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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The Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God rila12
Christ the Pantocrator. A frescorila13
Venerable John (Ivan) of Rilarila14
Frescoes depicting Toll Houses
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The monks’ residence        rila20
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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.

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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!

In the Eye of the Storm

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Silver Helix (1)

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“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” 

― William Shakespeare, The Tempest

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There was once a wave in the ocean, rolling along, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the swiftness of the breeze.

It smiled at everything around it as it made its way toward the shore.

But then, it suddenly noticed that the waves in front of it, one by one, were striking against the cliff face, being savagely broken to pieces.

‘Oh God!’ it cried. ‘My end will be just like theirs. Soon I, too, will crash and disappear!’

Just then another wave passing by saw the first wave’s panic and asked:

‘Why are you so anxious? Look how beautiful the weather is, see the sun, feel the breeze…’

The first wave replied:

‘Don’t you see? See how violently those waves before us strike against the cliff, look at the terrible way they disappear. We’ll soon become nothing just like them.’

‘Oh, but you don’t understand,’ the second wave said.

‘You’re not a wave. You’re a part of the ocean.’ (2)

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Katsushika Hokusai’s Under the Wave off Kanagawa, also called The Great Wave has became one of the most famous works of art in the world—and debatably the most iconic work of Japanese art. The Great Wave is part of the legendary series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. (3) “The preeminence of The Great Wave —said to have inspired both Debussy’s La Mer and Rilke’s Der Berg—can be attributed, in addition to its sheer graphic beauty, to the compelling force of the contrast between the wave and the mountain. The turbulent wave seems to tower above the viewer, whereas the tiny stable pyramid of Mount Fuji—Japan’s sacred, national symbol of Beauty, Spirituality and Immortality–sits in the distance. The eternal mountain is envisioned in a single moment frozen in time.

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Hokusai characteristically cast a traditional theme in a novel interpretation. In the traditional meisho-e (scene of a famous place), Mount Fuji was always the focus of the composition. Hokusai inventively inverted this formula and positioned a small Mount Fuji within the midst of a thundering seascape. Foundering among the great waves are three boats thought to be barges conveying fish from the southern islands of Edo.” Nonetheless, “Hokusai has arranged the composition to frame Mount Fuji. The curves of the wave and hull of one boat dip down just low enough to allow the base of Mount Fuji to be visible, and the white top of the great wave creates a diagonal line that leads the viewers eye directly to the peak of the mountain top.”(4)

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To the Japanese eye, accustomed to reading from right to left—the great claw of a wave appears almost to tumble into the viewer’s face, the surging breakers may seem to swamp the boaters, even Mount Fuji appears fragile, about to be engulfed by the uncontrollable energy of the water, and still  the humans in their tiny boats “doomed” to perish in the sea do not look panicked! On the contrary, they look like hanging to their rows in full discipline. It looks like they are experienced and know how to cope with such a situation. (5)

 

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Jennifer Rundlett, a fellow blogger, sees “through” its art “the many trials of life and how overwhelming we often find them, being so focused battling our problems, and trying not to be consumed by them”, whereas “the wave is pointing our eye to [Mount Fugi] the focal point or meaning….that beauty and immortality is in how we ride out these storms.” (6)

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This Japanese painting brought to my mind an English Romanticist, William Turner’s famous seas, stormy skies, sinking ships and tempests studies, with a very different theme to Hokusai’s.

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The power of the storm versus man’s inabilities was a main theme in Turner’s work. Dreadful catastrophe was a common theme in English romantic art period and Turner specifically painted themes of shipwreck a number of times throughout his life, exploring the effects of an elemental vortex. The romantics had taken a liking to natural phenomena and shipwreck became a popular subject. 19th century Britain specifically was very familiar with shipwreck as it was a period of great English shipping.  … The craftsmanship of these ships did not deter the fact that the man made vessel was still at the mercy of the wind.

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Let us have a good look at Turner’s most famous storm painting: The Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth (1842), http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00530 Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth shows a ship off the English coast struggling to persevere through a storm.  The steam-boat resides in the center of the vortex.   Turner’s untamed brushwork creates a swirling composition of chaotic colors and lighting. The swirling storm creates a composition that leaves the eye to circle around the canvas repeatedly. The black of the wind and the waves of the sea create a circle around the doomed ship. Through the windy peephole, the viewer can see the helpless ship at the mercy of nature’s violent motion. One can imagine the ship swaying to and fro as its crew desperately tries to take control of the sail and stay afloat. In this context the vessel can be interpreted as a symbol of mankind’s futile efforts to combat the forces of nature. 

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Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth exhibited 1842 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00530

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In Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth Turner uses a muted color palette. Pale blues and deep browns cover the canvas in swirling motions. Though the palette is predominately neutral, which usually creates a calming tone, the swirling motions and lighting create the chaotic effect Turner was going for. He wanted to simulate the true nature of a storm at sea. The bright white of the sail draws the eye directly to the ship, even amidst the swarming colors around it. Turner creates a pocket of light amidst a dark and shadowy canvas to illuminate the ship. Since he lights the ship in such a way, all focus is immediately drawn to the ship. The shadowing swirling winds only emphasize the ship more. The focus is relentlessly on the plight of the ship. This painting clearly invokes fear in a man or keeps him in his place as the weaker.  Here the emphasis is on the raw, merciless force of Nature and Man’s frailty and helplessness. (7)

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It is famously said that Turner conceived this image while lashed to the mast of a ship during an actual storm at sea to get a better account of the wind and ocean and what the ship must’ve felt like in the midst of it. This seems to be nothing more than fiction, but the story has endured as a way of demonstrating Turner’s full-blooded engagement with the world around him, and is stunningly dramatized in the famous Mast scene of the mesmerising, highly maginative and richly detailed 19th century period biopic Mr Turner (2014) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYN6HwLSvyg

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Khalil Gibran  makes ample use of the “storm/sea/wave” imagery in “The Prophet” and explains how we all are “travellers” and “navigators” in the sea of life, our “pain being the breaking of the shell that encloses [our] understanding”. (8)

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For an auditory raw, rough storm experience, let us not forget Aretha Franklin’s duet with Joe Ligon in the old time gospel  “I’ve Been In The Storm Too Long ” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUujg0BTIjk&list=PLkGwJ-k-JlPEDnwXWd5RDpNmjbUa0fi6y

“I’ve been in the storm… too long, Lord too long
mmmmm… I’ve been in the storm… too Long, Lord too long
Lord, please let me…have a little more time, I need a little more time to pray
Oooh…I’ve been in the storm too long…”

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Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)

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Yet, whether competent or helpless, I personally want to bring God in all these “storms”. So that I can walk on the water, towards Him, and when I see “the wind boisterous, … [am] afraid; and beginning to sink”, I can cry “saying, Lord, save me.” And He immediately will stretch forth His hand, and catch me, and say unto me, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ (Matthew 14:29-31, KJB) And He will still the storm–within and without my mind–to a whisper and hush the waves of the ‘sea’  (Psalm 107:29) and (Mark 4:39).

 

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Christ walking on the sea, by Amédée Varint

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François Boucher Cathédrale Saint-Louis (1766) Versailles

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Walking on water, by Veneziano, 1370.

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Sources:

  1. “I Capture The Majestic Power Of Ocean Waves”, amazing collection of underwater vortex and wave photographs at http://www.boredpanda.com/moments-in-the-ocean-images-created-from-water-light/
  2. “The missing rose” by Serdar Ozkan, cf. Paulo Coehlo’s blog http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/03/21/30-sec-read-you-are-not-a-wave/
  3. For the full collection, go to http://Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-six_Views_of_Mount_Fuji
  4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art at http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/JP1847 For more analysis, watch Thompson, curator of the Hokusai exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, delving into the story behind this world famous print  at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbPHPfVw6zQ
  5. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/art-japan/edo-period/a/hokusai-under-the-wave-off-kanagawa-the-great-wave and http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/24645 and http://www.artelino.com/articles/the-great-wave.asp
  6. For more details, go to her inspirational blog site, dedicated to sharing with insights of God’s love through meditations using art and music, at https://jrundlett.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/new-perspectives-god-given-problems/
  7. http://www.artble.com/artists/joseph_mallord_william_turner/paintings/snow_storm_-_steam-boat_off_a_harbour’s_mouth
  8.  Lebanese-American artist, poet (1883 – 1931), chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet, an early example of inspirational fiction, including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose, and the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu or Lao-Tze.

Thin Places

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  • Thin Places: “Thin Places,” comes from a Celtic Christian concept. The Celts believed that physical locations existed in which God’s presence was more accessible than elsewhere, places where heaven and earth seemed to touch, where the line between holy and human met for a moment, “the places in the world where the walls are weak”, “those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses”, as Eric Weiner puts it in his spirituality travelogue, Man Seeks GodFor such a ‘thin place’ for me visit my blog post on the Holy and Life-Givng Cross Orthodox parish at Lancaster.

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“This is a difficult post for me to write … I have always believed that Art and Nature are two vital ways to make our  prayer come to life, two ways to lead us ‘into’ knowing God.  And yet, I feel God has offered me such a rare gift at the end of a very tough year that I need to give myself time to allow it to sink in before I fully understand what I was given. … I was on a day-tour of the Grand Canyon.

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The sense of unmanageable Beauty one has before the wilderness of the Grand Canyon is just that: a true revelation of God, a true revelation of the correct relationship we are to have with Him. When I was there, facing this extraordinary demonstration of what authentic creativity is, all I felt was silence: a thick blanket of silence that covered my heart, my brain, my body… Before God’s presence, one goes numb, afraid to even breathe, afraid to approach it or draw near in any way. My eye-sight is not worthy to touch such beauty, my voice is not real, authentic enough to even whisper a prayer; all of one’s senses go silent, paralysed before such overwhelming power.

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And yet, my heart continued to pray in a different way. Deep down, my being seems to hide a different kind of worship, a different kind of relating to Christ. I don’t know when and how I learnt it; it just exists, the way instincts simply exist. Before such beauty, one discovers how different we are from what we’ve learnt to think we are – we are so much deeper, so much more beautiful, so much more able to worship and truly pray. It’s as if we were created with a set of spiritual senses and abilities, which we later – for some painful reason – fail to recognise in ourselves and fail to develop. We waste so much of our own being, we are so removed, so distant from our real selves… We learn to adapt to this world, and we end up replacing our spiritual senses with material ones.

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Then, in moments like these, we find ourselves face to face with His presence, and a sort of engine just starts working again in our hearts – all by itself, with no input, no doing of our own.

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I was simply present; I was in awe at the presence of my true self as much as I rejoiced in God’s presence. There was nothing but silence in me; yet, this silence was as alive, as ‘eloquent’ in its worship as the most grace-filled moments I’ve been blessed with the Holy Altar.”

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Church Vertigo

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Richard Silver (previously) has a unique way of looking at architecture, building composite photographs from several images that seamlessly reveal a structure’s interior. His new series captures the insides of New York churches … These images are composed of 6-10 shots, forming a vertical panorama so cohesive that it might give you vertigo.

Although Silver has been to hundreds of churches during his career and many years of travel, it’s only recently that he figured out how to capture the expansive inner beauty of their architecture. “Finding the perfect location in the center aisle then shooting vertically from the pew to the back of the church gives the perspective that only architecture of this style can portray,” says Silver.

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Church of St. Stephen / Church of St. Paul the Apostle

Silver was born and raised in New York and has visited 75 countries in his life, including 13 last year alone. His previous careers involved computer science, real estate, and a stint on Wall Street, but he embraced photography full-time in 2011. You can see more of his vertical church series on his Flickr page here.

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Calvary Episcopal Church

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Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava / Church of the Village

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Church of St. Francis Xavier

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Vincent St. de Paul / Most Holy Redeemer Church

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St. Monica’s Church

Source: “Vertical Panoramic Photographs of New York Churches by Richard Silver” Colossal http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/09/vertical-panoramic-churches/

Solomon, I have outdone thee!

An excellent documentary and a unique website featuring the grandest Byzantine church of them all, “Hagia Sophia”, Church of the Holy Wisdom in Istanbul, Turkey  

 

 

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Iconographer and Russian historian launches unique website featuring “Hagia Sophia,” Church of the Holy Wisdom

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Mosaïque de l'impératrice Zoé, Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)    Mosaïques de l'entrée sud-ouest de Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)

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An interesting new site illustrating the history of Constantinople’s Church of the Holy Wisdom  popularly known as “Hagia Sophia”  recently appeared on the internet.

A “must visit” for Orthodox Christians, especially those interested in Church history, iconography, mosaics, and ecclesiastical architecture, the site gives special attention to the magnificent “Deesis” mosaic in the church’s south gallery.  Depicting Christ flanked by the Theotokos and Saint John the Forerunner, the exquisite mosaic was uncovered in the 1930s.  It is one of the world’s most beloved images of Our Lord.

Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the early sixth century, Hagia Sophia replaced two earlier churches, the first built in 380 AD.

* In the time of Justinian, it had a thousand clergy and in Neara, Herakleion, there is a catalogue listing in the 7th century 600 people, consisting of “80 priests, 150 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 70 sub-deacons, 160 lectors, 25 cantors, and 75 door-keepers”.

http://pemptousia.com/2016/01/haghia-sophia-such-ecstasy-can-never-be-forgotten/

It is an engineering marvel, inasmuch as its massive freestanding central dome  the world’s largest of its kind  has withstood everything from earthquakes to invasions for 1500 years.  After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD, it became a mosque.  Its current status  that of a state museum  dates back to the early 1900s.

The site is the work of Bob Atchison, an iconographer and Russian historian from Seattle, WA who now lives in Austin, TX.  His interest in Hagia Sophia, and especially it’s Deesis mosaic, dates back to his childhood.

The site, which includes invaluable historical information, illustrations, maps and plans, and original photographs not readily found elsewhere, is of special interest to Orthodox Christians in general, and specifically to those desiring deeper insights into Orthodox Church history, iconography, liturgy, and ecclesiastical architecture.

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When Justinian had finished the construction he supposedly proclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee!”

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The site may be accessed here : http://www.pallasweb.com/deesis

 

Source: http://oca.org/news/oca-news/iconographer-and-russian-historian-launches-unique-website-featuring-hagia