the heretics. So the dogmas express the revelation and the life which the Church has and they also cure man and lead him towards deification. They are spiritual road signs. In this sense we can say that the dogmas save man and sanctify him. This happens because they cure him and give him the right orientation on his way towards God”. (p. 123)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Talk on “New non-invasive prenatal diagnosis: The end of amniocentesis”

The Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain is organising a talk, entitled “New non-invasive prenatal diagnosis: The end of amniocentesis” (‘Νέες μη επεμβατικές μέθοδοι προγεννητικού ελέγxου: το τέλος της αμνιοπαρακέντησης’). The speaker will be Mr. George Attilakos MD, MRCOG (Consultant in Obstetrics & Foetal Medicine, University College London Hospitals). The talk will be held on Friday 6th December 2013, at 6.30 p.m. at the Hellenic Centre, 16-18 Paddington Street. If you wish to attend the event, please confirm to this email:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Vatican Island in Greece

The Ionian Islands have been under foreign rule for centuries, being under Venetian, French, British rule, whist being under Italian rule during WW II. However, despite all the islands being transferred to Greece (1864) one very small island was left out of the transfer, i.e. St. Nicholas Island, right next to Zakynthos, on the north side of the island, in front of the St. Nicholas Bay. 

The only man made structure on the small island are the ruins of an old Church of St. Nicholas. This situation means that the small island, of the coast of Zakynthos is territory of the Vatican. Therefore, the Vatican also has an island in the Ionian Sea. Nevertheless, Greek fishermen do stop on the island, not creating any diplomatic issues between the two states.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Constantinople Lecture 2013

The Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (AECA) organised its annual Constantinople Lecture on Thursday 21st November 2013 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom, Moscow Road, London. The night began with Vespers, followed by the lecture, which was given by The Rt Revd Andrew Proud (Bishop of Reading). The title of the talk was “Fully alive: good news for our time”. Fr William Taylor, Chairman of the AECA introduced the speaker, giving some biographical facts.
The speaker reflected on St Irenaeu’s most famous aphorism, which he believes offers the good news our time so desperately needs to hear. He pointed out that our society is more secular now. Despite being more atomised and fragmented it seems that we are currently also more connected, via this new movement of social media networks.

The Bishop of Reading explained that he has a loved, valued and respected Christian Orthodoxy for years. He first encountered it as a young ordinand of 20, working in a bank in Colchester, when he was taken to the Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, in Essex, early one Saturday morning for the Divine Liturgy. There he had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Sophrony over breakfast. He claimed that he looks oftern to the treasures of Orthodoxy often, for inspiration in shaping his own discipleship and informing his own theological thinking and preaching. Orthodoxy, for the speaker, offers something the west desperately needs to hear in our era, which is what it really means to be human, to be made in the image and likeness of God.

The Bishop then gave an interesting statistic that in the Church of England, there will be a loss of 40% of ordained clergy over the next ten years, due to retirement. Despite new candidates becoming priests, the final net loss will be something around 25%. Therefore, the Church of England will have to think of different ways of providing ministry and more imaginative ways of engaging in mission as a Church. It is crucial to have beautiful churches, which currently the Church of England has. But it is imperative to cultivate the communities. The problem with the current practice is that the Christians today, between Monday and Saturday, are basically functional atheists. So, we have an issue of discipleship. How do the priests disciple people to live their faith, and to be good news in their Monday-Saturday lives.

Bishop Andrew Proud also examined the Fall, found in Genesis. He explained that it is still a thing of such power. It is something we experience as human beings in virtually every moment of our lives. Separation from God and alienation from one another and from our very selves still happens. Which is why the world is the way it is. However, he later claimed that the Fall is proof of our freedom, because without it we would never know that true love exists.
It is crucial that the Christianity makes holiness attractive again. In order to do this we need to promote the idea of love, which will help withstand the storms of life. Therefore, everyone will have hope in their hearts, since their hearts and their gaze are fixed on Christ. The speaker is convinced that the Anglicans need to recover a proper sense of sacred time. It’s all there in the tradition, but such is the nature of the present time that they need to do that pointing elsewhere. This is something Orthodoxy is very good at.

The Bishop of Reading believes that times needs to be spent with the communities, outside Sunday worship, teaching them, knitting them together, building them up, nurturing them and equipping them to cope with Monday-Saturday. To do this, the priests need to take the spiritual and theological formation of the faithful seriously. Many of them have not progressed much beyond a Sunday School level grasp of their faith.
The evening continued with a small announcement by Fr. Stephen Stavrou who spoke about the AECA Travel Award. Later, after thanking the speaker, all the participant moved to the crypt of St Sophia, where refreshments were given, allowing for further communication between Orthodox and Anglicans.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Church of St Theodoroi, Athens

In the centre of Athens, Greece, one can come across a number of small Churches, jewels of an older period, which still show the beauty of Byzantine Architecture. One of these is the small Church of St Theodoroi, near Klafthmonos Square. It is believed to have been built in the 11th century, either in 1049 or 1065. Its founder is believed to be Nikolaos Kalomalos, who was a Byzantine dignitary. The Bell tower is believed to have been built much later, by using pieces of the marble iconostasis of the Church. Also, the interior icon painting was finalised in the 20th century by Athanasios Kandris. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Can we know God?

This is a crucial question, asked by all religions and peoples. Can we know God? How can we know God? Here we have a number of explanations, given by Fathers of the Church explaining this important topic.
‘Anyone who tries to describe the ineffable Light in language is truly a liar – not because he hates the truth, but because of the inadequacy of his description’. (St Gregory of Nyssa)

‘We do not know God in his essence. We know him rather from the grandeur of his creation and from his providential care for all creatures. For by this means, as if using a mirror, we attain insight into his infinite goodness, wisdom and power’. (St. Maximus the Confessor)
‘The form of God is ineffable and indescribable, and cannot be seen with eyes of flesh. He is in glory uncontainable, in greatness incomprehensible, in loftiness inconceivable, in strength incomparable, in wisdom inaccessible, in love inimitable, in beneficence inexpressible.

Just as the soul in a man is not seen, since it is invisible to men, but we know of its existence through the movements of the body, so God cannot be seen by human eyes, but he is seen and known through his providence and his works’. (Theophilus of Antioch)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Roman Agora, Athens

The Roman Agora (Market of Caesar and Augustus) is located on the north side of the Acropolis, and a short distance to the east of the Greek Agora, with which it was connected by a paved street. An inscription on the architrave of the monumental Gate of Athena Archegetis ("Athena the Leader") tells us that Julius Caesar and Augustus provided the funds for its construction in the 1st century B.C.

The Roman Agora consists of a large, open-air courtyard surrounded by colonnades on all four sides. On the eastern side, there were also a series of shops. On the southern side was a fountain. The main entrance was on the west (Gate of Athena Archegetis), and there was a second entrance (or propylon) on the east, leading up to a public latrine and the "Tower of the Winds." The Roman Agora apparently became the main market of the city, taking over many of the commercial functions of the Greek Agora, which had become something of a museum (or archaeological park) by that time.

It has an east, Ionic propylon and a west, Doric propylon, known as the Gate of Athena Archegetis During the reign of Hadrian the court was paved with slabs. During the Byzantine period and the Turkish occupation the area was covered with houses, workshops and churches along with the Fethiye Mosque.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Roman Catholic Church of St Mark, Zante

The Roman Catholic Church of St Mark the Evangelist was constructed in the early 17th century and was reconstructed twice (747 and 1894). Inside the Church were valuable relics, remarkable icons, big organ, artistic candlesticks, valuable sacerdotal vestments and sacred vessels. Near the church was a building with voluminous library and wide picture gallery.

The Church – also known by many people in Zante as the jewel of the island – was completely destroyed by the destructive earthquake of 1953, as did most of the city of Zakynthos. Unfortunately, most of the interior was burnt by the big fire, which broke out after the earthquake.

During the 1960s the present church building was constructed, maintaining the external characteristics of the old church. Currently there are no more Roman Catholic Churches on the island of Zakynthos. Until the 1960s there was a permanent priest who served the Roman Catholics of the island. However, because of the destructions of the earthquake, most of the Catholics, as many of the other citizens of the island, moved to other parts of Greece, primarily Athens, and other countries. Today, the priest of the Roman Catholic Church of Patras (on the mainland) spiritually cares for the few Roman Catholic residents of the Ionian Island. Additionally, during the summer months, this small church cares spiritually for the foreign visitors of Zakynthos.

Ecclesiastically, Zante belongs to the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Corfu-Zakynthos-Kefalonia. The Roman Catholic Archbishop has his sear in Corfu.