Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Best Sermon I Ever Experienced


As I was reading a sermon of St. Kosmas the Aitolos the other day on his feast day, I was thinking what that sermon must have been like for his listeners. I imagined an educated monk with an ascetic appearance from Mount Athos coming into an 18th century Greek village made up of mostly an illiterate population, hungry to learn and to be guided and to be inspired in a time of harsh oppression. They were like sheep without a shepherd surrounded by wolves, but then a saintly shepherd appears in their midst and offers them some refreshment. This made me think of the closest experience I ever had to such a thing, having heard at least a few stand out sermons in my life. Nothing really can compare. However, when I think of the absolute best sermon I ever heard, my mind always goes to the same one.

It was the evening before the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, around 26 years ago, when it was my first year in seminary, and I had gone to a local church outside of Boston dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos, where the Lamentations to the Theotokos were movingly chanted that night over a decorated replica of her tomb. The fairly large church was full inside, with people pouring out into the parking lot outside, and the Bishop was serving, together with at least a dozen priests. I sat somewhere around the fifth or sixth row to the left, with a clear view of the pulpit. I didn't know who was going to be preaching the sermon that night, but before he came out the church was dimly lit, primarily by the candles, the people sat down, with the service having ended, then up to the pulpit walked a Greek monk from Mount Athos, with an ascetic appearance, long white beard and hair in a ponytail, dressed in a black cassock.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Stench of Hagia Sophia (part two)


On July 24th I wrote about the future stench of Hagia Sophia due to the fact that as a mosque it is now required for people to enter Hagia Sophia barefoot onto a carpeted floor. Over time, especially in popular mosques that bring in a lot of people, the carpets begin to contain a horrendous odor. Even though the Muslim worshipers are required to wash their feet before entering, visitors and non-Muslims are not, which makes these popular mosques especially stinky. In the future, those who want to spend some time in Hagia Sophia will have to contend against the inevitable stench.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Stench of Hagia Sophia


In the Russian Primary Chronicle it is reported that in the year 987, after consultation with his boyars, Vladimir the Great sent envoys to study the religions of the various neighboring nations whose representatives had been urging him to embrace their respective faiths. The result is described by the chronicler Nestor. Of the Muslim Bulgarians of the Volga the envoys reported there is no gladness among them, only sorrow and a great stench. But in Constantinople they found their ideal: "We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth," they reported, describing a majestic Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia, "nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it." This impressed Vladimir enough to embrace Orthodox Christianity for himself and his people.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Top Ten Movies of 2020 (So Far)


With a little more than half of 2020 past us, in a time when the pandemic has left us with little else to do but watch movies, yet without many new movies being released, I decided to finally make my list of the top ten movies of 2020 so far. I wasn't going to make this list, because at least 90% of the movies I've seen since March have been pre-2020 releases primarily in drive-in theaters, and my mind hasn't really been focused on new movies. But before March I saw most of the new movies released, and since then I've seen a few though I am woefully behind and need to catch up. I typically don't like to watch movies at home unless it is a movie I have little hope of ever seeing in the theater, so watching a movie at home becomes a last resort. I'm typically very strict in ranking films I only watch in the theater, and I've tried to make my present list reflect those I have seen in theaters, though to reflect the times I did add two that I saw at home. This list may be very different a month from now after I attempt to catch up on films from 2020 that are currently streaming, but as of now here is my list.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Three Personal Experiences with Indiana Jones


A few days ago I had the opportunity to see Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on the big screen at a drive-in theater, two movies I have watched numerous times, though it's been many years since I have seen either one. Seeing them again helped me recall three personal experiences I have had with the Indiana Jones series.

First of all, I consider Raiders of the Lost Ark to be a perfect movie and I would easily place it in my top ten list of favorite films. When I was in high school my history teacher used Indiana Jones as an example for something, I can't recall what exactly, and he mentioned how his adventures brought him to Africa, Asia, Italy, Germany and the Middle East. Being an Indiana Jones fan as well as Greek I couldn't let him get away without also mentioning Greece. When I added that he also went to Greece as well, he was a bit bewildered, and was trying to think at what point Indiana Jones went to Greece. Then I helped him remember that in Raiders of the Lost Ark, after they found the Ark of the Covenant in Egypt, the Germans brought it by ship to a Nazi occupied Aegean island just north of Crete, where the Jewish ritual took place and they opened the Ark. Though the island is fictional in the movie, still the map that shows the island in the movie is a Greek island. My teacher then confessed that he never noticed that before and would pay more careful attention next time. The next day my teacher told me that he rented Raiders of the Lost Ark after school the day before, and he confirmed that I was right.