Archive for the ‘english’ Category

The Georgian Patriarchate’s TV station “Ertsulovneba” recently did a short segment on our English language parish at Tbilisi’s Blue Monastery. It has been dubbed in Georgian but it is still interesting to witness the Liturgy and the congregation.

Father Joseph and Dylan Crawford are interviewed in English, and Tamuna Crawford and Joseph Smith are interviewed in Georgian.

Read Full Post »

Most long-term residents know that the local custom is to attend a Nativity Vigil at a temple or cathedral on Christmas Eve, for many hours (usually starting around 10 am and continuing on until just before dawn).  Families often attend the colourful and joyous Alilo Parade held in Rustaveli Avenue afterwards.

As is common in many Orthodox jurisdictions in the West, a Nativity Matins will be held on Christmas morning in Tbilisi, in English, on January 7. Held at the Blue Monastery, near the end of Perovskaya Street, the Hours will be read from 9 am and the Divine Liturgy celebrated immediately afterwards.

All are welcome, regardless of whether one is an Orthodox Christian or not. Shobas gilocavt!!





Read Full Post »

For those in Tbilisi, a Divine Liturgy in English will be celebrated at 9 am this Saturday at the Blue Monastery (Lurji Monasteri). 

Directions can be found here. All are welcome.

Read Full Post »

It may seem odd for a post to be written about English fantasy literature in the context of Christian life in Georgia. Many of us may be considering buying books as gifts for children in our family, or considering whether to take children to the film rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit“, “An Unexpected Journey”.

The two lions of 20th century English fantasy literature, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, were both devout Christians, and a steadfast Christian sensibility permeates their works. There is no moral ambiguity about the worlds they created; conflict between good and evil is a central theme, and their books do not shy away from the trials and sacrifices that good people must make for a cause. Lewis in particular is considered the Anglican author whose personal views and values are closest to the Orthodox sensibility.

As a child, I was lucky enough to own a copy of Tolkien’s “Father Christmas Letters“, which were beautifully illustrated letters he wrote to his young children from “Father Christmas” recounting his adventures in the North Pole over the past year. It was fascinating tracking the transition from very simple, whimsical tales of workshop elves, clumsy North Polar Bears and reindeer told to his children as infants, to the sophisticated dark tales of bitter and bloody warfare between Father Christmas’ elven warrior compatriots and the dark goblin forces of the underworld that he recounted to his children as they neared their teens. He obviously had no desire to shield his children from the harsh realities of conflict in this life when he thought they were mature enough to handle it. Hopefully Saint Nicholas did not object to his Anglicised persona being appropriated as a legendary hero in this manner.

Georgia has its own venerable fantasy literary tradition; “The Man in the Panther’s Skin” (ვეფხისტყაოსანი Vepkhist’q’aosani) is the best known. Written by Queen Tamar’s court poet Shota Rustaveli in the 12th Century, it lauds the traditional chivalric values of honour, loyalty, courage, fortitude and chaste love, and involves a lengthy quest by its protagonists; much the same as the heroes of Tolkien’s and Lewis’ fantasies. While the poem is aimed at adults, most young Georgians are very familiar with its verses. Indeed many Georgian men are named Tariel, after its Indian protagonist, and many women are named Tinatin after the Arab princess who features prominently in the poem. I wonder if in the 29th Century we can expect boys to be baptised as Bilbo or Frodo in the English speaking world?

King Rostevan and Avtandil go hunting

The following scholarly but concise article by Gene Edward Veith examines the issue of fantasy fiction, video games, movies and other media, and to what extent different genres of media may be helpful or harmful to the moral instruction of youth. Thanks to John Sanidopoulos for the reference. I hope you find it interesting, and I hope those of you who indulge in the 3-D Hobbit extravaganza in the next few weeks enjoy it. Christmas is a season of multiple layers of youthful anticipation and recounting of time-honoured stories, both sacred and secular. For those not familiar with the works of Tolkien and Lewis, it may excite your curiosity.

Fantasy Media by Gene Edward Veith

and for those unsure of what to expect from director Peter Jackson, a short furry hobbity character himself, here is the trailer.

Read Full Post »

Taken from the book of Father Seraphim Rose, an American priest. In a few short paragraphs, he summarises the challenges that western converts to Orthodox Christianity face, and how to remedy them. Most converts can identify with at least a few of these attributes, in a way it is a relief to know that one does not suffer from these weaknesses in isolation.   
“Fr. Seraphim Rose of Platina, himself a convert to Orthodoxy, was once asked to compose a “Manual for Orthodox Converts”. In his notes for such a manual, he jotted down the following “convert pitfalls”, or what he called “obstacles in the Orthodox mission today”:

A. Trusting oneself, samost.

Remedy: sober distrust of oneself, taking counsel of others wiser, guidance from Holy Fathers.

B. Academic approach – overly intellectual, involved, uncommitted, abstract, unreal. Bound up with A. also.

C. Not keeping the secret of the Kingdom, gossip, publicity. Overemphasis on outward side of mission, success. Danger of creating empty shell, form of mission without substance.

Remedy: concentrate on spiritual life, keep out of limelight, stay uninvolved from passionate disputes.

D. “Spiritual Experiences”.

Symptoms: feverish excitement, always something “tremendous” happening – the blood is boiling. Inflated vocabulary, indicates puffed up instead of humble. Sources in Protestantism, and in one’s own opinions “picked up” in the air.

Remedy: sober distrust of oneself, constant grounding of Holy Fathers and Lives of Saints, counsel.

E. Discouragement, giving up – “Quenched” syndrome.

Cause: overemphasis on outward side, public opinion, etc.

Remedy: emphasis on inward, spiritual struggle, lack of concern for outward success, mindfulness of whom we are followers of (Christ crucified but triumphant).

F. A double axe: broadness on one hand, narrowness on the other.

In another place Fr. Seraphim wrote of the spirit of criticism that often enters converts today:

“My priest (or parish) does everything right – other priests (or parishes) don’t.” “My priest does everything wrong: others are better.” “My monastery is not according to the Holy Fathers or canons, but that monastery over there is perfect, everything according to the Holy Fathers.”

Such attitudes are spiritually extremely dangerous. The person holding them is invariably in grave spiritual danger himself, and by uttering his mistaken, self-centered words he spreads the poison of rationalist criticism to others in the Church.
From Not of This World: The Life and Teachings of Fr. Seraphim Rose, pp. 78182.

Read Full Post »

Georgia is the oldest surviving Eastern Orthodox Christian country on earth. It is also one of the most frequently invaded countries in the world, and the Church has intermittently suffered persecution at the hands of Arabs, Zoroastrian and Muslim Persians, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, Turkmen, Ottoman Turks, Russian imperialists and Bolsheviks. Despite these difficulties, the Georgian Orthodox Church is now the most highly respected institution in the country, and many people young and old are being baptised into the Church.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the liberalisation of Georgia after the Rose Revolution in 2003, have created opportunities for many foreigners to safely live and work in Georgia. Some come to love the country so much that they decide to make it their permanent home, and indeed many marry Georgians. However for those of us who have not come from Orthodox Christian countries, or Orthodox families, the Georgian Orthodox Church may initially appear enigmatic. Even with competent Georgian language skills, the liturgy can be difficult to fathom without guidance. The plethora of rituals, fasts and feasts, the chanting and the visually overwhelming interior decoration of the churches are like nothing we have experienced before.  To make any more than a superficial connection with the Liturgy and a parish community initially seems a tremendous feat for an outsider.

Thankfully, there is almost two millennia of precedent for foreigners developing a deep understanding of Orthodox Christianity in Georgia, acquiring a respect for the faith, and in many cases accepting baptism and converting to Orthodoxy. Individuals from every occupying regime in the past 1600 years have discovered Orthodox Christianity, converted and in many cases been martyred for their faith.

The Georgian Church is a stronghold of Kartvelian civilisation and national identity, but not exclusively so; the Georgian Church has influenced the development of Christianity throughout the Caucasus and the Middle East, and in turn has been influenced by Orthodox Christians from abroad. 

There are functioning Georgian monastic orders at Mount Athos in Greece as well as in the Holy Land. Local parishes have many worshippers of Greek, Slavic, German, Turkic, Arab, Abkhaz, Ossetian, Chechen and Avar ancestry who worship in the Georgian language. Many Georgian families can trace their ancestry to Roman, Greek and Ethiopian military officials who were posted here during the Byzantine occupation of Georgia, or to Black Sea Greek colonists present here for over 2500 years. The two most honoured saints in Georgia, Saint George and Saint Nino, were both Greeks. The Thirteen Syrian Fathers of Georgia, missionaries dispatched from Mesopotamia to Georgia in the 6th century are now widely venerated in Georgia; they were possibly either Assyrians or Georgians from the diaspora. So despite the perception of the Georgian Orthodox Church being mono-ethnic and insular, it is far from the case; there is a long history of spiritual exchange with foreigners and integration of new converts. The Church is open to anybody, of any religion or race, to learn about this ancient faith.

The purpose of this website is to provide English-speaking foreign citizens in Georgia with resources to gain a better understanding of Orthodox Christianity, in particular its Georgian “flavour”, to learn about its festivals and rituals, and to assist people to make contact with English-speaking clergy should they seek to make more detailed theological enquiries. If you are contemplating marriage to an Orthodox person, or feel drawn to the Church, or are just curious about what our beliefs and practices are, we hope these resources may help you.

We are currently working on a printed bilingual version of The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (English on one page, Georgian on the opposite page) and will post a pdf version here when it is finished. We will have hymnbooks and psalters translated in the future also. We are grateful for the kind assistance of the Tbilisi Theological Academy and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge in this endeavour.

For this humble lay initiative, we have selected Saint Abo of Tbilisi as our Patron. Born as a Muslim in Baghdad, Saint Abo (Abu in Arabic) converted to Christianity in the 8th century in Tbilisi and was martyred for proselytising to Tbilisi’s Muslim population in 786, during the Arab colonisation of Georgia. He is an inspiring example, both as a devout and steadfast Christian, and as a courageous foreigner who was warmly accepted, and eventually venerated, by the Georgian people whom he chose to live amongst.  Bless our modest efforts and intercede for us, Saint Abo.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: