Thursday, July 31, 2014

The OTRF’s New Web-Page

The Orthodox Theological Research Forum is happy to announce its new web-page, to be found in the following address: Here the visitor can find information on the OTRF’s history, past conferences, pictures and all the information on future conferences and events.
The Orthodox Theological Research Forum (OTRF) is a pan-Orthodox forum in which work by Orthodox Christian scholars in the various fields of theological studies is presented and discussed within the context of the ongoing tradition and contemporary theological education.

OTRF holds an annual two- or three-day conference, open to students in higher education, scholars and clergy, which provides an informal and relaxed opportunity for talks and discussion. Liturgical services (morning and evening) form an integral part of the conference meetings.
So far eleven conferences have been held, at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire, the University of Durham, the University of Wales at Lampeter, the University of Winchester, and St. Edmund’s Hall, Oxford.
For more information, please contact the Administrator:
Dimitris Salapatas at:

 The Orthodox Theological Research Fellowship acknowledges with gratitude several generous grants from the Leventis Foundation, which helped to fund its activities during its formative years.
The Conference Planning Committee is currently composed of:
  Reverend Dr Andreas Andreopoulos (University of Winchester)
  Dr Mary Cunningham (University of Nottingham)
  Dr Elena Draghici-Vasilescu (University of Oxford)
  Archimandrite Ephrem Lash (London)
  Emeritus Reverend Professor Andrew Louth (University of Durham)

…with support and guidance from the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The child who taught a Saint the Greatness of God!

The following story is believed to date as back as the 13th century, which has as protagonist St. Augustine. Nevertheless, other versions exist with other saints (in the East St. Augustine is replaced in this story with St. John Chrysostom), maintaining nonetheless the same story and meaning. The story is as follows:

St. Augustine was walking one day by the beach. During that time he was endeavouring to write his book on the Trinity. Walking, he saw a young kid who had dug a hole in the sand. The boy then began taking water from the sea and placing it in the hole. St. Augustine, watching him for a while, went up to the boy and asked him what he was doing. The boy, taking his project seriously, he replied by claiming that he was trying to empty the sea in the hole. St. Augustine, amused by his answer, replied that this was impossible, due to the fact that the sea was so vast and the hole so small. The boy then answered that his project was easier than the one that the Saint was trying to achieve, i.e. endeavouring to fit the infinite and vast Trinity in his limited human intellect, and after he said this the boy disappeared.
This is a fantastic story, highlighting how man cannot understand God, ontologically. It is hard for man to comprehend even the creation around him. Philosophers, since antiquity, have tried to grasp the environment around them. Despite this, man has always wished to know the entirety of God’s nature. This is an interesting notion; how can man understand the creator, if he cannot even understand the creation around him? God is the ocean, while we are the hole. It is impossible for the creation to know the ontology of the Creator. Nevertheless, due to His coming to us, His cross and His eventual resurrection we are blessed to being in communion with God, through the Divine Eucharist.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Old Town of Corfu

The Old Town of Corfu, on the Island of Corfu off the western coasts of Albania and Greece, is located in a strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea, and has its roots in the 8th century BC. The three forts of the town, designed by renowned Venetian engineers, were used for four centuries to defend the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice against the Ottoman Empire. In the course of time, the forts were repaired and partly rebuilt several times, more recently under British rule in the 19th century. The mainly neoclassical housing stock of the Old Town is partly from the Venetian period, partly of later construction, notably the 19th century. As a fortified Mediterranean port, Corfu’s urban and port ensemble is notable for its high level of integrity and authenticity.

Corfu town is the capital and main port of the island of Corfu and is one of the most beautiful, most impressive and most interesting cities of Greece. It is the largest town of the Ionian Islands and was built between two fortresses during the Venetian rule. Located in the southern side of the Esplanade Square, the Ionian Academy was founded in 1808 by Ioannis Kapodistrias, who was the first Governor of the new Greek Independent State, and was the first University of Greece.

During the Venetian occupation, the Town Hall Square was the meeting place of the nobles. In 1720, it was used as a lyrical theatre that was called Theatre of San Giacomo, taking its name from the Catholic Church of St. James and St. Christopher. The architecture of Corfu town is strongly influenced by the Sicilians, the Venetians, the French and the British that occupied the island.

The town gathers a population of about 30,000 inhabitants; this well-organised town is full of elegant buildings, beautiful mansions, superb palaces and magnificent monuments succeeding one another and surrounded by narrow stone-paved streets with stone steps, large beautiful French-designed squares with trees and flowers, impressive and well-preserved Venetian castles and lovely Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches. The unique beauty, charm, character and atmosphere of the Old Town of Corfu reminds the visitor of other glamorous towns such as Naples, taking the visitor back to another time and place.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dead Traditionalism

Many believe that tradition is merely repeating what we were taught when we were younger, or its merely what the Fathers said, centuries ago. They don’t understand it as a living being, but as a dead repetition of events and customs. John Meyendorff, in his book ‘Living Tradition’, claims that:

‘…dead traditionalism cannot be truly traditional. It is an essential characteristic of patristic theology that it was able to face the challenges of its own time while remaining consistent with the original apostolic Orthodox faith. Thus simply to repeat what the Fathers said is to be unfaithful to their spirit and to the intention embodied in their theology…for us to be “traditional” implies an imitation of the Fathers in their creative work of discernment…We must imitate their constant effort to understand their contemporaries and to use words and concepts which could truly reach the minds of the listeners. True tradition is always a living tradition. It changes while remaining always the same. It changes because it faces different situations, not because its essential content is modified.’[1]

[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), pp. 7-8. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Metropolitan Church of Corfu

The Metropolitan Church of Corfu is dedicated to three saints, Panagia Spileotissa, since after the destruction of the church the icon of Panagia Spileotissa was brought here, to St. Vlasios and to St. Theodora. The church is fashioned after the Eptanesian Basilica tri-aisle churches, while its front view stands out for its renaissance elements.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How do we understand rationality?

We live in a world were rationalism is prevailing. However, we could easily claim that rationality always existed. How we interpret rationalism is another case. Below is an exegesis given to us by Tatakis, who claims:

‘“Rationality” says Gregory Palamas, is truly “rational” when its organ is the “heart,” because the mind is “connected” – it is an expression of humanity’s composite nature. We have not paid enough attention to this very important patristic concept, which is opposed to seeing the mind in mechanical terms, because it holds that the rational faculty attains its fullness when it dwells in the heart. It is then that it expresses human personhood. These views are especially relevant today, when “rationality” prevails in almost everything and is emphasized as naked rationality alone . . . In Palamas we do not have a mind that thinks, but a mind that finds itself “in unceasing prayer to God.” It is a mind full of heart that finds the way to God. The mind, he concludes, “contemplates divine light . . . as a joyful sacred vision.” If one does not ascend to this height, if rationality is confined simply to the process of thinking, one can be a theological scholar but one cannot arrive at the vision of God.’[1]

[1] Tatakis, B., Μελετήματα Χριστιανικής Φιλοσοφίας, (Athens, Studies in Christian Philosophy, 1967), pp.90-91. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Glasgow 2014 XX Commonwealth Games – Royal Mail First Day Cover

Originally known as the ‘British Empire Games’, the first Commonwealth Games were held in 1930, in Hamilton, Canada, where 400 athletes from 11 nations competed in six sports. Often referred to as the ‘Friendly Games’, in 1954 they were renamed the ‘British Empire and Commonwealth Games’, which changed to the ‘British Commonwealth Games’ in 1970 and 1974. The even has been called the ‘Commonwealth Games’ since 1978.

Over time, the number of competing nations, athletes and sports has increased significantly, while the level of public interest and competition has reached ever-greater heights. Until 1994 only single competition sports had appeared on the programme, but since 1998 team sports such as Rugby Sevens and Netball have been added. At the 2002 Games in Manchester, elite athletes with a disability (EAD) became the first to take part in a fully inclusive sports programme, competing in ten events across five Para-Sports.

On 9 November 2007, Glasgow won the bid to host the XX Commonwealth Games and, over the last six and a half years, the building-up to the largest multi-sport event that Scotland has ever held has been gathering momentum. Once the Queen’s Baton Relay has visited every Commonwealth nation from Anguilla to Zambia, the Opening Ceremony on 23 July will lead into 11 days of intense competition across 17 sports, watched b an audience of more than 1.5 billion people across the globe.   

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sesquicentennial Dinner – The Anglican and Eastern Churches Association

This year the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association celebrates its 150th Anniversary. To mark the occasion a Dinner will be held at Lambeth Palace in the presence of Anglican and Orthodox Guests on Wednesday 29th October 2014.
‘The Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (AECA) is the first group to be founded in Britain on Anglican-Orthodox relations. The number of Anglican-Orthodox groups which exist, primarily in the West, and more specifically in Britain, have contributed immensely towards the establishment of the current dialogue. The first group to be founded in Britain was “The Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom”[1] which was founded in 1857, whilst the Eastern Church Association came into being in 1864. The E.C.A.’s purpose was to

“inform Anglicans of the state and position of the Eastern Christians; to make the doctrines and principles of Anglicanism known in the East; to take advantage ‘of all opportunities which the providence of God shall afford us for intercommunion with the Orthodox Church, and also for friendly intercourse with the other ancient Churches of the East’; to give financial assistance to the Orthodox bishops to assist in their efforts to promote the spiritual welfare of their flocks.”[2]

The E.C.A.’s importance is evident, since it was the first endeavour within the United Kingdom to find an organisation with a sole purpose the promotion of Anglican-Orthodox Relations. On the whole, discussions before this point were products of individuals, existing on the periphery of the church’s interest, in both East and West. Nevertheless, the E.C.A. altered this practice. It persisted that its members were representing a church; consequently giving it an official position within the relations of the two churches.  This organisation is currently known as ‘The Anglican and Eastern Churches Association’ (A.E.C.A.). It eventually amalgamated with ‘The Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union’, in 1906, forming finally the existing A.E.C.A, based in London. It is significant to identify its goals; the Association has the following aim:

“To advance the Christian religion, particularly by teaching members of the Anglican and Orthodox Churches about each other, in order to prepare the way for an ultimate union between them, in accordance with our Lord’s prayer that ‘all may be one’. All its members are urged to work and pray constantly to this end.”[3][4]

Tickets for the dinner will be £75 each for a three course dinner, including drinks. If you wish to apply for a ticket, the application above (see picture) should be completed and returned to the Secretary, together with a cheque for £75 payable to the AECA. Numbers will be limited to 80 and guest applications should be sent with a separate cheque (payable to the AECA) which will be returned to applicant should tickets not be available for guests.

[1] Young, Ivan, The Relations of East and West since the Great Schism, (London, SPCK, 1935), p. 19.
[2] Brandreth, Henry, “Anglican Eastern Associations: A Sketch”, Sobornost, No. 31 (New Series), June 1945, p. 10.
[3] A.E.C.A.,, accessed 08/01/12, 14.57.
[4] Part of an article, published on Londinoupolis:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

St Giles' Cripplegate

St Giles' Cripplegate is one of the few remaining medieval churches in the City of London and, after surviving devastating bombing during the Blitz, it sits at the heart of the modern Barbican development. It is thought that there has been a church on this spot for one thousand years. We know nothing about the early Saxon church, which was probably a little chantry or chapel made of wattle and daub. In 1090, a Norman church stood on this site, built by Alfune, Bishop of London, who afterwards assisted Rahere, the founder of nearby St Bartholomew's, in building the neighbouring church of St Bartholomew the Great.

Some time during the Middle Ages, the church was dedicated to St Giles. The church's full name is "St Giles' without Cripplegate". The name "Cripplegate" refers to one of the gates through the old City wall, which had its origins in Roman times as a fortification to protect the Roman city from attackers. There is no definitive explanation of the origin of the word 'Cripplegate'. It is thought unlikely that it is referring to cripples, although no doubt there would have been plenty of cripples by the Cripplegate, wanting alms from travellers as they entered and left the City. It is more likely that the word comes from the Anglo-Saxon "cruplegate" which means a covered way or tunnel, which would have run from the town gate of Cripplegate to the Barbican, a fortified watchtower on the City wall.

Sections of the old wall can still be seen near the church. The foundations are generally Roman but higher up, the structure dates from various times as it was regularly strengthened and rebuilt. In 1760 the Cripplegate, which up till then had been used as a storehouse and a prison, was sold to a carpenter in Coleman Street for £91 (a huge amount at that time). The church was situated outside the wall at the Cripplegate, hence its name of "St Giles' without Cripplegate". As the population of the parish increased, the church was enlarged and it was rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style in 1394, during the reign of Richard II. The stone tower was added in 1682. The church was damaged by fire on three occasions – in 1545, 1897 and 1940.

St. Giles is thought to have been a hermit, who lived in southern France in the 7th century AD: his feast day is 1 September. He is traditionally depicted with a hind and there are various stories as to why that should be so. According to a 10th-century biography, Giles was an Athenian from a wealthy family who gave away his inherited wealth, fled to France and made himself a hermitage in a forest near the mouth of the Rhone, where, we are told, he lived on herbs and the milk of a hind. This retreat was finally discovered by the hunters of the King of the Franks (one version gives the King's name as Flavius Wamba, another as Charles Martel), who had pursued the hind to its place of refuge. An arrow shot at the deer wounded Giles instead, as he put out his hand to protect the deer and was himself speared by the arrow. The king was so impressed by Giles' holiness that he built him a monastery on the site of the hermitage and made Giles its first abbot.

Giles later became the patron saint of cripples, beggars and blacksmiths. We are told that Giles was one of the most popular saints of Western Europe in the later middle ages. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes Giles as one of the 14 Auxiliary Saints or "Holy Helpers", venerated for the supposed efficacy of their prayers on behalf of those in need.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Church resembling a prostitute

Reading the book “The mind of the Orthodox Church”, written by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, I came across a very interesting depiction of the Church, one which I never thought of before reading it, i.e. the Church, which in the Old Testament resembles a prostitute. The Metropolitan explains:

“The Church in the Old Testament resembled a prostitute, and Christ sanctified it, made it a virgin. St. John Chrysostom analyses this truth graphically: ‘For the miracle of the bridegroom is that he took a prostitute and made a virgin’. And then he writes that in the human biological data marriage destroys virginity, whereas ‘with God marriage restored virginity’… God desires the prostitute ‘in order to make her a virgin’. And indeed He does not send any angel, Cherubim, Seraphim or any of his servants, ‘He presents Himself, the lover’. And since the prostitute did not want to rise high, He Himself goes down. He goes into her hut. He sees her drunk, finds her covered with wounds, enraged, pestered by the demons. He approaches her; she flees. He invites her, saying: ‘I am a physician’. He imitates her manners. Then ‘he takes her, adapts himself to her’, that is to say, he becomes betrothed to her, gives her the ring, that is to say the Holy Spirit.
Then Chrysostom presents a dialogue between Christ and the former prostitute. Christ says to her: ‘Since you were produced in Paradise, how did you fall from there?’ She answers that the devil cast her out of Paradise. And Christ goes on: ‘You were produced in Paradise, and he cast you out; behold, I produce you in myself, I bear you’. Now you no longer have a body and you have nothing to fear from the devil. The prostitute replies: ‘But I am a sinner and unclean’. And Christ says: ‘Do not worry; I am a physician. I know my own tool, I know how it was earthenware and was broken. I shall remake it by the bath of rebirth and consign it to the fire’”. (p. 56-57).

Therefore we can identify that the Church is holy because it is sanctified by Christ, who is also the Church’s Head. From this relationship, the Christians are also holy; the Christians who partake in the Mysteries and the Life of the Church.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Town Hall/San Giacomo Theatre, Corfu

The first theatre in Greece was found in Corfu and was named “Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo” as it was situated at the square next to the Catholic Cathedral San Giacomo. Today the building once accommodating the theatre serves as the Town Hall of Corfu. The construction of the building started in 1663 and initially was intended to be used as a place where nobles could arrange their meetings and entertaining events. In 1720 it was transformed into a Theatre which was functioning in accordance with European specifications. A lot of legendary operas and plays were staged here.

The building of the theatre designed by an unknown architect and constructed from carved Siniotic stone with lavish decorations and baroque sculptures was seriously damaged in 1943, during World War II. Unfortunately, many precious paintings and other items of art were destroyed. Only the main stage curtain was saved and today it is found in the new Municipal Theatre of Corfu.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Social Media Life

I’m not here to criticise the social media…We all use it; we are all a part of it. However, our lives are centred on it, to the point where reality becomes a mere shadow of our ‘true life’, i.e. our social media life. ‘Likes’ are so important for us all…we live to receive likes and comments; an interesting idea, which has altered our lives forever. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Praise of Love, by Saint Clement of Rome

‘Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.’

Thursday, July 17, 2014

St. Marina Amirou, Cyprus

St Marina Amirou monastery, near the city of Lemessos (Cyprus) is part of the Monastery of Panagia Amirou, where a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary is located. The area is called Amirou, a weird – even in Greek. Researcher Mr. Kostis Kokkinofatos has no idea where the name comes from. However, according to a local folklore tradition this is due to a rich man, an Emir or Amir. He was a very rich man, who gradually was losing his sight. He prayed to the Virgin Mary, who appeared in his dream and told him to travel with a boat from where he lived, in Amathus, and he would look for a light on the hill, behind the city, which he would follow. Indeed, the Emir travelled to Cyprus and following the light, he found that it came from a small lamp, hanging on a tree, near the village of Apsios. He rubbed his eyes with the oil from the oil lamp and his vision immediately returned miraculously.

According to another version, the one who was miraculously treated was the Emir’s daughter, who washed her eyes with the holy water which was pouring out from the cave, where the monastery of the Virgin Mary is currently located. In order to show his gratitude, the Emir built a church dedicated to the Theotokos. From that point onwards the locals named the church of the Theotokos as the Emir’s building, which gradually changed to Amirou. A number of scholars also claim that the name could derive from the name Amiras, widely used in Asia Minor, specifically in the area of Smyrna.

St Marina is a new monastery. No church foundations from the past can be found. Currently a new church building is been constructed, just opposite the main monastery of Panagia. There is one sister there, who kindly accepts visitors, giving the history of the monastery and the countless miracles St. Marina performs daily. Her stories are a reminder that the Orthodox faith is a living faith, where the Saints are part of our life, whether we know it or not, verifying their existence even to sceptics and atheists, who after a miraculous event understand the riches and beauty of Orthodoxy, becoming thus vibrant members of the Church.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Good People

Our modern epoch and the fact that most people live in great big cities dictate that mankind becomes more and more impersonal, not caring about our neighbour. Modern societies emphasise the importance of personal well being and prosperity. However, sometimes this norm is overridden by the kindness of certain people towards their neighbour. The following video depicts exactly that. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Crisis of Ecumenism according to the Patriarch of Moscow

As expressed before, on this blog, there are many who support the modern Ecumenical Movement; however, there are those who are against Ecumenism and who critically identify certain problems. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow explains, below, the crisis of Ecumenism:

“…the current crisis of ecumenism is in the first instance a methodological crisis. Why? Because, at the start of inter-confessional dialogue, instead of attempting to agree on the most important thing (that is, an understanding of Holy Tradition as normative for Christian faith and practice and a criterion of theological truth), Christians began to discuss individual questions, however important these may be in themselves. The manifest success in the discussion of these questions is really almost irrelevant, because what meaning can doctrinal agreement have when one party (a significant portion of Protestant theologians) does not recognise the very concept of normativity for Christian faith and practice? Any agreement in these fields is open to withdrawal or revision when new ideas and new arguments appear, introducing new seeds of division. Is not this the phenomenon we are facing today with the problem of women’s priesthood and acceptance of homosexual lifestyles? Apropos, the histories of women’s priesthood and of homosexuality are the best proofs of the thesis on the liberal nature of Protestantism. It is very clear that the introduction of women’s priesthood and acceptance of homosexual lifestyles occurred under the influence of the liberal idea of human rights. In the case in point, these rights represent a radical departure from Holy Tradition, and a portion of Protestantism has resolved the problem in favour of human rights, ignoring the clear norm of tradition”[1].

[1] Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, Freedom and Responsibility, (London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 2011),p. 6

Monday, July 14, 2014

Statue of Count Matthias Von Der Schulenburg, Corfu

The German general Matthias von der Schulenburg (1661-1747) was the last great general of the Serenissima Republic of Venice. He organised the defence of Corfu against the last Turkish siege in 1716, during which the Turks failed to conquer the island. Schulenburg built additional fortifications and undertook the command and the encouragement of his army consisting of 5.000 men when the camp of the enemy numbered 33.000.

 The Venetian Senate, in honour of his accomplishments, erected his statue while he was still alive, by means of a special and rare decision. The general is depicted in the garments of a Roman military officer standing on a high, baroque-style base, decorated with relief prizes. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Not Understanding the Answer

Many times I have heard various people claim that their prayers have not been answered. They try to speak to God and they receive no answer. However, how sure can we be that we are asking the right questions? Do we understand the answers, we claim we never received? C.S. Lewis, in his book A Grief Observed gives his personal views on this theme, after the loss of his wife, explaining the topic theologically:

‘. . . When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No Answer’. It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like,  ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems  - are like that.’[1]

[1] Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed, (London, faber and faber, 2013), pp. 58-59. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Petra tou Romiou – The Birthplace of Aphrodite

This interesting geological formation of huge rocks off the southwest coast in the Paphos district forms one of the most impressive natural sites of Cyprus associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

According to legend, this strikingly beautiful spot is where Aphrodite rose from the waves and the foaming sea on the 9th Januray, thousands of years ago, and was then escorted on a shell at the rocks known as ‘Rock ofAphrodite’ or ‘Petra tou Romiou’ in Greek. The Greek name, Petra tou Romiou, “the Rock of the Greek”, is associated with the legendary Byzantine hero, Digenis Akritas, who kept the marauding Saracens at bay with his amazing strength. With one hand he was said to have grabbed hold of the Kyreneia mountain range thereby forming "Pentadaktylos", the Five Finger Mountain, while with the other hand he heaved a huge rock and tossed it into the sea at the Saracens who were trying to land. The rock still remains and thus gave the region its name.

 It is said that in certain weather conditions, the waves rise, break and form a column of water that dissolves into a pillar of foam. With imagination, this looks for just a moment like an ephemeral, evanescent human shape. The site is on the Aphrodite Cultural Route.