Friday, December 17, 2010

Saving the Garima Gospels

Working in ad hoc conditions, conservators rescued the fragile manuscripts from disastrous early repairs

The Garima Gospels were disastrously conserved in 1963 by a local binder. The work was done so badly that nearly every time the two volumes were opened, pieces of parchment would break off. The contents were bound haphazardly, with many of the pages out of sequence or even in the wrong volume. In Garima II, another 14th century Gospels was included, adding to the weight and thickness (around 20cm) and making it even more fragile. Little was done to protect the illuminated pages, which were the most damaged since they tended to be those inspected by pilgrims and visitors. New folds in the parchment were introduced over the images. Missing sections of parchment were replaced with sewn patches and strips, creating further problems.

Encouraged by Jacques Mercier, the London-based Ethiopian Heritage Foundation concluded that proper conservation as an urgent priority, and in 2006 a team from Europe made the arduous journey to Abba Garima: manuscript conservator Lester Capon, bookbinder Mark Winstanley and scholar Mercier. The work was approved by Ethiopian patriarch Abba Paulos and the monastery’s Abbot Teckla Maryan.

Conditions were extremely difficult, and work was done outdoors in the monastic compound. The conservators had to move three times a day, to keep out of direct sunlight. Along with the wind, they also had to frighten away long-tailed monkeys and buzzards. With only just over a week at the monastery, the team only had time to conserve the illuminated pages using Japanese paper (a reversible technique). They rebound the manuscripts in a way that would minimise further damage when opening them.

The intervention was minimal, and Capon found extensive amounts of debris—dust, leaves and dead insects—in the back folds throughout the two volumes. “These were left in situ, partly as evidence for some possible future study and also because the removal would probably loosen the sewing,” he explained. There was no time to tackle conservation of the text pages—this will have to be left to a future campaign.

Ethiopian Heritage Foundation

The Ethiopian Heritage Fund is a London-based charity set up in 2005 to undertake conservation of manuscripts and paintings in churches. Although its most important project has been the Garima Gospels, it also conserved two 15th century icons of Mary - a triptych at the Monastery of St Stephen by Lake Hayk and a panel on the tiny island of Rema in Lake Tana. Last year it published a book on “Ethiopian Church Treasures & Faith”. Future projects include wall paintings of c.1400 at Debra Tsion and an illustrated 16th century manuscript from Debra Mar. Among the fund’s backers is Sam Fogg, a UK dealer in medieval art who has mounted exhibitions on Ethiopia. Go to:

By Martin Bailey
Published online 1 Jun 2010


Discovery of earliest illuminated manuscript

Revised dating places Garima Gospels before 650—none from Ethiopia previously dated before 12th century

What could be the world’s earliest illustrated Christian manuscript has been found in a remote Ethiopian monastery. The Garima Gospels were previously assumed to date from about 1100AD, but radiocarbon dating conducted in Oxford suggests they were made between 330 and 650AD.

This discovery looks set to transform our knowledge about the development of illuminated manuscripts. It also throws new light on the spread of Christianity into sub-Saharan Africa.

The Garima Gospels are preserved in an isolated monastery in the Tigray region, set among mountains at 7,000 feet. No other Ethiopian manuscripts can be dated from before the 12th century. So the Garima Gospels represent a unique survival of an early Christian text in sub-Saharan Africa—pre-dating all others by more than 500 years.

The radiocarbon dating could even link the manuscript to the time of Abba (Father) Garima, who established the monastery. Originally from Constantinople, the monk is traditionally believed to have arrived in Ethiopia in 494. Legend has it that he copied the Gospels in a single day. To assist him in completing this lengthy task, God is said to have delayed the setting of the sun.

The Garima Gospels were recently conserved by an Anglo-French team, sponsored by the Ethiopian Heritage Fund. None of the conservators had ever faced such challenging conditions, and work had to be done outdoors, with two funeral biers serving as tables.

The discovery

The first report about the existence of the Garima Gospels came in 1950, from British art historian Beatrice Playne. Women are not allowed inside the monastery, but as she was considered an honoured visitor, its treasures were brought outside for her to view. She recorded that “there were several illuminated manuscripts whose ornamental headings struck me as Syrian in style”.

In the 1960s the manuscripts were studied by French specialist Jules Leroy. He found there were two separate sets of Gospels, now known as Garima I and Garima II. Both date from the same period, and Leroy concluded that they were created in around 1100. He found it difficult to envisage that they could have reached the country in the early centuries of Christianity.

The Garima Gospels have never left the monastery, and because of its remote location and the reluctance of the monks to show them, few scholars have had the opportunity to even briefly see them (although listed in the 1993-96 catalogue of the touring US exhibition “African Zion: the Sacred Art of Ethiopia”, they were never lent).

Jacques Mercier, a French specialist in Ethiopian art, has seen them on five brief visits. On one trip he took two, loose small samples of parchment, the size of a modest coin. The manuscript was then in an extremely fragile state, and fragments of brittle parchment broke off almost every time it was opened.

Mercier later arranged for the two parchment fragments to be radiocarbon dated at the Oxford University Research Laboratory for Archaeology. A sample of the parchment (probably goat skin) from Garima II was dated to 330-540 and one from another illustrated page to 430-650. Radiocarbon dating can only yield a range of dates (the Garima figures are subject to a 96% probability), not a precise date, but the middle year of these two samples would be 487 or 488.

Although it may well be coincidence, Abba Garima is said to have arrived in Ethiopia in 494. So the radiocarbon dating raises the possibility that the 1,500-year-old oral tradition associating the Gospels with the monk may be true—even if he did not complete the work in a single day.

However, Mercier believes that on stylistic grounds the Garima Gospels are slightly later, perhaps around 600. Even this later date would make them among the earliest surviving illustrated Christian manuscripts. The oldest dated are the Rabbula Gospels in Syriac, completed in 586 and now housed in the Laurentian Library in Florence.

The other renowned expert on the Garima Gospels independently suggests a similar date. US scholar Marilyn Heldman has visited the monastery, but she was not shown the Gospels, probably because of her gender. But, based on photographs, Heldman concluded they are from the sixth century.

The texts date from the same period as the illuminations, although these pages have not been radiocarbon dated. They are written in Ge’ez, the ancient Ethiopian language, and they are by far the earliest texts (other than a few stone inscriptions).

Early Byzantine style

Garima I, the first of the two volumes of the Gospels (348 pages), opens with 11 illuminated pages, including canon tables (which provide a concordance for the four Gospels). This is then followed by the text of the Gospels in Ge’ez.

Garima II is similar (322 pages), with 17 pages of illuminations. It has fine portraits of the four Evangelists. There is also an unusual depiction of the Temple of the Jews, a building with a staircase in a form otherwise unknown in Christian iconography (the architecture is possibly based on a Persian Sassanid garden pavilion for exotic animals, representing paradise). The Ge’ez is by a different scribe from that of Garima I (the texts are slightly different, as is the spelling).

The illuminations are all in the early Byzantine style, but the question is where they were painted. Mercier believes that the images of Garima I probably come from Syria or around Jerusalem (stylistically the canon tables are similar to those of the Rabbula Gospels, probably made at a Syrian monastery). Garima II has illuminations that show some affinity with those of Coptic Egypt. It is also possible that the illuminations were done by a Middle Eastern artist working in Ethiopia or an Ethiopian in a Middle Eastern studio.

Around 20 different species of birds occur in the illuminations. A preliminary analysis suggests that most are found throughout the Middle East and none are strikingly Ethiopian, but they could have been taken from a model book or another canon table. However, further analysis of the birds might help pinpoint where they were painted.

The text itself was probably copied in Ethiopia (rather than by a Ge’ez scribe in the Middle East), since it appears to have been added after the illuminations had been completed. This is particularly clear in Garima I, where the spacing in the canon tables does not fit the Ge’ez.

The covers of the Gospels are important. London binding specialist Nicholas Pickwoad, who has visited the monastery, told us that the cover of Garima I could well be contemporaneous with the contents. This would make it the world’s earliest bookbinding still attached to its text. It is a copper-gilt cover over a wooden board, which, although ornately decorated with a cross, is made in a rather crude style. There are holes, which may have originally been plugged with jewels. The silver cover of Garima II dates from the tenth to the 12th centuries.

The future

The survival of the Garima Gospels is astonishing, since all other early Ethiopian manuscripts seem to have been destroyed during turbulent times. Very little is known about the history of the Abba Garima Monastery, but it may have been overrun in the 1530s by Muslim invaders. More recently, in 1896, the area was at the centre of resistance to Italian forces. The monastery’s main church was destroyed by fire in around 1930.

The survival of the Garima Gospels may have been due to the fact that they were hidden, perhaps for centuries or even for more than a millennium. The hiding spot may have been forgotten, and it could have been rediscovered by chance in relatively modern times.

In 1520, Portuguese chaplain Francisco Álvarez visited the monastery and recorded that there was a cave (now lost or destroyed), where Abba Garima was reputed to have lived. Álvarez reported that the monks would descend into it by ladder to do penance. Although speculation, it is possible that the Gospels may have been hidden in this cave.

What will become of the Garima Gospels now? Ethiopia’s Holy Synod and scholars feel that an appreciation of their importance will mean they will be protected more carefully. For the monks, the Gospels are primarily regarded as holy relics, linked directly with Abba Garima, who is a saint.

A museum is now being set up to provide a secure place where the Gospels can be seen by visitors. On the edge of the monastery is a 19th-century church for female worshippers, but this has just been replaced by a modern building. Work is therefore underway to convert the old church into a museum. Its windows are small, which is good both for security and to keep light levels down, and steel bars are being inserted. The building will also be protected by armed guards.

Michelle Brown, a former British Library curator and manuscripts specialist, is extremely excited about the discovery: “The Garima Gospels cast vital light upon early Christian illuminated manuscript production and upon the role of sub-Saharan Africa…It is the sort of model that inspired such vibrant later Ethiopic art and is an important early witness to the way in which the churches of the Christian Orient both absorbed the courtly Christian culture of Constantinople and developed their own voices and styles.”

By Martin Bailey
Published online 14 Jul 2010


Friday, October 15, 2010



Friday 15 October 2010

God knows you. He engraved your name on his hands and keeps your tears in a bottle (Isa. 49:16; Ps. 56:8)

I woke up this morning to find an unusual text message on my phone. It had to do with money I owe. And at this time there was no money (mist), I looked around I thought of every solution but all seemed hopeless. I turned on my computer, I found in my inbox a bible text that said for “You number and record my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8). I picked up my bible to read the full chapter, you know what? The first call I received while reading seemed like an open door to the solution but nothing changed. I fixed my hope on Him. I tell you today fear not what man can do to you, take it to God in prayer. I am here still standing. God knows you. And he is near you! How far is the shepherd from the sheep (John 10:14) or the branch from the vine (John 15:5)? That’s how far God is from you. He is near. “God is for me” (Ps. 56:9). And His kingdom needs you. The poor need you; the lonely need you; the church needs you, the cause of God needs you. You are part of “the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone” (Eph. 1:11). The kingdom needs you to discover and deploy your unique skill.

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I Need To Return To My Father’s House

Written By: Tenny Thomas on Oct 14th, 2010

Verse for the day: I Corinthians 16: 13, 14
Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.


St Paul is reminding the church in Corinth to be on their guard spiritually. He wanted them to wake up, to pay attention to their spiritual lives and their knowledge and devotion to God. Their lack of spiritual watchfulness was the foundation of the Corinthian church’s sinful condition.

Most of the time spiritual indifference and spiritual ignorance are the root problems in our lives.

This Lent, we need more than merely changing our behavior. We must be on our guard, with a focused awareness of His care and protection and His love for us as His children.

We live in a culture in which truth is regarded as relative. Our society waffles at the concept of objective, unyielding spiritual truth. It is dedicated to spiritual and ethical pluralism. If we are to be the witnesses God wants us to be, and if we are to have the relationship with God that He wants for us, then we must follow Paul’s admonition to stand firm in the faith. It is when we live out the Gospel of Christ in our daily lives, through the discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that we become more Christ like.

God wants us, in the midst of our spiritual watchfulness and our commitment to stand firm in the truth of the faith, to act courageously as Christians.

To be men of courage spiritually would be unpopular, perhaps even unacceptable, behavior in society. It could mean loss of stature in with our peers, perhaps loss of jobs and economic opportunities, and loss of friends.

We are in this world to achieve the standard that God has set.

Spiritual maturity demands courageous application of the truth, unfettered support of what we know is spiritually true and the standards that are true, and bold opposition to what we know is false. This maturity comes through our indulgence in the fast rigorously. God showers His grace and strength on us when we give ourselves completely to God’s will.

We cannot do anything by our own strength, only by God’s might and support. We need to submit to the strengthening power and work of our Savior. When we submit ourselves to God, He fulfills His promise to strengthen us. And what is the strength He gives us? It is the strength to stand firm in spiritual knowledge and truth and to courageously apply spiritual truths in our lives.

Today, we must stand firm in spiritual knowledge and truth and apply them with courage. Our part is to be on guard, to recognize and know what is spiritually right and wrong, and to act with courage. God’s part is to strengthen us.

Christ likeness is the solution to our problems as individuals and as a church. Do everything in love, incorporates the Christian’s life of serving God unreservedly and putting others above ourselves. Applying this principle of love for Christ and love for each other meant a radically different church, sold out to Christ and untainted by the world. Our goal is to be like Christ!


Help us, Lord, with the grace of your Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus Christ through our lives, our words and the opportunities you set before us each day. Amen.
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Cooking Competition at Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Martha Mariam Vanita Samajam of St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Abu Dhabi conducted a cooking competition for its members. Fr. Johnson Daniel inaugurated the event after Holy Qurbana on October 8, 2010.

Dolly Varghese won the first prize in the competition, Cristee John and Suja David came on second and third places.

This is the first time that Abu Dhabi Martha Mariam Vanitha Samajam Unit conducted a cooking competition in the church. The parish members encouraged the participants by sharing the food prepared by them and by giving them feedback.

Samajam Secretary Annie Mathew and committee members made all arrangements for the competions.



Today, 7th October 2010, the Holy Synod gathered for the appointed Meeting of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, under the Presidency of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa in the Conference Hall of the Hoy Synod.

Before the Meeting, a Divine Liturgy was held in the Holy Patriarchal Chapel of Ss Theodoroi. At around 09h30 the Synodal deliberations began. The opening was declared by His Beatitude as he addressed the Members of the Synod.

His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Paul of Memphis, first in the order of the Hierarchs of the Holy Synod, replied on behalf of the Metropolitans and Bishops to His Beatitude, to whom he addresses wholehearted congratulations on his multifaceted and tireless Hierarchal work. His Beatitude, as a gift of respect and honour to the elder hierarch, gave him a silver emblem of the ancient Patriarchate, on hi ninetieth year.

His Beatitude then spoke at length to the Synod about the work undertaken during the past year in all fields of the ecclesiastical service of the Patriarchate (Conciliatory and Official visits to the Church of Albania, Greece, Cyprus, as well as Cappadocia, missionary and pastoral visits to the Holy Metropolises of Aksum, Khartoum, Johannesburg and Pilousion, ordinations of new hierarchs, receiving of heads of state at the patriarchal See, decoration of distinguished personalities, international conferences, administrative and service issues, renovation works with special mention of the creation of the Patriarchal Museum, the total renovation of the historical Holy Monastery of St George in Old Cairo, etc).

Also, expressing the gratification of the C hurch of the Apostle Mark on the completion of thirteen productive years as a hierarch, His Beatitude gave an honourary distinction of the Cross of the Order of St Savvas with a Star to His Eminence Metropolitan Alexandros of Nigeria and to His Eminence Sergios on the occasion of his name day, he gave a valuable historical icon of St Sergios of Radonezh.

He went on to announce the resignation given months previously of His Eminence Ignatios of Central Africa, the acceptance of His Grace Ignatios Bishop of Eleusina to the order of retired clergy of the Patriarchal Throne following his personal request for this, and the appointment of His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Johannesburg and Pretoria as representing the Patriarchate of Alexandria on European Union Programmes.

The creation by Patriarchal Decree of the Holy Diocese of 1. Botswana, 2. Sierra Leone and 3. Brazzaville and Gabon followed.

The Holy Synod then immediately continued with the elections of Archimandrite Nikiphoros Mikragiannanitou to the Holy Metropolis of Central Africa, of Archimandrite Ioannis Tsaftarides to Provincial Bishop of Mozambique and of His Grace Gennadios to Provincial Bishop of Botswana, as well as the transfers of:

1. Metropolitan Seraphim from Johannesburg and Pretoria to Zimbabwe
2. Metropolitan Damaskinos from Accra to Johannesburg and Pretoria
3. Metropolitan George from Zimbabwe to Accra

Hierarchs of the Throne then read their reports of activities of the year 2009.

The deliberations of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria will continue in the evening with the reading of more reports.

Biographies of the new Bishops

The elected Bishop of Mozambique, Archimandrite Ioannis (Tsaftarides) was born in Angeryko Zakynthos in 1969. Following his schooling on the island of his birth, he studied at the Ecclesiastical School of Athens, the Theology Faculty of the University of Athens and the Theology Faculty of the University of Sophia from where he graduated in 2001. He received a Master’s Degree in 2010 from the Department of Greek and Latin Studies of the University of Johannesburg and is preparing for a doctorate at the same University.

He was ordained Deacon on 21 November 1993 from the then Metropolitan Panteleimon of Zakynthos and on 17 December of the same year he was ordained Priest from the then Metropolitan of Dodonis (now Metropolitan of Zakynthos) Chrysostomos. He was consecrated as an Archimandrite in 1998 in Zambia by the late Pope and Patriarch Petros VII.

Since 1993 he has served as a missionary for the ancient Patriarchate, serving in churches in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Cairo and South Africa.

He has organized and participated in various conferences and has written various studies.

On October 7th, 2010, by proposal of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa he was elected by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria as Bishop of Mozambique.

The elected Metropolitan of Central Africa, Archimandrite Nikiphoros (Mikragiannanitis, known in the world as George Konstandinou) was born in Thessaloniki in 1949.

Following his graduation from the Praktiko High School of Thessaloniki he studied at the Ecclesiastical School of Thessaloniki (1967-1969). In 1975 he graduated from the Theological Faculty of the Aristoteleian University of Thessaloniki and in 1999 was declaredas a Doctor of the Theological Faculty of the University.

In 1971 he was tonsured a monk at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegiake Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Tsangarolo, Hania. On 22nd August of the same year he was ordained Deacon. In 1977 he entered the Agion Oros (Skete of St Anna) and appointed as a teacher at the Ecclesiastical Academy of Mount Athos. He then went on to become deputy Head and in 1988 following a proposal of the Holy Community of Mount Athos, he was appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Dean. In 1978 he was ordained to the Priesthood by His Grace Chrysostomos of Rodostolos and was later consecrated as an Archimandrite by His Eminence Nikodimos of Ierissos and Mount Athos.

In 1997 he resigned from the Athonite Academy and following an invitation from His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, he took over the organization of the first Ecclesiastical High School in Argyrokastro.

Since 2006 he has participated in the administration of the Orthodox University of the Congo “St Athanasios the Athonite”, where he lectures.

He has written many studies and has participated in many conferences in Greece and overseas.

On 7th October 2010, proposed by His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, he was elected by the Holy Synod as Metropolitan of Central Africa.



The Deliberations of the Holy Synod continued on the afternoon of 7th October 2010, with the reading of the reports of the Hierarchs for the past year.

Following the end of the evening gathering, the Metropolitans who had been transferred, His Eminence Seraphim of Zimbabwe, His Eminence George of Accra and His Eminence Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as the new Bishop of Botswana His Graqce Gennadios, gave the Great Message before His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, in the Holy Patriarchal Chapel of Ss Theodoroi.



The deliberations of the Holy Synod were completed on 8th October 2010 with the completion of the reports to the Body of the Hierarchs by the Metropolitans and Bishops, who read their activities reports for the past year, or the representations of the Alexandrian Church at Inter-Orthodox, inter-ecclesiastical and inter-Christian dialogues, conferences and committees.

In concluding the deliberations of the Holy Synod, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, having read the letters sent by the newly elected Metropolitan Nikiphoros of Central Africa and Bishop Ioannis of Mozambique, in which they gratefully accept their election, thanked all the Hierarchs of the Alexandrian Throne for their tireless effort and arduous work which they undertake on the African continent, emphasizing that at the centre of the missionary activity is still the spiritual education and quality of development in Christ of the life of our suffering African brothers and sisters, as well as the care and concern of the orphaned children, the combating of disease and education.

In reply, His Eminence the Elder Metropolitan Paul of Memphis, praised the tireless paternal care of the Venerable Primate for the clergy and Christian fullness of the Church of Alexandria.

At noon His Excellency the Consul General of Greece in Alexandria, Mr. George Diakofotakis, hosted an official lunch in the Consular Residence in honour of His Beatitude and the Members of the Holy Synod.



His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa celebrated the sixth anniversary of his election to the Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of St Mark (9th October 2004 – 9th October 2010).

With the participation of the Members of the Holy Synod, the Bishops, the clergy and the Christian faithful, a Patriarchal and Synodal con-celebration was held at the Holy Patriarchal Church of St Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria.

The homily was preached by His Eminence Jonah of Kampala, who spoke of the productive six year tenure of His Beatitude, which gave emphasis to the development of missionary work on the African continent.

Prior to the end of the Eucharistic gathering His Beatitude, in his brief speech, emotionally spoke of the day of his election, expressed his gratitude and unwavering trust in the Arch Shepherd Christ and wholeheartedly thanked the Hierarchs of the Throne, the diplomatic corps, the community and political heads of Egypt, the members of the Hellenic community and the Christian faithful for their ceaseless support which they have given him over the years. As a token of gratitude he donated an icon of the Mother of God to the Church.

A festive celebration followed in the Throne Room of the Patriarchal Monastery of St Savvas, where the Archon Logothetis Mr. Spyridon Kamalakis, President of the ancient Order of the Paravalenes and Mrs. Aliki Antoniou, Chairperson of the Greek Ladies Lyceum of Alexandria, gave valuable gifts to His Beatitude the Patriarch.

At noon on the same day, the Venerable Hierarch of the Alexandrian Church hosted an official lunch for the Members of the Holy Synod and his important guests.

The liturgical and spiritual functions were attended by His Excellency Mr Costas Leontiou, Ambassador of Cyprus in the Land of the Nile, Mrs. Cleopatra Diakofotakis representing the Honourable Consul General of Greece in Alexandria, representatives of the Hellenic Communities of Alexandria and Cairo, the Archon Logothetis Mr Spyridon Kamalakis, office bearers of the Throne, University lecturers, teachers, representatives of Hellenic and Arab-speaking societies and associations as well as a representation of the Hellenic Scouts of Alexandria.

Archim. P. Arathymos


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

St Martin the Merciful the Bishop of Tours

Saint Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours, was born at Sabaria in Pannonia (modern Hungary) in 316. Since his father was a Roman officer, he also was obliged to serve in the army. Martin did so unwillingly, for he considered himself a soldier of Christ, though he was still a catechumen.

At the gates of Amiens, he saw a beggar shivering in the severe winter cold, so he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the saint wearing Martin's cloak. He heard the Savior say to the angels surrounding Him, "Martin is only a catechumen, but he has clothed Me with this garment." The saint was baptized soon after this, and reluctantly remained in the army.

Two years later, the barbarians invaded Gaul and Martin asked permission to resign his commission for religious reasons. The commander charged him with cowardice. St Martin demonstrated his courage by offering to stand unarmed in the front line of battle, trusting in the power of the Cross to protect him. The next day, the barbarians surrendered without a fight, and Martin was allowed to leave the army.

He traveled to various places during the next few years, spending some time as a hermit on an island off Italy. He became friendly with St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (January 14), who made Matrin an exorcist. After several years of the ascetic life, St Martin was chosen to be Bishop of Tours in 371. As bishop, St Martin did not give up his monastic life, and the place where he settled outside Tours became a monastery. In fact, he is regarded as the founder of monasticism in France. He conversed with angels, and had visions of Sts Peter and Paul (June 29) and of other saints. He is called the Merciful because of his generosity and care for the poor, and he received the grace to work miracles.

After a life of devoted service to Christ and His Church, the saint fell ill at Candes, a village in his diocese, where he died on November 8, 397. He was buried three days later (his present Feast) at Tours. During the Middle Ages, many Western churches were dedicated to St Martin, including St Martin's in Canterbury, and St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

In 1008, a cathedral was built at Tours over the relics of St Martin. This cathedral was destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution, together with the relics of St Martin and St Gregory of Tours (November 17). A new cathedral was built on the site many years later. Some fragments of the relics of St Martin were recovered and placed in the cathedral, but nothing remains of St Gregory's relics.

St Martin's name appears on many Greek and Russian calendars. His commemoration on October 12 in the Russian calendar appears to be an error, since ancient sources give the November date.


The Acceptable Year of the Lord

Abba Seraphim presents a sermon for the British Orthodox Church
British Orthodox Church TV - Youtube


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Manuscript found in Ethiopian monastery could be world's oldest illustrated Christian work

A still colourful page from the book despite the 1600 age of the worlds oldest christian book found in a remote monastry in Ethiopia. The text was thought to be medieval but carbon dating has taken it back to the 5th century AD

Manuscript found in Ethiopian monastery could be world's oldest illustrated Christian work

A manuscript found in a remote Ethiopian monastery could be the oldest illustrated Christian work in the world, experts have claimed.

Originally thought to be from around the 11th century, new carbon dating techniques place the Garima Gospels between 330 and 650 AD.

The 1,600 year-old texts are named after a monk, Abba Garima, who arrived in Ethiopia in the fifth century.

According to legend, he copied out the Gospels in just one day after founding the Garima Monastery, near Adwa in the north of the country.

The vividly illustrated pages have been conserved by the Ethiopian Heritage Fund and it is hoped that the two volumes will be made available to visitors to the monastery which is in discussions to start a museum there.

Illustrations of the saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all included in the book along with what may be the first ever Christian illustration of a building, the Temple of the Jews.

The Garima Gospels, which are believed to have magical powers, have never left the monastery.

They were written on goat skin in the early Ethiopian language of Ge'ez and are thought to be the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.

The earlier date given to the manuscripts coincides with Abba (Father) Garima's arrival in Ethiopia from Constantinople in 494 AD adding weight to the legend that he was responsible, at least in part, for writing the texts.

Mark Winstanley, who helped to carry out the conservation, said: "The monks believe that the book has the magical powers of a holy text. If someone is ill they are read passages from the book and it is thought to give them strength. Although the monks have always believed in the legend of Abba Garima the new date means it could actually be true."

By Laura Roberts
Published: 1:07PM BST 05 Jul 2010


Monday, April 12, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wall Street trader becomes a monk

Brother Nikanor: 'If someone consumes more than they have earned, it means someone else is starving' Photo: REUTERS

Wall Street trader becomes a monk
A former Wall Street broker has swapped Manhattan for a monastery in Bulgaria to become an Orthodox monk
By Nick Squires
Published: 3:56PM BST 02 Oct 2008

Hristo Mishkov had a successful career as a broker on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York until he decided to give it all up to return to his native Bulgaria. His radical change of circumstances may start to look appealing to the tens of thousands of finance sector employees who face the bleak prospect of losing their jobs.

Exchanging tailored suits and expensive shoes for a cassock and sandals, Brother Nikanor, as he is now known, believes Wall Street and the City deserve all they get as the credit crunch bites deeper and the global financial system goes into meltdown.

"It is right to see people who consume more than they deserve shattered by a financial crisis from time to time, to suffer so that they can become more reasonable," he said.

He has scant sympathy for bankers and brokers around the world who are at risk of redundancy.

The collapse of banks and investment firms was a necessary correction because they had grown greedy, he said.

"Many people ... in the world do not realise that they have not earned the food they eat, that they take without giving," said Mr Mishkov, 32, who worked for Karoll, one of Bulgaria's leading brokerages.

"But if someone consumes more than they have earned, it means someone else is starving."

His colleagues were stunned when he decided to become a monk, but he had made up his mind to seek spiritual well-being rather than material wealth.

"Everybody can be a good broker but this does not bring much benefit for the world," he said.

"We always search for happiness in the outside world, in material things, which makes us constantly unsatisfied, angry with ourselves and the world."

Where once he milked the money markets, Mr Mishkov now wakes at dawn to attend to a herd of cheese-producing buffalo in the 12th century Tsurnogorski monastery in which he lives, 30 miles west of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

But he has not entirely turned his back on his past.

When he became a monk five years ago he retained just one luxury – a mobile phone – and has used it to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds from former trading colleagues and Bulgaria's wealthy to rebuild the dilapidated monastery, which was used as a labour camp during the communist era.

Broker turned monk offers home truths to needy

TSURNOGORSKI MONASTERY, Bulgaria (Reuters) - Brother Nikanor, a Nasdaq broker turned monk, advises former colleagues to put a jar with soil on their desks to remind them where we are all heading and what matters in life. As western banks fold into each other like crumpled tickets and commentators portray the current crisis as the last gasp of modern capitalism, Hristo Mishkov, 32, shares the pain -- and offers home truths.

Broker turned monk offers home truths on crisis

Bulgarian monk Brother Nikanor, 32, stands in front of Tsurnogorski monastery, some 50 km (31miles) west of the capital Sofia, September 24, 2008. The Nasdaq broker turned monk advises his former colleagues, shattered by the financial crisis, to keep a jar full of soil on their desks to remind them about where we are all heading to and what really matters in life. Five years ago, after failing to find happiness in the life he lived, the Christian Orthodox who hadn't practised as a child quit the New York-based market for a dilapidated Bulgarian monastery that once served as a communist labour camp. Picture taken September 24, 2008.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia visits Malankara

KOTTAYAM: His Holiness Aram I, the Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church visits Malankara Orthodox Church from February 24-28, 2010.

Metropolitan Dr. Gabriel Mar Gregorios of the Thiruvanthapuram diocese visited the Armenian Catholicos at the Catholicate Palace in Antelias and extended the official invitation of the supreme head of the Malankara Church at the end of January 2010. The visit of Aram I to India is in response to this invitation.

The Holy See of Cilicia is one of two wings of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Since 1930, it has been headquartered in Antelias, Lebanon. Aram I has been the Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenian Church since 1995. Armenian Apostolic Church comes under the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The supreme head of the Armenian Church will reach Kochi on February 24 and will officially meet with Baselios Marthoma Didymos I, the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan at his headquarters, Devalokam Aramana. Thereafter Aram I will participate in the banquet hosted by Baselios Marthoma Didymos I in honor of the visiting Catholicos.

His Holiness Aram I is Catholicos of the See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Antelias, Lebanon).

He was elected moderator of the WCC Central Committee at the Seventh Assembly (Canberra 1991) – the youngest person ever to be chosen for that position – and was re-elected at the Eighth Assembly (Harare 1998), and he is the first moderator to be re-elected since Franklin Clark Fry in 1961.

Ordained a priest in 1968, Aram Keshishian was named locum tenens of the diocese of Lebanon in 1978 and primate in 1979, and was ordained as a bishop in 1980. In 1995 he was elected Catholicos.

He has studied theology – specializing in philosophy, contemporary systematic theology and Middle Eastern church history – at his church’s theological seminary in Antelias, Lebanon, the Near East School of Theology (Beirut), the American University of Beirut, and Fordham University (New York), from which he earned a Ph.D. in theology. He also attended the WCC’s graduate school of ecumenical studies in Bossey, Switzerland, and has done theological research at Oxford University.

In 1975 he was named to the WCC Faith and Order Commission. He was a delegate to the WCC’s Sixth Assembly (Vancouver 1983), where he was elected to the Central Committee. He played an active role in the founding and re-structuring of the Middle East Council of Churches. He is a member of the Oriental-Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Bilateral Dialogues. He is an honorary member of Pro-Oriente, a Roman Catholic Ecumenical Foundation located in Vienna.

He has written a dozen books in Armenian and English about the Armenian Church and about ecumenical issues. An abridged version of his doctoral dissertation was published in 1990 under the title Conciliar Fellowship: A Common Goal (Geneva, WCC Publications, 1990). His most recent book is a collection of essays entitled The Challenge to be a Church in a Changing World (1997).

Feb.25 Thursday : Ecumenical leaders meet, Press meet . After Noon at Kolenchery
Feb. 26 Friday : Participate in the Holy Synod at Old Seminary. Face to face with Seminary Students. Evening at Puthuppally Church.
Feb. 27 Saturday: Participate in the Dukrono of Vattasseril Thirumeni at Old Seminary
Feb. 28. Sunday: Participate in the Holy Eucharist at Parumala Seminary
2pm Chenganoor Diocesan Silver Jubilee celebrations
6pm.Thiruvananthapuram Cathedral Church.
8pm attend the Banquet with Dignitaries and religious leaders.


Monday, February 8, 2010


The NGO “Light of Africa” of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, together with the Missionary Society of Heraklion, Crete, “Bridge of Love” and the Brotherhood of External Missions in Thessaloniki, with the blessing of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, gathered together dental and general medical equipment which will immediately be sent together with other items to the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown.

It is to be noted that in Sierra Leone, a suffering country in the west of Africa with thousands of victims of the past civil war, especially orphaned children with physical disabilities due to the landmines, there is significant missionary and humanistic work being done by Archimandrite Themistocles Adamopoulos and his colleagues, under the guidance and spiritual concern of the local Metropolitan of Accra, His Eminence Damaskinos.


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