Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Monastery of St Arsenios the Cappadocian

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Our parish’s senior priest, Fr Alexei, loves organizing outings for the parish. On Tuesday, he took about 75 of us to visit the Monastery of St Arsenios the Cappadocian in Halkidiki. Afterwards, we then went to the tiny island of Amouliani, which is near Ouranoupoli and the Holy Mountain, for an afternoon on their beautiful beaches.

We left Panorama in two coach buses around 8 AM and headed first to the men’s monastery, which was founded in 1986 by Elder Paisios (+1994). When we got on the bus, Fr Alexei said a short prayer for our trip and we all sang several apolytikia – for Pentecost, St George (our parish), and St Demetrios (Thessaloniki’s patron). It’s amazing how many apolytikia the average Greek knows by heart!

When we arrived at the monastery, we headed first to the church, where Fr Alexei again led a short 10-minute prayer service. Again, we sang several apolytikia, including the one for St Arsenios. I took quite a bit of video inside the church, both of our little service and of the inside of the church generally. I particularly tried to capture some of the unique iconography and the impressive collection of relics at the front of the church (including, notably, St Ignatios the God-Bearer). There wasn’t much light in there, so I hope the video came out decently – see below.

I also took some photos. The top one includes Pelagia as we walked through the entrance of the monastery. The second one is of Fr Gregory, a priest-monk who serves in a village near Panorama, in the middle of the monastery’s courtyard. The third is of Pelagia near a plant she liked very much – she’s always on the prowl for interesting plants, and monasteries here always have such beautiful and well-maintained gardens. The final photo is of Pelagia walking from a viewing area across the courtyard toward the main church.

All the photos from the day are located here.

After we looked around, we all went down to the monastery’s bookstore, which was quite large. I found two books in English which I had never seen before. One was a children’s book about St Zoticus, Guardian of Orphans. The second was the story of an elderly woman named Tarso, who many say was a contemporary Fool for Christ. The monastery also had some of their own chant recordings which I had never seen anywhere else before.

I always think it would be nice to collect these kinds of things on our trips and somehow distribute them to the bookstores of Orthodox parishes back in the US, but I’m not sure how the logistics would work out. If anyone is interested in me collecting some things for their bookstore, please contact me and we’ll figure something out.

After we left the monastery, we then drove on toward Ouranoupoli, the traditional departure point for the Holy Mountain. Just before Ouranoupoli, we stopped at a little town called Nea Rodos (New Rhodes), from which we took a quick boat ride over to the island of Amouliani (see the next post for more on this).

Here’s the video from the day. It’s about 8 and a half minutes long. The first half is from inside the monastery, and the second half is from our return bus trip.

Fr Alexei started doing some traditional Greek (actually Pontian) dancing on the bus and he was looking for people to dance with him. An elderly woman danced with him for awhile as I got out the camera. You’ll see that he then came and got the two of to dance with him (unfortunately – or fortunately – I couldn’t take any video of us dancing). After that, the video ends with him leading a sing-along!

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