On Friday afternoon at Simonopetra, we had Vespers at 5:00. The chanting there is balm for the soul, and is one of the main reasons this monastery is the first one that I've now visited twice.
After Vespers, we went for dinner at the trapeza. I was honored to sit next to the abbot of the monastery, Fr. Elissaios (Elisha), and the monastery's spiritual father, Fr. Galaktion.
We were starving, and the fare was a very simple pasta with tomato sauce. I was surprised that the abbot ate only about a handful of the pasta and was then done! I later found out that Thomas and Paris and the other lay people had been given a better meal than the abbot. The abbot also insisted on pouring my water for me. These are all small things, but they made an impression on me.
After the meal, we went back to the church for Small Compline and to venerate the relics, the most famous of which is the still-warm ankle bone of St. Mary Magdalene.
After that, Fr. Athanasios told stories to the pilgrims in the arhontariki (guest house). After that, we were sitting outside, getting ready to go to bed, when we noticed Fr. Galaktion, the monastery's spiritual father, sitting outside. This man is a blessing just to be around. His face just shines, and his eyes are so clear. His is an interesting story. He must now be at least in his late 80s, but he was once a baker in the world, with 5 children. After the children had all grown, he and his wife both decided to become monastics. His wife went to the famous women's monastery at Ormylia, a dependency of Simonopetra, where their daughter became and still is abbess. One of their sons is also a monk at Simonopetra and a famous hymnographer of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. One of their daughters is married to Fr. Athanasios, a well-known priest and spiritual father at the Church of St Haralambos in downtown Thessaloniki, another dependency of Simonopetra. And this former baker, a married father of 5, is now the revered spiritual father of a whole monastery on Mt Athos.
After speaking with him for awhile, we all retired for the evening to rest for the service which would begin at 4:00 AM the next morning.
The next morning the chanting was, again, fantastic. The Divine Liturgy ended around 8:00, and then we were treated to coffee at the arhontariki. We then wandered around the monastery and relaxed until about 10:00, when the truck took the pilgrims down to the port of Daphni.
Above is a photo I took just after Liturgy of a bell outside the church, along the old wooden walkway running around the very top of the monastery.
This is the wooden walkway.
This is the church, which is located at the very top of the seven-story monastery.
Here is the top of the long covered internal hallway leading up to the church. The church is in the background.
Here is a look down that hallway.
We took a walk over to the monastery's cemetery. Here is a photo of me there, with the monastery in the background.
Just before we left, we got to meet and speak with Fr. Myron, a well-known hieromonk from the monastery and one its elders. We then headed out in the van, which dropped us off in Daphne around 10:30. We had a snack and waited there at the port until our little speed boat left at 12:00. Above Thomas is waiting in between our speed boat on the left and the regular boat on the right.
Well, that's all for this trip. I hope you enjoyed the photos!