Showing posts with label Greek Orthodox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek Orthodox. Show all posts

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Orthodox Christian Meeting in Crete & Women?

Greek Orthodox leaders meeting in Crete, Greece.
Source: Archdeacon Panteleimon
The Orthodox Church is holding an unprecedented council in Crete.

It was supposed to be in Istanbul but that was deemed too risky. So far the press releases are formalities and the American priests' Facebook posts reflect how awestruck everyone is.

On day one, today, the big story is that the Russians didn't participate. It's a patriarchal power game, and the BBC reported the Russians have issues with the Ukranian Orthodox and unity efforts.

Photos from the St. Menas Cathedral in the city of Iraklion look inspiring, as were the vistas from an ancient monastery overlooking the
Mediterranean Sea.

Sadly, I have not seen any nuns or females in photos. With greater sadness, I point out the orange juice brand (see photo) that someone decided should be served to make a scantily-clad point. You couldn't serve that today in Iznik, Turkey. That city was formerly called Nicea, and was where another of these famous councils came up with the Nicene Creed used in most Christian churches. We still pray for "one Holy, catholic (true) and apostolic church."

Hopefully we won't be visiting the Orthodox Church's ashes with tour buses in another 1000 years; that's the drill in Iznik now. We all hope for some inspiration from this council.

Photo credit: New Yorker And Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Archdeacon Panteleimon via Facebook, showing the leader of the American Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Demetrios, seated at far left.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Orthodox Christian Bishops Abducted in Syria, Driver Killed

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hand of Peace

St. Irene Chrysovalantou reliquary,
basil & jasmine

I was accidentally drawn into an outdoor Astoria procession with an icon and holy relic held on the shoulders of many men.
Chanting and incense wafted into New York City police cars. Locals sipping Sunday coffee at a cafe stood up as the silver-encased hand of St. Irene Chrysovalantou processed under the subway tracks on the familiar pavement, full of somber faithful instead of traffic.
Long ago, St. Irene was renowned as a young monastic leader who saw clearly into the future. She was born in Cappadocia, which is now in Eastern Turkey, and refused marriage to Empress Theodora's son in Constantinople (now Istanbul). (Bios on Wikipedia & local church Website.)
The local icon of "St. Peace" and the reliquary (at right), are surrounded by yellow coins and jewelry left by prayerful penitents.
Participants in the procession wore traditional Greek garb. The rest received a lapel sticker, apple slices thought to work miracles, and sweet bread laced with mastic and orange. At the end of the procession, the icon was passed over the faithful, who lined up on closed streets for a blessing.
Several ducking under the flower-framed image were clearly ill and in need.
The St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox church and monastery in Astoria, New York were plagued in recent years by scandal, detailed here.) The church reports directly to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who defrocked the founding leaders in 2012 and assigned new ones. More in my other post here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Forgiveness is a Powerful Thing

Regardless of your belief system, you should find this essay on forgiveness a powerful one. The author writes:
 "Forgiveness is the antidote for negative thinking. Forgiveness means to let go. Let go of resentment, thoughts of payback, and the hurt that remains and will always be part of your life. Forgiveness releases the grip anger has on your heart. It opens the focus on those parts of life that lead to understanding, empathy, and compassion for the person who hurt you. It doesn’t deny responsibility, or minimize or justify wrong – not excusing, but rather offering inner peace, presence of the Lord, spiritual and psychological well-being. It alleviates stress, hostility and blood pressure."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy St. Dimitrios Day!

From today's archdiocese calendar.

"Saint Dimitrios was a Thessalonian, a pious son of pious and noble parents, and a teacher of the Faith of Christ. When Maximian first came to Thessalonica in 290, he raised Dimitrios to the rank of Duke of Thessaly.
But when it was discovered Demetrios was a Christian, he was arrested and kept bound in a bath house (*).
Meanwhile a haughty barbarian and notable wrestler in town, Lyaeus, challenged the citizens to wrestle with him. All who fought him were defeated.
Seeing this, a youth man named Nestor, an aquaintance of Dimitrios, came to the saint and asked his blessing to fight Lyaeus single-handed. Receiving it, Nestor did his cross and felled the wrestler with a mortal blow.
Maximian then commanded that Dimitrios be pierced with lances in captivity, and that Nestor be slain with his own sword.
From the apolytikion in the 3rd tone: A Great champion in grave perils, Great Martyr Dimitrios, entreat that we be granted great mercy.

* Wondering why one would be imprisoned in a bath house. Unless the steam was too hot.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Live Like Zorba

Some lifestyle gurus are promulgating “The Opa! Way” of life.
They derived this wisdom on "the full catastrophe" as Zorba called life, after interviewing Greek villagers and from readings ancient sages like Heraclitus, a Buddha contemporary from Ephesus in what's now Turkey. What an excuse for a working vacation! If I could live like Zorba, I'd just dance in a picturesque field all day, my boy. Here are the essential Opa tenets (with my sarcastic asides). 
  •  Have a sense of others. In Greek villages, people are interconnected, with notions of honor, caring and hospitality. (And gossip.) 
  •  Live life with a purpose to engage, collaborate, innovate and succeed. In Greece, our sages claim, accumulating financial wealth is overshadowed by the need to live life with purpose. (The ratio of dodged taxes to nights out sipping frappe? Cash in the bank!)
  • Work-life balance is an illusion. Resilience, not balance, is what matters, Greeks say. (More like capitulation with survivalist tactics. Hundreds of years of occupation, then war and political upheaval,  and now financial crisis gives Greeks a certain bias. Ditto for anyone left in a Greek village, who would be as resiliant as a goat.) 
  • Grant and receive forgiveness for your mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. Let go of suffering. (Who can argue with this Biblical imperative? Greek debtholders!) 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prosfora Bread

How good the house smells from baking flour, yeast and water! This is a recipe for three small loaves to be offered for an Orthodox liturgy. You could make two loaves and cook longer. Crust reveals cooking time: it should be light golden brown. Ingredients: six cups flour, 2 cups warm water, 1 yeast pack. 15-20 minutes at 375-400 degrees.

Editors Note: some tips:
  • Put the yeast pack in warm water, let it foam in a warm place. This can take time, depending on weather. Then combine a half cup of flour with yeast mixture,  let that sit 10 minutes. Then in a larger bowl, add this to the rest of the flour, mix until flour is fully integrated and knead thoroughly. You don't want yeast bubbles, which only result if you didn't knead properly.
  • Knead with your hands for best results -- you'll get tired using muscles you didn't know you had. 
  • Dust the seal with flour, to avoid sticking, and you press the seal into the formed dough as if you were flattening the dough completely into a pancake. Leave the flour on the bread. (Brush it away after bread is baked and cooled.)
  • After you press the seal, let the dough rise a bit - dough won't quite double. In a drafty house, put the oven on and place rising dough nearby. Surfaces touching bread pans should not be hot.
  • Before placing in oven, poke 6-8 times outside seal area with toothpick. 
  • It's ok to use disposable, round aluminum baking pans.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Turkey As Model For Egypt?

The New York Times offers up Turkey as the model for Egypt's reformation - with a twist of Islam. Fascinating that the first quote comes from a formerly objective journalist, Hugh Pope, who is now an apologist for Turkey. The model offers little hope for Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians. Will Copts continue to live without adequate protection, and dwindle in numbers -- and in unsavory ways -- like the minorities trapped in the demise of Ottoman Turkey? In Alexandria, a church bomb killed more than 20 in December, the most recent on a long list of intimidations.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ugliness & Beauty

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY
This post as been updated: St. Irene Chrysovalantou is the prettiest Greek Orthodox church in Astoria, but was tainted by allegations of sex abuse.

This church-monastery adhered to the old Julian calendar, unlike the majority of Greek Orthodox and other Christian churches that follow the "new" Gregorian calendar. St. Irene functioned without official blessing or affiliation in the 1980s and 1990s, but was absorbed into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 1998. It now reports directly to the Ecumenical Patriachate in Turkey. 

Someone brought me to St. Irene for a visit in 1998. I had a dark dream afterward that instructed me not to enter the doorway. I visited a decade later, and the sermon contemplated the likelihood humans will be implanted with computer chips. Later, at a summer festival, a priest was shouting about Greek nationalism and women were selling gold jewelry that penetents had left at the icon of St. Irene to exact miracles. Λουκουμάδες to go, please.

As for the scandal: without any U.S. court accountability, a verdict was doled out by the mother church decades after many events allegedly occurred. In April 2012, former St. Irene Chrysovalantou Archbishop Paisios and former Bishop Vikentios were demoted to the status of monk, in Greece, by the Patriarchate, following an investigation of horrible abuses. The sordid allegations, some involving groups, were not confirmed nor denied. Paisios initially fled to Greece, preventing New York cops from talking to him. In the unprescendented private church hearing in New York, in 2011, dozens of St. Irene abuse victims and those with knowledge were videotaped for review by the Patriarch in Istanbul. The defrocking followed. 

Christian forgiveness likely enabled a predatory psychological power game. How many people are responsible? How do victims recover, and what is the collateral damage to others? How does a worship community rebuild? Will lawsuits cripple the church? And what really happened?  

The big leak: a young St. Irene nun gave up her vows, said she suffered sexual travesties at the monastery, and turned over roughly $260,000 in cash, and gold coins, to the NYPD 114th Precinct in Astoria, according to this WSJ/Fox video The woman says she turned over $500,000. (See the National Herald article.) Things came to a head when Vikentios' brother Spyros Malamatenios made shocking sexual allegations about Paisios in "Predators in Our Midst," a National Herald exclusive republished by 

The former nun, now in her late 20s, was a typical story: the daughter of a priest named Fitzpatrick with 12 children, she was brought up in the monastery to believe males and females, tonsured and otherwise, of all ages, living in close proximity, was normal -- TOTALLY contrary to all church rules and common sense. Another very sad story: the confession of a woman who divorced to become a nun at St. Irene Chrysovalantou -- with her 9-year-old daughterThis nun eventually left St. Irene for the nearby, renegade St. Markella Greek Orthodox Church and monastery, and explains how she didn't protect her daughter.

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY

Sadly, there is a website dedicated to survivors of abuse in Orthodox Churches called This is a relatively new phenomenon for the U.S. Orthodox. One case that emerged decades after the fact in Chicago and Texas is outlined in court documents here. The story of Fr. George Pyle also is explained in an article.

And then there's a rather grotesque-but-humorous caper about monks in Greece who tried to fly the bones of a dead nun from Athens to an island, but airport officials would have none of it. "It's ok," the monks told security, "She's a saint."

More reading here on the cult mentality that can creep into Orthodox Christian churches steeped in strict tradition and obedience.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Boy George's Icon

From Church of Cyprus in EU
Karma Chameleon Boy George returned a 300-year-old icon stolen from a North Cyprus church after the Turkish invasion in 1974. 
Boy George, who says he is Catholic, has a collection of religious art in his London home, and during a recent television interview taped in his home, the Cypriot Bishop for Europe saw the icon in question and contacted the star. 
ViolaBoy George relinquished the piece in a church ceremony last week, and asked for nothing in return. The Byzantine work is from the wood iconostasis of the Church of St. Haralambos in the occupied village of New Horio, in Kythrea, and was painted in a monastery outside Nicosia. Boy George said he bought the icon in 1985 from a London art dealer and that it was a favorite piece.
The BBC has a great interview with the Bishop, who refused to value a "spiritual means of worship." The BBC also has this radio interview with Boy George
Coincidentally, see my friend Meg Pier's amazing January series on Cyprus, a photo gallery with stories, icons and more  - part of her inspiring Web enterprise of interviews on culture and travel. She interviewed the curator of the Smithsonian's exhibit "Cyprus, Crossroads of Civilizations," on display until early May.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mosque v. St. Nick

The mosque to be built two blocks from Ground Zero has created a national fury.
But the only house of worship destroyed on September 11, 2001, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, remains in ashes. I try here to stick to explanatory facts - all links provide background.
Near Liberty Street 9/11/2008 by Dimitra
The church belongs to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese based in Manhattan, but the party in power is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls much Ground Zero land. The church waited to rebuild on promises of a larger piece of adjacent property. Talks stalled. Fox News offers this summary and Former Gov. George Pataki is among the politicians crying foul.
The church accuses the Port Authority of reneging on a multi-million dollar land swap, and excavating the church site without permission.
Port Authority spokespeople told the Wall Street Journal that "the church has the right to rebuild at any time" and told Fox News they offered up to $60 million toward reconstruction, but the church wanted more. The archdiocese, represented by Fr. Mark Arey, told Fox News "that is not true. The church never declined an offer from the Port Authority." Then the church issued a press release saying the Port Authority et al "excavated the original site without our consent, rendering it unusable, in flagrant violation of our legal rights."  The Port Authority told Fox News it will pay fair market value for the land underneath the church.
This brings us back to the mosque's legal right to renovate on private property, the position held by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a recent press conference in the New York harbor. Standing in support was Greek Orthodox Archdiocese representative Fr. Alexander Karloutsos. He is an archdiocese liaison to the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Turkey. The Patriarch told 60 Minutes he feels "crucified" by the lack of religious freedom in Turkey. On August 15, for instance, Turkish authorities allowed the Soumela Monastery to hold a service for the first time in 90 years.
Score 1: Turkish church, 0 American church. More to come.

* This 2008 seminarian video offers some perspective on the site and what parish priest Fr. John Romas expected at the time.
* The New York times wrote on hopes for a new building in 2007 and talks falling apart in 2009.
* The St. Nicholas Church Website.
* A Port Authority press release that says agreement was reached by both sides, in 2008.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Watch 60 Minutes 12/20!

Watch 60 Minutes Sunday for an interview in Turkey with Orthodox Christian Patriarch Bartholomew. Video Preview here.
CBS travels to Cappadocia, in far Eastern Turkey, to highlight the Christian church's expansion from Jerusalem to Constantinople 17 centuries ago. When I traveled to Jerusalem and Istanbul last January, my experience was a mixture of sadness and joy, with Islam vs Christianity and Judaism. The Patriarch says the church feels "crucified" living in Turkey; it's hard to imagine a revitalized church in my grandparents' country. (For more on their Turkish village, and my visit with the Patriarch last January, click here.)
CBS writes: "One and a half million Orthodox were expelled in 1923 and another 150,000 left after violent anti- Christian riots in Istanbul in 1955. A population once numbering near two million is now around 4,000." Bartholomew is considered global leader to the 300 million-member Orthodox Christian Church. For more on Turkey and religion, check out a World Focus piece on Islamic extremism in Turkey.
Also see and hear the story, with Web extras!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 11, 2009

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America held a memorial service today at Ground Zero in New York on the site of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which has not been rebuilt due to real estate politics, despite substantial donations. It was the only religious building destroyed in the 9/11 attacks; the archdiocese 9/11 Website has a budget and design plan.
Because our offices have moved to Midtown, this is the first year we didn't watch the memorial service live or wander past the flower-strewn aftermath.

These are photos I took on Sept. 11, 2008 on Liberty Street, near our former World Financial Center office and the firehouse that lost many men.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Red Eggs

Preparations for the Resurrection and Easter continue with tonight's somber reading of 12 gospels describing Christ's crucifixion. But preparing boiled red eggs for Sunday's meal -- a symbol of new life -- is always comedic. Take the label on the Greek red dye packet (fireworks not included): "Boil the desired eggs and let them cold." Check. The problem is getting the dye to set without creating pink eggs or red hands. The trick is some combination of vinegar and oil. Prayer also is required because the dye packet is no help: "Dissolve the dye ... put in a pot cold or hot water, a glass of vinegar, and the dissolved dye to cover a layer of eggs. Stir it well." Some go natural with onion skins for dye. Not sure. So to recap: cooks the eggs, color them beautiful up to 30 eggs. Hot, cold water, no diffrenz. Don' worry measurements, dolly. As Mrs. Yiannakos might say, "Thank you very nice." Kali Anastasi