Yesterday, we made our first big outing with the babies with the help of our good friend and Paul's godfather-to-be, Paris.
At 1:30, we filled up our car and Paris' car with three babies, me, Pres. Pelagia, Pres. Sophia, Anastasia, and Paris,, and headed just over an hour east to the Holy Monastery of the Annunciation, which is located in the village of Ormylia. Ormylia is situated at the point where the first and second fingers of Halkidiki meet. The monastery is probably the most well-known monastery in Greece (outside the Holy Mountain), and it is quite well-known outside Greece as well. In fact, when we went, they were hosting visiting nuns (including abbesses) from monasteries in Georgia and Ukraine.
It has over 100 nuns, and they do everything from iconography to making vestments -- from scratch! Yes, they even make the fabric themselves, by hand, on old looms. For this reason, a set of vestments starts at about 2100 euro ($3000). Of course, they are also famous for their beautiful chanting, and they have published several CDs.
The babies enjoyed the car ride and slept well. Since it was a Thursday, there were very few visitors there, which was nice, since it allowed one of the sisters in the Arhontariki, Sister Prosdoki, to spend a lot of time with us.
Technically, the monastery closes at 4:00, but since we arrived only shortly before 3:00, we asked if we could stay a bit longer. Specifically, we were hoping to stay for Vespers, in order to hear their beautiful chanting. Generally, the monastery is quite regulated (and rightly so), but we received a rare exception to stay past closing for Vespers.
As an extra blessing, we were also able to speak with the abbess of the monastery and introduce her to the babies. She is quite fond of our beloved Bishop Maxim, so she was happy to meet us.
The photo above is to commemorate the babies' first pilgrimage to a monastery. It is taken in front of the monastery's main church, which, incidentally, reminded me a lot of an Athonite katholikon. Additionally, the iconography in the church is almost complete, and it is absolutely beautiful.
In this photo, we are examining the monastery's baptismal font, which is only used for adult baptisms.
This photo was taken as we were leaving the monastery. Anastasia is sitting with one of the babies and taking one last look around the monastery before leaving, while Pres. Pelagia and Pres. Sophia can be seen in the background walking down the hill back to the car.
Once outside the monastery's gates, we stopped to feed the babies and get them situated, so we stayed here for awhile before resuming our trip.
Here we are, with babies and Paris, just before we left. For more photos, click here.