Give us this Day – The Iconic Greek Orthodox

Iconic: plenty of icons up by the Acropolis

We are surrounded with icons… every pop star, actor, reality TV king and queen and athlete.

While every building or feat in history is iconic.

Orthodox Christians though are not so loose in their use of the word.

For them an icon is a revered, holy picture or symbol central to their Christianity.

I first saw Orthodox Christians at prayer, and in full flow, from the Jordan banks as they were submerged into the River Jordan.

They were a mere 50 feet away in Israel at the sight of where the Israelis believe John the Baptist baptised Christ.

The Jordanians believe it was further inland in their country. Petra and the sands of time.

Of course in Greece where I spent the last few days (you might have noticed), as in everywhere in Southern Europe, churches proliferate.

Greek flag and the Byzantine Empire

And on those Greek islands often they have a very distinctive azure blue dome.

To act as a beacon for fishermen.

The Greek Orthodox churches are every bit as beautiful as the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

But with some differences, the icons being one.

A Greek Orthodox Christening

The Greek Orthodox Church which has 25 million followers,. Half of whom live in Greece.

It differs from the Roman Catholic Church by not having the Pope as their head of the church.

The most (no, I’m not giving you that word) important church in the Orthodox world is the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople.

The cave of St Paul, Kyphera

They insist on referring to it by its old name before it became Istanbul.

It is of course now the Aya Sofya mosque www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr a much venerated centre of the Islamic faith.

And here’s me worshipping the Divine One… I can’t imagine He really cares who, or how, we pay homage Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Prayer for you: Constantinople/Istanbul

Come to think of it that carpet looks very like the one in my home growing up..

My Dear Old Dad loved that carpet and woe betide you if you spilled a drink on it… blood was very nearly spilt.

Instead of a Pope the Greek Orthodox Church is run by a synod of bishops.

Ring the bell. I’m an altar boy

Apart from that they seem to pretty much be run along the same lines.

Their altar looks different with the icons, particularly John the Baptist and Our Lady figuring prominently.

And they have a room at the back belonging to the priest which apparently it is frowned upon for lay people to enter.

They tell me now.

Going native. In Kythera

Of course another thing they are instantly recognisable for is their monks with their long white beards, always a good look.

Like Archbishop Mikarios or the monk in my lift at the Athens InterContinental www.intercontinental.com who was getting a little impatient with the buttons.

They, of course, will be the iconic Greek Orthodox monks.

Visit www.kythera.gr/en/

I flew Lufthansa Dublin through Munich to Athens which cuts down on costs. www.lufthansa.com.

And Athens to Kythera, just an hour’s flight with Aegean www.aegeanair.com.

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