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Over this vast expanse of the western United States and Canada, including Alaska, Metropolitan JOSEPH has tirelessly and unrelentingly maintained a personal apostolic presence in the more than 60 parishes under his care. His Eminence has maintained a personal culture of contact, by direct phone, with all his clergy.

Many of the clergy and laity testify that Sayidna always remembers and acts on any important issue placed before him. This unique combination of traits, sobriety and blameless familiarity form the bedrock for his personal effectiveness with all. Based upon his solid spiritual, ascetical, intellectual, and cultural formation and education, His Eminence has effectively established solid and meaningful Annual Clergy Seminars, and deepened the spiritual and educational experience of both clergy and laity at the annual Parish Life Conferences. He has brought in many and diverse Orthodox authors, leaders, and teachers to enrich the clergy and the laity of his two western dioceses.

This has served to promote a strong sense of clergy brotherhood, inter-parochial exchanges, and has become the envy of other Orthodox jurisdictions everywhere. Guest speakers and visitors constantly remark that Metropolitan JOSEPH'S clergy are outstanding in their consistent and active involvement in such events. His Eminence has labored intensely to deepen the spiritual life of his clergy, by encouraging frequent confession, personal prayer, continual education, and a heightened sense of the fullness of our Orthodox Christian tradition of interior and ascetical transfiguration in Christ.

His Eminence has demonstrated episcopal hospitality in his way of life and has led the way in cultivating an active pan-Orthodox community in the western United States and Canada. This episcopal brotherhood has increasingly been reflected in the inter-parochial interaction of the priests and laity of all the parishes, across the western states and provinces. Metropolitan JOSEPH has taken care in establishing a strong, clear, and straightforward liturgical guidance for all his parishes.

He pioneered the use of the internet in publishing the entire text of all the Sunday and festal services of the Church throughout the year. His love for the divine services inspires him to improve the liturgical praxis of all the clergy, through constant interactions and special teachings. In addition, he constantly promotes the spiritual climate of the dioceses under his care with such things as "The Thought of the Day. George Church which features a wicker iconostasis.

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Serbian Kings, starting with Peter I, retreated her for up to two weeks during Great Lent to repent, pray, commune and briefly escape the burdens of their thrones. Nowadays, it hosts summer camps and symposia. Devoted to the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, the church features a massive icon of the Virgin holding the Christ Child richly adorned with gold, silver and precious metals. It also has a 15th-century fresco of the Wedding in Cana which depicts silverware, reflecting the sophistication of Serbia at that time.

The outside of the church has 14 stone rosettes that have been carved with different ornate designs. That night, the delegation returned to Kragujevac to visit St. The seminarians range from ages and are completing various bachelor's and master's degrees. With rich, deep voices, they all sang as Sayidna JOSEPH entered the church to give the invocation, as well as when he entered the lecture hall for his address and question-answer session. Sayidna began by expressing his gratitude to Vladyka JOVAN for the opportunity to speak and to visit the holiest places in his diocese. He told the students and faculty that this is his second visit to Serbia the first was in but, as he told a television reporter on Sunday, this visit has much more flavor.

First was the civil war in Syria and the suffering of Christians there, especially the Orthodox who form the largest part. His Eminence said the war had nothing to do with peace and freedom, but other countries' fight over territory, natural gas and oil disguised as a battle between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Other outside fighters have invaded the country, paid to kill as many people as possible.

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John of Damascus," Sayidna said. But, we believe in the Resurrection and salvation for all suffering nations. Sayidna started with the life of St.

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Raphael Hawaweeny, first bishop of Brooklyn, who ministered to the "lost sheep of America. He recalled how the first large wave of converts in had to give up titles even that of "bishop" and position to embrace Orthodoxy. Now, the Antiochian Archdiocese has a Department of Missions and Evangelism that reaches out to others seeking the true faith and to those already a part of it. Sayidna concluded with questions from the audience on these two topics, and had one final message to the seminarians: Hike to the Cell of St.

Sava high above Studenica Monastery, rain or shine. Well, it poured, creating a muddy trek that required umbrellas and hiking sticks found along the trail. But the journey through the lush green forest was worth it, not only for the scenery but for the destination. He is intricately tied to this holy place as will be explained later. The trail took the pilgrims meters upward. They took a small break at the lower cell of St.

Sava where a spring offered blessed water for drinking. Then, the steeper part of the hike began. The pilgrims could see "Johnny's Road" and their bus far below the cliff. Just when they thought their hike was rough, they remembered the monastics who climbed here over the centuries, some with dozens of pounds of materials and food on their back to build bridges and refurbish the cell high above. Finally, after two hours, the group--led by both hierarchs--reached the heights. The upper cell has room for one monk at a time to live, and the pilgrims brought him some coffee.

He offered some other refreshments that he had saved for them. When he was a young abbot, he had sought refuge here and learned how the devil and his temptations can attack everyone at any time. Vladyka recounted how the communists had killed his father on his patronal feast day "slava" and even tried to kill him with a car bomb in the s. Later on, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic declared Vladyka "persona non grata" and promised no consequences to anyone who would try to kill him.

He had endured so much, and this hike seemed to celebrate his endurance; he had not climbed to the upper cell for 16 years. Obviously, the hike downhill went much faster, and the delegates boarded the bus for Studenica Monastery. Here, Vladyka JOVAN received all of his monastic tonsures and served as abbot, and received all of his ordinations including his consecration to the episcopacy. He showed even greater enthusiasm when describing his "home church. The bodies of the first royal family of Serbia, the Nemanjics, also rest here: Anastasia, the mother of St. Had he not died in Belgrade where the Turks burned his relics, St.

Sava would have been buried here, too. Vladyka remarked that these are whole-body relics, with the exception of St. Stephen the First-Crowned King. Someone had stolen the saint's right middle finger to test its holiness. As punishment, his back became hunched over so much that his head was practically upside down. The finger eventually made it St.

Stephen Cathedral in Alhambra, Calif. Stephen the Crown Prince built Studenica Monastery in the 12th century, but never saw it completed, and he had no desire to live anywhere else once he renounced his throne. Vladyka JOVAN said that those who wish to study architectural mastery need not go any further than here. Sava himself commissioned the iconography and one fresco has always stood out to Vladyka: Sava used to prepare believers for the attacks they would endure when they reentered the world.

Vladyka praised the iconographer for his theological knowledge based on everything he put into the icon. The sun becomes brighter and the dead are rising to portray the salvation of the world; the moon becomes darker and the stars are falling because sin and death have been destroyed. Above the Crucifixion we see an angel pushing a woman away, and another angel pushing a woman to receive the body and blood of Christ; this symbolizes the end of the Old Testament and beginning of the New Testament.

The facial expression of Jesus Christ on the Cross shows suffering, but also peace. Likewise, the Virgin's expression shows sadness for watching her Son endure death, but also peace for knowing that he was going to Hades to destroy it and rescue the captive souls there. Vladyka remarked that an anatomist had studied this icon and described the faces as the best had had ever seen. All the pilgrims had to do to get to the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning was come down the stairs from their rooms at the Sumadija Diocesan headquarters and walk across the way to Dormition Cathedral.

The 50 voices of the cathedral clergy carried all of the bishops, priests, deacons and laity into heaven with their gorgeous singing. Vladyka JOVAN expressed his joy that he and his brother hierarch could once again celebrate the Eucharist together after eleven years. Sayidna JOSEPH thanked his "brother" and then spoke directly to the people, encouraging them to continue to rebuild their churches and build their faith.

He told them that he knew all too well of their struggles under communism in the twentieth century but that no worldly force would keep them from Jesus Christ. Following lunch, Vladyka JOVAN began four days of personally escorting the delegation to the holiest sites in his diocese and other parts of the country. The delegates were most grateful for this extremely rare blessing and treat. First came Draca Monastery which was opened in by a Mount Sinai monk who sought to perfect his monasticism in the area.

Churches on the site go back to the 15th century and the frescoes to the 17th century. The monastery now houses a few nuns but, since its opening, at least one person has lived here to keep it active. Vladyka JOVAN mentioned that the iconographer lacked theological expertise but was able to depict the saints who were most dear to the inhabitants of the time. He also depicted scenes from the life of St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia to whom Draca Monastery is dedicated. Although Judas is left out of most of these icons, here he is depicted dropping the portion of the body of Christ which he had received as a winged demon grabs his neck from behind.

Also, some of the icons have their eyes gouged out not only because of invaders, but because of the superstition of believers who though that if they would take the eyes, they would be healed. Next came a stop Dvostin Monastery, which is older and newer than Draca. Older in the sense that it dates to the 11th century, but newer because of the churches that have been renovated and built in the 20th century. Dvostin is dedicated to the Annunication to the Virgin Mary and during the war with Bosnia in the s it housed and educated orphaned girls.

Vladyka JOVAN said they were between four and nine years old when they sought refuge here and the diocese covered all of their expenses. Three of the grew up and got married here while the others returned to Bosnia. Upstairs in the main building that contains the nuns' cells is the "wintertime" chapel of Ss. Constantine and Helen where the nuns can worship when it is too cold.

It featured a large icon depicting the Christ's parable of the ten virgins from the Gospel of St. The five wise virgins appear on top with Christ the Bridegroom as they enter the wedding feast; they happily hold their candlewicks high, symbolizing their preparedness.

The five unwise virgins are at bottom sadly holding their candlewicks down, symbolizing their unpreparedness as they are shut out from the Heavenly Kingdom. The drive continued to Sumarice Park, but the delegation could not get off the bus because it was raining hard. Still, this park is of great importance to the Serbian people.

Here, the Serbs led an uprising against the Nazis, killing four of them and wounding several others. In retaliation on October 21, the Nazis killed Serbs, including schoolchildren. One statue shows a mother clutching herself as her child lies dead nearby. Another is a bent "V" to honor the fifth-graders killed and their broken wings. Yet another statue shows the Virgin Mary taking those children into heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ giving them martyrs' wreaths of victory. It was the only church in the area when it opened in before the "New Church" Dormition Cathedral opened years later.

King Milosh built it and included several unusual features. First, the throne for the bishop is built slightly lower than the king's throne. The Serbian royal crest prominently rests on the higher throne's back, but it has a tiny turban on the top. That was the king's way of paying "lip service" to the local Turkish overlords. On the iconostasis, the icons of St. John the Baptist and St. Nicholas are switched; the king sat on the right side of the church, and he didn't want the "shabby" Baptist on his side. George Chapel, one icon depicts the Serbian martyrs of trembling before their deaths.

The icon tucked away above it shows their faces contained in the hand of God. The library overlooks the chapel and contains 19, volumes with room to spare. Professionals came from Belgrade to digitally catalogue the books and manuscripts. He also boasts a copy of a 12th-century gospel book made of leather pages from 16 oxen. Archbishop Saba of Serbia which the saint derived from the ancient typikon of St.

Sava the Sanctified of Jerusalem. The wakeup call came at 3: The trip lasted an hour and the pilgrims gained an hour as they switched time zones, but that did nothing for their exhaustion. However, their sleepiness vanished upon their first stop on Saturday at 9: He had just completed a visit to some of his churches in North America, and so the delegation caught up with him at the patriarchate. Please be at home in our country. In the inner cabinet and official receiving room of His Holiness Patriarch IRINEJ, we were served coffee and plum brandy, beverages that the pilgrims would receive at every visit in this warm and blessed country.

The audience covered a wide range of subjects and His Holiness graciously answered all of the questions from the delegation. Throughout Serbia's history, the Church has been persecuted by outsiders who wanted to kill their faith. Now, Syria is enduring such a struggle. But, as His Holiness and His Eminence agreed, Christianity was never promised that it would live in peace.

His Eminence Joseph Archbishop of New York and…

After all, the Lord said: The two hierarchs agreed that they will continue to pray for all of the innocents suffering in both of these countries. Another topic addressed His Holiness' thoughts on Orthodox Christians living in the United States and about how they are building the Church there. In the meantime, His Holiness said although he feels sadness that Serbians have left Serbia, at the same time, he is joyous that they have found consolation in the Orthodox communities there.

His Holiness had recently addressed the United Nations during his time in the U. He felt warmly received when he discussed the building of peace around the world http: We understand the words of the Gospel, but often times we don't live by them.

This way, they can begin to understand who we are and the depth of our faith. In turn, we become the evangelists we are supposed to be. After pictures, His Holiness departed to receive other guests and left our delegation in the good care of his clergy. They led us on a tour of the important parts of the patriarchate including the inner church which sits directly across from the room where the Holy Assembly of Bishops meets every year in May. Here, crucial decisions made by the patriarch and bishops are prayed upon and then decided on during the day Holy Assembly of Bishops which meets every May and at times for an additional session in the fall.

During the entire time of the work of these assemblies, the doors of both the assembly room and of the chapel remain open and basically become one large room. Sadly, the Serbian people are no strangers to occupation, whether by the Ottoman Turks, the Nazis or their own people under communism. One large painting hangs in the synodal chamber reminding the synod and visitors of this: It depicts the Turks leading the Serbs out of their country in the 19th century and includes bishops carrying sacred relics to save them from destruction.

The Church kept this painting underneath the floor of the chapel during World War II because the Nazis would never think to look there. However, they converted the chapel into a mess hall and wrote the day's menu in chalk on the icons of the saints. The delegation then reboarded the bus and drove two hours to Serbia's second city, Kragujevic. The delegation had no idea the hospitality and spiritual knowledge it would receive from him, as Vladyka JOVAN would personally escort the pilgrims throughout his diocese. These two hierarchs don't speak the same languages, but they spoke through love and prayer.

Both hierarchs discussed the joys and struggles of their dioceses. Even though the effects of communism are still felt in Serbia, Sumadija has consecrated 52 new churches and 11 new monasteries in 11 years. It has parishes with clergy and 24 monasteries with 90 monastics. People were afraid to attend church during the last century, but not anymore.

Vladyka JOVAN says the younger generations are teaching their parents and grandparents how to make the sign of the Cross and how to receive Holy Communion. Sayidna JOSEPH talked about his more than 60 parishes and clergy and all of their successes, but also remarked that he personally spends much of his time in airports. His only complaint throughout the pilgrims' stay was that they did not eat enough. After that, it was bedtime in order to prepare for the spiritual journey that lay ahead in Serbia. It no longer houses monastics, but the Vlatodon Monastery of northeastern Thessaloniki still bears tremendous importance today as a center for research and cataloguing of manuscripts.

Brothers Dorotheus and Markus Vlatadon, students of St. Gregory Palamas, founded the monastery in the second half of the 14th century in honor of the victory of hesychasm. It reputedly sits where St.


Paul made one of his stops on his second missionary journey in 51 A. The main church is named for the Transfiguration of Christ, which, unfortunately, has come into disrepair. The pilgrims saw the "picking" done to all of the icons done for at least two reasons: Fortunately, seasoned iconographers and experts are using new tactics to restore the church to its former splendor. They have even cleaned off some of the old grime from the wooden iconostasis to reveal the white-colored paint underneath. The monastery has a peacock farm behind the church. In the Orthodox Church, the multi-colored feathers symbolize the eternality of the Resurrection of Christ because they never rot.

They were also symbols of royalty in ancient times; Vlatadon was considered a "royal" monastery of the Byzantine Empire. The delegation then took a tour of the Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies across the way from the monastery. Over manuscripts are kept in the archives from several monasteries, including those of Mount Athos. Researchers have gone to the Holy Mountain and elsewhere to photograph rare books and documents, page by page, and put them onto microfilm.

Now, the researchers are trying to digitize what has been captured so far, as well as add to their collection for the benefit of scholars throughout the world. The trip to the acropolis of Thessaloniki finished with a quick climb of the nearby fortress of Heptaprygion. Its name means "seven towers" but it actually has ten. Historians say Cassander founded it in B. The delegates got one last panoramic view of Thessaloniki from atop one of the towers.

This day ended early, as the pilgrims prepared for an early-morning flight on Saturday to begin the second half of their journey in Serbia. Souroti Monastery is dedicated to St. John the Theologian and Evangelist, and the pilgrims visited on his feast day. After a brief amount of rest, they greeted the pilgrims energetically at the front gate. The monastery boasts newness not just in the buildings or the iconography, but in the newer saint whose relics are kept there, as well as a famed monastic who may join the ranks of Orthodox Christian saints.

The nuns built the second church on the grounds in honor of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian who was canonized for sainthood by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in feast day November The pilgrims venerated his skull which gave off the scent of myrrh. Arsenios who has a special tie to Souroti. While receiving medical treatment in the area in , the first nuns approached him for help in establishing the monastery.

He told them not to worry and that they would have it in one year. It opened on October 26, for the first services with Elder Paisios serving. He would visit Souroti twice a year to check up on the sisters and encourage them to continue their growth. The pilgrims then visited the main Church of St. John, which also is filling with newly-written icons. Now, it has two churches, olive orchards, gardens and a wealth of spiritual depth that would come from centuries of experience, not just 46 years. Deputy Abbess Anna greeted us in behalf of Abbess Philothei, who expressed her regret that she could not meet with the delegation.

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The conversation focused mainly on the teachings of Elder Paisios and his six-volume work of "Spiritual Counsels. Mother Anna referred to the Elder and answered that the latter option is better. We call upon Him at that moment so that we do not run and show weakness in that temptation. Some of the nuns in Souroti come from Cairo, Egypt and it also embraced sisters from Lebanon during that country's civil war.

They went on to establish their own monastery in Lattakia, Syria which, so far, has been untouched by that country's civil war. Sayidna asked the nuns to pray for everyone in that country and that the bloodshed come to a quick end. The delegation returned to Thessaloniki for a quick visit to Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church. Like all of the other churches, this holy site offered tremendous beauty and mosaic icons of the patron saints. But what made this visit special was that it foreshadowed the pilgrims' journey into the Slavic country of Serbia.

Cyril and Methodius crafted the first Slavic alphabet to preach the gospel in these lands. Thessaloniki had also declared as "The Year of Ss. Cyril and Methodius" in honor of the th anniversary of their missionary journey. For centuries, the monasteries at Meteora "middle of the sky" have been a sanctuary for countless monks, nuns and pilgrims who flee the world and its cares. They provide safety although they sit atop dangerous cliffs and mountains. Hundreds of monastics used to live in the 24 monasteries there, and now fewer than 60 monastics in six monasteries dwell there today.

A few hours spent there proved his point. The visit began with a trip through the museum of the St. Stephen the First-Martyr Monastery. It features a priceless collection of Orthodox Christian antiquities from the 14th through the 19th centuries: Speaking of icons, those inside of St. Charalambos Church were a mixture of new and old.

The old ones go back centuries and reside mostly in front of the church on the iconostasis. But the new ones are fresh, as the iconographer-in-residence, Blasis Tsostionis, continues to cover the church and outer narthex with even new "windows to heaven" of Christ and scenes from His life and ministry. Tsostionis also wrote all of the icons for St.

Mary Basilica in Livonia, Michigan. All of the pilgrims got to venerate the head of St. Charalambos, a third century bishop of Magnesia who was martyred at the age of Stephen Monastery, Prodromie Christonymphie. Of the six inhabited monasteries, hers is the most populous with 30 nuns. Others have as few as three. She explained that St. Stephen Church dates to the 13th century and St. Charalambos Church opened in However, both are in constant states of renewal.

Sayidna thanked her and the sisters for their patient hospitality, even with the thousands of other tourists who pour into Meteora each year. Next, the pilgrims visited the 15th century Monastery of All Saints, founded by St. Soon thereafter, the Ottoman Turks raided it.

They allowed the monastery to survive, but denied it of any privileges. Generous benefactors kept it alive throughout the centuries of occupation, including the Serbian Tzar Stephen Dusan and his royal family. To the untrained eye, all of the frescoes would seem morbid and even disturbing because they focus on death. They graphically depict the persecutions that the saints endured. The icon of St. Sisoes the Great shows him sitting over the coffin of a skeleton with the inscription: But to the trained eye, these icons show people that they must endure suffering for Christ's sake and for their own salvation.

These icons taught believers new and old what to expect in this world for the sake of the next. The large "Last Judgment" icon does show the Theotokos and all of Christ's saints even the good thief on the cross dwelling in paradise with him. As Sayidna himself said, these icons don't exist to scare us or threaten us with punishment, although we cannot minimize our preparation for death.

Rather, the icons reveal that these holy ones exist to inspire and help us for the joy that should be ours. Sayidna and the clergy were then invited by the abbot to tour the private grounds of All Saints Monastery, where the seven brothers have some peace and quiet from all of the tourists. Like at all monasteries, His Eminence gave the monks a list of the loved ones of the pilgrims so that they may always include them in their prayers. Then he gave them a brief history of the Antiochian Archdiocese in America and the struggles and challenges the early clergy and laity faced in building it.

He also described the inter-Orthodox clergy and laity gatherings offered by the canonical Orthodox Christian bishops of the West Coast. The monks then led Sayidna and the clergy into their Chapel of the Three Hierarchs, which contains those saints' relics and about a dozen others. The brothers keep the skull of St.

Nicholas the New-Martyr of Meteora who had been killed by the Turks. All of the relics were offered for veneration. Christopher Salamy chanted the apolytikion hymn of the Three Hierarchs and one of the monks remarked it was refreshing to hear him chant in English. The tour concluded with the beautiful dining hall of the monks, which features brand new iconography from top to bottom.

Words cannot do it justice, so the photographs will. The pilgrims prayed over his grave right outside St. Demetrios Church before entering it. Sayidna recalled him to be a holy man who wisely governed the Orthodox Church in this city. If icons are considered windows to heaven, then the delegation felt like it had walked into heaven when stepping into three of the most famous churches in Thessaloniki.

The first is named in honor of the city's patron saint, the Great-Martyr Demetrios the Myrrh-Streaming. This church has endured plundering, wars, occupations and disasters and come away shining more brilliantly than when it was built. Golden mosaic tiles surround the Theotokos in the apse, as is the prevailing style for city churches. She is surrounded by the Archangels, Old Testament prophets and saints from the first centuries of Christianity.

The pictures will show the equal exquisiteness of the dome. Beautiful frescoes that once adorned all of the walls are reemerging from the plaster affixed by the ancient Ottoman occupiers that once covered them. Major reconstruction took place after earthquakes in and , and St.

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Demetrios Church was reconsecrated once the Ottomans were driven from the city right before the collapse of their empire in Not only is St. Demetrios highly venerated in the tall, spacious church that bears his name, but so are St. In the fourth century, Nestor was forced to fight the gladiator Lyaeus in the Hippodrome, a battle that pitted David against Goliath. Nestor first visited Demetrios for encouragement and prayer, and then was able to defeat Lyaeus. When the pagan authorities learned how the underdog won, they captured both Nestor and Demetrios, who had been a great commander, and martyred them.

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Myrrh streamed from the body of Demetrios, so the church used to serve holy water mixed with myrrh in his honor. The main icon of St. Nestor stands next to St. John the Baptist on the iconostasis because both men were beheaded. Anysia is a native of Thessaloniki.

She suffered martyrdom in when she refused to worship Roman sun god with a soldier. Anysia spat in his face and killed her. Her relics lie in a silver sarcophagus in the northeast part of the church. Of course, the relics of St. Demetrios dwell in his namesake church, but only since He described the return of the relics like receiving a president, king or head of state. The entire city came out and festively processed with the relics to the church. Armed soldiers and guards had to contain the overwhelming pandemonium. Sayidna considered this proof that Christian history is not something trapped in the past, but alive and thriving.

The pilgrims venerated those relics as well as those of St. A great blessing can come from the destruction and rebuilding of churches: Archaeologists have determined that the site which they are excavating dates back to the fifth century. Pieces of stone icons have been discovered and reassembled, as well as the ambon, bowls and coins. Underneath the sanctuary in particular is the fountain that used to pour the myrrh-water into a pool for collection and drinking, which had been stopped when the Ottomans came to occupy the city in It is also known as the "red church" because of its heavy use of red brick.

The Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles, Fr. Michel Najim, served here when he was a doctoral student at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki. Old frescoes are faintly visible throughout the church, including the famous one of the Dormition of the Theotokos over the western exit of the church, as well as that of the Ascension of Christ inside the dome. The benefactor of the church lies in state along the north wall. After that, the pilgrims ventured to St. He marveled at all of the new iconography and renovations to the cathedral since the earthquake practically destroyed it.

The apse, in essence, has three sections: The church walls, from ceiling to floor, are covered in fresh icons, among them: Patriarch Niphon bearing the names of our own Archbishop, Fr. Christopher Salamy and Dn. Niphon Sweis in this delegation and St. Simeon of Thessaloniki Sayidna's favorite saint , who are all local saints.

Another icon reflected the Edict of Milan in , for which an immense celebration will take place on October 6 in Serbia, and in which the pilgrims will take part. Like the relics of St. Basil the Confessor and St. Demetrios, those of St. Gregory lie in state in a silver sarcophagus inside a small chapel within the cathedral.

George Ajalat taught the pilgrims about his life. Gregory was called out of his monastery in the 14th century and urged to become Archbishop of Thessaloniki, which he accepted out of obedience to the Church. He vigorously defended Orthodoxy against all other theological heresies which were supposed to have been settled ages before, yet crept into the Church.

His chiefest enemy was Barlaam in the West, who argued that humans can see the power of God because His energies are created. God's energies are uncreated because God is uncreated, and to argue differently are reducing and objectifying God. Gregory was a leader of hesychasm, that style of prayer that requires stillness and silence to encounter God. Barlaam demeaned hesychasts as "belly button worshippers. Gregory responded that hesychasm invites the presence of God through the grace that He shares with us and, in turn, we can be fully present and functioning with Him.

It's more than just mindless meditation; it's a contemplation on God. His chancellor and protosyngellos, Fr. Stephanos, greeted Sayidna and the clergy and presented with New Testament Bibles in koine Greek spoken at the time of Christ and modern Greek. The Metropolitan was joyous, gracious and humble.

Demetrios' feast day on October Sayidna thanked him for his continued prayers in hopes that this bloody and political war comes to a quick end. The two hierarchs went downstairs with the clergy into the metropolis museum, which houses priceless and beautiful liturgical artifacts and icons, including one of St.

Thomas the Apostle that dates to the 14th century. The pictures tell their stories. The delegation drove 2. Pagans occupied the land and shaped the history of this area long before the center of worldwide Christian monasticism took its place possibly as early as the third century. Some of the monasteries can be accessed difficultly by walking between them, but others require boats, and they nearly all require hiking to reach. As many as monks live on the "Holy Mountain" giving hospitality and spiritual counsel to thousands of visitors each year who wish to give up the world, if only for a short time.

It has been traced to the words of our Savior Himself: The group sailed along the western shore of the Athos Peninsula because the eastern waters are too rough. Even famous generals and admirals throughout the ages have refused to attack from the east for fear of almost certain death. The monasteries' locations high above the waters have kept the monks mostly free of harm throughout the ages. None of the pilgrims could visit any of these historic, holy monasteries: So, even though the pilgrims could not go to Athos, Athos came to them.

When he boarded, he unveiled the following relics: Marina the Great-Martyr her forearm --St. Stephen the First-Martyr his skull --St.