Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Theotokos

The Mother of God is a person of interest, since the beginning of Christianity. What was her role within the Church? What does her motherhood mean for us Christians? She is the New Eve. Without her, Jesus would not be able to be born in the world, in order for Him to save it and us. But what does she mean for the current feminist movement in the Church and outside of it? Following is an interesting exegesis of who the Mother of God is, given to us by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel:

‘According to the great ecclesial vision, Mary is not the “model” only for women, the prototype of submissive, passive, and oversweet femininity which women today are no longer able, no longer want, to identify themselves with. Mary is not a goddess either, a symbol of a feminist Christianity which is implicitly or explicitly opposed to a masculine Christianity centered on Jesus. This is what a certain type of recent feminism has proposed, but the roots of such a feminist Christianity go deeply into a very ancient paganism, often carried along by popular piety. According to the Orthodox understanding, Mary is fully human and represent all of humanity, the complete humanity which God, in his grace, wanted to freely associate with the realization of his loving plan. She is a sign, the anticipation of a human person entirely given to the Lord, the ultimate eschatological realization of man-anthropos. Walking ahead of us all, she accompanies us along the way which, ever since Easter morning and the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, leads to the glorious Second Coming. There is no doubt a deep meaning in the fact that this whole and complete humanity carries the features of a woman, a mother. In Mary and with her, we are all called, men and women, to a “feminine” attitude of welcoming grace, of giving and offering ourselves so that the new man, the total Christ, totus Christus, can be born in the Spirit in each one of us and in all of us together in the Church.’[1]

[1] Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth, The Ministry of Women in the Church, (California, Oakwood Publications, 1991), p. 24. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Love thy neighbour as thyself

Love is a popular word within Christianity, in Scripture. Loving, not only ourselves, but also our neighbour and God is a ‘requirement’. How can we show our love for God, if we don’t even love our neighbour, our friend, our family? This has to be achieved first, before attempting to reach the higher stage of love, i.e. of loving our enemy. This latter achievement is not an easy task. Fr Sophrony Sakharov speaks about the issue of loving our neighbour:

‘To love our neighbour as ourselves, to live according to the commandment of Christ, will lead us to the garden of Gethsemane, where Christ prayed for the whole world. ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’. It was given to me to understand this commandment in the form of a gigantic tree, of cosmic dimensions, whose root is Adam. Myself, I am only a little leaf on a branch of this tree. But this tree is not foreign to me; it is the basis of my being. I belong to it. To pray for the whole world is to pray for this tree in its totality, with its milliards of leaves. To follow Christ means to open oneself to the same consciousness as Christ, who bears in Himself the whole of humanity, the totality of the tree, without excluding a single leaf. If we acquire this consciousness, we will pray for all as for ourselves. . . In Christ, our consciousness expands, our life becomes unlimited. In the commandment ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’, we must understand the words ‘as thyself’ in this way: every man, the ‘whole Adam’, is my being.’ [1] 

[1] Sakharov, Archimandrite Sophrony, Words of Life, (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2010), pp. 21-22. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

The veneration of Scripture

Why do we incense and kiss Scripture during the Holy Sacraments in the Orthodox Church? Why do we process it around the Church, giving it a place of honour within our worship? The obvious answer would be that Scripture represents Christ, who is revealed in His Word. A valid explanation is given to us by John Meyendorff, who explains:

‘The only possible purpose of this liturgical veneration of Scripture is to suggest to the faithful that it contains the very Truth of Revelation, which the Church possesses precisely in a given written form. It is important to note in this connection that whatever value is attributed to Tradition and to the notion of the Church’s continuity in the Truth and her infallibility, the Christian Church never added its own doctrinal definitions to Scripture. Founded upon the apostolic kerygma, it included alongside the inspired literature of the Jews the written evidence only of those who had seen the risen Lord with their own eyes and who could write down for the Church the very words of the Master, faithfully interpreting His teaching…’[1]  

[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 14. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

St. Anthony and St. Andrew Orthodox Church, Corfu

The Orthodox Church of Saint Anthony and Saint Andrew is located in the Old Town of Corfu. The Church was rebuilt in 1753 in a place of an older Church, which possibly was first built in the 15th century. Historically it is identified with the church in which the Emperor Ioannis Palaiologo visited for the Divine Liturgy, when passing through Corfu as an intermediary stop, during his journey towards Florence in 1439, in order to resolve the significant issue of church union between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Street Art, Central Athens

Modern Athens is known for being a concrete city. However, there are those who wish to give it a colourful aspect, creating its grey walls into modern canvasses. Themes vary from ancient Greek culture to modern problems and ways of life. It is a perfect way of depicting ones fantasies and beliefs, about life, history, culture, religion etc. Here is a small example of street art as seen in Central Athens. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Roman Bath, Athens

In the heart of the Greek capital, right next to the modern day metro network, lies the archaeological site of a Roman Bath. The district which, until its extension under Hadrian, lay outside the fortified city has been of importance ever since antiquity. We know, from a number of ancient sources and from earlier research in excavations, that this idyllic spot with the abundant water of the nearby Ilissos river and heavy vegetation was a place in which many divinities were worshipped. It had been a human settlement from prehistoric times and became a burial-ground from the Geometric period.

Once Athens had begun to expand during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, the temple of Olympian Zeus had been completed and the triumphal arch built in honour of the emperor had been erected, the district was incorporated into the inner city and new sanctuaries, public and private buildings and baths were constructed in it.

Rough wall-paintings are evident on the site, pointing out to its later use as a refuge or martyr’s memorial in the early Christian years. In Byzantine times clay silos for storing cereals were sunk into the floors of the rooms of the bath-houses.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Birth of Jesus Christ

In Matthews Gospel (1:18-25) we read about Jesus’ Birth:
‘Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus’.

We are, again, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. This harmonious event is the Queen of all Ecclesiastical celebrations. Without it we would not have the other festivities; we would not have the Cross, the Resurrection; we would not have achieved salvation and communion with God. His presence on earth points out the salvation of mankind, which is continued today through His Body, the Church. Due to this eternal presence he is named ‘Emmanuel’. The name implies ‘God is with us’. Emmanuel remains in people’s lives not only as a route to God, towards Truth and Life, but even as a driver, as an initiator, as a brother who calls us all to the Kingdom of God. These truths ultimately reveal the meaning of life. They transform our lives!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Purpose of the Incarnation

‘…The purpose of the Incarnation is to restore man in his former dignity and, therefore, make him free again. The very difference between the man “in Christ” and the “old Adam” is that the former is free. This freedom comes to him not as a legal emancipation, which would leave him to an autonomous existence, but as a share in the dignity of his Creator, a new life in which freedom does not stand by itself, but is the consequence of full knowledge, full vision, and full and positive experience of divine love, truth, and beauty. “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:32).’[1]

[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 40. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Flashmob for Christmas

On Saturday, December 14, 2013 Berklee students and Boston musicians furnished the MFA's Shapiro Family Courtyard with song, featuring soloist Mark Joseph & a full choir and string section. The nostalgic Christmas tune rang through the MFA amongst hundreds of unsuspecting onlookers and brought bustling and chatting crowds to silence in a bid to capture the essence of the holidays.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Word Became Man

‘And God being perfect becomes perfect man, and brings to perfection the newest of all new things, the only new thing under the Sun, through which the boundless might of God is manifested. For what greater thing is there, than that God should become Man? And the Word became flesh without being changed, of the Holy Spirit, and Mary the Holy and ever Virgin one, the Mother of God.’ (St John Damascene).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Carols from Mount Athos

The Hellenic world has a large tradition of Christmas Carols. Each area in Greece has its unique carols for the birth of Christ. Mount Athos is no exception to this rule. Following is a beautiful Christmas carol from Mount Athos.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Ancient Greek Roots of Christmas

Christmas is one of the most important celebrations of Christianity, filled with joy and love. Every country celebrates with different customs that have deep roots within history and tradition. The Greek case is an interesting one. We can find a variety of similarities in the commemoration of the birth of Christ and Dionysus, in regards to ancient and modern Greece.
In December, the Ancient Greeks celebrates the birth of Dionysus, calling him ‘Saviour’ and ‘Divine Infant’. According to Greek mythology, his mother was a mortal woman, Semele, and his father was Zeus, the king of the Gods. The priest of Dionysus held a pastoral staff as did the Good Shepherd. On December 30th, ancient Greeks commemorated his rebirth.

The most well-known custom throughout the Christian world are, of course, the Christmas carols. The Greek Christmas carols have roots deriving from ancient Greece. Specifically, Homer – during his stay on the island of Samos, along with a group of children – composed the carols. In ancient Greece, carols symbolised joy, wealth and peace, and the children sang the carols only in the homes of the rich. Children would go from house to house, holding an olive or a laurel branch adorned with wool (a symbol of health and beauty) and different kinds of fruits. The children brought the olive branch to their homes and hung it on the doors where it remained for the rest of the year. This tradition, of visiting houses on Christmas Eve is still practiced today in Greece. However, the children visit as many houses as possible, not making a distinction between richer and poorer houses.
The Christmas tree appeared for the first time in Germany at the end of the 16th century. It became globally known in the 19th century. In our religion, the Christmas tree symbolises the rejoicing of the birth of Jesus Christ. The tree was adorned first with fruits and later with clothes and other household objects. Ancient Greeks also used to decorate the ancient temples with trees, symbolising the divine gift offering. The Christmas tree tradition made its way to Greece in 1833, when the Bavarians decorated the palace of King Otto.  
Santa Clause, who travels around the world on Christmas Eve delivering gifts in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, is another impressive similarity. A similar tradition also existed during the celebration of Dionysus in Ancient Greece who resembled light. The latter had a chariot with horses, whilst Fr. Christmas is known to have the traditional reindeers.

The above give a unique understanding of the traditions which prevail today within the Christian world, many of which derive from the ancient world, but which have altered in meaning and significance. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Striving for Theosis

We live (fortunately or unfortunately) in a world and in a time where everyone strives to become a football player, a singer, a celebrity, famous in any way possible. Children and teenagers wish to become what they see on the television, both good and bad examples of people. However, how revolutionary is it for our time to claim that we wish to strive for theosis, for salvation…that we wish to strive to become saints, in communion with God. This idea sounds crazy and old-fashioned. However it is a diachronic reality of mankind, which was established since the beginning of our existence. Elisabeth Behr Sigel gives an interesting explanation of this issue:

‘Man is never thought of as being self-sufficient but always in an immediate relationship with God. Created in the image of God, humanity can only grow toward and be fulfilled in Him, in the radiance of the Trinitarian light. When man turns away from his prototype, he falls to the animal level and even lower . . . Mankind’s vocation is therefore to strive for the likeness of God, or to use the language of the Fathers, to strive for theosis, that is, holiness. Man, in holiness and faithfulness to his divine vocation, is called to reign over the earth (Gn 1:28-30), humanize it and submit it to the divine will of love.’[1]  
However, we see that not everyone strives for this reality, not everyone is interested in salvations (theosis) Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) explains:
‘The word accidie means, etymologically, ‘lack of care’, i.e. about one’s salvation. With few exceptions, all humanity is not living in the state of accidie. People have become indifferent about our salvation. They do not seek divine life. They confine themselves to forms of life which appertain to the flesh, to everyday needs, to the passions of this world, to mundane activities. God, though, created us out of nothing, in the image of the Absolute and after His likeness. If this revelations is true, then the absence of concern for salvation is nothing else than the death of the human person.’[2]

[1] Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth, The Ministry of Women in the Church, (California, Oakwood Publications, 1991), p. 111.
[2] Sakharov, Archimandrite Sophrony, Words of Life, (Essex, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2010), p. 16. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

What shall we offer Thee?

During this festive period we identify that God sends His Son to the world. The objective of this event is, of course, the salvation of the whole created world. But, what do we offer back? A beautiful hymn, from vespers, shows this reality, how Mary (who represents all of mankind) consents to this relationship:

‘What shall we offer Thee, O Christ, who for our sakes hast appeared on earth as man? Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks. The angels offer Thee a hymn; the heavens a star; the Magi, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder; the earth, its cave; the wilderness, the manger; and we offer Thee a Virgin Mother. O pre-eternal God, have mercy upon us.’[1]  

[1] Mother Mary, Kallistos Ware, The Festal Menaion, (London, Faber and Faber, 1959), p. 254. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Noah and the Ark

Visiting the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist (Essex, England) one finds near the entrance Noah and the Ark. This beautiful mosaic was created recently by children and adults, being the ‘funniest and most fun fact within the monastery,’ according to one of the sisters. On the 14th December, the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of Noah. We find a number of facts of his life and the story of the Ark in the first book of the Old Testament. The story is as follows, (Genesis 5:32-10:1) (NKJV):

32 And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
The Wickedness and Judgment of Man
6 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive[a] with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
5 Then the Lord[b] saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Noah Pleases God
9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
The Ark Prepared
13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. 15 And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. 21 And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.”
22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.
The Great Flood
7 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. 2 You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; 3 also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” 5 And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him. 6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.
7 So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, 9 two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.
13 On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark— 14 they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. 16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.
17 Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit[c] of life, all that was on the dry land, died. 23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.
Noah’s Deliverance
8 Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. 3 And the waters receded continually from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased. 4 Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month. In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
6 So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. 7 Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth. 8 He also sent out from himself a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself. 10 And he waited yet another seven days, and again he sent the dove out from the ark. 11 Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. 12 So he waited yet another seven days and sent out the dove, which did not return again to him anymore.
13 And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. 14 And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dried.
15 Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark.
God’s Covenant with Creation
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
22 “While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”
God’s Promise to Noah
9 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.[d] 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Bring forth abundantly in the earth
And multiply in it.”
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants[e] after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Noah and His Sons
18 Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.
20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. 25 Then he said:
“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brethren.”
26 And he said:
“Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem,
And may Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
And may he dwell in the tents of Shem;
And may Canaan be his servant.”
28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.
Nations Descended from Noah
10 Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Statue of Kimonas the Athenian – Larnaka, Cyprus

Walking along the famous Finikoudes one comes across a number of beautiful and historic statues. One of them is the statue depicting Kimona the Athenian. He was an Athenian general and politician, son of Miltiades, victor against the Persian Empire at Marathon in 490 BC. Born in 510 BC, he died in 449 BC during the Athenian campaign to Cyprus, which aimed at liberating the island from the Persians.

The Athenian operations in Cyprus had many victorious moments, the first one being the liberation of Marion, where Kimon replaced the Phoenician king Sussman with the Greek Stasioiko. He then besieged Kition. During the siege he died suddenly of a plague that hit the Athenian army. Due to this unexpected development, the fleet sailed to Salamina, where the Athenians defeated the Persians on land and sea.

Plutarch writes that Kimon’s body was transferred to Attica, where it was buried. The city which succeeded Kition, Larnaca, is also known as the city of Zenon and Kimona, never forgetting the Athenian general. That is why Kimonas is honoured to this day in Larnaka, due to his sacrifice for the freedom of Cyprus from the Persian yoke. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Virgin Mary of Ayiassos, Lesvos

One of the most important Orthodox churches on the Greek island of Lesvos, North-Eastern Aegean Sea, is the Church of the Virgin Mary of Ayiassos, taken its name from the icon brought to the island by Saint Agathon, during the iconoclastic period.

In 1170 AD the Church was founded, in the same location where Saint Agathon was buried. The Church was inaugurated in 1173, standing there for 633 years. Unfortunately in 1806, the monks who lived there, had to demolish it, since it became unstable. The Church built during this period was larger than the previous one; however, the Ottoman authorities did not wish this. Nonetheless, this Church was to have a small life span. Six years after the commencement of its construction a fire destroyed it, together with a large part of Ayiassos town. Thankfully, the holiest Christian artefact in the Church, the Icon of the Virgin Mary was saved.

The third Church to be built on that site, which still stands today, began its construction in 1815. It follows, as do many Churches on Lesvos, the Western iconographic tradition, reminding the visitor of the period whereby Greece followed the iconographic and architectural paradigm of the West. This, however, is not the case today, where Greece has returned and re-remembered its Byzantine past and tradition. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiness and Goodness

Many people today wish to question faith and the Church. They wish to accept and validate an anthropocentric reality and existence. However, a Christian answer to the existence and prevalence of faith and the Church is the presence of Saints. They are a validation of the continued love and communion God has established towards His creation.

‘Holiness and goodness are all-powerful in their very essence. We shall never be able to comprehend the grandeur of the Church unless we realise that it is founded upon the blood, flesh and bones, and the holy relics of thousands of martyrs, confessors, saints, and blessed and holy persons of all ages and of every background and race. The whole of our earth may be contaminated every day by the sins of man but it is also continually sanctified by the blood of the holy martyrs and relics of all the saints.
The Orthodox Church of martyrs and saints, for which thousands upon thousands of the faithful have offered themselves as living sacrifices, knows that this offering is nothing other than the confirmation that Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer. The death of Christ, his blood shed on the Cross, and the blood of the martyrs, was not shed in vain, and it is this which sustains the Church and ensures her victory.’ [1]

[1] Vernezos, Ioannis, Life and Recent Miracles of Saint John the Russian, (Prokopi, 1999), pp. 23-24.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Boxing Day Charity Dinner for Michael

Please Help Young Michael!!! Let's end this year with a fab Greek night at Orama Restaurant (254 - 256 Uxbridge Road, Hatch End Middlesex, HA5 4HS) with delicious food and great music this Boxing Day! There will be raffles and every raffle will have a good prize so you won't go home disappointed! £20 per person for a fun fun fun night with friends & family...and you'll finally meet Michael! Please contact Ellie on 07517921380 or email her at to book your place!

We are now waiting for an appointment to have a pacemaker (the pacemaker sends regular electrical pulses that help keep your heart beating regularly) implanted into his chest. Once that's done we'll be waiting for the life-changing telephone call for the liver transplantation! Please come join us for this festive event with live music on the evening of Boxing Day.
Every donation is significant and greatly appreciated. We have a lot of hope for a new beginning and a new life for Michael. Thank you all very much for your support. There is also a bank account, which accepts any donation you are able to give. Many thanks!!!
 Lloyds Bank

Mr M Geronymakis Sort code: 30-84-76 Account number: 59079360

Monday, December 8, 2014

Church as a failure?

Christos Yannaras believes that the Church’s history is one of failure, since it has been separating itself constantly since its birth. However, the Church as the Body of Christ, and not as a historical body, has a different course and understanding. John Meyendorff claims that:

‘Failures do, of course, occur in individual lives, and in the lives of whole nations and societies; but the Church, as a gift of God, cannot be a failure, “for He wished to present it in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”. (Eph. 5:27). The existence of this Church is a perfectly free gift of God, and its infallibility is in no sense deserved by those who compose it, but is solely the consequence of the fact that God dwells in her. All members of the Church, every Christian community, may succumb to sin as well to error; but through that very fact they cut themselves off from the Church and must be reunited afresh through penitence’. [1]

[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), p. 17. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Theofilus Museum, Lesvos

The Theofilus Museum is a small museum, which holds important works from the most significant painter of Lesvos. Theofilus Hatzimihail, also known as ‘tsolias’, drew mainly historical, mythological and folklore themes. An interesting fact is that the artist describes the depicted scene, explaining the story behind what we see in front of us. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rowland Hill and the Penny Postage

Rowland Hill, the great postal reformer, was born in Kidderminster, near Birmingham, in 1795. Originally an educationalist, it was in 1837 that he published his seminal pamphlet Post Office Reform; Its Importance and Practicability.
Before 1840 postage rates were very high, and they were normally paid by the recipient. Charges were by distance and by the number of pages in the letter, rather than by weight. To send one sheet from London to Edinburgh it cost 1s 1½d, a considerable sum in those days. The cost to the Post Office, however, was calculated by Hill at a fraction of 1d. There were also a number of anomalies whereby MPs’ mail, for example, was carried free, a system which was widely abused.

Hill’s proposal was three-fold: that postage should be prepaid; that it should be based upon weight, not distance or the number of sheets; and that the basic cost should be drastically reduced to a uniform 1d, making it affordable to all. The first mention of a label for prepayment – later the adhesive postage stamp – came in a reply to an official enquiry: a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash.
In fact, Hill suggested four types of prepayment, all confusingly referred to as “stamps” – letter sheet, envelope, label and stamped sheets of paper. Afraid of fraudulent imitation of the labels Hill said there is nothing in which minute differences of execution are so readily detected as in a representation of the human face. I would therefore advise that a head of the Queen by one of our first artists should be introduced.

That portrait of Queen Victoria was based upon a medal by William Wyon and was engraved by Frederick Heath, with the labels being printed by Perkins, Bacon & Petch. The Penny Black was put on sale in London on 1 May 1840, becoming valid for postage on 6 May. The experiment was a great success and was eventually imitated throughout the world. For his services Hill received many accolades and was knighted in 1860. When he died in 1879 he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Talk on Pseudo-Macariu's Mysticism and its Reception in East Syrian Authors

The Centre of World Christianity, Dept. for the Study of Religions (SOAS) is proud to present a lecture by Professor Pablo Argarate (Institute of Ecumenical Theology, Karl-Franz University, Graz, Austria) entitled ‘Pseudo-Macariu’s Mysticism and its Reception in East Syrian Authors.’ Professor Argarate is one of the leading exponents of the Syriac mystical tradition and it is a great honour that he will be able to give this lecture thereafter.

The event will take place on Wednesday 10th December, 17.00-18.00 at Brunei Gallery Room 102, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG. All are welcome to this free lecture. Refreshments in the Senior Common Room will follow thereafter. For any enquiries please email Dr Erica Hunter:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kindness today

Being kind today seems to be the exception. However, what happens when kindness persists? Maybe we could all change our world, transform our societies and our relations with the people around us in order to better ourselves and our lives.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jesus and Femininity

Feminism is a reality even within Orthodoxy. Many Orthodox women examine the issues of women and the Church, the role of women within the Church, whether they could become priests, or whether the Church could re-establish the role of the deaconesses. This ‘new’ reality has given significant and important understandings and exegeses of Scripture, Tradition, Church History etc. Following Elisabeth Behr-Sigel argues the issue of Jesus Christ and Femininity, and interesting topic, not known to many.

‘Jesus fully assumed his historical condition as a masculine human being, but the values that he exalted, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, are those which according to cultural tradition, especially in the West, are supposed to be feminine: gentleness, humility (Mt 11:29), forgiveness of offenses, and nonviolence (see Mt 5). In opposition to the classical, virile, and unfeeling hero, Jesus did not attempt to put down his emotions. For instance, he wept at the tomb of his friend (Jn 11:34-35). His relations with women show no trace of domination or seduction; there is no sign either of an idealization of femininity. The exaltation off feminine purity was often hypocritical because it was a purity expected of women only and not of men. The ugly side of this exaltation was cruelty and scorn towards the prostitute and the adulterous woman. To this feminine purity, Jesus opposed the sober reminder of the common state of sin: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7). Jesus took care of the sick, of the physical and moral wounds of men as well as women. He healed them, put them back on their feet: the paralytic of Matthew 9:2 (Mk 2:3; Lk 5:18) just like the crippled and bent over woman of Luke 13:10-13.’[1]     

[1] Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth, The Ministry of Women in the Church, (California, Oakwood Publications, 1991), p. 62.