Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Salvation is a very Christian idea, which is the reason why Jesus Christ came down to earth. He came not to give mankind knowledge by salvation. The ultimate objective of every Christian is salvation and theosis. Therefore, we all need to aspire to this. However, what is salvation. Below are two quotes, the first by Christos Yannaras and the second one by Fr. George Florovsky. These two quotes explain this term, which in many respects is alien towards the way of life we have today, in respect to our modern, digital and capitalistic way of life. 

“In our days, a mistaken religious upbringing has led many people to consider the Church as a means or instrument to ensure individual salvation for each of us – and when they talk of “salvation” they mean an unlimited kind of survival after death in some “other” world. But in reality the Church entrusts to everyone the enormous honour to be responsible for the salvation of the whole world, of this world whose flesh is our flesh and whose life is our life. And salvation for the Church is the liberation of life from corruption and death, the transformation of survival into existential fullness, the sharing of the created in the mode of life of the uncreated”[1].   
“Salvation is more than forgiveness. It is a genuine renewal of man. And this renewal is effected not by the discharge, or release, of certain natural energies implied in man’s own creaturely being, but by the “energies” of God Himself, who thereby encounters and encompasses man and admits him into communion with Himself”[2].

[1] Yannaras, Christos, Elements of Faith, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1991), p.48
[2] Florovksy, George, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View, (Belmont, Nordland Publishing Company, 1972), p. 117,118

Monday, December 30, 2013

St Mary’s Church, Harrow on the Hill

On the highest point of Harrow on the Hill, overlooking Harrow School, one can find St Mary’s Church, which is a historic church in North West London. It has a long and interesting history. Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, began the construction of a church on this site in 1087. Unfortunately, he died in 1089. His successor, St. Anselm, at the age of 60 was enthroned as Archbishop in September 1093. The new church building was completed and eventually consecrated on 4th January 1094. Unfortunately, little of the original building remains to this day (specifically only the lower section of the tower). The rest of the building has been added in various periods. 

From the church, on the top of the hill, anyone can see fantastic views of Harrow and of Central London. Lord Byron was a frequent visitor as a schoolboy from Harrow School, from 1801 to 1805. Due to its prominent position, i.e. the highest building in Middlesex, the church spire is a landmark for miles around. The church is often Harrow and can be seen from miles. In more recent years, it is used as a navigational reference for aircraft approaching RAF Northolt. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Church Fathers on Liturgical Life

Nothing so arouses the soul, gives it wings, sets it free from the earth, releases it from the prison of the body, teaches it to love wisdom and to despise all the things of this life, as concordant melody and sacred song composed in rhythm. St. John Chrysostom
We should offer up doxologies to God with fear and a contrite heart, in order that they may be accepted like fragrant incense. St. John Chrysostom
What state can be more blessed than to imitate on earth the choirs of angels? To begin the day with prayer, and honour our Maker with hymns and songs? As the day brightens, to betake ourselves, with prayer attending on it throughout, to our labours, and to season our work with hymns, as food with salt? The consolation from hymns produces a state of soul that is cheerful and free of sorrow. St. Basil the Great. 

At all times, but most of all while chanting, let us be still and undistracted. For through distractions, the demons aim to ruin our prayer. St. John of the Ladder
And even if you do not understand the meaning of the words, for the time being teach your mouth to say them, for the tongue is sanctified by the words alone whenever it says them with good will. St. John Chrysostom
Recite the words of psalmody as your very own, that you may utter the words of your supplication with insight and with discriminating compunction, like a man who truly understands his work. St. Isaac the Syrian
A holy hymn gives birth to piety of soul, creates a good conscience, and is accepted by God in the treasuries of the heavens. St John Chrysostom
The value of prayer can be inferred from the way the demons attack us during services in church. St. John of the Ladder
A psalm consoles the sad, restrains the joyful, tempers the angry, refreshes the poor and chides the rich man to know himself. To absolutely all who take it, the psalm offers an appropriate medicine; nor does it despise the sinner, but presses upon him the wholesome remedy of penitential tears. St. Niceta of Remesiana
There is nothing upon earth holier, higher, grander, more solemn, more life-giving that the Liturgy. The temple, at this particular time, becomes an earthly heaven; those who officiate represent Christ Himself, the angels, the cherubim, seraphim and apostles. St. John of Kronstadt
Wherever there are spiritual melodies, there does the grace of the Spirit come, sanctifying the mouth and the soul. St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

A religious hymn is a great blessing for everyone. It constitutes praise to the Most High, honour for His holy people, worldwide harmony, an eloquent proof of the Church’s unity. It expresses the voice of the Church, its confession. It brings about a complete spiritual uplifting and absolute peace and joy in redeemed hearts, with the triumphal hymn and song of happiness. It drives away hardness of heat. It chases away disturbance. It dissolves and dissipates despondency...The voice sings the soul’s joy, while the spirit delves into the mysteries of the faith. St. Ambrose of Milan
The book of Psalms uproots the passions with a certain melodic enjoyment and a delight that instils pure thoughts. St. Basil the Great
The virtue of silence, especially in church, is very great...Is anything more unbecoming than the divine words should be so drowned by talking, as not to be heard, believed, or made known, that the sacraments should be indistinctly heard through the sound of voices, that prayer should be hindered when offered for the salvation of all? St. Ambrose of Milan
When you stand in church, be careful not to look here and there or curiously examine how each one of the brethren stands or sings. Rather, pay attention only to yourself and to the chanting and to your sins. St. Symeon the New Theologian

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The true faith of Christianity

The true faith, to be found within Christianity, is God’s Revelation towards mankind and not what man discovers on his own. God chose to reveal Himself not randomly, but to the Saints, the Fathers of the Church, and generally the people who were worthy to receive the word of God, the Revelation of God. This revelation, this true faith, has one purpose, the salvation of mankind, the communion between God and humanity, the deification of the human race. This Revelation is to be found within the Church, within its life and faith. The Saints are the perfect example of the grace of God within the created world, showing, even today, that salvation and deification is achievable by all faithful within the Church. 

St. Gregory Palamas adds to the above, claiming that ‘those who are of the Church of Christ are of the truth; and those who are not of the truth are also not of the Church of Christ’. Therefore, truth is to be found only within the Church. Any truth outside of the Church is merely false.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Church of the Lady of the Angels

This small Church building called the Church of the Lady of the Angels, is located in the town of Zakynthos, on the Greek island of Zante. This Church was built in 1687. However, due to a massive earthquake, this church was destroyed. Hence, it was later rebuilt at the same position and with the same materials and architecture, as the original. 

On the exterior of the building, there are some interesting reliefs of the Virgin and Angels, carved on the stone walls. On the bell tower one can find two stone slabs carved with depictions of the two-headed eagle, a symbol used by the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Church, and the Archangel Michael. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Facts

Electric Christmas lights were first used in 1854.
The famous Christmas carol, ‘Silent Night’ was first sung as part of a church service in Austria. A guitar was used due to the fact that the church organ was so badly rusted, it couldn’t be played.
Not everyone opens their Christmas presents on Christmas day. For example in Greece they open them on New Year’s Day.
There are364 gifts mentioned in ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.
Scientists in the USA calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s present on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.
Carols were not sung in churches until they were introduced by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. 

The traditional Christmas meal in England, before the current turkey, was a pig’s head and mustard.
Some parts of the Christmas tree can actually be eaten, with the needles being a good source of Vitamin C.
The word Christmas derives from the Old English ‘Cristes maesse’, which means ‘Christ’s Mass’.
The first Christmas celebrated in the United Kingdom is thought to have been in York in 512 AD.
The first commercial Christmas card was produced and sold in London in 1843.
People in the USA buy 25-30 million real trees and 8-12 million artificial trees to decorate each year.
For many countries, Christmas is the single largest annual economic stimulus.