Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Worship in the Land of St Titus- Hird

We had a very full Sunday visiting Heraklion, the Capital of Crete where the Apostle Paul left his assistant Titus. (Titus 1:4-5)

Sunday started with heavy rain, requiring us to take a taxi to the 7am service at Hagios Tito/Titus Church where the actual skull of St Titus is on display. As we arrived early, we ate a Cretan/Greek breakfast with a heavy emphasis on pork and potatoes. Potatoes in Crete always mean 'french fries'!

The Hagios Tito service lasted 3 and 1/2 hours. We became somewhat weary standing for much of the service. For the first hour, there were more clergy and robed choir than congregation: about 8 including us. Time is no concern to Cretans. Every hour, more people wandered in, until eventual the church building was 80% full. Even the choir members wandered in and out over the three+ hour service.

There were no instruments at all in the service. Instead the male choir, with two lead singer/cantors, used microphones, singing the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (the golden-tongued) in minor keys. The congregation never sang.

At the end of the service, any of the people who did not take communion were invited to receive a blessed piece of bread to eat on their way out. All the children took communion, plus many of the adults who felt spiritually connected that day.

The visiting Cretan Archmandrite Makarios invited us to have Greek coffee with him after the service. Having studied for three years in Boston, his English was excellent, so we had a great conversation. I was able to give him a copy of 'Battle for the Soul of Canada' as a gift, which he seemed pleased to receive it. In return, Fr Makarios, an Orthodox priest and medical doctor, gave me a copy of his new book on Christianity and Bioethics.

After Church, we went for lunch with one of the young couples. It was a great opportunity to learn more about Christians in Crete, about Titus, and how to not butcher the modern Greek language. For some reason, Greek has apparently changed a bit in two thousand years since the New Testament in some of its pronunciations ;) The 'u' in Eucharist/Thanks is now pronounced as an 'f' as in 'Efcharista', and the 'g' in 'evangelism' is pronounced as an 'h'!

In the afternoon, we went by bus to the famous Knossos archeological palace, where the Minoans had their headquarters. After that, we went to the Venetian Port at Heraklion where the wind on the windbreaker was so strong that it almost blew us off our feet. We can understand how Paul warned the ship captain not to leave Crete because of the winter danger of shipwreck. Even today Cretans do not do fishing in the winter.

So many rich experiences packed into one Sunday. All this confirmed the value of visiting Crete as part of birthing the new Titus book 'Restoring Health in the 21 Century.'

The Rev Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon's Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

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