13 July 2014

Agia Sophia Thessaloniki

Agia Sophia in Thessaloniki is unassuming from the outside but the interior took my breath away. The church was built at the same time as the more famous Agia Sophia in Constantinople and share many of the same architectural elements. Both churches are named for Christ who is the "Holy Wisdom" of God, and not the martyr Saint Sophia. This church has stunning ninth century mosaics.

Agios Demetrios

This is the view from our window in Thessaloniki: the 1700 year old church of St. Demetrios.

I awoke at 7:30am to the church bells announcing the beginning of Orthros (morning prayers). I got ready and went downstairs and across the street to church by 8:00 for the last part of Orthros.

The Great Doxology and bells at St. Demetrios Thessaloniki, Sunday 13 July 2014.

It was a pleasant surprise when a fully vested bishop emerge from the sanctuary: this meant this morning would be the much more ceremonious Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. At least half a dozen priests and a dozen subdeacons and servers made lengthy processions the entire length of the five aisled basilica. Hundreds and hundreds of faithful prayed. The house was packed with standing room only.

This church houses the relics of St. Demetrios and the nun martyr St. Anysia, his contemporary. St. Demetrios was a well known, high ranking official in the Roman army whose outspoken Christian beliefs drew the ire of the emperor Maximian. The emperor was killing Christians in gladiatorial contests with his invincible vandal champion Lyaios. Nestor, an untrained disciple of St. Demetrios, defeated the mighty Lyaios. The crowd erupted in chant "Great is the God of Demetrios!" St. Nestor was then beheaded and St. Demetrios was martyred with a lance on 26 October 304. The church was built over the site of ancient Roman baths where St. Demetrios was imprisoned, martyred and buried, near the site of the arena, the ruins of which are still visible a block to the south.

12 July 2014

Zurich: First Impressions

After an overnight flight with little sleep, we arrived in Zurich around 6:30am (or 11:30pm eastern time).
We secured our luggage in a locker, took a ten minute train into the old town, and have spent about an hour strolling through the narrow empty streets.

It's pretty early on a Saturday morning, and it's great to watch the city waking up.

Around almost every corner is a small square with a fountain.

And lots of great courtyards.

We've grabbed coffee at a great little cafe.

11 July 2014

Here We Go Again

Rebekah, Codey, and I are about to depart for our return to Greece!
My first trip to Greece found me in Athens for five weeks, studying Byzantine chant in daily lessons with Dr. Ioannis Arvanitis. It was a tremendous learning experience. This trip will allow me to follow through with some dreams and plans unrealized in my last trip. Over the next few weeks, we will travel through Greece as pilgrims, beginning in Thessaloniki, visiting a friend and his family in Trikala, a brief stop in Athens, some island hopping, and finally, if God wills, we will venerate our Lord's empty tomb in Jerusalem.
Our flight leaves Chicago in about an hour. Next stop: Zurich.
Κύριε ελεισον!