Monday, August 31, 2015

Saint Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, Eanswythe and Cuthburga

Bishop of Lindisfarne was born in Ireland and died in 651 AD. He is also known as Aeda or Aedan (in old Irish). Saint Aidan is said to have been a disciple of Saint Senan (f.d. March 8) on Scattery Island, but nothing else is known with certainty of his early life before he became a monk of Iona.
He was well received by Kind Oswald, who had lived in exile among the Irish monks of Iona and had requested monks to evangelize his kingdom. The first missionary, Corman, was unsuccessful because of the roughness of his methods, so Aidan was sent to replace him. Oswald bestowed the isle of Lindisfarne (Holy Island) on Aidan for his episcopal seat and his diocese reached from the Forth to the Humber.
By his actions he showed that he neither sought nor loved the things of this world; the presents which were given to him by the king or other rich men he distributed among the poor. He rarely attended the king at table, and never without taking with him one or two of his clergy, and always afterwards made haste to get away and back to his work.

The centre of his activity was Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, between Berwick and Bamburgh. Here he established a monastery under the Rule of Saint Columcille; it was not improperly been called the English Iona, for from it the paganism of Northumbria was gradually dispelled and barbarian customs undermined. The community was not allowed to accumulate wealth; surpluses were applied to the needs of the poor and the manumission of slaves. From Lindisfarne Aidan made journeys on foot throughout the diocese, visiting his flock and establishing missionary centres.
Aidan’s apostolate was advanced by numerous miracles according to Saint Bede, who wrote his biography. It was also aided by the fact that Aidan preached in Irish and the king provided the translation. Saint Aidan took to this monastery 12 English boys to be raised there, and he was indefatigable in tending to the welfare of children and slaves, for the manumission of many of whom he paid from alms bestowed on him.
King Saint Oswald assisted his bishop in every possible way until his death in battle against the pagan King Penda in 642. A beautiful story preserved by Saint Bede tells that Oswald was sittings at dinner one Easter day, Saint Aidan at his side, when he was told a great crowd of poor people were seeking alms at the gate. Taking massive silver dish, he loaded it with meat from his own table and ordered it distributed amongst the poor, and ordered the silver dish to be broken in fragments, and those too distributed to them. Aidan, Bede says, took hold of the king’s right hand, saying “Let this hand never decay!” His blessing was fulfilled. After Oswald’s death his incorrupt right arm was preserved as a sacred relic.
Oswald’s successor, Saint Oswin, also supported Aidan’s apostolate and when in 651, Oswin was murdered in Gilling, Aidan survived him only 11 days. He died at the royal castle of Bamburgh, which he used as a missionary centre, leaning against a wall of the church where a tent had been erected to shelter him. He was first buried in the cemetery of Lindisfarne, but when the new church of Saint Peter was finished, his body was translated into the sanctuary.
Saint Bede highly praises the Irish Aidan who did so much to bring the Gospel to his Anglo-Saxon brothers. “He neither sought nor loved anything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately to the poor whatever was given him by kings or rich men of the world. He traversed both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless compelled by some urgent necessity. Wherever on his way he saw any, either rich or poor, he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery of the faith; or if they were believers, he sought to strengthen them in their faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good works.”
He wrote that Saint Aidan “was a man of remarkable gentleness, goodness, and moderation, zealous for God; but not fully according to knowledge…” By which Bede means that he followed and taught the liturgical and disciplinary customs of the Celtic Christians, which differed from those of Continental Christianity. Montague notes that one effort of Anglo-Saxon education being conducted by Irish monks was that English writing was distinguished by its Irish orthography. Aidan brought to Ireland the custom of Wednesday and Friday fasts.[1] 

[1] ‘Saint Aidan’, Bulletin of Spiritual Edification, Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, 31 August 2014, No. 1351.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Adoption according to the Bible

Adoption is an interesting but also a hard decision to take. Many couples are not able to have their own children. Modern medicine allows for new methods to be adopted in order to achieve this goal. However, when this is not an option or this fails, adoption is seen as the only way of achieving having children in the family. A Christian understanding of adoption is evident through the Holy Bible, whereby we see it in a number of cases. There is not legitimate argument against it, therefore it is to be encouraged, if the situation is right, and if the family is able to undergo the whole process, financially and spiritually. 

How do we understand adoption in the Bible? In Romans (8:15) we read: ‘For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father”.’ Here we see that God adopts us all; the Creator adopts His Creation. Jesus Christ, is the Son of God. We, on the other hand, are the sons and daughters of God through adoption.
The most evident adoption, however, is seen in Matthew’s Gospel (1:18-25), whereby we see the adoption of Jesus Christ by Joseph:
‘18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.[d] And he called His name Jesus.’
This highlights the fact that God incarnate was adopted. Additionally it eliminates any argument of raising another man’s child. God, I am sure, could have found another way of supporting the Theotokos and baby Jesus. However, he chose adoption as the best solution.
Jesus was not the only one adopted. Moses was also adopted by an Egyptian princess (Exodus 2:1-10) and Samuel the prophet was adopted by Eli (1 Samuel 1-2). These were two holy men, chosen by God to bring His people closer to Him.

The relationship we should have with orphans, where the idea of adoption comes in, is evident in the Epistle of James (1:27) whereby we read: ‘Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.’ Visitation here does not merely mean to visit, it has a deeper meaning. It also means to take care for, provide for and look after. Therefore, adoption is a significant reality found in Holy Scripture. The passages here are merely some of the verses referring to adoption; nevertheless, they give a brief understanding of the importance and acceptance of adoption by Scripture, and therefore, by the Church. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Praying for the Dead

On a weekly basis, at least in Orthodox Churches in the UK, we see that we pray for the dead. The Orthodox Church does have certain days, four Saturdays of the Souls, which remembers the dead. Nevertheless, we see that memorial services are part of the weekly Sunday Liturgy service. Praying for the dead shows a unity of the Christian believers, whereby the Church consists of the living and the departed Christians. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh explains:

‘If you believe that prayers for the living are a help to them, why should you not pray for the dead? Life is one, for as St Luke says: ‘He is not the God of the dead but of the living’ (20:38). Death is not an end but a stage in the destiny of man, and this destiny is not petrified at the moment of death.
The love which our prayer expressed cannot be vain; if love had power on earth and had no power after death it would tragically contradict the word of Scripture that love is as strong as death (Sg 8:6), and the experience of the Church that love is more powerful than death, because Christ has defeated death in his love for mankind.’[1]

[1] Anthony of Sourozh, Creative Prayer, 2004, p.65.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Çavuşin(Nicephorus Phocas) Church, Cappadocia

This barrel vaulted Nicephorus Phocas Church, with one nave and three apses, is situated 2.5km from Göreme on the Göreme-Avanos road, in Cappadocia. Its narthex is collapsed. The church was built around 964/965.

Scenes: On the vault are Annunciation, Visitation, Proof of the Virgin, Flight into Egypt, Joseph's Dream II, Blessing and Mission of the Apostles, Adoration of the Magi, Massacre of the Innocents, Pursuit of Elizabeth, Killing of Zacharias; on the west wall are Joseph and Mary After Proving, Journey to Bethlehem, Nativity, Last Supper, Betrayal of Judas, Resurrection, Baptism; on the north wall are Jesus before Pilate, Way of the Cross, Crucifixion, Death of Christ, on the south wall are Entry into Jerusalem, Raising of Lazarus, Healing of the Blind Man, Descent from the Cross, Women at the Tomb; (on the wall of the apse Transfiguration; on the north apse Emperor Nicephorus Phocas and his family, which held power and authority in Cappadocia.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why the Orthodox make Fanouropita in memory of St. Fanourios?

St Fanourios is widely known within the Greek Orthodox world[1]. The Fanouropita, i.e. the pie dedicated to St. Fanourios is a recent tradition, ­followed by the Greek Orthodox faithful. The pie of St Fanourios is normally prepared on the 27th August, when the Orthodox celebrate his memory. Surely, it is a custom that began from a kind gesture from the faithful, which now is also practiced when one wants to find a lost object; therefore, we observe that Fanouropites are present on a weekly basis in an Orthodox Church. 

It has become a tradition amongst the modern Greeks to say that if we lose something all we need to do is to bake a pie to St Fanourios and he will find us the lost object. It might sound as a superstition, it has worked from what I have seen, in a number of occasions; however, this could be a coincidence. Nevertheless, it is one of the most wide-spread traditions in the Greek Orthodox Church.    

[1] For more on his life, please see the following link:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fishing on the Galata Bridge

One of the most characteristic sights in modern day Istanbul is the fishing taking place on the Galata Bridge, being the city’s top spot for fishing. The men stand there day in and day out, in the rain and in the sun. Every now and again, they throw fish in the air and birds swoop in to catch the fish before it hits the ground. Observing the fishermen is a delight, whereby one can spend some time merely observing them, whilst overlooking the Golden Horn, the Galata Tower and generally the European part of Istanbul.  

It is a magical place, especially for those who love fish dishes, since on the bottom part of the bridge, one finds some of the best fish restaurants in the city, where fish sandwiches are to be found. It is a place with an addictive vide, reminding the passer-by of the greatness of this historic city.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

York Minster

York Minster is one of the finest medieval buildings in Europe. Located in the historic and beautiful city of York, in Northern England, York Minster overlooks the city, with foundations routed in the nation’s earliest history. The official name of York Minster is ‘Cathedral and Metropolitan Church of St Peter in York.’ The first Christian Church on the site has been dated to 627 AD, whilst the first Archbishop of York was recognised by the Pope in 732 AD.

A stone Saxon church survived Viking invasion in 866 AD but was ransacked by William the Conqueror’s forces in 1069 AD. William appointed his own Archbishop, Thomas, who by the end of the century had built a great Norman Cathedral on the site.

The present Gothic-style Church was designed to be the greatest cathedral in the kingdom. This architectural and artistic masterpiece took more than 250 years to build, between 1220 and 1472 AD. Being the natural centre of the Church in the North of England, York Minster has often played a significant role in great national affairs, not least during the turbulent years of the Reformation and the Civil War. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bees – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The new Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to bees. The earliest known fossil bee was trapped in resin leaking from an ancient tree – and hence became preserved in amber some 100 million years ago. At the time, life on earth was dominated by dinosaurs, and our own ancestors were scurrying, rat-like creatures. Prior to this, there were few flowers; most plants relied on wind for pollination, as grasses and pine trees do to this day.

With the arrival of insect pollinators, plants evolved pretty flowers to attract them, and so the world burst into bloom. Honeybees transfer pollen between male and female plants, enabling fertilisation and reproduction.
Bees evolved from wasps, which are predatory creatures. The first bee was essentially a wasp turned vegetarian: it chose to feed its offspring on pollen and nectar rather than on insect prey. That ancestral bee must have thrived, for it gave rise to the many different kinds of bees that we see in the world today.

Interestingly enough, bees are particularly attracted to purple, yellow and blue flowers. In the United Kingdom there are 25 bumblebee species, 1 honeybee species and 240 species of solitary bees. Bees have three simple eyes and two large compound eyes, which are composed of thousands of individual units. The buzzing of bees is often the result of rapid wing movements, which create wind vibrations. Honeybees can fly between 15 and 22 miles an hour. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Church with the Cross, Cappadocia

The Church with the Cross, known in Turkish Hacli Kilise, is located in the Red Valley in Cappadocia and it is usually confused with the Church with the Three Crosses in the Rose Valley. The Church, located on top of a hill, can be reached by a narrow path. The hill, where the Hacli Church is located, also has a fabulous view of the valley. The Church has a single nave and apse in synthronon style. There is a perfect acoustic in this Church.

In the sanctuary one observes the prevalent icon of Jesus Christ Pantokratora. This is evident in most Orthodox Churches in Cappadocia. This iconographic tradition is not followed today, whereby the place is now taken by the Theotokos Platytera, the Mother of God. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kranner´s Fountain

Kranner´s Fountain, also called ‘The Homage of Czech Estates’ is a neo-gothic monument, situated in a park at the riverside in Prague Old Town. It was intended as a homage to the Habsburg monarchy, there is a bronze equestrian statue of Emperor Francis II inside. Around Francis are some statues that represent the allegorical figures of 16 Bohemian regions. The 22 metres high monument stands in a small park and public fountain is at the pedestal of the monument.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Putting God First

In Luke’s Gospel we read: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind’ (Lk 10:27). Reading the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) we identify the central role and place God has, and should have, in our lives. This is not an easy thing. We need to be able to sacrifice ourselves, our time, our thought, our existence in fulfilling this objective, of achieving true communion and relationship with God. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh explains:

‘Love and friendship do not grow if we are not prepared to sacrifice a great deal for their sake, and in the same way we must be ready to put aside many things in order to give God the first place. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind’ (Lk 10:27). This seems to be a very simple command, and yet those words contain much more than one sees at a first glance. We all know what it is to love someone with all one’s heart; we know the pleasure, not only of meeting but even of thinking of the beloved, the warm comfort it gives. It is in that wat that we should try to love God, and whenever his name is mentioned, it should fill our heart and soul with infinite warmth. God should be at all times in our mind, whereas in fact we think of him only occasionally.
As for loving God with all our strength, we can only do it if we cast off deliberately everything that is not God’s in us; by am effort of will we must turn ourselves constantly towards God, whether in prayer, which is easier, because in prayer we are already centred on God, or in action, which requires training, because in our actions we are concentrated on some material achievement and have to dedicate it to God by a special effort.’[1]

[1] Anthony of Sourozh, Creative Prayer, 2004, p.39.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Alexander the Great in the Old Testament

Reading the Old Testament book 1 Maccabees, one comes across a great historical figure from the Hellenic world, i.e. Alexander the Great. Here we see him from a different perspective, where he is referred to as proud and arrogant. Nevertheless, even the Bible gives an answer to the current dispute over where Alexander the Great was from and what he represented; was he a Greek or from FYROM? The Bible answers, stating: Alexander enlarged the Greek Empire… We find Alexander the Great in the following biblical passages:

1 Maccabees 1
‘Alexander the Great
1 This history begins when Alexander the Great, son of Philip of Macedonia, marched from Macedonia and attacked Darius, king of Persia and Media. Alexander enlarged the Greek Empire by defeating Darius and seizing his throne. 2 He fought many battles, captured fortified cities, and put the kings of the region to death. 3 As he advanced to the ends of the earth, he plundered many nations; and when he had conquered the world, he became proud and arrogant. 4 By building up a strong army, he dominated whole nations and their rulers, and forced everyone to pay him taxes. 5-7 When Alexander had been emperor for twelve years, he fell ill and realized that he was about to die. He called together his generals, noblemen who had been brought up with him since his early childhood, and he divided his empire, giving a part to each of them. 8 After his death, the generals took control, 9 and each had himself crowned king of his own territory. The descendants of these kings ruled for many generations and brought a great deal of misery on the world.’
1 Maccabees 6
‘The Death of Antiochus the Fourth

6 As King Antiochus the Fourth was passing through Mesopotamia, he heard of a city in Persia, named Elymais, which was famous for its riches in silver and gold. 2 The temple was very rich, containing gold shields, armor, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of King Philip of Macedonia, who was the first to rule the Greek Empire.’

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

St John the Evangelist, Notting Hill

St John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Notting Hill (London), was designed in the Early English Style. The foundation stone was laid on 8th January 1844. The Bishop of London Dr Charles Blomfield consecrated the church on 29th January 1845. When it was built, the area was not greatly built, therefore, it stood out. In an indication of the speed of development of the area, St John the Evangelist was the first of 19 new parish churches built in Kensington during Sinclair’s incumbency (1842-1875). St John’s was built as a witness to the Christian faith at the heart of the community, and present and future plans aim to enhance that role.

St John’s is an Ecumenical Church and Parish. This is also due to The Rev'd Canon Dr William Taylor. William is Vicar of the Parish and is committed to Parochial Ministry responsibilities, especially the training of clergy. In addition to his Parish responsibilities, he is the Ecumenical Adviser for the Kensington Episcopal Area, and Chairman of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (AECA) for the Church of England.

Additionally, St John's is home to the Filipino Chaplaincy. This chaplaincy is ecumenical, and serves Filipinos from across London. There is a Eucharist every Sunday in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, as well as a varied programme of social activities. The chaplaincy also offers informal socio-pastoral advice on the many issues facing Filipinos in the UK.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Macarius the Great: Overcome by Heavenly Desire

‘Who are children of light, serve the New Testament in the Holy Spirit, they don’t learn anything by men, God himself teaches them, His very Grace writes in their hearts the laws of Spirit. They don’t have to be informed only by scriptures written in ink, but God’s grace writes in the paper of the heart the laws of the Spirit and the heavenly mysteries. 

Heart is the leader and king of the entire corporeal organ, and when Grace takes hold of heart’s fields, Grace becomes the king of all members and of all thoughts. Heart is the place of the mind and of all the thoughts of the soul and of her hope, and because of this, Grace is transfused to all the members of the body.’

Makarios, Spiritual Speeches, 15

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Mosque, Istanbul

The New Valide Sultan Mosque was placed in the Anatolia Side of Istanbul Bosporus, dominating the harbour next to the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn. It was built by Mehmet Aga of Kayseri by the order of Sultana Emetullah Rabia Gulnus Sultana (the mother of Ottoman Sultans Mustafa II and Ahmet III)., between 1597 and 1663. The beautiful exterior, together with the great courtyard, two slender minarets, and a cascade of domes tumbling down from the main dome. Hundreds of pigeons establish their nests among the architecture. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Egritas Church, Cappadocia

Egritas Church, is located in Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, modern day Turkey. The collapse of the barrel vaulted structure and the wooden floor exposed the room of graves, which is equal in size to the structure above. According to some researchers the frescoes date back to the 9th to 11th centuries AD. On an inscription on the east wall of the Church, it is mentioned that the Church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.