Dear brothers and sisters,
Christ is in our midst.
26 — 30 October
A retreat at the monastery of Saint John the Forerunner with Gerondas Gregorios, 45 monastics and about 5 guests. This is one of the most introvert, silent, strict, otherworldly monasteries I have ever been, where the emphasis is on the lesson of repentance. Yet, Gerondas Theoklitos’ word for me upon my return was to go there, only there and not anywhere else, and that as often as I can and as long as I can.
A chain of feasts! St Demetrius, Resurrection Sunday and +The Holy Protection of the Theotokos (28 Oct — Greek, not Slavic calendar)
This is the third time I am celebrating this feast this year: once at Walsingham (1st October), the second in Holy Land (old calendar) and the third here at the Monastery of St John the Forerunner.
These are all major feasts and day of rest and all monastics have disappeared to their cells for more intensive study and prayer. An atmosphere of utter stillness, silence and quiet. One could hear only the birds and the bees basking in the sunshine. Such quietness and stillness of the day proved essential for my mind. Therapeutic and healing.
Today was a regular day and after Matins and Holy Liturgy and our meal, we all engaged in various obediences. Mine was to clean both churches and after the second meal, help wash and cut lettuce. Every day we take the blessing of Elder Gregorios who lives in a separate, remote cell in the monastery. Everything is so orderly and quiet compared to our lives! The blessings of obedience!
This time, for the first-ever time, I am allowed access to the most ”private” wings and wards of the monastery. I am sure Gerondas Theoklitos’ request must have made a difference. I found this “privilege” very strange and became even more silent. I also felt a bit “scrutinised” by the otherworldly monastics, but maybe, I was too self-conscious.
My biggest surprise though came after Little Compline when a monastic, Brother Philotheos asked my help in a translation matter! Our discussion soon expanded and lasted long for those very silent monastics. I think he wanted to become friends with me. I also think that I might end up with a new obedience very soon: help with the whole translation of a very long, 300-page book … This American Cypriot monastic ended up here 25 or so years ago…
I was told that he was the nurse to another monastic I knew intimately for the last months of his life: + Brother Paisios. He spent a lot of time with him and this late brother spoke a lot about me, especially during his last months while I was away in the UK. He told Brother Philotheos that he loved me very much, suffered for my Cross, eagerly awaited my returns and prayed a lot for me, as he keeps praying now for me in Heaven. “Please pray for him as he is doing for you in Heaven.”
What a surprise! I mean I have been praying for him too and indeed was providentially present at his death and funeral (with Gerondas Gregorios by his side) at one of my very brief visits to Greece, but I knew nothing of all this! I had worked with this late brother Paisios on various publication/ translation projects but he was always so silent and immersed in prayer. He never told me anything about himself or asked me anything about myself. How very strange! How did he know things about my life?
Brother Paisios was an Oxford graduate who turned down their job offer to become a monk, a scholarly monk. How moving all this is! Our last project was + Brother Porphyrios’ 3 volume composition: monastic rule for a men’s monastery!
My stay at the monastery is becoming more «interesting » day after day … I am in tears, deeply moved by this message from the “other” side …
I am leaving early in the morning, spiritually refreshed, stronger, with a long list of errands for the monastery from Thessaloniki. It seems that I have unofficially become their “αποκρισάριος”, a Byzantine term for monasteries’ messengers, go-between, ambassadors, laypeople who undertook errands for them in the world and represented them, but I have not yet found its equivalent in English. Do you know how they call this “title” in English?
15/11 A reader of this blog told me that the closest word to what I am looking for “αποκρισάριος” is “envoy“
You are their – con·cierge
Learn to pronounce
noun: concierge; plural noun: concierges
(especially in France) a caretaker of an apartment complex or a small hotel, typically one living on the premises.
a hotel employee whose job is to assist guests by arranging tours, making theater and restaurant reservations, etc.
mid 16th century (denoting the warden of a house, castle, prison, or palace): French, probably based on Latin conservus ‘fellow slave’.
While true it is a monastery and not a hotel & you are not their employee, in a way, you ‘procure’ items for them. You fulfill their needs and act as a go-between to the outside world for them.
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Thank you for the “tip”. I always felt that concierge had to with taking care of a place, a hotel or whatever ( a quite static task), whereas here I will be in charge of all their errands and reprsentation, “PR”, and communications with the world outside the monastery gates, a more dynamic and varied “job description”. Any other suggestions?
I see what you mean. (I did not see this when reading the previous comment) perhaps envoy is the better word?
I think so. Let us see …
Dear MB, a reader of this blog told me that the closest word to what I am looking for “αποκρισάριος” is “envoy”. Your thoughts?
Well, according to the dictionary, an envoy is a messenger while a concierge procures items for those he/she looks after. I think concierge might work better because you do go shopping for the monks.