Simon Scionka, DP for Poverty, Inc, and I traveled to Greece to attend the 17th annual Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival where Poverty, Inc had two showings–both to sold-out theaters with lively Q&A afterward. Thessaloniki Doc Festival is a wonderful event and we were honored to be there. In addition to the film I participated in a press conference with other film directors, a couple of other discussions and and did two short television interviews. Here is a clip of one of them–My interview is the first one and it ends at 7:45.
Patron of Thessaloniki
In the entrance to our house we have an icon of St. Demetrios, who is the Patron Saint of Thessaloniki so it was a blessing to be able to visit the 5th century, Hagios Demetrios Church where his relics are. Much of the inside was destroyed in a fire in the early 20th century, but many of the icons and mosaics were remarkable. St. Demetrios was a Roman soldier who was tortured and martyred in 305 for not denying his Christian faith. He is also known as an intercessor for the restoration of health.
This was my first visit to Greece and it exceeded my expectations. I had wanted to visit Greece for years so was very excited to go. We flew in to Athens and had a few days before driving up to Thessaloniki for the festival and we were able to visit a number of sites in Athens including the Acropolis and the Parthenon, the ancient Agora, and the Academy of Plato. It was inspiring walk in the same places that Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked, to see where Pericles spoke and where the plays of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus were performed.
St. Paul at the Aeropagus
One of the most impressive experiences for me in Athens was seeing the Aeropagus (the rock of Ares or what we often call Mars Hill) where St. Paul preached to the Athenians. The Areopagus is a reddish rock formation that sits just below the Acropolis and was used as the High Court of Appeal. Standing atop the Aeropagus one looks up at the Parthenon and the temple of Nike and then turns around to see the ancient Agora. Standing there we read aloud St. Paul’s sermon to the Athenians. The physical context made Paul’s message even more powerful. St. Luke relates the incident in Acts. Chapter 17. Surrounded by statues and temples and above him the great Parthenon with the enormous statue of Athene looking over the city, St Paul said:
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, `To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.
And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for`In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said,`For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from among them. But some men joined him and believed, among them Dionys’ius the Are-op’agite and a woman named Dam’aris and others with them.
Dionysius the Aeropagite became the first bishop of Athens. Much more to say about Greece which I’ll post soon. We also visited Ancient Corinth, Sparta and a number of other places on our way to Thessaloniki. If you have the chance to visit Greece, it is absolutely worth it. The people are hospitable, the food is excellent, but be warned you can only be disappointed because no matter how much you try to squeeze in there is more to see.