Culture

Hymn of Entry to the Hagia Sophia

Hagia SophiaThis essay is published here on the occasion of the first prayers following Hagia Sophia’s reversion to a mosque, July 24, 2020.

It was spring 1964—a difficult year for the Orthodox Greek brothers of Constantinople, because of the well-known anti-Greek acts of the Turks, due to Cyprus. I was in the Theological Academy of Chalke (whose operation unfortunately has since been forbidden by the Turks). Great Lent had just started. In the Holy Trinity Monastery of Chalke, cantor Stanitsas chanted with his students: “Open for me the gates of repentance, O Life-Giver.” It was then that I experienced and understood Orthodox Byzantium: with all its grandeur it humbly repents in front of the Living and True God, as simply as washing in the morning or eating our daily bread.

Grounded in the Beginning: Father Seraphim Rose and the Patristic View of Creation

Grounded in the Beginning: Father Seraphim Rose and the Patristic View of Creation
Grounded in the Beginning: Father Seraphim Rose and the Patristic View of Creation
Grounded in the Beginning: Father Seraphim Rose and the Patristic View of Creation
Grounded in the Beginning: Father Seraphim Rose and the Patristic View of Creation

Recently, I had the blessing to be asked to present informally (and unworthily!) at Fr. Felipe Balingit’s online Saturday morning Catechism class, on Blessed Seraphim Rose’s writings about the Creation in Genesis, based in the Church Fathers. Fr. Felipe’s mission work in the Philippines includes this class, which he conducts usually from Holy Trinity Seminary and Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he is currently studying and helping to conduct worship services. The class mainly consists of dedicated Filipino Orthodox Christians and catechumens, along with others, in various time zones around the world, and usually lasts for several hours with Fr. Felipe’s teaching and answering of questions. His insights, dedication, and theirs are a great blessing to experience, glory to God!

“I Would Often Walk to Russia to Receive Communion”

​Elder Gabriel and Otar NikolaishviliLittle known reminiscences about St. Gabriel (Urgebadze)

Love for St. Gabriel, the miracles that are worked not only at his holy relics but also before his numerous icons… We wouldn’t be lying if we say that with every passing day this love grows and gains power, like a snowball. The power of prayer and love! It is a miracle, a true miracle that is occurring before our very eyes. Otherwise how could we explain the fact that Elder Gabriel has become a solid uniting link for our Orthodox nations [Georgia and Russia.—Trans.] in this era of division?

We offer our readers a selection of little known reminiscences and testimonies about St. Gabriel, which will help everybody discover the essence of the elder’s podvigs that are pouring out from his love-filled heart.

​Elder Gabriel and Otar Nikolaishvili    

Otar Nikolaishvili, Elder Gabriel’s spiritual son, recalls:

Obsessed with worldly passions, I was searching for my sweetheart who was hiding at Samtavro Convent. I was so enraged that I was ready to take any rash action or even commit a crime (may God forgive me!). How could I have heeded anybody’s advice?! And it was in that state that I met Fr. Gabriel. He introduced himself as “a sinful monk” who was “hungry, humiliated and abandoned by everybody.” His words were confirmed by his untidy, sloppy appearance. On hearing the reason for my arrival at the convent, he said:

The Iconographer of the Centuries

The Iconographer of the Centuries
The Iconographer of the Centuries
The Iconographer of the Centuries
The Iconographer of the Centuries

At the time the earliest Serbian immigrant stepped ashore in the New World – in America – that Statue of Liberty, torch in hand, was not there in the New York docks to illuminate the way for the newcomers. The Serbs were received and welcomed by none other than Saint Sava. Who else could it have been? Whom else did they have over there? Saint Sava needed no kind of torch. He is the light and the fire, the lodestar every Serb holds close and dear to heart. And it is no coincidence that the very first Serbian Orthodox Church, erected in California’s city of Jackson in 1894, bears his name.

Bishop Photios: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia became a mosque,
before the eyes and ears of the whole world
sitting in the front and the last row.
And she cries – where are my children?

Where are the monarchs that I raised?
Where is the clergy that adorned me
with the blessed beauty?
Where are the soldiers who defended me?
Where are the prayers of the holy
who transformed me into Heaven?

Where are the deaf and the blind
who received healing inside me,
the lame who stood up,
the mute who spoke?

O, my children, of Christian and Orthodox stem,
again you are left without spiritual lighthouse,
surrendering me to desolation.

Where are my Easter and Christmas Liturgies,
mosaics that lifted the earth to Heaven?
All gone in a blink of an eye,
turning me into a widow.

Where are the Patriarchs
to announce the Blessed Kingdom?
Where are the countless choirs
that overtoned the angelic?
Where are the repenters, ascetics
and the contrite hearts
who found solace here?

O, my heart is filled with sorrow,
for those that seek God are gone.
Within me no longer is celebrated
Hagia Sophia, without whom the universe
is ruled by madness.
Where to now, and how?

Desolate and solitary I stand,
clothed in dark robes,
grieving for children who are gone,
who no longer walk the manifold trails
and sail the sundry seas to reach me,
and be raised to Heaven by my magnificent domes.

Bishop Photios