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24th January 2013

Xenia, Deaconess of Rome (24th January)

Xenia was born with the name Eusebia, in Rome in the fifth century.


Eusebia was the only daughter born to a distinguished and wealthy family. Her father was a Roman senator.


Eusebia’s marriage had been arranged and in order to avoid this, she fled with two handmaids to Mylassa on the island of Kos in Asia Minor. Upon her arrival she was given the name Xenia, which means ‘stranger’ in Greek, as she was a newcomer.

Xenai established a community for virgins and remained there until here death. She was ordained a deaconess by her spiritual father Paul, who became the Bishop of Mylassa.

Xenia was widely known as a healer and turned no one away, she helped the grief stricken, the destitute and sinners, amongst which she counted herself. Among her listed traits are those of virtuousness, charity, and humility. Xenia was dedicated to her faith and would often spend nights standing in prayer and also fasting.


It is said that Xenia had forseen her death, which took place in c.450. There are numerous references in writings about Xenia which speak of ‘a brilliant cross brighter than the sun’ appearing over her monastery ‘wreathed in a circle of stars.’

The handmaids, who had fled with Xenia and followed her example, asked to be buried at her feet when they died. Many people are said to have been cured when touching the relics of Xenia, in faith.

Xenia is remembered in the Orthodox Church on the 24th of January.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the fourth Tone:

In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Xenia, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.

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6th January 2012


TheophanyToday’s feast celebrates the baptism of Christ, a time when God himself stepped into the waters of the Earth. I remember with joy when my priest explained that while it is true that Christ did fulfill the scriptures and demonstrate the value of baptism in this act, since he was God, he didn’t really need to be baptized. A deeper meaning to his immersion was the baptism of the entire creation.

Among three items pinned to the wall near my monitor is an icon of the creation of the animals. The icon shows Christ blessing a number of sea and air creatures in what looks like an oasis in the desert. How beautiful to consider that he would eventually become flesh and physically step into those waters he so long before created.

Parishes around the world will bless their local waterways today, a gift and blessing for the entire cosmos. St. John of San Fransisco said in his “Sermon on the Day of Theophany”:

Through water all of nature is cleansed, for out of water the world was made, and moisture penetrates everywhere, giving life to everything else in nature . . .  The waters are sanctified and through them the whole world, in preparation for renewal and regeneration for God’s eternal Kingdom which is to come.

It is with sadness that I am unable to attend Theophany services this year. In lieu of this, I would like to offer up the following prayer:

CreationThe one who made the waters is now enshrouded by water. So have hope all waters of the earth, and rain hope on all things. Have hope all cattle who mourn. Have hope all pigs who suffer. Have hope all chickens who cannot feel the wind. Have hope all turkeys who never feel the soil. Have hope all monkeys in laboratories. Have hope all rabbits who will never see the sun. Have hope all dolphins and whales who are slaughtered. Have hope all rhinos and elephants who are poached. Have hope racoons who are smashed under tires. Have hope all passenger pigeons and Irish elk and dodos. Have hope all humans who despair alone. Have hope all mountains blasted for coal. Have hope all forests bulldozed. Have hope all clouds filled with toxins. Have hope all waters poisoned. For today is the Theophany of Christ. Today is your joyful embrace.


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3rd January 2012

New Year’s Bread – Vasilopita

BasilGrtFor many years now we have baked a Vasilopita  (St Basil’s Bread) to mark the new year and St Basil’s Day on January 1st. As we have a Basil (Vasilios) in our house, it is also a Name Day celebration and a special time for us. In fact Vasilios has baked the bread himself now for the past fifteen years or so.  When we became vegan, we modified the recipe so that it no longer included animal fats. We also modified it to bake in our bread machine as living in a  hot climate does not exactly motivate one to want to knead dough and have the oven running for hours!  There have been many trial runs but the recipe is now tried and true and we are pleased to be able to share it here. We also use this same recipe for Tsoureki at Easter, but I will post that version closer to the time.

Vegan Vasilopita



3 teaspoons of orange zest

2 Tablespoons of orange juice

Egg replacer (Made up to be equivalent of one whole egg and one egg white.)

65ml soy milk

6 Tablespoons of vegan margarine (We have found a soy based one works very well but any dairy free margarine will work.)

2 teaspoons of aniseed juice (instructions below)

90g raw caster sugar

425g plain white flour

1 x 8g sachet of yeast

3 Tablespoons of warm water


  1. Prepare the aniseed juice by boiling 1 Tablespoon of aniseed in 1 cup of water for a few minutes, then strain and set aside. (This process is a bit like making tea.)
  2. Zest finely one orange and set aside. (This should give you approximately 3 teaspoons of zest. We usually use large navel oranges, but Valencias work fine too.)
  3. Juice the orange and set aside.
  4. Prepare the egg replacer as per instructions on packet and set aside.
  5. Prepare yeast by placing the 3 Tablespoons of warm water in a glass bowl and dissolving a pinch of sugar. Sprinkle the contents of the sachet into the water, swish about a bit then cover with a cloth and set aside out of drafts.
  6. Measure out milk and set aside.
  7. Measure out margarine, melt and set aside.
  8. Weigh the flour and set aside.
  9. Weigh the sugar and set aside.
  10. By now, the yeast should have started to activate (It will look a little bit fluffy/frothy.)
  11. Place ingredients into the bread machine in the following order:
    1. zest
    2. juice
    3. aniseed juice
    4. egg replacer (you may need to whisk as it may have settled)
    5. margarine
    6. soy milk
    7. caster sugar
    8. flour
  12. Make a small well in the top of the flour and tip the yeast on top.
  13. Place pan into bread maker and select the sweet bread setting.

A note about bread machines…

We have two different bread machines. On one we simply choose the sweet bread setting. On the other we have to choose the size and crust, in which case we select 750g, light crust, then sweet bread.  Unfortunately all machines are a little different so you may have to experiment with this aspect of the recipe.

Adding the Coin


Traditionally, new year’s breads have a coin hidden inside. We have found that it is easier to add the coin after the bread is baked by simply poking it up through the hole created in the base by the kneading pin in the machine. The little brochure that came with our coin has the following instructions, keeping in mind that the bread is traditionally baked in a circle. As we do not have this shape, we simply cut slices.

The head of the house will bless the Vasilopita with the cutting knife crosswise in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He will then cut the centre in a circle as an offering to our Lord Jesus, Who is first in our life. Then he will proceed to cut wedges starting with a piece for the Ever Virgin Mary, and for St Basil. Subsequently, a wedge for himself and all other members of his family and guests in succession. The one who finds this coin in his or her piece, is considered to be blessed especially for the New Year.”

 This year the coin lay halfway between St Basil’s piece and Vasilios’ piece! (Photographic evidence below!)



Happy New Year to all our vvoc.org readers.

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