Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Devout and the Wicked at the Final Judgment

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Importance of Venerating Icons

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Amsterdam Canals

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

To receive notices please send your details to the Assistant Director of Studies.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

St.Columban (Columbanus) Irish missionary to Europe

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

St John Chrysostom on Apostle Paul

What do other believe about us? This is a question, I think, we constantly ask, when meeting others. How do they perceive us? Do they know what and who we are? There is an additional interest when we see how a famous person sees another famous person. In this case we will understand how St John Chrysostom describes Apostle Paul. There are many ways of describing someone we admire. And we should have true and important people as our role models…not just ephemeral idols who do not show us a way of bettering ourselves. St John expresses his admiration and respect in the following way, showing St Paul’s significance for Christianity, not only for his time but for all ages:

‘Paul the apostle, the chosen vessel, the temple of God, the mouth of Christ, the lyre of the Spirit, the teacher of the world, he who crossed land and sea, who drew out the thorns of sin, who sowed the seeds of piety, he who was richer than kings, mightier than the wealthy, stronger than a soldier, wiser than the philosophers, more eloquent than the orators, he who possessed nothing and yet had gained everything, who loosed death by his shadow, who put disease to flight by his garments, who won a victory on the sea, who was snatched up to the third heaven, who entered paradise, who proclaimed Christ as God…’ [1]

[1] Behr, John (ed.), St John Chrysostom – On Wealth and Poverty, (New York, SVSP, 1981), p.120.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Saint Edmund, King and Martyr of East Anglia

The holy and right-believing King Edmund the Martyr was a king and martyr of East Anglia in the ninth century. He succeeded to the throne of East Anglia in 855 as a fourteen year old. He died a martyr’s death battling the “Great Heathen Army”, a large army of Vikings that pillaged and conquered much of England in the late ninth century. He was venerated early and became popular among the Anglo-Norman nobility. His feast day is November 20.
Edmund was born in 841. Early accounts and stories provide a cloud over who is his father. The sources considered the most reliable represent Edmund as descended from the preceding kings of East Anglia. When King Ethelweard died in 854, it was Edmund, while only fourteen years old, who succeeded to the throne.

Little is known of Edmund’s next fourteen years. His reign was said to be that of a model king. He was said to have treated all with equal justice and was unbending to flatterers. He was said to have spent a year at his residence at Hunstanton learning the Psalter which he was able to recite from memory.
The sources' description of his martyrdom vary. The Danes of the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia in 869 and were confronted by King Edmund and his army. While Edmund may have been killed in battle, popular traditions are that Edmund refused the heathen Danes’ demands that he renounce Christ or that he could hold his kingdom as a vassal under heathen overlords. Both stories date from soon after his death and it is not known which may be correct.
According to an early biographer, Abbo of Fleury, Edmund chose, in the manner of Christ, not to strike arms with the heathen Danes and was captured and taken to Hoxne in Suffolk. There he was beaten and then tied to a stout tree where he was again beaten. Hearing Edmund’s calls to Christ for courage, the Danes further attacked him, shooting many arrows into the bound king who showed no desire to renounce Christ. Finally, he was beheaded on November 20, 869.
Edmund’s body was interred at Beadoriceworth, the modern Bury St Edmunds. This place became a shrine of Edmund that greatly increased his fame. His popularity among the nobility of England grew and lasted. His banner became a symbol among the Anglo-Normans in their expeditions to Ireland and to Caerlaverock Castle. His crest was borne on a banner at the Battle of Agincourt. Churches and colleges throughout England have been named after St Edmund.
In recent years, moves were made in England to restore St Edmund as the patron saint of England. Edmund had been replaced by St George as the patron saint through King Edward III’s association of St George with the Order of the Garter. The attempt failed. However, St Edmund was named the patron saint of the County of Suffolk in 2006.[1]

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Christmas 2016 – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The newest Royal Mail First Day Cover collection is dedicated to the festive period, entitled ‘Christmas 2016.’ It is also an opportunity to celebrate 50 years of Christmas stamps. The idea of producing stamps with a Christmas theme has been suggested long before the Postmaster General, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, took steps to make them a reality. Through the Post Office, he organised a design competition for children aged up to 15, which attracted 5,000 entries.

The Christmas stamps have included Christian, and secular collections. The first fully secular Christmas stamps in 1968, showing children inscribed with the festive phrase ‘Happy Christmas.’ Since then, designs of a non-religious nature have featured Christmas decorations by leading stamp designer Jeffery Matthews, carol signing, robins, Christmas traditions, pantomime characters and some illustrated scenes by Quentin Blake from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Over the last 25 years, some of the world’s best artists and designers have continued to capture the very essence of Christmas with an array of memorable designs.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Constantinople Lecture 2016 – Fr Andrew Louth ‘Easter, Calendar, and Cosmos: an Orthodox view.’

On Thursday 17th November 2016 the annual Constantinople Lecture, organised by the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, took place at Southwark Cathedral. This year’s lecture was given by Professor Andrew Louth. The evening began with evensong in the Cathedral. Firstly Fr William Taylor, Chairman of the AECA welcomed everyone for coming to this event and also thanked Bishop Christopher for hosting this event in the Cathedral. After this introduction I had the opportunity and honour to introduce Fr Andrew Louth. The Professor examined his topic giving a great exegesis of the issue of Calendar, explaining its importance for Christianity, whilst also identifying how other religions understand the issue of calendar. He also gave his views on the current issue of Easter, and whether it could change or not, or whether East and West could celebrate Easter on the same day. For those who are members of the AECA, the next issue of Koinonia[1] will have this year’s lecture published there. Following is the introduction I gave before the Fr Andrew Louth’s paper:  

‘Your Eminence, Bishop Christopher, Reverent clergy, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, I would like to welcome you all to this year’s Constantinople Lecture. This year we are glad to be hosted here at Southwark Cathedral and would like to offer our gratitude to the Bishop of Southwark and the Dean of Southwark Cathedral for hosting our event here at this beautiful place of worship.

Just before I invite our speaker for tonight, I will introduce him; and what an honour it is. It is interesting how I am introducing him, since I am in a way his academic grandchild, given that he was my supervisor’s supervisor. Therefore, we do have an academic connection. Also we work together in many groups including the Orthodox Theological Research Forum (also known as OTRF, which is a pan-Orthodox forum in which work by Orthodox Christian scholars in the various fields of theological studies is presented and discussed within the context of the ongoing tradition and contemporary theological education), the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies (which is an Educational Institution in Cambridge on Orthodox Studies, being a member of the Cambridge Theological Federation and has close ties with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity) and the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius (an Ecumenical body with similar goals as the ones expressed by the AECA) where Fr Andrew is the Editor of its journal Sobornost since 2005.

Fr Andrew Louth is Professor Emeritus of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham University, and was Visiting Professor of Eastern Orthodox Theology at the Amsterdam Centre of Eastern Orthodox Theology (ACEOT), from 2010 to 2014. He is an archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sourozh (Moscow Patriarchate), serving the parish of St Cuthbert and St Bede Orthodox Church in Durham. Educated at the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, he has taught at the universities of Oxford, and London Goldsmith’s College, and finally Durham, retiring in 2010, in which year he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

His research interests lie mostly in the history of theology in the Greek tradition, specifically the period of the Byzantine Empire (up to 1453), but also later, especially in the modern period (nineteenth century onwards), where his research interests also include Russian and Romanian (Orthodox) theology. This interest also embraces the philosophical traditions (often called 'Neoplatonic') of the Byzantine period.

He is the author of several books, including The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys (1981; revised in 2007) Discovering the Mystery (1983), Denys the Areopagite (1989), Maximus the Confessor (1996), St John Damascene: Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology (2002), Greek East and Latin West: The Church AD 681 – 1071 (2007), Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology (2013) and Modern Orthodox Thinkers From the Philokalia to the present (2015).

Fr Andrew Louth is undoubtedly one of the most significant patristic scholars and Orthodox theologians of the 20th and 21st centuries.  It’s fair to say that if you have not yet read his books, then you have not read Orthodox theology. He is one of the greatest voices of Orthodoxy in the West, contributing greatly to the discipline of theology. 

Today our speaker will give a paper on ‘Easter, Calendar, and Cosmos: an Orthodox view.’ Easter and the dating of this Christian celebration is an important topic, which is crucial for both East and West. I am sure that today’s talk will be eye opening to us all. And now I would like to invite our speaker, Fr Andrew Louth. Thank you.’

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Silk Road Evening @ the Royal Geographical Society

A Silk Road Evening is being organised by the Royal Geographical Society (1 Kensington Gore, Kensington, London, SW7 2AR) on November 24th 2016, 6.30 pm. The speaker for the event is Fr William Taylor, who is also the Chairman of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association.

Dr Revd William Taylor, in association with Pro Art, presents Monks & Monasteries of the Silk Road. This is an account of his journey overland from Istanbul to Xian China, staying in Monasteries along the route. The presentation also explores the significant contribution of Monastic communities to the development of trade and culture along the Silk Roads, and pre-figures his publication of Monks & Monasteries of the Silk Road

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Talk: “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment – The Case of Cyprus”

The Cyprus High Commission-Cultural Section and the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London cordially invite you to a public lecture entitled

“Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment – The Case of Cyprus”
Prof. Mary Koutselini (Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Department of Education, University of Cyprus; UNESCO Chair Holder for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment and President of the Cyprus Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education)
Held under the auspices of the High Commissioner for the Republic of Cyprus Euripides L. Evriviades
Monday, 5 December 2016, Anatomy Lecture Theatre, 6th Floor, King's Building,
King's College London, WC2R 2LS at 6:30 p.m.
A reception will follow
Attendance is free but registration is required by following the link

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fasting that Pleases God

Now we are entering the fasting period before Christmas, before the Birth of the Son of God, considered as the Queen of all Celebrations. This fasting period lasts for 40 days. Fasting is always a current theme within the Christian world. It was even one of the topics examined and verified in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016). Additionally, fasting has existed since the beginning. We find it in Genesis and the Garden of Eden. We also find the notion of fasting in many books in both the Old and New Testaments. Below we have the issue of fasting, which pleases God, as explained by Isaiah (58:1-12):

58 “Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your labourers.
4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
5 Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord?
6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,

The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Saint Dyfrig, Archbishop of Caerleon, Wales

Saint Dubricius (also known as Dubritius, Dubric, Dyfig, Dyfrig, Devereux) was born at Moccas (Moch Rhos = Pig's Heath), near Hereford and died in 545 AD.  Some old genealogies show Dyfrig as the great-great-grandson of Macsen Wledig and Elen of the Ways.
Saint Dyfrig was a significant church leader, a monk, in southeast Wales and western Herefordshire. His earliest foundation was Ariconium (Archenfield, Hereford), but his most important centres were at Hentland (Henllan) and Moccas in the Wye valley. Dyfrig attracted numerous disciples to the two monasteries, and from them founded many other monasteries and churches.
He was associated with Saint Illtyd (f.d. November 6) and, according to the 7th-century "vita" of Saint Samson, with the island of Caldey for whose monastery he appointed Saint Samson abbot. Later he consecrated Samson bishop. An ancient, but incomplete, inscription at Caldey reads "Magl Dubr" ("the tonsured servant of Dubricius"). Dyfrig and Saint Deinol were the two prelates who convinced Saint David to attend the synod of Brefi. Dyfrig spent the last years of his life at Ynys Enlli (Bardsey) and died there.

In later medieval legends he becomes the 'archbishop of Caerleon' (Caerlon-on-Usk) and, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, crowns 'King' Arthur at Colchester (he is the high saint of "Idylls of a King"), and the ecclesiastical politics of the 12th century claimed him as founder of the Normans' see of Llandaff, where he was one of the four titular saints of the cathedral.  The later "vita" written by Benedict of Gloucester claims that Dyfrig was a disciple of Saint Germanus of Auxerre, but this is unlikely. Legend also states that Saint David resigned in his favour as metropolitan of Wales.
The relics of Saint Dyfrig were translated from Bardsey to Llandaff in 1120. He is the 'Dubric the high saint, Chief of the church in Britain' of Tennyson's "Coming of Arthur," and the place-name Saint Devereux in Herefordshire is a corruption of the saint's name.
Church dedications to him at Gwenddwr (Powys) and Porlock (Somerset) suggest that his disciples were active in the expansion of Christianity to the west and southwest, possibly in association with the multitudinous children Saint Brychan of Brecknock (Attwater, Benedictines, Doble, Delaney, Farmer). In art Saint Dubricius is depicted holding two crosiers and an archiepiscopal cross. He is venerated in Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, and Caldey Island (Roeder). St Dyfrig’s feast day is on the 14th November.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Peloponnesian Association Lunch - 20 November 2016

The Peloponnesian Association of Great Britain invites you to Andy's Greek Taverna (23 Pratt St, London, NW1 0BG) next Sunday 20th November 2016 at 15.00. This will be a great event for members and non-members of the Association to come and meet us all and meet new friends from the Peloponnese and other parts of the Greek world. Please RSVP @ or 02089327667. 
The price for the event will be £20.
See you all there!

Friday, November 11, 2016

The universality of human failure and sin

In John’s Gospel (8: 3-11) we read a passage, whereby Jesus Christ forgives the adulteress woman. There we read:
3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught[b] in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded[c] us that such should be stoned.[d] But what do You say?”[e] 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.[f]
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up[g] and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience,[h] went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,[i] “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?[j] Has no one condemned you?”11 She said, “No one, Lord.”And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and[k] sin no more.”

This is a very interesting passage for many reasons. It is the only incident where we read that Christ actually wrote something. Interestingly enough no one knows what He wrote. However, the significance of this story is to be seen in the exegesis given by Church Fathers and by theologians, who understand that sin is not to be understood on an individual level, but universally. Christos Yannaras expands on this, claiming:

‘. . . In every age, the religious conscience has been unable to accept that Christ should assure this woman, who has shown Him no external sign of repentance, that He did not condemn her. He is confronted with the clear commission of a sin, among the gravest in religious and social ethics – a sin which the Law of Moses punished with death. Yet He does not pronounce an indictment, but disarms and shames those who accuse the sinful woman by reminding them of the universality of human failure and sin. Instead of using conventional standards to measure the individual’s failure and fall, He points to the need in all men to turn to the grace of God: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”’ (Yannaras, Christos, The Freedom of Morality, p. 61).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Being Separated from God

Being close or separated from God is, unlike what many believe, down to us, our beliefs and actions. It is, of course, easy to blame God, or someone else for our weaknesses, for our misfortunes or difficulties. We do not see that we have the power and ability to achieve greatness. This is not done independently from God, who does bless our works and lives. By praying to God we may achieve greatness. By our efforts we can come closer to Him. The ancient Greeks used to say συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει: Appeal to Athena by all means, but also move your arms.

In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah we learn that we are to blame for the distance between God and man and not Him. We read in Isaiah (59:1-3):

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Four Archangels

Walking into the small chapel of Agion Akindinon, in the city of Mytilene, on the island of Lesvos, located next to the largest Orthodox Church on the island (St Therapon), the visitor comes across a unique feature, i.e. the icons of four Archangels. There we see Archangels Michael, Raphael, Uriel and Gabriel. These angels are interestingly placed underneath the dome, showing that they are supporting the dome, i.e. the Heavens. This depiction symbolically emphasises the importance of the angels in the work of God towards creation, a reality also evident in Scripture and Tradition.

The Archangels are one of nine ranks, made up of three hierarchies with three ranks each. This reality was first explained by St Dionysius the Aeropagite, who was one of the Seventy Apostles, in his work On the Heavenly Hierarchy. The Archangels bring us good news, revealing prophecies, knowledge and understanding of God’s will. They strengthen our faith, reveal the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom and God’s wishes, whilst also enlightening our minds. St Paul refers to them, in 1 Thessalonians, where he states: For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (4:16).

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

St Cowey of Portaferry, Abbot of Moville

St. Cowey is a little-known monastic saint who lived near the tip of the Ards Peninsula in the late 7th and early 8th centuries AD. For many years he laboured there as a hermit, sending up his prayers to God during his long nightly vigils in the depths of the forest. Three holy wells are still to be found where he laboured, as well as an ancient church built amidst them, which looks eastward over the Irish Sea. Beside the church, an ancient cemetery completes the view that greets the pilgrim’s eye.

 St. Cowey’s holiness attracted many to his quiet, little hermitage. Tradition holds that he was made abbot of the great Moville Monastery further north on the peninsula in 731 AD, possibly shortly before he reposed around the middle of the 8th century. His memory has been kept and treasured by the local inhabitants of the nearby town of Portaferry for over twelve hundred years. He is commemorated on the 8th November.[1]

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Eucharist is Life as Communion

The Orthodox Church has always promoted the Eucharist at its centre of existence. The Church is where the Eucharist is. Metropolitan Kallistos in his talks always explains how we, the faithful, are Liturgical Beings (Ζώον Λειτουργικόν). The Eucharist is central because it promotes a life in communion, not only between us, the living faithful, and God but also between the faithful who comprise the Body of Christ. Christos Yannaras, in his book The Freedom of Morality gives a great explanation of how the Eucharist is life as communion, explaining:

‘The eucharist is life as communion – not an abstract life, but the precondition for earthly life which is food, that object of contention which tears life apart. Within the eucharist, partaking of daily nourishment is to partake in Christ’s sacrifice, to partake in that death of individual demands and claims which raises life up into the miracle of communion. The bread and wine of the eucharist are the body and blood of Christ, the reality of His theanthropic nature – a participation and communion in His mode of existence. It is the first-fruits or leaven of life, for the transfiguration of every facet, every activity in human life into an opportunity for communion and an event of communion. As people live the sacrificial ethos of the eucharist, it suffuses economics, politics, professional life, the family and the structures of public life in a mystical way – in acts with a dynamic indeterminacy beyond the reach of objective predetermination. And it transfigures them – it changes their existential presuppositions, and does not simply “improve” them.’ (pp. 217-8). 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Who is cursed and who is blessed?

A Christian’s life is distinguished from a non-Christian’s life in that the first have Christ at the centre of their life. A Christ-centred life is the objective of a Christian’s life in order to be blessed by God, to be in Communion with the Creator. This relationship evidently shows who is blessed and who cursed. In Jeremiah’s Book (17:5-8) we read what God has claimed about who is cursed and who is blessed:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.
 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

St. Gwenfrewy, alias St. Winifred

Gwenfrewy, more commonly called Winifred, was a descendant of the early Kings of Powys and the daughter of Tyfid, a great and rich man in North Wales: Lord of the townships of Abeluyc (Trefynnon alias Holywell), Maenwen & Gwenffynnon in Tegeingl. After being harassed by some young Princes of Powys, her uncle, St. Beuno, decided to move home with his family and offered to become Winifred's teacher in return for some land on which to build a church. Tyfid gave him Abeluyc and here, in the steep Valley of Sechnant, Beuno set up house. Daily, he instructed Winifred in the little church he had built and, eventually, gave her the religious veil, with the approval of her father and mother.
One day, Winifred's parents and their servants were all at church, Beuno was officiating, and Winifred was left alone in the house. While they were out, Caradog, son of Prince Alaog, Lord of Pennarlag (Hawarden alias Pennard Halawg) rode by and stopped at the house to ask for a drink. He was so overcome by Winifred's beauty, that he made improper suggestions and, when rejected, moved to force himself upon her. Winifred fled to join her family at Abeluyc. The young horseman easily overtook her, however, and, in a fit of rage, cut off her head on the steps of the church (22nd June).

Caradog stood with his sword in his hand, unable either to stir from the spot or to repent. At all the commotion, St. Beuno came rushing outside. Distraught, he cursed the young prince for his terrible crime, who immediately dropped down dead and was whisked away by devils. Beuno informed the assembled Christians that Winifred had vowed to die a martyr to her virginity and Christianity. Then he took up her head from the ground and set it back in its rightful place. From where it had fallen, there instantly sprang up a well of pure clear water. At the same time, he commanded the congregation to pray that Winifred might be restored to life and fulfil her vow; and, when they arose from praying, she arose with them. For the rest of her life she had a red mark round her throat where it had been sliced through.
By Beuno's advice, Winifred remained at that church, gathering around her eleven virgins of honest and holy conversation and instructing them in the Christian religion. Beuno himself travelled west, first to Ireland; but Winifred and her maidens worked him a chasuble or some pretty piece of needlework every year. They put it into their well and the stream always carried it safely to him.
After travelling, on a pilgrimage, to Rome, Winifred called together the 'Synod of Winifred,' attended by most of the holy men and women of Wales, Dumnonia and the North. Here it was agreed that her initiative of living a religious life in grouped safety was preferable to that of the hermitage; and, having been at Abeluyc for seven years, she decided to move on and help create such establishments elsewhere. She travelled to Bodfari, but the hermit, St. Diheufyr, was not interested in her new ideas. Similarly with St. Sadwrn at Henllan. It was not until she reached Gwytherin that she was welcomed by her mother's cousin, St. Eleri. Here, Winifred was presented to his mother, St. Tenoi, and together they established a double monastery in the village. Winifred eventually succeeded the latter as abbess there and, upon her death on 3rd November AD 660, she was buried in the monastic cemetery by her sponsor.
St. Winifred was a local Welsh saint of little importance until her relics were translated, in 1136, to a magnificent shrine in Shrewsbury Abbey; and her popular Life was written by Prior Robert of Shrewsbury only two years later. Her original tomb was retained at Gwytherin and St. Winifred's Well, still to be seen in the old town of Holywell in Flintshire, became - and remains - one of the most visited shrines in the whole of Wales. It is fed by a stream of singular brightness, unfortunately not the original, but from the same source. The temperature of the water never changes, summer or winter. It is so clear that the pebbles at the bottom are distinctly seen to be stained as though with blood. The copious supply is never affected by the longest drought or the heaviest rains and miraculous cures, apparently, continue to occur there. It is lined with fragrant moss, the Jungermannia oplevoides. The beautiful chapel which stands over it was built by the Countess of Richmond, mother of King Henry VIl, but is earlier in origin. St Winifred is commemorated on the 3rd November.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Relic of the Right Hand of St George in Britain

The Twelve Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Hertfordshire[1] was blessed with the arrival for a few days (last weekend of October) of the relic of the right hand of St George. This relic arrived to Britain from the Xenofontos Monastery (Mount Athos). 

The relic was accompanied by the Abbot of the Monastery Fr Alexios, together with a number of monks, Moses, Zosimas and Jeremiah. The relics were received by His Eminence Gregorios, Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain. Many services took place in honour of this visit, in order for the faithful to receive the blessings of St George.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

St Nikolaj Velimirovic’s Homily in St Paul’s Cathedral

Bishop St Nikolaj Velimirovic, from Serbia, was the first non-Anglican to preach from the pulpit in St Paul’s Cathedral, in the British capital. This was done at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Randall Davidson on June 28th 1916. The centenary of this event were celebrated in St Paul’s Cathedral with the visit of His Holiness Irinej, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci, Patriarch of Serbia, on 14th October 2016.[1]
We think it’s important to give here the homily of St Nikolaj Velimirovic at St Paul’s Cathedral, since this year we are commemorating the centenary of this important event, which shows the close ties and relations between the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Church. St Nikolaj’s preached the following:

‘  Gentlemen and friends,
I am coming from Serbia, from European “midnight”. There is no ray of light, not a single trace. All the light went from the ground to the sky and the sky is the only place where the light is coming from. Nevertheless, we that are weak in everything are strong in faith and hope that dawn will soon arrive. I am grateful to Lord Archbishop, Randall Cantuar, that allowed me, on this holy day, Vidovdan, year of Our Lord 1916, in this beautiful church of Saint Paul, to address his majesty, King George V and the most prominent Englishmen.
Gentlemen and friends! I spent the whole day yesterday looking at this magnificent temple, which is the pride of England and Christianity. I have seen that it has been built by using the most expensive material, brought from various parts of the empire, where the sun never sets. I have seen that it has been built from granite and marble, that the waves of the hundreds of seas and oceans rinsed them to the shore. It is also decorated with the gold and precious stones, which were brought from the most valuable mines in Europe and Asia. I have convinced myself that this temple is accounted for the one of the architectural wonders of the world for a reason.
However, my friends, I am coming from a little country in the Balkans, and there is a temple that is bigger, holier, and more beautiful and precious than this one. That temple is located in Serbian town of Niš and its name is the Skull Tower. That temple is built from the skulls that belong to my people. They have been standing there for five centuries, like a stout dam for Asian sea, on the Eastern European gate. And if all the skulls and bones were used to build the temple, that temple would be three-hundred meters tall, with identical width and length, and every Serb could have come in today, raise his arm and point at each one of them “This is the skull of my grand-father, my father, my brother my neighbour, my friend, my God-father, my best man”. For five centuries, Serbia has been defending Europe with it’s bones and skulls, so Europe could live peacefully.
We made the Turkish sabres blunt with our bones; we threw down the savage hordes that were rushing down like a mountain whirl wind towards the Europe. Not for a decade, nor for a century, but for all those centuries between Rafael and Shearer. During all those “white and red centuries”, while Europe was experiencing religious reformation, scientific revolution, political revolutions, work reformations, the reformation of the overall way of life, using words, we carried out our role with our lives. While Europe was heartily revising gods and people from the past, and while it was going through a purgatory both physically and spiritually, we, as patient slaves, were slaughtered by the European enemies, forbidding the entry into that same purgatory. In other words, while Europe was becoming Europe we know Today, we were its fence, the impenetrable wall, and the wild thorns around the gentle rose. On Vidovdan, year 1389, Serbian tsar Lazar came to Kosovo with his brave army, on the frontier of the Christian Europe, and in order to defend the Christian culture, he gave his life. At that time there were as many Serbs as Englishmen now. Today, there are ten time less Serbs than then.
Where are they? They died, protecting Europe. Now it’s Europe’s turn to pay back the debt.’