Friday, December 30, 2016

The House of the Eagles, Mexico City

The House of the Eagles, located in Templo Mayor, was one of the most sacred places in the Mexico City region. It was here that the Mexica elite held their ceremonies, including meditation, prayer, penitence, and the rendering of offerings. The building was raised, then amplified three times between 1430 and 1500 AD. The House of the Eagles was destroyed during the Conquest and was buried beneath the Church of Santiago Apostol (Apostle James).

The banquettes built into the lower part of the walls in this space are made of blocks of stone displaying beautiful carved bas-reliefs. They are painted in bright colours against a red background. The scene portrayed on the banquettes is that of a procession of armed warriors converging in a zacatapayolli, a ball of dried moss or grass used to hold the bloody spines or spikes used in self-sacrifice.

Ritual activity occurred near the altars, braziers and sculptures. The chemical analysis of the floors showed residues of animal and vegetable products, pulque and blood. Furthermore, ceramic sculptures were recovered in this building during recent excavations, representing God Mictlantecutli, the God of Death, the Lord of the Underworld, where the souls of those who died a natural death or old age go. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hymns dedicated to the Theotokos

The video below is chant dedicated to the Mother of God, the Theotokos, ‘Come ye peoples.’

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

God creating the world out of nothing?

God created the world, as we read in Genesis. However, did He create it out of nothing or out of something? Does nothing truly exist outside of God? This creates a number of theological problems. However, Philip Sherrard in his book Christianity and Eros explains this theme, giving the true theological exegesis of creation. Sherrard writes:

‘One of the cornerstones of Christian doctrine is the idea that God creates the world – and man – out of nothing: ex nihilo. But this nothing – the nihil – out of which God creates the world is not and cannot be a nothing that exists, so to speak, outside God, independently of God, because this would mean that something exists outside God from all eternity. There would be a duality art the basis of all things. On the contrary, unless one is to admit such a basic duality, it must be recognised that this nothing describes what is within God, some aspect of his nature. It must in some way represent the inchoate depths of his nature: a ground of pure potentiality or receptivity at the heart of the Divine, its innermost principle or pole, and so a kind of pre-ontological or pre-conscious reality. To adopt Christian terminology, it is what might be described as the ‘divine darkness.’ Creation therefore is not the result of God implanting the seeds of things in a nothingness that is external to him. Rather it is an exteriorisation of the innermost depths of his nature. It is the activisation of the pure potentiality or pre-ontological ground of the divine darkness. This is the nihil or non-being out of which all things are brought into existence. (pp.71-2). 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tlaltecuhtli – Creator and Earth God

Tlaltecuhtli is the name of the monstrous earth god among the Aztec. Tlaltecuhtli has both feminine and masculine attributes, although she is most often represented as a female deity. Her name means "The one who gives and devours life", and she represents the earth and the sky, and was one of the gods in the Aztec pantheon hungriest for human sacrifice. This deity was said to have a huge body like a toad which was used by Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca to make the universe. She is the ruler of Ilhuicatl Tlalocan Ipan Meztli, second of the thirteen Aztec heavens. Sometimes referred to as Tlaltecuhtli, Tlatecuhtli, Tlatecuhtli, Ilamatecuhtli, Ilamatecuhtli, Cihuacoatl, Coatlicue or Old Princess.
According to Aztec mythology, at the origin of time (the "First Sun"), the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca began to create the world. But the monster Tlaltecuhtli destroyed everything they were creating. The gods turned themselves into giant serpents and wrapped their bodies around the goddess until they tore Tlaltecuhtli's body into two pieces.

One piece of Tlaltecuhtli's body became the earth, mountains and rivers; her hair became trees and flowers; her eyes the caves and wells. The other piece became the vault of the sky, although in this early time no sun or stars were embedded in it yet. Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca gave Tlatecuhtli the gift of providing humans with whatever they need from her body: but it was a gift that didn't make her happy.
Thus in Mexica mythology, Tlaltecuhtli represents the surface of the earth, but she was said to be angry, and she was the first of the gods to demand the hearts and blood of humans for her unwilling sacrifice. Some versions of the myth say Tlaltecuhtli would not stop crying and bear fruit (plants and other growing things) unless she was moistened with the blood of men.
Tlaltecuhtli was also believed to devour the sun every night just to give it back every morning. However, the fear that this cycle could be interrupted for some reason, such as during eclipses, produced instability among the Aztec population and was often the cause of even more ritual human sacrifices.
The legend of this god first emerged around the 11th century AD, and it quickly spread to other civilizations, with the Mayan empire also worshiping her. They always described her as having her mouth wide open – a symbol of how she contributes to our lives, so we in turn must contribute to hers. As per usual in Aztec ritual the only appropriate way to contribute was to offer a blood sacrifice.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Troparion for Christmas

"Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness.
And to know Thee the Orient from on high,
O Lord, Glory to Thee!”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Animals in the Manger

The Byzantine icon of the Birth of Christ depicts Jesus at the epicentre. In this icon we also see a number of animals, specifically a bull and a donkey. This signifies the fact that the Son of God was born as man not in a palace, not even in a house, but in a stable, pointing out the importance of humility in our life. It also foretold the ‘humiliation’ He was going to go through (i.e. the passion and the crucifixion) in order to save mankind from sin and death.

Additionally, choice of the depiction of the bull and the donkey relate to Isaiah’s prophecy from the Old Testament. In Isaiah (1:3) we read: ‘The ox knows its owner, And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.’ The Church has taken this phrase, relating it to the Birth of Jesus Christ.
However, why do we refer and depict these two animals? They are known for their low intelligence, and in regards to the donkey, it is known for its stubbornness. St Gregory the Theologian explains how the two animals symbolise the two peoples, i.e. the bull is according to the Law a clean animal (see Leviticus 11), therefore symbolising the Jewish people, who ruminate the Law. The donkey, on the other hand, which is an unclean animal, according to the Law, symbolises the pagans.

The two animals, therefore, show the coming together of the various people into the Body of the Church, whereby ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3:28). There are no national, social and gender differences. We now have a new existence (Ephesians 2:15), the regenerated, sanctified, man in communion with Christ, the man of Grace, who lives a Christ-centred life. However, it also shows that all of creation is part of this monumental and unique event. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Incarnation as Revelation of God’s Love

How do we understand the incarnation of Christ? Modern society dictates that we understand this annual event as a shopping spree, as a gift-giving moment in the year where we try and make each other happy with goods. However, what is the theology behind the Incarnation? Why do we wish to celebrate this annually? How important is the incarnation of Christ for the Church? Below we find how the Orthodox Church understands this mystery by reading the words of an Anglican priest and theologian, Donald Allchin, who was very much interested in Orthodoxy, being in many ways Orthodox but in an Anglican form. He explains:

‘And surely the Orthodox Church is right when it sees the incarnation of the Word, not as an isolated, single event, but as a revelation of God’s love which wills to redeem and transfigure the whole created universe. The person of Jesus of Nazareth in whom all the fullness the godhead dwells is to be the focal point from which the divine presence is to radiate out into the world, and bring the Church into being. The presence of God is to be found throughout the life of the Church.’[1]

[1] Allchin, The World Is A Wedding, 134. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Songs

An important Christmas tradition, around the world, is the Christmas songs. The beautiful melody and words contribute towards the joyful character of the period, transferring theological truths and events from Jesus’ life. However, carols are not only sang just for Christmas, but also for the New Year and Epiphany, signifying the relations between these events, i.e. Christmas being the birth-day of Christ, New Year the day when Jesus was circumcised and Epiphany when Jesus was Baptised and where the Holy Trinity appeared to the people. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

National Monument, Amsterdam

In the centre of the Dutch capital, in the Dam Square, one finds the imposing 22 metres high National Monument. This is the country’s most significant World War II memorial. It is a daily reminder of the atrocities of war, which also plays a central role in National Remembrance Day (4th May). Embedded in the wall behind are urns containing soil from the Dutch provinces and overseas colonies.  

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Death as depicted by the Aztecs

Death has always intrigued humanity, historically, philosophically, theologically, culturally, socially. It is one of things we will all have to go through, as the famous phrase states: Death and Taxes. However, each culture, religion, region in the world expresses or understands the notion of death differently, depicting him/her/it in all kinds of way.

The Aztecs depict death as seen in this photo, found in the museum at Templo Mayor, Mexico City. This is the God of Death (Mictlantecuhtli), conceived by the Aztecs as a half-gaunt being in a position of attach, with claws and curly hair, probably placed using the holes he has in his head. The liver hangs under his thorax, because according to Aztec beliefs, this internal organ was closely related with Mictlan or the Underworld, place where this deity resided. According to research, the Aztecs offered blood to the statues of the God Death. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Transfiguration of Creation

The Orthodox understand that God lives within the Uncreated world, whilst Creation in the Created one. Has God interfered with Creation? This relationship, this dialogue status has existed since the beginning of Creation. Additionally, Christ’s coming to the world brought a new transfiguration, a new understanding of our lives, our objectives and our relationship with God. This is expressed and realised within the Church. Christos Yannaras, in his book The Freedom of Morality, explains:

‘The Church experiences the transfiguration of creation and of man in liturgical space and time. This is why the true meaning of the Church was revealed in Christ’s transfiguration on Mount Tabor. In the experience on Tabor we have the prefiguration of liturgical space and time, the restoration of nature to its true character as relationship. Space is defined by the immediacy of the relationship, by the inseparable nearness to Christ and communion with Him, and by participation in the truth and glory of God. Correspondingly, the space in which the Eucharistic synaxis takes place is the inseparable gathering of the faithful into the oneness of the life of the world, which becomes the place for the personal union of created and uncreatred – the body and blood of Christ. And in liturgical time, past and future are contracted into the present moment of participation in God’s glory: a present, once again, of personal presence. Moses and Elijah on Tabor, the gathering of the “commemoration of saints” at the eucharist, mark the past. The glorified Jesus, the clothing of humanity in divine glory, marks the eschatological future. The liturgical time of the Church is that present moment which contains and sums up past and future in the immediacy of presence.’ (pp.89-90).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Merbaka, Southern Greece

Merbaka village (currently named Agia Triada, i.e. Holy Trinity) is situated at the centre of the Argolic plain in the Peloponnese, southern Greece.
The name of the village is derived from the name of the Corinthian Latin Bishop “Wilhelm von Moerbeke”. Around 1280 A.D. the bishop made his seat the monastery of Vouzi (found within the borders of the present village).

The political history of Merbaka is certainly a great one. In summary it is possible for one to say that since it had played a role in the revolution of 1821, it later took up the position of capital in the municipality of Mideas. From the 21st of August 1812 it became autonomous, a separate village which kept two neighbouring villages as settlements. These in turn became gradually separate from the curator of Merbaka and ended up as self-governed communities. The inhabitants of the village then took part in the two great wars of the 20th century.

The name of the village –Merbaka – was changed on the 29th of December 1953 by royal decree to become Agia Triada.
The ecclesiastical history of the village – which belongs to the Holy Metropolis of Argolida – is definitely more important. This is due to the fact that within its boundaries exists the 12th century church of the Blessed Virgin, which is the “catholico” of the old monastery of Vouzi. This church is a building of special artistic worth and for this it has been studied by Greek and foreign, specialist academics.
The present cathedral of the village is honoured by the name Agia Triada (the Holy Trinity). From this, the village took its new name.[1]

[1]Salapatas, Anastasios, «Στοιχεία Ιστορίας και Λαογραφίας του χωριού Μέρμπακα», Cardiff, 1988.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Loving God in a Form

Love is to be found all around us. Loving people, things, God, ourselves…it is apparent that we all have felt this emotion. However, when it comes to God it seems that many wish to believe or love a formless God. This does not apply when speaking about a loved person or someone we are attracted to. We love a certain person, who then we marry, for example. We don’t fall in love with a formless person. Therefore, love is personified. This applies also to God. We need to understand the deity in a form we can relate to. This is evident, within the Orthodox world, through iconography. Icons differ according to the icon painter, according to his/her personal culture, colour. For example an icon painted in the Greek world will show an olive skinned Christ. An icon painted in China will depict a Chinese Jesus, in Africa, an African Jesus etc. This is not to be considered wrong. Historically we can identify that he was Jewish and would, therefore, be Mediterranean; nonetheless, being able to cultivate a relationship between God and humanity is the objective.

Philip Sherrard, in his book Christianity and Eros, explains on this theme: ‘It may be possible ultimately to love God free from all form. But it is certainly better for man to love God in a form to which he can respond, and which has meaning for him, than it is to imagine he is loving a formless God when really he is simply committed to a spiritual vacuum. For in this way – in this loving of the divine in the creature – he is at least in touch with the Divinity.’ (pp.46-7). 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp, a beautiful city in Belgium, is one of the world’s major seaports, situated on the Scheldt River, about 55 miles from the North Sea. Belgium has three official languages (Dutch, French and German). However, the official language of the Antwerp province is Dutch, as is the case in all Flemish provinces.

An interesting statue, to be found outside the Antwerp Town Hall (picture below) explains the name of the city, which derives from a legendary story. A mythical giant named Antigoon lived by Scheldt river and demanded a toll from all those who crossed the river. If anyone refused to pay, Antigoon would sever one of their hands and throw it into the river. One day, Brabo, a brave young soldier, cut off the giant’s hand and tossed it in the river. Hence the name Antwerpen which in Dutch means ‘to throw a hand.’ According to another theory, the name of the city derives from anda and werpun, meaning ‘at the wharf.’

Antwerp hosted the 1920 Summer Olympics, the first Games after World War One, being the only Olympic Games to be hosted in Belgium. An interesting fact for this city is that 80-90 percent of the world rough diamonds, and 50 percent of its cut diamonds are traded in Antwerp each year, making this city The World’s Capital of Diamonds. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Venerable Finnian, Founder of the Monastery of Clonard, Teacher of the Saints of Ireland

The "Teacher of the Irish Saints." He was born in Myshall, in County Carlow, Ireland. Trained by Sts. Cadoc and Gildas in Wales, Finian returned to Ireland where he built schools, monasteries, and churches. Clonard at Meath was his most famous foundation, and under his direction it became a renowned scriptural school. 

He is listed as a bishop, but it is possible that he was not consecrated in the office. St. Columba was one of his students, as he trained the "Twelve Apostles of Ireland" at Clonard. He died there during a plague. His feast day is on 12th December.[1]

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Wall of Skulls

Walking around the famous and sacred Templo Mayor, in the centre of Mexico City, one comes across the Wall of Skulls. During the Aztec times, skulls of sacrificed prisoners were mounted on wooden stakes forming a wall of skulls.

In the Templo Mayor one finds the Tzompantli Altar. Arranged in rows, two hundred forty stone skulls covered with several layers of stucco decorate the back and sides of the structure. The main façade has a stairway flanked by balustrades. Its interior contained a spectacular offering, including representations of musical instruments, along with puma and wolf skeletons and other elements. This building is located on the north side of the Great Temple, symbolically alluding to the region of the dead known as Mictlampa, according to Mexica vision of the cosmos. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Idolatry and Evil

The history of idolatry is different but yet similar in every culture and peoples who adopted this religious route. However, what united all the idolaters is the fact that they remain in the dark, believing in false gods, made by man in order to fill a certain void. According to the following passage from the Old Testament Book Wisdom of Solomon (14:12-31) we see how idolatry is also evil, keeping its faithful far from God’s embrace.

Solomon continues praying:
12Our God, the idea of making an idol was itself the first step toward being unfaithful to you. 13Idols were not here in the beginning, and they won't be around forever. 14They resulted from human pride, and so you have plans for them to end quickly.
15For example, a father made an idol to look like his child who had suddenly died, and the dead child then became an object of worship by later generations, who followed mysterious and secret ceremonies. 16Over the years, such godless ceremonies became customs and then laws, as rulers commanded idols of themselves to be carved and worshiped. 17And when people lived far from their rulers, they tried to make idols that looked like their rulers, so that they could honour and flatter those rulers as if they were there with them.
18-19In fact, some people who did not know what their rulers looked like were led to worship them, because of the skill and the tireless efforts of those who made beautiful idols to please their rulers. 20Finally, many people started worshiping their earthly rulers as gods. 21As a result, idolatry became a hidden trap for those who were suffering or were under the authority of rulers, and they called these idols gods, although you alone are God.
22Not only are such people ignorant about you, but this ignorance makes them terrible enemies of each other, even while they think they are living at peace. 23They kill their children as sacrifices and conduct secret ceremonies, they follow strange customs and act like wild people, 24they are immoral and cause great pain by being unfaithful in marriage, and they are deceitful murderers. 25Violence, murder, robbery, deceit, corruption, dishonesty, riots, and lying are everywhere. 26No one knows right from wrong or shows gratitude or cares about anyone else; all of them are sexual perverts or share weird marriage unions or are otherwise completely disgusting.
27The worship of worthless idols is the cause and result of all kinds of evil. 28Their worshipers act crazy, or give false messages in the name of God, or live sinful lives. They never speak the truth, and they tell lies in court 29because they trust in these lifeless idols and don't expect to be punished. 30But they will be punished for worshiping idols instead of you, the Holy God, and for disgracing you with their deceitful lies. 31Sinners don't receive help from the idols they worship, but the penalty for their sins follows them in hot pursuit.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Love vs Lust

What is love and what is lust? How can we distinguish between the two terms? Which one have we felt in the past? These are interesting questions. Defining ideas and words are a first step in order to understand them and try and achieve the ideal, our objective in life and in our actions. Philip Sherrard in his interesting book Christianity and Eros, he explains the difference of love and lust. He begins by giving St Augustine’s definition of lust, whereby it’s ‘essentially a desire for self-satisfaction.’ (p.45). The author continues his explanation:

[Lust] is a desire to possess something, to make it serve our own purpose and become part of us. In lust, it is the self which is the centre of attraction, and the object which stimulates it is simply an object and nothing more. That is why lust dies when it is satisfied: it ends with self-gratification, and then disappears until it is rekindled again by its object. In this it is to be distinguished from love. In love, it is not the self but the object which is the centre of attraction. One can go even further and say that the object of love ceases to be an object and becomes an ‘other,’ a particularised being, and it is this ‘other’ that is the centre of attraction. And love is fulfilled (not satisfied, which it never can be) not in an act of appropriation in which nothing is given; it is fulfilled in a total act of giving. It is the activity in which the self goes out of itself in the most complete way. This is not to say that lust and love represent an absolute duality in human life. Lust is not love. But if love is centred on the self and not on what is loved it becomes lust. (pp.45-6). 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Athena Statue, Antwerp

When visiting a new place, visitors tend to explore in order to identify the culture, religion, history or this new place. It is interesting how many destinations around the world display Greek themes statues, inspired by Ancient Greek culture, religion, history, myths and legends. 

Such is the case with Antwerp, in Belgium, where one finds a statue of Goddess Athena, along the River Scheldt. Goddess Athena, being the patron of Athens, daughter of Zeus, Goddess of Wisdom, is a symbol found in many places, such as York (North England), as seen through a previous post on this blog.[1]

Monday, December 5, 2016

2017 Pocket Diary - Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain

The new pocket diary (2017) of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain is now out. This is one of two diaries that the Archdiocese publishes annually, the second being much larger, with many details for each parish in Great Britain and Ireland. Archbishop Gregorios’ Prologue, which is to be found in this pocket diary, follows:

‘With the help and grace of the Triune God, we have entered the New Year 2017. For this reason, I am extending my warm wishes and heart-felt season’s greetings to the Faithful and the Officers of this Biblical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople. I wish that the Master of time who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End of this year, but also the joy and blissful hope of every Christian and of the whole of Humanity, grant us all with His rich earthly and heavenly gifts.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the Peace, prevailing over every mind,” grant the world and the Church concord, cooperation, reconciliation and His love, so that we all chant for and praise Him in unison as the True God and the Father of us all in eternity. Amen.
Following its long tradition, our Archdiocese is publishing the small-size and large-size Diary for the year 2017, to enlighten and offer a spiritual gift to the Orthodox Christians who comprise its Flock under Christ. We are certain that you will all support our effort and offer your financial and moral support in deed to facilitate the publication and circulation of the Diary of the Archdiocese. Special thanks are due to all those who every year contribute their efforts to the publication of the large and small Diary, whose cost keeps increasing every year. Last year, a series of important events took place in the life of our Church and Christendom in general. Indicatively, I mention that last June, divine providence permitted the Orthodox Synod to take place in Crete, after many centuries. This Orthodox Synod in a spirit of brotherly love and peace, studied the various issues of the worldwide Orthodox Churches and declared compellingly and under God’s wisdom the Orthodox faith and Tradition and asserted its spiritual presence and its willingness to contribute, along with the other Churches and state organisations, to the preservation of world peace, the struggle against terrorism, religious fanaticism and bigotry, the protection of the environment and the respect towards the Creation and the reign of God across the World.
During the last year, the Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne was deprived of the scientific and clerical services of the educated, Greek-speaking Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne, the late Ephrem Lash. May the Lord accept him in the tents of the righteous and receive his translational and theological contributions as his offer of spiritual myrrh to the Throne of God.

Our last year has bequeathed us the decision of the British people to leave the European Union, whose member they have been since 1973. We hope and pray that the new government in charge of which is Her Excellency Mrs Teresa May, will act in wisdom, providence and prophetic insight to that they will secure stable and fruitful relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, because, as His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Justin Welby has recently stated, “we may have left the European Union but we remain in Europe.” As it is well known, the Prime-minister is a religious person, a frequent church-goer and has been imbued with the Christian faith she has inherited from her late father, who was an Anglican priest. It cannot be overstressed that the concern and pursuit of the European Union is the protection of the peace, security, democracy, freedom, the priceless, existential gifts of the European civilisation and of that prophetic Organisation members of which the rest of the European states aspire to become.
We also note that this year, the Western Church and the rest of Christendom is celebrating the 500th anniversary (1517-2017) of the declaration of the religious Reformation by the German priest-monk and theologian Martin Luther. As it is known, that day constitutes a milestone in the division of Western Christianity, causing a split in the Roman Catholic Church after which Protestantism emerged as the polar opposite of the Western Roman Catholic Church. The advent of Reformation brought on great catastrophes and continuous wars in Europe. After five hundred years, Western Christianity has now been reconciled and despite its remaining various, including theological, differences, is preparing to celebrate the anniversary and recount the great contribution of Reformation to theology, the dissemination of the meaning of the Gospel and the translation of the Holy Bible in many languages and dialects that helped the missionary effort and Christianisation of the peoples in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
This holy Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, which is active in the United Kingdom and Ireland, is continuing with the provision of services to its Flocks. And despite the difficulties of modern Society, the religious alienation of great numbers of European society and the pressures of modern life, the Orthodox Christians of the Country remain faithful to their Church. But we should mention, in a spirit of repentance and humility that the Lord’s Vineyard is in need of greater numbers of workers, Clergy and Laity, to achieve the return to the Gospel and the rejuvenation of the faith and age-old devotion of the faithful People. With continuous, unremitting prayer, frequent church-going, the Holy Communion, the divine Sermon, charity, the benefits accruing from the study of the Divine Word and the teachings of the Fathers and our undivided adherence to our Orthodox Christian tradition and worship of the Triune and worshiped true God, our Faith gets enriched, is being reborn and blossoms like the phoenix for the glory of our Saviour Jesus Christ and the salvation of our souls and reigning of the Kingdom of God in the whole World.
With these sacred thoughts and expectations, we are entering the New Year of the Lord. Full of humility and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Divine Birth in Bethlehem of Judea we celebrated this past December, we extend our greetings with our deep love and honour to all Orthodox Christians of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain and wish from the depths of our heart that peace and the infinite mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon us, and remain with warm wishes and blessings in the Lord and honour.’ (pp.8-11).

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Templo Mayor – Mexico City

In the historic centre of Mexico City, near the imposing Catedral Metropolitana, we find Templo Mayor. In Aztec times the Templo Mayor stood in a sacred walled compound in the centre of Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City) before Cortes destroyed it. However, in 1978 a massive round carved stone was uncovered accidentally near Zocalo that led to a major archeological project, uncovering the ruins of the magnificent double pyramid complex.

The Great Temple, just as many constructions in the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan, was expanded on numerous occasions. According to historical sources, it was rebuilt on par with the expansion of the Mexica Empire. In addition, the city suffered ongoing floods and earthquakes, and the subsoil of the island-city was constantly settling. This forced the Mexicas to raise the level of their constructions to prevent their buildings from sinking.

Seven different times, the temple was completely covered with construction fill composed of mud and stone. Each time the former structure was covered by a new building of larger dimensions and of better quality. On five additional occasions, only the main façade was expanded. During the inauguration of each new building, war captives from kingdoms conquered expressly for the event were sacrificed. Due to this construction method, the earliest stages were never seen by the Spaniards, nor by the last generations of the Mexicas.

The Great Temple was the Mexica sacred space par excellence. The most important rituals were enacted here, including those dedicated to their gods, the naming of their leaders, and the funerals of the nobility. The Mexica architects designed the Great Temple as the centre of their model of the universe, where the horizontal plane converged with the vertical plane. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Animals in War – London

Every city honours its heroes or people who have excelled in their fields, affecting other people with their findings and achievements. In London, on the edge of Hyde Park, interestingly enough, a monument is dedicated to animals which took part in wars. 

Specifically, it is a tribute to the animals which served, suffered and died during conflicts of the 20th century, alongside the British, Commonwealth and Allied forces. It is an impressive monument which endeavours to show that everyone is affected by the decisions of a few, in order to go to war. It is not only mankind who suffers during war, but the whole environment, the whole world. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Service for Receiving the Holy and Miraculous Relics of St Patapios

Relics play an important part in our faith and practice, as Orthodox Christians. When Holy and Miraculous relics visit our city (in this case London), it is a great occasion to venerate them, pray with others and the Saint who is present, verifying the significance of Saints and Sainthood in the Church.
The Holy and Miraculous Relics of St Patapios are visiting the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Michael, Golders Green. The Programme is as follows: 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Saint Tugdual (Tudwyl) of Ireland, hermit, one of the 7 Founder Saints of Brittany

Died c. 564. One of the Seven Patron Saints of Brittany. The Welsh monk Tugdual was one of the sons of King Hoel I Mawr (the Great). He travelled to Ireland from his father's home in Britain to learn the scriptures before becoming a hermit on Ynys Tudwal (St.Tudwal's Isle East) off the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. He later immigrated to Leon in Brittany and settled at Lan Pabu with some seventy-two followers. Here he established a large monastery under the patronage of his cousin, King Deroch of Domnonee. 

From here, Tugdual travelled throughout Brittany evangelising the local population. He founded the Monastery of Val Trechor at Treguier and had the foresight to go to Paris and have his land grants ratified by King Childebert of the Franks. The monarch insisted that Tugdual be made Bishop of Treguier where he is still venerated, especially around Leon. It was at Treguier that he died in 564. His shrine can still be seen in the Cathedral.[1]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Devout and the Wicked at the Final Judgment

Thinking constantly of the Last Judgement, of death, of our future life in the Kingdom of God could actually be a way of achieving eternal life. It will be a way of staying on the right path. We should aim to be on the right hand of God at the final judgement. Let us not entertain what might happen if we are on his left, if we are not to live on in His Kingdom. The following passage from the Old Testament Book Wisdom of Solomon (4:20-5:14) gives an interesting point, where sinners have no hope when the Second Coming of Jesus will take place.

20Sinners will be horrified when they are condemned by their evil deeds. 1But all who have pleased God will stand with confidence in the presence of those who abused them and made fun of the good they did. 2When those evil ones see how God has saved his people, they will tremble with fear and be completely amazed. 3They will groan and say to each other, “We should have turned from sin! 4We were fools to sneer at those people, but we thought they were fools who had died in disgrace. 5Why are they God's children? Why are they his holy people? 6“So we were the ones who turned from truth and rejected the light from those good people. 7We refused to follow the Lord! Instead we were lawless and followed a desert road that led us to destruction. 8All of our pride and wealth has proved to be useless. 9“Everything we treasured has vanished like a shadow or a hastily spoken word, 10or like the wake of a ship on ocean waves, 11or like the flight of a bird through the air, 12or like the unknown path of an arrow on its way to the target. 13As soon as we were born, we began to disappear because we followed only evil and left behind no traces of anything good.” 14Sinners have no more hope than dust in the wind, or frost in the heat of the sun, or smoke in a breeze. They are remembered no longer than an overnight guest.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Importance of Venerating Icons

Icons play a significant role in our life within the Church. Without them, an Orthodox Church seems to be stripped of its Tradition, its faith, its practice, its way of life. Venerating them, therefore, is an integral part of our daily worship, both at home and at the Church. We read in the Spiritual Meadow of our holy father, Soprhonius, Archbishop of Jerusalem, a beautiful story, examining the importance of venerating icons and how we should never stop to venerate and pray to the icons we have.

‘Abba Theodore the Aeliote said that there was on the Mount of Olives a certain recluse, a great fighter; and the demon of fornication waged battle against him. One day, therefore, as he laid into him vehemently, the elder began to complain and said to the demon, “When are you going to leave me alone” For the future withdraw from me; you are growing old together with me.” The demon showed himself visibly and said, “Swear to me that you will tell no one what I am going to say to you, and I shall fight against you no more.” And the elder swore to him, “By the One who dwells in the highest, I shall not tell anyone what you say to me.” Then the demon said to him, “Do not venerate this icon, and I will no longer wage battle against you.” The icon had a depiction of our Lady, Holy Mary, the Mother of God, holding our Lord Jesus Christ. The recluse said to the demon, “Go away, I shall think about it.” On the next day, therefore, it was revealed to Abba Theodore the Aeliote who was then dwelling in the Laura of Pharan, and he went and was told everything. The elder said to the recluse, “Truly, you were mocked when you swore, but you did well to speak out. It would be better for you to leave no brothel in this town unentered than to refuse to venerate our Lord and God Jesus Christ together with his own mother.” He then strengthened and confirmed him with many words, and then left to go to his own place. The demon therefore appeared again to the recluse and said to him, “What is this, you wicked old monk? Did you not swear to me that you would tell no one? How then have you spoken out everything to one who came to you? I tell you, wicked old man, that you will be condemned as a perjurer on the day of judgement.” The recluse answered him and said, “What I swore, I swore, and that I perjured myself, I know. But I swore falsely to my Lord and Maker; I will not listen to you.’[1]

[1] Moschus, John, Spiritual Meadow 45 (PG 87.2900B-D; Trans. Wortley, 35-6).

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam, the capital city of Holland is a fairly small city. Its key feature is the numerous and wonderful canals, which are to be found all around the city. This capital city has 1703 bridges and 75 miles of canals. These statistics remind us of the fact that the Netherlands is the world’s flattest country, portions of which have been reclaimed from the sea with the aid of dykes, canals, tidal barriers and man-made land.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Worship in stone: exploring the Norman and Gothic Churches of Worcestershire

Illustrated talks by Dr Nicholas Gendle. Dr Gendle shares the fruits of a recent study tour in the Severn Valley, Malvern Hills and Vale of Evesham, illustrated by the fine photography of Dr Jean Harrison. Pride of place goes to Worcester Cathedral and two Benedictine foundations: Pershore Abbey (superb early Gothic chancel) and Great Malvern, famous for mediaeval stained glass. Fine churches include Croome (C17th monuments), Dodford (Arts & Crafts), Romanesque Holt, and Ripple (misericords). Some country houses also feature: Croome Ct (a rare example of Capability Brown as architect), Gt Whitley (shell of a huge mansion), and Hagley Hall (Palladian, with Rococo interiors).

Free for students with cards, others are asked for a donation of £5.

Lively, informative lectures and open discussion. Come for all or part of the day. Free tea and coffee are served from 10am. Lunch break is from 1 to 2pm (bring your own lunch, or buy it in the shops in nearby North Parade, or cycle back to College). St Theosevia House is 2 Canterbury Road, Oxford OX2 6LU

The St Theosevia Centre for Christian Spirituality runs two or three Saturday study days each term on subjects that draw on the spiritual, theological and cultural heritages of the Western and Eastern churches. Both present-day and historical topics are explored.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

St.Columban (Columbanus) Irish missionary to Europe

Columbanus of Bobbio - The founder of several European monasteries, St. Columbanus was born c. 543 in Leinster, Ireland, and was educated at Bangor. Late in life (c. 590), he left Ireland to establish, at the invitation of King Childebert of Burgandy, a monastery at Annegray. He founded monasteries at Luxovium (Luxeuil) and at Fountaines as well. In 603, a synod accused him of keeping Easter by the Celtic date, although the real charge seems to have been criticizing the lax morals of the Burgundian court. 

Columbanus appealed to Gregory the Great, but nothing is known of the outcome of this act. Seven years later, Columbanus left Burgandy to preach to the Allemani of Switzerland; when Burgandy captured Switzerland, he fled to northern Italy, where he established a monastery at Bobbio in 613. His monasteries were known for the strictness of their rules (which the Benedictines later ameliorated) and their emphasis on corporal punishment. In addition to his rule for monks, Columbanus wrote a peneteniary and poems. He died in 615 at Bobbio.[1]

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

World Christianity and the Reorganization of Disciplines: On the Emerging Dialogue Between Anthropology and Theology

Today, 23rd November 2016 an interesting lecture will take place at SOAS, Faber Building, 23/24 Russel Square (London), Room FG 01, at 7-9 pm.
This lecture considers the recent rise of both the category of “world Christianity” and the anthropology of Christianity and asks how together they may have created the conditions in which a new dialogue between anthropology and theology can develop.

Joel Robbins is Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. He has long been involved in the development of the anthropology of Christianity, and he also has interests in the anthropology of ethics, values, and cultural change. He is the author of the book Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society and was for many years co-editor of the journal Anthropological Theory.
Organiser: Dr Jörg Haustein