A Letter from Greece

I have just read your recent posts on the events blog, and I would like to express my gratitude to our Lord who helps you to confess the true Orthodox spirit in such difficult times full of unrest.

In order to give you a glimpse of the “true Orthodox Greece”, that you refer to in one of your quite recent posts (5/12/2014), and not of compromised Greece of bribery, I would like to share with you some recent moments of the life of our Local Church:

1) Tuesday – Wednesday 24-25th of March 2015 | Agia Aikaterini (St. Catherine) parish church, Kastella, Pireus (port of Athens) 20:30 – 01:30: vigil service for the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary (New Calendar), where among the priests serving the holy altar stands hieromonk Gregorios the Athonite, one of the oldest diciples of Saint Paisios the Athonite (since early ’70s or earlier). He is during his annual long visit to his spiritual children in Athens every Lent (he also visits them, as well as other brethren all over Greece and Germany, every May, late July and during the Christmas Fast). Almost all of the latter reunite again, babies, children, adolescents, young adults, adults, elderly people, all faithful spiritual children of Fr. Gregorios for the last four decades are there with their families, sharing the same chalice, the same blessing of the Virgin Mary. It is She whom Fr. Gregorios so vividly honours inside and outside Mt Athos through his exemplary life as a man of constant prayer and through his many books. I was there too with my wife.

2) Saturday 28th of March 2015 | Agios Georgios (St. George) parish church, Dionysos, Attica (at the foot of Penteli Mountain, near Athens) 07:30 – 11:00: Matins and Divine Liturgy for the Saturday of the Akathist in an unusually crowded small church of the early 20th century. Why? Because today is the five-year memorial of the dormition of hieromonk Markos Manolis (16/4/2010). He was one of the most militant adversaries of ecumenism, spiritual leader of “Orthodoxos Typos” newspaper, but above all a true spiritual father and leader of many spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ in villages, towns, hospitals, jails around Athens and in Athens itself. At the end of the Liturgy all in one soul sing “Eternal memory”. A little later a bag is given to everyone as they exit the church containing kolyva and a small book written by Fr. Markos entitled “The Holy Double: humility and love”. Afterwards most of the congregation take part in a common meal organised by the parish in Fr. Markos’ memory in a small house near the church. A couple of priests give short talks about his life and his legacies to our times. There is a strong feeling that Fr. Markos is not dead, but among us! I was there too.

3) Saturday 28th of March 2015 | Holy Monastery of Hosios David of Evia, northern Evia island 07:00 – 11:00: Matins and Divine Liturgy for the Saturday of the Akathist in a unusually crowded monastery up in the mountains. Why? Because today is the three-year memorial of Elder Kyrillos Gerantonis and people from all over Evia, Greece and even abroad gather to commemorate him. Our friend Stratos with his wife Carmen (of Romanian origin) came from Paris just for this day. My wife was there too.

4) Great Wednesday 8th April 2015 | Holy Monastery of Agia Philothei, Ekali, Attica 07:00 – 09:00: Vespers and Divine Liturgy in a quite peaceful central church (katholikon) with a few pilgrims and the heavenly voices of the choir which is comprised of Abbess Agapi (= Love), a couple of nuns and a couple of novices. Only oil lamps and a couple of dim lights behind the iconostasis are seen. A few minutes before the Holy Communion I see a thin stooped figure with a walking stick approaching the icon of the “Nymphios” at the centre of the Church. She is a very old nun with her face hidden moving slowly towards the icon in order to venerate it. Then she takes place next to the choir waiting for Holy Communion. When the time comes she receives the Body and Blood of Christ with great piety right after the Abbess and… steps slowly backwards until she returns to her initial position at the left side of the church. She is always there at every service in spite of her 94 years. As I learned a little later, she is sister Elpida (= Hope).

May you and all your family and parishioners have a blessed Easter full of the light of our Lord.