Friday, January 31, 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury in Constantinople

In January 2014 Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby, visited His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople. There the significance of the relations between the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Church were stated. Of great importance, for the relations in Britain and inevitably for my personal research, is the fact that the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association and the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (two ecumenical bodies promoting relations between the Anglicans and the Orthodox) were praised by the Ecumenical Patriarch. Below are the two welcoming addresses by both hierarchs: 

Welcome by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury (Phanar, 13 January 2014)
Your Grace Archbishop Justin, Beloved Brother in Christ:
‘Christ is in our midst!  He is and shall be!’
It gives us the greatest joy to welcome Your Grace as the honoured guest of the Ecumenical Throne, on this your first pilgrimage to the Patriarchate.  We hope that Your Grace will be very happy during your time in Constantinople, and that your visit will strengthen the bond of mutual love that exists between our two Churches, the Orthodox and the Anglican.
The friendship between our Churches is not new, but has deep roots in past history.  As long ago as the early 17th century Cyril Lukaris, Patriarch first of Alexandria and then of Constantinople, had many contacts with the English Church and State.  As a token of his esteem, he sent to King James I the Codex Alexandrinus, one of the three most ancient manuscripts of the Greek Bible, which is now one of the greatest treasures at the British Library in London.  Personal contacts between our two communions have been promoted more recently by the Eastern Church Association, founded in 1864 – now known as the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association – and by the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, founded in 1928.  These two societies have fostered countless ecumenical friendships; and without such ecumenical friendships, on the direct and personal level, we cannot hope to build a firm foundation for Christian unity.  
Since 1973, as Your Grace will be well aware, there has been an official dialogue, world-wide in scope, between our two ecclesial families.  The International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue has so far produced three weighty reports: the Moscow Agreed Statement (1976), the Dublin Agreed Statement (1984), and most recently the very detailed Cyprus Agreed Statement (2006), entitled ‘The Church of the Triune God’.  The International Commission is now preparing a fourth agreed statement on the Christian understanding of the human person.  This will consider, among other topics, the Christian teaching on marriage, and also our human responsibility for the environment, a matter to which we personally, throughout our time as Patriarch, have always attached particular importance.  We are fully confident that, under the inspiration of Your Grace, our Anglican-Orthodox dialogue will continue to flourish and to make positive progress.
In its formal title, this dialogue is entitled ‘theological’.  But it is of course essential that our theology should always be a living theology.  Doctrinal discussion must never be separated from a practical interest in social and philanthropic issues.  At this present moment, as Anglicans and Orthodox, we share in particular a joint concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East, who are confronting increasing problems and, in many places, are undergoing a veritable persecution.
In the past, the rapprochement between our two Churches has been greatly assisted by the exchange of students, and we trust that this will continue.  Our Theological School at Halki used to offer scholarships to Anglicans, and when it is reopened – as will happen in the near future (so it may be hoped) - we shall certainly wish to revive this tradition.  These exchange students have frequently gone on to become leaders in their respective Churches, and their early inter-Church experience has enabled them to further the cause of Christian unity in highly constructive ways.
Dear Archbishop Justin: during the course of the visit of Your Grace we shall have the opportunity to speak further about these and other subjects.  It is a great joy to us that, so soon after your elevation to Canterbury, Your Grace has found it possible to visit the sacred centre of Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Indeed Your Grace is more than welcome: please feel entirely at home.  From our encounter during these two days, may great benefit come to our Churches.  In that spirit we conclude with words from the Divine Liturgy, proclaimed immediately before the recitation of the Creed: ‘Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess the Trinity one in essence and undivided.’

Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to welcome message by the Ecumenical Patriarch:
Your All-Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,
I thank you most warmly for your welcome and greetings and at the outset bring the greetings from the Anglican Communion and the Church of England. I realise that this is an initial and very short visit, but it is a vital opportunity so soon after my enthronement for us to be able to share and be strengthened through this more personal visit. Your All Holiness has once mentioned that in a world “becoming smaller and smaller distance-wise, the need for personal communication has become imperative.” I see my short visit in that light. To be with you in this holy and historic place is indeed a great privilege. The warmth of your welcome adds to my deep sense of privilege at meeting you. 
This city has left its mark in a diversity of ways upon Christianity as a whole. It was from this city that manuscripts of the Bible in the original languages were received in the West. This city (also renowned as the New Rome) is your seat as the Ecumenical Patriarch, and we continue to benefit from the insight of what the secular and Christian leadership through this link has taught the world church about the relationship between Christianity and the application of worldly power over the years. Your history is more and more important in the increasing confrontations of the world in which religion is used as a pretext for violence that in reality comes from greed and the pride of human beings.
You have demonstrated over the centuries the martyrdom to which we are called in scripture, the call to witness in word and life, a call more important than life itself. The cost of that martyrdom is seen in so many places today. Closest to here we remember and seek the mercy of Christ and intercession of the Blessed Mother on Syria, especially for His Eminence Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo of the Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch, and His Eminence Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi of Aleppo and Alexandrette of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, for whom we pray daily. You yourself have been an example of peace and reconciliation, politically, with the natural world and in your historic visit for the installation of His Holiness Pope Francis I. 
Istanbul is at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. It is the place where two great faiths meet. Its significance for trade is enormous and continues to remind us of Turkey’s importance as an industrial and commercial nation. Commerce and trade may be objects of greed, but may in the Grace of God open the way to dialogue between nations. 
Your All Holiness, my distinguished predecessors, Archbishop Robert Runcie in 1982, Archbishop George Carey in 1992 and Archbishop Rowan Williams in 2003 all visited this holy place and have been blessed by the encounter and engagement. As Archbishop Rowan has emphasised during his last visit, our roots go back to the Christian missions of the days of Constantine. He furthermore expressed a particular concern for Eastern and Western traditions of the Church to be reconciled.
Such reconciliation is also very dear to my heart and is one of my key priorities. It is the call of Christ that all may be one so that the world may see. I will therefore be taking back with me the warmth of your hospitality and also, after our discussions today and tomorrow, a renewed and refreshed focus for greater unity and closer fellowship. We want to carry the cross of our divisions, but be filled with the hope and joy that comes from the grace and the love of Jesus.
This can be further developed through the ongoing conversations in the International Commission for Anglican Orthodox Theological Dialogue and through the more informal talks that happen. I can assure you that I will provide the necessary encouragement for our ecumenical journey together.
During the last years we have seen the world changing in a diversity of ways. We have had an economic crisis through a banking system which had lost its way, seeking its own good at the expense of nations and their peoples. There is conflict in many regions of the world, acute poverty, unemployment and an influx of oppressed people driven away from their own countries and seeking refuge elsewhere. In Southern Europe terrible suffering has seized the people, most especially the poor for whom we weep and cry to God. The churches are rising to the challenge, empowered by the Holy Spirit and filled with his compassion. Hence in standing with the poor in love, we may work together. How can we strengthen and help each other bear one another’s burdens?
Your Holiness, I am aware that you are known as the ‘Green Patriarch’. We are grateful for your energy and efforts to raise awareness for preserving and protecting our environment. You have been the leading voice expressing concerns and have initiated a number of seminars and dialogues, also in co-sponsorship with His Royal Highness Prince Philip, to mobilise spiritual and moral forces to achieve harmony between humanity and nature. This third millennium has made us realise that environmental issues require our day to day attention. We are witnesses to global calamities. The Christian Orthodox theological understanding points us all to our natural environment as part of Creation and characterised by sacredness. This is a responsibility for all of us and your contributions will enable us to speak out more intentionally on environmental issues at an individual, national and international level. Abuse and destruction of the environment denies the grace of God. Economic crises tempt governments and people to look to the short term and forget the needs of the generation to come.    
Finally, it is clear to me that our theological dialogues today do face new challenges and I do recognise that there are also some issues that raise difficulties, but I take courage from your words to one of my predecessors:
In spite of such obstacles, we cannot allow ourselves to congeal the love between us which is also manifested in dialogue so “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” with the good hope that the Lord of powers and mercy “will not let us be tested beyond our strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that we may be able to endure it” (1Cor. 10:13).
Your All Holiness, this is a vital visit for me and it would be my privilege to be able to welcome you in 2015 to London. I look forward to the remaining time with you and the Patriarchate. There is much that unites us and as we continue to strengthen the bonds of friendship our understanding of each other’s traditions will grow. It is therefore in this spirit that I greet you and ask for your prayers for our ministry. [1]

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Living the Truth

The Orthodox Church is the perfect example of how living in Christ, living within the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church, one can learn the truths of our faith, and the mysteries of God. Knowledge does not only come from books but mostly and most importantly by the life of the Church. Christos Yannaras points this reality, by claiming:

“A man who has never in his life known maternal love (because he is an orphan or for some other reason), can know the definition but cannot know maternal love itself. In other words, knowledge of formulas and definitions of truth is not to be identified with the knowledge of truth itself. Therefore even an atheist can have learned to know well that the God of the Church is triadic, that Christ is perfect God and perfect man, but this does not mean that he knows these truths”[1].

[1] Yannaras, Christos, Elements of Faith – An Introduction to Orthodox Theology, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1991), p.16, 17

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Education in Sparta

In Sparta, life was very different, in regards to Athens. There, education was mostly aimed at creating good soldiers, because every male citizen had to serve in the army for most of his life. Citizen boys had to leave home and join the army at the age of only seven. They were forced to live a hard life all together in barracks with only a mat on the floor for a bed. They were only allowed one cloak each year to wear and they were not allowed to have shoes. They were encouraged to steal food so that they would be able to steal when they were on campaign with the army. But if they got caught stealing food, they would be beaten. Sometimes, they were beaten just in order to toughen them up. They were also taught basic reading and writing and to play music, but physical education was considered the most important thing.

Citizen girls also received a state education in Sparta. They lived in special girls' barracks. We do not know whether these were as harsh as the boys' barracks. Much of their education was also physical education, as it was believed that it was necessary for mothers to be strong in order for them to have strong children. But it was also considered important to teach girls music and dancing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great

The videos below show historian Michael Wood who retraces the legendary footsteps of the mighty Greek King Alexander the Great. It is the first time that someone retraces the steps of this great Greek king. Through these videos Michael Wood illustrates the impact of Greek culture in those lands. Wood’s journey is based on documented historical accounts, as well as local traditions. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Achaia Clauss

Achaia Clauss is the oldest and most famous ambassador of Greece to the world of winemaking.Bavarian Gustav Clauss, captivated by the cultural refinement of Patra, the capital of Achaia, a region in the Peloponnese, in Southern Greece, and the lively tastes of its vineyards, he decided to establish the first wine estate in Greece (1854). 

He built a homestead settlement, complete with cathedral towers in the form of belfries, thus enabling an entire village to live, work and develop around the nucleus of wine production. In 1873 we see the birth of one of the most famous Greek wines, i.e. Mavrodaphne, which is a warm, full- bodied, sweet desert wine with its wonderful violet colour. 

The Achaia Clauss factory has numerous storage areas with a total capacity of about 7.500 tonnes. The most significant cellar within the premises of the old factory is the Imperial Cellar, in which every barrel has its history, some are dedicated to Greek and foreign Kings, Ecclesiastical hierarchs (including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew) and countless secular leaders from around the world. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jesus’ Name

Jesus Christ has many names. However, these two words are the most commonly used when referring to the Son of God. Christos Yannaras gives, below, the meaning of the name Jesus Christ, explaining their meaning and their historical significance.

“…His own name is a composite of the two languages and traditions which form the historical co-ordinates of his time period and will form the historical flesh of the first Church: Jesus is a Hebrew name, Christ is a Greek word. With “Jesus” we hellenize the Hebrew “Jeshua”, derived from a verbal root which means “I save”, “I help”. And the word “Christ” is an adjective used as a noun derived from the Greek verb for “I anoint” and means the “one who has been anointed”, he who has received “anointing”. In the Hebrew tradition, anointing with oil or myrrh was the visible sign of elevation to the rank of king or priest, a sign that the one anointed was chosen by God to serve the unity of the people or the relationship of the people with the Lord of Hosts. But the special Christ of God was, within the Scriptures, the expected Messiah and therefore the word “Christ” had become identified conceptually with the word “Messiah”. Combining the proper name “Jesus” with the title of rank “Christ”, the Church indicated the historical person and interpreted the fact which he incarnated…”[1]

[1] Yannaras, Christos, Elements of Faith, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1991), p.101

Saturday, January 25, 2014

God’s Law will disappear

The commandments, i.e. God’s laws are a key part in the road of attaining illumination and theosis. However, after the Second Coming the laws will disappear; no commandments and no doctrines will exist. This will be the case due to the fact that humanity will be in communion with God; he will be participating in the deifying uncreated energy of God.

St. Paul explains: “Whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away…But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). This, however, does not only apply to the future coming, it can also be the case presently, when one reaches theosis; as St. Pauls also explains: “now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13: 12).   

Friday, January 24, 2014

What is the Ecclesia?

What does the word Ecclesia mean? The ancient Greeks used the term Temple for their sacred places of worship. This changed with the birth of Christianity. In the English language we use two terms, Church and Ecclesia to describe the Christian place of worship, God’s House, where all Christians communicate with God. Here, Christos Yannaras gives a definition of the term, taking into account the first years of Christianity:

“The first community of Christ’s disciples appear in history with the name “ecclesia”. By this word it declared its identity and its truth.
“Ecclesia” (from a Greek verb “to call out”) means the gathering which is a result of a call or invitation. It is a gathering or assembling of those called. The first disciples of Christ has the consciousness that they were “called”, called by him to an assembly of unity, to an ecclesia. Not to be faithful to a new “religion”, nor to be partisans of a new ideology or social teaching. What united them was not the reception of some theoretical “principles” or “axioms”, but the reception of the call which radically changed their lives: It transformed individuals, detached units, into a single body, the Church. Their Gathering is not exhausted in a simple meeting together; it is not a passing, casual event. They live as a church, as a single body of life, they share life as “brothers” – just like brothers who draw their existence from the same womb – they are “members” of an organic, living “body”[1].

[1] Yannaras, Christos, Elements of Faith, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1991), p. 121

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity and the Annunciation, Oxford

1972 saw the completion of the Orthodox Church in Oxford, located in the garden of the Houses of St. Gregory and St. Macrina, given in perpetuity for free by the House to the local Orthodox community. Despite not being a large church, it maintains its simplicity. The octagonal shape, proposed by Militza Zernov, shows a unique architectural beauty within this University City. 

The Church is shared on an equal basis by the Greek Orthodox Community of the Holy Trinity (under the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain) and the Russian Community of the Annunciation (under the Exarchate of Western Europe – Deanery of Great Britain). “It is a witness to the vitality of Orthodoxy in the West, to the possibility of inter-Orthodox collaboration and to the life-giving potentialities of the meeting between Orthodoxy and the Western Christian traditions”[1]. It was, thus, considered to be a pan-Orthodox church. 

The cooperation of the two communities (Greek and Russian) into one church building could not have been realised without the help of the House of St. Gregory and St. Macrina. On the other hand, Nicolas Zernov saw this new church building as a new venture, where the English language could be promoted and used during the Orthodox services.

[1] Allchin, A.M., “Editorial Notes”, Sobornost, Series 6: Number 7, Summer 1973, p. 445

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Believe and do not inquire - πίστευε και μη ερεύνα

The Greeks have a saying πίστευε και μη ερεύνα (believe and do not inquire) claiming that the Church promotes the idea to its believers that they have to believe everything the Church or its representatives say, without inquiring, for themselves, their faith. However, this is a mistaken view; it is a phrase which the Church does not believe in or promote. In fact, the opposite is true, i.e. believe and inquire.We read in John's Gospel (5:39) 'Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me'.

If the Church truly believes that its people should not inquire and question their faith, then they would not publish the Bible, Patristic books, articles on Christianity and the Church, the priests would not preach, dialogue would be forbidden, Christian sources would be hidden and not publicly available (as they currently are). I believe that every Christian should question his faith. Through this questioning we are able to further research and find the truth through our own reading, through going to the Church and listening to the hymns, the Scriptures, through living a life in Christ. By questioning our faith we are able to find what we are looking for, confirming, thus, our faith. If we did not question what we believe in we would not have the patristic texts; the Fathers wished to explain Scripture and Tradition to the faithful; even Jesus Christ explained, through his parables, the mysteries of our faith. Therefore, let us question our faith and Church; by inquiring we can then confirm our faith and the truth of the Church by researching, by asking why this…why that… Only then will we be able to grasp God and live by His commandments.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oxbridge Philokalic Review, Issue 2

The new issue of the Oxbridge Philokalic Review is out. This issue is entitled “Faith and Religion: A Dangerous Coalition”. Here we are promoting this journal, which hosts significant papers and reviews, enriching the reader with new ideas and encouraging people to further deepen their knowledge of the Orthodox faith and tradition. In its Editorial, also found on the journal’s Facebook page, one reads the following:

“It is with great joy that we present you here with the second issue of an Oxbridge Philokalic Review that has greatly improved thanks to your encouragements and the success of its first issue.
This Christmas issue is dedicated to an important, often controversial but always enriching discussion about the respective importance, role and place of ‘Faith’ and ‘Religion’. In this context, we are very proud to present you with exclusive and substantial extracts from the latest translated work of the major and influential Greek theologian and philosopher Christos Yannaras. In his latest book, Against Religion: The Alienation of the Ecclesial Event (Holy cross Orthodox Press, 2013), the scholar draws attention to what he describes as a modern heresy: ‘the religionization of the ecclesial event’. He discusses how the real foundation laid by Christ, the Church (Ecclesia), has fallen into the ‘peculiar’ category of religion. What was not intended to be a worshipping religion (see Acts 14) converted slowly but steadily, throughout millennia, into a religion, which now is perceived as a World Religion. But, does this Status quo correspond to the Revelation of Christ? This is a question to which the contributors of our second issue attempt to respond.
Richard Swinburne, the British philosopher of Religion and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, responds to Yannaras’s latest writings by positing the necessity of a rational faith. Dr Elena Vasilescu’s essay defines the terms of religion and faith from an Eastern and Western Christian theological perspective. Reverend Garegin Hambardzumyan provides a positive evaluation of the concept of religion, even when applied to Christian faith, as regards to the Armenian Church. Dimitris Salapatas also presents us with a detailed report of a significant conference that took place in Oxford, in September 2013, about the subject. Finally, Jonut Moise discusses in his review the book of the phenomenologist Professor Gavin Flood which conveys, amongst other ideas, a significant response to Yannaras’s critique of the Philokalia.
This second issue is an exciting, stimulating and thought-provoking review and an ideal reading - or even present! - for the coming months. If you are interested please email us back at with a delivery address and we will send you a secure PayPal invoice by email to proceed with the payment. The cost for one review ordered online is £3.30 + delivery costs (UK: £1.20/ EU: £3.50/ US: £4.20). We can also arrange to handle one to you personally in Oxford or in Cambridge for £3 only.
The Oxbridge Philokalic Review is a not-for-profit review managed essentially by PhD students at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, your support is vital to us. Please continue to help us improving our review by sending us your comments, joining and sharing our Facebook page:”