Midbar, Arabah, Chorbah, Yeshimon—In the wilderness

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Midbar. Arabah. Chorbah. Yeshimon. A mystical incantation in Hebrew. Eremos, Eremia. I am wandering in those places. After the crossing of my Red Sea. Back then, I thought that I had left all my past life behind. But no, there was more. There is always more… Now, the Elder’s “word” is that I must go back to Greece. After 5 years here! What for? Again, I am clueless. Completely. How can life change so drastically, so dramatically, so fast? What will my future be there? I have absolutely no clue, other than I must learn to cling to God and surrender to His Will, as no one has now been left for me, other than Him and my Elder.

Abba Allois said: “Unless a man say in his heart, Only I and God are in the world, he shall not find rest.”

Asking for your prayers…

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Words translated as “wilderness” occur nearly 300 times in the Bible. A formative Hebrew memory is the years of “wandering in the wilderness,” mixing experiences of wild landscape, of searching for a promised land, and of encounters with God. The Pentateuch wandering takes place in the midbar, uninhabited land where humans are nomads. This common Hebrew word refers often to a wild field where domestic animals may be grazed and wild animals live, in contrast to cultivated land, hence, sometimes “the pastures of the wilderness” (Joel 1:19–20). Another word is arabah, steppe (Genesis 36:24), also translated as desert: “The land that was desolate [midbar] and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness [arabah] shall rejoice” (Isaiah 35:1). Land that lies waste is chorbah; land without water is yeshimon.

The wilderness is a locale for intense experiences—of stark need for food and water (manna and quails), of isolation (Elijah and the still small voice), of danger and divine deliverance (Hagar and Ishmael), of renewal, of encounters with God (Moses, the burning bush, the revelation of the divine name, Mount Sinai). There is a psychology as well as a geography of wilderness, a theology gained in the wilderness.

Linguists will make the point that the Hebrews did not have an exact equivalent of the contemporary English word “wilderness.” Nevertheless, the Hebrews evidently knew the experience of confronting the wild.

Turning to the New Testament, which was written in Greek, not Hebrew, the word most often translated as “wilderness” is eremos (or eremia), an isolated place. The wilderness figures at critical junctures in the life of Jesus. Jesus is baptised by John and then is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days. The Devil is there, but so is the Spirit. “A great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1.35). This records a search for solitude, for self-discovery, for divine presence, but this process, crucially, seems to require the ambience of the natural environment.

Source: Environment and Society Portal 

 

 

 

 

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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:

 

 

 

Saint Paisios the Athonite and the Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti, Thessaloniki

The Gate to the Monastery of Souroti. Beautiful mosaic with Christ, and St. John the Theologian and St. Arsenios of Cappadocia praying to Him

Right now in Greece:

and:
My heart beats faster in Greece. Right now, I am there in spirit. Together with the Saint of my heart, Saint Paisios, my spiritual grandfather. God is glorified in His Saints!
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The Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Souroti, Thessaloniki
Souroti is found around 28 kilometers from Thessaloniki, not far from the central road which links the city with the capital of Chalkidiki, Polygyros.The Holy Monastery is dedicated to St. John the Theologian and to St. Arsenios of Cappadocia. In the Monastery are the Relics of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, which are found in the Katholikon, along with the grave of St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain, who reposed on July 12th 1994, and was buried next to the church of St. Arsenios.

The beautiful church of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, in Souroti Monastery

Every year, from July 11th-12th, the anniversary of the repose of the Saint, the Holy Hesychasterion serves a vigil service, with thousands of the faithful taking part. For example, on the anniversary of St. Paisios’ repose in 2014 (and before he was canonized a Saint), an estimated 120,000 people came to venerate his grave. Many miracles occur through the Saint’s intercessions and through the soil from his grave, which pilgrims often take as a blessing.

The humble yet wonderworking grave of St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain, behind the church of St. Arsenios, Souroti Monastery

St. Paisios’ acquaintance with the Monastery
Once, the Elder sick and was in great need of blood for his surgery. He had no relatives by his side (as he himself wished) and a group of novice nuns donated as much blood as he needed. He was very grateful for their support. Wishing to express his deep gratitude, he used to say that their kind support resembled a woolen sweater embracing his bare flesh; he wished to take it off and offer it to them in return, as an expression of his heartfelt gratitude.

The grave stone of St. Paisios, engraved with beautiful and humble poem written by him. In English, it reads:
“Here life has ended,
Here and my breath (has ended),
Here the body will be buried,
And my soul will be happy.
My Saint lives, that is my honour.
I believe that he will pity my miserable soul.
He will pray to the Saviour

To have the Virgin Mary with me.”

The Great Deisis: Christ, entreated by the Theotokos, St. John the Theologian, St. John the Russian and St. Paisios the Athonite

He sympathized with the nuns who were facing insuperable problems in their effort to build their convent. So, he personally took the initiative to find a suitable area for its construction. He offered his assistance in every way he could; along with the building’s foundations, he also laid its spiritual foundations by giving instructions for the proper functioning of the convent. Thus, the Elder established a strong relationship with the Convent of St. John the Theologian and remained by its side until his death.

St. John the Theologian
For more on St. Paisios’ role in the founding of the Monastery, and on his relationship with Fr. Polycarp, see here.
Hours of Visitation at the Monastery (source)
Please note that the Monastery is closed to pilgrims Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the schedule for the rest of the days is according to the following hours:
Winter hours:
Daily 10 am-1 pm and 3 pm-6 pm
Summer hours:
Daily 10 am – 1 pm και 5 pm – 7 pm 
Tel: (+30)2396041320 and (+30)2396041315
Please contact the Monastery with additional questions or for the most up-to-date info.
Beautiful gardens, planted with prayer, at Souroti Monastery
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

The Crossing of My Red Sea

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About four months have passed since my Elder’s last ‘words’ about my future and my life circumstances have completely changed. Indeed, problems do not merely call forth our courage and our wisdom; they create our courage and wisdom. (I have a long way to go …) How can my Elder (and God) swipe away, with just one move, all my past and present, my job, my possessions, my ‘family’, my ‘home’, my … (you name it!)?

But they can, as I was about to find out the hard way. “No buts — just do as I tell you! God has revealed all that to me (!)” The past four months I learnt first hand the blessings of an Elder’s prayers as he ‘photographed’ and ‘micromanaged’ my single step thousands of miles away.

The sea was parted; I walked on the dry ground and crossed it. And left all my past life behind. What will my future be on this ‘other’ side? I have absolutely no clue, other than I must learn to cling to God and surrender to His Will, as no one has now been left for me, other than Him and my Elder.

Abba Allois said: “Unless a man say in his heart, Only I and God are in the world, he shall not find rest.”

Asking for your prayers…

 

 

Monastery of Saint David the Elder (II)

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A Vigil 

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Elder Iakovos Tsalikis was one of the most important and saintly personalities of our day, a great and holy Elder. He was a vessel of grace, a living incarnation of the Gospel, a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit and a true friend of God. From early childhood his aim was sanctification, and he enjoyed praying and would go to different chapels, light the icon-lamps and pray to the saints. In one chapel in his village, he was repeatedly able to speak to Saint Paraskevi. He submitted to God’s call, which came to him when he was still a small child, denied himself and took up the Cross of Christ until his last breath. In 1951, he went to the Monastery of Saint David the Elder, where he was received in a miraculous manner by the saint himself.

He was tonsured in November 1952. As a monk he submitted without complaint and did nothing without the blessing of the abbot. He would often walk four to five hours to meet his Elder, whose obedience was as parish-priest in the small town of Limni. The violence he did to himself was his main characteristic. He didn’t give in to himself easily. He lived through unbelievable trials and temptations. The great poverty of the monastery, his freezing cell with broken blinds and cold wind and snow coming in through the gaps, the lack of the bare essentials, even of winter clothing and shoes, made his whole body shiver and he was often ill. He bore the brunt of the spiritual, invisible and also perceptible war waged by Satan, who was defeated by Iakovos’ obedience, prayer, meekness and humility. He fought his enemies with the weapons given to us by our Holy Church: fasting, vigils and prayer.

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 His asceticism was astonishing. He ate like a bird, according to his biographer. He slept on the ground, for two hours in twenty-four. The whole night was devoted to prayer. Regarding his struggle, he used to say: ‘I do nothing. Whatever I do, it’s God doing it. Saint David brings me up to the mark for it’.

His humility, which was legendary and inspiring, was his main characteristic. The demons which were in the possessed people who went to the monastery cursed him and said: ‘We want to destroy you, to neutralize you, to exterminate you, but we can’t because of your humility’. He always highlighted his lack of education, his inadequacies and his humbleness. It was typical of him that, when he spoke, every now and again he’d say: ‘Forgive me’. He was forever asking people’s forgiveness, which was a sign of his humble outlook. Once, when he was invited to visit the Monastery of Saint George Armas, where the abbot was the late Fr. George Kapsanis, he replied: ‘Fathers, I’m a dead dog. What will I do if I come to see you? Pollute the air?’ He always had the sense that he was a mere nothing.

And when he became abbot he always said that he wasn’t responsible for what happened in the monastery: ‘Saint David’s the abbot here’, he maintained. When he served with other priests, he went to the corner of the altar, leaving them to lead the service. When they told him: ‘This isn’t right, you’re the abbot of the monastery’, he’d reply: ‘Son, Saint David’s the abbot here’.

 

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Although he didn’t seek office, he agreed to be ordained to the diaconate by Grigorios, the late Bishop of Halkida, on 18 December 1952. The next day he became a priest. In his address after the ordination, the bishop said: ‘And you, son, will be sanctified. Continue, with God’s power, and the Church will declare you [a saint]’. His words were prophetic. He was made abbot on 27 June, 1975, by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Halkida, a post he held until his death.

As abbot he behaved towards the fathers and the visitors to the monastery with a surfeit of love and understanding and great discernment. His hospitality was proverbial. Typical of him was the discernment with which he approached people. He saw each person as an image of Christ and always had a good word to say to them. His comforting words, which went straight to the hearts of his listeners, became the starting-point of their repentance and spiritual life in the Church. The Elder had the gift, which he concealed, of insight and far-sight. He recognized the problem or the sin of each person and corrected them with discretion. Illumined by the Holy Spirit he would tell each person, in a few words, exactly what they needed. Saint Porfyrios said of the late Elder Iakovos: ‘Mark my words. He’s one of the most far-sighted people of our time, but he hides it to avoid being praised’.

In a letter to the Holy Monastery of Saint David, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Vartholomaios, wrote: ‘Concerning the late Elder, with his lambent personality, the same is true of him as that which Saint John Chrysostom wrote about Saint Meletios of Antioch: Not only when he taught or shone, but the mere sight of him was enough to bring the whole teaching of virtue into the souls of those looking at him’.

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He lived for the Divine Liturgy, which he celebrated every day, with fear and trembling, dedicated and, literally, elevated. Young children and those with pure hearts saw him walking above the floor, or being served by holy angels. As he himself told a few people, he served together with Cherubim, Seraphim and the Saints. During the Preparation, he saw Angels of the Lord taking the portions of those being remembered and placing them before the throne of Christ, as prayers. When, because of health problems he felt weak, he would pray before the start of the Divine Liturgy and say: ‘Lord, as a man I can’t, but help me to celebrate’. After that, he said, he celebrated ‘as if he had wings’.

One of the characteristic aspects of his life was his relationship with the saints. He lived with them, talked to them and saw them. He had an impressive confidence towards them, particularly Saint David and Saint John the Russian, whom he literally considered his friends. ‘I whisper something in the ear of the Saint and he gets me a direct line to the Lord’. When he was about to have an operation at the hospital in Halkida, he prayed with faith: ‘Saint David, won’t you go by Prokopi and fetch Saint John, so you can come here and support me for the operation? I feel the need of your presence and support’. Ten minutes later the Saints appeared and, when he saw them, the Elder raised himself in bed and said to them: ‘Thank you for heeding my request and coming here to find me’.

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One of his best known virtues was charity. Time and again he gave to everybody, depending on their needs. He could tell which of the visitors to the monastery were in financial difficulties. He’d ask to speak to them in private, give them money and ask them not to tell anyone. He never wanted his charitable acts to become known.

Another gift he had was that, through the prayers of Saint David, he was able to expel demons. He would read the prayers of the Church, make the sign of the Cross with the precious skull of the saint over the people who were suffering and the latter were often cleansed.

He was a wonderful spiritual guide, and through his counsel thousands of people returned to the path of Christ. He loved his children more than himself. It was during confession that you really appreciated his sanctity. He never offended or saddened anyone. He was justly known as ‘Elder Iakovos the sweet’.

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He suffered a number of painful illnesses. One of his sayings was, ‘Lucifer’s been given permission to torment my body’. And ‘God’s given His consent for my flesh, which I’ve worn for seventy-odd years, to be tormented for one reason alone: that I may be humbled’. The last of the trials of his health was a heart condition which was the result of some temptation he’d undergone.

He always had the remembrance of death and of the coming judgement. Indeed, he foresaw his death. He asked an Athonite hierodeacon whom he had confessed on the morning of November 21, the last day of his earthly life, to remain at the monastery until the afternoon, in order to dress him. While he was confessing, he stood up and said: ‘Get up, son. The Mother of God, Saint David, Saint John the Russian and Saint Iakovos have just come into the cell’. ‘What are they here for, Elder?’ ‘To take me, son’. At that very moment, his knees gave way and he collapsed. As he’d foretold, he departed ‘like a little bird’. With a breath like that of a bird, he departed this world on the day of the Entry of the Mother of God. He made his own entry into the kingdom of God. It was 4:17 in the afternoon.

His body remained supple and warm, and the shout which escaped the lips of thousands of people: ‘Saint! You’re a saint’, bore witness to the feelings of the faithful concerning the late Elder Iakovos. Now, after his blessed demise, he intercedes for everyone at the throne of God, with special and exceptional confidence. Hundreds of the faithful can confirm that he’s been a benefactor to them.

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Source: Pemptousia, “The Elder of love, forgiveness and discernment” by  Alexandros Christodoulou

For more information about the monastery and St. David, go here 

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou monastery in Northern Evia

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Euboia pilgrimage . Our first stop is the Monastery of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, a Metochion of the Monastery of Saint George in Ilia, which in 1990 split off and formed another Sisterhood under the Abbess Chrysovalanti. It is built above the Camp of the Metropolis that draws over 800 children a year, between the coastal villages of Rovia and Ilia, and it stands with the serene Gulf of Evia in front of it and Mount Valantion behind it.
Besides the Church of Saint Irene, the Monastery has two other chapels: Saint Onouphrios the Ascetic who celebrates on June 12th, and Saint Job the Much-Suffering who celebrates on May 6th.
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The chapels are decorated with wonderful Byzantine frescoes. In the grove of the Monastery is the renovated old Church of the Archangel Michael, a former Monastery of Ilia, which is celebrated on November 8th. The Holy Archangel is considered the patron saint of the region, and it has taken its name from him (Taxiarchis Ilion).
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A large central Church of Saint Irene does not yet exist, because the small numbered Sisterhood (1 Abbess and 2 Nuns) does not have the financial ability to complete the unfinished Monastery.

 

It is worth noting that this Monastery is the first dedicated to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou that follows the New (Revised Julian) Calendar.

 

 

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The views are stunning!
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The monastery is renowned for its hospitality and Abbess Chrysovalanti.
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St. Iakovos Tsalikis presence is made felt in all Euboia, after his recent glorification.
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