Pilgrimage to Evia

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Synaxis of All Saints of Euboea (Evia)

Blessed New Year 2019! May He who is the Alpha and Omega Christ our True God grant us every strength and all virtues necessary for our salvation in this year of His grace 2019. May we honour our calling and chosen way as Christians. Soon, I will start uploading lots of stories and photographs from a recent pilgrimage to Euboia.


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St. Iakovos Tsalikis and St. David of Evia

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A Christmas letter

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My dear sister K.,

I have been thinking of you and wishing you patience and joy in your time away from us. After a difficult time, in as much as it was manic and full of varied temptations, I feel peace is about to descend. On a worldly front, I am sitting in my house alone, having finished my last day of work. Just finished reading the Gospels and will now listen to Christmas Carols. Bliss! So peaceful and such a contrast to my daily noise. The rest of the family have gone to L. on a family visit and are staying overnight. I feel sleep would be a waste. I want to enjoy the peace awake and alert. It was such a blessed idea to read the Gospels. I feel my whole being has never been so awake to the Word. There is still a very long way to go for me, but I feel with every reading it’s like another thin veil is lifted from my brain and my heart so I can be a little step closer to the Word of the Lord. 
I hope you and the family are well and I wish you a very blessed Feast of the Nativity, filled with love and joy! Looking forward to our reunion in flesh and prayer and to our next endeavour in Christ.
Lots of love,
A.

Monastery of St. Savas the New of Kalymnos

I discovered Saint Savas and his monastery during my recent pilgrimage to Kalymnos. It is an awe-inspiring place , a place one step below heaven. Iconography beyond aesthetic, historical and religious value and the Saint is so alive! The patron saint of the island, Agios Savvas, has performed miracles and has blessed homes all over the world.

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Inside his cell

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For two episodes from his life and his special relationship with Saint Nektarios, go to my previous blog post, Holy Father Savvas the New of Kalymnos 

 

 

My cave

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— “Elder, I want to flee to the mountains, far away from the world, and find a cave to hide so that neither I tire anybody nor I get worn out”.

— “Try, my dear child, to enter Jesus’ cave, and once inside there, everything will be put right.”

St Amphilochios of Patmos (Makris)

* This recently canonised Saint awaited the little city hermit, ‘called’ him through his spiritual father and eventually ‘adopted’ him during his recent trip to Patmos. Glory to God for all things!!! “I think he would not have called you to visit him if it was not for this blessing” [Abouna].  Yet the Saint’s reassurance was sobering: “You should be glad. Jesus holds an artist’s chisel in His hands. He wants to prepare you a statue for the Heavenly Palace.” May St. Amphilochios teach the little city hermit to submit, like all the saints, to whatever God sends him, with childlike simplicity: “That’s the way You want it. Let Your will be done.”

 

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“Worldly people tire you, because whatever is stored up inside them comes at you like waves of electricity. We must be people of grace so much so that whoever comes to us may find rest.”

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-“How do you manage to have such patience and perseverance in everything?”

– “The grace of God helps. I always believe in the power of God, my child, Who alters and adjusts everything for the benefit of our soul.”

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“When I see a person who is irritated, I don’t listen to what he is saying, but pray for God to pacify him. That’s why I don’t get distressed. When they calm down, when the time is right, I talk to them because they are then in a position to comprehend their foolishness.”

These Eyes


+ Maria, Μαρία Χατζηθανάση- Σοφικίτη, mother of 10 children, aged between 22 years and 2 months old, a  midwife, ‘lost her life’, suddenly and unexpectedly, in a fatal car accident, on her way back home from her work. (What a beautiful face!!! Like the Ierosolymite Theotokos)
In a prophetic conversation with a priest, who prefers to stay anonymous, just 2 weeks ago, Maria had told him that she had asked her elder children what they would say to the younger ones if she got hit by a lorry and die: “Will you tell them that mom got killed or that mom went to Heaven?” . She also added that even if this happened, she would not worry about her 10 children, because our Heavenly Father would best protect and care for them.
Blessed Maria, when asked why they had 10 children, she said that initially they only had 5 in mind with her husband, but with every new child and all the blessings each child  brought to the family, they kept changing their mind and finally decided to have as many children as God would send them!
+Memory Eternal! +21 June. Our prayers to her husband Spyridon and her 10 little angels, all in white in the funeral. All my friends from Greece are telling me that this was the most resurrectional funeral they have ever attended in their lives! 10,00 faithful chanting “Christ is Risen!” The funeral took place at St. Porphyrios’ the Kapsokalyvite church  of Milesi, in Oropos. +Christ is Risen!
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The Precious and Life-Saving Cross (Sts Isidoros, Likavittos). One miracle of many happening every day, captured and sent from a friend in Greece, Lagadas, northern Greece, Church of St Paraskeva. A paralytic, wheelchair-bound woman is getting to her feet after a blessing from a local priest and is walking! During the Holy Liturgy which was held to commemorate the blessing of the Holy Cross. Photographs depict the woman receiving a blessing from Father Dimitrios before she stands on her two feet.

For more photographs and videos which capture more miracles, please go to the Facebook page of the Orthodox City Hermit as I cannot upload them here. Miles of queues of the faithful for the last 7 days. For more photos, go here

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Sent from friends in Greece.

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Busy, nearly exhausted, still in the process of moving, unpacking, deep cleaning of my new flat and making preparations for my new job post. Wishing you all a Blessed Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul!

 

Musings from a Bright Week Pilgrimage (II)

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Paschal Holy Dances in Attica, Aegina and Euboia

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Bright Tuesday

Morning Holy Liturgy at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Olympus: I can literally feel the 179 Martyrs presence on me, as Father Jonathan had insisted that I carry them during this pilgrimage on their Feast Day[1]. Of course, the truth is the other way round: it is always the Saints who are carrying us. Archimandrite Theoklitos had offered a tiny fragment of the 179 Martyrs’ relics to our Holy Cross parish, which is displayed for veneration in the Holy Liturgy, and will later in the day return to ‘their own’ monastery to be ‘reunited’ with their brethren on their feast day.

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Holy Monastery of Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri, the Wonderworker and Newly-Revealed: A strange spectacle is awaiting us at the monastery gates: a leaping and dancing Resurrectional priest, a modern Saint Seraphim of Sarov figure, who greets all who enter the monastery with a kiss, and the words of the Paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!” He is literally leaping with joy and greeting all pilgrims in a ‘dance routine’!!!

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Pantokratoros Monastery in Ntaou Penteli: Vespers and a Holy Procession of the 179 Martyrs. During the Procession, Abbess Styliani’s face is lit and transfigured in ecstasy. Together with all the nuns, she too is dancing the Resurrection dance. She is also blessing all pilgrims with a large pectoral Cross.

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NOTES

[1]The 179 Holy Martyrs were massacred by pirates into the katholikon, on Pascha 1680, during the midnight service, after the final “Christ is Risen!” was joyfully chanted by the fathers following the Divine Liturgy. Similarly, Saints Raphael, Nikolaos and Eirini were tortured from Holy Thursday until Bright Tuesday when they were eventually martyred on April 9, 1463. St Efraim of Nea Makri was himself too martyred by the Turks on Tuesday May 5, 1426.

 

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Musings from a Bright Week Pilgrimage (I)

 

Musings from a Bright Week Pilgrimage (I)

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Gerondas Theoklitos, Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian

 

Paschal Holy Dances in Attica, Aegina and Euboia

Everybody in our mixed company on the bus was exhausted even before starting out! Doctors, reeling after long shifts, having barely slept for more than 3-4 hours in 3-4 days in a row; parents struggling with noisy, boisterous,excited young children; senior high-school and university students in distress, studying for their final exams … on the bus! … while all were desperately trying to get some sleep… But the most exhausted of us all was our accompanying priest, Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery, after a rigorous monastic Great Lent and Holy Week, on top of all his other duties. St Arsenios himself, as in all past pilgrimages, was at the front seat of the bus. His relics were reverently carried by all pilgrims at every stop of our pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was brief but packed and hectic, so let me simply offer a few Paschal, mostly ‘leaping/ dancing” vignettes which made the greatest impression to me.

 

But let me start with the beginning.This Bright [1]Week pilgrimage was appropriately the brightest I have ever participated in! It felt like the fulfilment of St. John’s of Damascus Mystical Pascha captured in his Paschal Canon! To be sure, any trip to Greece in springtime straight from a foggy, misty, rainy England is bound to feel full of light! Especially if to Athens and the islands!

 

Still, the Light which nearly blinded all of us during this Bright Week pilgrimage must have contained a tiny ray of Christ’s Light [2]! A palpable, tangible Transfiguration Light dancing in all pilgrims’ eyes, on the bus and in all the monasteries we visited. The atmosphere felt so light as if were all to collectively Ascend to Heavens. The sheer exuberance of “Christ is Risen” chanted 99 times every single day during Resurrection Day and All Bright Week made our hearts leap with joy! And our Lord’s greeting “Rejoice!” in all the 11 Resurrectional Matins (Eothina) Gospels reverberated in our hearts. And as we were soon to find out, we were about to meet lots of literally dancing and leaping holy men and women.

 

Morning Holy Liturgy at the Holy Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Mount Olympus (3) on Bright Tuesday

 

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That was another discovery of that week: how many Paschal verses indeed contain this image of “leaping”:

 

THE PASCHAL CANON

 

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David, the forefather of our divine Lord, leapt and dancedbefore the symbolical Ark of the Covenant.

 

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“When they who were held by the chains of hell beheld Thy boundless compassion, O Christ, they hastened to the Light with joyful feet, exalting the eternal Pascha.

 

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We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

 

THE PASCHAL STICHERA IN TONE FIVE

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and leap for joy, in that thou beholdest Christ the King like a bridegroom come forth from the grave.

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Everybody in our mixed company on the bus was exhausted even before starting out! Doctors, reeling after long shifts, having barely slept for more than 3-4 hours in 3-4 days in a row; parents struggling with noisy, boisterous,excited young children; senior high-school and university students in distress, studying for their final exams … on the bus! … while all were desperately trying to get some sleep… But the most exhausted of us all was our accompanying priest, Hieromonk Synesios, St. Arsenios Monastery, after a rigorous monastic Great Lent and Holy Week, on top of all his other duties. St Arsenios himself, as in all past pilgrimages, was at the front seat of the bus. His relics were reverently carried by all pilgrims at every stop of our pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was brief but packed and hectic, so let me simply offer a few Paschal, mostly “leaping/ dancing” vignettes which made the greatest impression to me:

 

To Be Continued …

 

Footnotes

 [1] Bright week begins with the Sunday of Pascha, and comes to a close on Bright Saturday, at Vespers. One may actually argue that Bright week comes to a close before the ninth hour (which precedes vespers), since the royal doors and deacons’ doors, which have been wide open all week, are closed. This is a sad and significant moment. Just like our forefathers Adam and Eve, we cannot remain in paradise in this life, because of our sins. Ours is a life of struggle against our passions, which hold us back from full realization of paradise in this life.
‘How many days are in Bright week?’ There are TWO correct answers! According to the sun’s rising and setting, Bright week is seven days, (Sunday through Saturday) but to the church, liturgically, it is one day – the “eighth day”.

[2]Cf. Lev Gillet’s notes on the theme of light in the Byzantine liturgical year: ‘Come, take light from the Light that has no evening, and glorify Christ, risen from the dead.’ On the Sunday Pascha, the celebrant stands at the royal doors of the iconostasion and holds a lighted candle in his hand. “Once more, the eastern Church represents the Christian mystery in terms of the mystery of light; this Light, whose birth was marked by the star of Bethlehem, has been shining among us with growing intensity; the darkness of Golgotha could not extinguish it. Now it reappears among us, and all the candles which the congregation hold in their hands, and that they now light, proclaim its triumph. In this way, the deeply spiritual meaning of Easter is indicated. The physical Resurrection of Jesus would be without value to us if the divine light did not shine at the same time among us, within us. We cannot worthily celebrate the Resurrection of Christ if, in our soul, the light brought by the Saviour has not completely overcome the darkness of our sins.”[The Uncreated Light] on Easter night triumphs over the darkness; at Pentecost it reaches its full zenith. Pentecost is the ‘midday flame’. (The Year of Grace of the Lord: A Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church, p177, p215 respectively)

[3]: For information and a documentary in Greek about our first stop, the beautiful Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Olympus, go herehere and here.