30 September 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
124, Church of Our Lady of the Angels, Rethymnon

The Church of Our Lady of the Angels in the old town of Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland begins later this morning, and I am likely to find myself in front of a the screen of my laptop for the next two or three days taking part in ‘Zoom’ meetings.

But, before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for these few weeks is churches in Rethymnon on the island of Crete, where I spent two weeks earlier this month.

My photographs this morning (30 September 2021) are from the Church of Mikri Panaghia or the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, on the corner where Nikifórou Foká Street and Arampatzoglou Street in Rethymnon.

Inside Mikri Panaghia or the Church of Our Lady of the Angels (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Church of Mikri Panaghia, or the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, was a church first, then a mosque, and once more a church.

In the closing days of Venetian rule in Crete, a three-aisled church was built by the Dominican friars on the corner where Nikifórou Foká Street and Arampatzoglou (Thessaloníkis) Street meet and it was dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene.

In the immediate aftermath of the Turkish conquest of Crete, the Christians of Rethymnon continued to use the church. Then one day, as the Ottoman conqueror, Huseyin Pasha, was riding through the streets, he was enraged when he saw the congregation spilling out of the church.

He ordered that the church should be converted into a mosque and renamed, although the parishioners were given the use of a neighbouring, smaller church. The new mosque was named after Huseyin Pasha’s successor, Angebut Ahmed Pasha. A minaret was built beside the former north aisle, but the top soon fell to the ground and the minaret was known to later generations as Koutsotroúlis, ‘the Old Stump.’

After two and a half centuries as a mosque, local Christians took advantage of the declining fortunes of the town’s Muslims, and on the night of 3 and 4 April 1917 they staged the miraculous ‘discovery’ of an icon of the Virgin Mary on the steps of the minaret.

The mosque was turned back into a church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels, or Mikri Panaghia – to distinguish it from Rethymnon’s cathedral or ‘Great Saint Mary’s.’ A shrine of the icon was set up in the restored church and a new belfry was added in 1920. Sadly, the original Renaissance doorway was demolished at the same time.

The iconostasis or icon screen in the Church of Our Lady of the Angels in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 10: 1-12 (NRSVA):

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.’

The miraculous ‘discovery’ of an icon of the Virgin Mary hastened the transformation of the mosque into a church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (30 September 2021, International Translation Day) invites us to pray:

We give thanks for the diversity of languages spoken across the Anglican Communion. Let us celebrate the work of those who foster links between churches and peoples through the power of translation.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Christ as the Great High Priest in the central panel of the door of the iconostasis or icon screen in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The church was first built by the Dominicans and was first dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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