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Women on Mount Athos


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#121 Nina

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 03:51 PM

I see this passage beneficial to explain how a monk from Athos feels (placing ourselves in the another's shoes), although the rest of the article is tainted (so sorry!).

From Karyes it is a three-hour walk to the sea, and the beautiful monastery of Stavronikita. Here a Macedonian monk called Hector talks about life without females.



"People say it is wrong to banish women," he says. "The European Union tells us we must change. We will never change." He half smiles. "When man not see woman, he see inside himself. That is what we are here for, to see inside, and to pray for the world."


But what is it like never to look at a woman? Hector gazes across some olive groves at the sapphire Aegean: "Well, actually, once every few years, one or two monks may indeed see a woman. Sometimes, you understand, women come to the beach here, for an adventure. It is illegal, but they come swimming. They wear bikinis, and then... then is difficult for us." He looks wistful for a while. Then he smiles again. "But most monks will never see a woman. And after a time... you know... is not so difficult."



Another clue to the monks' attitude to women is provided by the writings of Robert Curzon, an English traveller who visited Athos in the 1840s. On his wanderings around the monasteries, Curzon came across a man who had been left as a foundling on the peninsula, and thereafter been brought up by the monks. This experience meant the man had spent all his life in Athos, and therefore had no idea what women looked like. The only idea of the female body that the man possessed was derived from icons of the Blessed Virgin. Perhaps that is why the man asked Curzon if all women had haloes.



Extreme cases such as this are hard to find these days. But it is still possible to encounter unusual experiences. Down the road, at the monastery of Dionysiou, another monk talks of the ups and downs of life in a woman-free world. He is the only English monk on Mount Athos, a kind-eyed, thirtysomething, Oxford-born eccentric who gives his name as Father Jeffrey. "I think it's good there are no women here," he says. "This is a safe place and it should stay that way. But that does not mean you do not have sexual desires, sexual thoughts. The Evil One is always with you."



He turns and squints at a rose, radiant in the sunshine. "You might know we are allowed radios, very occasionally?" He pauses, shyly. "Well, the other day I heard a woman's voice on the radio. It was the first woman's voice I have heard for years. It was so beautiful..." There is pain in his eyes. Then he concludes. "But it is better that there are no women here. Without women, men can concentrate."


I also hear about a monk in Athos, who never saw a woman in his life and then he saw a piece of newspaper -left behind by a careless visitor- which had the photo of a woman and the poor monk had so many temptations.

P.S If interested in Curzon's book mentioned in the passage above, please find it here.

#122 Carol Lockett

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 04:23 AM

Thanks to everyone who wrote me such supportive emails. I've been really tired and not had the opportunity to respond sooner. I regret that I can't respond to everyone individually. I just about cried when I read so many words of love and we had been arguing just days before.

A few quick responses: Paul, yes, the "second men's monastery" in Texas was Christ of the Hills. I visited there during my catechumen days, aware of the scandals, but with an Orthodox friend (female) who said one of the monks was OK and she wanted some spiritual guidance from him. They did have a great bookstore and gift shop! Shortly afterwards the Sheriff of Blanco County raided the placed and arrested 4 or 5 monks for child abuse. The Sheriff had waited 7 years to collect enough evidence to make a good case -- apparently waiting for testimony from the victims, many of whom were now young men (seems that women are not the only temptation to monks!) It was a juicy story in the papers and my husband (who is not religious at all and an even more resistant skeptic than I am) called me at work to tell me about it. "Are these monks from that church you're trying to join?" he asked. I had to spend the next few days explaining to him that those monks had apostated themselves some time ago by refusing to allow the bishop on the property and that, no, that monastery did not represent the "church I was trying to join."

I have no special desire to visit a women's monastery where men are banned. Men are not a distraction to me. There are plenty of things that are distractions to me but the presence of men is not one of them. However, I do wish there was a women's monastery close by. We have St. Pareskevi (sp?) but it is a good 70 miles from Austin and I could not handle this type of travel right now. I visited once after they first opened and there were only 3 nuns there, perhaps there are more now.

Thanks to everyone who listened to me and cared.

In Christ, Carol

#123 Paul Cowan

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 05:32 AM

I visited once after they first opened and there were only 3 nuns there, perhaps there are more now.

Thanks to everyone who listened to me and cared.


No, last I heard there were still three there, however now they have a beautiful new temple to worship in rather than the side den they were using.

Here is a great website for panorthodox in SE Texas (look at the root address) If you click through this hyperlink it will take you to St. Paraskevi Monastery website with pictures of their place.

#124 RichardWorthington

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 07:38 AM

How is it "not spiritually beneficial for women to enter Mount Athos?" How do you (or anyone) know this? Mt. Athos is constanty referred to as the "center" of Orthodox spirituality. Why would it be beneficial to women to ban us outright from entering such a spiritual place?

Carol


Having never been to Mt Athos, I know what I say here can be 'shot down' easily, but here goes.

I guess there are relics of female saints on Mt Athos. Why then are living women not allowed on Athos when the bodies/bones of women saints are allowed?

Forgive us men, but I can think of only one reason: women are just so amazing that we men just can't stop thinking about you!!

The only reason I can think of for not allowing women around is our manly weakness: in this we men are the weaker sex. It is probably all to do with conquering sexual passions. I have heard that in some monasteries elsewhere when young novices are around sometimes the readings of the saints at mealtimes will be modified so that any mentioned of women is removed so that lust is not fed as well.

"Mt. Athos is constanty referred to as the "center" of Orthodox spirituality": My spiritual Father is an Athonite monk: by what he has told me, I think it would be more accurate to think of Mt Athos as the "camelot of Orthodoxy". As a new revised English 'Psalter' has it:

The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot

http://www.allmusica...lot/camelot.htm


I hope this helps.

Richard

#125 Nina

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 01:37 PM


I guess there are relics of female saints on Mt Athos. Why then are living women not allowed on Athos when the bodies/bones of women saints are allowed?


Can I be a bit self-righteous? Please?

We can not compare relics of the saints with the bodies of living females. Let me count the ways we can not... oh but this is common knowledge and we all know the differences between a female saint's relic and a woman who is still alive (sinner, or saint).

The only reason I can think of for not allowing women around is our manly weakness: in this we men are the weaker sex. It is probably all to do with conquering sexual passions. I have heard that in some monasteries elsewhere when young novices are around sometimes the readings of the saints at mealtimes will be modified so that any mentioned of women is removed so that lust is not fed as well.

You are toooooooo nice Richard, but you do not have to put down men (as Mary also has said somewhere else) in order to make women feel better. I am much too proud for that. :) Actually I take offense if someone tries that tactic because that means that we women are too proud and need ego massages. Men are not weaker sex. They are people who struggle for their salvation same as women. Just because I do not like to go to a place full of men/frequented solely by men, does not mean that I am weaker sex, but it means that I am avoiding temptation.

#126 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 02:01 PM

Richard Worthington wrote:


I guess there are relics of female saints on Mt Athos. Why then are living women not allowed on Athos when the bodies/bones of women saints are allowed?


This is actually the point that has been referred to here previously. The rule about women on Mt Athos has nothing to do with an 'inequality' issue.

Rather it refers more to respect for those pursuing a particular way of life.

That is why for those women who have reached the stage of deification and whose relics are on Mt Athos there is no problem presented for those men pursuing the angelic life of asceticism and purity. The same of course also is so much the more for the Mother of God who is the protective Abbess of Mt Athos.

A last aspect to keep firmly in mind is that such women including the Mother of God are on Mt Athos out of obedience not from self will. This last fact changes everything.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#127 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 10:31 AM

Dear friends,

I must say that I agree with Fr Raphael in his post above, and would suggest that the constant return of the question to one of 'equality / inequality' is often unhelpful. This is not because questions of equity and personhood are not important - of course they are; but because this is not really the heart of the issue regarding Mount Athos, despite the fact that our tendencies may often prompt us to think of it in this way.


There have been a number of posts in this thread that deal specifically with the question of what really is at stake in the nature of Mount Athos as a men's-only monastic community, and the concordant prohibition on women pilgrims there. I would strongly encourage a re-reading of several, perhaps starting with:
I do think there are important and good matters for discussion in all this; but I rather fear that segues 'in' to those matters are being provided yet not followed, given the fascination with things like 'equality'.

It would be good to see some more engagement here with the real matter at stake in Mount Athos (there is another thread on the questions of equality in the Church). At this stage, I can't really think of anything else to add to my post above, since we haven't really dived any further into those matters -- and I don't want to repeat myself again at length (my initial thoughts can be read in full above); but I would just reiterate my summary there:

Getting back to the question of the Mother of God and Athos: I believe Father Raphael is wholly correct. The Mother of God is honoured by the Mountain being open only to males, because this is part-and-parcel of the Athonites' renunciation of the world, and their dedication to purity and ascetical struggle. She is honoured there because souls are saved there - which is the Panaghia's desire for all creatures. It is her garden, because it bears the fruit of repentant lives. These lives are male, because Athos is a men's monastic community. Her love for the place in no way belittles her love for any other monastic community her care for any other people. It is the dedication of this place, just as all churches bear a dedication to a saint, as does every monastery - male and female.

Similarly, there are women's monasteries in the Orthodox world that are dedicated to the Mother of God, where she is honoured by the fact that men are not admitted - since in those places, the non-admission of men is part-and-parcel of the nuns' work of purity and ascetical struggle, which yields angelic persons radient with divine life.

And in those places, as in every place where the ascetical life opens itself up to God, and the Creator draws his creature unto himself, the eternal mystery takes place in its fulness. Let us never think this is bound to some place, however famous, however much the historical 'heart' and 'centre' of certain traditions. God is present nowhere so much as he is present here, if I am willing to take the cross he hands to me, be crucified to this world, and joined to his life.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#128 Sabrina (Kassiane)

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 03:57 AM

Hello: I know I'm showing up late to this party, but I do have a question on this topic. What would be the women's equivalent to Mt. Athos? Is there such a place? If so, could you please tell me where it is.

#129 Paul Cowan

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 05:40 AM

Ormilyea in Greece which is a dependency of Simonpetra of Athos

#130 Sabrina (Kassiane)

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 12:55 PM

Thank you, Paul. I googled and found several websites talking about the Holy Cenobium of the Annunciation of the Mother of God, Ormylia and the Ormylia foundation. The place sounds just as interesting as Mt. Athos IMO, and they're doing God's work just as much as the male monks are. It's really too bad some secularists/feminists can only value "male" things and blow off the 'female' things of life if you know what I'm saying.

#131 Paul Cowan

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Posted 01 July 2010 - 02:34 PM

Absolutely I do. I belong to an organization that has membership standards. Those that do not meet those standards are always up in arms because they are not allowed to join. They do have the right to form their own mirror organization, but noooo, they have to make a stink they can't join mine.

#132 Irini kilakos

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 02:13 PM

I think we need to respect and obey the rules of the Holy Mountain!!!!!!!!!




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