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With Saints and Angels in Long Beach

Saint George Slaying the Dragon

With the continuing heat dome over Southern California, Martine and I took a chance and went to the Long Beach Greek Festival at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church. Although it was as hot as Hades, I’m glad we went. The food was good, there were tons of tasty Greek pastries, and the church itself was outstanding.

The church was not as wealthy as Saint Sophia in downtown L.A. or Saint Nicholas in Northridge, but it was beautifully painted with what seemed to be hundreds of saints and angels. And, unlike many Greek Orthodox churches, most of them were identified in both Greek and English.

There were a few surprises, the most prominent one being an Eskimo—actually an Aleut—called Saint Peter the Aleut:

Saint Peter the Aleut, aka Cungagnaq

For an Aleut to be a Greek Orthodox martyr requires a leap of faith. And for Cungagnaq, it came in 1815 when the Spanish, who were uneasy about the Russian occupation of Alaska, captured him near San Francisco and had him put to death at the instigation of some Catholic priests who were upset that he was a heretic. Read about it on Wikipedia.

Just about every square inch of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin church was covered with images of Christ, Mary, and the saints and angels. The effect was quite stunning. Martine and I spent an hour studying the sacred images.

I might be an indifferent lapsed Catholic, but the simplicity and sincerity of the church held my respect and even awe.