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0922monk-martyrs

Today we commemorate 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou of Mt Athos

(Source)

In July of 1274, the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII accepted a union with the Roman Church at Lyons, France. Faced with dangers from Charles of Anjou, the Ottoman Turks, and other enemies, the emperor found such an alliance with Rome expedient. The Union of Lyons required the Orthodox to recognize the authority of the Pope, the use of the Filioque in the Creed, and the use of azymes (unleavened bread) in the Liturgy. Patriarch Joseph was deposed because he would not agree to these conditions. The monastic clergy and many of the laity, both at home and in other Orthodox countries, vigorously opposed the Union, denouncing the emperor for his political schemes and for his betrayal of Orthodoxy.

On January 9, 1275 a Liturgy was celebrated in Constantinople in which the Pope was commemorated as “Gregory, the chief pontiff of the Apostolic Church, and Ecumenical Pope.” The emperor’s sister remarked, “It is better that my brother’s empire should perish, rather than the purity of the Orthodox Faith.” Recalling the infamous Crusade of 1204 when Latin crusaders sacked Constantinople, many of the people also preferred to submit to the infidels than to abandon the Orthodox Faith.

Twenty-six martyrs of Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos were among those who were persecuted by Emperor Michael VIII Paleologos (1261-1282) and Patriarch John Bekkos (1275-1282) because they would not obey the imperial command to recognize the Union of Lyons. They steadfastly kept the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, and fearlessly censured those who accepted Catholic doctrines.

When the authorities came to Mt. Athos to enforce the imperial policy, the monks of Zographou shut themselves up in their monastery. From the tower they reproached those in favor of the Union, calling them lawless men and heretics. The attackers set the monastery on fire and burned the twenty-six martyrs alive.

The names of the martyrs are: Igumen Thomas, the monks Barsanuphius, Cyril, Micah, Simon, Hilarion, James, Job, Cyprian, Sava, James, Martinian, Cosmas, Sergius, Menas, Joasaph, Joannicius, Paul, Anthony, Euthymius, Dometian, Parthenius, and four laymen who died with them.

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The above martyrs’ confession of the Orthodox faith is perhaps not dissimilar to the below confessors of our own time.

(Source)

The final versions of the texts of the Cretan Council are now available online at theolcom.ru, where you can see which hierarchs signed which documents, reports Orthodox Ethos.

Of particular interest is the controversial “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World” text, which, as is now known, thirty-three of the 162, or twenty percent, hierarchs present declined to sign, including five from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Notably, seventeen of the twenty-four Serbian hierarchs attending the council withheld their signatures, only seven signing. Given that a primate’s signature was said to express the consensus or majority of his Church, it raises the questions of what Patriarch Irenej intended by signing the document, and how it represents the conciliarity which was to be a touchstone of this council.

As the text deals with ecclesiology, that is, the theology of Christ’s very Body, it is inseparable from Christology, as all Orthodox theology is a seamless whole. In this light it remains a question how a text could be passed with such a large dissenting minority, or, in other words, how such differences in profession of faith could be tolerated and pass without comment or action.

Readers can find the English version of the texthere, and the Greek version here.

For convenience, Orthodox Ethos has listed those who did not sign the text below, in order of their appearance in the text:

From the Ecumenical Patriarchate:

1. Isaiah of Denver

2. Nicholas of Detroit

3. Amphilochios of Adrianopolis

4. Antonios of Hierapolis, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox in the USA

5. Gregory of Nyssa, Head of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox in the USA

It is interesting to note that four of the five dissenting hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate serve in America.—O.C.

From the Patriarchate of Alexandria

6. Jonah of Kampala

7. Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola

From the Patriarchate of Jerusalem

8. Benedict of Philadelphia

9. Theophylaktos of Jordan

From the Patriarchate of Serbia

10. Amphilochios of Montenegro and the Littoral

11. Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana

12. Vasilije of Sirmium

13. Lucian of Budim

14. Longin of Nova Gracanica

15. Irinej of Backa

16. Hrizostom of Zvornik and Tuzla

17. Justin of Zicha

18. Pahomije of Vranje

19. Jovan of Sumadija

20. Fotije of Dalmatia

21. Hrizostom of Bihac and Petrovac

22. Joanikije of Niksic and Budimlje

23. Milutin of Valjevo

24. David of Krusevac

25. Jovan of Slavonija

26. Ilarion of Timok

From the Church of Cyprus

27. Athanasios of Limassol

28. Neophytos of Morphou

29. Nicholas of Amathus

30. Epiphanios of Ledra

From the Church of Greece

31. Chrysostomos of Peristerion

32. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Aghios Vlasios

33. Anthimos of Alexandroupolis

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elder anthony

Elder Anthony

(March 9, 1795 – August 7, 1865)

Commemorated on August 7

    Responding to a letter from his older brother who was then at Sarov Monastery, the future Elder Anthony wrote: “One of the books you sent me greatly impressed me, and I want to follow a rule from it, which is: To hold the world in contempt and to seek the heavenly Kingdom as the highest wisdom. By stillness and silence, the pious soul is greatly strengthened and understands the mysteries of the Scripture. Thus, if anyone abandons the world, God, and His holy angels will visit him. I wish and desire to be as you are…”

Born Alexander Ivanovich Putilov, brother to Elder Moses, the future Elder Anthony, from his childhood was inclined towards monasticism. He was sick for most of his life. As a youth, he almost drowned, once he cracked his skull and his life was in danger ten times. Later in life, he would develop sores on his legs which were constantly painful and drained frequently; they would open up to the point of exposing the bone even.

Desiring to be like his brother, Alexander left to live with the Roslavl forest ascetics and placed himself under obedience to Moses. It was here that he learned the monastic life. When Elder Moses left to establish the Skete at Optina, Elder Anthony went with him. In 1825, at the age of thirty, the elder became the Abbot of the Optina Skete. It is said that there was no one more humble than Elder Anthony.  He would not give any orders without the blessing of his older brother. Under his guidance, the skete became a magnet drawing men of spiritual inclination.

Life at Optina was difficult for him. He did not have a cell attendant and therefore had to complete many tasks such as the cooking, gardening and baking himself. The flourishing of eldership in the Skete was due to these brother Elders, Moses and Anthony. They planted it there but also nourished it by bringing Elders Leonid and Macarius to live with them and supporting them in every way possible. Elder Macarius would say of Elder Anthony that “both in rank and in spirit [he is] wiser than myself.” Elder Anthony was known to be very tender and full of compassion.

With the growth of the Skete came many trials and temptations. Due to the sores on his legs, there were times when he was not even able to leave his cell; he, therefore, committed himself to more reading and prayer until he had the strength for work. The work of eldership in the skete was opposed by Bishop Nicholas of Kaluga that is why Bishop Nicholas appointed Elder Anthony to the Abbacy of the St. Nicholas of Maloyaroslavets monastery in 1835. The monks there lacked fervor and unity, and this was a great trial for Elder Anthony. He was the Abbot here for fourteen years and became so sick that many times he would give orders while lying down. In 1859 he came back to Optina.

Elder Moses reposed in 1862, and Elder Anthony remained in seclusion for a year afterward. If anyone mentioned his brother’s repose, he would begin to cry. His increasing infirmities left him bound to his cell where he devoted himself entirely to prayer.

In 1864, foreseeing his repose, he informed his spiritual children of the same in discrete ways. He began to struggle – to labor in prayer despite increasing pain and to attend the church services.  He had a sign hung up over his bed that read “Don’t waste time!” and would tell those that came to visit him, “Here I am at the beginning.”

On the last day of his life on earth, he received the blessing of Abbot Isaac and then reposed.

Sayings of Elder Anthony of Optina

 On Thoughts

Do not be confused because dark thoughts often trouble you, for dark thoughts, like autumn clouds, come one after another and darken everything. But then they pass, and the sky remains clear and pleasant. And so our thoughts wander, they wander around the wide world, but the mind remains planted in its place, and then it is quiet, and the soul becomes joyful. But our mind, from wandering here and there, becomes accustomed to the brief but often repeated Prayer of Jesus, which may God grant you the habit of saying, and then your days will be bright.

On Prayer

According to your wish, I am sending you a prayer rope for use in your cell. Pray fervently to the Lord God and your cold heart will be warmed by His sweetest name, for our God is fire. This cry destroys impure dreams and warms the heart for all His commandments. For this reason, the prayerful calling upon His sweetest name must be the breath of our soul, must be more frequent than the beating of our heart.

Learning and the Ascetic Life

Purify your heart and you will learn everything.

– Subdeacon Matthew Long

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 Bibliography

Kontzevitch, I.M. “The life of Hegumen Anthony, Founder of the Skete at Optina (+1821)” in Orthodox Life (March-April, 1990):3-7.

Makarios, Hieromonk of Simonos Petra, The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, trans. Christopher Hookway, vol. 1 (Chalkidike: Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady Ormylia, 1998).

Schaefer, Archimandrite George (trans.) Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina (Jordanville: Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, 2009).

Sederholm, Fr. Clement. Elder Anthony of Optina (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood: Platina, 1994)

Smolych, I.K., The Era of the Optina Elders on the official site of Optina Monastery at HTTP://www.optina.ru/041113/, accessed on Dec. 17, 2013 (in Russian).

St. Anthony of Optina: Short Life at http://www.optina.ru/starets/antoniy_life_short/, accessed on Dec. 17, 2013 (in Russian).

Optina’s Elders: “Instructor of Monks and Conversers with Angels” at http://www.roca.org/OA/97/97k.htm accessed on Dec. 17, 2013.

 

monks-vine3570_n-w560h373

Work with a Blessing!

Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina[1]

 “At that time…”  Thus begins the Gospel, my beloved brethren.  By means of these words we are called to think on that time when he to whom no one can compare – our Lord Jesus Christ – walked upon the face of the earth.

“At that time…”  Some hear this and say, ‘If only I had lived in Christ’s era!  If only I had seen him; if only I had heard him; if only I had partaken of the blessings he distributed!’  In the Church, however, we not only hear him, we not only see him with our spiritual eyes, but if we so desire we can even take hold of him and put him in our hearts by means of Holy Communion. On the diskos and in the chalice he is wholly present!

This same Christ loves work; he honours those who labour both on the land and at sea, and he has proven this with his whole life.  When it came time to choose his disciples and apostles, he did not go to Plato’s Academy, or to the great centers of Rome, Alexandra, or Babylon where the powerful lived.  Instead, he chose his ‘staff’ from the working class, from the fishermen of Galilee.  The Lord is the archetypal worker.  There is no one who loved workers more than our Lord Jesus Christ.  He was the archetypal worker.  He himself was a worker and all his disciples – Peter and Paul – were workers.

The first commandment given in Paradise was to work: ‘ἐργάζεσθαι’, ‘work’![2]  And this is not just a commandment of God, a universal law, for humanity.  Look around you!  The ant works.  Addressing the lazy person the Holy Scriptures say, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”[3]  Go to the ant and learn from its example.  It lifts a load two-three times its own weight and carries this to its nest so that it will have food for the winter.  The bee flies from flower to flower; birds travel miles upon miles, as do fish; rivers and streams run; the heavenly bodies are ceaselessly in motion.  Everything, from the very small up to the very large, cries out, ‘Work!’  Those who will not work represent dissonance, a bad note, in the harmony of divine creation.

Today’s gospel passage tells us, however, that it is not enough for one to work.  Something else is required.  The first time the fishermen of Gennesaret lowered their nets they didn’t bring up even a single scale, but the second time their nets came up full.  Why?  Because the second time Christ himself was together with them and blessed their labours!  Wherever Christ’s blessing is, there we will find a treasury of good things!  So work, but do so with God’s blessing.  People often strongly emphasize work, and they do well in so doing, but above work is God’s blessing.

Take the farmer as an example.  Let him have the best field; let him cultivate it with great care and wisdom; let him fertilize the soil with the best fertilizer.  If rain does not fall; if the sun does not shine; if the right breeze does not blow; if he does not have the blessing of heaven, then he will sow but not reap.  All of his labours will be wasted.

You must have God’s blessing.  If you do not have it, you will sow but not reap; you will build, but never live in what you have built; you will save up money, but never enjoy it. God’s blessing is a necessary condition of every success.  Work, but do so in obedience to God.  Just as Peter obeyed the Lord’s command, so ought we to do.

But what is God’s commandment with respect to work?  “Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God”[4]  Work like ants for six days – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – but on Sunday, rest!  Do you hear the bells ring in the parish?  Run to church!  Work stops!  Only necessary work which absolutely cannot cease may continue; this is permitted according to the spirit of the Gospel.  But all others – except for the elderly and the infirm – to church!

My brothers and sisters, we have work, but we must have God’s blessing.  A week has 168 hours.  During this time we ought to do all that is needed for our life.  God asks that we set aside but one hour to be in church, to pray and supplicate him.  So, from now on, let us not be absent from church, all worshiping the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

[1]               From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli:  Thessaloniki, 2011), 178-180. Translated by Fr John Palmer.

[2]               See Genesis 2:15, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to [ἐργάζεσθαι] dress it and to keep it.

[3]               Proverbs 6:6.

[4]               Deuteronomy 5:13-14.

IMG_8439I remember years ago, while living in Thessaloniki, my husband and I became acquainted with a couple; he was American, she was Greek. We met at church and were invited to lunch with them in their apartment. During the meal we were talking about how we each became Orthodox (including the Greek wife as she had gone through her own experience of repentance and a conscious embrace of the Orthodox faith she was raised in).

The American had been Orthodox for a number of years, whereas my husband and I were only a few years into being Orthodox. He told us, “Well, hopefully you’ll do better than I have, because it’s been 8 years and I have only gotten worse, spiritually.” I remember at the time thinking, He is mistaken; I’m sure he has spiritually progressed and is just exaggerating. Now, years later, I know from my own experience what it is like to start out full of zeal and love and fervor… only to suddenly wake up and feel as though the spiritual life and the presence of God is a far away dream:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost. (Canto I of Dante’s Inferno)

And yet, I have to fight despairing thoughts and remember all hope is not lost. To feel our weakness in an intimate way, to arise from sleep everyday and know that we must fight hard to acquire grace, this is not spiritual digression so much as it is God gently reminding us that we must rely on Him.

Just listen to what St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain says:

“You advance a little; then you forget your weakness, and Christ removes His Grace.  Deprived of divine Grace, you again see your weakness and begin to recover.  If you had said to me that as you advance you become better, then I would have been scared.  For I would have seen that you are prideful.  But now that you see yourself getting worse, I am glad.  For I see that you are well.  Do not fear.  The more one advances, the more he is able to detect his weaknesses and his imperfections.  And that is progress.”

Inhale deep breath. Exhale sigh of relief.

God is with us by his grace and love toward mankind, always now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

0503kievdormitionicon

Today is a wonderful feast day of the above beautiful icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos that was brought from Greece to Ukraine by architects appointed by the Mother of God herself to build a church at the Kiev Caves.

Now, I must say, if the Mother of God entrusts 3 years worth of gold to you, and asks you to build a church for the Orthodox faithful in Newfoundland, you will be most welcome here!🙂

0214greeks

(Source)

The Kiev Caves Icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is one of the most ancient icons in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Mother of God entrusted it to four Byzantine architects, who in 1073 brought the icon to Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. The architects arrived at the monks’ cave and asked, “Where do you want to build the church?” The saints answered, “Go, the Lord will point out the place.”

“How is it that you, who are about to die, have still not designated the place?” the architects wondered. “And they gave us much gold.”

Then the monks summoned all the brethren and they began to question the Greeks, saying, “Tell us the truth. Who sent you, and how did you end up here?”

The architects answered, “One day, when each of us was asleep in his own home, handsome youths came to us at sunrise, and said, ‘The Queen summons you to Blachernae.’ We all arrived at the same time and, questioning one another we learned that each of us had heard this command of the Queen, and that the youths had come to each of us. Finally, we beheld the Queen of Heaven with a multitude of warriors. We bowed down to Her, and She said, ‘I want to build Myself a Church in Rus, at Kiev, and so I ask you to do this. Take enough gold for three years.’”

“We bowed down and asked, ‘Lady Queen! You are sending us to a foreign land. To whom are we sent?’ She answered, ‘I send you to the monks Anthony and Theodosius.’”

“We wondered, ‘Why then, Lady, do You give us gold for three years? Tell us that which concerns us, what we shall eat and what we shall drink, and tell us also what You know about it.’”

“The Queen replied, ‘Anthony will merely give the blessing, then depart from this world to eternal repose. The other one, Theodosius, will follow him after two years. Therefore, take enough gold. Moreover, no one can do what I shall do to honor you. I shall give you what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, and what has not entered into the heart of man (1 Cor.2:9). I, Myself, shall come to look upon the church and I shall dwell within it.’”

“She also gave us relics of the holy martyrs Menignus, Polyeuctus, Leontius, Acacius, Arethas, James, and Theodore, saying, ‘Place these within the foundation.’ We took more than enough gold, and She said, ‘Come out and see the resplendant church.’ We went out and saw a church in the air. Coming inside again, we bowed down and said, ‘Lady Queen, what will be the name of the church?’”

“She answered, ‘I wish to call it by My own name.’ We did not dare to ask what Her name was, but She said again, ‘It will be the church of the Mother of God.’ After giving us this icon, She said, ‘This will be placed within.’ We bowed down to Her and went to our own homes, taking with us the icon we received from the hands of the Queen.”

Having heard this account, everyone glorified God, and St Anthony said, “My children, we never left this place. Those handsome youths summoning you were holy angels, and the Queen in Blachernae was the Most Holy Theotokos. As for those who appeared to be us, and the gold they gave you, the Lord only knows how He deigned to do this with His servants. Blessed be your arrival! You are in good company: the venerable icon of the Lady.” For three days St Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the place for the church.

After the first night there was a dew throughout all the land, but it was dry on the holy spot. On the second morning throughout all the land it was dry, but on the holy spot it was wet with dew. On the third morning, they prayed and blessed the place, and measured the width and length of the church with a golden sash. (This sash had been brought long ago by the Varangian Shimon, who had a vision about the building of a church.) A bolt of lightning, falling from heaven by the prayer of St Anthony, indicated that this spot was pleasing to God. So the foundation of the church was laid.

0817kievcavesicon

 

 

Meetings Focused on the Church of Georgia’s Response to the Synod in Crete

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(Seated: (L-R): Archpriest Theodore Zisis, His Beatitude, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, Demetrios Tselengidis, Hieromonk Miqaeli Bregvadze, Monk Seraphim (Zisis); Standing: (L-R): Hierodeacon Peter, Archpriest Symeon, Protopresbyter Peter Heers, Protopresbyter Matthew Vulcanescu, Metropolitan of Zugdidi and Tsaishi, Gerasimos (Sharashenidze), Metropolitan of Alaverdi, David (Makharadze), Archbishop of Stepantsminda and Khevi, Iegudiel (Tabatadze), Metropolitan of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti, Theodore (Chuadze), Protopresbyter Anastasios Gotsopoulos, Archpriest Bessarion.

(Source)

FROM July 25th through July 28th an ecclesiastical delegation of clergy from the Church of Greece were visitors to and the guests of the Patriarchate of the Georgia and His Beatitude the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II. The delegation consisted of Archpriest and Professor Emeritus of Patrology of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, Fr. Theodore Zisis, Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the Department of Theology of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, Demetrios Tselengidis, Protopresbyter and Rector of the Parish of St. Nicholas of the Diocese of Patra, Fr. Anastasios Gotsopoulos, Protopresbyter and Rector of the Parish of the Prophet Elias, Petrokerasa, in the Diocese of Ierissou and Agion Oros, Fr. Peter Heers, and Protopresbyter and Rector of the Parish of All-Holy Directress, Bokos Hill, in the Diocese of Peiraeus, Fr. Matthew Vulcanescu.

In a series of meetings with hierarchs of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia responsible for inter-Orthodox affairs, as well as with the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, His Beatitude Ilia II, who graciously received and honored his guests at his summer residence, the delegation was warmly received in a spirit of brotherly love and sincere cooperation and shown exceptional hospitality over their 5 day stay. The purpose of delegation’s visit was twofold: on the one hand to express – on behalf of all faithful Orthodox Christians in Greece – their heartfelt gratitude to the Patriarch, Hierarchy and Faithful of the Venerable and Martyric Church of Georgia for their confession of the Orthodox Faith over and against the rise – in council – of syncretistic ecumenism, and, on other hand, to consult and discuss in person with His Beatitude and Hierarchs the proper response to the unorthodox “Council of Crete.”

In particular, the Georgian Church’s faithfulness to Orthodox ecclesiology, as evidenced in the now twenty-year old decision to depart and remain apart from the syncretistic-ecumenist, Protestant-dominated body, the so-called “World Council of Churches,” was praised and held up as a model for all Orthodox Churches. This faithfulness was, moreover, most evident in the stance the Church has maintained via-a-vis the texts and organization of the mis-labeled “Great and Holy Council,” an episcopal conference of a small portion of bishops representing less than half of the Orthodox faithful, which was held this past June in Crete.

The discussions centered on the problems created by the innovative and unorthodox “Council in Crete” and the necessary response to it based upon the dogmas and canons of the Church and Orthodox ecclesiology. The need for a clear rejection of both the methodology and organization of the Council, as well as the innovative and unorthodox texts adopted at the Council, and for a new, Orthodox Council to be called in response, was stressed by the Greek delegation. The Patriarch welcomed his guests and praised their love and devotion to the Church and Faith, assuring them that “there are not many churches, but only one Church, the Orthodox Church,” and that he and the Holy Synod will “work for the unity of all of the Orthodox,” which can only be assured on the basis of the faith once delivered. The representatives of the Church of Georgia to the pan-Orthodox conferences, Metropolitans Gerasimos of Zugdidi and Theodoros of Akhaltsikhe, also, for their part, stressed their Church’s commitment to their pre-conciliar rejection of the unorthodox texts “The Sacrament of Marriage and Its Impediments” and “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” Furthermore, the Patriarch and Metroplitans also stated that the documents of the Council will be translated into Georgian and examined and an official response will be issued after the general meeting of the Hierarchy in October.

In general, both the guests and the hosts found common ground and oneness of mind on all matters of faith with respect to the Dogma of the Church and Her boundaries and the need to continue unwavering in the Orthodox Confession of Faith in the face of the spread of syncretistic ecumenism. They pledged to continue cooperation in this regard in the immediate future.

In addition to the above mentioned meetings and discussions, the gracious hospitality for which the Georgian people are so well-known was extended to the visiting clergy with a full program of visits to historic pilgrimage sites of the venerable Church of Georgia.

georgia hospitality