Monday, March 31, 2014

Saint Dionysios , The Saint of Forgiveness

Zante’s Patron Saint is St. Dionysios. Due to this, the largest Church in the city of Zakynthos is the one dedicated to Him, greeting everyone who travels to this Ionian Island via boat. This Church building was constructed in 1948 and was able to withstand the big earthquake of 1953, which destroyed most of the buildings in the city. In the interior of the Church one can find fabulous work of iconography. However, the most significant attraction is the relics of Saint Dionysios, which the faithful venerate piously. 

Saint Dionysios was born in Zante in the year 1547 AD, when the island was under Venetian rule. His parents were Mokios and Paulina, aristocrats from the Sigouros family. Due to his status, he was able to receive good education and a Christian upbringing. Traditions states that St Dionysios was baptised by St Gerasimos, during the period when the latter was living in Zante. During his teen years, Dionysios unfortunately loses his parents. During this sad period, the Saint gives all his inheritance to his brother Konstantinos and his sister Sigoura and he decided to become a monk at the Monastery of Strofades, a small island south of Zakynthos. There he received his new name, Daniel. During his time at the monastery he dedicated his time in praying and his study of Scripture. Soon he became abbot of his monastery.
In 1577, St. Dionysios decided to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. His first stop was Athens, where he wished to receive the blessing of Bishop Nikagoras. The latter was so impressed with the character and the education of St Dionysios, he persuaded him to become Bishop of Egina (a small island near Athens). Abbot Daniel became Bishop Dionysios of Egina. He stayed on the island of Egina until 1579.  

Upon his return to Zante, he withdrew to the monastery of Panagia Anafonitria, in the north part of the island, where he became abbot of the monastery. Many faithful would visit him in order to confess to him and ask for his advice. A significant event in his life was when he forgave his brother’s murderer and he helped him leave Zante safely, showing the true virtue of forgiveness.
The story is an interesting one. The two families Sigourou and Mondinou formed two rival factions, which hated each other. Clashes between the two families were a constant phenomenon. In one of these clashes, the Saint’s brother, Konstantinos, was murdered. But, in trying to escape, the killer (whose name we do not know) sought refuge in the Saint’s monastery, without knowing his relation to the victim. When the killer arrived at the monastery, St Dionysios asked why he is asking shelter within the monastery. He replied, claiming that the Sigourou family was looking for him; however, he later explained that he had killed Konstantinos Sigouros. Nevertheless, Dionysios, despite his sadness, he hid the murderer and helped him escape. Due to this action, he inevitably prevented any more murders and clashes between the two families, allowing for the murderer to repent. St Dionysios, therefore, became a bright example of forgiveness, by applying the true Christian love to his fellow man. This story, however, is based on the oral tradition of the island of Zakynthos. No official documents have been found regarding the murder. Nevertheless, it is said that the murderer later returned to Zante, and hearing that Konstantino’s brother helped him escape, he was so moved that he became a monk himself, repenting for the rest of his life for the wrong doing he did.    

St. Dionysios died on the 17th December 1622, at the age of 75. According to his wishes, he was buried in the monastery in Strofades, where he first became a monk. Three years after his death, his body was excavated. The people then saw that his body remained intact, and hence, this was the first step in his proclamation as a Saint of the Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate proclaimed Dionysios as a Saint of the Orthodox Church in 1703. However, the people of Zante honoured him as a Saint far earlier than that.
Today, the people of Zakynthos celebrate the memory of St. Dionysios twice a year. On the 24th August they celebrate the move of the relics of St. Dionysios from Strofades to Zakynthos (1717). On the 17th December they honour his death. Each festivity is celebrated for three days, showing the significance of this Saint for the island of Zante. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Protecting the Children of War

Fr. Savvas Kyrazoglou here presents a beautiful song which will shock whoever sees it. Fr. Savvas is known for being sensitive and an advocate for the protection of children in war areas all around the world. Through this video he wishes to point out that it is a great sin and shame to be indifferent to our fellow man and especially to children. 

The song below, entitled ‘Love (The only treasure)’ is a beautiful song, showing how Fr. Savvas Kyrazoglou really feels about this important issue, which should affect us all. Listening to the song we are reminded of the current situations in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere, where people die daily, where children’s lives are ruined and ended. Fr. Savvas believes that through this song he may move some people to finally act and protect the children of the world who are suffering daily. The song is as follows:

How can I stop my tear
when about wars I hear
how can I, how can I
How can I live in a lie
when around me people die
how can I, how can I

stop the war
I can't any more
the only treasure
don't kill this pleasure

How can I feel my dreams
I'm just flying without wings
how can I, how can I
How can I walk away
like there is no other way
how can I, how can I[1]

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Byron really did for Greece and why it still matters?

This year the Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain had the honour of inviting Professor Roderick Beaton to give a talk entitled “What Byron really did for Greece and why it still matters”, on the occasion of the celebration of the 25th March, Independence Day for Greece. It was a brilliant event, attended by over 150 people, giving us all the opportunity to further understand the politics of the time of the Greek Independence struggle and Lord Byron’s contribution to this effort.

 Lord Byron’s death on 19 April 1824, in Greece, and for Greece, created a legend that is still with us. This talk traced the real story behind Byron’s mission to help the Greeks in their revolution against Ottoman Turkish rule and shows that its effects are still with us today.
The Greek uprising against the Ottoman empire, which broke out in 1821, brought together one of the oddest coalitions in history: from the sophisticates of the Hellenic diaspora to warlords from the wild Peloponnesian mountains and an array of well-bred and classically educated romantics from the Western world, including one of the pre-eminent poets in the English language. Lord Byron is very much respected in Modern Greece; that is why there are many statues of Byron around the country, whilst one area in Athens is named after him (Byronas). He is remembered for his support and the fact that he gave his own life for the Greek struggle, making him the most known and respected philhellene. 
The speaker, Professor Roderick Beaton, is Koraes professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s College London, a post he has held since 1988. He is currently the Director of the Centre of Hellenic Studies.

He has written widely on Greek literature and culture from the twelfth century to the present. His books include An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature, also published in Greek Εισαγωγή στη νεότερη ελληνική λογοτεχνία, the award-winning biography George Seferis: Waiting for the Angel, and the novel Ariadne’s Children, both also translated into Greek. He has published translations from Modern Greek verse and fiction, including works by Embirikos, Seferis, Solomos, and the novel Fool’s Gold by Maro Douka. His edition and translation of A Levant Journal by George Seferis was awarded the Hellenic Foundation for Culture Prize for Translation in 2008. His most recent books are Ο Καζαντζάκης μοντερνιστής και μεταμοντέρνος and (co-edited with David Ricks) The Making of Modern Greece: Romanticism, Nationalism and the Uses of the Past.
From October 2009 to September 2012 he was appointed to a Major Leverhulme Fellowship, and during autumn 2010 to the Visiting Fellowship of the British School at Athens. During this period he carried out research for his book, Byron’s War: Romantic Rebellion, Greek Revolution, published in 2013.

In this book Roderick Beaton re-examines Lord Byron's life and writing through the long trajectory of his relationship with Greece. Beginning with the poet's youthful travels in 1809–1811, Byron's War traces his years of fame in London and self-imposed exile in Italy, that culminated in the decision to devote himself to the cause of Greek independence. Then comes Byron's dramatic self-transformation, while in Cephalonia, from Romantic rebel to 'new statesman', subordinating himself for the first time to a defined, political cause, in order to begin laying the foundations, during his 'hundred days' at Missolonghi, for a new kind of polity in Europe – that of the nation-state as we know it today. Byron's War draws extensively on Greek historical sources and other unpublished documents to tell an individual story that also offers a new understanding of the significance that Greece had for Byron, and of Byron's contribution to the origin of the present-day Greek state.
For more information (in Greek) of this talk and event, organised by the Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain please see the following link:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

If we wish to know God

“Certainly for rationalistic thought, the concepts of divinity and incarnation are contradictory, the one excluding the other. It is not intelligible that God, who by his nature should be infinite, unlimited, all-powerful, etc., should exist as a finite, distinct human unit subject to the limitations of space and time. Therefore for the Greeks of the time of Christ, the proclamation of the humanity of God was really “foolishness” (1. Corinthians 1:23). 

But, for someone to accept or to reject this “foolishness”, he must have answered certain fundamental questions, which decide very generally the sense and the content which he gives to life. Is everything that exists predetermined and must it exist in the manner which human logic imposes? Or is existence an event which surpasses the predeterminations and the patters of the understanding? Can we accept it and study it only with direct experience? What truly exists: what we comprehend with our senses, what our logic confirms? Or dot there exist realities which we know within the bounds of a more immediate and general relationship? Is this a relationship which permits us, for instance, to distinguish qualitative differences, to conceive the “sense” of poetry beyond the words, to bring to awareness the function of symbols, to be assured of our subjective “identity”, to reveal the inexpressible uniqueness of a person, to understand the aphorisms of contemporary physics about the “fourth dimension” or about the double interpretation of the nature of light?
…If we wish to know the abstract concept of God which logical necessity imposes, we must follow consistently and precisely the rules of logic. If we wish to know God of the psychology of religion and of the emotions, we must cultivate within ourselves the psychological and religious motives for this knowledge. And if we wish to know the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we must follow the way of personal relationship and experience, the way of faith. To follow both one and the other route, to combine the modes of knowledge is the surest route to confusion and impasse”[1].  

[1] Yannaras, Christos, Elements of Faith – An Introduction to Orthodox Theology, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1991), p.9-10

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Unification of the Modern Greek State

The 19th century saw the unifications and formations of most modern states in the world. Greece was no exception to this rule, whereby it began its independence struggle in 1821. The Following map shows the areas and the years they joined the Modern Greek state. Most of the areas joined due to wars fought against the Ottoman Empire, and during the Balkan Wars; whilst certain parts of the country were a result of a number of treaties. However, many islands were given to Greece by the United Kingdom (Ionian Islands) and Italy (Dodecanese Islands). Nevertheless, despite achieving independence from the Ottoman Empire, there are still areas which are under foreign rule, such as Constantinople, Asia Minor, Pontos and many more.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Orthodox Church’s Contribution to Greece’s War of Independence, 1821

Throughout the Ottoman rule of Greece, the Orthodox Church was the ark of salvation for the Greek Nation, giving its powers and whole pastoral life to the liberation war. The Church realised that through the preservation of the faith, the identity, culture, history, language and traditions of the Greek nation could be maintained. The Church, through the difficulties of daily life, under a foreign rule, was able to maintain the Greek language, history and the hope of freedom, pointing out patience as a virtue. From this reality we currently have the formation of the Modern Greek Orthodox identity which is evident in Greece, Cyprus and the diaspora. 

It is a fact that, without the Church’s initiative, in educating the faithful, there would be no hope and no one would be able to leave behind the darkness of ignorance, brought about by the Ottoman Empire. The relation between Church and education was a crucial one, not only for the faithful but also for the future of the Church, since it produced future priests and hierarchs, in order to continue its work, i.e. the salvation of the faithful. The sources used for the education of the future generations were the ecclesiastical books, Holy Scripture, whilst the traditions and beliefs of the Church were also examined.Through the education and the enlightenment of the Greek population, the Greeks were able to fight off and eventually be victorious against the mighty Ottoman Empire. This independence struggle was based on religion, nationalism, Orthodoxy and Hellenism, as proclaimed by the heroes of the independence war, during the First National Assembly of Epidaurus, ‘the war was ethnic, the war was holy, a war whose only cause was the recovery of our personal freedom…and honour’.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Cross & St Michael

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Michael began as a mission church. The current church building was built in 1914. Following the Gothic architectural tradition, it was designed by J.T. Lee of Tufnell Park. Additions were made on later dates, giving us the current form of the building. 

Since 1970, the church building was shared with the local Greek Orthodox community. Since 1979 the Orthodox have obtained the church, making it one of the most vibrant Orthodox communities in London. Within the church one can also find the chapel of St. Thekla, where many sacraments take place, such as the English Liturgies. 

As most, if not all the Orthodox Churches in the UK, the congregation is currently made up of Greeks, Greek-Cypriots, Russians, Romanians, Bulgarians, English and many more. That is why numerous languages are used during the sacraments, mainly Greek, English, Romanian and Slavonic. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Lonely Sister – The Lonely Caryatid

Many museums around the world have countless Greek artefacts. However, the ones located within the British Museum are the ones most wanted by Greece, since they contain artefacts from the Parthenon. One statue which stands out is the lonely Caryatid. Her sisters are located in the New Acropolis Museum in Athens. During the sacking of the Parthenon, by Lord Elgin, she, together with countless statues and archaeological artefacts were ‘stolen’ and eventually brought to Britain. 

Caryatids are female figures serving as supports. The most likely derivation of their name is from the young women of Sparta who danced every year in honour of Artemis Karyatis ('Artemis of the Walnut Tree'). This is one of six caryatids that held up the roof of the temple on the Acropolis known as the Erechtheion. She wears a peplos, a simple tunic pinned on each shoulder. Her hair is braided and falls in a thick rope down her back. She probably held a sacrificial vessel in one of the missing hands.
The figure strongly resembles the women of the east frieze of the Parthenon, which had just been completed when work on the Erechtheion began. She carries an architectural capital like a basket on her head. From the side, her burden seems to bear down upon her; the weight is taken on the right leg, encased in perpendicular folds arranged like the fluting of a column shaft. The other leg is flexed with the drapery moulded to it.

Despite the British Museum claiming that it is the best preserved Caryatid, the Greek side claims otherwise, stating that the cleaning process resulted in the changing of the colour of the statue. It is important that all the Parthenon artefacts should eventually be sent back to Athens, where they belong, reuniting therefore the whole Acropolis family.!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Church, Visible and Invisible, Divine and Human

There are countless books on what the Church is and isn’t, numerous definitions that try to explain its ontology, life, practice, objective and so on. Below is a brief exegesis of what the Church is, given by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia in his book The Orthodox Church (p. 243):

“This Church – the icon of the Trinity, the Body of Christ, the fullness of the Spirit – is both visible and invisible, divine and human. It is visible, for it is composed of specific congregations, worshipping here on earth it is invisible, for it also included the saints and the angles. It is human, for its earthly members are sinners; it is divine, for it is the Body of Christ. There is no separation between the visible and the invisible, between (to use western terminology) the Church militant and the Church triumphant, for the two make up a single and continuous reality. ‘The Church visible, or upon earth, lives in complete communion and unity with the whole body of the Church, of which Christ is the Head’[1]. It stands at a point of intercession between the present Age and the Age to Come, and it lives in both Ages at once”.

[1] ‘The Church is One’, section 9.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

St. John the Evangelist’s Church, Upper Norwood

St. John the Evangelist’s, Upper Norwood, in South London, is a beautiful Anglican Church. St John’s was described by one admirer as “the noblest structure ever raised since the Reformation”. Fashioned out of red brick and Dover stone, the church is large and wide with a shallow chancel and transepts. 

The interior is dominated by an immense decorated screen and lit by high clerestory windows with attractive Y-tracery. The screen reminds the visitor of the ancient screens, predating the icon screens, found in Orthodox Churches. The screen, together with the large cross, are two of the main features which attract the visitor upon entering this large church building. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 10 most famous people in the world!

Pantheon, a new project from the Macro Connections group in M.I.T.’s Media Lab has collected and analysed data on cultural production from 4,000 B.C. to 2010. For now, you are legitimately famous, the M.I.T. team has decided, if a Wikipedia page under your name exists in more than 25 languages. Interestingly enough, 6 out of the 10 most famous people in the world, according to this research are Greeks. Aristotle is top of this list, whilst Jesus Christ is third. The most famous people of the last 6,000 years are:

1. Aristotle
2. Plato
3. Jesus Christ
4. Socrates
5. Alexander the Great
6. Leonardo Da Vinci
7. Confucius
8. Julius Caesar
9. Homer
10. Pythagoras