22 April 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (14) 22 April 2023

The Church of Aghios Vasilios in Koutouloufári dates from the 14th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This has been the second week of Easter and Sunday last (16 April 2023) was Easter Day in the calendar of the Orthodox Church.

Before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. As this has been Easter Week in the Orthodox Church, I have been reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on an Orthodox church in Crete;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside the Church of Aghios Vasilios in Koutouloufári, in the mountains above Hersonissos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Aghios Vasilios, Koutouloufári:

I have been visiting Crete almost every year since the 1980s. My photographs this morning (22 April 2023) are from the 14th century, Byzantine church of Aghios Vasilios (Αγιος Βασίλειος, Saint Basil) in Koutouloufári (Κουτουλουφάρι), the neighbouring village of Piskopianó (see 20 April 2023), in the mountains above Hersonissos.

I have been visiting Crete regularly since the 1980s, and I first visited Koutouloufári in 1994, when I was staying in nearby Piskopianó, and I have returned many times since.

The church in Koutouloufári dates from the 14th century, but it was extended and rebuilt in 1811 and again in 1840, incorporating parts of the smaller church built many centuries before. The woodcut iconostasis dates from 1850. The priest is Father Michael Agapakis.

Ancient maps and records indicate that there has been a settlement in the Koutouloufári area for hundreds of years. However, local historians say the present village has its beginnings in the Byzantine period after a severe earthquake that destroyed the settlement where the port of Hersonissos now stands. The residents moved east to a new settlement, close to where the Hotel Nora now stands, and they named this settlement Zambaniana.

However, the village suffered severely from constant pirate raids, and the villagers were forced to move on once again, further inland and uphill towards Mount Harakas.

On reaching the church of Saint Basil, they told a local priest named Koutifari what had happened. Father Koutifari gave them land around the church to build a new village, and they named it Koutouloufári in his honour.

As the village prospered and became wealthy, many large buildings were erected. During the Ottoman period, the village was renowned for its oil, wine and almonds.

Koutouloufári was almost deserted by the 1970s, with only 150 inhabitants left in the village, and up to 1980, the inhabitants of Koutouloufári were mainly farmers. However, the development of tourism on the north coast of Crete brought investment and work to the area and the population grew once again. The new prosperity also attracted city people who bought old houses Koutouloufári and restored them.

The village of Koutouloufári remains a fine example of a Cretan hill village, with its narrow streets following the contours of the hill. There are some fine buildings of architectural note, with multi-arched buildings. Oil and wine were produced and farm animals were sheltered on the ground floors, while families slept on a raised loft or upper floor if one existed. Most of these buildings are stone-built, with the minimum of dressing.

Many of these traditional buildings have been turned into houses in recent generations, others have been turned into shops and restaurants, but a handful are still in ruins.

The bell of the Church of Aghios Vasilios in Koutouloufári in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 21: 20-25 (NRSVA):

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ 22 Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ 23 So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’

24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Morning sunshine in the Church of Aghios Vasilios in Koutouloufári (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) has been ‘Safeguarding the Integrity of Creation.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by USPG’s Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, Rebecca Boardman, who reflected on ways to get the climate justice conversation started, in the light of International Earth Day today (22 April 2023).

The prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (22 April 2023, International Earth Day) invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for the dedication of the ‘Preaching for God’s World’ team. May their work to connect faith and care for our planet be a catalyst for conversation and change.


Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Byzantine doorframe in the Church of Aghios Vasilios in Koutouloufári, dating from the 14th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

No comments: