Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Olympic Rings

The symbol of the Olympic Games is composed of five interlocking rings, coloured blue, yellow, black, green, and red on a white field, known as the "Olympic rings". The symbol was originally designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympic Games. According to Coubertin, the ring colours with the white background stand for those colours that appeared on all the national flags that competed in the Olympic Games at that time. Upon its initial introduction, Coubertin stated the following in the August, 1912 edition of Olympique:

"...the six colours [including the flag’s white background] thus combined reproduce the colours of all the nations, with no exception. The blue and yellow of Sweden, the blue and white of Greece, the tri- colours of France, England and America, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, the yellow and red of Spain next to the novelties of Brazil or Australia, with old Japan and new China. Here is truly an international symbol."
The symbol's popularity and widespread use began during the lead-up to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Carl Diem, president of the Organizing Committee of the 1936 Summer Olympics, wanted to hold a torchbearers' ceremony in the stadium at Delphi, site of the famous oracle, where the Pythian Games were also held. For this reason he ordered construction of a milestone with the Olympic rings carved in the sides, and that a torchbearer should carry the flame along with an escort of three others from there to Berlin. The ceremony was celebrated but the stone was never removed. Later, two British authors Lynn and Gray Poole when visiting Delphi in the late 1950s saw the stone and reported in their "History of the Ancient Games" that the Olympic rings design came from ancient Greece. This has become known as "Carl Diem's Stone". This created a myth that the symbol had an ancient Greek origin. The rings would subsequently be featured prominently in Nazi images in 1936 as part of an effort to glorify the Third Reich.

The current view of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is that the symbol "reinforces the idea" that the Olympic Movement is international and welcomes all countries of the world to join. As can be read in the Olympic Charter, the Olympic symbol represents the union of the five regions of the world and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games. However, no continent is represented by any specific ring. Prior to 1951, the official handbook stated that each colour corresponded to a particular continent: blue for Europe, yellow for Asia, black for Africa, green for Australia and Oceania and red for America (North and South considered as a single continent); this was removed because there was no evidence that Coubertin had intended it.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Life is an Arena

Greek Orthodoxy, through the Fathers and through its theologians, it has endeavoured to explain theology using, amongst other disciplines, terms and understandings, athletic connotations in order to express difficult and crucial beliefs of Christianity. The Olympic Games and their ideals relate to the virtues and practices a Christian should have. Below, St John Chrysostom follows this practice by explaining that life is an arena. He explains:

‘The present life is an arena: in the arena and in athletic contests the man who expects to be crowned cannot enjoy relaxation. So if anyone wishes to win a crown, let him choose the hard and laborious life, in order that after he has striven a short time here he may enjoy lasting honour hereafter.’[1]

[1] Behr, John (ed.), St John Chrysostom – On Wealth and Poverty, (New York, SVSP, 1981), p.68.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Athens 1896, the Re-birth of the Olympic Games

The first celebration of the modern Olympic Games took place in its ancient birthplace of Athens. The Games attracted athletes from 14 nations, with the largest delegations coming from Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain.
Due to its historical significance, the Greek hosts wanted to win the marathon above all else. Spyridon Louis set off from the city of Marathon and took the lead four kilometres from the finish line and, to the joy of the 100,000 spectators, won the race by more than seven minutes.

Hungarian swimmer Alfréd Hajos won the 100m and the 1200m events. For the longer race, the swimmers were transported by boat out to sea and left to swim the required distance back to shore. Hajos later confessed that his “will to live completely overcame [his] desire to win”.
On 6 April 1896, the American James Connolly won the triple jump to become the first Olympic champion in more than 1,500 years. He also finished second in the high jump and third in the long jump.

No official poster was made for the 1896 Olympic Games, but the cover page of the official report is often used to refer to the Games of the I Olympiad. The inscription "776-1896", like the drawing as a whole: the Olympic stadium in a newly designed horseshoe shape, the Acropolis, the girl personifying the goddess Athena and presenting the branch of wild olive intended for the victor, mark the bond between the Games of Antiquity and the first Games of the modern era.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Where St John the Russian lived

One of the most venerated Saints in Greece today is St John the Russian. Saint John was born in the Ukraine in South Russia (end of the 17th century). During the Russian-Turkish war (1711-1718) he was in the imperial army of Peter the Great. As a soldier, St John fought to protect his country; however, due to his Orthodox upbringing, he was appalled by the reality and cruelty of war. Unfortunately, during the battles for the recapture of Azof (Black Sea), he and thousands of Russians fell prisoners to the Turks. He was moved to Constantinople and then to Prokopi (modern day Urgup), near Caesaria of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He was given to an Aga who had a camp of Janissaries. He lived in the stable, found within the house, taking care of the animals and the running of the house. The Saint slept where we see the icon, below.

Because he was a Christian, John was tortured; he was beaten with sticks, kicked and spat on. A tremendous torturous act was when they placed a red-hot metal bowl on his head, burning his hair and scalp. He was then thrown into a stable, to live with the animals. He accepted the tortures; this acceptance impressed his tormentors, making them cease their brutality, giving him the name ‘veli’, which means saint.

On the 27th May 1730 Saint John passed away. After his death and his burial, in 1733, the old priest who every Saturday had listened to his sufferings and tortures and who had given him Holy Communion, saw a dream. In the dream the Saint explained that God had preserved his body entire and uncorrupted. He asked that they retrieve it and keep it as a blessing for the Christians to have.

The Saint was venerated in all of Asia Minor. After the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922) and the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the local population from Prokopi took with them the holy relics of Saint John the Russian to their new home, New Prokopi in Euboea. A new church was built in his honour, where his relics are to be found to this day.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rock Church, Prokopi

The Rock Church, found in the town of Prokopi (Modern day Urgup) in Cappadocia, is located near the house where St John the Russian lived. Due to this, it is believed that maybe the Saint went to the Liturgy here. Some have even stated that the Saint’s relics might have been placed here. On the other hand, another belief is that they were placed in the main Church building in town, which unfortunately does not exist today. Also the name of this Church is lost. Some are convinced it was dedicated to St George, being renamed to St John the Russian after the fame of the latter local Saint increased. However, these are merely speculations. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Christianity in the Middle East Today: Present Challenges and Future Perspectives

A joint conference will take place in London (Marie Eugenie Room, Heythrop College, University of London) on Christianity in the Middle East Today: Present Challenges and Future Perspectives. This is a joint conference of the Centre for Eastern Christianity, Heythrop College, University of London and the Living Stones of the Holy Land Trust in association with the Centre for World Christianity, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. This conference will take place on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th June 2016.

The Conference Programme is as follows:


Conference Introduction and Welcome 10:50-11:00
Mary Grey (Chair of Trustees, Living Stones and Emeritus Professor, University of Wales, Lampeter) and Anthony O’Mahony (Director Centre for Eastern Christianity, Heythrop College)
Christianityin Iraq: Present challenges and future perspectives 11:00-12:30
Erica Hunter (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), Suha Rassam (ICIN), Kristian Girling (Heythrop College, University of London)
Lunch 12:30-13:15
Coptic Christianity in contemporary Egypt 13:15-14:15
Mariz Tadros (Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex)
The Armenian Church and Tradition Today 14:15-15:15
Rev. Vrej Nersessian (Emeritus, Oriental Department, British Library)
Break 15:15-15:45
Syrian Christianity in the modern Middle East 15:45-16:45
Sebastian Brock (The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford)
Reflections on Eastern Christianity and Muslim-Christian relations in Syria – a western Christian perspective 16:45-17:30
Revd. Andrew Ashdown (Theology Group, living Stones of the Holy Land Trust)


Christianity in Syria: Present challenges and future perspectives 10:30-12:00
Rev. Nadim Nassar and Huda Nassar (Awareness Foundation and Theology Group, Living Stones of the Holy Land Trust)
One More Bridge to cross: Syrian Refugees in Greece on their Way to Paradise 12:10-13:00
Gerasimos Makris (Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the Panteion University, Athens)
Christianity in the Holy Land 13:45-14:45
Sr Bridget Tighe FMDM
Christian churches in Jordan: political, religious and communal context 15:00-15:50
Paolo Maggiolini (Instituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI)
and the Catholic University of Milan)
Break 15:50-16:00
Christianity in Jerusalem: social relations, border makings and their crossing 16:00-16:40
Georgios Tsourous (School of Anthropology, University of Kent)
Final Reflection – The Future of Christianity in the Middle East
Hratch Tchilingirian (The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford);
Anthony O’Mahony (Heythrop College, University of London)

All are welcome

Conference fee: £15.00 per day

(to be paid on the day)

Forfurther information please contact
Kristian Girling

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It Is Foolish To Worship Nature

This has been a millennium old problem facing mankind. Who do we worship? How do we worship? Many cultures, traditions, peoples have followed idolatry, believing that certain manmade objects, that the created world around us is God, without understanding the true relationship between Creator and Creation. The Created world is beautiful, yes…but if we think that Nature is great…then we can only imagine how Great God (the Creator) is. Let us not forget about the greatness of God’s wisdom and love and appreciate this by the beauty of nature, of creation, all around us, without making the latter a deity. In the following Old Testament passage from the book Wisdom of Solomon (13:1-9) we see a prayer of God showing the foolishness in regards to worshipping nature (creation).

Solomon continues praying:
1You are the living God. And only those who are fools by birth could look at your creation and not learn about you. But instead, some people worshiped the things you created, 2such as fire and wind, and storms and stars, and rivers and planets. Those fools believed these things were the gods that ruled the world, 3because they were so beautiful.
But you are the Lord, as well as the source of all beauty, so let those fools know how much more beautiful you are than any of these things. 4And if anyone is amazed at the mighty power of nature, then they should realize that the Creator is even more powerful. 5Indeed, the power and beauty of nature should convince us that their Creator is even more powerful and beautiful.
6On the other hand, these people are not entirely to blame for taking the wrong path in their desire to know and to find you. 7It is to be expected that while searching, they would learn to trust the beautiful things they were seeing. 8However, this is no excuse, 9because if they possessed the ability to examine the universe, why did it take them so long to find you, the Lord of the universe?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Doctrinal and Mystical Tradition

Tradition is a word and a reality which is as important as Holy Scripture for every Orthodox Christian. We cannot have one and not the other. Part of the Holy Tradition are the Dogmas and the decisions taken at the Holy Councils, Ecumenical and Local, whilst the mystical Tradition of the Church points out the fact that practising our faith adds to the theory outlined and explained in dogma and is as important. Vladimir Lossky explains further,

‘Doctrinal tradition-beacons set up by the Church along the channel of the knowledge of God-cannot be separated from or opposed to mystical tradition: acquired experience of the mysteries of the faith. Dogma cannot be understood apart from experience; the fullness of experience cannot be had apart from true doctrine.’[1]

[1] Lossky, Vladimir, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 1991, p.236.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saints Constantine and Helen Church, Sinasos, Cappadocia

St Constantine and St Helen Church in the small town of Sinasos, Cappadocia was built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I (1729), whilst it was icon painted during the era of Abdul Medjit I and Bishop Paisios through the donations of the local Orthodox faithful. It was repaired in 1850. Unfortunately, today there are no icons on the walls, due to many reasons, such as covering them and looting, as has been the case in most, if not all the Orthodox Churches, in Asia Minor. Nevertheless, it is one of the prevalent sites in Sinasos, being a large Church building. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Earliest Olympic Sports

For the first 13 Olympics there was only one event, the stadion race, which was a running race up one length of the stadium. How long this race was is a matter for speculation, as the ancient stadium, 192 meters long, visible at Olympia now, did not exist then.

In 724 BC a longer, there-and-back race, the diaulos, was introduced, followed four years later by the long-distance race, the dolichos, a race of perhaps 12 laps. The emphasis on running in the early years of the Olympics may reflect the perceived basic requirements for a fit soldier.
Boxing, wrestling, and the pancration (the 'all-power' race, combining all types of physical attack) soon followed, along with the pentathlon, and horse-and-chariot racing. A race while wearing armour was introduced in 520 BC, and even a mule race (in 500 BC, but it was not generally popular). Therefore, it is evident that the Olympic Games were evolving continuously; nevertheless, some of the modern sports introduced into the modern Games do not follow the ancient model and tradition.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Saint Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury

Saint Dunstan of Canterbury,  (born 924, near Glastonbury, Eng.—died May 19, 988, Canterbury; feast day May 19), English abbot, celebrated archbishop of Canterbury, and a chief adviser to the kings of Wessex, is best known for the major monastic reforms that he effected.
Of noble birth, Dunstan was educated by Irish monks and visitors at Glastonbury. Later he entered first the household of his uncle, Archbishop Aethelhelm of Canterbury, and then the court of Athelstan, King of the English. Maliciously accused of practicing the black arts, he took refuge with his kinsman Aelfheah (Elphege), bishop of Winchester, who influenced him to become a monk and later ordained him.
Dunstan then lived as a hermit at Glastonbury, where he learned various crafts and music until Athelstan’s successor, Edmund I, recalled Dunstan as one of his counsellors. About 943 AD Edmund made him abbot of Glastonbury, and under Dunstan the abbey became a famous school. Under Edmund’s successor, Eadred, Dunstan became the chief minister of state, in which capacity he sought to establish royal authority, to conciliate the Danish section of the kingdom, to eradicate heathenism, and to reform clergy and laity.

On the accession in 955 AD of King Eadwig (Edwy), however, Dunstan’s influence and office were temporarily eclipsed. He apparently quarrelled with Eadwig and was outlawed, being driven to Flanders. At the abbey of Blandinium he studied continental monasticism, which he used as a chief source in restructuring English monasticism when recalled by King Edgar in 957 AD. In the same year, Edgar made him bishop of Worcester and London. In 959 AD Eadwig died, Edgar became sole king of the English, and Dunstan was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. During this period intellectual activity flourished, and Dunstan personally reformed and re-established several celebrated monasteries and sponsored missionaries to Scandinavia.
On Edgar’s death, in 975 AD, Dunstan secured the crown for Edgar’s elder son, later known as St. Edward the Martyr. When Edward was murdered (978) and was succeeded by Ethelred (Aethelred) II, Dunstan’s public career abated, and he retired to Canterbury, where he taught at the cathedral school.
He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil.
English literature contains many references to him, for example in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and in this folk rhyme:
St Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pull'd the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.
Another story relates how Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil's hoof when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil's horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.[1]

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Prayer of Petition

One of the greatest prayers we have, from Jesus Christ himself is the Lord’s Prayer. This is a prayer of petition, where we are asking God to help us, into preserving our life, of forgiveness and to keep us close to Him, in communion with Him, away from the hands of the evil. How important is a prayer of petition? Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh believes:

‘Many of our prayers are prayers of petition, and people seem to think that petition is the lowest level of prayer; then comes gratitude, then praise.
But in fact it is gratitude and praise that are expressions of a lower relationship. On our level of half-belief it is easier to sing hymns of praise or to thank God than to trust him enough to ask something with faith. Even people who believe half-heartedly can turn to thank God when something nice comes their way; and there are moments of elation when everyone can sing to God.
But it is much more difficult to have such undivided faith as to ask with one’s whole heart and whole mind with complete confidence. No one should look askance at petition, because the ability to say prayers of petition is a test of the reality of our faith.’[1]

[1] Anthony of Sourozh, Creative Prayer, 2004, p. 58.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

All Saints 2016 Dinner and Dance

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of All Saints, Camden Town (London), is organising its 2016 Dinner and Dance. The event will take place on Saturday 25th June 2016, a day before All Saints day, at St Panteleimon Church Hall (660 Kenton Rd, Harrow, Middx., HA3 9QN). Doors will open at 6.30 pm and dinner will be served at 7.00 pm.

This Dinner and Dance will give us all the opportunity to meet and commemorate All Saints Day, where Greek food and drinks will be served, where Greek music will allow us to dance and celebrate this great event in our parish’s life. Great prizes to be won on the night.

For ticket enquiries and for details please call: Dimitri: 07985726677 or Andria: 07974568085.

For more information about our Church please like our Facebook page:

All Saints Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Camden Town, London

Monday, May 16, 2016

St Brendan the Navigator, Clonfert, Ireland

St Brendan was born in 484 AD in Ciarraighe Luachra near the port of Tralee, in County Kerry, in the province of Munster, in the south west of Ireland. He was baptized at Tubrid, near Ardfert, by Saint Erc. For five years he was educated under Saint Ita, "the Brigid of Munster", and he completed his studies under Saint Erc, who ordained him priest in 512. Between the years 512 and 530 St Brendan built monastic cells at Ardfert, and, at the foot of Mount Brandon, Shanakeel— Seana Cill, usually translated as "the old church"— also called Baalynevinoorach.
From here he is supposed to have set out on his famous seven years voyage for Paradise. The old Irish Calendars assigned a special feast for the "Egressio familiae S. Brendani", on March 22; and St Aengus the Culdee, in his Litany composed at the close of the eighth century, invokes "the sixty who accompanied St. Brendan in his quest for the Land of Promise".

Saint Brendan was an early Irish abbot who sailed westward with his band of sailor monks in a square-rigged curragh, made of leather over a basketry frame.  They were probably searching for a reputed earthly paradise in the "Isles of the Blessed." They had astonishing adventures; they reported seeing flaming mountains, most likely the volcanoes of Iceland. Continuing westward, they found other landings, one of which was probably Newfoundland - which would make them among the earliest discoverers of America.  Although the prevailing winds were against them, they managed to return to Ireland.  Saint Brendan lived to be 93 and founded several more monasteries.
Hagiographers know of Brendan chiefly from four sources- the Irish Lives, the Latin Lives, the Latin Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis and many vernacular versions of his voyage in the emerging languages of Europe, collectively known as the Voyage of Brendan. We also know of Brendan from the frequent mentions of him in the lives of other saints and in many calendars and martyrologies that have survived in Ireland and in Scotland.
St Brendan is chiefly renowned for his legendary journey to The Isle of the Blessed as described in the ninth century Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator. Many versions exist, that tell of how he set out onto the Atlantic Ocean with sixty pilgrims (other versions have fourteen, plus three unbelievers who join at the last minute) searching for the Garden of Eden. One of these companions is said to have been Saint Malo, the namesake of Saint-Malo. If it happened, this would have occurred between 512 and 530 AD, before his travels to Great Britain. On his trip, Brendan is supposed to have seen St. Brendan's Island, a blessed island covered with vegetation. He also encountered a sea monster, an adventure he shared with his contemporary St. Columba.
Brendan travelled to Wales and the holy island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland; returning to Ireland, he founded a monastery at Annaghdown, where he spent the rest of his days. He also founded a convent at Annaghdown for his sister Briga. He was recognized as a saint by the Irish Church, and his feast day was celebrated on May 16. Having established the bishopric of Ardfert, St. Brendan proceeded to Thomond, and founded a monastery at Inis-da-druim (now Coney Island), in the present parish of Killadysert, County Clare, about the year 550. He then journeyed to Wales, and thence to Iona, for he is said to have left traces of his apostolic zeal at Kil-brandon (near Oban) and Kil-brennan Sound. After a three years' mission in Britain he returned to Ireland, and did more proselytizing in various parts of Leinster, especially at Dysart (County Kilkenny), Killiney (Tubberboe), and Brandon Hill. He established churches at Inchiquin, County Galway and at Inishglora, County Mayo. He died c. 577 at Annaghdown, while visiting his sister Briga. Fearing that after his death his devotees might try to make off with his remains, Brendan had arranged before dying to have his body carried back to Clonfert secretly, concealed in a luggage cart bound for the monastery. He was buried in Clonfert Cathedral.
St. Brendan's activities as a churchman, however, were developed in Western Ireland, where his most important foundations are found, i.e. Ardfert (Co. Kerry), Inishdadroum (Co. Clare), Annaghdown (Co. Galway), and Clonfert (Co. Galway). His name is perpetuated in numerous place names and landmarks along the Irish coast (e.g. Brandon Hill, Brandon Point, Mount Brendan, Brandon Well, Brandon Bay, Brandon Head). Saint Brendan's most celebrated foundation was Clonfert Cathedral, in the year 563, over which he appointed St. Moinenn as Prior and Head Master. St Brendan was interred in Clonfert.[1]

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Role of Women in the Orthodox Church

The issue of the role of women in the Orthodox Church is a very current one, which has been examined in many books, articles, conferences and discussions. What is the role of women in Orthodoxy today?
Women in the Church are Saints. We have countless female Saints even living amongst us today. Walking into an Orthodox Church we identify that there are as many female saints as there are male ones, through the icons which adorn the building and by listening to the Synaxarion of the Church, which is read during the Matins Service. The greatest female Saint, of course, is the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, who in Greek is known as Panagia, the all holy one.

Another important role women maintain in Orthodoxy is that of the priest’s wife. This is an important calling within the Church life. The priest’s wife maintains a role in the local community, she is honoured in this role, given the title papadia or presbytera in Greek. This elevates her to a role, which she upholds next to her husband. Being a priest’s son, myself, I observe the importance of the papadia; women prefer to speak to her, take her advice on issues, even concerning theological enquiries. Interestingly enough, St Basil the Great had stated that the priest wife is able to be part of the confession of a woman and give her advice. This exactly shows the significant role she plays within the local community and Church. That is why it is helpful, in a parish to have a married priest. He, through his wife and even his children, is able to achieve a greater ministry in the Church. An important and ever growing role women are gaining is that of teaching, either at a Sunday school level, a school or university level. Spiritual motherhood is another function women have, especially in the monastic context.
An example everyone can relate to, especially here in Great Britain, is the existence of the Ladies Societies, which exist in every parish. They assist in the ecclesiastical life in numerous ways, including raising money for the community, the church, serving on parish councils, assisting for the major events of the community, helping fellow Christians who come from Greece, Cyprus and other countries for health issues to Britain and many more. It is, therefore, apparent, that without women, our churches would not function as well as they do.
I think it’s important to talk about women as chanters, firstly, and then about female deacons, to identify the practice and the Tradition of our Church on these matters.  When looking at the history of Byzantine Hymnography and Music we easily identify the fact that it is dominated primarily by men. Women are not totally absent; they are, however, the exception to the rule. The most famous woman hymnographer is of course Kassiani the Hymnographer (known also as Kassia or Eikasia); she is known for the Troparion of Kassiani which is chanted during Matins of Holy Wednesday, considered as one of the greatest masterpieces within the Byzantine hymnographic tradition.
She was born between 805 and 810 AD in Constantinople, during the reign of Emperor Theophilus (829-842 AD). She was known for her beauty and her cleverness. It is believed that she was part of the ceremony for the bride choice for the Emperor Theophilus, which was organised by his step-mother Euphrosyne. During this ceremony the emperor would choose his wife by giving her a golden apple. Dazzled by the beauty of Kassia, the young emperor approached her and said:  “All the bad things came to this world from a woman” referring to the sin and suffering that resulted from Eve. Kassia then answered: “And all the good things came from a woman”, referring to the Theotokos and to the hope of salvation from the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The emperor’s egoism was injured, which resulted in his rejection of Kassiani, choosing Theodora as his wife.
We know that Kassiani in 843 AD founded a cenobium in Constantinople, near the western walls of the City, where she became the first abbess. It was at this monastery that she began her hymnographical work. St Kassia also wrote secular songs and poems on moral themes which were witty, often crass, sometimes funny, and usually defended women’s rights. She was in close contact with the Monastery of Stoudiou, which played a key role in the re-publications of Byzantine Liturgical Books during the 9th and 10th centuries AD, preserving thus important works. Kassia was not the only female monastic hymnographer. We also know about Thekla, Martha, Theodosia, Kouvouklisena, Palaeologina and many more.
In our churches, here in Great Britain we find that women do chant during the services, giving therefore a richer variety of sound and musical expression to our daily worship. The important factor is to offer hymns and chants to God, as we claim during the Divine Liturgy: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live I will praise the Lord; while I exist, I will praise my God.’ In Psalm 50, chanted during Matins, we read ‘O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.’ Therefore, despite Byzantine music being a complicated musical system, whoever is able to chant should do so.
Moving on, now, to the deaconesses. Female deacons existed during the first centuries of Christianity. In Scripture we find the word deacon in a number of instances, referring to women. Such is the case with Phoebe, who is believed to have been the person entrusted by St. Paul to deliver his epistle to the Romans from Achaia.  In the Epistle to the Romans (16:1), we read ‘Phoebe as serving the Church of Cenchrea as a deacon.’ Phoebe is thus accepted as being the prototype of the women deacon and the first deaconess of the Church. Like St Stephen for male deacons, St Phoebe became an example of faith and service for female deacons. The Orthodox Church also honours St Lydia and St Tryphena, by commemorating them as deacons. The same applies to St Priscilla and St Junia.
A deaconess was honoured as being ‘a type of the Holy Spirit.’  She had a number of duties. She offered pastoral diakonia and charity work and she also had distinctive liturgical functions.  They had a very significant role; for example, in the Apostolic Constitutions we find that, no woman was allowed to speak to the bishop or any deacon, without speaking first to a deaconess.  Additionally, the deaconess also administer Holy Communion to women who were ill, either at their house or the hospital. She would also give donations to the needy women. Pastoral care was also part of the job description, including visits to heathen households so to minister them. However, the most important liturgical services were offered by the deaconesses during the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism, in particular the baptism of women. Without a female deacon, the baptism of adult women could not take place, due to issues of propriety. 
It is interesting to identify that despite the existence of deaconesses in the Orthodox Church being extinct, there is a small number of exceptions to this rule, which come to us from the 20th century from the East. Before the 1917 revolution, the Russian Orthodox Church prepared some schemes to restore this order. In Greece St Nektarios of Aegina actually ordained a nun on Pentecost Sunday 1911.  Today, there are a few deaconesses in the Orthodox Church; according to one Greek newspaper, To Vima, there are only three Greek deaconesses, without giving their names. It merely states that one is undertaking missionary work in the Far East, the second was ordained by late Archbishop Christodoulos of Greece, when he was still Metropolitan of Dimitriados, and the third lives in Constantinople. 

The role of the women in the Orthodox Church is an important issue. However, the distinction which exists in our world and in the Church, between women and men has no effect to our salvation. This is also expressed by St Gregory of Nazianzus, who stated: ‘The same Creator for man and woman, for both of them the same clay, the same image, the same law, the same death, and the same resurrection.’  The existence of the sexes does not show discrimination but complementarity and reciprocity. This is also highlighted when identifying the existence of thousands of female saints. They are honoured and remembered in the Church daily.
The most important woman saint is, of course, the Virgin Mary. Her role in salvation is crucial. According to the great ecclesial vision, Mary is not the “model” only for women, the prototype of submissive, passive, and oversweet femininity which women today are no longer able, no longer want, to identify themselves with. Mary is not a goddess either, a symbol of a feminist Christianity which is implicitly or explicitly opposed to a masculine Christianity centered on Jesus. . . According to the Orthodox understanding, Mary is fully human and represents all of humanity, the complete humanity which God, in his grace, wanted to freely associate with the realization of his loving plan. She is a sign, the anticipation of a human person entirely given to the Lord, the ultimate eschatological realization of man-anthropos.
The Orthodox faithful always pray to her, saying ‘O, Holy Mother of God intercede for us.’ This intercession is also evident in the iconographic tradition, whereby the Theotokos Platitera is depicted in the Sanctuary, between Heaven (the dome) and the earth. During the Divine Liturgy we sing the hymn: ‘It is truly right to call you blessed, who gave birth to God, ever-blessed and most pure, and Mother of God. Greater in honour than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word; truly the Mother of God, we magnify you.’ This hymn, exactly, shows her importance for us Christians; the role she played and continues to play within the Body of the Church. God in his love sent his Son to be a man, whilst in return humanity offered Saint Mary the Virgin to be the cleansed and perfected vessel in which humanity and divinity meet in the God-manhood of Christ.
Therefore, Mary, the Mother of God, the Theotokos, played a key role in the salvation of mankind. Without her, Jesus Christ would not be able to be born into creation. In this woman, in this mother sanctified and made fruitful by the Spirit, the divine Agape – Love - took a human body.
The role one maintains in the Church is actually not important, in regards to salvation. This is pointed out when looking at the categories of saints that we have in Orthodoxy; we have, for example the apologists, the equal to the Apostles, the Holy Martys, or even the fools for Christ. These people, women and men, were not priests; in many cases they had a troubled road to salvation; nonetheless, they reached it. Salvation, theosis, which is the objective of Christianity, of our communion with God is reached not by who we are in the Church, a priest, a chanter, a member of staff or even just a simple participant. It is reached if we follow what Apostle Peter says in the Book of Acts (2:38): ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore, Salvation is more than forgiveness. It is a genuine renewal of man. And this renewal is effected not by the discharge, or release, of certain natural energies implied in man’s own creaturely being, but by the “energies” of God Himself, who thereby encounters and encompasses man and admits him into communion with Himself.
Women are, of course, present in the New Testament period, where they played a key role in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Women had profound personal relationships with Jesus of Nazareth: Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, with whom the Lord had a “theological” conversation, Mary of Magdala of the “Easter garden” story and many more. Jesus allowed women to touch him, in both the physical and spiritual meaning of the word. He was not afraid of being in contact with them even when one was a prostitute. He had compassion for their suffering. . . His disciples were surprised by this attitude which contrasted so sharply with rabbinical principles (Jn 4:27 and Lk 7:39). Such an attitude indicated a spiritual direction, introducing a new level of understanding and relationship between women and men.
Their significant role in Jesus’s life is also evident through the fact that they were the first who witnessed His Resurrection. The second Sunday after Easter, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers. This day commemorates when the women disciples of our Lord came to the tomb to anoint his body with myrrh-oils but found the tomb empty. As the women wondered what this meant, angels appeared proclaiming that Christ had risen from the dead. In the Gospel of Matthew we read: ‘And as they went to tell His disciples,[b] behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.’ (Matthew 28:9-10). Also we sing on this day a number of hymns. One of them proclaims: ‘Unto the myrrh-bearing women did the Angel cry out as he stood by the grave: Myrrh-oils are meet for the dead, but Christ has proved to be a stranger to corruption. But cry out: The Lord is risen, granting great mercy to the world.’ Therefore, we can identify the significant and central role women played in Christ’s life and in the life of the Church.
From the above, we understand that the role of women in the Church is considered a ministry. This ministry, in all of its expressions within the Body of the Orthodox Church, is a service offered in the name of Christ. Every expression of ministry, therefore, is meant to build up the body of Christ so that the Church, following Christ’s example – who came to serve and not to be served -, serves the salvation of the world.

Orthodoxy promotes and proclaims equality between women and men, maintaining, however, different and distinct roles within the Body of the Church. Women are the backbone of the Church in that they are the backbone in their respective parishes and homes. The role of a woman and a man in the Church is the same, meaning that we are all members of the Body of Christ. Therefore, the Church is a community in faith, hope and love for both women and men, of the mystery of individuals, ineffably equal yet different, in the image and the radiance of the divine Trinity. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The end of the Olympic Games in Antiquity

The Olympic Games have existed since more than 2.500 years. However, they were abolished for nearly 1500 years. The ancient Greeks celebrated Zeus, by meeting at Olympia, ensuring that the Games remained an important event within the Hellenic world. Thanks to the latest archaeological digs at Olympia, we currently know that the Games were still being organised in the 4th century AD. 

In 393 AD, Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I forbade the celebration of pagan cults, including, therefore, the Olympic Games. This was of course part of the Christianisation of the Empire, thus many pagan traditions were abolished in order for Christianity to prevail. Nonetheless, the popularity of sports contests and cultural festivities continues in many Greek-influenced provinces of the Byzantine Empire as late as the 6th century AD. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Kolonlu Church, Cappadocia

Kolonlu Church in the Rose Valley, Cappadocia, has a unique feature of having three big crosses on its roof. That is why it is also known as the Church with three crosses. Being in a remote area in Cappadocia, and hidden away, only brave faithful can go up the steep hill in order to see it up close. Nevertheless, the destroyed frescoes still maintain a richness and beauty, which is to be found in Cappadocia. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Everything Has Its Time

It is apparent in life how time management and timing is crucial for every endeavour. We achieve our goals in certain times, after a period where we have reached the maturity, both for us and the world. If we attempt to do something in the wrong time then it is likely that we will not achieve it. Timing is critical. This exists universally with many aspects of our lives. In the Old Testament Book, Ecclesiastes (3: 1-8) we see that the issue of timing is examined:

1 To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,

And a time of peace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

St. Comgall, Bishop and Founder of Bangor Monastery

St Comgall, Bishop and Founder of Bangor Monatsery was born in Ulster, Ireland, in 517 AD and died at Bangor, Ireland, in 603 AD. It is said that Comgall was a warrior as a young man, but that he studied under Saint Fintan at Cluain Eidnech Monastery, was ordained a priest before he was 40, and with several companions became a hermit in Lough Erne. The rule he imposed was so severe that seven of them died. He left the island and founded a monastery at Bangor (Bennchor) on the south shore of Lake Belfast, where he taught Saint Columban and a band of monks who evangelized Central Europe. Two other of his monks actively evangelized Scotland, Saint Moluag of Lismore in Argyll and Saint Maelrubha of Applecross in Ross. In time, it became the most famous monastery in Ireland, and Comgall is reported to have ruled over some 8,000 monks there and in houses founded from Bangor. Bangor was one of the principal religious centres of Ireland until it was destroyed by the Danes in 823 AD.

Although he was known for his ascetic life and was said to have only eaten a full meal once a week on a Sunday, many of the miracles ascribed to him concern food. On one occasion, a farmer refused to sell grain to his monks, saying that he would rather his mother-in-law, whom he called Luch, should eat it all rather than the monks. The word luch is the Gaelic for mouse. St. Comgall said, ‘So be it, by luch it shall be eaten,’ and that night a plague of mice ate two piles of corn, which would have been thirty cart loads.
On another occasion, a group of thieves broke into the grounds of the monastery to steal the monks' vegetables, and through the prayers of Comgall they were deprived of their sight until they repented. When they did repent, they were admitted into the community. Yet again, when the monks were short of food, and visitors to the community were expected, St. Comgall prayed to God, and a shoal of fish swam to the shore, so that the brethren might feed their guests.
Comgall went to Scotland for a time, where he lived in a monastery on the island of Tiree. He also accompanied Saint Columba on a missionary trip to Inverness to evangelize the Picts. Columba and Comgall are believed to have journeyed together through the Great Glen and preached before King Brude at Inverness. There he founded a monastery at Land of Heth. The manuscript called the Bangor Antiphonary, written there less than a century after Saint Comgall's death, contains a long hymn in his praise. Comgall died after years of suffering.
St. Fiacre received the message that his friend was dying through an angel and arrived in Bangor in time to see him into the next world. When he returned to Ullard after burying St. Comgall, Fiacre took an arm of the saint back as a relic. Nothing now remains of the great monastery, but the Bell of Bangor is preserved in the heritage museum at Belfast, and in the Ambrosian Library there is the Antiphonary of Bango.
As monasticism changed from solitary to community life, the monks received something of the same privilege of carrying the Eucharist with them. They would have it on their persons when working in the fields or going on a voyage. The Eucharist was either placed in a small receptacle (Chrismal = "Christ-carrier", Old Irish) worn bandoleer-fashion, or in a little bag (Perula) hung around the neck under their clothes. Irish and British manuscripts make frequent mention of the practice. It was not only to have the hosts ready for Communion but also to insure safety against robbers and protection against the hazards of travel.
The life of St. Comgall tells how on one occasion he was attacked by heathen Pietists while working in a field. On seeing the Chrismal around his neck, the attackers did not dare touch him for fear of some retaliation since they assumed that Comgall was carrying his God. The saint was so moved by the experience that he exclaimed, ‘Lord, you are my strength, my refuge, and my Redeemer’ (Psalm 18:2). St Comgall is commemorated on the 10th May[1].

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mosaics in St Sophia, Constantinople

St Sophia in Constantinople has had an interesting, but also a troubling, history. From being the Imperial Cathedral in the capital of the Byzantine Empire, to becoming a mosque during the Ottoman era, it has ended up being a museum since the 1930s. This history has resulted in the destruction and covering of works of art. A reversal process is under way, which has revealed a number of beautiful mosaics; however, many are still hidden.
Upon entering this magnificent Church building one sees the prevalence of the marble. A few surfaces had and have space for mosaics and icons. The surviving ones, or more correctly the ones which have been revealed, are important works of art, easily recognizable by everyone interested in icons and iconography.

The most beautiful mosaics are located in the upper level, also known as gynaikonitis, where the Empresses went during the services. The most significant mosaic is the one of the Deisis. In the Orthodox iconographic tradition the Deisis depicts the Theotokos and St. John the Baptist petitioning, requesting Christ’s intercession for humanity on each side of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The mosaic in St Sophia dates back to 1261 AD.

Close to that one finds another mosaic. The central figure is the Virgin Mary in the middle, with Jesus Christ in her arms, as is the traditional depiction of the Theotokos. Surrounding the Mother of God we see Emperor John II Komnenos, his wife the Empress Eirene and their son Alexios. In this icon we see the Emperor and his wife donating money to Hagia Sophia.

Following the imperial tradition within Hagia Sophia, we find another icon depicting this time Christ on the throne, surrounded by Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos and Empress Zoe. The Emperor and Empress are depicted donating money to Hagia Sophia.

However, the first mosaic is seen upon entering the Church, in the narthex, through the Imperial Gate/ entrance. On the top we find Jesus Christ, blessing those entering. Below Christ, praying towards Him, is Emperor of Byzantium, Leo VI. This mosaic dates back to the 10th century AD.

Upon entering the nave, the main part of the church building, one can see the Virgin Mary, located in the semi done over the sanctuary. In Hagia Sophia the Theotokos is depicted seated on a throne, holding baby Jesus in her arms. Surprisingly, the Platytera in this instance is not that large, as is the case in other, smaller churches. Nevertheless, it is an impressive mosaic. Additionally, this mosaic is significant as it is the first icon created in this church following the iconoclastic period. This mosaic dates back to the 9th century AD. Above the sanctuary, on either side of the Theotokos Platytera we find the two Archangels, Gabriel and Michael.

Underneath the large central dome of St Sophia are four triangles which support the dome. There we find the six winged angels. During the Ottoman period the heads of the angels were covered. Today some have been revealed; yet other angels still have a metallic covering over their faces.

Around the church building we find other, smaller icons-mosaics, which adorn the church. There we find the Patriarch of Constantinople Ignatios, St John Chrysostom and the Patriarch of Antioch Ignatios Theophoros (depicted). The dating of these mosaics is uncertain; however, it is believed that they were made in the 9th and 10th centuries AD.

When exiting the Church we find a very interesting and significant mosaic, showing the history of both the Imperial Church and the capital of Byzantium. This mosaic was discovered (or re-discovered) in 1849, when repairs took place. In the centre we see seated the Mother of God. On her left is Constantine the Great is depicted, the person who founded the city of Constantinople. In his hands he holds the City, offering it to the Theotokos. On the right hand of the Virgin Mary we find Emperor Justinian, who built Hagia Sophia, who is holding the Imperial Church, offering it to the Mother of God. This interesting mosaic depicts what the Byzantines believed, that the Theotokos is the protector of the Constantinople. This was verified when She was seen riding a horse on top of the Imperial walls, when the City was under attack from the Arabs in the 7th century AD. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian

The Lord Jesus Christ loved all His disciples, but He had a particular love for John, who was the youngest of the apostles, and who was an innocent, and pure youth, aflame with boundless love for his Teacher. John was that apostle of whom the Gospel says, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." It was the Lord's will that he shine longer than all the other apostles on the horizon of the apostolic age; he reposed at the beginning of the second century.
Saint John came from Bethsaida, a poor village in Galilee. He was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and of Salome. Whilst he and his family worked hard for a living, John, who was 22 years of age, was always preoccupied with the study of the Holy Scriptures. He spent any spare time he had reading the Laws and the Prophets and attended the School of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem where the Word of God further enriched him.

His thirst for the Truth, however, was not fully quenched. The words of the prophet Isaiah, “…behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.”(Isaiah 7:14) stirred his soul and he yearned for an answer. It was at this stage that the older and wiser Andrew (the First-Called) told him to accompany him to the banks of the Jordan to listen to the prophet in the desert. His sermons were full of fire as he spoke bluntly to the Scribes and the Pharisees and as he prepared his listeners for the arrival of a greater Prophet.
John and Andrew therefore, became disciples of St John, the Prophet, the Forerunner of Christ, also known as John the Baptist. The hearts of these simple fishermen leapt as they heard the thunderous voice of the Baptist, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”(Matt 3:2). The young John was so taken by this prophet that he asked him if he was the Messiah, but the Baptist answered, “I baptise with water, but there stands One among you…whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”(John 1:26-27).
It was because of John’s relationship with St John the Baptist, that he encountered on that blessed day the Man who came to be baptised in the waters of the Jordan, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”(John 1:29). As the young John heard the Baptist’s words and looked into the eyes of Jesus he remained speechless and recognised that before him was the Messiah. John and Andrew followed Jesus and asked Him where he lived. The Lord’s reply was, “Come and see.” It was with these words that John became one of the twelve and eventually the beloved disciple.
John closely followed the footsteps of the Lord, never leaving His side and hearkening to His every word. He became a trusted friend, a faithful follower who was subsequently granted many divine revelations. John witnessed the Lord’s first miracle at Cana, he watched the Lord drive the merchants out of the Temple, he accompanied Him to Samaria and marvelled with the Samaritan woman at the words of his Rabbi, “…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.”(John 4:14). He witnessed the healing of the nobleman’s son, and of the paralytic, his faith was strengthened when he saw the Lord feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, he saw that the Lord is Ruler of all nature when He walked on water and he took into his heart the mystical theology of the Eucharist, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”(John 6:54).
John witnessed the miracles of the Lord and heard His parables; he also witnessed the pride in the hearts of the Pharisees and their attempt to put an end to the ministry of his Teacher. Although he heard the Lord speak of His death and Resurrection many times, it wasn’t until the Lord took him, Peter and James to the top of Mount Tabor that their faith was strengthened. It was here that the young disciple witnessed what was with him all along, the Uncreated Light of God, a light that was to give him the strength and the faith to follow the Lord all the way to Golgotha.
Upon their return to Jerusalem, John witnessed the Lord’s final miracle of His ministry, the raising of Lazarus, and marvelled at the reaction of the masses as the Lord humbly but triumphantly entered Jerusalem.
At the Mystical Supper of the Lord, John sat next to his Teacher, leant on His bosom and felt the Lord’s troubled spirit because one of them would betray Him. He heard as he rested his head on the Lord, the new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
The Lord once again asked John, Peter and James to accompany Him in the Garden of Gethsemane while He prayed, but they were overcome by sleep and only awoke to witness their Teacher’s betrayal and arrest. It is from this point on that the strength and faith of one of the youngest disciples, John, is clearly manifested. John remained with the Lord through His arrest, and trials, and he followed Him with a heavy heart towards Golgotha. He held the arm of the Mother of God and tried to give her strength as she witnessed the suffering and Crucifixion of her Son. He heard the words which could only be entrusted to a beloved disciple, “Behold thy Mother.” He ran with haste on the early morning of the Sunday and went to the tomb first and saw that it was empty. He kept his promise to the Lord and looked after His Mother until her Dormition. He became an Apostle for the Lord, preaching and baptising in the name of the Holy Trinity.
At the time the Resurrection was announced, John outran Peter and came first to the Tomb. It was he who first stooped down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground (John 20:5-6). He saw Christ after His Resurrection and was commissioned with the other disciples to preach the Gospel throughout the world. He was present also at the Lord’s Ascension into heaven and received the Holy Spirit under the appearance of tongues of fire with the other disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1-2). He remained the last of them all in Jerusalem, in the company of the Virgin Mary, whom he served until the time of her Dormition.
When the time came to part from one another to preach in all the regions of the world, the Apostles drew lots to tell where each should go. It fell to John to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor which was full of idolatry and entirely given over to paganism. Saint John was much cast down on learning where he was to go for he had not yet learned to put all his trust in the invincible power of God. To purge him of this human weakness, God put him to the trial of wind and waves for forty days before he reached his destination.
He made his way to Ephesus, a place where the people had great devotion to the Goddess Artemis, who was the Goddess of hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth and virginity, and would celebrate festivals in her honour. At one of these, John climbed the hill where stood the great statue of the goddess in order to address the crowd. The pagans were enraged to see him there and tried to stone him, but all the stones missed their mark and struck the statue, which was reduced to rubble. However, the pagans, blind to the signs of divine Providence and deaf to the words of Saint John, made a second attempt to stone him. This time the stones turned back on the idolaters themselves, and the earth, quaking at the Apostle’s prayer, suddenly swallowed up more than two hundred of them. The people who survived came to their senses at last. They begged John to intercede with God to deal mercifully with them and restore to life those who had perished. So, at the prayer of Saint John, all those people came forth from the bowels of the earth, venerated the Apostle and were baptized.
During the second persecution of Christians St John was sent to Rome to stand trial before the then Emperor Domitian. He was tortured and cast into a vat of boiling oil from which he came forth unscathed. The Emperor, having failed in his futile attempts to bring any harm towards our great Saint, banished him into exile on the island of Patmos. On the voyage there with Prochorus, John showed the kindness of God towards man by curing the dysentery of the soldiers escorting them. As soon as they arrived, he freed Apollonides, the son of Myron a local dignitary, of an impure spirit. This miracle, accompanied by the word of John, brought Myron’s entire household to faith in Christ and baptism; and a little later, the Governor of the island was also baptized.
It was also on Patmos that John wrote the New Testament book known as the Apocalypse, also known as the Book of Revelation. John saw Christ, having the appearance of a young man whose “face was like the sun shining in full strength.” Reassuring John, who “fell at his feet as though dead,” the Lord said: “Fear not; I am the First and the Last; I am He that Lives and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore and have the keys of Death and of Hell. Write the things that you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:17ff). Then in successive revelations John was shown what will happen at the end of time: the gathering strength of iniquity, the coming of the Antichrist, his warfare against the faithful and his final struggle against Christ who, in the end, will cast him forever into Hell with the Devil and his angels. It was also given him to see in his vision the violent upheavals that will take place in the world, the fiery end of all things, and the final triumph of the Son of man, the general Resurrection and the Last Judgment.
Upon the death of the Emperor, Saint John returned to Ephesus where he then wrote his Gospel and his three Catholic Epistles. The main thought in his epistles was - Christians must learn to love: "Let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is of God and Knows God... He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).
"...love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says I love God but hates his brother, he is a liar; for he does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him; that he who loves God must love his brother also" (1 John 4:17-21).
Regarding the subsequent ministry of Apostle John, tradition has preserved some wonderful information showing to what extent his heart was filled with love. While visiting one of the Asia Minor Churches, John noticed among his listeners a youth who distinguished himself with unusual gifts, and he entrusted the youth to the care of a bishop as a special ward. Later on this youth got involved with unsavoury friends, became debauched and the leader of a gang of bandits. Hearing of this from the bishop, John went into the mountains where the bandits were ravaging, and he was seized and brought before the chief.
On seeing the Apostle, the youth became embarrassed and began to run away. John pursued him and with touching words of love encouraged him. He finally brought him to Church, shared with him the labours of repentance, and did not rest until he had totally reconciled him with the Church. During the last years of his life the Apostle preached only one precept: Children, love one another. His disciples asked: "Why do you repeat yourself?" Apostle John answered: "This is the most important commandment. If you will fulfil it, then you will fulfil all of Christ's commandments."
This love would turn into a fiery fervour when the Apostle met false-prophets who corrupted the faithful and deprived them of eternal salvation. In one public building he met the false prophet Cerinthus who denied the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Let us depart quickly" said the Apostle to his disciple "I fear this building might collapse around us."
This apostle was wholly permeated by love for his neighbour. His zeal for the salvation of those who were perishing knew no obstacles. And the meekness, humility, and kindness of this great apostle were so amazing and touching, that he seemed to be not a man but an angel incarnate. His entire life was a life of love. In deep old age, when his physical strength had spent itself so that he could move about only with difficulty, he continued nevertheless, with the assistance of his disciples, to attend the Christian gatherings, teaching and edifying the flock.
The holy Apostle and Evangelist John reposed in the year AD 105, having surpassed ninety years of age. He was buried in Ephesus, where his grave became a place of pilgrimage for Christians desiring to bow down before the holy remains of "the disciple whom Jesus loved."
Why is St John the Evangelist also known as Theologian? This honorary title has been given by the Church to a small number of significant theologians, due to their important theological work and teachings. That is also why St John is depicted, in the byzantine iconographic tradition as a winged eagle, because his Gospel seems to soar on eagles’ wings.
The Theologians, proclaimed by the Orthodox Church are Apostle and Evangelist John, Gregory the Theologian and Saint Symeon the New Theologian. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew explains that, “this sparing use of the title ‘theologian’ reveals the sacred awe with which the Church approaches matters relating to God.” St. Neilos claims that a theologian is someone who prays. Theologians are those people who “experience the purifying, especially the illuminating and deifying energy of God.”
There are two feasts celebrated within the Orthodox Church in honour of St. John the Theologian: on May 8th and the feast of the Metastasis of St John the Theologian is celebrated on September 26th.