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Non-orthodox pilgrim's first visit to Mount Athos


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#1 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 06:21 AM

Hello everyone,

I have been raised a Roman Catholic, but in the last few years, I have been introduced to Eastern Orthodoxy, and after that encounter, found my own Western spirituality lacking in many aspects, and increasingly interested in Eastern spirituality.

The way I have been introduced may, at first sight, seem superficial: some years ago, on a trip to Russia, just sightseeing Russian Orthodox churches everywhere, with people venerating icons and holding services inside, introduced me to a different approach to Christianity which I have never seen in my life, as it had been previously limited to attending churches and services in the Roman Latin rite. At the same time, in a somehow random way, I learned of Mount Athos' existence, and my interest grew and grew...

I began reading and learning more... a few times I visited Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches in my own city... and began learning more about the Holy Mountain, and my interest of visiting that holy place grew as well.

This week, by calling to the Pilgrim's Bureau, I secured a visit to the Holy Mountain for mid-July in the summer. Maybe, because of my religious raising, and my -still big- ignorance on many issues regarding Orthodoxy, I'm not worthy of such a pilgrimage... but maybe, thinking about it further, who is completely worthy anyway? Maybe the Holy Spirit is mysteriously guiding to an understanding of things not yet understood...

I'm determined not to make a trip there as a "tourist", but rather seeking spiritual nourishment in a spirit of openness, even if Eastern spirituality may seem odd to me at times because of my RC raising. Because of this aim, I would like mainly to sleep in monasteries which share this openness with non-orthodox pilgrims.

I know some monasteries are strict, and do not allow non-orthodox pilgrims in the church services, or others tend to keep them in the narthex... but I still not know for sure which monasteries stick to this practice. I am thinking -for a three night trip- to sleep in a Greek monastery, a Romanian skete, and the Russian monastery... mainly to get a balanced impression of the different cultural patters in which Orthodoxy expresses itself. But I still don't know which Greek monastery will receive me best, and whether a Romanian skete or St. Panteleimonos will receive me well, at least regarding service attendance.

Any opinion and feedback on these inquiries I have, will be greatly appreciated.

May the Lord bless you all.

#2 Kusanagi

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 12:47 PM

If they can receive Prince Charles who is not Orthodox I am sure they will well receive you. Besides it is a monastic custom on Athos to welcome all who visit.

#3 Paul Cowan

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 02:34 PM

Yes, but not all will allow non OC to go to church. They also will all segregate them from the rest during meals. FOr fear of being rebuked here, if one goes to church at 4-6 am, it is still dark and those opening the church doors are not the ones receiveing visitors. If one were to "hang out" near the church and then go in when the rest do and find a stall and remain quiet and jsut do what everyone else does, I doubt you will be noticed. Sorry, I can't recall which ones allowed any nonOC to attend services as I was not looking for this aspect, but I do recall hearing visitors say they were not allowed to attend and it was a shame since they had traveled so far to come to Athos.

Paul

If they can receive Prince Charles who is not Orthodox I am sure they will well receive you. Besides it is a monastic custom on Athos to welcome all who visit.



#4 Kelil

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 11:05 PM

I find that disturbing, and can never see me approaching Christ and have him slam the door in my face and tell me I cannot attend the service, I see that as a sure stumbling block to conversion for anyone to Christianity. what we do to any of these we do to Christ, when we slam a door in someones face we do it to Jesus. When I was with the cistercian community, and St.Benedicts rule was always to take guests in and allow them to attend services, and he also stated that when you open the door to a guest, you open it to Jesus Christ regardless of his belief.

I love my Eastern brothers, but I find a lot of you to be quite rude and dare I say almost bordering on the muslim kind of attitude. I'm not judging the eastern people but examining their behaviour and I see it as morally wrong, bearing in mind I need to examine myself quite a bit.

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 01:42 AM

Kelil,

I did not say the monks of Mount Athos did not welcome visitors as "angels in disguise". They allow them full access to the grounds and rooms to sleep food to eat and the whole monastery to pray. But as our Liturgy says during a part of our services "The doors the doors" meaning all that are not Orthodox are supposed to leave (though rarely does anyone do so anymore) so the "mysteries" of the church may be preserved. I understand in days of old when the church was underground and soon afterwards, there were spies trying to uproot the church so they declared all that were not "in the club" had to leave so the mysteries of the church would not be violated. The Body and blood of Christ are the most sacred of our sacraments. We don't allow anyone not Orthodox to partake of them. To do so would cause them spiritual harm.

The monks of Athos preserve the ancient traditions. My suggestion above of "getting around the rules" was childish and I wish I could repeal it. It reveals a part of my nature.

I am sure in your previous communities there were aspets of them not for the general public. I am truly sorry you feel some in the EO are rude and muslim "attitudely". I am sure if given the chance to respond to a specific charge, they could better explain themselves in a more "christian" attitude.

Paul

#6 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 02:27 AM

First of all, I want to thank you all for your attention to this topic and my inquiries.

But as our Liturgy says during a part of our services "The doors the doors" meaning all that are not Orthodox are supposed to leave (though rarely does anyone do so anymore) so the "mysteries" of the church may be preserved.


Paul, are you saying that non-OC can attend the whole Liturgy except for the consecration of the bread and wine? In my understanding, it seems that in some monasteries non-OC are banished from attending the Liturgy altogether, or at most offered the more lenient choice of watching it, but from a distance.

The Body and blood of Christ are the most sacred of our sacraments. We don't allow anyone not Orthodox to partake of them. To do so would cause them spiritual harm.


I do not intend to partake of the sacraments, as I agree that it may carry undesired spiritual consequences, as well as provoke unnecessary tensions with the other people present. Still, I would like to have a chance to venerate the icons and relics, though I cannot assure that this would be as useful to me as it to OC members. My main interest in attending the liturgy resides in a humble attempt to grasp some of the Eastern spirituality which is lacking in Latin services, as well as contemplating the devotion of the OC faithful, which can be a teaching experience to one's own soul.

Furthermore, I think we would all agree here that the heart and soul of the Holy Mountain, of the monks' lives, resides in the Liturgy. Not attending anyone of them, besides from being a shame, would relegate my experience in Athos to a merely superficial one.

#7 Rick H.

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 11:21 AM

I love my Eastern brothers, but I find a lot of you to be quite rude and dare I say almost bordering on the muslim kind of attitude.


Lest one lives a kind of sheltered life it should be obvious that there are sects/cults of fundamentalism in all religions.

#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 12:25 PM

I find that disturbing, and can never see me approaching Christ and have him slam the door in my face and tell me I cannot attend the service, I see that as a sure stumbling block to conversion for anyone to Christianity. what we do to any of these we do to Christ, when we slam a door in someones face we do it to Jesus. When I was with the cistercian community, and St.Benedicts rule was always to take guests in and allow them to attend services, and he also stated that when you open the door to a guest, you open it to Jesus Christ regardless of his belief.

I love my Eastern brothers, but I find a lot of you to be quite rude and dare I say almost bordering on the muslim kind of attitude. I'm not judging the eastern people but examining their behaviour and I see it as morally wrong, bearing in mind I need to examine myself quite a bit.


I'm not sure if it was clearly explained that it was certain monasteries on Mt Athos that have this practice. When I was there it was only a few monasteries which did this and they were usually those associated with Philotheou monastery. In other words this is not standard practice in Orthodox monasteries. Although we must all be respectful of and understanding of the understanding of place which is still so widely practiced in Orthodoxy. Which is that we all, regardless of who we are, or our station, have our place within the church during the services or at any liturgical gathering (and trapeza/meals are considered to be liturgical in Orthodoxy). This is not meant as a slight against anyone but rather as our participation in that God given order which actually contributes to our salvation. For if I as a priest, for example, sit in the place of the bishop, then this is the height of arrogance & delusion, rather than a sign that finally after all these centuries the Church has finally recognized me.

Thus even with what for us may be more difficult practices, such as having non-Orthodox visitors eat apart from the main trapeza, we still need an understanding of why they do this. I personally had trouble with this practice when I saw it, it troubled me & I would see it as being harmful in our local context- but then again, what if at this monastery they see every aspect of their lives as being sacramental? And thus, like any Orthodox parish, would only allow Orthodox (and often it's only properly prepared Orthodox) to approach the Cup. So the idea then is not to be demeaning of a person but rather to relate to them in that way which reflects God's placing of them and amidst His order.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#9 Paul Cowan

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 01:30 PM

First of all, I want to thank you all for your attention to this topic and my inquiries.



Paul, are you saying that non-OC can attend the whole Liturgy except for the consecration of the bread and wine? In my understanding, it seems that in some monasteries non-OC are banished from attending the Liturgy altogether, or at most offered the more lenient choice of watching it, but from a distance.



I do not intend to partake of the sacraments, as I agree that it may carry undesired spiritual consequences, as well as provoke unnecessary tensions with the other people present. Still, I would like to have a chance to venerate the icons and relics, though I cannot assure that this would be as useful to me as it to OC members. My main interest in attending the liturgy resides in a humble attempt to grasp some of the Eastern spirituality which is lacking in Latin services, as well as contemplating the devotion of the OC faithful, which can be a teaching experience to one's own soul.

Furthermore, I think we would all agree here that the heart and soul of the Holy Mountain, of the monks' lives, resides in the Liturgy. Not attending anyone of them, besides from being a shame, would relegate my experience in Athos to a merely superficial one.


HI Guillermo,

In some parishes here and abroad (and this is hearsay on these boards) nonOC are asked to leave before the consecration ceremony yes. And I have heard more than not though it is stated in all our liturgies, rarely do people actually leave the church at this point.

Monasteries are much differernt than local parishes. They have a "higher watermark" to uphold and depending as Fr. Raphael said on their practise will allow or not allow a nonOC into their church. You will need to ask before you go so you know their practises. I will say in my time preparing for the trip, their window a receiving phone calls is very short and for me between 2:oo-4:00am. so I lost an entire nights sleep more than once just trying to reach them for reservations for the night.

Paul

#10 Kelil

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 04:18 PM

Kelil,

I did not say the monks of Mount Athos did not welcome visitors as "angels in disguise". They allow them full access to the grounds and rooms to sleep food to eat and the whole monastery to pray. But as our Liturgy says during a part of our services "The doors the doors" meaning all that are not Orthodox are supposed to leave (though rarely does anyone do so anymore) so the "mysteries" of the church may be preserved. I understand in days of old when the church was underground and soon afterwards, there were spies trying to uproot the church so they declared all that were not "in the club" had to leave so the mysteries of the church would not be violated. The Body and blood of Christ are the most sacred of our sacraments. We don't allow anyone not Orthodox to partake of them. To do so would cause them spiritual harm.

The monks of Athos preserve the ancient traditions. My suggestion above of "getting around the rules" was childish and I wish I could repeal it. It reveals a part of my nature.

I am sure in your previous communities there were aspets of them not for the general public. I am truly sorry you feel some in the EO are rude and muslim "attitudely". I am sure if given the chance to respond to a specific charge, they could better explain themselves in a more "christian" attitude.

Paul


Sorry Paul forgive my ignorance I had obviously read your post the wrong way, but as far as I know, a lot of Orthodox dont allow anyone to attend the liturgical service at all. But I do find my Orthodox brethren to have quite a hard attiude towards anyone non-Orthodox in the east, perhaps its a cultural thing.

God bless and take care
kelil <3

#11 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 04:55 PM

I have been reading "chronicles of pilgrims" in the web in order to gather more information about this...

To start with, Esphigmenou is off-limits to any non-Orthodox, and will probably be that way during our lifetimes. Many of the other monasteries tend to conform the "Philoteu-group", which follow that monastery's directives of separating non-OC from services and meals... it seems that this group is composed by Karakallou, Xeropotamou, Konstamonitou and Xenophontos, and maybe Koutloumousiou as well.

Regarding the other monasteries, Megistis Lavra, Hilandar, Dionysiou, Stavronikita and Vatopedi seem to confine non-OC pilgrims to the church narthex, but Dionysiou and Vatopedi allow them in the trapeza. Agiou Pavlou seems to be even more original in this practice, as it relegates non-OC to eat in the kitchen. Iviron has contradictory chronicles regarding these practices.

Simonopetra is a curious case: it banishes non-OC from eating in the trapeza, but then allows them to attend the morning services inside the church itself. Maybe they want to make a point to pilgrims first, and then be permissive.

The ones I lack information about are Grigoriou, Zographou, Panteleimonos and the Prodromos skete. From Grigoriou I have read that its monks have a very friendly attitude, and that they like to chat with non-OC and compare Western and Eastern christianity. Maybe this openness would result in an openness regarding services, but only maybe...

One chronicle I read finished with the curious moral of "be Greek", which seems to mean "be bold and insist, because the monks are not condescending to the weak". Maybe this attitude may help me to get lodging in a monastery without a previous reservation, but I'm not sure it will allow me into sacred rites.

Still, after all this reading, I have a much better impression of what to expect, although it doesn't seem encouraging. Sadly, monks there don't treat all non-OC the same way, but despise RC the most... it will be a shame if I -despise my good intentions- am marginated because my denomination is associated with the Sack of Constantinople and other tragic events. Still, I will not lie about my baptism and pretend to be from another denomination. It would be disrespectful to them as well as me. I hope, however, to go, stay and then leave the Mountain without feeling mistreated by Orthodoxy.

#12 Guillermo M.L.

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 04:59 PM

I will say in my time preparing for the trip, their window a receiving phone calls is very short and for me between 2:oo-4:00am. so I lost an entire nights sleep more than once just trying to reach them for reservations for the night.

Paul


One question, Paul: when you made reservations in the monasteries, you reserved by phone, specifying dates in the Julian Calendar?

Forgive me is this is a stupid question, but I would like to avoid confusions.

#13 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 05:15 PM

I find that disturbing, and can never see me approaching Christ and have him slam the door in my face and tell me I cannot attend the service,


Hmmm, then you would probably find the story of St. Mary of Egypt very disturbing. She was kept from entering a Church by a spiritual force that would not allow her to cross the threshold until she repented of her previous life. We have a Sunday during Great Lent dedicated to her memory. Humility counts for much.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#14 Kelil

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Posted 21 May 2010 - 11:52 PM

Hmmm, then you would probably find the story of St. Mary of Egypt very disturbing. She was kept from entering a Church by a spiritual force that would not allow her to cross the threshold until she repented of her previous life. We have a Sunday during Great Lent dedicated to her memory. Humility counts for much.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh


Well Herman God is Love and Humility, and as we know we must all repent believe and be saved, but I cannot see God not allowing anyone in his house ( the Church ) to see the beauty of it and move their hearts towards conversion. God does not close his doors to anyone, and in scripture he even chooses to create a parable about the Good samaritan, and the samaritans were a little group that were despised by the Jews, So much so that when the Pharisees wished to insult him they'd call him a samaritan, the samaritans only accepted the first five books of the Torah and rejected the rest, and were obviously a denomination of complete heresy, and yet Jesus uses them in a parable to show us how we should behave to others with good actions. Also the samaritan woman in the Gospel of John whom he meets at the well is the first in the Gospel to whom he reveals that he is the Christ. and when she asked him who had the truth, he said truly that salvation comes from the Jews. So dont tell me that God would treat people who are not Christian in this way because its quite obvious he doesnt.

As you said, Humility counts for Much,

Kelil, the Donkey

#15 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 12:15 AM

And yet we have Matthew 7:6, and Matthew 15:22-28. We are not a pick and choose religion, choosing which verses we like and rejecting or ignoring the ones we don't. It all does fit together cohesively and God is much bigger than we can (or sometimes want to) see.

At any rate, I suggest you save your umbrage for such a time as you actually encounter such a situation rather than getting all worked up over something you don't really understand. But that might just be me.

#16 Kelil

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 12:32 AM

And yet we have Matthew 7:6, and Matthew 15:22-28. We are not a pick and choose religion, choosing which verses we like and rejecting or ignoring the ones we don't. It all does fit together cohesively and God is much bigger than we can (or sometimes want to) see.

At any rate, I suggest you save your umbrage for such a time as you actually encounter such a situation rather than getting all worked up over something you don't really understand. But that might just be me.


Truth cannot contradict truth, its obvious that we do not give the Eucharist to the Non Christian, this is not what I am advocating, but to not even allow them in the Church? this is not what the scriptures you provided are explaining, the Church fathers rightly explain the scriptures you mentioned, I suggest you look to their unanimous interpretation before concluding your own first. The woman also that you pointed out in chapter 15 was obviously cast out by the Jews and the Lord grants her request, which only further proves my point as the interpretation from the Fathers below point out

Matthew:15:22-28Chrys.: The Evangelist says that she was a Chananaean, to shew the power of Christ's presence. For this nation, which had been driven out that they might not corrupt the Jews, now shewed themselves wiser than the Jews, leaving their own borders that they might go to Christ. And when she came to Him, she asked only for mercy, as it follows, "She cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, Lord, thou Son of David."

Matthew:7:6 Aug.: The dogs are those that assault the truth; the swine we may not unsuitably take for those that despise the truth. Therefore because dogs leap forth to rend in pieces, and what they rend, suffer not to continue whole, He said, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs;" because they strive to the utmost of their power to destroy the truth. The swine though they do not assault by biting as dogs, yet do they defile by trampling upon, and therefore He said, "Cast not your pearls before swine."

Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; (p. 270) The dog and the swine are unclean animals; the dog indeed in every respect, as he neither chews the cud, nor divides the hoof; but swine in one respect only, seeing they divide the hoof, though they do not chew the cud. Hence I think that we are to understand by the dog, the Gentiles who are altogether unclean, both in their life, and in their faith; but by the swine are to be understood heretics, because they seem to call upon the name of the Lord.
"Give not therefore that which is holy to the dogs," for that baptism and the other sacraments are not to be given but to them that have the faith. In like manner the mysteries of the truth, that is, the pearls, are not to be given but to such as desire the truth and live with human reason. If then you cast them to the swine, that is, to such as are grovelling in impurity of life, they do not understand their preciousness, but value them like to other worldly fables, and tread them under foot with their carnal life.

Edited by Kelil, 22 May 2010 - 12:48 AM.


#17 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 12:54 AM

First off, I think you are devoting entirely too much indignation to a non-issue. The vast majority of Orthodox churches and monasteries do not bar people from entering the Church, or even keep them out during services. Some churches do ask non-Orthodox to leave before the Eucharist, a very ancient tradition. You are getting all worked up over the actions of a very small minority of monasteries whom many consider outside the mainstream of the Orthodox Church and are deciding to judge the entire Orthodox Church by those actions.

Sorry but that seems rather unreasonable to this bear of little brain.

#18 Kelil

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 01:01 AM

First off, I think you are devoting entirely too much indignation to a non-issue. The vast majority of Orthodox churches and monasteries do not bar people from entering the Church, or even keep them out during services. Some churches do ask non-Orthodox to leave before the Eucharist, a very ancient tradition. You are getting all worked up over the actions of a very small minority of monasteries whom many consider outside the mainstream of the Orthodox Church and are deciding to judge the entire Orthodox Church by those actions.

Sorry but that seems rather unreasonable to this bear of little brain.


Herman, my dear Brother in Christ, I am not advocating that we disrespect an ancient tradition, and I am not saying that all Orthodox bar people from their monastries, what I am explaining is that many actually do although not all, as you and Paul have kindly just pointed out. Its obvious why they would do it as they would be unsure of anyone who is not Christian would come forth and profane the sacraments, hence why Matthew 7:6 comes into play.

Thank you for your conversation, please, keep me in your prayers.

Kelil, ( the *** ( as in Donkey ) ) lol

Peace be with you.

Edit: I hope the alternative word used for Donkey wasnt taken as pertaining to its modern bad meaning, but just pertaining to its arcaic meaning as pertaining to the animal :-)

#19 Father David Moser

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 01:11 AM

Edit: I hope the alternative word used for Donkey wasnt taken as pertaining to its modern bad meaning, but just pertaining to its arcaic meaning as pertaining to the animal :-)


As you are Roman Catholic, I have no doubt that you were referring to Francis of Assisi's practice of referring to his body as "Brother A**"

Fr David

#20 Kelil

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 01:16 AM

As you are Roman Catholic, I have no doubt that you were referring to Francis of Assisi's practice of referring to his body as "Brother A**"

Fr David


LOL, now that was just the quote I needed to contemplate on before going to Bed, I had no idea he said that, the Holy Spirit is definitely speaking to me tonight. Thank you Father David,

Thoxa Sto Christo
Stephen <3




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