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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.

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Services for Holy Week at Sioni Cathedral will be held thus:

tbilisi-sioni-cathedral-01

Holy Wednesday: Administration of the sacrament of Holy Unction, the anointment of the faithful with oil at the conclusion of the liturgy. Commences at 5 p.m.

Holy Thursday: The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil, incorporating the  Twelve Gospel Readings of the Passion of Christ. The readings are:

The service commences at 6 pm

Holy Friday: The Deposition of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a Liturgy. Christ’s body is represented by the Epitaphios ,an icon of His dead body embroidered on a silk cloth, which is borne around the church by the clergy and solemnly installed in a “tomb” within the sanctuary of the cathedral. This service commences at 2 pm, the same time as Christ was reported to have died.

Holy Saturday: The Vigil of the Resurrection begins at midnight on Holy Saturday, preceding the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, Pasqa. The service typically continues until dawn, although not all will stay for that length.

The Vigil service is very heavily attended and past experience is that one must be inside the cathedral by 10.30 p.m. or one will not gain admittance. Many hundreds of people congregate outside the cathedral and participate in the service despite being outside, and they can witness the parade of resurrection icons circling the cathedral and join in the Resurrection Hymn, Kriste Aghsdga.

May you all have a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Pascha.

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As we enter the last week before Great Lent, we are encouraged to occupy ourselves with assisting those around us suffering from misfortune or illness.

The Georgian Wounded Warrior Program emulates the very successful Wounded Warrior Project in the USA. It is run by the US Office of Defense Cooperation’s Bilateral Affairs Office, based at the US Embassy in Tbilisi. Its personnel include civilian rehabilitation experts and serving US Army personnel.

In Georgia, the project has been providing prostheses to Georgian veterans who have lost limbs in the 2008 war against Russia, as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of operations. As is well-known, Georgia has been the largest non-NATO military contingent in Afghanistan for some time, and a substantial number of mortalities and serious injuries have been sustained by Georgian troops on active duty there. A modern Rehabilitation Centre is to be commissioned by August 2016 in Tbilisi with funding and technical support from the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project.

An identified deficiency in the Georgian Military, and in Georgia in general, is a shortage of trained counsellors or therapists to deal with psychological illnesses, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The military chaplains embedded in Georgian battalions,  provided by the Georgian Church, have previously received some basic training in counselling; given that Georgian soldiers are reluctant to admit vulnerability to their comrades, or to strangers, a chaplain is often the first port of call for a distressed soldier having difficulty coping. The established Orthodox Christian model of intimacy and confidentiality between the priest and his spiritual son provides a good base upon which counselling, guidance, or even referral for additional treatment, can develop.

Last week, representatives of the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project met with relevant clergy from the Georgian Church to discuss co-operation, with great willingness on the Georgian side for Georgian chaplains to receive training from US Special Forces chaplains in identifying and supporting Georgian soldiers with psychological problems. This is a very pleasing development indeed, and we will keep readers posted on new developments.

For those interested in the interface between Orthodox Christianity and mental health, I can strongly recommend Father Alexis Trader’s website and his bookAncient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy: A Meeting of Minds

Another function of the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project is to find employment for demobilised soldiers who have suffered from physical or psychological injuries. Given the high rate of unemployment amongst the able-bodied in Georgia, this is a challenge. That being said,they have many attributes that are desirable in the private sector. Veterans are typically highly disciplined and reliable, amenable to training in complex tasks including IT and communications, work effectively in teams, and often have leadership experience gained under very trying conditions. Employers in Georgia wishing to employ wounded veterans in their enterprises, or provide other support for rehabilitation activities, may contact me in the comments section below to be referred to the relevant personnel at the Georgian Wounded Warrior Project.

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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!!

 

 

 

 

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Today is Saint Philip’s Day, one of the Twelve Apostles. His feast day marks the end of the regular post-Pentecostal period, and is followed by the Nativity Fast (also known as the Saint Philip’s Fast), which lasts for forty days until the morning of Shobas (Christmas) on January 7.

The purpose of fasting has been discussed here before. As previously mentioned, the Nativity Fast is less rigourous than the Fast of Great Lent. Meat, poultry, dairy prodcts and eggs are excluded from the diet for the entire fast. Wine and oil are permitted on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and fish, wine and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. The simplification of diet and winding back of social engagements creates a sense of anticipation of the great celebration to come, and helps to reduce stress.

For those in Tbilisi struggling to find tasty vegetarian ingredients for the next 40 days, I can strongly recommend the Turkish supermarket “Tursa” in Didube Plaza, Tsereteli Street in Didube District. They have an excellent choice of grains, beans and other pulses, and middle eastern spices.

“The Holy Apostle Philip, was a native of the city of Bethsaida (or Bethesda, in Galilee). He had a profound depth of knowledge of the Holy Scripture, and rightly discerning the meaning of the Old Testament prophecies, he awaited the coming of the Messiah. Through the summoning of the Saviour (Jn. 1: 43), Philip followed Him. The Apostle Philip is spoken about several times in the Holy Gospel: he brought to Christ the Apostle Nathanael (i.e. Bartholomew, Comm. 22 April, 11 and 30 June, 25 August; Vide Jn. 1: 46); the Lord asks him how much money would be needful to buy bread for five thousand men (Jn. 6: 5-7); he brought certain of the Hellenised Jews wanting to see Jesus (Jn. 12: 21-22); and finally, at the time of the Last Supper he asked Christ about God the Father (Jn. 14: 8).

After the Ascension of the Lord, the Apostle Philip preached the Word of God in Galilee, accompanying his preaching with miracles. Thus, he restored to life a dead infant, in the arms of its mother. From Galilee he set off to Greece, and preached amongst the Jews that had settled there. Certain of them reported in Jerusalem about the preaching of the apostle, in response to which there arrived in Hellas (Greece) from Jerusalem, scribes with the Jewish high-priest at their head, for a persecution against the Apostle Philip. The Apostle Philip exposed the lie of the high-priest, who said that the disciples of Christ had stolen away and hidden the body of Christ, telling instead how the Pharisees had bribed the soldiers on watch, to deliberately spread this rumour. When the Jewish high-priest and his companions began to insult the Lord and lunged at the Apostle Philip, they suddenly were struck blind. By prayer the apostle restored everyone to sight, and in beholding this miracle, many believed in Christ. The Apostle Philip established a bishop for them, by the name of Narcissos (listed within the rank of the Seventy Disciples,  – Comm. 4 January).

From Hellas the Apostle Philip set out to Parthia, and then to the city of Azota, where he healed an eye affliction of the daughter of a local resident named Nikoclides, who had received him into his home, and then baptised with all his whole family.
      

From Azota the Apostle Philip set out to Syrian Hieropolis where, stirred up by the Pharisees, the Jews burned the house of Heros, who had taken in the Apostle Philip, and they wanted to kill the apostle. But in witnessing miracles wrought by the apostle –the healing of the hand of the city official Aristarchos, withered in attempting to strike the apostle, and also a dead lad restored to life – they repented and many accepted holy Baptism. Having made Heros bishop at Hieropolis, the Apostle Philip went on to Syria, Asia Minor, Lydia, Emessa, and everywhere preaching the Gospel and undergoing sufferings. Both he and his sister Mariamna accompanying him were pelted with stones, locked up in prison, and thrown out of villages.

Then the Apostle Philip arrived in Phrygia, in the city of Phrygian Hieropolis, where there were many pagan temples, among which was a pagan temple devoted to snake-worship, having within it an enormous serpent. The Apostle Philip by the power of prayer killed the serpent and healed many bitten by the snakes. Among those healed was the wife of the city governor Amphypatos. Having learned that his wife had accepted Christianity, the governor Amphypatos gave orders to arrest Saint Philip, his sister, and the Apostle Bartholomew travelling with them. At the urging of the pagan priests of the temple of the serpent, Amphypatos gave orders to crucify the holy Apostles Philip and Bartholomew. At this time there began an earthquake, and it knocked down to the ground all those present at the judgement-place. Hanging upon the cross at the pagan temple of the serpent, the Apostle Philip prayed for the salvation of those that had crucified him, to save them from the ravages of the earthquake. Seeing this happen, the people believed in Christ and began to demand that the apostles be taken down from the crosses. The Apostle Bartholomew, in being taken down from the cross was still alive, and he baptised all those believing and established a bishop for them.

But the Apostle Philip, through whose prayers everyone remained alive, except for Amphypatos and the pagan priests, – died on the cross.

Mariamna his sister buried his body, and together with the Apostle Bartholomew she set out preaching to Armenia, where the Apostle Bartholomew was crucified (Comm. 11 June); Mariamna herself then preached until her own death at Likaoneia (Comm. 17 February).”

Father S. Janos, Saint Hermann’s Press 1991

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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.

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Father Joseph’s English language mission in Tbilisi is making steady progress, with a Facebook page that can be seen here

St Luke the Evangelist

For those who are not Facebook users, Father Joseph recently advised;

“Fr. David, the priest at St. Andrew’s is making their hall available to our English speakers group on Thursdays at 8pm if we would like to use it for continuing Orthodox education. At this point I would like to gauge from all of you in Tbilisi if there would be an interest in such gatherings? My initial thought is to offer classes on a once-a-month basis and if there is interest in increasing to twice-a-month, we can do so. Please email me at protopresbyterjoseph@gmail.com if you are interested. There will be a short meeting after the November 22 Liturgy to discuss this further. If you have ideas for class discussion topics, please send those along with your email. Thanks to Fr. David and his wonderful support and to His Holiness, Pat. Ilia for his continued prayers for our efforts.”

A very worthy initiative and I am sure anyone wishing to attend will find themselves very welcome.

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