We arrived at the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae on Easter Eve, right before the beginning of the Mass and our glance fell on the marble plate, where the Akathyst Hymn, a hymn of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, was engraved.
The Greeks remaining in Constantinople are few but there are plenty of Greek Orthodox churches. Even if all of the Orthodox population went to church every day, some of them would be empty. But that does not stop the Greeks from finding ways to liven up the churches and prevent them becoming decorated. Every Good Friday they worship the Seven Epitaphs , ensuring that all processions have a small number of attendees. Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras used to say: "We the Greeks of Constantinople are few, but countless".
Into the vast olive grove of Amari in Rethymnon and near the small village Saint Paraskevi, there is a two-aisled stone chapel dedicated to the Transfiguration and to Saint Raphael. Twice a year, on the 6th of August and on the third day of Easter, worshipers from the nearby villages visit it in order to enliven it. It took them seven years to build it by themselves, offering their work and many building materials. It is being kept very clean and they take care of it more than they do with their own homes.
After each big wave, the passengers on the boat shouted: "Well done captain, may the Seven Children bless you". The captain, a young man, smiled awkwardly while holding the boat's wheel firmly in his capable hands. The turbulence didn't last for more than ten minutes and calmness returned when the boat entered the arc of the volcano’s caldera.
Every morning of every season, Ouranopolis port at Chalkidiki is crowded by men waiting for the ship that goes to Mount Athos. That's where the end of the "modern" world is; beyond this point there are no highways and no limos. Only narrow paths. The boat that leads to Daphne passes near desolate and peaceful coasts, like the ones that existed in the old times, without massive buildings and factory chimneys.
Α day in Mount Athos begins and ends in the church. Monks move along like shadows in the dim light, singing hymns that have been perfected after years of repetition. In monasteries, monks work hard in order to exercise their faith, take care of the huge and old buildings but also to feed the thousands of visiting worshipers whilst always being available to listen to their pain or joy.
The boat returning from the Mount Athos glides in the sea like a sled on snow. Minute by minute the mountain is left behind, looking like like a step that unites heaven and earth. In the passengers' eyes, monasteries don't look like imposing and massive buildings anymore, but like calm shelters.
"How stupid can those who govern us be? They've ruined this country. It pains me to say it but unfortunately that's the truth. We are importing most of our products from other countries, while the local produce remains unsold. Even in Loutro of Sfakia, a very small village only accessible by boat, imports its honey from Argentina".
Every year, the Greek Community of Trieste celebrates the Epiphany in great splendor. In the morning, the Greeks gather at the church of Saint Nicholas, which is on the coastal avenue, in order to watch the liturgy. Then they walk together to the port's pier, where they throw the cross in the sea and bless the waters.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria has the whole Orthodox Christian population of Africa under its spiritual jurisdiction and is the second Orthodox patriarchate, according to the canonical order (after the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople). Its missionary work is in the depths of Africa is prominent, where theological guidance and charity work is continuously expanding and is increasingly embraced by the unfortunate continent.
According to tradition, on May 29th 1453, a monk of Baloukli Abbey in Constantinople was frying fish beside the holy water springing out of the monastery’s foundation, when someone informed him that the city had been conquered. "I shall believe you only if the fish jump out of the frying pan and dive into the Holy Water", the monk answered. He had just uttered the phrase when the half-fried fish jumped into the water. That is how the Zoodohou Pigi's monastery got the name Baloukli. It derives from the Turkish word "balik", which means fish.
When we were children, we longed for Easter to come. A big part of our lives, even many of our games, had to do with Christ and the Church. We thought that Jesus was actually crucified every Holy Friday and we used to get really sad about it. We were innocent and we used to think with our hearts, not our minds. We were not concerned about time and we used to enjoy life as a gift from God.