It was the evening after the feast of the Finding of the head of St. John the Forerunner, the eve of the feast day of St. Apostle Carp. I felt very inspired that evening. I did not want to sleep at all and I thought, “ Well, let me write something about Fr. Tikhon and send it to the sisters in Souroti”. By 8:30a.m. I wrote about 30 pages. I still did not want to sleep but decided to lie down for a while because my legs were weak.
Sunrise began. By 9a.m. I was still not sleeping. And suddenly I saw that one of the walls of my cell (the one near which my bed stood) just disappeared. I saw Christ – He was in the light, just about 6 meters from me. I saw Him from His side. His hair was bright and His eyes were blue. He did not say a word to me, but only looked – not right at me, but a bit more to the side.
I saw everything with the non-corporal eyes. In such cases, it does not matter whether your corporal eyes are closed or not. I saw that with my spiritual eyes.
When I saw Him, I thought, “ How could they all spit in that Face? How could they – the people without any fear of God – hit that Face? How could they slam the nails into that Body? Oh, God…”
I was struck by that. How pleased I felt at that moment! What a joy I felt! I cannot express that beauty with words. It was the very beauty about which it was said: “You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips” (Psalm 45:2). This is what that beauty was. I have never seen anything like that on any of His images. There was only one – I do not remember where I have seen it – which looked a bit alike.
A person should work in a monastery ever for a thousand years to see this beauty at least for a moment. What great and indescribable things are gifted to people – and how miserable are the things we try to deal with!
After this vision, Saint Paisios the Athonite ordered to the nuns from the monastery of Souroti to make an icon of Christ exactly like he saw Him. The image represents this icon.
What a beautiful vigil at St Arsenios’ annual Feast (+St Arsenios of Cappadocia, Nov. 10)! I do not think any of my photos can convey the holiness conveyed through the monks’ exquisite, prayerful chanting, the Fathers’ prayers, the censing, the tears of the faithful, the dancing chandeliers at Polyelaios…
Fr Synesios was throwing bay leaves inside the church before Vespers started
There were lots of hieromonks, laymen and chanters invited to help with the chanting and the hospitality, and several priests and bishops all over the world since Saint Arsenios monastery is a very missionary-minded monastery and Gerondas Theoklitos has quietly and very discreetly founded together with several of his monks lots of monasteries all over the world.
The Bishop Innokentios of Burundi and Rwanda
The Vigil was in two parts because the Feast was this year on a Sunday: on Saturday evening we had the Vespers and Matins, and on Sunday morning the Hours and the Holy Liturgy. Nonetheless, it was still too long, so long that the faithful were often seen collapsing in their stasidia and seats, and yet at the end, nobody wanted to leave. The monks though were so vigilant, like candles lit, not sitting down even for a minute during all these long hours.
Some of the kollyva prepared by the faithful and the monks.
At the end of the Holy Liturgy, the kollyva of the Saint were prayed in front of his icon. These kollyva were such perfect icons “written” on the boiled wheat that we did not want to eat them! Then, all the faithful were given in the monastery yard a bit of this kollyva, artoklasia and special treats for the Feast, the Fathers briefly disappeared in the arhondarikion, and when we thought that we were done with eating and feasting, we were all invited into the monastery’s trapeza for yet for food.
During the agape meal, lots of chanters and two monks censing with a a katzion (special censer for feasts) and carrying a piece of holy bread, a part of the proskomide’s holy bread, moved around all of us and we each picked up a very small piece. In that sense, the agape meal felt like yet one more Holy Liturgy after the Holy Liturgy in the church. Prayer seems to be seamlessly woven in all monastic activities, even in the washing-up that followed.
Gerondas Theoklitos is on the left, Bishop Nikodemus of Kassandreia in the middle and the monk on the right , deeply bowing his head on the right is Father Arsenios. He was shining at his Saint’s Feast throughout the Vigil and the festivities that followed. He was honoured to read the Akathist before the Saint’s icon and the Synaxarion in the church and in the agape meal that followed at the end of the Holy Liturgy where all the faithful were invited to participate in a fellowship of Love and Holiness. Father Arsenios was the first to receive Holy Communion and the last to eat anything in the agape meal. In fact, I am not sure if he ate anything at all this day as he was so full of Joy and his Saint was feeding him with Heavenly food.
This is Father Nikodemus who greeted me the first dawn here, on his way to a village parish, and we both admired the starlit sky, the “ison” for the worship unfolding in the monastery katholikon.