Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nativity of the Theotokos

The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos is the first feast day according to the Byzantine liturgical calendar. Happy New Year to everybody!

Your Nativity, O Virgin,
Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe!
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
Has shone from You, O Theotokos!
By annulling the curse, He bestowed a blessing.
By destroying death, He has granted us eternal Life.

The icon of nativity of the Theotokos, at the grotto of her nativity,
situated beneath Basilica of St. Anne, Jerusalem
The grotto of the nativity of the Theotokos
By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin,
Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness;
Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death.
And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you:
The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life!

The main altar of Basilica of St. Anne, built by Crusaders in 1130 in Jerusalem,
 on the foundation of Byzantine shrine,
above the grotto of nativity of Mary
The tabernacle of Basilica of St. Anne
A side altar honouring St. Ann and Blessed Virgin Mary
Statue of Sts. Anne and Mary, Basilica of St. Anne
Basilica of St. Anne, the façade
Basilica of St. Anne, the façade and bell tower
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages amen.
How should we not marvel at your Offspring, 
who is both God and man, all-honoured one? 
For without knowing man, 
O all-blameless, you gave birth in the flesh to a Son without father, 
begotten from the Father before the ages without mother, 
in no way undergoing change, or mixture or separation; 
but preserving intact the identity of either nature. 
Therefore, Sovereign Lady, Virgin-Mother, 
implore Him that the souls may be saved of those who with right belief acknowledge you as Theotokos.

The Orthodox chapel commemorating the nativity of the Theotokos,
behind Basilica of St. Anne
Finally, let us contemplate on this joyful event by listening to Glory to... How should we not marvel:

Your Nativity:

For more information on Basilica of St. Anne, see:

Sunday, August 15, 2010


O marvelous wonder! 
The Fount of life hath been laid in a grave, and the tomb hath become a ladder leading to heaven. 
Rejoice, O Gethsemane, the holy chamber of the Theotokos.
And let us believers shout to her with Gabriel, the chief of the angels, saying, 
Rejoice, O full of grace. 
The Lord is with thee, granting the world, through thee, the Great Mercy.

The sepulchre of the Theotokos Blessed Virgin Mary, at the foot of Mt. Olive, Jerusalem
Another altar in the same grotto containing the sepulchre
The entrance to the sepulchre of the Theotokos, the current structure was built by crusaders in the twelfth century

In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Icon of dormition of the Theotokos, Dormition Abbey, Mt. Zion, Jerusalem
Statue of dormition of the Theotokos, in the grotto of Dormition Abbey
Statue of dormition of the Theotokos, in the grotto of Dormition Abbey

The apse of Dormition Abbey
The apse and altar of Dormition Abbey
Dormition Abbey, a Benedictine monastery built at the turn of twentieth century
Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.

Finally, let us meditate on the mystery of dormition/assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary through two Byzantine chants.
O Marvelous Wonder, a vesperal hymn:

In Giving Birth, the festal apolytikion:

For more information on the tomb of Mary, see:

For more information on Dormition Abbey, see:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Transfiguration; Metamorphosis

Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever;
Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, 
O Christ our God; showing to Thy disciples Thy glory as each one could endure. 
Shine forth Thou on us, who are sinners all, 
Thy light ever-unending; through the prayers of the Theotokos; 
Light-bestower, glory be to Thee.

The high altar and the apse with an ornate mosaic depicting transfiguration of Basilica of Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor
The mosaic of transfiguration, Basilica of Transfirugation, Mt. Tabor
The main altar of Basilica of Transfiguration, on the lower level, built on the foundation of a Byzantine chapel
Basilica of Transfiguration, Mt. Table, built of the foundation of three Byzantine chapels that were each dedicated to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah

The ruin of a medieval Benedictine women's monastery chapel

On the Mountain You were Transfigured, O Christ God,
And Your disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it;
So that when they would behold You crucified,
They would understand that Your suffering was voluntary,
And would proclaim to the world,
That You are truly the Radiance of the Father!

A view from Mt. Tabor
Sunrise on Mt. Tabor

“Today You have shown forth...”
Today all mortal nature shines with the divine Transfiguration
And cries with exultation:
"Christ the Savior is transfigured to save us all!"

A mosaic icon of transfiguration, Church of St. George, Madaba, Jordan

Finally, let us listen to and meditate on the apolytikion of transfiguration: Thou wast transfigured on the mountain.

For more information of Basilica of Transfiguration and Mount Tabor, see:


In April 2010, I went on a life-changing pilgrimage to the Holy Land (i.e. the land of the Bible). While it was incredible to trod on this ancient land where our Lord Jesus, the Theotokos Blessed Virgin Mary, apostles, prophets, kings, and saints lived, I could not help but notice that most of the holy sites were rebuilt on the foundation of Byzantine-era churches or monasteries. The most striking evidence was the almost ubiquitous mosaic flooring in almost every shrine.  Suddenly, something dawned on me: the hymns of the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Catholic) that are still in use today were quite likely first chanted on those ancient grounds, in commemoration of the salvific mysteries wrought by God right there. Indeed, by God's grace, the Timeless One entered time. Standing there, I could almost hear the chanting by the monks and priests from centuries ago. Throughout the pilgrimage I thought, wouldn't it be great to have a Byzantine rite priest to celebrate divine liturgy for us? Alas my dream never came true. However, I would like to share with you where I had been and what I saw, in conjunction with the hymns of the Eastern Churches (i.e. apolytikia, kontakia, aposticha, etc) relevant to each site, according to the Church's liturgical calendar. I present to you, Echoes from Byzantine Palaestina
Mosaic flooring in the aisle of the ruin of a Byzantine church in Petra, Jordan

Mosaic flooring in the aisle of the ruin of a Byzantine church in Petra, Jordan
Mosaic flooring in the aisle of the ruin of a Byzantine church in Petra, Jordan
Mosaic flooring in the aisle of the ruin of a Byzantine church in Petra, Jordan

The cross-shaped baptistry of the ruin of a Byzantine church in Petra, Jordan 
The ruin of a Byzantine church on the ground of Citadel of Amman, Amman, Jordan
The famous mosaic map of the Holy Land from the Byzantine era, Church of St. George, Madaba, Jordan
The mosaic map of Holy Land, zoomed in on Dead Sea
The mosaic map of Holy Land, zoomed in on Jerusalem