Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Rome: Rad Relics

Constantinople, the imperial capital as well as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch, was once a veritable treasure trove of relics - from the rod of Moses to veil of the Mother of God. This collection, however, has decreased greatly over the centuries. Many were stolen and taken to the West by Crusaders when the City was sacked by Crusaders during the infamous Fourth Crusade. The number declined further when the City fell to the Turks in 1453.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, however, still remains home to an impressive number of relics, which the Pope & Patriarch will jointly venerate today:

Left to Right: Column of Christ's Flagellation, relics of St Theophano, St Euphemia & St Solomone

The Column of Christ's Flagellation
The column is one of the most ancient and treasured relics in St George's. Brought to Constantinople by St Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, it is only a third of the full column - the other two portions are preserved in Jerusalem and Rome.

The Relics of St Theophano
St Theophano came from a devout, noble family of Constantinople. She married Leo, heir apparent to the imperial crown. Leo became known in history as Emperor Leo the Wise (886-911). Despite being born into an aristocratic house and marrying into the imperial palace, Empress Theophano always led an ascetic life. The hymns of the Church recall how she renounced earthly riches, choosing a life of prayer and alms giving instead. She is commemorated on 16 December.

The Relics of St Euphemia
St Euphemia was born in Chalcedon to devout parents. She was tortured under the persecutions of Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in the late 3rd century. St Euphemia is known for working a miracle that determined the final doctrinal definition at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451. The 630 Fathers at the Council were deliberating the two differing opinions on the natures of Christ. To test the teaching, the Fathers inscribed them on two separate decrees, and placed them inside the reliquary of St Euphemia. When the reliquary was opened later, the heretical decree had fallen to the feet of the saint, while the orthodox doctrine rested in her hands. This miracle is celebrated by the Church on 11 July, and St Euphemia is commemorated on 16 September.

The Relics of St Solomone
St Solomone was of Jewish ancestry and was the mother of the seven Maccabees, who suffered torture at the hands of the state in the name of Christ. She is commemorated on 1 August.
The relics however, probably belong to Mary Salome, one of the women who stood at the foot of the cross and myrrh-bearer, since Solomone was burned to death.

The Relics of St Gregory Nazianzen & St John Chrysostom
St Gregory the Nazianzen was a fervent advocate of the doctrine of the Trinity and is known for paving the way for the triumph of orthodoxy at the Second Ecumenical Council, which completed the Symbol of Faith (the Nicene Creed). He is commemorated on 1 January
St John Chrysostom was known for his eloquence in public speaking and his denunciation of the abuse of authority in the Church and Empire at that time. He is commemorated on 13 November.
Their relics were taken to Rome during the Sack of Constantinople, where they remained for 800 years until Pope John Paul II returned them to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in November, 2004.

Interestingly enough, Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of the Holy Wisdom (now a museum), seems to have been itself an object of devotion to pilgrims. Unlike the churches of other great pilgrimage centres, the religious value of the building was not attributed to a single, specific relic, but was actually the sacred edifice itself. Anthony, future archbishop of Novgorod, begins his description of the shrines and relics of Constantinople with the phrase, "First we venerated St Sophia", just as 15th century Russian pilgrim, hierodeacon Zosima begins his recital of a visit with the words, "First I venerated the holy Great Church of Wisdom," and then begins his litany of miraculous images and holy relics.

Hmm. I wonder if Pope Benedict will do the same.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Schedule of the Pope's Visit to the City

via Deo Juvante

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

6:30 pm Arrival at Attaturk Airport.
Greeted by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

7:15 pm Official welcome of His Holiness Pope Benedict by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

7:30 pm Doxology of thanksgiving and peace, exchange of greetings, and mutual reverence of the Holy Relics.

8:00 pm Private meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope.

8:45 pm Departure of Pope


Thursday, November 30, 2006
St Andrew's Feast Day

9:45 am Arrival of the Pope and welcome by the Ecumenical Patriarch.

10:00 am Patriarchal Divine Liturgy
1. Exchange of the Kiss of Peace.
2. The Pope recites the Lord’s Prayer in Greek
3. Official addresses and responses between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch.
4. The Prelates bless the Congregation present.

12:00 pm
Official joint blessing of the Faithful present and those
around the world from the balcony of the Chief Secretariat, respectively in
Latin and Greek.

12:30 pm
Official reading and signing of the Joint Declaration.

1:00 pm Patriarchal Luncheon in honor of the Pope.

2:45 pm Pope departs from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


Friday, December 1, 2006
Papal Holy Mass at the Holy Spirit Church

8:40 am Ecumenical Patriarch is welcomed by the Pope.
1. Exchange of the Kiss of Peace.
2. The Prelates jointly bless the faithful, respectively in Greek and Latin.

1:15 pm His All Holiness bids farewell to the Pope as he departs from Attaturk Airport.

Remember to keep Pope and Patriarch always in your prayers.

My Alleged Homophobia

We interrupt our usual programming to bring you this special response from our blogger, Constantine, to allegations of homophobia. Over the past weeks, he has kept largely silent over accusations of discriminating certain people due to their sexual orientation. Today, however, he is breaking his silence to respond to these claims.

"I would first avoid using the term 'homophobia'. The term is deceptive and is used by liberals and homosexual proponents to confuse the issue and control the debate, namely by identifying all opposition to homosexuality as irrational bigotry. Not every opposition to homosexuality is based on irrationality and/or bias.

Homophobia is defined as prejudice against homosexual people. If I truly were guilty of behaving in such manner, then I would be deprived of good company - for I count many homosexuals as friends. I treat them as I would any heterosexual friend.

A person goes beyond his/her sexual orientation. Being homosexual is hardly an indication of character. I have seen and experienced firsthand that homosexuals do not necessarily conform to their television counterparts. Not all of them are flamboyant, effeminate men - although some are - many have shown themselves to be intelligent, polite and cultured men. Several are among the most devout Christians I know.

I am fully aware of Church teaching against homosexuality, and though I have not attacked (physically and/or verbally) anyone for being homosexual, I do not approve of such practice. Homosexuality is a grave sin, going against the will of nature. However, if I continue to befriend liars, thieves, heretics and various assorted sinners, I see no reason as to why this sinner should treat homosexuals any differently. Remember that Christ spent His time on Earth among prostitutes and tax collectors.

Do not take my docility for a sign of weakness. I will never compromise my beliefs. Being tolerant never meant I accepted this abomination. Does this make me a bigot? To those who have accused me, it does.

What does open-mindedness truly mean? I, for one, never quite saw it as being accepting of every ideology and practice - tolerant, yes, but not necessarily accepting. Only spineless, witless people who have long forgotten what it meant to have integrity are capable of seeing it that way.

I am not aware of having showed bias toward any homosexual, but if I am guilty of such, I assure you that it is due to any one or more of these factors:
* impropriety
* imprudence
* impiety
* irreverence
* indecency
* insolence

You know where I stand. Thank you for taking your time to read this."

Anti-pope Rally

Turkey: Protesters hold massive anti-pope rally
Demonstrators gathered in Istanbul on Sunday in the largest anti-pope protest so far. Police expected thousands to attend. The protest was organized by a pro-Islamic political party whose leaders have said they were offended by Benedict's comments linking violence and Islam.
- ASSOCIATED PRESS, 26 November 2006 14:38

Well that is the last straw. First they have been holding protests against the visit of Pope Benedict, now they are holding rallies for anti-popes. I wonder which anti-pope they were rallying for. Perhaps Pope Michael I who lives in Kansas.

I also just realized another reason why Jesus did not choose women to be ordained. Since sooner or later we would have ended up with an Auntie-Pope.

[via The Curt Jester]

New Rome: Numerous Names

Today's installment brings us to an often wondered, but least asked question about the City - its name. The city has had many different names throughout history, and not merely due to the various languages of her inhabitants. The most notable, aside from its modern Turkish name, are Byzantium, Constantinople, New Rome and Stambul. Many often flounder clumsily with its many names, often ignorant that by addressing the City by its Turkish name, one could either receive a puzzled look or a stern scolding.

If that has happened before or you just wonder why, read on to find out!

The City's name during the Classical Age. Founded in 667 BC by Greek colonists from Megara, the site was named Byzantion (Βυζάντιον), after their leader, Byzas (Βύζας). The name 'Byzantium' is a Latinised form of the original Greek. This name is commonly used to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire, the 'Byzantine Empire', whose capital was none other than the City. The usage, however, was introduced by German historian Hieronymus Wolf in 1555 - more than a century after the Empire ceased to exist. The name 'Byzantium' would have been used rarely during the days of the Empire.

New Rome
By the time of the Constantine the Great (272-337), the city of Rome had become unsuitable for the capital of an empire. It had become the scene of plot and counter-plot, treason and conspiracy, and was plagued regularly by flooding and malaria. Passing over Nicomedia, Naissus, Sardica, Thessalonica and even Troy herself, he chose the city of Byzantium, then a small trading town, to build his new capital. Conferring the name of Second Rome (Secunda Roma, Δευτέρα Ρώμη), he undertook a major reconstruction of the city, essentially rebuilding it. Since the 5th century, the usage shifted to New Rome (Nova Roma, Νέα Ρώμη). Neither name came into wide use. The term 'New Rome', however, lent itself to East-West polemics, and was often used by Eastern writers to stress the rivalry with Old Rome. New Rome is still used in the official title of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Literally "City of Constantine", it was the name by which the City became popularly known. One has to admit, it does have a nicer ring to it than 'Nova Roma'. It was known in Greek as Kostantinoupolis (Κωνσταντινούπολις) and in Latin as Constantinopolis. Byzantine writers would sometimes vary the names of Byzantium and Constantinople - Byzantium being associated with the City's pagan roots, while Constantinople was associated with Christianity. It was the official name of the City throughout the Byzantine period and was its most common name in the West until the early 20th century.

The City
In addition to Constantinople, the City was addressed by a range of many names during the Byzantine era. Most were honorary, such as the Queen of Cities (Βασιλίς τῶν πόλεων). The most common way of referring to it however, was simply 'the City' (Greek: hē Polis, ἡ Πόλις, Modern Greek: i Poli, η Πόλη). The usage remains popular in colloquial Greek usage as well as with Eastern Orthodox traditionalists.

The Slavs came to refer to the City as Tsargrad (Цѣсарьградъ), 'City of the Emperor'. It is derived from the Slavonic words tsar, meaning Caesar and grad, meaning city. This is thought to have originated with the Greek title Βασιλέως Πόλις, 'the City of the Emperor'. Tsargrad was not used as a formal name of the City, but as a nickname that manifested the regal dignity of the city. Its official name remained Константинь градъ - 'Konstantin grad', the Slavonic form of Constantinople. The term is still occasionally used in Bulgarian - the biggest boulevard in the Bulgarian capital Sofia is called 'Road to Tsarigrad', but has become archaic in Russian.

Just for the fun of it, I have listed 'Tsargrad', as it appears in various Slavic languages:
Old Church Slavonic: Цѣсарьградъ
Church Slavonic: Царьградъ
Russian: Царьград
Ukrainian: Царгород
Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian: Цариград (rendered Tsarigrad/Carigrad in the Latin alphabet)
Romanian: Ţarigrad
note: Romanian is not a Slavic language, but it has been heavily influenced by the Slavs

The name by which the City was called by the Vikings. Translated literally as 'Big City', from mikill, meaning big and garðr, meaning city. The name continues today in the modern Icelandic name - Mikligarður

The name by which the City was known in the Islamic world, and its formal name in Ottoman Turkey, used in its coinage and court documents. It is an Arabic form of Constantinople, with an Arabic ending instead of the Greek. Kostantiniyye (قسطنطينيه) remained in official usage until the Ottoman Empire dissolved in 1923.

The Turkish name by which the City was informally addressed in Ottoman times. The name is derived from the Greek phrase εἰς τὴν Πόλιν, meaning "in the city", having been based on the common way of referring to Constantinople simply as the City. With the creation of the modern Turkish state in 1923, the dictatorship officially requested foreigners to cease referring to the City with traditional (i.e. non-Turkish) names and to adopt Istanbul as its sole name, even in foreign languages. Greek maps, however, still show the City as 'Constantinople'.

I am often asked, why do Greeks, Orthodox and Eastern Christians refuse to use its modern name and instead continue to refer to the City as 'Constantinople'? The answer is simply because that is the City's proper name in English. You wouldn't use Llundain or ロンドン when referring to the capital of England in everyday speech, now would you?

Monday, November 27, 2006

New Rome: The Patriarchal Cathedral of St George

Today marks the advent of my series, New Rome: A Guide to the Pope's Visit to the City.

I will attempt to provide information to my Latin readers (or any interested parties) on the Pope Benedict's sixth apostolic journey - this time, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the City of Constantinople, the New Rome.

So now, on to the first installment:

The Patriarchal Cathedral of St George

The Cathedral of St George in the Phanar is the fifth patriarchal cathedral since the fall of the Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 and the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople since the fifteenth century. Pope Benedict XVI will attend a Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Patriarch Bartholomew at St George's on the second day of his three-day long visit.

With the Great Church of Hagia Sophia having converted to a mosque by the occupying Turks in 1453, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch has shifted frequently in the centuries following the fall of the City. The patriarchal cathedrals since 1453 have been:

* The Church of the Holy Apostles (location of today’s Fatih Mosque), 1453–1456
St Mark's Basilica in Venice (pictured) is said to have been modelled on the Church of the Holy Apostles

* The Church of Panagia Pammakaristos (today’s Fethiye Mosque), 1456–1587
* The Church of the Virgin Mary of Vlahseraion in the Phanar, 1587–1597
* The Church of St Dimitrios in Xyloporta, 1597–1600
* The Church of St George in the Phanar, 1601–present

St George's, formerly a convent for nuns, has since served a large community of monks. To this day, the Ecumenical Patriarchate still comprises a monastic brotherhood under the spiritual guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

The building is reminiscent of 6th century basilicas, with its classical threefold division of the narthex (vestibule), nave and altar area.

The icon screen of St George's does not adhere to any specific iconographic style, resembling instead a conglomeration of Byzantine and Renaissance, as well as Baroque and even Ottoman influences. It is carved out of wood, and was recently gilded. The icon screen is divided into three sections and three levels. Smaller icons are placed before the icon screen itself in order to render them more accessible for personal devotion and veneration.

Damaged by anti-Greek pogroms of the 1900s, the Cathedral of St George has since been restored to its former beauty and redecorated through the generosity of the Grand Benefactor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Panagiotis Angelopoulos, and his family.

The cathedral of St George's remains a poignant symbol of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Small and serving a dwindling flock, St George's does not accurately reflect the primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople as first among the Eastern bishops - it has been said that even minor Russian bishops have far grander cathedrals and larger congregations. Under the harsh and unreasonable laws imposed by the Turks on the Church and ethnic Greek alike, it is highly unlikely that Orthodoxy will survive in the City for more than twenty years.

Let us hope that Pope Benedict's visit will shed some of the international spotlight on the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Let us also pray for the conversion of the Turks, that the City may once again be the jewel of Orthodoxy.

Irony is getting boring...

ANKARA. The Turkish special services arrested a group of extremists who had prepared an attack against the head of the Papal Council for Encouraging of Christian Unity Cardinal Walter Kasper, RIA Novosti reports citing Sabah. The attack should take place during the future visit of Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey. The material based upon special services’ claims doesn’t point out details about the identity and nationality of the arrested.
- FOCUS News Agency, 25 November 2006 | 16:31

The Moslems accuse the Pope of condemning Islam as a violent and irrational religion. The Pope apologised, but that wasn't good enough for them. They don't seem too keen on "dialogue" - all they want to do is destroy people and buildings. How *do* you talk to a group of people that every time you challenge them, they throw tantrums, destroy property and kill defenseless people?

I reckon the only reason the Turkish authorities prevented the attack was because they knew that, should anybody be hurt and/or killed, they'd never be admitted into the European Union, the 'Christian Club' (as they put it).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Quote of the Month

We Christians should not be afraid of the spiritual encounter with a society that conceals behind ostensible intellectual superiority its perplexity in the face of the ultimate existential questions.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech to the German cardinals

A society that conceals its perplexity behind a facade of intellectual superiority... the Pope really knows how to lay the smackdown on the modern world.

Hell hath no fury like a former seminarian

From Hollywood superstars to adulterous dilettantes, several seminary dropouts have managed to find success in the secular world.

But they’ve also strayed from the Christian path - whether it was for the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard or simply to reign terror over a Communist nation. Here’s a sampling of the finest in almost-clergy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Panagia Ierosolimitissa

To those whom I gave prayer cards to during the past two weeks, if you were unable to read the (modern) Greek at the back, I have received a translation from Maria of the Greek consulate:

Panagia Ierosolimitissa (Theotokos of Jerusalem)

This is Gethsemane's Panagia, overlooking the empty tomb of the Most Holy Theotokos, blessing the numerous pilgrims to the Holy Land of Jerusalem. Today's small underground tomb is situated at Gethsemane, next to the Mount of Olives where the Saviour often prayed with His disciples. It was there that the Apostles gathered and buried the most-pure body of the Mother of God. Her icon remains there as an endless spring of blessings for all the Christians, celebrated (or venerated) by the name 'Panagia Ierosolimitissa'.

I hope this helps.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Battle of the Babushki

When babushki take each other on...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ever wondered...

What do Yul Brynner, Tina Fey, Jennifer Aniston and Tom Hanks have in common?

Here's what.

The Shuiu-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon

Today the Church commemorates the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God of Shuiu-Smolensk.

In its story, lie the basic messages of Christian belief, the power of faith, the gift of forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life.

During the years 1654 and 1655, a terrible pestilence raged in the city of Shuiu. Trusting in the mercy of God and the intercession of the Mother of God, the parishioners of Resurrection Church commissioned a pious monk to paint an icon of the Smolensk Mother of God, an icon long held to be a rescuer of Russian people from misfortune.

During the week the image was being painted, the parishioners prayed and fasted. After the icon was finished, the priest and people took it to the church and set it in a specially built place. From that time, the pestilence began to ease, beginning in the area of the Resurrection Church and later in all the city.

Many miracles of healing have taken place since, especially of eye diseases.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why Coffee is Essential

The following conversation between Ernest and Norman took place today morning:

Ernest says:
[ Cattus Petasatus The Cat in the Hat ] says:
Ernest says:
woof woof
[ Cattus Petasatus The Cat in the Hat ] says:
Ernest says:
[ Cattus Petasatus The Cat in the Hat ] says:
Ernest says:
Ol' MacDonald had a farm .....
[ Cattus Petasatus The Cat in the Hat ] says:

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rejoice, O Virgin, Joy of all who sorrow!

Today the Church commemorates the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow in Moscow.

On this day, in the year 1688, Euphemia, the sister of the Patriarch Joachim suffered a serious wound in her side. As the doctors failed in their treatments, she prayed with tears to the Most Holy Theotokos. She then heard a voice, saying "Euphemia, go to the Church of the Transfiguration of my Son; there you will find the icon 'Joy of All Who Sorrow' - have the priest pray for you before this icon and you will be healed." Euphemia obeyed, and was immediately cured.

The icon depicts the Holy Theotokos, a most beautiful blossom of heaven, standing among the flowers of paradise. Her Son is visible above her in the clouds, the King of heaven and earth. Along both sides of the icon, supplicants ask for intercession. She stands listening with her head tilted and her arms spread open. The tenderness and kindness of a loving mother is evident in her face. She stands in paradise and yet among us. She is our joy, because in her love she hears us. Her unceasing intercession and her limitless love heals our sorrows.

Seeking to understand the incomprehensible reason for the bitter sorrows that assail us, in need of consolation we flee to Thee, O Mother and Virgin. And in that Thou art good, teach us to see in them the merciful providence of Thy good Son for the salvation of our souls and the cleansing of our many transgressions, that we may joyfully cry to Thee:

Rejoice, Thou that didst bear the Saviour Christ, the Joy of the world!
Rejoice, Thou that deliverest the world from sorrows!
Rejoice, Thou that didst endure the blasphemies and slanders hurled at Thy Son!
Rejoice, Thou that didst suffer together with Him through His suffering!
Rejoice, consolation of the sorrows of mothers!
Rejoice, gracious preservation of their children!
Rejoice, speedy help amid misfortunes!
Rejoice, correction of the erring!
Rejoice, nourishment of infants!
Rejoice, guidance of the young!
Rejoice, mother of the orphaned!
Rejoice, help of widows!
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of Grace, Joy of all who sorrow!

Ikos 4, Akathist to the Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Today marks the end of all birthday festivities which begun on November 3, the 19th anniversary of my birth.

Friday, November 3rd, was a day I could best describe as bad. The day began ominously enough, being required to travel down to Scotts in Orchard Road to commence filming for an assignment. The day was exhausting - having spent six hours out there filming and another four more back in Republic Polytechnic digitizing the film and sitting for a test I was hardly prepared for.

The rest of the day didn't go too well either - I learnt that Jana, whom I planned to take out for dinner the next day, was leaving the country for an indefinite period of time, I missed an appointment with Kenny and I returned home only to be bombarded on Instant Messenger by Sik Wee complaining how I had "deliberately" missed seeing him today after class.

The day wasn't entirely bad, however. I received calls from my godmother and her sister (she resides in Brazil), sending their greetings and well-wishes. The latter call was entirely unexpected, but very much appreciated. My parents held a pleasant (if somewhat mechanical) celebration. The rest of the day was spent editing the English for some entries in Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday wasn't bad at all - slept in, spent the entire afternoon watching X-Men: Evolution episodes on YouTube before heading down to China Square for dinner with the guys - Edward, Norman, Ernest and Anthony. Dinner was at Oosters Belgian brasserie, where we had lots of mussels, beer and pommes frites (French fries) with lots of mayonnaise.

I had my first yoga experience on Sunday. The experience was incredibly thrilling and humbling at the same time - many of the middle-aged aunties performed the stretches with greater dexterity than we (Edward, Michael and I) did, and with far less groaning and squirming too.

All in all, I'd say it was a rather satisfying weekend.