Tuesday 15 August 2023

mariรค himmelfahrt (10. 946)

Observed on this day as either the Feast of the Assumption in the Latin Rite or the Feast of the Dormition in Eastern Orthodox tradition, Christians celebrate the translation of the Virgin Mary, either wholly, bodily taken up or having gone to sleep without suffering a mortal death. While this elevation to eternal life has some singular aspects (Mary is said to enjoy the fullness and autonomy of the afterlife that the other saints will only experience after the Last Judgment), there are other instances of the phenomenal honour in Judaism and Christianity, with Jesus and Enoch, the patriarch and father of Methuselah “who walked with God: and was no more” and the prophet Elijah and Pharaoh’s Daughter (see also) who found Moses (himself taken up after his remains were fought over by Satan and the Archangel Michael) amongst the reeds with other instances of being raptured in other traditions. Many figures in Hinduism, kings and swami, are said to have merged with God, essentially dematerialising, Islam teaches that Muhammed was similarly taken up into Heaven and Hellenistic tradition recognises ascendant masters like the thaumaturgist and philosopher Apollonius, a wandering sage who travelled in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia and drew many latter day comparisons to the reincarnated Christ.

Friday 11 November 2022

menas of egypt (10. 293)

Early third century wonder-worker and Coptic soldier in the Roman army martyred for refusing to recant his Christian faith, Menas (โฒ€โฒƒโฒƒโฒ โฒ˜โฒโฒ›โฒ—Amen), is commemorated on this day, corresponding to 15 Hathor on the Egyptian calendar. Garnering a posthumous reputation for intercession on any number on ailments, Abu Mina, the site where his body was buried (according to legend, the camels bearing his corpse stopped twice in this exact location and refused to move further) after being dismembered by fellow soldiers became a popular pilgrimage—following Constantine I (previously) sending his ill daughter, Flavia Valeria Constantina—later known as Saint Constance, destination with terracotta flasks with the saint’s iconography taken as souvenirs and found from Heidelberg to Cheshire and all points in between. Protector of the falsely accused, peddlers and travelling salespersons, Menas is the patron of the city of Heraklion, Koblenz and many Swiss villages in the north Alps.

Monday 7 November 2022

ะดะฒะฐ ะฒะธั…ั–ะดะฝั– ะดะฝั– (10. 280)

Not the usual variety of holiday-creep but rather in response to the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church’s propaganising and open support for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and acquiescing to an already emergent move to more Western traditions that have been present among the populace particularly since 2014—even declaring the Gregorian date a public holiday in 2017 but with appeals stretching back as far as shortly after the 1582 change instigated by Pope Gregory was adopted by neighbouring Poland for civil and religious purposes , the ecclesiastical body, the independent Kyiv Metropolitanate, announced that each parish could hold full Christmas service on 25 December if they wished—whereas the day in the Orthodox calendar was only a solemnity for prayers beforehand. Leaders of the country’s some seven thousand churches are polling parishioners to find out how many would like to have Christmas on the Western date or stick with the Julian calendar (7 January)—with most communities and families expected to observe both.

Thursday 27 October 2022

ฮฑฮบฯฯ‰ฯ„ฮฎฯฮน (10. 252)

Staying on the Akrotiri peninsula and not far from the Holy Trinity monastery we visited earlier, we embarked on a long trek down to the sea and back from the grounds of fourteen century Gouverneto Monastery (Our Lady of the Angels, ฮœฮฟฮฝฮฎ ฮ“ฮฟฯ…ฮฒฮตฯฮฝฮญฯ„ฮฟฯ…)—among the oldest and most extensive religious communities on the island.

A paved pilgrims’ path leads to a cave called Arkouditissa (cave of the She Bear, owing to the appearance of the stalagmite pulpit) that was once a place dedicated to the worship of Artemis but is now a retreat for the monks to pray in solitude.
Though not expecting the trail down the gorge to be this much of a challenge, we made it passed the ruins of a pre-Schism church and cloister called Katholiko and down the craggy cliffs to a cove with turquoise waters that channels out to the open sea.

Wednesday 26 October 2022

vale and valley (10. 250)

Making an excuursion to points west, we went beyond Chania and toured the Monastery of our Lady of Gonia (Panagia Hodegetria, ฮœฮฟฮฝฮฎ ฮ“ฯ‰ฮฝฮนฮฌฯ‚), the host of a 2016 synod of the Greek Orthodox Church and a museum with a collection of vestments, papal seals and sigils and some of the most iconic icons to peruse. The blue of the sea blended in to sky on the battle-hardened balcony and further atop the promontory.

Our route followed the length of Topolia gorge from the port of Kissimos down to the beach at Elaphonisi, renowned for its pink sands and circular lagoon that one can wade across to a nearby rocky cliff.
The drive through the gorge and back was quite breathtaking—in reference to our last trip, I told H I’m calling this place „hot Scotland“ but with on coming traffic on this narrow lane with hairpin turns and serpentine bends, there was not many opportunities for picture taking (credit to the tourism board)—plus I didn’t want to distract the driver.

Sunday 23 October 2022

ausflug kreta (10. 247)

Despite extensive study and having seen plenty of pictures ahead of time, reaching our accommodations late at night, we weren’t quite certain what to expect for the view and surrounding terrain but our spot on Angali bay looking out on the Sea of Crete, located on the westerly third of the island did not disappoint. 

We took a trip early in the day to the ancient provincial capital Chania (ฮงฮฑฮฝฮฏฮฑ, pronounced Hanya), a settlement dating back to the Minoan civilisation in the Neolithic age some five-thousand years ago and influenced by the Greeks, the Venetians, who built the port, lighthouse (ฮฆฮฑฯฯŒฯ‚) and shipyard as a naval outpost to protect their thalassocracy against piracy, the Byzantines and the Ottomans before rejoining Greece again. 

After exploring the city, we visited the monastery Agia Triada Tsangarolon (ฮœฮฟฮฝฮฎ ฮ‘ฮณฮฏฮฑฯ‚ ฮคฯฮนฮฌฮดฮฟฯ‚, the Holy Trinity) in Byzantine style and dated from the seventh century. Like many of the active communities in the region, the estate produces its own wine and olive oil. 

Later in the evening we went into the nearby village of Stavros and had dinner at a restaurant in a converted windmill on the beach, the same location where the 1964 film Zorba the Greek was shot, at least the “Teach me to dance” scene.

Monday 17 October 2022

ฮฌฮณฮนฮฟฯ‚ ฮฌฮฝฮดฯฮญฮฑฯ‚ ฮฟ ฮบฯฮทฯ„ฮนฮบฯŒฯ‚ (10. 231)

Fรชted on this day on the occasion of his martyrdom in the Forum Bovis (the Ox Market where public executions were held) of Constantinople by order of Constantine V in 766 or 767, the fervent iconodule Andrew of Crete (AOC, not to be confused with more prominent theologian and hymnographer from a few decades earlier with the same name) was a champion of religious imagery when such practises were suppressed as idolatrous by imperial authorities in the Eastern Empire during the Byzantine Iconoclasm. A monastery as was dedicated in his memory (originally named for the apostle and later after the ultimate triumph of Orthodoxy adding the appellation ฮฎ ฮšฯฮฏฯƒฮนฯ‚—by-the-Judgement, Krisis—for this popular opposition figure sentenced to death for his iconophilia) and currently houses the Koca Mustafa Pasha mosque.

Sunday 9 October 2022

to sprinkle, especially with holy water (10. 208)

Freighted already as commonly defined as above, asperge—from the same root as disperse and sparse, the tear-stained terms, as in casting aspersions, is a slander against another’s good reputation. An asperger itself refers to the implement for scattering holy water or those whom held the office, like the Dutch-orgin of the namesake for the former syndrome now referred to as the autism spectrum. According to one commentator (who is a fount of knowledge) baptism can be accomplished by immersion, affusion (anointing with water) or aspersion, according to different traditions.

Friday 7 October 2022

sergius & bacchus (10. 202)

Among the most popular paired saints with a cult going back to the fifth century, the Syrian Roman soldiers were, according to their hagiography, favoured officers in the army of Galerius (successor to Emperor Diocletian, toning down his persecutions but still strongly opposed to Christianity) until their secret adherence was exposed, they are venerated on this day in the Western Church to mark their martyrdom and the hands of their superiors, tortured (Bacchus went first and his ghost returned to encourage his compatriot to be steadfast and not disavow his faith) and beheaded. Tradition emphasises their closeness and inseparability, which has caused the couple to be embraced by the Catholic gay community—most accepting that their relationship had a romantic element to it and points to the rite, suggestive of a form of same-sex union, called แผ€ฮดฮตฮปฯ†ฮฟฯ€ฮฟฮฏฮทฯƒฮนฯ‚ (adelphopoiesis, fraternisation or brother-making). Their patronage includes Arabs, Syria and army soldiers and their home church built in Constantinople—now known as the Little Hagia Sophia Mosque—is the among the city’s most splendid examples of Byzantine architecture, second only to its namesake.

Tuesday 27 September 2022

แˆ˜แˆตแ‰€แˆ (10. 172)

Transliterated into Latin script as Ge’ez or Cross, Ethiopian and Eritrean orthodox Tewahedo communities celebrate the fourth century discovery of the True Cross by Helen (previously) on this day, the seventeenth of Meskerem (แˆ˜แˆตแŠจแˆจแˆ), by which the holiday Meskel is known. Festivities includes the burning of a Demera—that is, a large bonfire—after the tradition that Queen Eleni, as she is called locally, was instructed in a dream that the rising smoke would guide her to spot where the relic was buried. Adherents believe that the burning symbolizes the cancellation of sins and the ultimate collapse of the wood pile has prognosticatory value to glean for the near future and like on Ash Wednesday, anoint themselves. Since 2013, Meskel has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Thursday 19 May 2022


With a wildly popular cult following until eventually being overshadowed by the martyred Thomas Becket, Saint Dunstan, cleric, scribe, artist, blacksmith, brewer and advisor to many kings is feted on this day on the anniversary of his death in 988 (*909). Entering monastic life in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in the company of Irish monks who occupied the site, young Dunstan excelled at all forms of craftsmanship and scholarship and was soon appointed to the court of Athelstan. Palace intrigues ensued and other courtiers grew jealous of the noviciate’s influence and sought to disgrace Dunstan with accusations of witchcraft. Distaste for politics caused Dunstan to return to Glastonbury and build a small hermitage and during this interlude before eventually being recalled to London and then acclaimed archbishop of Canterbury as he got to know God, Dunstan reportedly developed a relationship with the Devil as well, rebuffing temptation several times, arranging for the late frosts of Franklin Nights (to fall around his future feast day) to spoil the cider harvest so his own beer might be more in demand and at the Devil’s request shod and unshod one of his hooves. The ill-advised experience turned out to be too painful for the Prince of Darkness and is apparently an enduring trauma as he cannot pass through a threshold under a horseshoe—the origin supposedly of the lucky symbol.

Monday 16 May 2022

brendan the navigator

Counted as one of the twelve apostles of Ireland and best remembered for his ocean-voyage to find the Isle of the Blessed (see previously), the monastic saint from Clonfert is feted on this day in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox traditions. Although the Vita and Navigatio from the early eighth century mostly attest to his faith and devotion to the gospel and give scant details on his seafaring, a rich mythology has formed around the adventures of Brendan (Brรฉnainn moccu Alti) and his crew, retinue and their search for Eden—which though mostly taken for religious allegory and to incorporate Christian elements into the Irish custom of the sea-going sojourn, there is some evidence in the account that they might have encountered hitherto unknown lands and icebergs and reportedly Christopher Columbus studied his tack and jibe to find favourable winds to carry him past the Canaries. Patron to the dioceses of Kerry and his home of Clonfert, Brendan is also the protector of mariners, boatmen, elderly adventurers and whales—due to one legend of them making landfall only to discover it was in fact a great sea monster called Jasconius.