Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"John the Blessed": A New Year's Eve Tale by Photios Kontoglou

Describes a visit of St. Basil on New Years Eve, which is also the eve of his feast, years after his repose.

John the Blessed

A Tale of Photios Kontoglou

The Nativity Feast having passed, St. Basil took his staff and traversed all of the towns, in order to see who would celebrate his Feast Day with purity of heart. He passed through regions of every sort and through villages of prominence, yet regardless of where he knocked, no door opened to him, since they took him for a beggar. And he would depart embittered, for, though he needed nothing from men, he felt how much pain the heart of every impecunious person must have endured at the insensitivity that these people showed him. One day, as he was leaving such a merciless village, he went by the graveyard, where he saw that the tombs were in ruins, the headstones broken and turned topsy-turvy, and how the newly dug graves had been turned up by jackals. Saint that he was, he heard the dead speaking and saying: “During the time that we were on the earth, we labored, we were heavy-burdened, leaving behind us children and grandchildren to light just a candle, to burn a little incense on our behalf; but we behold nothing, neither a Priest to read over our heads a memorial service nor kóllyva, as though we had left behind no one.” Thus, St. Basil was once again disquieted, and he said to himself, “These villagers give aid neither to the living nor to the deceased,” departing from the cemetery and setting out alone in the midst of the freezing snow.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"The Gleaner: A Christmas Story" by Alexandros Papadiamantis

Alexandros Papadiamantis is not only considered a "Dosteovsky of Modern Greece", but one can argue he is a Charles Dickens of Modern Greece as well. Like Dickens, Papadiamantis wrote a few Christmas tales of a beneficial nature that deserve a read. One article, making the comparison between Papadiamantis and Dickens, writes:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in Greek Literature

Christmas, the great feast of Christianity, is celebrated throughout the world in different ways. Prior to the advent of technology, literature was the only way to document culture-specific traditions concerning Christmas, which eventually emerged as the ideal setting for fairy tales, short stories and novels.

Despite their differences, a multitude of works, from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol to Nikolai Gogol’s Christmas Eve and Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, all attest to the fact that this period of year signifies a closure, a time of resolutions and decisions on a universal level. Greek Literature includes a great body of works whose focus is Christmas, imbued by the religious spirituality closely linked with the Greek psyche.

Leo Tolstoy's "Papa Panov's Special Christmas" (animation)

Papa Panov, an old shoemaker almost too blind to thread a needle, has a dream that Jesus will visit him on Christmas Day.

He anxiously and eagerly waits all day, but his only visitors are a tramp, a roadsweeper, and a pauper woman with her cold and hungry baby.

Despite his disappointment and fading hope, Papa Panov gives them his coat, his money, his soup, and even the tiny shoes he was saving as a present for Baby Jesus.

As night falls and his special visitor still hasn't arrived, Papa Panov thinks himself a silly, old fool.

But then he has another dream, a dream which convinces him his special visitor did come after all ....

This short story of Leo Tolstoy can be read here.

Below is a cartoon based on the original tale, titled "Red Boots For Christmas":

Nikolai Gogol's "The Night Before Christmas" (1951 - Animation)

It is the night before Christmas and devilry is afoot. The devil steals the moon and hides it in his pocket. He is thus free to run amok and inflicts all sorts of wicked mischief upon the village of Dikanka by unleashing a snowstorm. But the one he'd really like to torment is the town blacksmith, Vakula, who creates icons of the devil being vanquished. Vakula is in love with Oksana, but she will have nothing to do with him. Vakula, however, is determined to win her over, even if it means battling the devil.

Taken from Nikolai Gogol's first successful work, from the story collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka.

Russian Cartoon: "The Christmas Visit" (1959)


Thursday, December 25, 2014

1971 Animated Version of "A Christmas Carol"

A Christmas Carol (1971) is a 25-minute animated cartoon adaptation of Charles Dickens' book which was originally shown on Dec 21, 1971 on ABC television in the United States.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"The Story of the Other Wise Man" (1989 - Animation)

The Story of the Other Wise Man is a short novel or long short story by Henry van Dyke. It was initially published in 1895 and has been reprinted many times since then, including a "centennial edition" published in 1996 by Ballantyne Books.

Movie: "The Fourth Wise Man" (1985)

You can read the classic tale by Henry Van Dyke in 1896 here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Story Behind "It's A Wonderful Life"

It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, that was heavily adapted from the short story "The Greatest Gift", written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939, and privately published by the author in 1945. The film is considered one of the most loved films in American cinema, and has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season, comparably to film adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Marley's Bowels of Compassion (or Lack Thereof)

Charles Dickens writes in A Christmas Carol, describing the spirit of Jacob Marley when he appears to his business partner in life Ebeneezer Scrooge:

"Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now."

Monday, December 22, 2014

G.K. Chesterton's Biography "Charles Dickens" (1906)

I was about to write a personal essay on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but I decided to leave that off for the future and replace it with a biographical sketch of the man who helped revive modern Christmas and good-hearted cheer despite the secular age we live in. I also recommend the reading titled Christmas According to Dickens by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts.

Chesterton's books and essays on Charles Dickens are among his best. Growing up in London Chesterton found Dickens his best guide to his own background and much of his philosophy came from Dickens's own "social gospel." To understand Chesterton you need to read his biography on Dickens. It will help you understand why he called himself a "disreputable Victorian".

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Theological Journey

As the final installment of the Warner Bros fantasy blockbuster, The Hobbit, hits the cinema screens, Dr Alison Milbank of the University of Nottingham’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, offers her insights into J.R.R.Tolkien and his famous novel. The film, based on the adventures of Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions, will, she says, fulfill deeper needs in modern society than pure entertainment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Ancient Babylonian Music Sounded Like

Singer and composer Stef Conner’s album The Flood is probably the first ever to be sung in ancient Sumerian and Babylonian, and it’s hauntingly beautiful.

Below are four tracks from The Flood, by The Lyre Ensemble, with Stef Conner on vocals, Andy Lowings on lyre, and produced by Mark Harmer.

To read more about the making of this album, see here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Doménikos Theotokópoulos Before El Greco

El Greco will always be Domenicos Theotokopoulos for Greece and there are five exhibitions in Athens alone to prove that.

December 5, 2014

As a tribute to the 400th anniversary of the death of the Spanish Renaissance artist, several art exhibitions are being held in Museums around the world, five of which in the city of Athens alone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Russian Orthodox Priests Meet British Rock Band That Inspired Them

October 13, 2009

The British rock group Procol Harum met with Orthodox diocesan priests, who believe rock music inspired their spiritual search, in the Moscow Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the Lazarevskoye cemetery.

"Group leader Gary Brooker was very glad. He was especially impressed there were about eight priests from various dioceses and other people, who were youngsters in the sixties and seventies. They said:, "thank you so much" to the Procol Harum and to Gary for all they did for them. "Their music awoke us then," Hegumen Sergy (Rybko) told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Plato's Allegory of the Cave and Christian Salvation

The great Greek philosopher Plato (427–347 BC) famously illustrated the difference between reality and illusion through a story about men who lived all their life in a cave. In Plato’s allegory, these men were chained to pillars and could see only shadows cast on the cave’s back wall by a fire that burned behind them, out of sight.

The men in the cave took great pride in their eyesight and in their interpretive abilities—yet all the time they were looking at shadows, mere illusions. Then, one of the men breaks out of the chains and makes it outside of the cave where he discovers a whole new world. When he reenters the cave to tell his friends about his marvelous epiphany they reject and resent him to the point of wanting to kill him.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Timely Episode of "The Twilight Zone"

"A sickness known as hate; not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ - but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don't look for it in the Twilight Zone - look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether."

- Rod Serling, "I Am The Night - Color Me Black" (The Twilight Zone)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Aleksandr Proshkin's "The Miracle" (2009, Movie with English Subtitles)

In 2009 the Russian movie The Miracle was released by the acclaimed Russian director Aleksandr Proshkin, based on a shocking true story of a fascinating miracle wrought by St. Nicholas in Russia in 1956. It can be read about in the links below. The first movie below is in Russian with English subtitles, and the second movie under it is in Russian with Romanian, Greek, and Bulgarian subtitles.

About Aleksandr Proshkin's "The Miracle"

"Nicholas of Myra" - the Motion Picture

Synopsis of the Film Currently In Production:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. In New York, December 1822, Dr. Clement Moore -- a professor of world literature -- is inspired to pen a whimsical Christmas poem for his young children. Influenced by the folklore of Old World culture, Moore crafts his poem into a magical tale about a kind and generous gift-bearer that secretly visits homes on Christmas Eve. It is while musing about this mythical character that Moore first learns of the ancient legend of a gift-bearer from the Greco-Roman Era -- one that he comes to believe may be the origin of all the similar myths throughout the world. What Moore finds is a story that ironically would one day be lost to the lore he was about to create. He soon discovers the surprising tale of a mighty empire at the crossroads of history, an enigmatic emperor who would forever leave his mark on the world, and an orphan boy named Nicholas, who one day -- in the face of boundless greed and persecution -- would prove that not every hero swings a sword.

Friday, December 5, 2014

St. Nikolai Velimirovich on Technology and Ethics

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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva, the Patron of Science and Technology

By Christodoulos A. Protopapas, CEO of Hellas-Sat

No saint until today in the Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church has so much to do with modern technology as Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva. The wisdom by the grace of God acquired by Saint Porphyrios was unique, and the way in which he did his miracles in this life and after his death was so significant that it leaves us "technologists dumbfounded", as our holy Church rightly says.

It is worth mentioning that Saint Porphyrios lived at a time when technology was growing rapidly together with various other sciences throughout humanity, to the point where some Orthodox thinkers of his time had begun to demonize and villainize technological progress.