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Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy in Different Lands’ Category

Fr. Theodoros Zisis – the speaker in the below video – is Emeritus Professor of Patrology and former Chair of the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. At one time he was personally involved in the preparations for this Council, and thus brings first-hand knowledge and experience to his critical insight on the preparations and themes of the upcoming Council. It was originally uploaded in Greek a few months ago, and thus addresses the proposed themes that have since been agreed upon.

 

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We glorify God and celebrate the opening of a new Orthodox Church by our brothers and sisters in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can read all about it in the article below. May God, in His goodness, grant the same fortune to Newfoundland someday!

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‘We’re in awe’: New Orthodox church in Halifax opens doors at former Saint Matthias Anglican Church

Parishioners at Saint Antonios waited years for a more spacious place to worship

Fifteen years ago, Affaf El-Jakl remembers there was talk of building a new church to accommodate the growing congregation of Saint Antonios Orthodox Church.

And on Sunday, that hope finally became reality.

“We’re in awe,” El-Jakl, president of the parish council said Sunday morning, as hundreds of parishioners filed into the sanctuary, filling it to capacity until there was only standing room and the upper balcony left to sit.

“It’s not everyday a new church is built and opened.”

The crowd gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the new church with the first of what would be many Sunday masses to follow, sitting in pews that originally belonged to the building when it served as Saint Matthias Anglican Church.

The former church, located across the street from Saint Antonios’ original home on Windsor Street, was saved from demolition and renovated over the past four years to offer a more spacious and modern place for Orthodox worshippers to gather.

“We were sitting on top of each other, literally. Our Sunday school kids were squished 20 to a row,” El-Jakl recalled of their former church.

Mass starts on Sunday during the grand unveiling of Saint Antonios Orthodox Church in Halifax.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Mass starts on Sunday during the grand unveiling of Saint Antonios Orthodox Church in Halifax.

El-Jakl said in many ways, their new church preserves the history of Saint Matthias and acts an architectural hybrid of the Anglican and Orthodox faith traditions.

For example, the stained glass windows found along the side aisles of the sanctuary were preserved, along with the broken arches and some of the interior woodwork.

Meanwhile, the main altar was transformed to glow with the golden icons and decor from the Byzantine tradition seen in Orthodox churches worldwide.

Most striking of all was the dome above that illustrates a massive vision of the Virgin Mary, embolden in a red robe against a golden wall, with her arms outstretched to the congregation below.

“You feel when you’re sitting in the pews that she’s going to envelope you in her hug and embrace you. It feels so warm and beautiful,” El-Jakl said.

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Below is a beautiful story our priest in Thessaloniki read us every year after we cut the Vasilopita. (To read about the tradition of St. Basil’s bread see here, particularly ‘Origins’).
Happy (Secular) New Year! May we take every opportunity we can to start our spiritual life anew!
Blessed John
by Photios Kontoglou

The Nativity Feast having passed, St. Basil took his staff and traversed all of the towns, in order to see who would celebrate his Feast Day with purity of heart. He passed through regions of every sort and through villages of prominence, yet regardless of where he knocked, no door opened to him, since they took him for a beggar. And he would depart embittered, for, though he needed nothing from men, he felt how much pain the heart of every impecunious person must have endured at the insensitivity that these people showed him. One day, as he was leaving such a merciless village, he went by the graveyard, where he saw that the tombs were in ruins, the headstones broken and turned topsy-turvy, and how the newly dug graves had been turned up by jackals. Saint that he was, he heard the dead speaking and saying: “During the time that we were on the earth, we labored, we were heavy-burdened, leaving behind us children and grandchildren to light just a candle, to burn a little incense on our behalf; but we behold nothing, neither a Priest to read over our heads a memorial service nor kóllyva, as though we had left behind no one.” Thus, St. Basil was once again disquieted, and he said to himself, “These villagers give aid neither to the living nor to the deceased,” departing from the cemetery and setting out alone in the midst of the freezing snow.On the eve of the New Year, he came upon a certain hamlet, which was the poorest of the poor villages in all of Greece. The freezing wind howled through the scrub bush and the rocky cliffs, and not a living soul was to be found in the pitch-dark night! Then, he beheld in front of him a small knoll, below which there was secreted away a sheepfold. St. Basil went into the pen and, knocking on the door of the hut with his staff, called out: “Have mercy on me, a poor man, for the sake of your deceased relatives, for even Christ lived as a beggar on this earth.” Awakening, the dogs lunged at him.

But as they drew near him and sniffed him, they became gentle, wagged their tails, and lay down at his feet, whimpering imploringly and with joy. Thereupon, a shepherd, a young man of twenty-five or so, with a curly black beard, opened the door and stepped out: John Barbákos—a demure and rugged man, a sheepman. Before taking a good look at who was knocking, he had already said, “Enter, come inside. Good day, Happy New Year!”

Inside the hut, a lamp was suspended overhead from a cradle that was attached to two beams. Next to the hearth was their bedding, and John’s wife was sleeping. As soon as St. Basil went inside, John, seeing that the old man was a clergyman, took his hand and kissed it, saying, “Your blessing, Elder,” as though he had known him previously and as though he were his father. And the Saint said to him: “May you and all of your household be blessed, together with your sheep, and may the peace of God be upon you.” The wife then arose, and she, too, reverenced the Elder and kissed his hand, and he blessed her. St. Basil looked like a mendicant monk, with an old skoúphia, his rása worn and patched, and his tsaroúchia [a traditional leather slipper, usually adorned with a pompom at the end of the shoe] full of holes; as well, he had an old empty-looking satchel. John the blessed put wood on the fire. Straightway the hut began to glisten, as though seemingly a palace. The rafters seemed to be gilded with gold, while the hanging cheesecloth bags [filled with curing cheese] looked like vigil lamps, and the wooden containers, cheese presses, and all of the accessories used by John in making cheese became like silver, as though decorated by diamonds, as did all of the other humble things that John the blessed had in his hut. The wood burning in the hearth crackled and sang like the birds that sing in Paradise, giving off a fragrance wholly delightful. The couple placed St. Basil near the fire, where he sat, and the wife put down pillows on which he could rest. Then the Elder took the satchel from around his neck, placing it next to him, and removed his old ráson (outside cassock), remaining in his zostikó [inner cassock].

Together with his farmhand, John the blessed went out to milk the sheep and to place the newborn lambs in the lambing pen, and afterwards he separated the ewes that were ready to birth and confined them within the enclosure, while his helper put the other sheep out to graze. His flock was sparse and John was poor; yet, he was blessed. And he was possessed of great joy at all times, day and night, for he was a good man and he had a good wife. Anyone who happened to pass by their hut they cared for as though he were a brother. And it is thus that St. Basil found lodging in their home and settled in, as if it were his own, blessing it from top to bottom. On that night, he was awaited, in all of the cities and villages of the known world, by rulers, Hierarchs, and officials; but he went to none of these. Instead, he went to lodge in the hut of John the blessed.

So, John, after pasturing the sheep, came back in and said to the Saint, “Elder, I am greatly joyful. I wish to have you read to us the writings about St. Basil [i.e., the appointed hymns to the Saint]. I am an illiterate man, but I like all of the writings of our religion [once again, the hymns and services of the Church]. In fact, I have a small book from an Hagiorite Abbot [i.e., from Mt. Athos], and whenever someone who can read and write happens to pass by, I get him to read out of the booklet, since we have no Church near us.”

In the East, it was dimly dawning. St Basil rose and stood, facing eastward, making his Cross. He then bent down, took a booklet from his satchel, and said, “Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.” John the blessed went and stood behind him, and his wife, having nursed their baby, also went to stand near him, with her arms crossed [over her chest]. St. Basil then said the hymn, “God is the Lord…” and the Apolytikion of the Feast of the Circumcision, “Without change, Thou hast assumed human form,” omitting his own Apolytikion, which states, “Thy sound is gone forth unto all the earth.” His voice was sweet and humble, and John and his wife felt great contrition, even though they did not understand all of the words. St. Basil now said the whole of Matins and the Canon of the Feast, “Come, O ye peoples, and let us chant a song unto Christ God,” without reciting his own canon, which goes, “O Basil, we would that thy voice were present….” Thereafter, he said aloud the entire Liturgy, pronounced the dismissal, and blessed the household. As they sat at the table, having eaten and finished their food, the wife brought the Vasilopeta [a sweet bread or cake baked in honor of St. Basil on the New Year] and placed it on the serving table. Then St. Basil took a knife and with it traced the sign of the Cross on the Vasilopeta, saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He cut a first piece, saying, “for Christ,” a second, afterwards, saying, “for the Panagia,” and then “for the master of the house, John the blessed.” John exclaimed, “Elder, you forgot St. Basil!” The Saint replied, “Yes, indeed,” and thus said, “And for the servant of God, Basil.” After this, he resumed: “…and for the master of the house,” “for the mistress of the house,” “for the child,” “for the farmhand,” “for the animals,” and “for the poor.” Thereupon, John the blessed said, “Elder, why did you not cut a piece for your reverendship?” And the Saint said, “But I did, O blessed one!” But John, this blissful man, did not understand.

Afterwards, St. Basil stood up and said the prayer, “O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under the roof of the house of my soul.” John the Blessed then said: “I wonder if you can tell me, Elder, since you know many things, to what palaces St. Basil went this evening? And the rulers and monarchs—what sins do they have? We poor people are sinners, since our poverty leads us into sin.” St. Basil said the same prayer, again—with tears—though changing it: “O Lord my God, I have seen that Thy servant John the simple is worthy and that it is meet that Thou shouldest enter into his shelter. He is a babe, and it is to babes that Thy Mysteries are revealed.” And again John the blissful, John the blessed, understood nothing….

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By the grace of God, and through the prayers of many holy souls, our simple life in St. John’s, Newfoundland is progressing. Just after Fr. John and I returned from a pilgrimage to a monastery in September significant changes began to occur. First, we moved out of our one bedroom apartment and into a house (with a yard and a deck and a front porch!) and second, I got a permanent, full-time job. So, it looks as though God wills for us to continue our feeble attempts to firmly establish Orthodoxy on this island.

The best part about our new home is that the downstairs is a walk-out basement with an external exit/ entrance and so we are finally able to have a chapel in our home (I had already painted the icons for our future home-chapel while living in Greece). Thus, instead of bothering Queen’s College (where our Mission Station is) and trying to get them to change their schedule to suit us, we do all weekday services in the domestic chapel with weekend services taking place, as always, on campus at the College. The very first service we had in our domestic chapel was for the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God – very appropriate. She has been protecting and guiding our community and we hope and pray she continues to do so. While many icons adorn the walls – as you can see from the photos – an iconostasis has yet to be built/ installed.

iconsBecause the domestic is named in honour of St. Nektarios we held Great Vespers for his feast day and had a get-together upstairs in our home afterwards. The photos that are included in this post are mostly of that evening.

In addition to serving Matins and Vespers daily, Fr. John offers ‘Adult Sunday School’ the first Sunday of every month. This year’s theme is the Divine Liturgy. I love hearing Fr. John’s lesson as well as the great questions/ discussions that are generated as a result.

On the second and fourth Sunday of the month I teach Sunday School to the children. This year we are focusing on The Life and Person of Jesus Christ. The children (ages 4-10) are so brilliant and so attentive that if you were to ask them whether we believe in One God or three Gods they would tell you we believe in One God and Three Persons. They know that Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect Man, and that when we cross ourselves the three fingers we hold together represent the Holy Trinity and the two fingers we keep together represent the two natures of Christ.

In order to instill in the children the firm understanding that knowledge of God is not attained through study and reading but rather through lived experience of Him, drawing closer to Him in prayer, we begin and end each class with the Jesus Prayer. I made small, 12-knot (finger) prayer ropes for the children and each child takes a turn saying the Jesus Prayer on their little prayer ropes. It’s so beautiful and so moving to hear them pray aloud. They have no inhibitions, no embarrassment, from the moment they begin to say, “Lord Jesus Christ…” they pray with such attention and their voices sound so sincere that you are moved and you say to yourself: “This is why Christ said ‘Unless you become as this little child'” because they pray with a kind of innocent purity that is so far removed from the hardened hearts of most of us adults…

And as the parish’s Sunday School teacher I was very pleased to hear that when Fr. John went downstairs to check on the children who were playing in the sitting area around the corner from our domestic chapel he heard the 9 and 10 year old boys debating whether everything that happens in the world is the will of God, haha!

Although with everything there is temptation we try and take courage, fight despondency, and cling to the hope that someday there will be a beautiful Orthodox church, built in a traditional style, full of faithful… and by full I am not referring to quantity but quality: replete with struggling Orthodox Christians. Amen. So be it!

“The Lord God make steadfast the holy and blameless Faith of the pious and Orthodox Christians, with His holy Church and this island, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

Please continue to pray for us, the Holy Lady of Vladimir Orthodox Mission!

(And if you’re interested in Orthodox adventures in Newfoundland you won’t want to miss out on Martin’s adventures in the awesome novel Voyage to the Rock!)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAncient Faith Radio has uploaded recordings from the Orthodox Young Professionals Retreat held in Santa Fe, NM in October.

While only three of the four talks were recorded, they have also shared the recording of the panel discussion that featured all four speakers.

To the left is a photo of Archimandrite Gerasim; he was the Keynote speaker and I was delighted to meet him and hear him speak. You can hear his talk, entitled “Now You Are the Body of Christ and Members in Particular” here.

You can find Ashley-Veronika’s talk entitled “How Our Ancient Tradition Speaks to Modern Ecology” here.

I’m sorry to say that Joshua’s talk was not recorded. It was fabulous, but you’ll just have to take my word it.

Below is a photo of all the speakers during the panel discussion. You can hear this discussion here.

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If you wish you can hear my talk “Work as Prayer: Uniting our Divided Selves” here. Hearing the recordings I am reminded of why people tell me to slow down when I speak. However, in defense of ‘speaking quickly’ I will share the following: :)

“I have heard criticism against Fr. Daniel [Sysoev] that he hurries, talks too fast, and people can’t keep up. But he was in a hurry to pour the source of living waters out upon people, to make all of us partakers of Divine truth, to lead us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. For me, Fr. Daniel’s trait of “speaking quickly” was a great plus, because I myself was in a hurry to know everything.” (Source)

OYP

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This is the Holy Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Panorama). Elder Symeon was their spiritual father.

This is the Holy Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Panorama). Elder Symeon was their spiritual father.

Elder Simeon Kragiopoulos passed away at 6:00 a.m. on September 30, 2015. He was the Abbot of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Panorama, Thessaloniki and known throughout as a true elder and teacher. I had the opportunity to hear him speak once, after years of keeping silent on account of his failing health, he gave a homily in the summer of 2012. I was blessed to be in attendance. (Actually the above photo was taken that very day).

Here is just one of the many spiritual gems he has offered us through his wise teachings:

(Source) Spiritual work happens secretly in the heart. Externally, let everything else threaten us. Like the sea: The wind blows, waves rise. But deep down it’s all quiet, peaceful, serene.

This is how a man who trusts in God lives. There might be a wild rage out there, but deep down nothing hinders the soul from having a mystical communion with God, a mystical love for God. Quietly and mystically, in a special way that the heart perceives, the Lord is whispering: “Don’t be afraid.  I am here. Keep walking this path. Keep loving me, keep believing in me, keep following me”.

It’s not enough to suffer myriad things in life. When, though, you believe in God and accept all these –whatever it is that happens to you- gladly, for the love of God, God will make a saint out of you.

To read more of Elder Symeon’s God-inspired words check out this link.

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