Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
66, Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna, Corfu

Inside the Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna … a quiet and prayerful church on a busy shopping street in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect 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.

This week’s theme is seven churches on the Greek island of Corfu, and my photographs this morning (3 August 2021) are of the Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna in Corfu.

The Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna with the neighbouring clock tower of the Church of Saint Spyridon in the background, on a busy shopping street in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Like every Greek town, Corfu seems to have a church on every street and every corner, making it an interesting town for church crawlers and all who are interested in church architecture, history and art.

But it is easy for visitors and tourists to pass by these churches casually without realising the treasures to be discovered inside.

The Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna is an unusual single-nave church on Saint Spyridon Street in the heart of Corfu town. It was built in 1700 and restored in 1765. It is smaller and less known that its immediate neighbour, the Church of Saint Spyridon, but this makes its more peaceful and prayerful, and Olga who showed two of us around was eager to point out the treasures of the church, including its relics and icons.

The church was consecrated in 1700, after a private house was transformed into a religious building. A plaque in Greek above the main entrance recalls that the church was built by Theodora Vervitzioti, daughter of Nikolaos Vervitziotis, in memory of her parents and opened in June 1700. She later donated the church to the town’s guild of grocers and cheese sellers in 1714.

The church was renovated several times in 1765, as recalled in a second plaque, and in 1850 and in 1915.

The church was damaged extensively during the German bombings of Corfu on 14 September 1943 and was rebuilt in 1960.

Three plaques in Greek on the church façade commemorate its consecration in 1700 and, on each side on the façade, its renovation in 1765 and its rebuilding in 1960. The oldest plaque, above the main door, includes the coat of arms of the Vervitzioti family above the Greek text.

Inside, the treasures of the church include an iconostasis or icon screen topped with 12 icons of the apostles, a collection of relics gathered in one glass case that include relics of Saint James the Apostle and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and a much-revered icon of Saint Anne holding her daughter, the Virgin Mary, who in turn is holding her son, the Christ Child.

A plaque above the main door recalls that the church was built by Theodora Vervitzioti in 1700 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 14: 22-36 (NRSVA):

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29 He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, 36 and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

The collected relics in the church are held in one display case (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (3 August 2021) invites us to pray:

‘Let the little children come to me,’ Jesus said. We pray that the Church may always be open to welcoming young people and helping them to understand the importance of peace.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The icon of Saint Anne, with her daughter the Virgin Mary holding her son the Christ Child (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

Votive candles lighting in the Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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