Mers El-Kebir

I was reading this David Pryce-Jones article when I came across the reference to Mers El-Kebir and a peculiar WWII episode where the British fired on and sank French naval vessels so that they would not fall into the hands of the Germans.  I say peculiar, but the history of the war is filled with all sorts of unusual stories and one could probably spend a lifetime reading all of them.  Mers El-Kebir is the Francophone transliteration of the Arabic al-mers al-kabeer, which means “the big harbor”.  The Wikipedia article has a good account of the battle. More here.

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December 29th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Raffle Smoothie

Last month we went with Sargon and Shamiran to the huge annual vegetarian convention in Boston.  We tried all sorts of delicious food, picked up some brochures and bought some nice food products.  Eleni took a chance on a couple of raffles – a dollar here, a dollar there, no big deal.  We’ve all done this at festivals and those sort of things.  Your name is either not called at the event or you never get a phone call within the next day or two.  Well, we did not receive any calls and that was that.  But a month later Eleni got a call from Revitalive Cafe – she had won a Vitamix blender!  Unbelieeeeevable – who ever wins anything?  The Vitamix is incredible – all of the great claims you hear about it are true.  Make sure you check out the Cafe as well, whether online or in Newburyport.

So, onto the recipe – you can use the blender for anything – you can even make soup and it heats it.  This is a smoothie Prez made today and it is nutritious and fabulous tasting, and of course can be made in any blender:

1/2 c. fresh pineapple

1 c. baby spinach leaves

1/2 banana

1/2 c. fresh cranberries

*a splash of any liquid

*may add wheat germ, flax seeds or hemp seeds

*may add 2 ice cubes

Blend and serve

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December 27th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Christmas Weekend

Christmas weekend at the Cathedral has ended.  I celebrated with a monster nap Sunday afternoon as the snow began to come down hard.   We are getting one of those huge New England blizzards – our clergy family retreat at the camp has already been cancelled – and I am looking forward to going snowshoeing tomorrow at some point after digging out.  Here is how the weekend unfolded:

Friday evening we had the vesperal liturgy of St. Basil followed by the Christmas pageant on the soleas of the church.  Several people asked me “is there communion tonight”?  so I figure an explanation is needed of how the Christmas services work.  We normally have two Christmas liturgies – one the night before (the liturgical day starts at sundown the night before) and one the morning of.  This tradition came about to make it easier for people to attend a service.  If Christmas falls on a Sunday or Monday then there is supposed to be only one service – the usual Sunday service if a Sunday, and since people are unlikely to go to church twice in one day if Christmas eve is a Sunday then just the Monday service.  The service this year on Friday evening was vespers, the evening service, into the liturgy of St. Basil with orthros and the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom on Christmas morning.  The liturgy of St. Basil is almost identical to the usual liturgy except the priest’s prayers after a certain point are much longer – for this reason it is thought to be an older service, with Chrysostom’s liturgy containing shortened prayers (unusual for something in the Orthodox world to get shorter rather than longer:)

So…Christmas Eve was great, with the customary huge crowds.  The pageant was beautifully done – a mixture of students reading the narratives and the choir quietly singing in the background and during processions in.  Vaia participated this year as a sheep – the sheep wear special coats and earmuffs of fuzzy material – I guess wool – and they are very cute.  Here is a picture of the gathering after the Wise Men (actually 1 boy and 2 girls this year) presented their gifts:

Saturday morning we had a nice orthros and liturgy, and it was a joy to have Fr. Emmanuel participating as he celebrated his name day.  We had maybe 150-200 people, so it was much calmer than the night before.  I prepared two chalices but only consecrated one – thinking that many of the people there had been the night before and would probably not receive again. Big mistake.  I ended up going out alone and communed about half the people there, seemingly, so it took a while.  Fr. Emmanuel gave out the antidoro solo so that everyone could wish him chronia polla.

Today we had another nice service but the combination of Christmas fatigue – two services plus family events – and the impending giant storm kept people home.  We had a small crowd similar to Grecian Festival Sunday.  Fr. Dean left early to make an emergency hospital visit, which just goes to show you that even on a holiday weekend with a blizzard about to swoop down on us you never know what is going to happen.

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December 26th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

End Of The Exercise/Multiple Refrigerators

Today, or rather this evening, marks the end of Advent, and with it the end of the Preachers Institute’s 40 Days Of Blogging exercise.  And I did it!  If you have read this blog in the past you know that my posting is sporadic.  The exercise forced me to blog every day, which is in fact very easy to do.  I will likely take tomorrow – Christmas – off, but I hope that the lessons learned from this inspire me to keep up a decent pace and blog much more often.  We will see.  I will leave you with quick, mildly humorous story.

Recently on Facebook someone posted about having to consume stuff in the fridge because room was needed.  Another friend commented something along the lines of “Wait – we are Greek.  Shouldn’t there be another refrigerator somewhere?”.  Classic!  One of the hallmarks of a stereotypical Greek family is the second fridge in the garage or basement, and often an additional freezer.  Well, our family I guess is not stereotypical, because we only have the one refrigerator in the kitchen.  This presented a problem today because the big turkey (organic and humanely raised, of course) that we have for Christmas tomorrow is in the pan and ready to go but doesn’t fit with the other stuff in our fridge.  So I brought it down to the basement but that is probably not cold enough.  The solution?  I put in on the passenger seat of the car in the garage.  The garage is cold enough without being freezing, but I wouldn’t want to leave it out with only foil covering it – wouldn’t want any predators getting to it.  In the car, though, it should be secure.  As long as I don’t forget to take it out and bring it upstairs tomorrow morning before taking off for church!

Merry Christmas everyone.

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December 24th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Date Of Christmas

It is very common for me to hear questions about the dating of Easter but this year, for the first time, I have had people ask me about the date of Christmas, how it came about, and is it the real date of Christ’s birth.  The Catholic Encyclopaedia has a good article on the date and the calendar, which is the real focus of dating Christmas.  Christ’s birth is one of only three births celebrated in the Orthodox church – the other two are Mary and John the Baptist.  Back in the day Christmas and Epiphany were actually celebrated together, and there are remnants of this in some of the rubrics of the services.  The Annunciation is exactly 9 months before Christmas on the calendar.  Only Christ is perfect, so the conceptions of John and Mary fall 9 months and 1 day from their births.

S.H. Hooke, in his Middle Eastern Mythology (a must-have for a clergyman’s library, if you ask me) describes Luke’s account of the birth of Christ:

Luke has invested the historical circumstance with a mythological colouring which is intended to bring into strong relief the divine purpose directing the events, and to show that the pattern of divine activity in redemption, outlined in the Old Testament in those cult myths which we have been studying, has now reached its climax.  The canticles which Luke has either composed or borrowed from the psalmody of the early Church are wholly Old Testament in spirit and expression, and are intended to glorify the God of Israel who has thus guided the course of world-history to its consummation.  It is noteworthy that in his two chapters devoted to the circumstances attending the birth of Jesus, Luke does not once declare that this or that event was the fulfilment of some particular prophecy; yet he invests his whole narrative in these two chapters with an Old Testament colouring which is the result of a supreme art. (pages 168-169).

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December 23rd, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Happy Birthday Fr. Solon!

When you next see Fr. Solon, whether at the restaurant or at church, make sure you wish him a happy birthday.  These photos are courtesy of CNS Photography:

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December 22nd, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Christmas In Worcester…And Iraq

Friday night is Christmas eve, and we have service at 6:30pm.  I will leave my house around 5:30 or so for the easy minute ride to the church.  Once there, I will unlock the doors, turn on the lights, greet the early birds, and generally fuss around to make sure everything is alright.  At some point I will go play on the computer in the office and check Facebook, my blog, and my email.  By 6:15 I will be ready to rock and looking forward to a joyous night with thousands of parishioners attending the service.  Afterwards, we will have a nativity play on the soleas of the church with Sunday School students, including my lovely older daughter as one of the many little sheep, acting in the roles and doing the readings.  No doubt everyone will afterward go home or to friends’ and relatives’ places for further celebration.

Such is Christmas in Worcester, and indeed America, where life is good, despite whatever the latest problem out of Washington or the media is.  There is a cultural war on Christmas, but it is something in which we as Christians do not need to take part; a town can remove a creche or erect a “holiday” tree, but it has no effect on my faith and indeed probably makes my practice stronger.  This is America, our chosen land which has also chosen to welcome us.  It is not the same in many places for Christians, especially those, like me and my fellow Cathedral members, of the eastern persuasion.  My friend George posts updates everyday on Facebook about the status of Christians in Iraq, a cradle of Christianity where Christians now live under siege.  The following is a message from a bishop about the situation:

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Midnight Christmas Mass has been cancelled in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as a consequence of the never-ending assassinations of Christians and the attack against Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral on 31 October, which killed 57 people. For security reasons, churches will not be decorated. Masses will be sombre and held during the day.

A sense of sadness and mourning prevails among Christians. There is much concern for the future of young people. For the past two months, they have been unable to go to university. The same is true for many families that fled north who now must plan a future without any concrete bases.

No one expects anything from the government as far as protecting Christians. Political leaders are too caught up in setting up a new administration.

Security is slightly better in Kirkuk than in the capital, but here too abductions and threats occur. For this reason, we have decided for the first time since the war began not to celebrate Midnight Mass. We shall simply not have any feast, period. Santa Claus will not be coming for the children; there will be no official ceremony with the authorities proffering their best wishes.

For the past six weeks, we have not celebrated Mass because of a lack of security, except late in the morning and Saturday afternoons. For now, we have also stopped teaching the catechism.

We do not have the right to put people’s lives in danger. All our parish churches have security guards, but when worshippers step outside the church and into the street, they become an easy target.

Yet, despite everything, we shall pray for peace this Christmas and help the poor families of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. So far, 106 families have arrived from Baghdad and Mosul.

In my homily, I am going to focus on such problems, on the clashes and on people’s fears but also on the fact that Christmas brings a message of hope. Of course, heaven and earth are two different realities. The Massacre of the Innocents followed Christmas. Thus, for us in Iraq, Christmas is a time of hope and joy as well as pain and martyrdom.

Peace is a goal that people of good will should make happen. If we Christians want to be Christian and welcome Christmas and its message, we must be peacemakers, and build harmony among our Iraqi brothers and sisters.

* Chaldean bishop of Kirkuk

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December 21st, 2010 by Fr. Greg