Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
123, Saint Nicholas Church, Rethymnon

The Church of Saint Nicholas, near the bus station in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels (29 September 2021). Later this morning, I hope to celebrate the Festal Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

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 (29 September 2021) are from the Church of Saint Nicholas, close to the bus station in Rethymnon.

Inside the Church of Saint Nicholas, near the bus station in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Church of Saint Nicholas is in a small square formed at the corner of Priskosoridi street and Emmanouil Kefalogianni avenue, the street that runs around the shore of the rocky bay beneath the western slopes of the Venetian Fortezza.

This small chapel or church, close to the bus station, is surrounded by good fish restaurants and tavernas. This is now a suburban part of western Rethymnon, and is slowly becoming a part of the tourist area. But, only a few decades ago and within living memory, this was an area closely associated with fishers and their fishing boats.

Saint Nicholas, as well as being the patron saint of children and the inspiration for Santa Claus, is also the patron saint of sailors, fishermen, ships and sailing, which explains the presence of this modern church dedicated to his name in this part of Rethymnon.

The feast day of Saint Nicholas falls on 6 December, and almost every town in Greece has a church dedicated to him. Saint Nicholas, whose name means ‘Victory of the People,’ was born in Myra in Lycia, now known as Demre, near Antalya on the south coast of present-day Turkey. He had a reputation as a secret giver of gifts, so you can see his links with our Santa Claus today.

There are stories too of Saint Nicholas and the defence of true doctrine. In the year 325, the Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, attended by more than 300 bishops, to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity.

It was one of the most intense theological debates in the early Church. Arius from Alexandria was teaching that Christ was the Son of God but was not equal to God the Father, not God incarnate. As Arius argued at length, Nicholas became agitated, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face.

The shocked bishops stripped Nicholas of his episcopal robes, chained him and jailed him. In the morning, the bishops found his chains on the floor and Nicholas dressed in his episcopal robes, quietly reading his Bible. Constantine ordered his release, and Nicholas was reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.

As the debate went on, the Council of Nicaea agreed with his views, deciding against Arius and agreeing on the Nicene Creed, which remains the symbol of our faith. Which probably also makes it appropriate that this church is close to the Church of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen, which I described yesterday.

The unusual iconostasis or icon screen in the Church of Saint Nicholas continues into the pillars of the dome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

John 1: 47-51 (NRSVA):

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48 Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49 Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50 Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Inside the Church of Saint Nicholas, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 September 2021, Saint Michael and All Angels) invites us to pray:

Let us celebrate the feast of Saint Michael and All Angels. May we strive to do what is good and resist earthly temptation.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

An icon of Saint Nicholas 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 of Saint Nicholas is in an area once closely associated with fishers and their fishing boats (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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