Tag Archives: Catholic Church

November 21st: the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin; the Virgin in the Crossroad in C-town; and, November 8th: feast of the Archangels, Слава/Slava of the Ђоковићи/Đokovići

22 Nov

Today, November 21st is one of my favorite Orthodox holidays, the Presentation (Εἴσόδια/Воведение) of the Virgin to the Temple. God gives Joachim and Anna, who have not been able to have a child, the blessing of conceiving Mary. Riding on the old Jewish story of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, also not being able to conceive, until the angels visit Abraham and announce that Sarah, already 80 years old, will conceive the male child who then becomes Isaac (in a wonderful moment of irreverent Jewish humor, Sarah hears all this from the kitchen and laughs out loud), Anna herself names the Jewish matriarch in her prayers to God, asking him to perform the same miracle for her.

(Sadistically, God then later orders Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and Abraham obeys, but God then puts a ram in Isaac’s place at the last moment; don’t ask me to explain this one-more story of the monotheist God’s perversity and cruel power plays — listen to Benjamin Britten’s beautiful setting of the story below. *1)

When she’s three years old, Joachim and Anna take the toddler Mary to live in the Temple in Jerusalem, in order to thank God for the miracle of her birth or to keep her pure, since she’s such a holy baby, or until she starts to menstruate and thus turns of marrying age — it’s not very clear which it is (and let’s, again, ignore Semitic monotheism’s misogynist obsession with female purity.)

But they somewhat sadly leave her at the Temple, and as they walk away they turn and look, and the child Mary is not only not crying for the parents who have abandoned her here with all these long-bearded old men, but she’s dancing happily — “with her feet” — delighted to be living in the Lord’s house, and all the years she spends there an angel descends daily and feeds her “like a dove.”

The Church of the Savior in Chora in C-town has a set of Mary’s life cycle mosaics in the exonarthex;

The Presentation of Mary to the Temple (above)

And the angel that descends to feed her (above)

Click and enjoy these here because if you go to the Church of the Chora in Istanbul today, these and many other beautiful mosaics and frescoes will be covered by the drapes of the hysterics and puritans of monotheism.”

And a couple of Western images of the holiday (below), though it has largely fallen into obscurity today in the Catholic Church:

Giotto’s fresco of the event in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (above)

And Titian’s spectacular fresco (above) — along with details (below) — in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice

The story of the Presentation of the Virgin is not found in any of the canonical gospels but only in the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, also known as the Infancy Gospel. This is probably why it’s been forgotten in the Catholic West; the Catholic Church, in its lame post-Vatican II attempts at modernization, deleted important saints from the Church calendar, like George and Catherine and Nicholas, because we have no scientific evidence of their miracles (hellloooo…do we have “scientific evidence” of the Incarnation or the Resurrection or any “scientific” proof of the doctrine of the Transubstantiation/Communion? Don’t get me started and let’s not go there…), they certainly were not going to give any credence to an apocryphal tall tale, even though, as the above masterpieces of Giotto and Titian testify, it was still an important enough Catholic holiday during the Renaissance.

Below is the Greek text in screen shots; sorry couldn’t find a cut-and-paste form of the passage with full Greek accent system and I always try to when I post something; you’ll have to click:

and English:

“When the child turned three, Joachim said, “Let’s call the pure women of the Hebrews. Let them take up lamps and light them so that the child will not turn back and her heart will never be led away from the temple of the Lord.” And they did these things until they went up to the temple of the Lord. And the priest welcomed her.  Kissing her, he blessed her and said, “The Lord God has magnified your name for all generations; through you the Lord will reveal deliverance to the children of Israel in the last days.” And he set her down on the third step of the altar and the Lord God poured grace upon her. She danced triumphantly with her feet and every house in Israel loved her.”

And her parents went down, marveling at and praising and glorifying the Lord God because the child had not turned back to look at them. While Mary was in the temple of the Lord, she was fed like a dove and received food from the hand of an angel.” (emphases mine)

************************************************************************

Furthermore…today is also the feast of one of my favorite churches in the whole world, the Presentation of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of Stavrodromi or the Church of the Panagia in Pera in the Pera/Beyoğlu section of C-town. This church is hidden in an alley off the current İstiklâl Caddesi, the Jadde of this blog.

The church is a little hard to find, since it’s one of Istanbul’s pre-Tanzimat churches, meaning it was built before the 19th century reforms (1789) that lifted traditional restrictions on the building of non-Muslim places of worship; before the reforms churches had to have low, barn-like roofs because domes were not allowed, had to have high walls surrounding their premises, so that they were not conspicuous from the street, were prohibitted from having bell-towers (all church bell towers in Istanbul date from after the 1850s), and generally could not be higher or be more visible than any neighboring mosques (Wait…you mean, Islam isn’t the most tolerant religion in the world?).

View of Panagia Pera from above, hidden by surrounding buildings; western facade; and eastern facade with conspicuously later bell-tower. (below)

So, while the exterior was traditionally Ottoman in its plainness and modesty, the interior testifies to the fact that this Pera parish became Istanbul’s most extravagantly wealthy community beginning in the early 19th c. (pics below, from Iason AthanasiadisΤί χαμπέρια από την Πόλη;)

Even more compelling about Pera’s Panagia is that it survived unscathed the Anti-Greek Pogrom of September 1955. Of course, the old ladies will tell you that that was a miracle…why almost all of the rest of Istanbul’s 90 plus churches were completely ransacked or totally destroyed is a question you’re tempted to ask. Did its enforced inconspicuousness save it? I dunno. Yes, it’s a little hard to find, but it’s only about 50 yards off Pera’s main drag and the rioters of this Menderes-government-organized orgy of destruction knew every single Greek business on the street and in the neighborhood and every single other Greek church throughout Istanbul… It’s hard to believe that they didn’t know of Pera’s second largest Greek church, after the Holy Trinity in Taksim, which was thoroughly gutted. Let’s just call it a nice surprise.

Hagia Triada (below), now restored:

The neighboring Zappeion, (above) once Istanbul’s most prestigious lycée for girls: “Surrounding buildings of the Aya Triada are still left black from the arson attack in 1955. The priests of the Church refuse to clean the surface so that the memory of the Istanbul riots will be remembered.”

************************************************************************

More… Today, on the Julian (Old) Calendar still used by Russians, Serbs, Bulgarians and Macedonians, but not Romanians — I think — is November 8th the Feast of the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel. Always a thirteen-day difference, so you know.

It’s the Slava of the Đokovići. A Слава/Slava is…(from an old post):

“…Serbs are the only Orthodox Christians to not observe personal namedays.

Serbian-Slava-Festivityὁ σῖτος, ὁ οἶνος καὶ τὸ ἔλεον τοῦ δούλου σουthe wheat, wine and oil of Thy servant


Instead they observe the saint’s day on which their clan’s ancestors first converted to Christianity in a beautiful celebration called a slava, (the “glory”) and hereworth reading — which is essentially an offering and feast of remembrance, a ritual of ancestor-worship that proves that Serbs probably have more of one foot still in the pagan past than any other Slavic people

Slava 1

Many of their funerary customs are similar to ours — like the artos or artoklasia above and koljivo below — meaning they developed together spontaneously or they represent the influence of known Slavic sub-strata in the language, genes and culture of modern Greeks — and now that I said that I’ll have to go into a witness protection program.

Koljivo_from_wheat

Koljivo or Koliva just like Greeks make.  Commemorating the dead with the seeds of life.

So my man, Novak Đoković tweeted a message on the occasion of his family’s Slava today:

Novak Djokovic@DjokerNole

Срећна Слава свима који данас славе Св. Архангела Михајла. Нека нас наш заштитник чува и води кроз живот у светлости,љубави и миру.”

Happy Glory to all who today celebrate St. Archangel Michael. May our protector keep us and guide us through life in light, love and peace.

Cool… Wish I were there. Thanks for your attention this far. Later!

***********************************************************************

*1 Benjamin Britten’s beautiful setting of the Abraham and Isaac story:

************************************************************************

Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

¡Santiago y cierra, España!

19 Nov

Byzantine Ambassador, in another informative piece, talks to us about the Spanish cult of Santiago.

Outside Rome the West lacked the relics of important apostles. This was rectified in Venice by the theft of St Mark the Evangelist from Muslim Alexandria in AD 828. Not to be outdone by the Adriatic pirates, however, the Spanish promptly discovered St James the Greater’s tomb at the Galician fishing town of Padron at some point between 818-42.

The interior and exterior (below) of the cathedral of Santiago in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.

Just to add… Bari rectified a lack of relics by stealing the remains of St. Nicholas of Bari from the city where he had served as bishop, Myra in Asia Minor/Anatolia.

The Cathedral of St. Nicholas of Bari below; I love the combo-contrast between the austere Romanesque of Norman churches in southern Italy and later Baroque additions, like the ceiling here.

***********************************************************************

Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

Photo: Athens metro — “Today is the nameday of…”

3 Dec

IMG_0833In recent years — I don’t know how long — the Athens metro system has began to add a list of daily namedays to the signs on platforms that give passengers the date, time and weather — so they don’t forget to at least call or text and well-wish their friends and relatives.  A nameday, for those who could possibly still not know, is the feast day of the saint you were named after.  Above the weather, the sign in the photo, which I took back on October 21st, says: “Today is the nameday of: Artemios, Artemes, Artemis, Artemisia, Artemida, Gerasimos, Makes, Gerasimina, etc.”  It’s really different versions of two names — Artemis and, the most popular among them, the male Gerasimos, the patron saint of the Ionian island of Cephalonia — but the Orthodox calendar usually celebrates more than one saint on each day of the year, since it didn’t go through their files the way the Catholic Church did after Vatican II and remove from the calendar those saints whose miracles didn’t have the requisite scientific backing (……)

Saints’ days and namedays have come up on several occasions on this blog, probably the most detailled exposition of the tradition on my part is this post from last December: Today is my nameday,” from which there’s a money quote below in case you don’t want to wade through the whole text.

This is all a part of a very tender traditionalism that has taken hold of a segment of the Greek soul since the current economic and social crisis began, the kind of refuge a society is wont to take in comforting old forms of social behavior and interaction under such circumstances, but had begun before things hit rock bottom the way they have now; it had actually started to lift as soon the the heavy malakia of metapoliteuse thinking had started to wear off as early as the 90s: this term — metapoliteuse – is defined briefly in the first footnote of this post: “Careful what you wish for…Erdoğan and Ottoman Turkish” — but culturally included a rejection of all things Church-and-Orthodoxy-related as part of the reaction against the right-wing, the monarchy and the Church of Greece’s unforgivable support in the 60s and 70s for the junta that tormented Greece with its idiocy until it fell in 1974  (See much of Pamuk’s commentary on the much more radical spiritual vacuum in which the Turkish Republic’s anti-clericism left his own class in Turkey and that may be part of the state that society finds itself in today.)  I owe readers a post that will be called “The Perfect Metapoliteuse Idiot” to borrow the term and subject matter from Mario Vargas Llosa‘s book “Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot” which describes a sociological phenomenon and type startlingly similar to its Neo-Greek counterpart.

manual-del-perfecto-idiota-latinoamericano-de-atlantida-4387-MLA3538134950_122012-F

And so the nameday makes a comeback.  Not that the Western birthday celebration and its obnoxious gimme-gimme narcissism has not also taken root here; it has.  (And like everywhere else, no one thinks about what a baby learns about the world when a glowing piece of confectionery is shoved in front of his face and all the big, powerful adults in his life chant to him like he’s the emperor.)  But the nameday celebration, in which you give and, generally, don’t expect to receive, is still going strong.

(Let me make just one note here: the “traditionalism” of which I’m speaking has nothing to do with the invented, racist, cruel Neo-Traditionalism of Golden Dawn and its supporters; theirs is the obnoxious militaristic “tradition” — including its revolting Spartan/Leonidan warrior pretenses that has nothing to do with any real past — of a reborn Greek fascism.)

Music, food, a renewed interest in agricultural life and processes — often as a form of survival — tiny gracious gestures of etiquette — all of these are parts of this renewal.  But what surprises me the most are the ones that concern religious observations.  Often these are performed in recognition of their cultural beauty and not necessarily as expressions of any deep spiritual impulse.  Still.  All the more, in fact.  I, for example, had always been terrified of having to spend what I thought would be a barren, empty Easter in modern Greece, which I had never had to in my life; when I finally did last year (see: “Σήμερον κρεμάται επί ξύλου…“) I was pleasantly surprised at how immersed the society was in the observation of this central, defining pole of our identity.

And now we’re in the middle of the Christmas fast, which began forty days before Christmas, on November 15th.  This is the period known as Advent in the West, for those who still remember, and as the word implies, indicates that Christmas, like Easter, was once an anticipatory holiday, with a forty-day period of fasting and relative sobriety preceding it, like Easter still is and has in the East.  Christmas was not the consumption orgy that now starts in late October and a tree that goes up on Thanksgiving and gets thrown out before New Year’s even.  Christians waited for Christmas: and it began on Christmas Eve — with the setting up of the decorated evergeen in the northern European tradition, as the West’s entire literary tradition has it, and then the celebration of the “twelve days” that ended on January 6th.  But all that was scrapped because it doesn’t fit in with distinct shopping-spree periods or quarterly earnings reports and didn’t allow enough time for too many exhausting, gluttonous “holiday” parties with people you don’t want to be with and for buying plastic crap to hang on your door.

So that bright Sunday Attic afternoon, the first day of the Christmas fast, I was sitting here (below) in a very, sehr cool little cafe-bar in Pagkrati (a very cool little neighborhood), when a pretty, elegant twenty-something girl suddenly said to her boyfriend in a testily audible voice: “Σου είπα ότι είναι νηστεία σήμερα και δεν αρταίνομαι ” — “I told you it’s the start of the fast today and I don’t partake” — using an archaic form for “partake”“αρταίνομαι” — that I can’t find the etymological root of.  I nearly fell off my chair.

Plastera Cafe 1Plastera Cafe 3

Plastera Cafe 4Plastera Cafe 2

And then Venetis, a large bakery-patisserie-café chain here — which actually has some pretty good stuff — has this notice on its tables: “Νηστεύετε;” – “Are you fasting?”  And on the back: “40 μέρες νηστεία…60 νηστίσιμα προϊόντα.” — “40 Days of Lent…60 Lenten Products.”  

IMG_1162

IMG_1168.JPG

Commercial.  But a commercial use of something latched onto in the zeitgeist air.  Un-heard of…laughing-stock corny…less than even a decade ago.

Quote from “Today’s my nameday” that I mention at top:

“What I most love is that, among Greeks, your nameday is a day critical to your honor and reputation…

“…It’s a day when it’s your obligation to give and serve and prove your noblesse and not, as Western birthdays have become, a day when you sit around waiting for others to do for you or give you gifts.  Western, American, birthdays are only slightly less gross to me than the totally American ugliness of wedding and baby showers: “I’m getting married and/or I’m pregnant; so I’m having a party where you have to bring me things.”  And don’t even start me on bridal registries, where you tell people, not just that they have to bring you something, but what they have to bring you.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: