The Monastery Diaries 6

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Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery

 

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Assumption Monastery

 

New 2020 obediences–New Envoy duties

 

This time to two monasteries at the suburbs of Thessaloniki, both at Panorama. The one is of the Nativity of the Theotokos, which belongs together with the nearby men’s monastery of the Holy Trinity, to +Elder Symeon Kragiopoulos’ monastery ‘complex‘. The opening photograph at their website shows both monasteries; the women’s monastery is the smaller one in the background); the second monastery is of the Assumption to the Theotokos  https://www.google.com/maps/uv?hl=en&pb=!1s0x14a846fddfe0e7d3%3A0xc72518e226191bdc!3m1!7e115!4shttps%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipPPDnFBdX1QlSJkJUMbysQeSsbBjsnLEGKPQOrb%3Dw480-h320-k-no!5zzpPPhc69zrHOuc66zrXOr86xIM6ZzrXPgc6sIM68zr_Ovc6uIM6azr_Ouc68zq7Pg861z4nPgiDPhM63z4IgzpjOtc6_z4TPjM66zr_PhSDPgM6xzr3Ov8-BzrHOvM6xIC0gR29vZ2xlIFNlYXJjaA&imagekey=!1e10!2sAF1QipMNsnxgG8ntgkYI5Rvp_YnQPBa30XAbs3XvDizB&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiiq6-hs_nmAhURaFAKHRJ_BoMQoiowGHoECAwQBg

 

Never a dull moment! So much to discover… I hardly know anything about the inner life of these two monasteries. Your prayers

The Monastery of Hosiοs Loukas

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From Steiri, through the prayers of Saint Luke, whose presence is tangibly felt in his monastery.With all best wishes for the forthcoming New Year, and Theophany, and to those still awaiting the celebration of the Nativity. 

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On the western slope of mount Elikonas, opposite mount Parnassus, after the village of Steiri, at a distance of approximately 30km from Livadeia, is the famous Monastery of Osios Loukas (St Luke), the largest and best-preserved monastery complex of the Middle Byzantine Period, with exceptional architecture and excellent decoration of mosaics, wall paintings and sculptures. With the Nea Moni of Chios and the Monastery of Daphni, the monastery of Osios Loukas is included in the list of world heritage monuments of UNESCO since 1990. Hosios Loukas is a breath-taking Byzantine monastery in a picturesque green and golden valley full of flowering almond and olive trees, near the town of Distomo. The landscape surrounding the Monastery of Hosios Loukas may not be as breath-taking as Meteora, but is still spectacularly blessed in beauty, even in wintertime when we visited it. As to the exquisite, stunning Beauty inside the monastery complex, and especially the katholikon, the main church, I hope these photos and videos can capture some of it.

 

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Saint Luke

Hosios Loukas Monastery meaning “Blessed Saint Luke” was not built in honour of Luke the Evangelist, but was established by the Greek monk Loukas. He was buried in the crypt of the monastery when he died in AD 953. I am still puzzled at the spelling of the word “Hosios”, as I have never encountered it before, but that is the official English ‘translation’ and the spelling adopted by UNESCO.

Saint Luke, born in AD 896, abandoned his home when he was an adolescent in search of spirituality. In the following years, he became a healer and was renowned for healing ailments that were practically impossible to cure.

Lukas developed a great talent as a prophet and predicted that Romano II would liberate Crete from the Arabs after his death. When the emperor defeated the Saracen Arabs, he commissioned a church to be built in his honour. [For  a more detailed Life, go to the bottom of the page]

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Exploring the monastery

One of the most striking aspects of the monastery is found at the entrance. If you look up, you will see a spectacular gold mosaic of the saint. Attached to the abbey is a large church, Katholikon, which in its turn is attached to a smaller temple, or Theotokos, erected between 997 and 1011 to honour the Virgin Mary.

The temples are beautifully decorated with numerous frescoes and mosaics, all perfectly preserved.  Underneath the Katholikon is the crypt where the remains of the saint lie.

 

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Although Hosios Loukas is smaller, the building reminded us of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

 

 

This monk is the one who did the guided tour for our group (St. Arsenios monastery, Chalkidiki). There are only three monks, all hieromonks, in this monastery complex, and they are all so full of His Grace!

Luke of Steiris, Luke Thaumaturgus, Luke the Younger, Luke of Hellas, or Luke the Wonder-worker (896 — 953 AD) was a Byzantine saint of the tenth century AD who lived in the themes (provinces) of Hellas and Peloponnese in Greece, and who founded the Monastery of Hosios Loukas (Venerable Luke) on the slopes of Mount Helicon, between Delphi and Levadia, near the coast of the Gulf of Corinth in Boeotia, Greece. 

The principal source for Luke’s life is an anonymous Life written by a monk of Hosios Loukas who had been one of Luke’s followers. His feast day is commemorated on February 7,and the translation of his relics on May 3. His relics are preserved in his monastery of Hosios Loukas.

Early Life

Saint Luke was born in 896 to pious parents who came from Aegina but were forced to settle on the Greek mainland due to Saracen raids. Luke was the third of the seven children of Stephen and Euphrosyne. From his earliest years, he showed a desire for a life of ascesis and contemplation usually only found in seasoned elders. He abstained from all flesh, cheese, eggs, and delicacies, drank only water, and kept a total fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. While herding cattle or tilling the family fields, he would often give away his food and even his clothing to the poor, returning home naked. He once gave away almost all the seed which was needed for planting in the fields. The Lord rewarded him for his charity, and the harvest gathered was greater than ever before.

When his father died, he abandoned farm work to devote himself entirely to prayer, making such progress that he was often witnessed by his mother lifted above the ground while praying.[3]

Monasticism

As a child Luke tried twice to leave home to seek a solitary life of prayer. The first time, he attempted to withdraw to Thessaly, but was captured by soldiers lying in wait for escaped slaves and was returned home.[4] The second time he had more success, meeting two monks journeying from Rome to Jerusalem[5] who took him to a monastery in Athens where he received the small habit.[6][note 3] At this point he was only fourteen years old (910 AD), and Luke’s mother who was very concerned for him, prayed for her son’s return. After seeing his mother in a dream, tearfully calling for her son, the abbot sent him home.

He returned home for four months, and then with his mother’s blessing he set out again upon the monastic life, going to a solitary place on a mountain called Ioannou (or Ioannitsa). Here there was a church dedicated to the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, where he lived an ascetical life in constant prayer and fasting for seven years.[7] The Life records with suspicious symmetry that during this time Luke received the great habit[note 4] from two monks[note 5] travelling from Jerusalem to Rome (presumably the same two from whom he had received the small habit on their outward journey).[8] After this, St Luke redoubled his ascetic efforts, for which the Lord granted him the gift of foresight.

Luke’s fame spread and a number of miracles are ascribed to him during this period, such as revealing to two brothers the location of their dead father’s buried treasure.[9]Numerous proofs of Luke’s holiness are also given, such as sleeping in a trench to remind himself of death,[10] or being visited in a dream by an angel who let a hook down Luke’s mouth and “drew out a certain fleshly member therefrom”, freeing him from the temptations of the flesh.[11]

After a seven years on Ioannou, the saint moved to Corinth because of an invasion of the Bulgarian emperor Symeon (which Luke had predicted).[12] Hearing about a certain Stylite at Zemena (Gimenes) near Corinth, he went to see him, and remained for ten years to serve the ascetic with humility and obedience.

Afterwards, ca. 927 AD, the saint returned again to Mount Ioannou to build his own community and again pursue asceticism. Often he would be forced to move by the number of visitors who learned of his holiness, and came to him for prayer or a word of counsel or prophecy, no matter how secretly he tried to live. Luke drew so many followers that he found the distractions unbearable and decided to retreat further into the wilderness, with the blessing of his Elder Theophylactus.[13] Three years later, however, Luke was displaced again, this time by a Magyar invasion.

Luke retreated with the local villagers to the nearby island of Ampelon.[14] Once there, Luke found the desert island to be a suitable place to pursue his solitary ascetic life, and stayed for three years, enduring terrible thirsts.[15] His sister would occasionally bring him some bread, but he gave much of it away to the needy or to passing sailors.

Eventually Luke’s disciples persuaded him to leave, and he returned to the mainland and settled for the remainder of his life in the far more amenable environment of the present Hosios Loukas, where he founded his hermitage ca. 946 AD in the area of Stiris (which may be a corruption of Soterion, or place of healing).[16][note 6]

Here brethren gathered to the elder, and a small monastery grew up, the church of which was dedicated to the Great Martyr Barbara. Dwelling in the monastery, the saint performed many miracles, healing sicknesses of soul and of body.

Death

Saint Luke fell ill in his seventh year at Stirion. Foreseeing his end, the saint confined himself in a cell and for three months prepared for his departure. When asked where he was to be buried, the monk replied, “Throw my body into a ravine to be eaten by wild beasts.” When the brethren begged him to change these instructions, he commanded them to bury his body on the spot where he lay. Embracing his disciples, he asked them to pray for him, prophesying that the place where he died would someday be the site of a great church and monastery. Then raising his eyes to heaven, he said, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!” and reposed in peace and joy. St Luke fell asleep in the Lord on February 7, 953.

Myrrh flowed from his holy relics,[note 7] and many healings occurred. His tomb exuded a fragrant oil which was collected and burned in a lamp, and many miracles and healings were wrought at the tomb. The rumour that his relic worked miracles brought great numbers of believers to the monastery to be healed, and the original buildings gave way to more monumental structures.[16] As the Saint had predicted, two churches and a monastery were built there, and the monastery of Hosios Loukas became a great place of pilgrimage, as it remains to this day.[note 8]

Troparion, Kontakion

Troparion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 1[17]
Let us firmly honour Luke the Godbearer with hymns and chants,
the glory of the faithful,
the boast of the righteous,
bright light of Stirion and its true inhabitant;
he brings near to Christ those who cry out in faith:
Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee;
Glory to Him Who has crowned thee;
Glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 8[17]
God in ineffable judgment chose thee before thou wast fashioned according to His good pleasure;
He took thee from thy mother’s womb,
He sanctified thee as His servant.
As the Lover of mankind,
He guided thee to Himself,
before Whom thou dost now stand rejoicing,
O Luke.

(OrthodoxWiki)

 

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Elder Gregorios 40 day Memorial Service

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Elder Gregorios

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“Love in Christ is a sacrificial Love, a self-sacrificing, self-denying Love, Agape. You sacrifice everything for the person you love, “your neighbour”. By “our neighbour”, we mean every person as God’s Image, even our enemy. By “love” we do not mean that we should do whatever the other person wants us to do, but to love him with Christ’s burning and flaming Heart, for his salvation” (+ Elder Gregorios Papasotiriou)

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This is how we have always felt and feel his love. Blessed Paradise, Elder. “Kai sta dika mas.” “And to our own!”  May we be reunited with you in Heaven in God’s Kairos!

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All the faithful present experienced an urge to pray to Elder, and not for him. 

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End of an era

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Christ is Risen! May Angels accompany you dear Father to your reward.

Gerondas Gregorios Tomb

The Monastery Diaries 5

A special commemoration diary and photo/video blog

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Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is in our midst.

This is going to be the most difficult post I have ever attempted as it is about the repose of my spiritual father, + Elder Gregorios Papasotiriou, a spiritual child of Saint Paisios, Elder and Founder of the women’s monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Metamorphosis, Chalkidiki.

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Gerondissa Euphemia of St John the Forerunner Monastery, St Paisios in the middle, Elder Gregorios on the right. She was absent at the funeral, other than very briefly to pay her last respects to the Elder, as she is about 90 years old and very frail in her health

+Wednesday 20/11. The funeral service took place in the morning of the following day, after the vigil of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, such an appropriate day for our spiritual father’s departure from this life and entrance into the Heavenly sanctuary.

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St. Porphyrios, when Elder Gregorios once told him that he is well, told him “no, you are not”. “Indeed, I am”, Gerondas Gregorios insisted, but it was St Porphyrios who was right. Later, when St. Porphyrios visited him at his cell in Metamorphosis, his cell exuded a sweet fragrance for six days!

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In God’s kairos, I may write more about my memories with him. His orphans and why it feels this is an end of an era for us. I really ought to start from my University years, when I would take the bus through Polygyros [ie. etymology: lots of curves] notorious curves to the  Metamorfosi village, then walk all the way uphill through olive groves to the monastery of Saint John the Forerunner, meet Gerondas Gregorios for Confession and make absolutely no plans about my stay or who we were going to spend the day and the night together. Quite an adventure back in those days …

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On Thursday morning, the village and the hill were packed with more people than I have ever seen in my life. People from all over the world, clergy, monastics and lay people who had come to pay their last respects to a father they owned more than their lives. And yet all this crowd were my spiritual brothers and sisters, with whom we had travelled in the past a mile or two in our pilgrimage, and we all had so many memories to share. Many of his spiritual children, when he became gravely ill, were “sent” to Gerondas Theoklitos, the Elder and founder of the monastery of St Arsenios, another spiritual child of Saint Paisios. God’s Love unites us all.

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Such a crowd! The police were regulating the parking and the traffic, as only the priests’ and monastics’ cars were allowed all the way up to the monastery. All nearby hotels opened their rooms for free, and local people with minibuses helped people drive up and down the monastery.

The warmth of faith full of the Holy Spirit. Gerondas Gregorios was remembered in the following days at the proskomede and at the great entrance in churches and monasteries all over the world. Memory eternal.

“Christ is Risen!” What bright sorrow, χαρμολύπη! At the end of the Memorial, the nuns and monks present chanted the whole Paschal, Resurrectional Canon of St. Saint John of Damascus. 

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11)

For a video of the funeral, go here

For more video footage and photos, go here and  here  

For some photos, see below

The Vigil and the Four Gospels

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The Procession Around the Monastery Main Church (Katholikon)

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Second on the left is Gerondas Theoklitos, who prayed the traditional 100-knot rope for the departed: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your servant Hieromonk Gregorios”

The Grave and the Burial

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Elder Euphemius, the spiritual son of Blessed Gerondas Isaac Atallah. He is now the current Abbot of the Skete that Blessed Atallah founded on Mount Athos and the spiritual father of the nuns at St John the Forerunner Monastery.  As a dear Father pointed out to me, “I see him contemplating this holy mystery of Gerondas repose in his eyes and “being with ” Gerondas spirit and not separated from him.”

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Elder Euphemios was the only hieromonk with a purely white epitrahelion and he was leading all the services.

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For more photos, go here and here

 

The Monastery Diaries 4

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A photo journal 
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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is in our midst!
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…
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Fr Synesios was throwing bay leaves inside the church before Vespers started

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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.

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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.

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Some of the kollyva prepared by the faithful and the monks.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Love and poor prayers,
LCH

Konitsa Moni Panagias Stomio trekking — Ad Memoriam

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A photo journal and vlog

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Ilias to Prophet Ilias

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Memory Eternal blessed and dearly departed brother Ilias! Do you remember a previous post about that family acquaintance and precious friend who, at 39, fell in a gorge on Konitsa mountains during a mountain trekking/pilgrimage? Below follow the photos of the Trisagion of this blessed athlete in Christ, who was always running, climbing, praying, helping and loving everyone.

Stomio monastery Konitsa, Tymfi mountain. On 13/04/2019 Ilias Kalaitzis, a good friend and father of 4 young children,  fell in a gorge while mountain climbing on his 38 birthday anniversary and passed to eternal life, leaving behind him a devastated wife, parents, brothers, children and counteless friends. On 04/09/2019 a group of 13 brothers and sisters in Christ (2 priests, Fr Synesios from St. Arsenios monastery in Vatopedi being one of them, 8 men and 3 women) walked all the way up to the place of the tragic accident, set a memorial stone with a Cross, his photograph and the following dedication: “Our Beloved Ilias, you will live eternally in our hearts!” , did a Trisagion Memorial Service and had the traditional light meal (‘makaria’–> Blessed Paradise) afterwards.

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Saint Paisios’ Konitsa home and Stomio Monastery

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St Arsenios’ monastery July pilgrimages — a photo journal and vlog

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First, a bit of mountain trekking: Prophet Elias church on Olympus’ summit (2800m.)

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 Then,  Molyvdoskepasti

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Moni Stomiou, Konitsa

Path to Stomio monastery:

 

+Memory Eternal, Elias! May you feast in Paradise with your beloved Saints, St. Paisios and the prophet Elias! (Elias, a family acquaintance, precious friend and father of 4  lost his life at 39, about a month ago; he fell in a gorge on these mountains during a mountain trekking/pilgrimage .)

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Ilias to Prophet Ilias

 

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Finally, Saint Paisios’ home: