Saturday, January 31, 2015

Annual Dinner and Dance – The Peloponnesian Association of GB

The Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain invited you to join us at our Annual Dinner and Dance, to be held at the Holiday Inn (Bloomsbury, Coram Street, WC1N 1HT), on Saturday 14th February 2015, at 7 pm. The price for this event is £55 pp.
To RSVP for this event please contact Mrs Xeni Hatzitheodoridi by the 10th February on
Tel: 020 8932 7667 or

Cheques to be made payable to the ‘Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain’, to be sent to Mr Fotios Stikas, 57 Northcott Avenue, London, N22 7AP. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Three Hierarchs Chapel, Central Athens

Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Three Hierarchs, i.e. St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great and St John the Theologian. These three Saints are highly venerated in Greece, since they represent learning, knowledge and the Greek letters. During this festivity the Greek schools and teachers also celebrate, showing their respect towards these three great Christian Saints.

Here we have pictures from a small chapel dedicated to the Three Hierarchs, located in central Athens, near the Kalimarmaro (also known as Panathinaikon) Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

An Ecumenical Visit to Greensted and Stanford Rivers

On the 28th January 2015, members of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (A.E.C.A.) visited the oldest wooden Church in the world and the oldest ‘Stave Built’ timber building in Europe – St Andrew’s Church, Greensted[1]. Also they visited St Margaret’s Church – Standford Rivers[2]. It was also an opportunity to speak about theological issues that affect both the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion and a great occasion to learn more about the ecclesiastical history of England.

I would like to thank, the parish priest of both these churches Fr Andrei Petrine (also member of the A.E.C.A.), who kindly toured the members of the AECA, giving the history of the churches and of the parishes. Also we owe thanks to Fr Andrei and his family for a wonderful lunch and for their gifts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Ascetic who became a Rapist who became a Saint

Often enough, Christians believe that a Saint is always a Saint. We, mistakably, believe that Saints were never tempted or did not live a secular life, with problems and temptations. However, this is further from the truth. There are many routes one man or woman can take in order to become a Saint, reach the objective we all have, i.e. theosis and communion with God. A brilliant example of this is St. James the Ascetic – also known as the fallen ascetic - , who is celebrated today (28th January) by the Orthodox Church. The following story, taken from the Synaxarion of Nicodemos the Hagiorite, emphasises the grace and love of God and shows that anyone can truly become a Saint.

“James was a reputable ascetic, but he defiled a girl who was brought to him for healing, and following this rape, he killed her and her brother, and threw their bodies in a ravine, in order to try to cover his crime. When he realised the extent of his sin, he was so overwhelmed by it that he thought he was beyond salvation, and was ready to give up his struggle, when a more experienced ascetic reminded him that nobody is beyond salvation. Following that, he lived in a grave, praying for the grace and the forgiveness of God. Years later, when the country was hit by a prolonged draught, God revealed to the bishop of the neighbouring city that it would rain again only if James prayed for it. The bishop and the people found James in his grave of repentance, and asked him to pray. When he did, the drought was broken. Instead of taking this as a sign of sanctity, James merely took it as a sign of encouragement, and doubled his efforts, until he gave up his soul to the hands of God.
This is a story of sin and repentance, and as his vita says, God allowed James to fall to grave sins, so that many virtuous who think it would be difficult for them to fall, would be cautioned by his example. By the same token, many sinners who think that they are beyond forgiveness and salvation, would also be inspired by his return to grace”[1].

[1] Andreopoulos, Andreas, Gazing on God – Trinity, Church and Salvation in Orthodox Thought and Iconography, (Cambridge, James Clarke & Co, 2013), p. 143.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stockholm Old Town

Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. Currently, there are about 3000 people living in the Old Town, whilst most of the buildings found there today are from the 18th and 19th centuries.

All of Gamla Stan and the adjacent island of Riddarholmen are like a living pedestrian-friendly museum full of sights, attractions, restaurants, cafés, bars and places to shop. The narrow winding cobblestone streets, with their buildings in so many different shades of gold, give Gamla Stan its unique character. Even now cellar vaults and frescoes from the Middle Ages can be found behind the visible facades, and on snowy winter days the district feels like something from a story book.

There are several beautiful churches and museums in Gamla Stan, including Sweden’s national cathedral Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum. The largest of the attractions in the district is the Royal Palace, one of the largest palaces in the world with over 600 rooms. In addition to the reception rooms, there are several interesting museums in the Palace, including the Royal Armory, with royal costumes and armour. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vasilopita 2015 – Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain

The Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain organised the traditional New Year Vasilopita on the 25th January at the Crypt of St Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, attracting many people from all around Greece and Cyprus. During the event there was a mini bazaar and a buffet. Fr Theonas Bakalis, Dean of St Sophia Orthodox Church, officiated the traditional Vasilopita service. We were honoured by having with us, at this event, the Consul of Greece in London,Mr Sotirios Demestichas, and the Cultural Counsellor of the Republic of Cyprus, Dr Achilleas Hadjikyriacou. Soon, the Association will advertise its annual Dinner and Dance. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Anti-religious Street Art, Mytilene

Street art has the freedom of expressing what the ‘artist’ wishes to convey. However, despite it being a beautiful reality, in the dullness of a modern city, we identify that many of its messages can be rude, anti-religious, anti-political, anarchist etc. Below we find two anti-religious graffiti, located, ironically but deliberately, near the largest Orthodox Church in Mytilene, St Therapon. The first wishes to express the ‘stupidity’ of the existence of God: ‘believing in God is like believing in Superman’ whilst the second one is both anti-religious and against the government, claiming: ‘God wants you to be a sheep and the government a slave.’

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Stockholm City Hall

Stockholm City Hall, with its spire featuring the golden Three Crowns, is one of the most famous silhouettes in the Swedish capital. It is one of the country’s leading examples of national romanticism in architecture. The 106 metre tall tower has the three crowns, which is the Swedish national coat of arms, as its apex.

The City Hall was built between 1911 and 1923 to the design of Ragnar Ostberg. It came to be his most famous building, where eight million bricks were used. Inspired by the palaces of the Renaissance, Ragnar Ostberg had the City Hall built around two piazzas, the Civic Court and the Blue Hall. The Blue and the mosaic clad Golden Hall are most known for being the annual host of the Nobel Prize Banquet. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saint Paul’s Church, Mytilene

This small, but beautiful, Orthodox Church of Saint Paul on the Greek island of Lesbos opened in 2006. This church honours and remembers Saint Paul’s arrival to Mitylene, the capital city of Lesbos. This was one of the stops he made whilst travelling around Greece. In the New Testament book, the Acts of the Apostles we read: ‘When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene.’ (Acts 20:14).  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Negative Theology

Negative theology, also known as apophatic theology is a quite complex idea. How do we receive knowledge from a negative idea? From a negative theology? It is, however, the way with which the Orthodox Church wishes to understand difficult ideas and realities, such as what God is and isn’t. Below, Vladimir Lossky gives a brief summary of what apophaticism, i.e. negative theology, is:

‘Negative theology is not merely a theory of ecstasy. It is an expression of that fundamental attitude which transforms the whole of theology into a contemplation of the mysteries of revelation. It is not a branch of theology, a chapter, or an inevitable introduction on the incomprehensibility of God from which one passes unruffled to a doctrinal exposition in the usual terminology of human reason and philosophy in general. Apophaticism teaches us to see above all a negative meaning in the dogmas of the Church it forbids us to follow natural ways of thought and to form concepts which would usurp that place of spiritual realities. For Christianity is not a philosophical school for speculating about abstract concepts, but is essentially a communion with the living God. That is why, despite all their philosophical learning and natural bent towards speculation, the Fathers of the eastern tradition in remaining faithful to the apophatic principle of theology, never allowed their thought to cross the threshold of the mystery, or to substitute idols of God for God Himself. That is also why there is no philosophy more or less Christian.’[1] 

[1] Lossky, Vladimir, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, (Cambridge, James Clarke & Co Ltd.,1991), p.42.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Khomiakov’s Parable

What is the attitude the Orthodox should have towards the non-Orthodox? Should we have any relations with the non-Orthodox? These are interesting questions. The answers differs according to who you ask within the Orthodox World. Khomiakov explains the attitude we Orthodox should have towards the Roman Catholics and the Protestants through a parable:

“A master departed, leaving his teaching to his three disciples. The eldest faithfully repeated what his master had taught him, changing nothing. Of the other two, one added to the teaching, the other took away from it. At his return the master, without being angry with anyone, said to the two younger, ‘Thank your eldest brother; without him you would not have preserved the truth which I handed over to you’. Then he said to the eldest brother, ‘Thank your youngest brothers; without them you would not have understood the truth which I entrusted to you.”[1]
Orthodoxy is the Church which claims to have preserved the faith, with no addition and no subtractions, unlike the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant  Churches. The Orthodox Church has kept the Tradition of the Church. However, it seems that Orthodoxy can rediscover itself through the dialogue with the others. It is no coincidence that Fr. George Florovski, who revived the reading of the Fathers from an Orthodox point of view, being considered one of the most significant Orthodox theologians of the 20th century, was also in the dialogue with the non-Orthodox. He was member of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius (an ecumenical body based in Britain which promotes relations between the Orthodox and the Anglicans). The Western scholastic works on Scripture and the Fathers should be considered important not only for the West, but also for the East. As Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia claims, “We have everything to gain by continuing to talk to each other.”[2] 

[1] Ware, Timothy, The Orthodox Church, (London, Penguin Books, 1997), p. 325.
[2] Ibid. p. 327.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015

Yesterday the Guild Church of St Dunstan-in-the-West together with the Romanian Orthodox Parish of St George hosted an Ecumenical Service of Choral Evensong and Romanian Orthodox Vespers to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the First Romanian Liturgy at the Church of St Dunstan-in-the-West. This was part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Rt. Revd. Jonathan Baker (Guild Vicar and Bishop of Fulham) Officiated, whilst the address was given by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph Pop (Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of South and West Europe, Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Paris) who spoke on ‘The Saints of the 1st Christian Millennium – a common legacy for Eastern and Western Christendom.’

The Metropolitan firstly thanked St Dunstan’s for having under its aegis the Romanian Orthodox Parish of St George for the past 50 years. He then examined the key theme, i.e. Saints, who can be a Saints and how one becomes a Saint. There are Biblical quotes supporting Saints; the Patristic Tradition, especially after the iconoclastic period, whilst in the New Testament we read that the Christians are called Saints. He then spoke about a number of British Saints and Saints who worked and lived in Britain, such as St Bede, St Theodore of Tarsus and others. There was also a reference to the new monastery dedicated to All Celtic Saints[1]. The Metropolitan explained how the Saints remain our friends. They are models for us, especially today, in a world which promotes that there are no more models to follow.

In December 1964 the first Liturgy of the Romanian Orthodox Church took place commenced under the aegis of the then Guild Vicar, John Richard Satterthwaite, who at that time was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Counsellor for Foreign Relations. In 1970 he became Bishop of Fulham and subsequently Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. Shortly afterwards the first Liturgy, the splendid Romanian Iconostasis, which had originally been made for the Antim Monastery in Bucharest in the 1830’s, was moved to this church.

In the mid-seventies the then Bishop of London, the Rt. Revd. Gerald Ellison made an official visit to the Patriarch in Bucharest. Through its links with St Dunstan’s the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association has made several pilgrimages to Romania[2] and has also made grants towards the training of a number of Romanian Priests.

[1] For more information on the monastery please see a previous post:
[2] For this year’s AECA pilgrimage to Romania please see below:

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Talk by Hilarion Alfeyev, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, at the University of Winchester

On Thursday 5th February Hilarion Alfeyev, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk (Russia) will give a talk at the University of Winchester (The Stripe, Sparkford Road, Winchester SO22 4NR). The topic of the talk will be Does Christian Ecumenism still have a future?
Hilarion Alfeyev is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. At present he is the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He is also a noted theologian, church historian and composer and has published books on dogmatic theology, patristics and church history as well as numerous compositions for choir and orchestra.

The voice of Christendom is nowadays deeply disunited. One wonders whether we can still speak at all of ‘Christianity’ or whether it would be more accurate to refer to ‘Christianities’, that is to say, markedly diverse versions of the Christian faith. Some of the moral, spiritual, pastoral and practical issues connected with this will be analysed from the point of view of a Russian Orthodox Metropolitan who for the last twenty years has been deeply involved in the ecumenical work and who follows with great anxiety the processes taking place in contemporary secular society. The Russian Orthodox Church, which in the twentieth century passed through seventy years of struggle for survival and which is still recovering from persecutions, has much to offer to its partners in the ecumenical dialogue in terms of theological reflection. At the same time, it has much to learn from them. We need a true dialogue, not just a monologue, and that we must be able not only to criticize the others, but also to be self-critical ourselves. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Metropolitan Orthodox Church of Mytilene, Lesvos

The Metropolitan Orthodox Church of Mytilene, the capital city of the Greek island of Lesvos, is St Athanasius. It was built in the 18th century, and its impressive Gothic bell tower is evident from far away, being 33 metres high.

For the past two centuries, St Athanasius Church houses the holy relics of St Theodoros the Byzantine. Following the iconographic tradition of the period it was built, western interferences and themes are evident, for example the depiction of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), a theme not accepted by the Orthodox (officially).