Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kourion Theatre, Cyprus

Kourion Theatre is located on the southern end of the abrupt hill on which the city is built. It was constructed at the end of the 2nd century B.C., but took its current dimensions during the 2nd century A.D. 

The theatre consists of a semi - circular orchestra that is surrounded by seats of the cavea (subterranean cells). It was enclosed to the south by the building of the scena frons (façade) that must have reached the height of the cavea, though today only the foundations remain. On either side of the scene were two vaulted parodoi (corridors) from where the audience entered the theatre. 

Kourion Theatre could seat up to 3.500 spectators. During later reconstruction, it was modified so as to accommodate animal hunts. Many cultural activities and theatrical performances take place at Kourion Theatre, especially during the summer.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Monastery of Panagia Eleftherotria

The Monastery of Panagia Eleftherotria is to be found 12 km from the capital of the island of Zakynthos. Its position gives the visitor a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding valleys and mountains. The monastery was founded in 1962 by Archimandrite Chrysostomo Gkelbesi, who is currently the Spiritual Father of the Hermitage. 

However, the Iconostasis of the Church is much older (nearly 300 years older). It existed in the previous Church, which was on the same location but was destroyed in the great earthquake. This monastery has many unique relics, including relics from a number of babies killed by Herod in Jerusalem, stones from the Holy Land and part of the Holy Cross. The exterior of the monastery looks like an ancient castle, whist the colours red and white are to be found all around the buildings. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is intercommunion a reality?

Many have written in regards to the massive issue of intercommunion, since Bulgakov introduced it in 1933 at a conference held by the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius. He claimed that the Anglicans and Orthodox (within the Fellowship) who were in agreement on major doctrinal issues should ask their respective Bishops to sanction their communion at each other’s altars. The Episcopal blessing given to those who were ready to take part in this action would signify repentance for the sin of division and the desire for divine assistance in repairing the breach between East and West.  However, the issue of intercommunion has a canonical side; therefore no alteration can proceed without the blessing and approval of the canonical authority, i.e. the Church. 

Since then many have supported this view, such as Nicolas Zernov, and many have fought against Bulgakov and his belief on this matter, such as Fr. George Florovski. Nevertheless does intercommunion exist today? Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia explains in his book ‘The Orthodox Church’ (London, Penguin Books, 1997), p. 311, what currently happens:
“Virtually all Orthodox Churches permit what is termed ‘economic’ intercommunion, whereby non-Orthodox Christians, when cut off from the ministrations of their own Church, may be allowed – with special permission – to receive communion from an Orthodox priest. But does the reverse hold true? Can isolated Orthodox, with no parish of their own near at hand – and this is frequently the situation in the west – approach non-Orthodox for communion? Most Orthodox authorities answer: no, this is not possible. But in fact it happens, in some instances with the tacit or even explicit blessing of an Orthodox bishop. There is also the question of mixed marriages, a human situation in which separation before the altar is bound to be particularly wounding: here again some measure of intercommunion across the Church boundaries is occasionally permitted, although by no means regularly so. The great majority of Orthodox insist, however, that despite flexibility in special cases the basic principle still holds good: unity in faith should precede communion in the sacraments”.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: Thirty Steps to Heaven – The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life

Whilst studying Theology I was told by my peers and my professors that we should all strive to have a good library at home. Since then I have endeavoured to achieve this. It seems now that my library has become richer with this new book, written by Fr. Vassilios Papavassiliou, entitled Thirty Steps to Heaven – The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life. 

The book examines and explains The Ladder of Divine Ascent, written by St. John Climacus (St. John of the Ladder). Despite being written by a monk for monks, it has been a popular book within a number of Orthodox circles. However, due to this characteristic, it has remained unknown to the vast majority of the Orthodox faithful. Nevertheless, Fr. Vassilios attempts and achieves to bring it closer to the general public, to the whole Body of the Church. He does this by giving examples from daily life, he even gives examples from Star Wars and Harry Potter, attracting thus not only a small group of people, but all ages, who come from different backgrounds. The author also confesses his own feelings and beliefs (for example in step 18), showing that all of us live through the struggle of life, attempting to reach the thirtieth step of this ladder.
This book is to be read by all in such a manner, whereby we see ourselves when examining the issues examined. When St. John studies for example gluttony or lust we can identify our flaws. By making it a personal issue, we will better ourselves, following the solutions and advices given by him. I have read this book once; but, I feel that, in order to fully comprehend the riches of the meanings expressed in it, I will have to read it many times, discovering new meanings and qualities each time.     

Monday, May 26, 2014

50 years since Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met with Pope Paul VI

The past few days we have all witnessed the meeting of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis in Jerusalem. This is a historical event, celebrating also the 50th anniversary since Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met with Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem. That was of course a significant historical event, since it was the first time since the Schism (1054) that an Ecumenical Patriarch met with the Pope of Rome. Below is a video from that first meeting, 50 years ago. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Cherubic Hymn

The Cherubic Hymn is one of the most beautiful hymns chanted during the Divine Liturgy. It is one of the largest pieces, allowing for the priest to say the prayers and prepare for the Great Entrance. The hymn  points out that we, the faithful, pass through the world of the angels: 

“We who are mystical images of the Cherubim, and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, let us now leave aside every earthly care, for we are about to receive the King of all, escorted by the angelic hosts”.
In Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos’ new book Gazing on God he explains what the Cherubic Hymn is, what it means for us faithful. He states:
“The Cherubic hymn marks a transition, from the world that we can perceive through the help of the Holy Spirit… The hymn of the Cherubim signifies something much greater than an abstract, theoretical metaphor. It is an invitation to the world of angels to join us in our wedding feast with the Bridegroom of the Church, where, nevertheless, the central place next to Christ is reserved for the communion of mortals. This image alone can show how our place in the Creation of God is higher than the angels – but also the responsibility of drawing the rest of the Creation with us to him.”[1]

[1] Andreopoulos, Andreas, Gazing on God, (Cambridge, James Clarke & Co, 2013), p.45-46.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Great British Film – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The idea of ‘British film’ grew in importance during the inter-war years. The coming of sound brought an abrupt end to the transnational norms of the silent era, and this technological shift, along with the growth of economic nationalism after the First World War, encouraged the championing of distinct national cinemas.
Since the establishment of the GPO Film Unit in 1933, ‘social realism’ has often been taken to be the most British of film styles, with realist, documentary and even ‘social-problem’ films arguably overrepresented in the national canon. Once obvious reason is that documentary has provided a training ground for so many British directors, including Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) and Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham). It is also an obsession that perhaps takes us back to the Industrial Revolution and the literature that developed from it. Aside from the importance of their novels as sources of film, the mentality of authors such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy remains in the DNA of our national cinema.

The classics of British literature have long been a calling card: it is difficult to imagine British film without adaptations of Jane Austen, the Brontes or Mary Shelley.  But the peculiarly literary heritage of British cinema has been a flexible one, with film versions of works by the likes of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming and Arthur C Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) becoming a key aspect of our film tradition. At the same time, the lives of literary and other figures – including Lawrence of Arabia – have provided fertile ground for cinematic treatment.
Unsurprisingly, the figure of Shakespeare, the national poet, crystallises many of these literary and theatrical wellsprings of British cinema, from Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (1944) to Derek Jarman’s The Tempest (1979) via the escalator that takes the hero of A Matter of Life and Death to ‘the other world.’ Contemporary theatre and theatrical talent likewise remain vital to British cinema with figures such as Danny Boyle and Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies) fitting creatively between them.
British film has always had to adapt itself to international tastes, and finance is increasingly international. One key tension in this process has been between the ways in which Britain thinks of itself and the ways in which British film-makers would like to present the country. Another tension exists between what international audiences can recognise as Britain and what Britain they would most like to see.
Defining ‘Britishness’ and what constitutes a British film remains a contentious question. Unlike French film, for example, British productions have had to find their voice within the norms established by the American commercial film industry. Britishness has become a series of subtle differentiations – of subject matter, sensibility, actors and audiences.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ancient Cemetery of Makronisos

Next to one of the most beautiful beaches in Cyprus, Makronisos Beach, is located the ancient cemetery of Makronisos, which dates from the Hellenistic and Roman period. The tombs in general consist of a stepped dromos which leads to a rectangular entrance. The entrances were originally closed with one large or two smaller calcarenite slabs. Most of the chambers are almost identical. They are all provided with a rectangular trench in the middle, slightly lower than the floor of the dromos and three benches at the sides of the chamber. Some of the tombs have additionally one loculus carved on the longitudinal axis of the tomb opposite the entrance, while another is provided with four benches at the sides and one opposite the entrance, thus providing room for five internments. 

Despite the fact that all the tombs were found looted and disturbed some preliminary conclusions may be drawn. The dead were placed in clay sarcophagi which were originally covered with three flat tiles. The tombs were used during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The pyres found on the surface by the dromoi give evidence of practising Greek burial customs. 

The excavations at Makronisos cemetery began in November 1989 and ended in January 1990, revealing 19tombs, dating back to the Hellenistic (323 BC – 30 BC) and Roman Period (30 BC – 324 AD). The location was already famous, being the target of illegal digging since 1872. The excavations also revealed a small sanctuary, located very close to the burial site. It consists of a single rectangular enclose constructed with large irregular blocks. The few offerings found at the site date the sanctuary to the Cyprus-Classical (475 BC – 323 BC) and Hellenistic period (323 BC – 30 BC).

Thursday, May 22, 2014

St. Nicholas Church, Zakynthos

The Church of St. Nicholas ton Ksenon (of the Foreigners) in Zakynthos is the Metropolitan Church of the Ionian island. It is located in the centre of the city. It is not known when a Church was first built on the same spot. Also, there are numerous conflicting ideas on how the Church received its interesting name, i.e. of the Foreigners. However, since the Venetian rule of the island, there has been a Church here, an area where aristocratic families lived. The name of the Foreigners was most probably assigned to this Church before the Venetian came to the island (1485). It is a belief that it received this name due to the fact that in the Church courtyard they buried foreign travellers and sailors and the orphans who died in Zante. This Church is also known as the Church next to the Waters, due to its position, close to the port of the city. 

In 1492 nobleman Dimitrios Amiralis restored the Church, which had been ruined. Since the late 15th century it was functioning as a parish Church. In 1504 the Church is believed to belong to the priest Leontios Katilianos, who in 1530 gave it to his son Fr. Andrew, whilst in 1567 it was passed on to Fr. Germanos Chrysolouras.
Last recorded owner of the Church is John Makris, after which the Church was converted under a Venetian ducal decree (26th May 1621), in fief of each archpriest of Zakynthos, and was affiliated with the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in the fort, receiving the name Monastery of the Metropolis of Saints Nicholas and John.  This decision was taken by the authorities at the request of the Orthodox community of the island to establish an official seat for the Archpriest of the island. Zante during this period was under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Kefallonia and Zakynthos, whose seat was located in Kefallonia. Therefore, the Church of St. Nicholas of the Foreigners was the centre of Orthodox worship on the Ionian island between 1495 and the 17th century. In 1647, the Church building was renovated at the expense of Dr Dimitri Komoutos, who allegedly also financed the construction of the wooden golden iconostasis, according to an inscription. 

In 1824, Zakynthos became an independent diocese. First Bishop was Gabriel Garzonis, whilst also the Church of St. Nicholas was upgraded to a cathedral. The Church went through a number of renovations, enriching it with marble new icons and gold.
Unfortunately, in 1953 the Church was destroyed by the massive earthquake and fire, which destroyed the whole city of Zakynthos. In August of 1967 the Church was consecrated, being built by the people of Zakynthos and by the generosity of businessman Eleftherios Mouzakis, who later funded the bell tower. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Potamos - Liopetriou, Cyprus

Many tourist attractions of Cyprus are right next to the sea. Potamos is one of these places, located near Larnaka, where the sea enters the island, creating a river-like scenery. This picturesque fishing village is a beautiful place, where one can eat beautiful local fish.  It is one of the undiscovered havens of solitude that takes the visitor instantly back in a breeze of hot, salty air to how the Cypriot coastline must have looked 50 years ago, being spared from the modern developmental frenzy which has hit all the touristy locations in the world. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Holy Monastery of Strofades and St Dionysios Chapel Museum

The Holy Monastery’s new Museum is housed in the elevated basement of the Holy Monastery of Strofades and St Dionysios new wing, which was inaugurated on the 12th November 2000. The Museum itself has been built as a place of cultural and historical remembrance. The museum houses many important icons and numerous relics of Christian art, primarily from the Holy Monastery. 

The current exhibition’s treasures, sacred relics, paintings, old manuscripts, liturgical vestments and holy icons are all testimony of the significant spirituality of the Holy Monastery of Strofades.
The islands of Strofades are situated at a distance of 42 nautical miles south of Zakynthos. The monastery is situated on the North East end of the largest island. The sacred monastery of Strofades is devoted to the Virgin Mary Panton Hara, due to the miraculous icon which existed there. According to historian L. Zoe the monastery was built by the Emperor Theodore A’ Laskari and his daughter Irene Paleologene (1241). It was restored by the emperor Ioannis Paleologos in 1440. The monastery was damaged by pirate attacks in 1479, 1530, 1537, 1538. In 1717 the monastery was completely ruined by the Turk pirate Moustis. The body of St. Dionysios was desecrated, many valuable items were removed and 24 monks were captured. 

In the monastery, Dragnikos Sigouros, later Archbishop of Egina – i.e. St. Dionysios- lived as a monk. He was buried there in 1622 at his own wish. His body was later moved to Zakynthos in 1717, after the big catastrophe of the monastery from the Turks. 

The monastery used to be a place to stay and for spiritual relaxation for both scholars and priest from Zakynthos. In the monastery, Patriarch of Constantinople Grigorios V lived there as a monk. The sacred monastery of Strofades was a very important monastic and spiritual centre of Orthodoxy. Built in the middle of the sea, it kept for centuries the valuable spirituality of Orthodox monasticism. Currently it is one of the most important monasteries in Western Greece, despite not being well known in the Orthodox world.