Fields of Gold

On Saturday, I finished the border between Panagia ("All-holy [one]," an affectionate term for the Mother of God) and the communion of the Apostles.

The icon of Christ communing the apostles is traditional behind the altar in an Orthodox Church. Above the altar is traditionally the icon of the Mother of God. Above her, in the dome, the highest point in the church, is Christ Pantokrator (Almighty, or literally "Ruler of All").

The place of the icon of the Mother of God above the altar comes from the shadows in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple.  In the Old Testament tabernacle, within the holy of holies was the Ark of the Covenant.  Within the ark was the tablets of the law, the rod of Aaron which budded, and a jar of manna.  Above the ark was the mercy seat, which was overshadowed by cherubim.  This was the type and shadow, now, in Christ is the fulfillment.

On every Orthodox altar, these shadows are fulfilled:  In place of the law is now the book of the Holy Gospel.  Instead of Aaron's rod, we have the Cross.  Instead of the jar of manna, we have the tabernacle reserving the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, Christ Himself, the true bread from heaven.  Above the altar is the Mercy Seat, the Mother of God.  Instead of an empty seat, as in the Old Testament, the mercy seat is now occupied.  This icon is of Christ Emmanuel (God with us) enthroned on his mother's lap.  The mercy seat is surrounded by the cherubim, who are always invisibly present around the Holy Altar, represented in the icons.  This is the context for these icons which Tom is painting.
On Saturday evening, Tom and I decided to take a break from our work.  We got pizza and watched Spiderman.  I enjoyed the film.  It was kind of like every other Spiderman movie: gets bit by spider, uncle gets killed, he seeks vengeance and turns into a vigilante.  I enjoy the characters and movies, but never got into the comics.

On Sunday, I chanted with Andreas at Orthros.  Andreas is the cantor at Archangel Michael. He is a professional singer (for weddings, parties, etc.) with slicked back gray-white hair.  He was wearing a white suitcoat.  Following suit, I did not wear my raso. Father Dennis had introduced us.  Andreas was excited to meet me, and glad I could chant with him.  He is also an artist, and showed me photos of his paintings: some of Greek islands, some of cottages, all in Kincade's style.

The Orthros book was formatted Greek on the left, English on the right.  We simply took turns and chanted antiphonally with Andreas chanting in Greek and I in English.  I gave him an ison (drone), which he did not provide for me (I found it difficult to chant without it since I am so used to it).  The custom at this parish is for the cantor to chant liturgy rather than the choir during the summer, so Andreas and I chanted for Liturgy as well, following the same format.  He chanted the epistle in Greek, and I followed in English. The Anaphora (communion service) was in plagal first mode, which was also the tone of the week.  During communion we sang "Recieve me today, O Son of God, as partaker of Thy mystical supper..." alternating in Greek and English.

After the liturgy was a memorial service.  We sang "Memory Eternal" with the same melody as St. Irene's, so it must be pretty universal.  The melody is hauntingly beautiful, and I would like to use it at St. Mary's.

You may listen to this melody of "memory eternal" below.  The choir in the video is directed by my teacher, Ioannis Arvanitis.

After Liturgy was coffee hour, of course.  The book store was open.  I bought a paraklesis to St. Nektarios with hopes of using this service in the future at St. Mary's.  I also found "Evlogeite: A Pilgrim's Guide to Greece" to help me prepare for my next trip.

At coffee hour, Tom ran into a lady who he knew from Greece, because they have the same geronda (elder). She lives in New York City, and was planning to visit friends further down Long Island, but made a wrong exit from the expressway and ended up at Archangel Michael.  The three of us went to a diner for lunch.
She was quite opinionated and was not fond of most things.  However, she introduced us to an incredibly beautiful and moving homily by St. Epiphanios of Cyprus:

St. Epiphanios is extremely elegant and vivid in his imagery as Christ dies on the Cross, Nikodemos bargains with Pilate, Christ descends victorious to Hades and destroys it, and raises Adam and all the faithful from the Old Testament who have been awaiting this day.  I know it is long, but it is worth it.  Please take the time to read it. You won't regret it.

On Monday, we worked for almost 14 hours on the gold leaf.  We placed thousands of 3 3/8" x 3 3/8" squares of gold to the wall.  Tom woke up at 3am to glue the wall so that it would be sufficiently tacky to start at 8.  The glue is sensitive and must be done in carefully planned sections.  The huge expanse was necessary to achieve the right look and avoid visible seams.  The process is painfully slow and my back and neck were not at all happy.  At the end of the day, the apse was half finished.

On Tuesday, I began the border above the apse.  It is a green floral border, almost like lace.

On Wednesday, we endured another brutal leafing.  Today, we shaved off a couple hours and finished the same area in 12 hours.  The apse is now completely gilded.

I placed the final leaf.
Fields of Gold:
Enjoy this appropriate video:


  1. a great effort for His Church.. Glory to God!


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