A Day to the Prince Islands (II)

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The Monastery of St. George Koudounas

This historic Monastery of Saint George Koudounas, on Prince’s Island outside of Constantinople, was according to tradition built by the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Phokas in 963 AD. A miraculous icon of St. George was brought here from the Monastery of Peace, which was founded by Emperor Justin II, in Athens at that time.

The Monastery was later sacked in the Fourth Crusade. Then in 1302 the pirate Giustiniani plundered all the buildings and monasteries of the island. Not wanting their holy icon stolen by the Franks, the monks hid the icon under the earth and place the holy altar above it. The miraculous icon however was lost for many years.

Later, St. George appeared to a shepherd in a dream and told him where to find his icon. When he approached the area, he heard the ringing of bells, and having unearthed the icon, found it decorated with bells. This is the source behind the epithet “Koudouna” which means “bells”. The Monastery was later attached to Hagia Lavra in Kalavryta, and eventually to the Patriarch of Constantinople. The current church was built in 1905.

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The miracles of the Saint are many, not only towards Christians [Romans], who approached always with great reverence (in olden times there wasn’t a Christian family which had not visited Koudouna at least once a year), but towards everyone without exception, who approach his grace with faith. Thus there is a great mass of people who come from other faiths from throughout Turkey. The pilgrims number about 250,000 a year, the majority being Turks. The great iron gate of the Monastery, as we learn from its engraving in Greek and Turkish, was offered from the Muslim Rasoul Efenti, as a gift of gratitude towards the Saint for the healing of his wife.

On April 23rd, in other words the day when the Saint is honored and the Monastery celebrates, tens of thousands of pilgrims arrive, not only from Constantinople but from other cities, to venerate the Great Martyr and to seek help in their problems. Roughly all of these pilgrims are from other faiths. Many will return later to thank St. George, who heard their prayer and granted their desire, bringing the indispensable oil for his vigil lamp. You hear with passion how he healed this person’s son, how another became a mother after being barren for many years, how a third acquired a house, etc.

The Monastery also celebrates on the feast of Saint Thekla, and on this feast about 10,000 Muslims visit the Monastery seeking the prayer of Saint George.

(For the full history of this Monastery with many pictures, visit this site.)

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Muslim Vows
Some come barefoot up the hill which takes about 30 minutes to climb to the Monastery, others come with offerings of oil, candles, and sugar so that their lives may be sweet. Some do not speak as they climb up to the Monastery until they kiss the icon of St. George. They follow the services with hands lifted in the air holding lit candles. They ask priests for antidron to bring home with them for a blessing. They have great faith and respect for Orthodoxy.
On September 24 I witnessed at 6:00 AM four modern looking Turkish girls approaching the Monastery. I asked them for what purpose they came. They responded: “Faith in the Saint brought us here. It doesn’t matter that we are Muslims. We prayed that he would help us. We have heard so much about the Monastery.”
Oral came from Smyrna in order to venerate the Saint with her vow. She brought three bottles of oil. When I asked why she, as a Muslim woman among the thousands, visit the Orthodox Monastery, she responded: “It is not forbidden by anyone for us to believe in Saint George. Religions have one common agreement, the one and only God. We could be hiding within us a christian.”
Of the many interviews I conducted that day with Muslims, the responses were basically the same.
A different answer was given by Antil however. He said: “Life in Turkey is difficult. The people need something to give them strength. They have turned to religion. They have been bored by everything so they seek help elsewhere. Why not Saint George?”
And one Turkish newspaper reported: “Saint George has distributed hope to the suffering.”
Testimonies of Monks From the Monastery
Hieromonk Ephraim of Xenophontos, who has lived for three years at “Koudouna”, is astonished with the faith of the thousands of Muslims who visit the monastery. “These people live with their heart”, he affirms, “Because faith is the sight and the strength of the heart, for this reason they can and they do experience our Saints.”
Monk Kallinikos of Xenophontos, who serves as a priest, relates: “We are astonished with that which occurs here. Many times we see people who find the Lord with the faith of the Roman centurion.” To our question if the Saint responds to the supplications of the thousands of pilgrims, he replied: “During my three years here, we ourselves are witnesses of miracles, such as the healing of paralytics, mutes, and the giving birth to children.”
We asked the monks at St. George to comment about their stay in Turkey, and they told us: “All of their behavior is perfect. From the highest ruler, to the lowest, they treat us with such respect that many times we wonder which would be better, to live in Christian Greece or Muslim Turkey. We should tell you that we go everywhere with the monastic dress and our experiences have always been positive.
Thus, St. George has become a place of worship for thousands of atheists, Christians, Jews, and especially Muslims, who with every means come to the island and bring their tamata (vows), and place them before the Saint, as they place their hopes in him. And the Saint shows that he does not judge and ‘imparts healing’ to every faithful person.”

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For more:

Eis Tin Polin (1) 

A Day to the Prince Islands (I)

 

 

 

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A Day to the Prince Islands (I)

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Morning transfer to the pier for a private ferry ride to the island of Halki, home of the renowned Halki Patriarchal School of Theology. Halki is one of the Prince Islands which owe their name to the fact that during the Byzantine period the imperial family and disgraced aristocrats were exiled in the monasteries on the islands.

Ιsland of Halki

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Halki Patriarchal School of Theology

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Eis Tin Polin (1) 

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St Photios the Great is believed to have founded the monastery in Halki in the late 19th century. In 1844, Patriarch Germanos IV established the Theological School for the purpose of pleasing God with a dwelling for teachers, theologians and theology students. The monastery houses a very impressive and important library.

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A carriage (fayton) took us to the top of the hill where the Theological School is situated, since motorized vehicles are forbidden on all the islands. A magnificent view awaited us there.

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Halki Patriarchal School of Theology

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Η Παναγία η Παυσολύπη
The Theotokos that Puts an End to our Sorrows

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Russia in Winter

 

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Sunny forest (photo by Sergei Malinin)

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Frost on Theophany (photo by Archbishop Maximilian (Lazarenko) / Expo.Pravoslavie.Ru)

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First snow on the Sherna river (a river in the Vladimir and Moscow regions). A view of the St. Nicholas Church (photo by Irina Beloturova)

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The Kantyube Mountain, Urals (photo by Alexei Klekovkin)

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The Church of St. Dimitry Prilutsky on Navolok, the city of Vologda
(photo by Archbishop Maximilian (Lazarenko) / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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(Photo by Archbishop Maximilian (Lazarenko) / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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Solovki Monastery (photo by Sergei Veretennikov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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St. Andrew’s Church (photo by Sergei Veretennikov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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(Photo by Sergei Veretennikov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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The bells ring joyfully in frosty weather (photo by Sergei Veretennikov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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(Photo by Sergei Veretennikov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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The first ray of light (photo by Sergei Veretennikov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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Theophany immersion (photo by Vladimir Khodakov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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Sunset (photo by Anatoly Zabolotsky / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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The Lavra (photo by Hierodeacon Gerasim (Pichugin) / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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A Nativity scene in Yakutia (photo by Marina Yurchenko / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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A Nativity scene in Yakutia (photo by Marina Yurchenko / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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Frosty haze (photo by Marina Yurchenko / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru)

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The Crimea in winter (photo by Daniel Korzhonov)

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The Crimea in winter (photo by Sergei Yershov)

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The Holy Trinity Church in Antarctica

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The last ray (photo by Daniel Korzhonov)

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Photo by Vladimir

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His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All the Russias photo by Vladimir Khodakov / Expo.Pravoslavie.ru

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Belaya Gora (White Mountain) and surroundings (a name of a mountain and village in the Perm region)

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Belogorsky St. Nicholas Monastery, Perm region (photo by Vadim Balakin / Severniye Zemli)

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Around Belaya Gora (photo by Vladimir Chuprikov)

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A winter landscape in Belaya Gora area (photo by Vladimir Chuprikov)

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Winter magic (photo by Vladimir)

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Svetlaya (Bright) Bay, sea of Okhotsk (photo by Alexei Gnezdilov)

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The Baptism of the Lord (photo by Vladimir Yeshtokin / Expo.Pravoslavie.Ru)

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A Russian village

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Winter sunrise above the Istra river, the Moscow region (photo by Andrei Ulyashev)

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Ice on Lake Baikal (photo by Daniel Korzhonov)

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Nighttime fairy tale (photo by Maxim Yevdokimov)

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A monk fees a winter bird (photo by Anatoly Zabolotsky / Expo.Pravoslavie.Ru)

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The sun illumines the trees covered in hoarfrost (photo by Vitaly from N-sk)

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Photo by Marateaman

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Friends (photo by Elena Shumilova)

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(Photo by Elena Shumilova)

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Kazakhstan, Lake Borovoye, the Goluboy Zaliv (Blue Bay) inlet (photo by Leonid Dyachenko)

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Frost and the sun (photo by Viktor Kornyushin / Expo.Pravoslavie.Ru)

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Winter sunrise (photo by Ilia Melnikov)

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Winter sleep (photo by Tatiana Smirnova)

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A lovely evening on Green Mountain, Sheregesh, the Kemerovo region
(photo by Valery Peshkov)

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Frost and the sun (photo by Marina Nikiforova)

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The ragged sky (photo by Marina Brydnya)

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The Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God in Red Square

 

Source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/foto/set1466.htm

Voronet Sistine Chapel

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Tucked in the small village of Voroneț, Romania, you can find the great Romanian Orthodox Voroneț Monastery, one of a string of “painted monasteries” in Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, built mostly in the 15th and 16th centuries. Voroneț Monastery specifically was built in 1488 over a period of 3 months and 3 weeks (!), and is dedicated to St. George. The monastery was abandoned around 1775 due to political instability, and a monastic community didn’t return until more than two hundred years later in 1991. The building is famous for its beautiful frescoes and icons, both inside and out, which is how it got its nickname as the “Sistine Chapel of the East.”

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The frescoes at Voroneț feature an intense shade of blue known in Romania as “Voroneț blue”. “The exterior walls — including a representation of the Last Judgment on the west wall — were painted in 1547 with a background of vivid cerulean blue. This blue is so vibrant that art historians refer to Voroneț blue the same way they do Titian red. Monastery of Voronet has been declared World Heritage by UNESCO.  Below are some great photos of the beautiful sacred building. Enjoy!

voronet-blue2Remus Pereni, Flickrglobetrotter_rodrigo, Flickrglobetrotter_rodrigo, FlickrJoergsam, Wikipediaglobetrotter_rodrigo, Flickrglobetrotter_rodrigo, FlickrAdam Jones Adam63, WikipediaIone.pomana, WikipediaGroundhopping Merseburg, FlickrSîmbotin, WikipediaGroundhopping Merseburg, Flickr

Watch “Monastery Voroneţ” documentary at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1buejr72eY

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Source: “The Sistine Chapel of the East”: Romania’s Beautiful Voroneț Monastery http://www.churchpop.com/2015/10/06/the-sistine-chapel-of-the-east-romanias-monastery/

 

St. Petersburg’s Jaw-Dropping Wonder

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You know the Sistine Chapel and the Notre Dame in Paris, but do you know the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood? Because it’s one of the most beautiful churches in the whole world. Located in St. Petersburg, Russia, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a Russian Orthodox church that was built in the late 19th century under the direction of the Russian imperial family. It is built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally injured in March of 1881. It is full of bright colors, twisting spires, and floor to ceiling icons.

Here’s what it looks like on the outside:NoPlayerUfa, Wikipedia

And if you walk inside and look up, here’s what you see:

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See what I mean about being jaw-droppingly beautiful??

And yes, this place really exists.

Unfortunately, it is not used as a full-time church. During the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the church was looted and damaged. The Soviet government closed the church in the 1930s. It suffered further damage during WWII.

Since 1970s, it has been used as a museum, even after a major restoration of the church in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

But it can still inspire people’s faith with its beauty!

Here are more pictures of both the exterior and interior. Enjoy!

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Saint-Petersburg orthodox theological academy, Flickr
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Justin Kaplan, Flickr
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Source: http://www.churchpop.com/2015/09/02/the-jaw-dropping-wonder-of-st-petersburg-the-church-of-the-savior-on-spilled-blood/

Columba Sails East

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You say you are Orthodox? And what did you say your baptismal name was? I am a Northern Irish convert to Orthodoxy who regularly finds himself working and going to church in places which are much closer to the traditional heartland of eastern Christianity. So I am often asked, by gingerly Greeks or sceptical Serbs, about my path to Orthodoxy and in particular my patronal saint. When I give the answer, the scepticism sometimes deepens. And so – if the conversation is worth pursuing at all – I find myself attempting to explain the Christian heritage of the place where I grew up, and my own relationship to that place. Sometimes people are interested; sometimes I can watch their eyes glaze over. But since my story is the story of many western Orthodox Christians, I shall try telling it in print.

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St Columba’s Bay, Iona

When I had the joy of being received into the Orthodox Church just over seven years ago, I took the name of Columba, the saint of Ireland andenlightener of Scotland. The process whereby priest and catechumen settle on a name is always a mysterious one; but in my case the decision to accept the name and seek the protecting guidance of Columba seemed to accord well with my own cultural origins; and also with the calling I had felt, however dimly, to another Kingdom, in which all national and cultural differences are set aside.  …

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Columba and the other great saints of the early Christian West are part of the common heritage of the undivided Church, and so they have a well-deserved place among the treasures of Orthodoxy. But for good reason, people from the old Orthodox world are reluctant to be taught new tricks by upstart converts from strange countries; so more than once I found myself put down rather sharply. The other difficulty I encountered was with western Christians: “We know the Roman Catholics have an interest in the early Celtic Church,” they would say, “and so do the Scottish Presbyterians and the Anglicans – but what possible connection can there be between Gaelic saints like Columba and the eastern Orthodox?”

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… But is Orthodoxy simply one among many competitors for a slice of the Columba heritage? Reading the ecclesiastical history of the British Isles in the 19th century, you can trace the almost comical way in which one Christian denomination after another tried to lay claim to the saintly enlightener of Scotland. Roman Catholics tried to proclaim Columba as a loyal servant of the Pope, while the non-conformists stressed the differences of practice between Rome and the early Celtic Church, making the saint into an early anti-Papist hero. In the 20th century, a charismatic Presbyterian churchman, George McLeod, founded a community on Columba’s island which modelled itself on the saint’s gritty practicality: it was supposed to combine religious practice with engagement with the problems of the world at its most sordid and grimy.

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 Since then, the Iona community has become inter denominational and, from an Orthodox perspective, far more political than spiritual. There is also an Anglican retreat house on the island and as of quite recently, a Roman Catholic one. So are the Orthodox, who have been organizing pilgrimages to Iona since 1997, simply johnniescome-lately who want to plant their own flag on Columba’s Iona, along with all the others? And where do the Orthodox stand in the contest between many different constituencies (by no means all religious) to claim a piece of Columba’s heritage? Ecologists call him an early green, Scottish nationalists call him a proto-patriot, feminists see him and the Celtic Church as pioneers of gender equality. So does it make sense, then, for an Orthodox Christian to ask: which is “our bit” of Saint Columba?

In the end, it is only the saint himself who can answer that question. …
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For the whole article  by Columba Bruce Clark, secretary of the Friends of Orthodoxy on Iona, and a senior journalist for The Economist, go to http://www.roadtoemmaus.net/back_issue_articles/RTE_17/Columba_Sails_East.pdf

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For Celtic Orthodoxy the real ‘authority’ is Father Seraphim and his monastery blog at http://www.mullmonastery.com/page/1/?s=St+Columba  Follow his struggles to found Mull Monastery, the first Orthodox monastery in the Hebrides in over a millennium.

 

Between Son and Mother

A virtual, photographic pilgrimage to shrines in Greece and Cyprus dedicated to the Feast of the Mother of God Presentation or Entry, Entrance, Eisodos in the Temple (November 21)

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Iconography of the Entrance of the Theotokos at Hilandari Monastery–MOUNT ATHOS

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The Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa in AmorgosENTRY96entry7

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Panagia Malteza of Santorini

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Panagia Odigitria of Kimolos

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The 11th Century Church of Panagia Kapnikarea in Athens

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The Monastery of Panagia of Machairas in Cyprus

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No one stands between Son and Mother

Give us salvation


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“Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.”

 

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