Sunday, July 31, 2016

Prayer before Holy Communion

The hymns of the Orthodox Church are rich in theology and dogma, whereby the truths of the Church are given to the faithful who are all together praying during the Divine Liturgy. An example of this reality is of course the Prayer before Holy Communion, where we see the theology of what the bread and wine is, changing to the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Why do we remember this act of the Last Supper? This we find in the last sentence of the hymn: for the remission of sins and eternal life:

I believe, Lord, and I confess, that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Moreover, I believe that this is your immaculate body, and that this is Your precious Blood. Wherefore, I pray to You: have mercy on me and forgive me my transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary, in word and in deed, in knowledge and in ignorance; and make me worthy to partake of Your immaculate Mysteries without condemnation, for the remission of sins and eternal life. Amen.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Olympics Flag

Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin (1863-1937), a French educator and sportsman, revived the Olympic Games in 1896. He designed the flag of the Olympics in 1913-1914. The flag was first used in the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium. The Olympic flag is paraded during the opening ceremony of each Olympic Games. At the end of an Olympics, the mayor of the host-city presents the flag to the mayor of the next host-city. The flag will remain in the town hall of the next host-city until the next Olympic Games, four years later.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Classic Cars, Cuba

Cuba is known for many things, including cigars, rum, beaches, music etc. However, one of the most distinctive anachronism are of course the classic American cars from the 1950s. Time seems to have stood still for decades on Cuban roads, where one in every five cars dates back to before the Revolution. If you are ever in Cuba, take a ride with these cars. It is a great experience since most of these cars do not exist anywhere else in the world. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, Toronto (Canada)

St. Irene Chrysovalantou came from visions of the Greek decent in Toronto's Greek area of the Danforth. The Danforth was home to many Greeks, and they recognized the only thing missing in their Greek town was their church. In 1974, construction began on Gough Ave., as an old car shop was being transformed into the church we know today.

The church had a temporary location in the St. Clair and Victoria Park area until the first service was conducted in on June 1st 1975, under the spiritual direction of Fr. Dorotheos and Fr. Chris Chronopoulos. These priests will always be remembered for encouraging the children of Greek migrants to spread their Greek culture and heritage in the decades to come as they knew that the Baby Boomers would be the future of the Community.
In 1981, Rev. Fr. Philip Philippou was welcomed into the priesthood at St. Irene Chrysovalantou by Bishop Sotirios. On March 16th 1986, St. Irene was the final church to join the Greek Community of Toronto under the presidency of Mr. Mylopoulos. In 2003, construction began to create a domed roof along with traditional Orthodox architecture under the tutelage of Fr. Pavlos Koumarianos who soon after moved to Boston.

Today, St. Irene Chyrsovalantou Church is under the spiritual direction of the Very Rev. Father Constantine Siarapis. The GCT has also made St. Irene home to the Adult and Senior's Day Program which runs weekly every afternoon. The GCT is in the process of completing the iconography of the church. Donations are continuously being received for the iconography. St. Irene will always be known as a proud accomplishment of the GCT, as it is the only Greek Orthodox Church located in Toronto's Greektown on the Danforth![1]

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Romanian Orthodox Church, Constantinople

Known as an ancient Byzantine Basilica from the first centuries of Christianity, located in Perea-Pikridion, Old Byzantine name of today’s Haskoy. Since the 6th century AD this area has been a place of prayer and spiritual reflection. 

The Saint Paraskevi Church was restored in 1792 by the Saint Martyr King Constantin Brancoveanu (1654-1714) and by the Greek Community under the governing of the Patriarch Constantin the First (1830-1834). The tomb and relics of St Argyri (30 April 1725), located on the premises, emphasise the sanctity of this place. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

GreekTown, Toronto – Canada

One of Toronto’s most vibrant neighbourhoods is, of course, GreekTown, also known as the Danforth. It is a cosmopolitan area of the capital city of Ontario. It is the social and commercial heart of Greek life in Toronto.

Starting from a small community in 1907, it has grown to become a large Greek centre, the largest one in North America. The streets are lined with the Greek and Canadian flags, whilst signs are displayed in both English and Greek. (This feature is also evident in China Town, whereby the signs are displayed in English and Chinese).

GreekTown hosts the annual Taste of the Danforth festival. This event brings the delectable cuisine out of local restaurants and into the streets. Lively tavernas are crowded with patrons enjoying souvlaki and seafood, accompanied by retsina or ouzo.

In the Toronto GreekTown one can also find a small square with statues of Alexander the Great. Part of this collection of statues we find a lamp post. The GreekTown on the Danforth and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon host “The Marathon Flame,” brought from Marathon, Greece (Thursday 11 October 2012). This Flame represents the Spirit of the Marathon, namely: courage, dedication, determination, democracy and world peace – born at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, now burning around the world with the support of: Councillor Mary Fragedakis, City of Toronto; Constantine Coidonicolas, Chair of The GreekTown on the Danforth BIA; Hon. Dimitris Azemopoulos, Consul General of Greece in Toronto. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Saint Drostan of Aberdeen, Hermit

Saint Drostan of Aberdeen is not very well known. He appears in two old manuscripts, the Book of Deer (or Book of Deir) an illuminated manuscript whose origins date back to the 900s, and Breviarium Aberdonense, (the Aberdeen Breviary) produced by Bishop William Elphinstone in Aberdeen in 1510, though the two do not tell a completely consistent story about him. His name is also attached to various churches and to other features, such as St Drostan's Well at Aberlour in Speyside, now the water source for Aberlour Distillery.

St Drostan seems to have been a son of the royal family of Dalriada, whose father was called Cosgrach. Presumably being a younger son, he was trained to become a monk on Iona by St Columba. He accompanied Columba on at least one of his missions to the Picts, and together they travelled to Aberdeenshire, possibly with St Fergus. The Pictish King they were visiting gave Columba a site for a monastery at Deer. Having worked together to set up the monastery, Columba appointed Drostan to be its abbot, and returned to Iona. Drostan later became Abbot of "Dalquhongale" Abbey, which some have associated with Holywood Abbey in Dumfries and Galloway. Still later he became a hermit in Glen Esk in Angus, and is said to have performed many miracles, including restoring the sight of a priest named Symon. After his death, Drostan's relics were kept in a church at Aberdour, close to the site of the village of New Aberdour in northern Aberdeenshire.
The dates for all this revolve around two fixed points. The first is the suggestion in the documentary sources that Drostan was abbot of the monastery at Deer in 600, and the other is the date of the death of Columba, which happened in 597. It, therefore, seems reasonable to suggest a foundation date for the monastery at Deer in the 580s. The original monastery at Deer fell out of use. Deer Abbey was founded by William Comyn, the Earl of Buchan, in 1219 on a site half a mile to the west. Drostan's original monastery was probably on the site later used for Old Deer Old Kirk. St Drostan is commemorated on the 24th July.[1]

Saturday, July 23, 2016

21st Century Olympic Games Emblems

Sydney 2000: The emblem represents the figure of an athlete, using typically Australian shapes and colours. The boomerangs and suggestions of sun and rocks, together with the colours of the harbour, beaches and red interior invoke the unique Australian landscape and its original inhabitants. The flash which transforms the silhouette of Sydney Opera House into a trail of smoke from an Olympic torch recalls the emblem of Sydney’s Olympic candidature.

Athens 2004: The 2004 Olympic Games emblem is a wreath made from an olive tree branch, or kotinos. The emblem is a reference to the ancient Olympic Games, where the kotinos was the official award of Olympic champions. In addition, the olive was the sacred tree of Athens. The colours of the emblem symbolise the shades of white and blue found in the Greek countryside

Beijing 2008: The official emblem of Beijing 2008 entitled "Chinese Seal-Dancing Beijing" cleverly combines the Chinese seal and the art of calligraphy with sporting features, transforming the elements into a human figure running forward and embracing triumph. The figure resembles the Chinese character "Jing", which stands for the name of the host city and represents a particularly significant Chinese style. The artwork embodies four messages: Chinese culture, the colour of red China, Beijing welcomes friends from all over the world, to challenge the extreme and achieve the perfect and promote the Olympic motto of "Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

London 2012: The jagged emblem, based on the date 2012, comes in a series of shades of pink, blue, green and orange and will evolve in the run-up to the Games. The word London and the Olympic rings are included in the first two digits of the new logo. "This is the vision at the very heart of our brand," said London 2012 organising committee chairman Seb Coe. "It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world”.

Rio de Janeiro 2016: Passion and Transformation. Passion that unifies all Brazilians in organising the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games; transformation in the pride of creating a new reality for progress; passion through sports, reflected in the drive and desire for achievement. The passion of the Carioca soul that extends a warm and friendly embrace, in a collective gesture that expresses our contagious celebratory nature. Passion and transformation of a city and an entire country, fuelled by the renovation of the Olympic and Paralympic spirit, projecting Brazil and Rio de Janeiro to the world. Passion and transformation of our planet and its people, by promoting a more interdependent, conscious and sustainable culture, as an inspiration to the present and a legacy for the future.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Poseidon in Mexico City

Walking around Mexico City, and specifically in Parque Alameda Central, one comes across a number of statues, some large and some small. One of them depicts the ancient Greek God Poseidon, the God of the Sea. Therefore, he is appropriately located in the middle of a fountain.

Despite being very far from Greece or the Hellenic world in general, it is interesting to see that he is respected and remembered by other people with a different history, culture and tradition.

In the Homeric Hymn, 2.1ff, we read: ‘Poseidon, the Great God, who moves the earth and the barren sea . . . two-fold the task gods have given you, to be the tamer of horses and the saviour of ships.’

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Women Hymnographers of the Orthodox Church

Women Hymnographers of the Orthodox Church

By Dimitris Salapatas

(Orthodox Outlook, June/July 2016, Issue 120, pp.13-15
The role of women in the Orthodox Church is of increasing interest. What is evident in a number of publications and conferences is the fact that we need to hear not only what the Church proclaims on this issue, but how women themselves understand the theology and the tradition of their role in Orthodoxy.[1] Quoting verses from Holy Scripture such as Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” can only take us so far. In order to understand the role of women in Orthodoxy we need to go further; we need to establish their role today, identify the true Orthodox Tradition and examine the history of this matter, practically, historically and theologically. Here we will examine the role of women by looking at women hymnographers in the Byzantine Tradition.

 When looking at the history of Byzantine Hymnography and Music we can see that it is dominated primarily by men. However women are not totally absent, but they are ‘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.

Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving your divinity, took up the role of myrrh-bearer, and with lamentation brings sweet myrrh to you before your burial. ‘Alas!’, she says, ‘for night is for me a frenzy of lust, a dark and moonless love of sin. Accept the fountains of my tears, you who from the clouds draw out the water of the sea; bow yourself down to the groanings of my heart, you who bowed the heavens by your ineffable self-emptying. I shall kiss you immaculate feet, and wipe them again with the locks of my hair, those feet whose sounds Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself in fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the depths of your judgements, my Saviour, saviour of souls? Do not despise me, your servant, for you have mercy without measure.’

It is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of the Byzantine hymnographic tradition.

She was born between 805 and 810 AD in Constantinople, during the reign of Emperor Nikephoros I (802-811). She was known for her beauty and her cleverness. Three Byzantine Historians: Symeon the translator, Georgios Amartolos and Leon Grammatikos, claim that she was part of the ceremony for the bride choice for the Emperor Theophilus (829-842), 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. Instead he chose Theodora as his wife.

We know that Kassiani founded a cenobium in Constantinople in 843 AD, near the western walls of the City, where she became the first abbess. It was at this monastery that she began writing hymns and poems. “St Kassiani also wrote secular songs and poems on moral themes which were witty, often crass, sometimes funny, and usually defended women’s rights.”[2] She was in close contact with the Studion Monastery, which played a key role in the re-publications of Byzantine Liturgical Books during the 9th and 10th centuries.

This great poet, hymnographer and melodist of the Orthodox Church, Saint Kassiani, is commemorated on the 7th September. Having a special talent, intelligence, and sensitivity she excelled in the creation of melodies; this was due to her high education and noble lineage. Her work is timeless moving everyone within the Orthodox world.

Forty-nine of her hymns are still used in the Orthodox Church: though “only twenty-three of those have been proven by scholars to be genuine.”[3] The reason why modern scholars are not 100% sure of the authenticity of a number of hymns, by both men and women, is due to the issue of anonymity within the Orthodox hymnographic tradition. This practice was maintained during the Byzantine period due to moral and spiritual reasons. “It was believed that spiritual anonymity would supersede any earth-given praise.”[4]

Many of Kassiani’s hymns have been set to music by various hymnographers. The majority of her musical works are in sticheron form, i.e. pieces chanted during Matins and Vespers. She wrote many idiomela: hymns which have their own unique melody, doxastika (longer hymns which begin with ‘Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, Both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen,’ which tell the stories of the lives of the saints). “St. Kassia has numerous doxastika following the lives of St. Mary of Egypt, St. Christina, St. Eudokia, St. Agathe, St. Barbara, St. Pelagia, St. Thekla, and others.”[5] Additionally, “she is also credited with writing the odes for the Tetraodion for Holy Saturday, widely appreciated for their beautiful, programmatic imagery.”[6]

She has, additionally, written the idomelo doxastikon of Christmas:

‘Glory. Both now. The same Tone. By Kassia.

When Augustus reigned alone on the earth, the many kingdoms of mankind came to an end; and when you became man from the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed; the cities of the world passed under one single rule; and the nations came to believe in one single Godhead; the peoples were enrolled by decree of Caesar; we the faithful were enrolled in the name of the Godhead, when you became man, O our God. Great is your mercy, Lord; glory to you!’

From the above we understand why she is the only memorable female Byzantine poet.

Kassiani was not the only female monastic hymnographer. We also know about Thekla, Martha, Theodosia, who were all abbesses during the 9th century. The music they composed was primarily intended for use by the female monastic choirs within their monasteries. “Kouvouklisena was a domestikena, or director and lead chanter for female choir in a monastery who lived during the 13th century.”[7] Palaeologina, who was a nun and a hymnographer (15th century) was related to the Imperial family in Constantinople and was well educated. She also composed hymns. The daughter of Ioannes Kladis (an accomplished chanter in the Imperial city)[8] is the other hymnographer (15th century), whose writings appear together with her father’s, making it apparent that she was also his student. Egon Wellesz in his important book A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, has a list of the best-known hymnographers from the 5th until the 15th century. In it we find two women Kassiani and Thecla (the Nun).[9]

Irmoi from the Canon at Matins on Great Saturday
by Kassiani
3. When it saw you, who had hung the whole earth freely on the waters, hanging on Golgotha, creation was seized with great amazement and cried, ‘None is holy but you, o Lord’.’
4. Foreseeing your divine self-emptying on the Cross, Avvakoum, amazed, cried out, ‘You cut off the might of the powerful, O Good One, you speaking with those in Hell as all-powerful’.’
5. Isaias, as he watched by night, O Christ, saw the light which knows no evening of your theophany, which in your compassion came to pass for us, and he cried, ‘The dead will arise and those in the graves will rise, and those in the earth will rejoice.’
6. Jonas was held, but not held fast in the belly of the whale; for being a type of you, the One who suffered and was given over to burial, as from a bridal chamber he leapt forth from the beast and cried to the guard, ‘You who vainly and falsely keep guard, you have forsaken your own mercy’.’
7. Ineffable wonder! He who in the furnace delivered the holy youths from the flame, is laid in the tomb a lifeless corpse for the salvation of us who sing, ‘God, our Redeemer, blessed are you!’
9. Do not weep for me, Mother as you see in a tomb the Son whom you conceived in your womb without seed; for I shall arise and be glorified, and I shall exalt in glory without ceasing those who with faith and love magnify you.’

[1]There have been a number of important conferences on the role of women in the Orthodox Church. See   

[2] Dianne Touliatos-Miles, ‘Kassia’, in James R. Briscoe (ed.), New Historical Anthology of Music by Women, Bloomington, IN, 2004, p. 6.
[3] Antonia Tripolitis, Kassia: The Legend, the Woman, and Her Work, New York, 1992, p. xii.
[4] Rachel Nicolas Brashier, Voice of Women in Byzantine Music Within the Greek Orthodox Churches in America, Southern Illinois, 2012, p. 14.
[5]. Ibid, p. 14.
[6] Diane Touliatos, The Traditional Role of Greek Women in Music from Antiquity to the End of the Byzantine Empire, in Kimberly Marshall (ed.), Rediscovering the Muses: Women’s Musical Traditions, Boston, 1993, p. 81.
[7] Rachel Nicole Brashier, Voice of Women in Byzantine Music Within the Greek Orthodox Churches in America, Southern Illinois, 2012, p. 14.
[8] More information: ibid. p. 118.
[9] Egon Wellesz, A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, Oxford, 1961, pp. 442-444. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Knitting before God

Following is a beautiful and interesting story, given to us by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, explaining the importance and centrality of silence. This might seem as a passive understanding of our existence and our relationship towards others and towards God. On the contrary, silence should be understood as a virtue and an achievement we should all strive to achieve, in order to fully comprehend His presence in our lives. Anthony Bloom narrates the following story in the book Creative Prayer, p.59.

‘I remember that one of the first people who came to me for advice when I was ordained was an old lady who said: ‘Father, I have been praying almost unceasingly for fourteen years, and I have never had any sense of God’s presence.’ So I said: ‘Did you give him a chance to put in a word?’ ‘Oh well’, she said, ‘no, I have been talking to him all this time, because is not that prayer?’ I said: ‘No, I do not think it is, and what I suggest is that you should set apart fifteen minutes a day, sit and just knit before the face of God.’
And so she did. What was the result? Quite soon she came again and said: ‘It is extraordinary, when I pray to God, in other words when I talk to him, I feel nothing, but when I sit quietly, face to face with him, then I feel wrapped in his presence.’

You will never be able to pray to God really and from all your heart unless you learn to keep silent and rejoice in the miracle of his presence, or if you prefer, of your being face to face with him although you do not see him.’ 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Times on the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church

Many things have been written, before, during and after the Orthodox Churches met in Crete for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. One of the latest additions to this immense bibliography is also an article written by Michael Binyon in the Times, entitled: ‘Orthodox Church falters in 1,000 year quest for unity’ (16th July 2016, p.84). Although understanding the Synod from a Western point of view, he does give a number of interesting points on what happened, and of course how some Orthodox Churches wished to boycott this Council, especially referring to the Church of Russia.

The author of this article does point out the fact that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has ‘done much to promote Orthodox unity;’ however, he does identify the difficulties of this objective. Mr Michael Binyon makes some interesting points, explaining that: ‘The Russians were suspicious of the summit, believing it would highlight divisions and introduce “western” notions of liberalism, human rights and social engagement. The Moscow patriarchate has never had good relations with the ecumenical patriarch . . .’

To conclude, this interesting article is critical towards the reality of inter-Orthodox relations. However, this is, unfortunately, the reality. The Orthodox, through this Council, wished to show their unity. In many ways they did. But they also showed their disunity and how power politics dictate their ecclesiastical relations between not only the rest of the Christian world, but also within the Orthodox world. 
For more information on the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church see:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sexuality is bound up with death

How will we exist in the next life? Will we have relations? Will we get married? Will our social status continue in the Kingdom of God? These are some of the questions I have come across in the past few years. Additionally will we be divided in males and females? The Orthodox Church believes that these divisions and relations will not exist in the Heavenly Kingdom. Christos Yannaras gives an exegesis of the Orthodox belief, claiming:

‘The function of perpetuation, what today we call “sexuality,” is unavoidably bound up with death, and no “ethics of sexuality” can remove the subjugation of the sexual impulse to the natural necessity of perpetuating death. This is why the Bible states that in the Kingdom of God, the realm of true life, sexuality ceases to exist, as does the distinction between the sexes. “The children of this world marry and are given in marriage. But they which shall be accounted worthy to attain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry not are given in marriage. Neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Lk 20:34-36); “there is neither male nor female” (Hal 3:18).’[1]

[1] Yannaras Christos, The Freedom of Morality, (1996), p.160.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pink Floyd – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The latest Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to Pink Floyd. Few bands in the history of rock have managed to carve out a career as rich and expansive as that of Pink Floyd. From their blues-based psychedelic roots, the members of the Cambridge-formed outfit have created some of modern music’s most totemic and inspirational albums, with ground-breaking live performances to match.
When listened to sequentially, Pink Floyd’s 15 studio albums not merely mirror the group’s musical development but also offer whistle-stop tour of wider developments in popular culture.
The band’s 1967 debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, for instance, is a perfect example of psychedelic adventure and English whimsy, with topics ranging from that era’s fascination with space travel (as on the titanic opener, ‘Astronomy Domine’) to leader Syd Barrett’s internalised nostalgia (evinced on the warm fantasia of ‘Matilda Mother’).

Barrett’s departure from the group in March 1968, following increasing bouts of depression and mental instability, was traumatic. Pink Floyd’s 1969 album, Ummagumma, proved as much, split as it was between the live recording that make up Record One and the studio tracks of Record Two, written individually by bassist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, keyboard player Richard Wright and guitarist David Gilmour (who had initially joined the band to play alongside Syd).
Meddle (1971) and Obscured Clouds (1972) saw the band’s sound coalesce, paving the way for the all-conquering The Dark Side of the Moon (1973). A modern musical masterpiece, whose lyrics deal with matters ranging from consumerism to mental fragility, Dark Side was followed by the equally majestic Wish You Were Here (1975).

Pink Floyd’s sweeping art rock and cerebral lyricism chimed with an audience increasingly disenchanted with the failed optimism of the 1960s. Indeed, disillusionment also pervaded Floyd’s 1977 album, Animals, setting the tone for the conceptual brutality of The Wall (1979) and its successor, The Final Cut (1983), both helmed by Roger Waters. Following the latter’s departure in the mid 1980s, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright continued as Pink Floyd, issuing A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994).

Two decades later, a few years after the death of Richard Wright on 15 September 2008, came The Endless River: a contemplative swan song by a band whose albums continue to astound and inspire 50 years after their first record was released. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Olympic Stadium Torches

The Olympic Flame is lit every four years at Ancient Olympia in Southern Greece. However, the final destination differs each time. It has become a very symbolic and spiritual moment, the moment the Olympic Flame enters the Olympic Stadium of the host city. It shows how the Gods of Ancient Greece bless the Games. Here are a number of torches from past Games. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Holy Confessor, Saint Donald of Ogilvy, Scotland

St. Donald (also Donivald, Donevald, Domhnall, Donwald) lived in Olgilvy in Forfarshire, Scotland during the 8th century AD. He and his wife had nine daughters. Upon the death of his wife, he and his nine daughters began to live a monastic lifestyle at home under his direction, cultivating the land by hand, and eating barely bread and water once a day. 

After St. Donald's repose, his daughters all entered a monastery in Abernethy, founded by Ss. Darlugdach and Brigid, where they became known as the Nine Maidens, or the Nine Holy Virgins. St. Donald reposed circa 716. His feast day is July 15.[1]

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Life-Giving Spring, Balikli – Constantinople

A famous shrine of Constantinople is the Life-Giving Spring (Zoodochos Pege), which is located outside the wall of the City, in the area known today as Balikli. There are two versions of a very old tradition which give us the information we know in regards to the origins of this ancient and significant shrine.
‘According to the first, related by the historian Procopius, Justinian (527-565) while hunting in a beautiful verdant part of the land with many trees and much water, had the vision of a small chapel with a large crowd of people and a priest in front of a spring. It is the spring of miracles, he was told, whereupon the Emperor built a monastery at the site using surplus materials from the church of Hagia Sophia. Cedrenus records that the monastery was built in 560.

The second version, narrated by the chronicler Nicephoros Callistos, says that the Emperor Leo I (457-474), when still a simple soldier, met at the Golden Gate a blind man who asked him for a drink of water. As he looked around for water, a voice directed him to the spring and enjoined him to build a church on the site when he would become emperor. Callistos describes this great church in detail «Description of the holy church of the Pege erected by Leo», P. G. Migne, vol. 147, 73-77), but the description agrees more with the church built by Justinian. It is historically confirmed that Zenon, Hegumen «of the house of the most holy and glorious Virgin Mary and Mother of God at Pege», participated in the Council of Constantinople, convened by the Patriarch Menas (536-552) in 536.

Zoodochos Pege (i.e. Life-giving Fount) is an epithet of the Holy Virgin and Her representation as Zoodochos Pege is related to the sacred spring. It soon became very popular and this type of icon spread throughout the Orthodox world, particularly in places where a spring was believed to be hagiasma. In the 9th century, Joseph the Hymnographer gave for the first time the title «Zoodochos Pege» to a hymn for the Mother of God.

A marble fountain, from which water flows, occupies the centre of the icon. Above, the Theotokos is holding Christ who makes the sign of blessing. Two angels hovering over Her head carry a scroll inscribed with the verse: «Hail! That you bear. Hail! That you are». Around the fountain the emperor and many ailing people are shown, in a variety of postures, being sprinkled with Holy Water. According to the tradition, a small pond with fish is painted to the side. Actually, it is the fish that have given its present name to the locality, for Balikli in Turkish means «a place with fish».
The Zoodochos Pege type of icon is found in many variations in all the Orthodox regions. Miniatures, mosaics, icons, woodcuts, copperplates have been in great demand these last centuries.’ [1]

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

CN Tower, Toronto

Before entering Toronto, one can see from a far the impressive CN Tower, the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, completed in 1976. It was the tallest tower in the world until 2010, when the Canton Tower and Buri Khalifa were completed. In 1995, the CN Tower was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was named CN Tower because it was built by the railway company Canadian National.

The idea for such a tower in the capital city of Ontario began in 1968 in order to build a communications tower for TV and radio. The Skypod, where visitors can see Toronto from up-high, was actually not part of the original plan. Interestingly enough, the tower is able to withstand an earthquake as strong as 8.5 on the Richter scale and winds up to 260 miles per hour. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Christ as a Stranger

Many ask who was Jesus? What was Jesus? Man? God? Both? The answer to these questions can be found in the Bible, the life and the Tradition of the Church. Interestingly enough, we do find that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is also known as a Stranger. This has a poetic connotation, together with a philosophical and theological depth. Hymnologically, we see that the Church proclaims this belief through a hymn sing during Vespers of Great Friday, whereby we read:
‘Come, let us bless Joseph of eternal memory,
Who came by night to Pilate
And begged for the Life of all:
“Give me this Stranger,
Who from His youth has been received as a stranger in this world.
Give me this Stranger,
Who has no place to lay His head:
Give me this Stranger
Whom an evil disciple betrayed to death.
Give me this Stranger,
The refuge of the poor and weary.[1]

Professor Chrysostomos Stamoulis also expands on this theme of Jesus as a Stranger, interestingly explaining: ‘He was a stranger for His estranged kin, who hated and killed Him as if He were a stranger. A stranger for His own disciples, who denied, questioned and challenged His strange truth in a continuous journey to Emmaus. A stranger for His own mother, whose certainty of maternal intimacy the sword harmed and created breaks in the conviction of the complex offered revelation. A stranger for the whole of creation, His own creation, of which He healed the breaks and the imperfections. A stranger for life, but a stranger as well for death which He astonished and conquered once and forever.’[2]
Therefore, when we see a stranger around us, let us be inviting; let us accept him in our lives. Maybe this stranger will show us the right way. By having the stranger in my life, by having the unfamiliar, I inevitably come into dialogue with him in order to find the truth and also my self-knowledge. ‘The members of the Church, in order to be authentic, must follow Christ’s paradigm. They must be open to the unfamiliar, to the wholly different one.’[3]

[1] Triodion, Vespers of Great Friday. Also to be found in: Florin Toader Tomoioaga, ‘The Dialogue between Orthodox Theology and Culture: the Contemporary Paradigm of Professor Chrysostomos Stamoulis (Greece), Sobornost, 37:2, 2015,  p.56.
[2] Stamoulis, Chrysostomos, Eros and Death, p.338.
[3] Tomoioaga, 2015, p.64.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The aim of the Ecumenical Movement

Defending the importance of the Ecumenical Movement, especially to those who oppose it, is always a great task. Remaining stubborn in our divisions as a Christian people is not the way of achieving love, friendship, communion with our co-believers. Nevertheless, how may we achieve this great objective? What is the aim of the Ecumenical Movement? Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, who has worked for decades on Ecumenical Relations, explains the aim of Ecumenism, by remembering what late Cardinal Suenens said, in regards to our topic, that ‘in order to unite, we must first love one another; in order to love one another, we must first get to know one another.’[1]

Metropolitan Kallistos comments on the above phrase, explaining: ‘This process of getting to know one another – slow and often disappointing  - needs to be carried out at many levels: through official dialogues and international conferences, through contacts between local parishes, through the exchange of theological students, and through the publication of books, whether learned or popular. Yet perhaps more important than any of these is the cultivation of what may be called “ecumenical friendships” – direct contacts face to face, person to person, across church boundaries. Without a firm foundation in such friendships all our other endeavours towards Christian reconciliation are in danger of proving rootless, abstract and theoretical. . .’[2]

[1] Ware, Kallistos, ‘Father Donald and the Orthodox Church,’ in Keller, David (ed.), Boundless Grandeur – The Christian Vision of A.M. Donald Allchin, (Eugene, Oregon, Pickwick Publications, 2015), p.23. 
[2] Ibid.