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.