Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Athens to Meteora...

We enjoyed two full days in Athens.  On Monday, there were no planned activities; we simply checked into our hotel and caught up with ourselves after a long day of travel.   Many of the group took walks around the area of the hotel which is centrally located in downtown Athens, not far from the Parliament Building (the former Palace).

On Tuesday, we were up early and met our guide, Sophia (which in Greek means "wisdom"  - an extremely apt name for this very wise woman!).   Herakles, our driver, was out front, and we boarded the coach and headed for the historic and important Pauline site of Corinth,  about an hour and half drive from Athens.

Eucharist amid the ruins at Corinth
The site has been developed somewhat since my last visit, and people are no longer able to climb all over the ruins.  This is a good thing, though I do remember how much fun our son Richard had exploring the site.  The ruins are fascinating and one can see the remains of the storefront stalls where St. Paul very likely engaged in his tent-making trade with Priscilla and Aquila while he also proclaimed the Gospel to the gentiles in this place.  The most famous object to see at Corinth is the "bema" where Paul reportedly defended himself on front of the Roman Proconsul Gallio.   It was powerful to celebrate a Eucharist in this place, especially because our oldest biblical reference to the Eucharist is from 1 Cor. 11.

The Bema where Paul reportedly testified at Corinth
Following our time at the ruins of ancient Corinth, we went for lunch near the Corinthian Canal.   Such a canal had been thought of from ancient times, but it wasn't completed until the 19th century.  St. Paul's member Mary Stahl told us her husband Larry, a Navy submarine captain in the 1960s and 1970s guided his submarine through this canal.  Quite an accomplishment!

The Corinthian Canal

We drove back to Athens and headed for the Acropolis.  Our itinerary called for us to visit this site only on Tuesday, but given the lateness of the hour, we were concerned that we would not have enough time to take in and enjoy the Acropolis fully, so we made a decision  to visit Mars Hill and to climb up to the top the next morning.   Mars Hill is on the same hill above Athens as the Acropolis and was a place where debate took place and public judgments were rendered by civil authorities.  Acts of the Apostles reports that it was here Paul gave his famous "Men of Athenians" speech (Acts 17:22).  Mars Hill looks out over Athens and provides a spectacular view.

 After our visit to Mars Hill, most of us went on an optional visit to the new Acropolis Museum which offers phenomenal insight and background into that historic site. Mary Stahl had heard about this museum from one of her daughters and urged us to see it.  It was a great suggestion!  The museum is at the base of the mountain on which the Acropolis sits and is not only architecturally beautiful, but is also unified to the site itself.   Among highlights are glass floors that look down into an actual historical dig at the base of the mountain.  The museum provides a closer look at all aspects of the architecture on top of the Acropolis. Visiting the museum greatly enriched our experience when we climbed up to the Acropolis the next morning.

Our stay in the Hotel Titania in downtown Athens was lovely.  We were a little surprised when the revolving door of the hotel was boarded up on Tuesday evening.  We later discovered this was a precautionary step as a demonstration in support of undocumented immigrants later walked by the hotel.  It turned out to be a peaceful demonstration and there was no trouble.  Later, on Tuesday, we all enjoyed a "nightcap" in the Olive Garden which is the Hotel Titania's  rooftop bar.  There we enjoyed a spectacular view of the Acropolis lit up at night.

The Parthenon at night from the Olive Garden Bar of the Titanian Hotel
  On Wednesday morning, we were up early and, after a huge Greek breakfast, we headed back to the Acropolis.
We were there when the gates opened and were able to see the Parthenon and the Erecthion Temple up close.  These are breathtaking sights that connect us with everything we value about western civilization.  I was pleased that we were up there early enough to beat the crowds which began to pour in as we headed back down.

The Charioteer

After our time at the Acropolis, we boarded our coach for the two plus hour drive to Delphi, site of the ancient oracle.  I had not visited this site before and was struck by the great beauty of the countryside and how well the ancient temple site and nature combined.  It was a beautiful spring day and flowers were blooming.  Before hiking around the historic ruins, we went to the museum at Delphi as saw the famous "Charioteer" sculpture as well as a a famous piece of epigraphic evidence naming "Gallio" the proconsul (see above) which ties Paul together with Gallio.

The ruins of Delphi and the stunning vista

After our visit the museum and ruins of Delphi, our wonderful guide, Sophia, brought us to a beautiful site overlooking the hills of Delphi where were able to celebrate the Eucharist.   Nearby was a memorial to an 11th century saint, St. Luke.  it was perfect.

Well, I have to close, battery power is low.  Look for the next installment!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Finally...Arrived in Greece!

The Parliament Building

Well it took about a year, but the St. Paul's pilgrimage to Greece and Turkey is a reality.  This trip was originally scheduled for last April, but the Icelandic volcano a year ago forced us to reschedule.  Now, however, 18 intrepid folk, mostly from St. Paul's, but also two from Nevada, two from Virginia, 1 from North Carolina and one from Georgia have arrived in Athens safely.  We left after being blessed and commissioned at the 11:15 AM service yesterday at St. Paul's.  Even our departure out of Miami was not without some adventure.  60 flights were canceled yesterday from Miami due to an explosion in the fuel system earlier in the week that knocked out a bunch of the fuel tanks.  Our Luftansa flight managed to depart, but we had to stop in Orlando to fuel!  This added an additional hour plus to the trip.   After, that however, it was uneventful (which is a word I like when I'm traveling.  It was 8 hours to Frankfurt and then a quick dash to another terminal to catch our 2 1/2 flight to Athens.  We arrived in Frankfurt at about 1:30 and were met by a staff member of NET (working with Friendship Tours).   It was a 45 minute coach drive to our hotel, The Titania Hotel in downtown Athens.  There were no planned activities for the afternoon, so people took walks, or rested until we gathered for our first meal together at 7 PM.  Tomorrow we'll visit the ruins at Corinth and take in some of the sights of Athens!

Strolled with Matina and Gudrun through the National Gardens

During our walk, we could see the Parthenon in the distance.  You can too if you look carefully!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Litany in Response to the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

I originally developed the following Litany and Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in response to Hurricane Katrina. I have adapted it for use in the wake of the earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan. Please feel free to use them if you desire.

Litany in Response to a Natural Disaster

Holy God, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.

Holy and Mighty, redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

Holy Immortal One, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, One God,
Have mercy upon us.

Remember not, Lord Christ our offenses, neither reward us according to our sins. Spare us, good Lord, spare your people, whom you have redeemed by your cross and passion, and by your mercy preserve us forever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From all natural disasters, from hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards and floods,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all disease and sickness, from famine and violence,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all times of sorrow, in all times of joy; in the hour of death and at the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

Hear our prayers, O Christ our God,
O Christ, hear us.

For the repose of the souls of those who have died in this disaster that your holy angels may welcome them into Paradise.
O Christ, hear us.

Console all who grieve: those whose loved ones have died, whose families are torn; whose homes have been destroyed, whose possessions have been ruined, who are now unemployed.
O Christ, hear us.

Heal those who suffer from injury and illness, emotional and spiritual distress. Give them hope and encouragement to meet the days ahead.
O Christ, hear us.

Give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty.
O Christ, hear us.

Give rest to weary and peace to the restless.
O Christ, hear us.

Give strength to the government of Japan, to the World Community and all others in authority and leadership; grant them wisdom and power to act in accordance with your will.
O Christ, hear us.

Bless the bishops, clergy, relief and aid workers and the people of the Japan who strive to do your service in the midst of their own grief and pain. Give them fortitude to serve as you would serve.
O Christ, hear us.

Grant your people grace to witness to your word, to open their hearts in love, and to give generously from their abundance, that they may bring forth the fruits of your Spirit.
O Christ, hear us.

Forgive us Lord, for all negligence and hardheartedness, for inequities and injustice that have resulted in bitterness and strife, in injury and death.
O Christ, hear us.

In the midst of incomprehensible loss, grant us eyes that see, ears that hear and hands that work so that we may discern how you would have us respond.
O Christ, hear us.

We give you thanks, Lord God for all agencies and individuals who assist in relief efforts; continue in them the good work you have begun, through them your presence is made known.
We thank you O, Lord.

V. You are our refuge and strength
R. Our very present help in trouble
V. In you Lord is our Hope
R. And we shall never hope in vain

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever. Amen

A Prayer for the Victims of the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan 

Holy God, source of life, lover of souls, out of the depths we call to you; in the face of incomprehensible anguish and sorrow, we lift the cries of our distress and implore you to show mercy upon those who are suffering from the destruction of the earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan. We pray for those who have died and for their loved ones who grieve. asking you to hold them in the arms of your love; we pray for those who have been injured in body, mind or spirit and ask you to heal them; we pray for those who are homeless and wandering, for families torn asunder and ask you to shelter them. Strengthen the hands and hearts of those who assist in relief efforts and grant us all firm resolve to stand with our neighbors who are in need, to love them and to offer our generous support of them in this their time of trouble; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen