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)

 

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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)

 

 

 

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!

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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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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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Autumn Photo Sketches of Rila Monastery

The Monastery of St. John of Rila, Bulgaria

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The Monastery of St. John of Rila, Bulgaria

The main holy place of Bulgaria is Rila Monastery at which the relics of Venerable John (Ivan; c. 876-c. 946), the Wonderworker of Rila and patron-saint of this Orthodox country, rest. Rila Monastery is situated in the very heart of the Rila Mountains. Steep slopes covered with glorious woods, magnificent rocks, peace and quiet… All of this disposes a pilgrim’s soul towards the meeting with the holiness already at the turn of the Sofia – Blagoevgrad Motorway. And on your way back the spiritual delight changes into peaceful joy… And also into bitterness: in the places where the Divine grace is abundant and strong, one particularly realizes the incorrectness, vanity and worldliness of our ordinary life.

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Rila Monastery was founded by St. John in the 930s and acquired its present appearance in the mid nineteenth century. Only the Tower of Hrelyu is much older: it dates from the fourteenth century. All who visit the holy monastery for the first time are amazed at the brightness of the frescoes which is an uncommon feature for a monastery. However, not everyone knows that they depict the afterlife journeys of a soul through the so-called aerial “toll-houses”, or trials. The main cathedral of the monastery is dedicated to the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God. The reliquary with the Venerable John’s relics rests there. Numerous miracles have occurred and continue to occur through the prayers of this holy man. His significance for Bulgaria and his national veneration can be compared with the veneration of St. Sergius of Radonezh in Russia; even the lives of these two saints are remarkably similar.

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There are three days of commemoration of St. John of Rila in the Church year: July 1/14, August 18/31, and October 19/November 1. The last of them falls on the period of the “golden autumn” (when leaves especially turn red and yellow) – the most beautiful time in the mountains, when it is so warm in the sun and where the beauty of the God’s creation meets with spiritual, heavenly beauty…
Photos by Yanina Alekseeva, Sofia.

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Frescoes depicting Toll Houses
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An Artist at Work
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Scilly Celtic Saints

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Aerial photo of the Isles of Scilly

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To continue our pilgrimage to the Celtic sacred sites and pilgrim routes of England, our next stop is Scilly –pronounced “silly”–Islands! Yet another look at Christian faith from a Celtic perspective. Have you been there? The Isles of Scilly (/ˈsɪli/CornishSyllan or Enesek Syllan) (Introduction of the “c” may be to prevent references to “silly” men or saints!) are an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain, comprising  5 Major, inhabited islands,St Mary’sTrescoSt Martin’sBryherSt Agnes and 140 others. 

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The Isles of Scilly (bottom left corner) are a part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall (white)

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Scilly Saints

Holiday Reflections on these Holy Isles

By Father Jonathan Hemmings

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“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)

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Forty miles south west off the Cornish coast are the beautiful Scilly Islands. Bathed by clear water, graced by an equitable and temperate climate, surrounded by wildlife in sea and air, seals, puffins and dolphins, they have a flora unique to the British Isles. The very names of some of these Islands, St.Mary, St.Agnes, St.Martin, St.Helen, suggest a link between faith and culture. Look a little deeper and one finds an important vein of Celtic Orthodox spirituality etched, sometimes quite literally into the very granite of the rocks that form the base of life in these offshore outposts of faith and spiritual powerhouses of prayer.

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St. Mary’s

The largest of the Islands, it was known at first as Ennor, the origin of which is obscure, it seems that the name of the island was taken from the dedication of the Church in the Old Town to Our Lady in mediaeval times. As “Star of the Sea” (Steren an Mor) the intercessions of the Mother of God are still sought for those who sail in these shipwreck strewn islands where the hazards of shallow tides and hazardous rocks still persist and catch the unwary voyager. [ For a list of shipwrecks of the Isles of Scilly go to http://list of shipwrecks of the Isles of ScillyThere is a little valley in the middle of the island known as Holy Vale.

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Bants Carn, St Mary’s

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Scilly St Mary’s Bant burial chamber entrance

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St. Agnes

The southernmost Island is that of St. Agnes. Named after the Roman Saint we find during Norman times the replacing of celtic saints with popular western saints. However, to the south east of the Island is the crescent- shaped St. Warna’s Cove which marks the spot where this Irish celtic nun landed and made her dwelling-place after sailing single handed from Ireland. It is remarkable to ponder on the courage and fearless spiritual enterprise of the Celtic Christians who used the Irish Sea much as we today would use the M6 motorway. St. Warna is the patron saint of the Scilly Island of St Agnes and prays for the salvation of those subject to wrecks. It may be noted that it is said that some of the more pagan element wanted shipwrecks in order to plunder the cargo in past times. At St. Warna’s Cove there is a holy well near to the shore where the saint lived in her hermitage and prayed. Nearby there is a large standing granite stone with an impressive and distinctive Cross emblazoned on its face made by the weathering of the wind!

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Porth Conger, St Agnes

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St Agnes, isles of Scilly and The Bar of sand which connects it to Gugh

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Views taken on or on the way to St Agnes

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Summer Sky – St Agnes, Scilly Isles

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Troy Town Maze, St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly

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Gugh. Gugh, St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly

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On the island of St Agnes, St Warna is the patron saint of shipwrecks

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St. Martin’s

The Island was originally called Mauded which is similar to the Breton name for the Cornish St. Mawes who has a small town named after him near Falmouth where he lived for a time after sailing from south Wales. In the Roman Calendar his feast day is November 18th. According to tradition he was a 6th Century Welsh hermit and Abbot, also called Maudetus or Maudez. He lived as a solitary and then went to an island off the coast of Brittany, France, where he is revered as St.Maudez. He is believed to have founded other monasteries and churches in Cornwall and Brittany. There is a tradition that Saint Mawgan ( a place near Newquay, Cornwall which has a holy well), if he is to be identified as the same, was at one time Bishop of the Scilly Islands. The transition to a completely different saint, St. Martin seems to be a “latinization” of the name, again from the time of Norman occupation.

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Offshore and inshore islands, St Martin’s, The Isles of Scilly

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Bryher Isles

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Bryher is the smallest inhabited island in the Isles of Scilly. It’s famous for the spectacular Hell Bay with it’s pounding waves crashing over the rocks on.

Tresco

The name of the Island was at one time St. Nicholas the patron saint of sea farers which seems most appropriate. This beautiful island boasts a Benedictine Priory established in 1114, the remains of which can still be seen today within the gardens of Tresco. It was probably established from the Abbey at Tavistock in Devon which was also dedicated to St. Nicholas.

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The arch from the wall of the mediaeval monastery in Tresco Abbey Gardens

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Abbey Gardens Tresco

Tresco Abbey Gardens, Scilly Isles, UK Looking at the plants in this garden it is difficult to believe that Tresco Abbey Gardens is situated in the British Isles. Containing sub-tropical plants from Australia, South Africa and South America – including Echiums, Agaves, Aloes, Proteas, Aeoniums, Strelitzias and palm trees, this garden looks as though it should be situated in the Mediterranean! However, it is located in England, on the small island of Tresco in the Scilly Isles (approximately 28 miles from the south west tip of Cornwall in the United Kingdom). The photographs in this set where taken in late August when a lot of the color had already left the gardens. However, the varied planting provides a superb example of the value of a clear garden structure filled with diverse and contrasting foliage – creating a wonderful green tapestry of architectural plants throughout the year. Details: With a stunning background of white sandy beaches and vivid turquoise sea, Tresco Abbey Gardens is an outstanding historic garden set amid the romantic ruins of a 16th century priory. The gardens were started by Augustus Smith, who moved to the island in 1834. The garden has subsequently been developed by four succeeding generations of the family from Augustus Smith. The gardens have many delightful features, often seen at their best in the warmth of the afternoon sun, ranging from the Abbey arch, the Neptune steps, the shell house and a number of tastefully placed sculptures (including one to the earth goddess Gaia), all bordered by fantastic foliage of varying shapes, textures, sizes and hues. Surrounded by sea and in the warmth of the Gulf Stream the climate is exceptionally mild and totally frost free in most years. With south facing terraces, these gardens have often been referred to as ‘Kew gardens without the roof’, because in mainland UK, you would only find these plants in a botanical garden glass house. Location: Tresco Abbey Gardens, Tr

Tresco Abbey Gardens, Scilly Isles, UK
Looking at the plants in this garden it is difficult to believe that Tresco Abbey Gardens is situated in the British Isles. Containing sub-tropical plants from Australia, South Africa and South America – including Echiums, Agaves, Aloes, Proteas, Aeoniums, Strelitzias and palm trees, this garden looks as though it should be situated in the Mediterranean! However, it is located in England, on the small island of Tresco in the Scilly Isles … With a stunning background of white sandy beaches and vivid turquoise sea, Tresco Abbey Gardens is an outstanding historic garden set amid the romantic ruins of a 16th century priory. The gardens were started by Augustus Smith, who moved to the island in 1834. The garden has subsequently been developed by four succeeding generations of the family from Augustus Smith. The gardens have many delightful features, often seen at their best in the warmth of the afternoon sun, ranging from the Abbey arch, the Neptune steps, the shell house and a number of tastefully placed sculptures (including one to the earth goddess Gaia), all bordered by fantastic foliage of varying shapes, textures, sizes and hues. Surrounded by sea and in the warmth of the Gulf Stream the climate is exceptionally mild and totally frost free in most years. With south facing terraces, these gardens have often been referred to as ‘Kew gardens without the roof’, because in mainland UK, you would only find these plants in a botanical garden glass house.

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Tresco Abbey Gardens

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King Charles’ Castle is a ruined coastal artillery fort near the north extremity of the island that dates back to the sixteenth century

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Samson

The island is connected with the welsh saint St. Samson of Dol who travelled to Cornwall, Brittany and the Channel Isles. Samson was educated by St. Illtud at the Abbey of Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major) in Glamorganshire; where he was ordained a deacon and then a priest. Samson of Dol found it necessary by the Will of God to remove himself to the monastery on Ynys Byr (Caldey Island). He eventually became Abbot there and considerably established a strong community. Later in his life he chose the life of a hermit near the River Severn but, being made a Bishop, he turned to missionary work in Cernow (Cornwall) and came to the Scillies where one of the islands is named after him. He died on 28th July AD 565 and was buried in Dol Cathedral in Brittany. His ‘Life’ which survives, was written the following century. In the AD 930s, King Aethelstan acquired a number of his relics – including an arm and his crozier – which were proudly displayed in Milton Abbey (Dorset) until the time of the Reformation. The Island of Samson was inhabited until quite recently.

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Old Cottage on South Hill, Samson

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Tean

This little northern island was also inhabited until recently. The name Tean derives from the name Theona. There are ruins of her dwelling place still where once as a hermit she prayed and gave glory to the Holy and Life Giving Trinity and also remains of some celtic graves of the 6th century nearby. Recent excavations have unearthed some interesting Romano-British finds. These include an older ‘toothless’ woman whose head lies under the altar of the later built chapel, she may in fact be St.Theona, after whom the island is named.

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Tean, Isles of Scilly. View from the Great Hill – geograph.org

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Hedge Rock and Tean, Isles of Scilly

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Old Man, Tean, Isles of Scilly

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St. Helen’s

We know that this island was called St. Helen, the Blessed mother of Holy Constantine the Great, from 16th century maps but it is associated with another ancient saint, that of Elidius or St. Lide as he is also known. On the uninhabited island of St. Helen’s are the remains of St. Elidius’ Hermitage which contains an 8th century Christian monastic chapel which was active until the 11th. century. This holy place is still honoured today with local people making a Pilgrimage to the site on 1st August. There is an interesting connection between the Scilly Islands and the Christian mission to Norway. In 980 Olaf Tryggvason came to the Scilly Islands. Snori Sturluson recounts in his “Saga” that this notorious marauding Viking met Saint Elidius and heard of “the God of the Christians.” He was converted to Christianity and agreed to be baptized and all those with him. He took the faith with him returning to Norway and Iceland with “three priests and other learned men.” As King of Norway he began the process of evangelism which was continued by his successor Saint Olaf.

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Olaf Tryggvason, who visited the islands in 986. It is said an encounter with a cleric here, at St. Helen’s, led him to Christianise Norway

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St. Helen

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St. Helen’s Viewed From The Block House. Tresco

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On the uninhabited island of St. Helen’s are the remains of St. Elidius’ Hermitage which contains an 8th century Christian chapel

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St. Helen’s Pool

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Early mediaeval chapel on St Helen’s

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Well known for its pest house, in which sailors infected with plague would be quarantined, St Helen’s is a prominent landmark on the Scilly coastline

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Church of St Elid on the island of St Helen’s

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Sailing into history

What strikes me about these saints is their adventurous and persistent spirit in Christ-their sheer delight and desire to bring Christ to every part of these Islands however small, blessing this part of God’s vineyard by their work, prayers and holiness of life. Whilst on St.Mary’s I learned from the curator of the Museum, that in August 2000, on June 28th a Breton vessel named Saint Efflam (founder of a monastery in Brittany, France. He was the son of a British prince) from an enterprise called Odysee Celtique (Celtic Odyssey) sailed into St. Mary’s harbour re-enacting ancient celtic monastic voyages-it was a Breton vessel and a reconstruction of a traditional curragh.

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Curragh

The boat was constructed from a frame of hazel poles over which was stretched tar-covered canvas imitating the ox skins which would have been used originally. Whilst at sea the crew slept on the open boat and had few concessions to modern facilities during the voyage. As Amanda Martin says in her article in Scilly 2000 in “The Voyage of the Sant Efflam” such an experience was not for the faint hearted. “The whole feat requires a tremendous physical effort not to be undertaken lightly.”

These living saints give inspiration to us today by their energy and boldness for the gospel’s sake. In Christ we should imitate their humility, simplicity and calling.

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A prayer

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My boat is small

The ocean vast

Lord fill my sail

Maintain my mast

Christ my captain

Spirit’s power

Save me Lord

In danger’s hour.

Amen

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These “fools for Christ” saved many because they preached Christ crucified and many believed and so they put the Christ in Scilly. Perhaps we, in this our time of God’s good grace need to make a similar Scilly Pilgrimage!