Conception of St. John the Baptist

The Conception of St. John the Baptist | Orthodox and Vegan
On the 23rd of September in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate the Conception of the honorable, glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John. From the Synaxarion:

On this day the mercy, miracles and wisdom of God are celebrated: His mercy toward the devout and righteous parents of St. John, the aged Zacharias and Elizabeth, who all their lives had wished for and begged a child from God; His miracle, that of John’s conception in the aged womb of Elizabeth; and His wisdom, in the dispensation of man’s salvation. God had an especially great intention for John: namely, that he be the Prophet and Forerunner of Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world. Through His angels, God announced the births of Isaac to the childless Sarah, Samson to the childless wife of Manoah, and John the Forerunner to the childless Zacharias and Elizabeth. All of these were those for whom He had special intentions, and He foretold their birth through His angels.

Yesterday St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Geneva, NY, shared this brief video for the Feast of the Conception of St. John the Baptist:

Apolytikion of the Conception of St. John the Baptist, Fourth Mode
(to the tune of Be Quick to Anticipate)
Rejoice, O thou barren one who hadst not borne until now * for lo, in all truth thou hast conceived the lamp of the Sun, and he shall send forth his light * over all the earth, which is afflicted with blindness * Dance, O Zacharias, and cry out with great boldness * The one to be born is the blest Prophet of God Most High.

Blessed Feast to you all – see you in nine months for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist! 🙂

Dormition of the Mother of God

Icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God | Orthodox and Vegan
Blessed Feast to those of you celebrating! On August 15 in the Orthodox Church we commemorate the Dormition (falling asleep, or repose) of the Mother of God. We also commemorate her bodily translation into heaven.

Unless you’re on the Old Calendar – in that case, the fast just began yesterday and I wish you a good journey. Here’s my quick guide to surviving the two week fast. (Shout out to whomever shared a link to that page on Reddit!)

Evangelistria Marble Church on Tinos in Greece
The Feast of the Dormition is a big day for the Greek island of Tinos, home to Evangelistria (Our Lady of Good Tidings) Church.

This church was built in 1823 after the Theotokos appeared several times to a certain nun, prompting the excavation of a specific area where they found the ruins of an old Byzantine chapel, and below that the foundations of a 4th century edifice that had been dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. An ancient well was also found there, and while the foundation for the new church was being leveled, the workers finally uncovered an icon showing the Archangel Gabriel holding a lily out to the Theotokos, and she kneeling in acceptance of her role in the Incarnation.

Today, the icon is housed in the crypt of the church next to the font. On certain Marian feast days, especially for Dormition, pilgrims flood the island to celebrate Liturgy at Evangelistria, venerate the wonder-working icon, and collect water from the font.

Disembarking at the port [of Tinos], a few 100 metres to the left, a pilgrim is confronted by the second largest street known as the Leoforos Megalochares (the Street of Great Joy) which leads up to the neo-classical church at the top of the steep slope. This street is heavily lined with merchants, on either side, selling ecclesiastical bits and pieces such as oil lamps, replica icons, postcards etc.

It is traditional for many pilgrims to crawl the entire length of this street on their hands and knees, crossing themselves first, as a physical ascetical offering in preparation of meeting the icon of Tinos. This offering should be done in supplication, or thanksgiving for prayers answered or in repentance. – Orthodox Wiki

The red carpet you see going up the stairs leading to the church actually begins at the bottom of the Street of Great Joy – in other words, the bottom of that extremely steep slope, meant to give a little relief to crawling pilgrims (however I felt the carpet and it is very thin!).

Of note: I visited Evangelistria three years ago in June. I hadn’t really looked into the church and didn’t know about the font from the ancient well, and that pilgrims buy little glass bottles from the souvenir shops to collect the water because it is thought to be miraculous. So when I got there and heard about the font, I just stuck my hand in the water. When I returned home from Greece a couple weeks later, I realized a hideous scar that had been on my hand for 21 years was gone (seriously, it was ugly. The skin healed in a weird lump after I accidentally stabbed myself with a pencil). Maybe it was just a coincidence…who knows.

St. Phanourios and Phanouropita (Recipe Included)

Today we commemorate St. Phanourios, and people all over the world will be baking Phanouropita in his honor.

The icon of St. Phanourios is framed by smaller images of the saint enduring torments for the Faith

The icon of St. Phanourios is framed by smaller images of the saint enduring torments for the Faith

A feast of gladness hath shone with splendour today, the new festival of Phanourios, the much-contending and noble of spirit. For he contested in unknown times and was of no reputation, and all men were ignorant of his name and of his temple. But when godless tyrants held sway over illustrious Rhodes, and were digging up the suburbs which lay in ruins, his temple and icon were revealed, shining brighter than the light. And when by the ruler’s permission, the Saint’s church was built again, it was shown to be a fountain of miracles by Christ God, Who is truly wondrous in His Saints.

-Doxa of the Praises for the Feast Day of St. Phanourios, Plagal of First Tone

On August 27 in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate St. Phanourios the Newly-Revealed Wonder-Worker of Rhodes.
The icon of St. Phanourios was discovered by a group of nomadic pagans as they pillaged the island of Rhodes in Greece in about the year 1500. Although the icon was found amid the ruins of an ancient church with a group of rotted icons and other artifacts, this icon of St. Phanourios was found to be in perfect condition, and as if newly painted. The icon was left behind by the pagans, who saw no value in it, and finally reclaimed by a group of monks that had been waiting off at a distance.
No more was ever learned about St. Phanourios than what is depicted on the original icon – the scenes of his contest and martyrdom. Because of the way the saint was discovered, and due to his name (which literally means “revealed”), it became a custom for the people to seek the intercessions of St. Phanourios when looking for a lost item. If the lost item is found, a Phanouropita (Phanourios cake) is baked as a thanks-offering, blessed by the priest, and shared with friends and family.
In some areas it is also the custom for women to bake a Phanouropita when they want St. Phanourios to help them find a husband, or for a mother to find a husband for her daughter.

The Phanouropita is usually blessed at Vespers the evening before the Feast Day, or at the end of the Liturgy. We didn’t have Vespers or Liturgy, but my parish does have Orthros Tuesday – Friday. St. Pimen has rank in the HTM menaion, but I found St. Phanourios in the additional services in the back of the book, and that is what we used.

Father did the blessing just before the dismissal, it’s very short – takes maybe a minute or two.

Phanouropita 2
Traditionally a candle is placed in the cake for the blessing.

Phanouropita 3
Rather than frosting the cake, it is dusted (or in this case, loaded) with powdered sugar. There are a few variations on this recipe, but most are very simple, Lenten recipes. The one I used is below. It was my first time making Phanouropita, and it turned out beautifully.

1 C light olive oil, or other mild vegetable oil
1 C sugar
1 C orange juice
1 Tbsp orange zest
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C coarsely chopped walnuts

Optional: sesame seeds for garnish

Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 9″ baking dish or bundt pan*. (*If garnishing with sesame seeds, use parchment paper instead of greasing)
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon & cloves). Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat oil, sugar, orange juice and zest until they are emulsified (well combined, it should look sort of creamy). Now slowly begin stirring the flour mixture into the liquid mixture. Once all the flour is incorporated, gently stir in the walnuts and raisins.

Pour batter into greased pan and bake at 350 for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

*To garnish with sesame seeds, line baking dish with parchment paper. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sesame seeds. Pour batter over seeds, then sprinkle with another tablespoon of sesame seeds.

I used an 8″ glass baking dish for my cake, and it took about an hour to bake.

Blessed Feast to you all!

Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

Transfiguration of Christ

On the mount Thou wast transfigured, and Thy disciples, as much as they could bear, beheld Thy glory, O Christ our God; that when they should see Thee crucified, they would know Thy Passion to be willing, and would preach to the world that Thou, in truth, art the Effulgence of the Father.

Arise, ye sluggards, wallow not for ever on the ground; ye thoughts, which bend my soul toward the earth, bestir yourselves, and mount up to the height of divine ascent. Let us run with Peter and the sons of Zebedee, and let us go with them to Mount Tabor, that with them we may see the glory of our God and hear His voice; for when they had heard it from on high, they preached the Effulgence of the Father.

On the sixth of this month we commemorate the divine Transfiguration of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Tabor was glorified above earth’s every region
    When it looked upon God’s nature shining in glory.
    On the sixth Christ transformed His form as a man.

Kontakion, Oikos, and Synaxarion readings for August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, from the August Menaion by The Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA.