Theophany Vigil at Mount Athos Monastery Agiou Pavlou

 

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Monastery Agiou Pavlou is situated in the west foot of Athos, 20 min from the sea and is dedicated in the Presentation of Christ to the temple.

The monastery was destroyed many times by various causes, and its buildings belong to different periods. The Katholicon was built shortly before the mid 10th c. The monastery has 12 chapels, the most important of which is that of St George, with frescoes of the Cretan School (1555).

The monastery also possesses the Nea Skete and the Skete of St Demetrius. The monastery is mentioned for the first time, in the mid 10th c., mostly its founder Pavlos Xeropotaminos, and then in 1259. After the Catalan raids, it is degraded into a kellion, only to become a monastery again in the 3rd quarter of the 14th c. In the 15th c. it is financially supported by Serbians rulers and after the fall of Byzantium, by rulers of eastern Europe.

Among the monastery’s possessions, are counted portable icons, heirlooms, holy relics and liturgical vessels. The library contains 494 manuscripts and about 12,500 books. The monastery is inhabited by a brotherhood of 30 monks.

Photos sent  from St. Arsenios’ Monastery (Vatopedi, Chalkidiki) pilgrims; Gerondas Theoklitos is presiding at the Church services.

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Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista (+2019) A Hierarch of Fire

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St. Iakovos of Evia and Metropolitan Pavlos

Suddenly on Sunday 13/1, Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista, reposed in the Lord. He was a very beloved and respected hierarch of the Church of Greece and a spiritual child of St. Iakovos of Evia. His words, example and advice carry great weight and his talks are filled with true love and wisdom. Below are a brief biography and a wonderful recent talk of his with English subtitles. May he have a blessed Paradise, and may we have his blessing!’

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His last night he spent in the Monastery of St. David of Evia and St. Iakovos  [my recent pilgrimage] which he loved so much, and until noon of his last day he was near there in Rovies, serving his final Divine Liturgy on Sunday January 13th next to the Precious Skull of St. David.
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I had the blessing to attend Vigils with this hierarch at Mikrokastro Monastery and I remember his fiery eyes and voice. Even now, three days after his repose, his holy presence is still palpably felt to all. We feel he is alive in our Resurrected Lord. We experience a gladdening sorrow burning our hearts. *”His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14) May he pray for all of us. +Memory Eternal!

 

The video which follows is very important as it reveals Metropolitan Pavlos’ intimate spiritual relationship with Elder Iakovos and relates lots of miracles which he experienced first-hand.
For Metropolitan Pavlos’ life, go here.

God and the Harlot

Did God desire a harlot? Yes, He did: a harlot. I mean by that our own nature. Did God desire a harlot? If a man desires a harlot, he’s condemned, yet God desired one, in order to make her a virgin. So the desire of a man is perdition for the woman, but that of God works for her salvation.

And this mighty and great One desired a harlot. Why? To become her bridegroom.

What did He do? He didn’t send one of His servants, He didn’t send an angel to the harlot, nor an archangel nor the cherubim or the seraphim. He Himself came, because He was in love with her…

He desired a harlot, so what did He do? Since she couldn’t ascend to the heights, He came down to the depths. He wasn’t ashamed to come to a harlot. He came to her hovel. He saw she was drunk. And how did He come? Not in His obvious divinity, but in the same condition that she was in, not in will but in nature, in case she was terrified at the sight of Him and wanted to escape. He came to the harlot and became a human person. And how did that happen? He gestated in a womb for a while and became like any other person. Dispensation, not divinity; the form of a servant, not of the Master; my flesh, not His Essence. He found her [i.e. our human nature, as elsewhere] sorely wounded, bestial, possessed by demons. She [We] saw Him and wanted to flee.

Then He said: ‘Don’t be afraid, I’m a doctor, not a judge. I came into the world not to judge the world but to save it’ [Jn. 12, 47]. And immediately, He called upon the Magi. What a new and strange wonder! The Magi immediately became the first-fruits. He Who holds the world in His hand lies in a manger; He Who cares for all things is wrapped in swaddling-clothes. There lies the temple [of the human body] and within it dwells God. The Magi come and immediately worship Him. The tax-collector comes and becomes an Evangelist, the harlot comes and becomes a virgin, the Canaanite woman comes and is shown mercy. This is typical of people in love: they don’t seek responsibility for sins, but rather they forgive mistakes and lapses. And what did He do? He took her and made her His wife. And what gift did He give her? A ring. What ring? The Holy Spirit. As Saint Paul says: ‘But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us the pledge [troth] of the Spirit in our hearts’ [II. Cor. 1, 21-2]. He gave her the Spirit.

Then He said, ‘Didn’t I place you in Paradise?’ ‘Yes, you did’. ‘And how did you fall from there?’ ‘The devil came and took me’. ‘You were planted in Paradise and he had you cast out. Well, I’m planting you within Myself and will hold you. How? He will not dare come to Me. I will not take you to heaven, but, even more than that, I Who am the Lord of heaven will hold you. The shepherd has you and the wolf won’t come again. Or, rather, I’ll allow him to come’. He bears our own nature, the devil comes and is defeated. ‘I have planted you within me’. This is why He says ‘I am the root and you’re the vine’. ‘But I’m sinful and filthy’ she said. ‘Don’t let that bother you. I’m a doctor. I know my own vessel and how it became distorted. It was clay before and was distorted. I’ll remake it in the water of renewal and fire it in the kiln’.

Pay careful attention here. Look what He does. He came to take the harlot but she- and I emphasize this- was wallowing in filth. This is so that you can see the love of the Bridegroom.

Before, she’d been the daughter of demons, a child of the Earth, unworthy of the Earth. Now she became a child of the King, because that’s what He Who loved her wanted. Love doesn’t examine the means. Love doesn’t see ugliness. That’s why it’s called love, because often it loves what’s ugly. This is what Christ did. He saw an ugly woman (because I can’t say she was beautiful), fell in love with her and renewed her, without blemish or wrinkle. Imagine, a Groom Who makes His ugly bride beautiful!

(St. John Chrysostom, Excerpts from his Second Homily to Eutropios)

 

 

Day trip to the Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner at Serres (II)

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The courtyard behind the main church

Photo Gallery (II) – Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner – Serres, Greece

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The bell tower

In the bottom of a ravine on Mt. Menikion, 8 kilometres north of Serres lies the Monastery of Timios Prodromos (Venerable Forerunner). Since 1270 when the monastery was founded by Saint Ioannikios from Serres and later taken over by his nephew Saint John, this holy monastery has offered tremendous help in the spiritual and ethnic struggles of Hellenism.

A University school operated within the monastery for 300 years where many people graduated as doctors, teachers, priests, etc. The first Patriarch after the fall of Constantinople, Gennadius Scholarius, lived as a monk in the monastery and remained there until his death. His grave is found in the Mesonyktiko of the monastery’s church.

A great deal of the monstery’s destruction was caused by the Bulgarians during their raids in 1917 and in 1941. Most of the monks were killed, and the consecrated vessels and a vast array of manuscripts and books were stolen. Recently the stolen treasures were found in Sofia, Bulgaria, but have yet to be returned to the monastery. After the second raid and the killing of its monks, the monastery was left in ruins. However, with God’s help, the monastery became a convent in 1986. From then onwards, the new sisterhood has continued the Orthodox tradition passed on by the Fathers of the monastery, not only in the restoration of the ruined buildings but even more, in offering the pious people who visit, all the spiritual aid they yearn for.

 

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The bell tower

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A smaller church

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Another small church

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In front of a kelli, ie cell

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Old doors

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Unrestored area

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Area under restoration

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The museum of the monastery is rich, in spite of the pillage of 1917

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Ecclesiastical items from the museum

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Old kitchenware

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Bells and cowbells

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Old chests and irons

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Bakery tools

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The main entrance of the monastery

 

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For Day Trip, Part I, go here

 

 

 

Day trip to the Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner at Serres (I)

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The Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner is 7 miles away from the city of Serres, in Northern Greece. The monastery was founded by Saint Ioannikios, an athonite monk, at the end of the 13th Century.

A photo gallery of a day of blessed fellowship at the Timios Prodromos Monastery together with friends, which were spiritual children of + Elder Eusebios Vittis . Memory Eternal +

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To all my New Calendar friends: Happy Synaxis of St John the Baptist.
To all my Old Calendar friends: Merry Christmas. с праздником. 
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The Serbian armies partially destroyed the monastery in 1345.

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Saint Gennadius Scholarius, Patriarch of Constantinople, retired here between 1457 and 1462. The school of the Monastery was famous and the library was so rich in manuscripts that the monastery was called “of the Grammarians”.

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In 1917, the Bulgarian Army pillaged the monastery, stealing over 200 manuscripts, 1800 old printed books and other treasures, now found in museums all over Europe.

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After the Second World War, the monastery became deserted. It got repopulated by nuns in 1986. In 2010, part of it burned to the ground. The reconstruction work still continues to day.

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Pavilion with old fountain with holy water, now serving as flowerpot

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Old inscription

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Old relief

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There are many springs redirected to the monastery courtyard

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Twelve kilometres northeast of Serres, to the west of a deep ravine Mountain Menikiou, is located the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, one of the historical monasteries and most beautiful monasteries in Macedonia, Greece and one of the major centres of Orthodox monasticism in the Balkans. The natural beauty surrounding the monastery is just breathtaking. The Holy Monastery of Timios Prodromos of Serres is a pilgrimage of stunning beauty.

The establishment of the Monastery in 1270 and its long history testifies the culture, tradition and the rich spirituality of Byzantium, and is an astonishing monument of Byzantine art.

The monastery was built in 1270 AC by Ioannikios, who served as bishop os Ezeve (Dafni). Afterwards, his nephew, Joakim Metropolite of Zihni, during the year 1300 surrounded the nunnery with high, solid walls and endowed it with royal donations (monastery dependency and land).

In 1345 AC the land belonging to the nunnery was almost destroyed by the invasion of the Serbs. Only due to Helen wife of the Serbian Krali Stefanos Dousan, the area wasn’t destroyed.

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The main church (the katholikon) is devoted to Saint John the Forerunner

During the Turkish domination, the nunnery had the great honour of welcoming the first Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios after the fall of Constantinople. According to history, Gennadios was Patriarch for three years, from 1453 to 1457 and then he resigned and came to the Nunnery. In 1462 he was invited to the Patriarchal throne for the second time, which lasted only for one year. In 1464 he returned to the Patriarchal throne for the third time, but he was replaced by Joasaph the 1st, not having even completed one year and as a result, he returned to the Nunnery, where he died in 1472. According to tradition, Gennadios grave was in the middle part of the Catholic church of the Nunnery, close to the graves of the founders. The removal of his relics took place in May of 1854 and now are placed in a box. Close to the tomb there is a marble sign, engraved with an honourable epigram by the poet Helias Tantalidis, which was sent by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, at the time of the removal of the wise Patriarch’s relics.

The nunnery has been the centre of a constant painting movement. There are icons of the 14th century, some of the most interesting in our country and also beautiful wall paintings from the year 1630. There is also an incredible icon screen made out of walnut wood and very artistically engraved in 1804.

In the square ancient tower of the nunnery, that was converted into a library, there were 100 hand-written volumes in vellum, 200 hand-written volumes in paper, 1500 volumes of different kinds of books, 4 golden bulls of Byzantine emperors, in vellum, 5 patriarchal sigils, 4 old codes and many other religious articles that were stolen by the Bulgarians during 1913 and 1917.

Since the early years of its establishment enjoyed the favour of the Byzantine emperors. With donations and the grants acquired considerable wealth and quickly developed into an essential monastic centre.

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The narthex of the katholikon

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The narthex of the katholikon. Carved detail.

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The narthex

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Postbyzantine fresco from the narthex: The Life giving Spring

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Postbyzantine fresco: The Last Judgement

The main temple is stone built, and there are many Byzantine frescoes. The iconostasis is carved and dates back to 1804. In the cathedral, magnificent frescoes are preserved belonging to different chronological phases and in various stylistic trends from the 14th century onwards — a living museum of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art.

The Cathedral is a monument of Byzantine hagiography, whose frescoes are attributed to Macedonian hagiographer M. Panselinos. Along with the surviving pictures, heirlooms, manuscripts and other objects of miniaturisation, they all give a complete picture of the artistic and intellectual radiation experienced by the monastery since its inception to date.

The operation of a Greek school since 1825 and a Seminary from 1869 confirmed the name rightly won as a “Monastery of Literature”.

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The entrance to the nave

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Inside the main church

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Jesus Christ the Saviour, icon fom the iconostasis

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Mother of God, icon fom the iconostasis

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Fresco from the main church

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Christ before Pontius Pilate, fresco from the main church

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The Burial of Christ, fresco from the main church

The age of the monastery, the permanent residence of thirty nuns and the large turnout of believers led to the need for reconstruction of the new Catholic, built in the architectural standards of the Byzantine monasteries.

Since 1986, there have been nuns in the Monastery,  mostly university graduates who chose poverty, chastity and obedience over careers, relationships and motherhood, who came from the Monastery of Panagia Odigitria of Volos and are under the obedience of Elder Efraim of Arizona. The life of nuns is dedicated to worship, reading, and working in the monastery. In addition to their attendance at church, the sisters spent several hours in private prayer and meditation. Often people struggle with the idea of a young woman, even a college graduate, entering religious life: “It seems so different to be readily accepted by others. For several years my parents didn’t recognise it… However, it was a conscious choice through internal need” (Νun Iosephia).

The monastic community is engaged with various daily work and chores: cooking, raising the necessary supplies of vegetables and fruits, producing wine, oil and honey, embroidery, iconography and so many others.

The fraternity under the guidance of Αbbess Fevronia makes every effort to reconstitute the complex with remarkable results. The old distillery of Monastery wine now forms a small cosy museum. On December 13, 2010, the monastery was hit by a fire that destroyed the hospice, the old showroom, the guest room and other buildings. The 30 nuns are trying hard to reconstruct the building complex of the Monastery which was ruined in 1986. Since then, the monastic community in cooperation with the Authority of Byzantine Antiquities in Kavala has undertaken the work of conservation and restoration of the monastery.

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Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel, old tempera on wood

A Brief History of the Timios Prodromos Monastery

The katholicon (main church) was built in the 14th century and belongs to the single-aisled domed type with lite, narthex, exonarthex and an oblong roofed portico on the south side (Makrynariki)

On the north side are two chapels and the belfry. The rest of the buildings are organized around the katholicon: cells, abbot’s quarters, school, refectory, library, hostel. The wall paintings of the katholicon were executed in 1300-1333 and were continued in several periods, by various artists.

The monastery was founded in 1275-1278 by Monk Ioannikios from Serres and a few years later it was renovated by his nephew, Ioakeim, bishop of Zichne. It soon developed to an important monastic centre with great financial prosperity, because it was favoured by the Byzantine emperors. Patriarch George Scholarios (Gennadios) died here and was buried in the katholicon.

As the spiritual centre of Hellenism in eastern Macedonia, during the Balkan wars the monastery of Timios Prodromos (Saint John the Baptist) provoked the fury of the Bulgarians, who took pains to strip it of its historic treasures. Greek historical documents and in particular the monastic library were carried off to Sofia in their entirety in 1912. The quest for these invaluable sources of Macedonian history has since occupied, as it continues to occupy, much scholarly research.

The monastery, still functioning today, acquired its final form with the addition of many buildings during the Turkish occupation.

In the years between 1972 and 1986 the roofs of several buildings were repaired. Since 1986 restoration has been carried out at the cells of the east wing and at the north wing.

This is the most important monastery of Serres (Serrhai).

 

 

St. Seraphim Sarov and a child’s love for his spiritual father

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This is a story about St Seraphim which Fr. Seraphim from Mull Monastery first heard from one of the sisters at his Monastery in Diveyevo:

“When St Seraphim was living as a hermit in the forest, two young men who were novices at the monastery in Sarov had him as their spiritual father (can you imagine that?). One was called Sasha; I don’t remember the name of the second one.

At one point, St Seraphim gave them an obedience to go and pray to the Saints of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He had been there as a young man himself, just before entering the monastery in Sarov, and he probably wanted his two spiritual sons to receive the same blessings he had.

Anyway, having received this obedience and a blessing from the Monastery, they left for Kiev. On the way to Kiev though (which would have taken weeks), Sasha grew increasingly sad and weak. He was missing his spiritual father so much that he felt he could not go on without St Seraphim.

 

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As they were travelling further from Sarov, things got increasingly worse, his heart ached so much, his pain cut so deep that he fell physically ill. He suffered for a few days, tormented by the love he felt for the great Saint and the separation from him, until he eventually died.

He died missing his spiritual father. This is a story I’ve struggled with for a long time, until last year, I asked my own spiritual father about it. What happened to the soul of poor Sasha? Was that not spiritual death, to get so attached to a human being that you could not live without that person?

My spiritual father only said: ‘that young man was not missing St Seraphim, but Christ’s image in the great elder’. He may not have had the spiritual maturity to understand this, but the love he felt, that beyond-human need to be united with St Seraphim, was actually the craving, the longing, the love his heart felt for Christ.

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St Seraphim had revealed to him Christ Himself. Sasha had felt Christ’s love in the saint’s love. His soul understood that there is no life apart from his spiritual father, because – unknown to his simplicity – he had learnt that there is no love apart from Christ. So when the young man died, he did not become separated from his spiritual father, but he finally became One with the Lord of his heart.”

 

* Dedicated to my dearly loved spiritual Father

I know how the monk  Sasha ( Alexander) felt. When away on pilgrimages, the break in my heart gets wider and tears begin to fall. I miss him so much, though,  it seems, it has not been to death so far!