Friday, 6 August 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
69, Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa

The Church of Saint Spyridon is squeezed in between the coffee bars and a souvenir shop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is focussing this week on USPG’s links with the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church in Japan, and this week’s anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

Later today, as President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND), I am speaking at the Hiroshima Day commemorations in Merrion Square, Dublin. But, 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 (6 August 2021) are of the Church of Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa.

Inside the Church of Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Paleokastritsa is a popular family resort on the north-west coast of Corfu, about 25 km from Corfu Town. There are three main coves – Agia Triada, Platakia and Alipa – and many other tiny, secluded beaches around it, separated by the round-shaped capes.

My visit to Paleokastritsa was short, however, and I never got to visit Angelokastro or the monasteries of Palaiokastritsa and the Theotokos. But close to the main beach, jutting awkwardly between the coffee bars and a souvenir shop opposite the chaotic car park is the tiny, pink Church of Saint Spyridon, with a bell tower built in 2002.

Saint Spyridon was born in 270 AD in Assia, a village in Cyprus. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He was the Bishop of Trimythous, near Larnaca in Cyprus, until he died in 348 AD. When the Arabs conquered Cyprus, his body was moved to Constantinople. After Constantinople fell in 1453, the relics of Saint Spyridon and Saint Theodora were brought to Corfu.

Saint Spyridon became the patron saint of Corfu, and Spyridon, or Spyros, is a popular name throughout the island. His feast day is on 12 December.

The Church Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa is so small it is hard to imagine it holding a congregation of more than 10 people. But the door is open, candles are lit, and tourists are made to feel welcome to pop in and look at the icons or find time to pray.

The icons are all modern, with two archangels flanking the iconostasis or icon screen, which includes an interesting icon of the Samaritan woman at the well, and topped with a row of 12 icons of the apostles.

Keeping a traditional yet modern church like this open for the curious and for tourists in the middle of a busy resort beside a popular beach strikes me as a fine example of what mission should be today.

The Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa, can hold a congregation of no more than about 10 people (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 9: 28-36 (NRSVA):

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Saint Spyridon (centre) in a fresco in the Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (6 August 2021) invites us to pray:

We thank God for the gift of ecumenical collaboration in Hiroshima and around the world. May the church of Christ always seek to walk closer together, learning from one another.br />
The Collect of the Day:

Father in heaven,
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain,
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem:
Give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross in this world,
that in the world to come we may see him as he is;
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

An icon of Christ as the King of Kings and Great High Priest in the Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa (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

The bells of the Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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