Saturday, 2 October 2021
Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
126, Saint Nektarios Church, Tsesmes, Rethymnon
The General Synod of the Church of Ireland is due to conclude its meeting today, and once again I am likely to find myself in front of a the screen of my laptop for much of the morning, if not much of the day, 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 in mid-September.
My photographs this morning (2 October 2021) are from the Church of Saint Nektarios, in small village of Tsesmes, east of Rethymnon, in the hills above the long stretch of beach at Platanias.
I have been visiting Rethymnon almost annually since the mid-1980s, and I have stayed in the suburban areas of Platanias and Tsesmes, east of Rethymnon, since 2015. This area is a mix of suburban, commercial, and slowly developing tourism.
The shops and supermarkets cater primarily for the local residents, but there is a number of small hotels and apartment blocks where I have stayed, including La Stella, Varvara’s Diamond, and Julia Apartments, and restaurants that I have become comfortable with and where I receive a warm welcome each time I return.
These two villages have merged almost seamlessly, and although they have two churches, they form one parish, served by one priest, Father Dimitrios Tsakpinis.
These churches are recently-built parish churches: the church in Platanias dates from 1959 and the church in Tsesmes from 1979. They are small, and in many ways, unremarkable churches, compared to the older, more historic churches in the old town of Rethymnon.
But when I am staying in Platanias and Tsesmes, I have seen them as my parish churches, and I have always been welcomed warmly.
The church in Tsesmes is dedicated to Saint Nektarios (1846-1920), Metropolitan of Pentapolis and Wonderworker of Aegina. He was born in Selymbria (today Silivri, Istanbul), and at the age of 14 moved to Constantinople. In 1866, at the age of 20, he moved to the island of Chios to take up a teaching post. Ten years later, in 1876, he became a monk.
Saint Nektarios served the church in Cairo and Greece, and was recognised as a saint in 1961.
Father Dimitrios, the parish priest, celebrates the Divine Liturgy on alternate Sundays in the churches in Platanes and in Tsesmes. However, churchgoing is often low in numbers in the summer months because of the heavy demands on local people working in the tourism sector.
Throughout the liturgy, there is a regular censing of the people by the priest, as they present themselves as a holy people, prepared to meet Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel, in offering the gifts of bread and wine, and the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
I am always taken aback at the small number of people who actually receive the Communion in Greek churches on a Sunday morning, although everyone takes portions of the blessed bread or prosphora afterwards to bring home, making the day holy for the whole family.
Luke 10: 17-24 (NRSVA):
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18 He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
21 At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’
23 Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (2 October 2021, International Day of Nonviolence) invites us to pray:
Let us pray for an end to conflict, and a renewed commitment to peace..
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