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The Holy Mountain: a continuing pilgimage


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#1 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 02 May 2007 - 11:55 PM

I'm hoping to make journeys to the Holy Mountain a regular and ongoing part of my life and my son's life, concurrent with regular visits by my wife and daughter to, say, Annunciation in Ormylia and St. John's in Souroti. I've met a number of men on the Holy Mountain who appear to have done the same. I'm guessing that a discussion among thus-minded men and women might faciliate our plans for this sort of ongoing connection to the monasteries and, more importantly, acquiring lives of prayer.

Isaak

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 05:14 AM

I would also be interested in hearing from others and their experiences. My own plans to go to the Holy Mountain are postponed until November 2007. That's ok as it should be cooler and less pilgrims. My personal finances will only allow me one lifetime visit so I will have to live vicariously through you all as you visit.

Please don't be stingy with your stories, recommendations and suggestions.

PC

#3 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 05 May 2007 - 12:41 AM

Honestly, I think that your going in November is a very good plan. If at all possible, inquire about stays at Xenophondos, Simonopetra, and Grigoriou—all of these are along the southern/western shore. How many days will you be able to stay?

Isaak

#4 Paul Cowan

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Posted 06 May 2007 - 03:11 AM

Dear Isaak,

I am taking a 2 week work vacation to go. I know I only have 3 days and a possible extension if allowed once I get there. I don't know how long they will permit. I can only pray for the entire 2 weeks. I am hoping since the "rush" season is over and I promise not to stay in one location more than 2 nights? they might permit me? Alot of hoping I won't know until I get there.

I appreciate the suggested monasteries. Why these three if I may ask? I am hoping to venerate the relics of St. John the Baptist and the Holy and Lifegiving Cross. I think these are both on the eastern side of the island though. I pray to St. John every Liturgy for this very purpose.

I have a very special Schemamonk friend who is helping me make plans as well.

In Christ
Paul

#5 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 06 May 2007 - 07:27 PM

Christos anesti!

That time of year (November), you should have no trouble securing an extension at the big yellow building near the Protaton in Karyes. My longest extension was ten days (during December), for a total of fourteen. Do you have any Greek, by chance?

Most of the monasteries have relics of the True Cross. As for Saint John, I don't remember any besides those at Great Lavra and its dependency, the Romanian skete of Timiou Prodromou (Prodromou mean Forerunner, after Saint John).

I mention Xenophondos, Simonopetra, and Grigoriou mostly because there are English speaking monks at these (though there are a good number elsewhere, as well) and because—along the fairly broad spectrum of monastic expressions—these are situated near the end that privileges the light, the joy, and a welcoming outreach to the stranger. This is NOT a criticism of the others, and is certainly NOT to say that any of the monasteries would be wonderful sites to visit and to savor. My own journeys have taken me to all but a few in the north, but my recent journeys have led me to return to these three (as well as Saint Andrew's skete and Saint Anna's skete) where I have made good friends with wonderful, joyful, holy men.

I wonder, does your monastic friend have a connection to any of the monasteries or sketes? If so, I would be tempted to recommend spending more time at fewer places, though having a personal contact with a monastery is pretty much necessary for such an arrangement. My first two trips were spent (without regret) traipsing from monatery to monastery; subsequent trips have led to my spending many days (as much as a week) in one place. The advantage to this is that it really does allow you to settle in to the rhythms of their prayer/life; you would also volunteer, in such cases, to do work (I generally help in the trapeza or in the dishwashing). This is also a wonderful way to get to know the fathers.

That said, for your first trip, you are probably right in wanting to see as much as you can. One other thing: if you're able to do so, walk between monasteries. Certainly, the bus from Dafni to Karyes is a good idea, but beyond that, Id vote for hoofing it, so long as your health is good.

Oh, and don't be put off if certain (or many) "pilgrims" strike you as out of place, or even intermittently impious; this is more likely to happen in the good weather months. My advice is simply to accept, even to welcome everyone, and be very deliberate about not judging others, whether pilgrim or monk. This is the greatest challenge for a man who has come to the Holy Mountain with a somewhat idealized notion of why others are there.

My own pride and judgmental thoughts hampered me off and on. May your journey be more immediately productive of the heart's prayer.

me agapi, (with love)
Isaak

P.S. if ever it looks like you'll be without a place to stay of a given night, make your way to Saint Andrew's skete in Karyes, where Fr. Ephraim (an English monk) is, I believe, still guestmaster, and where you are almost certain to find a place to stay. Oh, and pack rain gear, as well as a pair of wool pants and a wool top, which will keep you warm even if wet.

#6 Simon

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Posted 06 May 2007 - 08:01 PM

Dear Paul,

You go through what may be described as a bureaucratic procedure in order to get to the Holy Mountain; however, even then, somebody may look you in the eye, and give you the permit, even when in theory, regulations don't allow it.

When you get to the Holy Mountain, the bureaucratic aspect fades away. I've been there seven or eight times, and nobody has ever wanted to check anything in that way. The monks assess you spiritually, and if you walk from one monastery to another, they will usually allow you to stay there whether you've booked or not. Some Greeks take advantage of this, and arrive by jeep to within five minutes walk of a monastery, and then walk. Not really cricket!

There are reasons to visit all of the monasteries, without exception, and which ones to visit depends on you. That said, if you’re into chanting, go to Vatopeidi. I’ll give you some further info anon,

Simon

#7 Paul Cowan

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 12:47 AM

Thank you both,

I can tell you for sure I do have an idealized perception of the Mountain. I am sure it will be all that and then some. And then some disappointments also. This not meant in a negative way, but we all romanticize places we may never go to.

Greek? no. I have a little dictionary and need to start studying it more.

Like chanting? absolutely.

Wool clothes? I will need to look around for that. Cotton is easy. Wool in Texas, not so sure.

I am not afraid of work and am actually at home in the kitchen. I am pretty good in the garden too. I even scrub toilets when the Mrs. tells me to. :)

As far as being physically fit...see the Greek answer above. That also gets kicked off here pretty quick.

I had thought the word pilgrimmage meant to walk so yes, that was my only idea. However, I think I will take advantage of the boat when available. To walk the length of the Mountain with its terrain may be more than I can handle.

Can anyone tell me about the wildlife there? I have heard of wild boars and poisonous snakes and it is not safe or "legal" to sleep outside the Monastery. Has anyone ever been been locked out or not found their way there before the gates are locked? and HAD to sleep outside?

If these questions are deemed by our esteemed moderators to be asked and answered offline via private message, please let me know.

Inquisitively
Paul

#8 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 02:24 AM

I've seen sign of boars, heard coyotes, seen a good many small dear and, in six pilgrimages seen exactly two snakes, one huge harmless fella and one small viper. I don't think wildlife is the danger re: sleeping outside, but such camping is discouraged by the fathers, I think, mostly to keep the peninsula from being overrun by mere mountaineers with no interest in the prayer life.

I've never been without a place to stay. The closest I came to that (I wrote about this in my book) was at Koutloumousiou, when the guest master told me there was no room, not today not tomorrow. As I was heading out the gate, I saw that the katholikon was open, and asked if I might go inside to venerate the icons; when I came out, the guest master--smiling--told me my room was ready.

I think Simon has precisely the right take on the heart of the matter. Most of the men who run the bureaucracy are also very keen readers of us slow pilgrims. You'll have a wonderful visit. Go with an open heart, accepting what comes with simple willingness. Things won't always work out as you'd planned, but they will always work out to your heart's advantage so long as you, with glad expectation, lean into whatever DOES come.

kalo taxidi, phile mou,

Isaak

#9 Trudy

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 02:51 AM

Things won't always work out as you'd planned, but they will always work out to your heart's advantage so long as you, with glad expectation, lean into whatever DOES come.



This is such beautiful imagery. "Lean into" whatever God gives you. Look with "glad expectation." I love the way this looks. If I could only practice it.

~Athanasia~

PS: Paul, when you go to the Holy Mountain, please remember me in your prayers.

#10 Olga

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 04:39 AM

Though, as a woman, I can never get to Athos, I can certainly agree with Simon on the Vatopedi choir. I have several of their recordings, and they are just magnificent.

#11 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 05:08 PM

The fathers at Simonopetra are also wonderful psaltes, and have made many beautiful recordings that are available here in the States, as have the nuns at Annunciation in Ormylia, a Simonopetrite dependency.

Isaak

#12 Nina

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Posted 08 May 2007 - 05:25 AM

Some Greeks take advantage of this, and arrive by jeep to within five minutes walk of a monastery, and then walk. Not really cricket!
Simon


(Lots of giggle!) Ah those bad, bad, bad boys!

#13 Nina

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Posted 08 May 2007 - 05:33 AM

The fathers at Simonopetra are also wonderful psaltes, and have made many beautiful recordings that are available here in the States,.
Isaak


Dear Isaak,

When I hear those heavenly voices of Simonopetra chanting I feel like the walls of my home, or the metal of my car is melting because of the beauty of their chanting (and of course the words and melody)!

I can't live without hearing Simonopetra's "Agni Parthene" (O Virgin Pure) and "O give thanks to the Lord"!!!

#14 Angie

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 11:26 AM

Dear Isaak,

Having read your posts, I thought you might be of assistance. My husband is Greek speaking and will be going to Vatepedou monastery. We know some great church friends, and there brother is a monk at this particular monastery.

It is my husbands first trip there and he will be staying for a couple of days. I have heared of the womans monastery near there somewhere.

As you have been there before, could you explain to us step by step what to do once we get in Thessaloniki? We are both Greek and Orthodox.

Were is the monastery for woman? How does he find a good elder to speak to in Vatepedou monastery?

Many Thanks

In Christ
Angela+++

#15 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 12:43 PM

You might try to contact the metochion of Simonopetra in Thessaloniki, asking how you might contact the guest mistress at Ormylia. I'm afraid that I'm in Italy just now, and have no access to the specific contact information here with me.

Good journey,
Isaak

#16 Angie

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 10:38 AM

Thankyou very much.

In Christ
Angela+++

#17 Aaron Taylor

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 05:07 AM

Dear Angela,

Did you and your husband already make your trip? I just registered on monachos.net, and I noticed you never got much specific information about this question!

in Christ,
aaron

#18 Angie

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 09:48 AM

Aaron,

Yes. We came back just 3 weeks ago. My husband Jim, loved Mount Athos! I didn't get to go to Ormilia to the monastery for women, but God willing we will go next time. Thanks for asking.

Angela +++

#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 11:40 AM

I know a hieromonk at Grigoriou, Fr Philotheos. He now lives as a hermit outside the main monastery but he can be sought out. He speaks fluent English.

#20 Paul Cowan

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 04:08 AM

I contacted Thessaloniki and purchased my plane tickets. I am scheduled to step on the Mountain 12:45pmish November 18th. IF my request to stay is accepted I could potentially be there up to 10 days. That's a big IF. I was told to go to Iveron Monestary first. 2 days after I get there, I think it is Dochiariou is having their names day feast. It is a long hike for 1 day. and longer to get back to the other Monasteries I hope to visit on the SE side.

Any thoughts? My primary purpose is to visit the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, Venerate the relics of St. John the Baptist and see the Holy Life Giving Cross. Beyond this, It is too see what this life might hold for me in the future.

Angela:

I would be interested to know where your husband went.

Paul




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