Friday, November 22, 2019

Saint Cecilia, Patron of Musicians

St. Cecilia by Spyridoula Degaiti

Saint Cecilia was an early Christian martyr of the third century born to a wealthy family of Rome. She vowed her virginity to Christ, but her parents arranged for her to be married. Her betrothed was a pagan named Valerian, and she worried over how to convince him to be baptized so she can preserve her virginity. On the day of her wedding, therefore, we are informed of the following from her sixth century Acts:

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Politics of Armenian Genocide Recognition


By John Sanidopoulos

On October 29th the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to recognize the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Turks, which it has strongly opposed for decades mainly because Turkey is a NATO ally. Why now? I believe it is purely for political reasons following the Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held northeastern Syria. Most people in the House could care less about the Armenian Genocide. I'm sure some voted in favor of the recognition purely because they felt it was the right thing to do, though it does show their ignorance. My own long-held personal thoughts about the issue is that it would be better if the international community did not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. There is no point in doing so. Armenians think that by having international recognition, they could pressure Turkey into accepting it as a historical fact and thus gain reparations. But the Republic of Turkey didn't exist at the time. The 1915 Armenian Genocide took place under the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, nations should not be punished for a genocide, only individuals directly responsible. By having the international community recognize the Armenian Genocide on an official level, it only hinders more and more from the goal coming to fruition - which is for Turkey to officially recognize it. It ensures that Turkey will always be on a defensive mode against the accusations, because it believes it is being de-legitimized by nations who neither care about nor understand the problem. The fact that the United States Congress has now recognized the Armenian Genocide comes off as being another form of virtue signaling against the Trump administration, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, I'm absolutely sure this is true. I would rather the Armenian Genocide not be officially recognized, and let individuals have the freedom to make up their minds about the matter, then political partisans won't use it as a shameless political weapon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Letter About Music (St. Varnava Nastic)


About Music

By St. Varnava Nastic

(From a letter to the sisters of Jazak Monastery)

First of all, I want to tell you about music in order to tell you something about the sweet-sounding speech of God in this world and in all the worlds of God. In the early centuries, people, speaking of music, argued that in the Universe some mysterious, marvelous music was constantly heard, which with its divine sounds fills the whole boundless expanse of space. They thought that a star was whispering to a star the words of eternal love in a language known only to the stars, and that language, beyond any human language, could only be music, a melody of notes written not by the human hand and invented by an limited, drowned out human soul. These are symphonies, our ancestors thought, which only angels could sing, only their enlightened souls could write and transmit to the stars so that they would whisper through the dark, inaccessible stellar distances. And they whispered, spoke the language of music, the only possible way.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Jonathan Jackson Discusses His Most Challenging Role as Elder Joseph the Hesychast


In the video interview below, five-time Emmy award winning Hollywood actor Jonathan Jackson, who frequently visits Mount Athos as a pilgrim, talks about perhaps the most challenging role of his career playing Elder Joseph the Hesychast in a documentary filmed on Mount Athos.

Jonathan Jackson sees this particular role as an "incredible blessing", in his interview with the International Orthodox Church News Agency and journalist Pepi Oikonomakis. He calls it a "unique experience" both "physical and spiritual", and he would not have done it without the blessing and prayers of the Athonite fathers.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The First Translation of Edgar Allan Poe Into Modern Greek

Emmanuel Rhoides

Greece was a primary inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe. As a child he studied Greek and Latin literature, during which time his love for Homer developed. Because he considered Homer to be one of the most important writers ever, and Plato too, he excelled in Hellenic studies. His love for Greece led him to even lie to people that he had visited Greece, which he did not. Furthermore, one of his literary idols was Lord Byron, who had gone to Greece to fight for Greek Independence against the Turks, and it was in Greece that he died. In 1827 Poe made an attempt to follow in Byron's footsteps, but it did not come to pass. Nonetheless, Greece can be read throughout his works.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Cell Where Alexandros Papadiamantis Lived for Ten Years


In a small poor cell big enough to fit not much more than a bunk bed in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Psyri, a neighborhood of Athens, the celebrated writer Alexandros Papadiamantis spent about ten years of his life.

While living in Athens he was unable to afford his rent anymore and was of poor health, so a monk from Mount Athos and a childhood friend from Skiathos named Nephon invited him to stay in the same cell he lived in at the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Psyri, where Nephon served as sexton. It was during his stay here that he wrote portions of his most celebrated novel, The Murderess. Also, it was in this church that he sometimes chanted while Saint Nicholas Planas was the celebrant priest.

Friday, September 27, 2019

"Honeyland" Is A Documentary You Want To See Now


I'm just posting this here to encourage everyone to go to their local theaters this weekend and see the documentary Honeyland. You won't regret it. It is one of those rare documentaries that is meant for and most appreciated on the big screen. If it is showing anywhere near you, go see it. If not, watch for it when it streams somewhere. If you want a synopsis what it is about, then here is a description:

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Stag of Saint Eustathios Plakidas and Popular Fantasy Literature


The Hunting of the White Stag

A Christ symbol that is closely related to the unicorn is the stag, whose earliest representation in Christian art can be found in the Roman catacombs and in baptismal font designs and basilica altar mosaics of subsequent periods. It appeared as a Christ symbol in bestiaries, stories of the lives of the saints, and in medieval romances, such as the Queste del Saint Graal, where the stag served as a guide toward the object of the quest, the Holy Grail.

The stag appeared as a symbol of Christ in the story of St. Eustace [Eustathios]. This saint, like C. S. Lewis’s fictional character Eustace Scrubb in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, experienced a miraculous conversion.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Preaching and the Internet: A Contemporary Pastoral Problem


By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The case of Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou in regards to his talk on homosexuality and his persecution, without knowing what the outcome of the case will be, revealed a problem that exists in contemporary society.

It is a given that the Metropolitan of Morphou is a pious Hierarch with an ecclesiastical consciousness and an ecclesiastical mindset, who reveres the traditions of the Church and very much reveres the saints he met in his life, namely Saint Porphyrios and Saint Iakovos. He manifests these gifts in many and various ways.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Saint Phanourios, Patron Saint of Karagiozis Puppeteers


Karagiozis is the main character of the tales narrated in the Turkish and Greek shadow-puppet theatre going back to at least the 19th century. Karagiozis is an anti-hero hunchbacked Greek, who is very clever and very poor, his right hand is always depicted long, his clothes are ragged and patched, and his feet are always bare. He lives in a poor cottage with his wife Aglaia and his three sons, during the times of the Ottoman Empire. The scene is occupied by his cottage in the left, and the Sultan's Palace on the far right. Because of his poverty, Karagiozis uses mischievous and crude ways to find money and feed his family, poking fun at himself, his friends, the Pasha, taxes and the audience in general. His shows usually tell comedic stories of his adventures.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Drama Of My Life: Blogs, Cell Phones, and the End of Privacy


By Father Geoffrey Korz

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." - Matthew 6:24

As much as our southern cousins like to take credit for him, the inventor of the telephone was Canadian. Although born and raised in Scotland, Alexander Graham Bell's best years were spent on his family homestead outside Brantford, Ontario, where his early experimentation with sound and language flowered into detailed studies of the Mohawk language on the nearby Six Nations Reserve. It was also here that Bell invented the telephone, the device that would transform modern communications, and which would later branch out into the Internet technologies we know today.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Marilyn Monroe and Dostoevsky


I wrote this on August 5th to commemorate the death of Marilyn Monroe, but had issues publishing anything to this site that needed to be resolved. So here it is, albeit late.

On my last night in Los Angeles in March of 2018, I decided to take a self-guided tour to about a dozen locations associated with the dark side of Hollywood, basically where famous murders or deaths took place. One of the locations I visited was where Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962 at the age of 35. It was her house at the time, in Brentwood.

I visited the location because I always had a great admiration for Marilyn Monroe, and have read a lot about her, and seen pretty much all her films. One thing most people don't know about her is how she was admired as somewhat of an intellectual and voracious reader by her peers, despite the media pushing her image as a dumb blonde and sex goddess, to her dismay, and to which she responded: "Maybe I’m a sexless sex goddess."

Friday, August 2, 2019

Byzanfest 2019: An Orthodox Christian Online Short Film Festival


Established in 2014, Byzanfest is the world’s first and only online festival that screens short-films made by Eastern Orthodox Christian filmmakers. The Festival will go live from Sunday 21st July until 4th August 2019, running concurrently with live venue screenings which are hosted by Global Screening Partners.

As the world’s media and entertainment have become increasingly on-demand and interwoven with social media, Byzanfest saw the opportunity to venture into an emerging concept: the online festival. New and innovative, such an event is not limited by the physical constraints of traditional venue-based festivals. Byzanfest looked ahead towards the future of entertainment and wanted to engage globally with both Orthodox and non-Orthodox audiences. The Festival encourages interactivity where viewers can share through all social media platforms. The Festival showcases films which reflect Orthodox Christian themes, beliefs, culture and values, as well as being artistically creative. It is worth mentioning all funds raised from this Festival will go towards funding small individual Orthodox film and art projects.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Giannis Antetokounmpo and His Orthodox Christian Faith


Much has been written about Giannis Antetokounmpo, the so-called "Greek Freak," from his humble beginnings in Greece to his enormous success as a professional basketball player in the United States. Little if anything however has been reported about the Orthodox Christian faith of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Though I cannot speak for his faith now, as it seems to not be reported on, though there are positive rumors (ex. he and his brother became godfathers in June 2018), below is some information from his background.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Greek Pop Singer and Eurovision Contestant Baptized Orthodox


Josephine Wendel, better known as simply Josephine, is a Greek pop singer. She is mostly known for her participation in the Greek national final for the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 with the song "Dancing Night" where she got the 4th place.

Wendel was born on 22 August 1990 in Athens. Her mother is the Greek singer Margarita Venti, who is of Lebanese origin, and her father is German. She spent the first years of her life in the United States. Later, she moved for a while to Germany and then returned to Greece with her family. When she settled in Greece, she went to American-Greek School. While studying Marketing-Management at Deree College, she would upload on Facebook cover songs of famous artists, which helped her be discovered in 2013.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Movie: "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days " (2005)


Since today is the feast of Saint Alexander Schmorell (July 13), a fellow member and martyr with Sophia Scholl of the German anti-Nazi resistance movement known as the White Rose, I thought it would be appropriate to watch the 2005 German film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days directed by Marc Rothemund. Alexander Schmorell is also portrayed in the film.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ethics and Technology (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Originally, religion was the mother of ethics and technology. First of all, religion was a torrential spring flowing from hidden depths, ethics a life carrying river, and technology with the help of artistic channels, carried the water from this river into all the arteries of man’s life.

God announced to man the law of faith, the law of behavior, and the knowledge of technology.

By the directions of God, Noah built a boat that traveled one of the longest journeys in the history of navigation.

By God’s inspiration Bezalel was filled with wisdom in understanding, in knowledge, and all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. (Exodus 31:1-11)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

How Should Christians Vote and to Which Political Party Should They Belong?


By Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

"For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come" (Heb. 13:14).

"Our citizenship is in the heavens" (Philip. 3:20).

Because, however, we are also citizens of the earth, and of this country, when the time comes for us to go to the polls, we should not be attached to situations or parties or people. No party expresses us. Every time, then, we should think what is the least evil for our country. We are to do this according to circumstances. Sometimes it could be one thing, another time it could be something else. We should vote with the principle: "Choose the lesser of two evils."

Thursday, May 30, 2019

"L'Agonie De Byzance" or "The Agony of Byzantium" (A 1913 Film About the Fall of Constantinople)


L'Agonie de Byzance or The Agony of Byzantium is a 1913 production that is counted as one of the best French films of the silent era. Made on the eve of World War I, it is an ambitious and lavish depiction of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in the mid-15th century. The task of directing this mammoth production (even though the film runs to just 30 minutes, it counts as a superproduction for its time) went to Gaumont's (a major French film studio) most prolific director, Louis Feuillade.

Where L'Agonie de Byzance distinguishes itself most is with its impressively staged battle scenes, which are among the most ambitious depicted in cinema up until this time. Even though the camera is rigidly static and most scenes consist of long takes with minimal editing, there is a dynamic quality to the action sequences that really does convey a sense of the fury and frenzy of battle. The static set-up actually works to the film's advantage, making the spectator feel that he is standing on the periphery of the drama, watching history unfold from a privileged vantage point. It only falls down in the scene where the hoards swarming towards the camera end up having to split into two, taking a left or right turn to avoid crashing into an very expensive piece of filmmaking apparatus.

The quality of the set and costume design is also worth commenting on, since this is the most obvious sign of Gaumont's commitment to raising the bar by several furlongs. Although there are a few scenes where Feuillade had to make do with what is obviously a painted backdrop, most of the sets are remarkably solid and detailed, with false perspective used to great effect in several scenes. For a film that was entirely shot in the studio, L'Agonie de Byzance has a surprising realism about it that is rarely found in historical films of this time - you could easily think that at least part of it was filmed on location. Such is the visual impact of some scenes - for example, the one in which an army of sword-waving Ottomans surge through the city gates - that you can favourably compare them with what we find in more recent films, such as Kurosawa's Samurai films. L'Agonie de Byzance is shameless spectacle all the way, one of Louis Feuillade's main achievements.

Below is the French and English versions of the film:








Friday, May 24, 2019

Nikolai Gogol as a Religious Personality


Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol was born in 1809 in the Ukraine. His father was an amateur playwright who had a small estate with a number of serfs. From the ages of 12 to 19, young Gogol attended a boarding school where he became known for his sharp wit and ability to amuse his classmates. After school he worked as a government clerk.

He soon began writing memories of his childhood. His quaint depictions of the Ukrainian countryside marked his style and helped to make him famous. Gogol quickly gained fame and formed a friendship with the influential poet, Aleksandr Pushkin.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Village Easter: Memories of Childhood (A Story by Alexandros Papadiamantis)


A Village Easter: Memories of Childhood

By Alexandros Papadiamantis

Uncle Milios never spoke a truer word, when he said the good Christians living outside the town might end up having to celebrate Easter that year without a liturgy. In fact no prophecy was ever closer to fulfillment, for it almost came true twice — but happily God made the authorities see the light, and in the end the poor villagers, local shepherd-farmers, were judged worthy to hear the Word of God and eat the festive eggs.

The cause of all this was the busy little coaster that (supposedly) linked those unhappy islands to the inhospitable shore opposite, and which twice a year, when the season changed in spring or autumn, would almost invariably sink, and as often as not take the whole crew down with it. They would then put the post of captain up for auction, and each time some poor wretch, undaunted by the fate of his predecessor, was found to undertake this most perilous task. And on this occasion, at the end of March, as winter was taking its leave, the coaster had gone down again.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Movie Review: "Cliffs of Freedom" (2019)


Cliffs of Freedom is a 2019 film that tells the story of an ill-fated romance between a young Greek village girl and a conflicted Turkish officer during the dawn of the Greek War for Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. It was directed by Van Ling and co-written by Marianne Metropoulos, Van Ling and Kevin Bernhardt, based on a novel by billionaire philanthropist Marianne Metropoulos titled Daughter of Destiny. It stars many notable actors, such as Tania Raymonde, Jan Uddin, Raza Jaffrey, Patti LuPone, Billy Zane and Christopher Plummer.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Conversation Between the Ascetic Father Makarios and Nikos Kazantzakis


In his autobiography Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis describes his forty day sojourn on Mount Athos in 1914 with the poet Angelos Sikelianos. There he met Father Makarios, an ascetic, with whom he engaged in discussions about faith and doubt. Kazantzakis, who was heavily influenced by Darwin, Nietzsche and Bergson, would rail against the established Church, especially what he called its life-denying morality. Though he rejected the asceticism of Father Makarios, he respected his rejection of spiritual mediocrity. One conversation in particular went as follows:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Evil Results of Unverified News and Bias


The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (1952; Harper Collins 2001) 118.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Shocking Advice of Saint Paisios the Athonite to a Physician


In his book Holy Mountain (Αγίων Όρος), Metropolitan Nektarios of Argolidos refers to a certain physician who asked Saint Paisios the Athonite (+ 1994) the following question:

"Elder, there are certain patients that I don't know what to do with, whether I should send them to a priest or a doctor?"

He responded:

"You will see, that not all are for the priest nor are all for the doctor. One you will send to the doctor, another to the priest, and another to the bouzoukia*."

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

My Top Twenty-Five Movies of 2018 (and Ten Best Documentaries)


2018 is probably the year I saw the most movies ever in theaters, not only new releases but also old releases, seeing about 90-95% of all the movies that were newly released in theaters. And I don't even get paid to do it. With that being said, I think I can give a pretty good assessment of the top 25 movies in 2018, even though all art is subjective. These were my personal 25 favorites that stood out above the rest, despite the fact that it was a very good year in movies. In many ways it was very difficult to come up with this list, because very few if any movies really do stand out as the best of the best. In fact, until the moment when I wrote this list down, I had very little idea what I wanted in my top 25. It was hard enough narrowing things down to 50. Furthermore, this was a very good year for documentaries, and I really don't like including documentaries with movies, so I decided to compile a separate list of my top ten documentaries. Also, I'm only including movies and documentaries here that I saw in theaters, where I think a true movie experience can be experienced, and not by streaming or any other means. That being said, here are my two lists. Click on each film to read more about it.