Panayiopoula Church, Corfu
Panayiopoula Church, Corfu

May

Connected to the revival of nature. All around the world electronic laptops, smart phones, i-pads, welcomed us today to the universal holiday. Most people have headed for the cities to take part in processions of complaint. All wearing shirts made for the day at whose expense? In South America they draw lines over their tummies showing hunger, in the Asian area they are on guard for imprudent weapon use, in Asia Minor one power-mad man spews out threats every day. In Europe they speak before they think. Power is an aphrodisiac after all. Democracy has enslaved us, we serve the leaders, who lead us without any conscience, as subjects not as men. No reaction, just sit around in case anything turns up. We take whatever they dish up, just like the dog who returns to his own vomit. (Prov. 26.11.) We should be doers, not listeners. (James, 1,22.) Why trust Princes from whom there is no help? (Psalm 146.3.) But we sit in a winter of despair,believing nothing promising is before us. But winter passes, flowers appear, and birds arrive. The law of the land. Nature never lets us down. Bless the Lord, owner of the Earth. (Psalm 21.1.) Many ordeals are followed by miracles. Once we said no food without working. Just as we said no work is a disgrace. Offer the official unemployed, on some government handout to clean the sewer for $100, he will not do it. The young live on pocket money, some try a futile government scheme for a few months, but fall quickly by the wayside. They do not know work or to be corrected. The father spared the rod and regrets it now (Proverbs 13.24). We all have strayed. (Is. 53.6). We are a shepherdless flock, but could have been shepherded by the Lord and fed. (Is. 41.11.)

Politics is the art of the possible – we are the victims making it possible. These leaders live by robbing the poor. They feed us the gullible, old wives fables (Tim. 4,7). We give up so easily. We are showing inferior reasoning, and deficient self-reliance. (See on Youtube how Agafia the Siberian manages.) Why, poor and obedient as they have made us, they pass laws to stop us sleeping out, to beg in the streets, and to steal a bread roll.  On a grander scale – they made us borrow. See what happens .He who goes borrowing, goes sorrowing.

Shouldn’t we endeavor to remedy the malaise, the unjust, to sing again “Onward Christian Soldiers”? Let each man love God, love his neighbor, and proceed armed as good Christians. We know that our Redeemer liveth. (Job. 19,25.)

This month the Holy Metochi will respect all the Services linked to Easter, like mid Penticosti, The Return Service of Easter, and the Ascension. We also have major saints days, of Irene, Christophorus, Matrona of Moscow, and Barbaros - well feted on the island. Always note the announcements, easily read at the board near the door of the church, and thank you all for providing for those whose income has been lessened. Please accept our gratitude. Christ is Risen!

Holy Friday at the Metochi

This is the second important day in the annual program of the Panayiopoula, full of tradition and well supported by the local residents.

Holy Week (Easter) on Corfu is truly special and everyone strives to keep the customs. The little church is readied according to the solemnity of the day, fasting continues (on this day many eat only lettuce dipped in vinegar) and the schedule of the Procession of the Epitaphion is examined. There are at least a dozen churches in the area also participating, so close control is needed on the timing.

The Panayiopoula is beautified in purple, the women decorate the Epitaphion with the richest of flowers and the children are ready to throw petals as the procession starts. A very individual, wooden iconographic presentation of Christ laid out for burial, is in the centre of the flowered Epitaphion. A Hieromonk from the Holy Monastery Platytera officiates at the chanting of The Praises, one of the most treaured of services in the Holy Week. (It would be rewarding to read this exquisite poetic set, if you are not aware of it.)

Holy Friday is a day of sacrifice, strict fasting, and avoidance of work. While knowing the sufferings of Christ, we already look forward to the glorious Resurrection.

Each year youngsters are chosen to carry the Epitaphion, the Holy Banner, the Cross, lanterns and cherubims, and one will care for the incense. The procession follows a course round the historic Old Town and no one deserts it, for there is the reading of the Gospel once back in the church.

After the dismissal, everyone takes flowers from the Epitaphion - an age old custom - and the sorrow of Easter Week changes to a keen awaiting of the Resurrection. The celebration of the Resurrection has already started; the church removes the symbolic purple and now red and white predominate. The Greeks now wish each other "Καλη Ανασταση" (kali anastasi).

We are very proud of our particular Epitaphion, a memorable Paschal day and suggest you come and experience it with us next year.

August 23 - Festival of The Odigitria

As at every monastery, so too at the Holy Metochi the celebration of the Saint to whom the monastery is dedicated is the most significant day in the year. 

In the case of the Metochi, our Patroness is the Holy Virgin and Mother of God, the Odigitria, who in this area is called the Panayiopoula. All year in our thoughts and prayers we call to  her to bestow her grace on us.

The 23rd of August is the Return Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, the 9th day, and worshippers venerate a small icon of the Dormition, showing the All-Holy settled on her deathbed surrounded by apostles, hierarchs and angels.

Leading up to the day the church is scrubbed, polished and decorated. The Altar is covered with a richly embroidered cloth only used for this festival, flowers fill every corner and rows of flags are strung up and down the street. The  beloved and grace-filled icon of the Panayiopoula is framed in priceless handmade lace.

Celebrating the Panagia Odigitria

The church which so many describe as having a 'soul' is very small, so chairs outside in the quiet street soon fill up with locals and some from further away.

Each Service is officiated by the Hegumen of the Holy Monastery Platytera.

'All generations shall call me blessed'  Luke 1, 48. That is why we call and pray for her help, our Ever-Virgin Mother. All Holy Theotokos intercede for us.

St Maximus the Greek

Let’s see another celebration on January 21, for St Maximus the Greek, Vatopaidinos, son of the noble Trivoli family of Corfu, Enlightener of the Russians, 1470-1556.

The Holy Monastery Vatopaidinou, Mt Athos along with The Friends of the Monastery, revere the Saint. New facts are researched by their historians and a group in Arta where the Saint was born, have almost completed an enormous church in his memory. They have managed to obtain some relics of the Saint from the Moscow Lavra of St. Sergiou.where Maximus is buried.

Young Russians visiting our Metochi are always glad to see our faithful copy of the icon which graces the Vatopaidinou Monastery and express their respect for the Enlightener of the Russians. All those who read the life of the Saint also admire him greatly.
Maximus came to Corfu for schooling over some years and it was here that he developed his unquenchable love for learning. The descendants of his family have kept a valuable and interesting historic record over the years. Maximus continued higher level studies in Italy and became known for his widespread reading, especially erudite. Answering a heavenly call to monastic life he entered Vatopaidinou Monastery and became perfect in obedience. The rich library of the Monastery was his delight. During this time Russia was in need of improvement of its liturgical books. Maximus was chosen to go there to translate, add corrections and explanations in the books and correct church observances. He was the first to set up a printing press and aroused an interest in culture. In short he instigated a local renaissance.

In the Church, too much activity arouses jealousy while too little causes anger. By now Maximus had daily contact with the Tsar, the Metropolitan and all the prominent people of Moscow. Suddenly that changed. The leaders became wary of his intimate friendships and closed him in a Moscow jail for 25 years, in abysmal conditions, in a cramped, damp  underground cell with no floor, sometimes chained, always cold. His devotion and faith never wavered despite not being allowed books or pen, and finding a piece of coal on the rough ground he wrote on the walls of his cell the Service of Supplication to the Holy Spirit. This has recently been published in Greek and in a few days our Metochi will chant this unique work. The tough and ungrateful Russians had locked-up a philosopher, theologian, writer and publisher, translator, language expert and miracle worker. The Greek writer Kazantzakis writes in his book “Travels” that there would be no way the Russians would allow Maximus back to Greece for he knew too many secrets. The Monastery of his Repentance, Patriarchs and Metropolitans all strove to have him freed. Finally he was released to a Moscow monastery where he added to his rich collection of writings, never complaining about his torture, rather, praising the Lord for increasing his belief. He died there quietly, and his Holy Relics are housed in that lavra. God had bestowed Grace and allowed miracles to be performed by Maximus. Our select monk Maximus remained a model monk, always eager to improve his vast knowledge as trained in Corfu, which led to his Sainthood.

May Saint Maximus intercede for us.

Monastic Celebrations

In every monastery in our blessed Orthodox country many services are conducted day and night throughout the length of the church year. Vespers, Matins, Small Compline and the Divine Liturgy to name a few.  

One day is exceptionally special, the day the monastery honours its Patron Saint or Patroness. The service will be officiated perhaps by the Bishop of the Metropolis and Hieromonks and priests will be co-officiating. Worshippers, the friends of the monastery, will also honour the day arriving early with gifts of oil, candles, flowers and sweets.

All year long the monk, or nun, prays to the saint, begs for holy intercession, and executes each task with due reverence. No task is done half-heartedly, not to upset the brother monk and certainly not to disappoint the saint. Or the Panayia, for so many monasteries are devoted to the All-Holy Ever Virgin. If accidentally something is broken or lost all apologies are made to the Panayia, for the monk is a temporary resident at the monastery and everything belongs to the Panagia (or Saint). 

Of course other celebrations can be observed through the year especially if there is a miracle-working icon or relics of some saint. Preparations for the festival include making the Bread for Consecration, boiled wheat (koluba) topped with a coloured-sugar icon, perfecting the church, candles in place, the garden pruned and watered, and the refectory welcoming for the numbers of worshippers who will sit at the table. A large sisterhood can fulfill these traditions yet in smaller monasteries nothing is missing.

Chanting

The Holy Monastery Platytera Corfu has just published a study on an early music manuscript (c1650) found in its library.  Its composition is unusual and the archivists, Spiros Karydis and Panayiota Jivara leave the way open for specialists to define its role. Copies can be obtained at the monastery.

The Orthodox Church has always included fine chanting in its services. There are strict rules and detailed instructions, and still today schools are offering lessons in every Metropoli for Byzantine music.

Even if in women's monasteries the nuns have mastered the 'art',  we expect only men in the parish churches, some modelling themselves on the excellent chanting as at Mt. Athos, and others who from years of attending church have learnt the troparia (songs) by themselves.

As St. John Chrysostomos writes, it's not essential for note perfection but for humble  appropriate expression. The  mission is achieved if the congregation understands the words.

As the chanter plays an important part in each service, he dresses well, he stands attentively, and shares the service with the chanter at the opposite lectern. It is said that St. John Koukouzelis received a gold coin from the Holy Mother for his exquisite chanting.

Not everyone though is blessed with a beautiful voice and the humble chanter who exercises ‘Fear of God’  is an asset to the church.

Monastics chant throughout the day. When St. Maximos the Greek (monk of Vatopedi monastery) was imprisoned in Russia and denied paper and pen, he wrote The Canon to the Holy Spirit on the wall of his cell using a piece of charcoal.

The Holy Metochi Panayiopoula is extremely grateful to the chanters who offer their help so willingly and in keeping with the monastic rule of the blessed church.

The church can be contacted by writing to PO Box 532, Corfu, 49100 Greece or by email at info@corfu-odigitria.com.


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