Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Non-orthodox pilgrim's first visit to Mount Athos


  • Please log in to reply
58 replies to this topic

#21 David Lanier

David Lanier

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 138 posts

Posted 22 May 2010 - 02:15 PM

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.

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


Kelil since you're in Ireland why don't you go and visit an Orthodox church there? I'm sure you'd find them to be very welcoming. Personally, I think anyone who's not Orthodox should begin their journey by attending a local Orthodox church where possible so that they can get used to the customs and traditions that we Orthodox hold before jumping into such a highly ascetic experience like a visit to Mt. Athos, although it is possible for a non Orthodox person to be totally transformed by a pilgrimage to such a place.

Here an Anglican priest embarks on a pilgrimage to St. Anthony's in Egypt and undergoes an amazing transformation for the short time that he's there: http://blip.tv/file/1762501

#22 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 22 May 2010 - 03:40 PM

Guillermo,

I don't know of the accuracy of what you are reading, but I do know at St. Paul's the nonOC did NOT eat in the kitchen. They did eat at the other end of of the refectory from the OC. My foggy brain seems to recall this of all the monasteries. The guest master will tell you the rules of the monastery. You can also ask when you call. Summer will be a terrible time to go as this is the most visited time of the year and will be very limited on space and "tempers". Don't be ashamed of your baptism but don't flaunt (advertise) it either and you may be able to go and see things you would not normally.

Paul

Edited by Paul Cowan, 22 May 2010 - 03:50 PM.
used wrong church term; again


#23 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 22 May 2010 - 03:45 PM

Actually, I did a very stupid thing. I did not make any reservations before arriving. I was warned more than once against this. I think the ONLY reasons I was allowed to stay was I walked between monasteries as a "true" pilgrim, (it was obvious when I arrived dripping in sweat), I was alone and they only needed to come up with one bed, and I was an American who flew 9000 miles to get there. I was still told I could not have a bed at every monastery since I did not reserve one, but was alwasy told to wait and they would check. Except for St. Panteilemon where I was refused flat out and only the intercession of the guest host to the guest master got me in after he heard why I had come.

Being nonOC and in the peak of visiting season, DO NOT do what I did. It is also illegal to sleep outside the monastery grounds over night. (no camping). Whoever answers the phone "should" be able to speak English and you can verify the two calendars when you speak to him. I suggest you write down all your questions first. You only have a 2-3 hour window they receive calls and they are the middle of the night for us here.

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.



#24 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 22 May 2010 - 04:44 PM

I do know at St. Paul's the nonOC did NOT eat in the kitchen. They did eat at the other end of of the refectory from the OC. My foggy brain seems to recall this of all the monasteries.


This is not unique to Mt Athos. At Holy Trinity Monastery, the trapeza has two rooms - one for the monastics, seminarians and clergy and the other for women (including nuns), laymen and other visitors.

Fr David

#25 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 22 May 2010 - 11:18 PM

Holy Archangels here locally allow laymen to eat with the monks. Women eat together in an adjoining room. and each gender has their own side to stand in the chapel or church.

Paul

#26 Jeremy Troy

Jeremy Troy

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 175 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 23 May 2010 - 12:34 AM

Holy Trinity, here in Michigan, has the monks eating in the same hall as the laymen, but at a table that is separated from the rest. The women ate in an area that was connected, but up a few steps and around a corner. They also have women and men on different sides of the chapel. I'm not sure what their policies on non-Orthodox are.

#27 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 23 May 2010 - 12:40 AM

Paul,

Many thanks for your kind and informative reply.

I think I will take a shot at reserving at Simonopetra and Saint Panteleimon, but asking the rules for non-OCs first. My third choice would be the Prodromos skete, in order to get a Romanian impression as well. I was thinking of Lakkoskiti instead of Prodromos, but their idiorrythmic feature means there won't be services (I won't be going on a Sunday), and their more-than-usual isolation may result in a group of non-English-speaking monks.

Other questions I have for planning my visit are more of the practical nature. I intend to visit other monasteries aside from the ones I will be spending the night, but the extent of mobility in the Mountain is still uncertain to me. I plan to walk between some monasteries, but I also see than taking a boat between some monasteries will shorten some trips and maximize precious time. Still, I don't know if a boat can be taken between monasteries anytime, or there are few boats with already arranged schedules. Same question goes for the Karyes-oriented buses: is there one or many buses to Karyes everyday? Are they free or charge for their services?

Inside my mind, a day there may seem long, but I also know that time passes more quickly than one imagines, so I'd better suppose I will not have plenty of time.

Thanks again!

#28 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 23 May 2010 - 02:45 AM

Ah time. Let me tell you of time. Greece is 8 hours ahead of USA and Byzantine time is set by the sun decending behind the mountain. You will not have enough of it. Honestly, don't expect to be able to visit more than one monastery per day. Not if you want to take in all it has to offer. Otherwise you are virtually running to go from one to another. The east side of the mountain boats are very problematic as they are hampered by rough seas more so than the west side. You also have a differnet parting point than Ornoupolis. (sp). When I arrived my first day, the boats did not run due to high waves. Even if the big boat can get you to Daphne, the smaller boat and even the speed boats may not be able to get you to the south side near St. Anne's Skete. Keep an eye out for the police speeders as they cruise the coast line. I have heard also there are 7 story passenger liners during the summer that blast loud speakers showing the tourists on them the monasteries as they pass by.

There are 2 large boat runs to Daphne on most days. One very early and the other in the early afternoon. Then the smaller boat can take you to the south end. It is a 2-3 hour ride regardless. The boat does stop at each monastery on the way to let people off. I strongly encourage you NOT to take the taxis. They are over priced and you miss SO much of the experience. The bus from Daphne to Karyes does charge but it is only about 2 Euros each way. The taxis are more like 5 Euros. The buses fill quickly when the boats unload and run twice a day stopping at Xeropotamo and Karyes. There is also a foot path from Xeropotamou to St. Panteilemon you may want to take.

Your questions bring back my trip as if it were yesterday. THANK YOU.

Some monasteries like St. Panteleimon will not allow you to take pictures anywhere on their property. If you come across a monastery book store, buy what you are able as not all of them have one. I wanted to go back to Iveron but could not. St. Panteleimon has a very nice one.

Don't forget to leave a "gift" before you leave. Though you are not required to and will never be asked for one, they are putting you up for the night and feeding you.

what else? I assume you have already been to Friends of Mount Athos site.

Paul

#29 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 23 May 2010 - 08:41 AM

Ah time. Let me tell you of time. Greece is 8 hours ahead of USA and Byzantine time is set by the sun decending behind the mountain. You will not have enough of it. Honestly, don't expect to be able to visit more than one monastery per day. Not if you want to take in all it has to offer.


Thanks, I'll sincerely take that advice, in order to keep down my expectations. The hours ahead of USA don't mind, all that minds is the time one has there to "spend", and how fast it goes... and it surely goes fast, especially if one is enjoying the time there.

I strongly encourage you NOT to take the taxis. They are over priced and you miss SO much of the experience.


I think I agree with you, but I'll be curious anyway, because I think the answer to this question may be enlightening: What do you mean exactly by "the experience"?

Your questions bring back my trip as if it were yesterday. THANK YOU.


You are welcome! =)

If you come across a monastery book store, buy what you are able as not all of them have one. I wanted to go back to Iveron but could not. St. Panteleimon has a very nice one.


That's something I have been curious about. Where stuff is sold and bought in Athos. I read in some sources that, in Daphne, there are for sale prayer ropes made by hesychasts from the Athonite desert... I don't know how much of that source is true, but I'll sure love to support an (unfortunately unknown) hermit by buying a prayer rope made by him. A similar issue with boggles me a bit is where icons are for sale and where... are icons available to buy at monasteries themselves, or only at "stores" in Karyes and Daphne? I ask these questions not treating those items as "tourist souvenirs", but items which I think may forge my own spirituality in the years to come.

Don't forget to leave a "gift" before you leave. Though you are not required to and will never be asked for one, they are putting you up for the night and feeding you.


I thought the monks would never accept gifts for this. Which do you think is the proper manner to leave gifts that would be correctly received?

what else? I assume you have already been to Friends of Mount Athos site.


Of course. I know their Pilgrim's Guide almost by heart now, but you still contribute valuable information that is not in their Guide. For that, I am most grateful =)

#30 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 23 May 2010 - 01:03 PM

Sorry, I never learned how to multi-quote...

The experience! walking between Karakalou and Megista Lavra as you come to a bend in the road, you will hear "angels" singing about 500 yards above you. There is a kelia up there somewhere in the trees and it was about 2:00pm (my time) and I was mesmerized and had to take a pack-off break and sit on one of the big boulders to listen. ALso the type of wild edible food on the path is wide and varied. I am also into old archetecure and geology. None of this you can "experience" in a taxi.

As far as I know everything but the printed books are made on the mountain. Everything from cheap looking hand carved crosses to esquisite icons. Don't forget to bring back some Athos wine! Daphne has 2 main stores and Karyes has a dozen or more. ***DO*** stop in at the bakery early in the morning in Karyes. It is not far from the admin building on the way to Koutlamousio. There is also a little coffee shop on the main strip there. In my visit, of the 8 monasteries I visited in my 13 days, there only 2 had gift stores I took notice of. Iveron and St. Panteleimon.

The monks will not "accept" a gift. I left mine in the candle money box in the church or someplace "safe" they will find it. I also left practical gifts in my bed when I left like pruning shears and work gloves.

Now I want to go with you!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul

#31 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 24 May 2010 - 12:02 AM

In my visit, of the 8 monasteries I visited in my 13 days


Thirteen days? Impressive! But envy is a capital sin =P

I will priorize walking and boat transport, not taxis then. For this, it would be useful to have an accurate guide to the Mountain footpaths, but I don't know if such guides are for sale in Ouranopolis or Daphne or Karyes... did you manage to get one? How?

Did you get to know any hermit while trekking? Are they friendly?

Another idea I have in mind is to visit, the day I will be leaving, the Zographou monastery, and pay homage to the Zographou martyrs. Their deaths on hands of Latin crusaders is a story that, I admit, ashames me as an RC, and this is why I have this idea of mine... still, I don't know how the monks from that monastery would take such a gesture... what do you think?

G.

#32 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 24 May 2010 - 04:23 AM

To get the best map of the Mountain, you must obtain one from Mr. Reinhold Zwerger of Austria. You can get his information from the FOMA website. i am having difficulty with thisparticular page as it won't load properly. All the others seem to do just fine though. When I "spoke" to his daughter 2 1/2 years ago, he was already very old and she did not know how much longer he would be publishing the map. I got many compliments from other visitors and even monks on the quality of his map. Yes, there are others out there, but not to the scale and detail as his.

Hermits? no. However when I stopped to listen to those "angels" I mentioned earlier, a lone monk drove up in a small pick up, parked, locked his doors, took out some tools and walked right past me without saying a word and then scaled the hill I was under grabbing hold of anything he could to work his way up this very steep hill. I was thinking only he knows the trail up there and he looked like a little kid climbing in the woods. I wondered what winter looked like for him.

I found most monks are very chatty; so you won't have a hard time talking to someone, mostly. English is the second language there it seems and I was the mountain's lone english teacher for my stay. Everyone wanted to impress me how good their english was (other guests).

I don't see anything wrong with making amends for our ancestors. I am sure mine did shameful things where they came from also.

I went during Thanksgiving in USA so it was not very busy there. It was raining when I landed and raining when I left and I missed getting snowed in by 1 day. I could have been trapped there for another glorious month or 3. Becuase it was a "slow" season, they allowed me an extra long extension. I guess they knew I really needed it. :)

Paul

#33 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 24 May 2010 - 07:41 AM

To get the best map of the Mountain, you must obtain one from Mr. Reinhold Zwerger of Austria. You can get his information from the FOMA website. i am having difficulty with thisparticular page as it won't load properly. All the others seem to do just fine though. When I "spoke" to his daughter 2 1/2 years ago, he was already very old and she did not know how much longer he would be publishing the map. I got many compliments from other visitors and even monks on the quality of his map. Yes, there are others out there, but not to the scale and detail as his.


I am aware of this Zwerger guy, yes, but his attitude -from what I have read about his map- seems puzzling to me. Instead of mass-publishing his map straight away, with his copyright, and earning the royalties of its mass publication, it seems he wishes to be contacted by each particular pilgrim who wants to use his map. Without criticizing him, I simply don't understand it. Please correct me if I'm wrong with this impression.

It's good to know that monks are chatty... I had a slight impression that monks were not all that happy with visitors, and would rather go with an undisturbed monastic life. English is not my first language either, so I think they will not try to impress me, but it will be interesting anyway :)

#34 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 24 May 2010 - 12:38 PM

Monks are not robots, they are still human beings even if they are trying to live an angelic life. Some are more successful and consistant at it than others.

#35 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 27 May 2010 - 06:50 AM

Again, thanks to all of you for your precious input.

I have some question regarding etiquette. Please forgive me if some of them seem stupid, but as I have never visited an OC monastery before, there are surely some rules which I have never been aware of:

1) What is the proper way to greet a monk, abbot, etc, and/or ask for their blessing?
2) What is the proper behaviour when presented with a relic or an important icon?
3) It is OK to engage in conversation with a monk, or should I expect the monk to speak to me first?
4) Last but not least: I intend to wear sneakers, mainly because they are most comfortable for trekking the Mountain... but maybe I'm expected to wear shoes?

Thanks again for your feedback!

#36 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 27 May 2010 - 01:05 PM

1) Cup your right hand into your left and bow slightly and ask for their blessing. IF they give theblessing, then kiss their hand. Many will not be allowed to do this as this is not their role. Shaking hands is fine also. And some may not even be allowed to do this. Assess their body language to see if they are receptive to approach.
2) As a nonOC, I doubt you will be. But, cross yourslef 2 times while doing a metania between each one and kiss the icon or relic then cross and bow again
3) Again, some will not be allowed to do this. The guestmaster can tell you their etiquette.
4) wear dark colored sneakers. White is not proper in church. If you really intend to walk th emountain, I suggest you get walking boots instead. They will hold up better and will not hurt your feet as will sneakers after a few miles.

No stupid questions here G.

Paul

#37 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 19 August 2010 - 06:00 AM

I have returned from my trip through Europe, which included the Holy Mountain.

Instead of the original number of 3 nights I intended to stay, I stayed 5. I visited 7 monasteries (but slept only in 5 of them) and 2 sketes. It was quite an enlightening experience, which helped me to get a much better understanding of the Orthodox world, as well as to leave aside some myths about Athos.

One of these days, when I finally recollect my memories about the trip in an orderly manner, I will share with you my thoughts.
Please stay tuned! =)

#38 Nathaniel Woon

Nathaniel Woon

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 153 posts

Posted 21 August 2010 - 12:50 AM

We're waiting with bated breath!

#39 Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,064 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 22 August 2010 - 04:05 AM

yes, please do tell. My own "memoires" are almost 3 years now past my publishing date.

#40 Guillermo M.L.

Guillermo M.L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 126 posts

Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:45 PM

I still don't know where to start, but I'll try to start anyway =)

Some of my expectations where fullfilled and some not. I met many interesting people on the way, but they were all fellow pilgrims to the Mountain. I couldn't really talk to any of the monks, at least not further from any basic conversation involving food, shelter and ferry schedules. Not only there was a language barrier (the monks generally spoke little English; I myself spoke little Greek), but I had the impression that the monks preferred not to be disturbed. They received pilgrims because of an obligation to hospitality, but I felt that in their hearts, they would rather be left alone to pursue their life of prayer. The other pilgrims I met (not only Greeks, but also Romanians and Bulgarians), were on the contrary very enthusiastic to engage in conversation: we were all excited to be in that place.

The attitude of the archondaris (the guestmaster) of the monastery remained puzzling to me: in some monasteries, the archondaris was very friendly to pilgrims, and in others he was somehow cold and distant, speaking to the pilgrims only laconically. I still don't know if the hegumen of the monastery selects a cold monk to be the archondaris, in order to develop in him a more sociable attitude, or if the daily dealing with pilgrims turns an archondaris from sociable to cold and distant.

Still I had very fulfilling moments: few things are comparable to the sensation felt when turning round a slope and suddenly seeing the monastery one has been walking to during hours, or being presented with relics like the ones of the True Cross. I had the gift of being at Lavra during the Feast of Saint Athanasius, the monastery's founder: it was a 14-hour long ceremony performed overnight, which included many Orthodox rites I have never seen before, like the Blessing of the Waters or the ordination of a priest.

Most of the monasteries didn't have a real problem with me being non-Orthodox. As long as I refrained from partaking of the Holy Mysteries or taking the antidoron, there was no problem with where I was standing inside the church. I didn't talk about my baptism, but at least one monk in each monastery knew about it: the archondaris who read my diamonitiron. In each of the services, I entered the church, venerated the icons, chose the stall I liked more, and if the archondaris didn't try to move me elsewhere, I felt like having an implicit permission to stay there.

I still have a lot to tell, but I would also like to read your comments and questions before continuing. Next time I will write some tips that I think will be useful to future visitors.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users