This photo was taken on the outer walls of the monastery as we walked into Pantocrator. We arrived there around 3:00 PM, and a monk came to greet us and show us to our rooms. Fortunately, it was *a bit* cooler on this side of the mountain, with a nice breeze from the sea, but it was still very, very hot. We tried to cool off in our rooms for awhile before Vespers at 6:00.
Pantocrator was the last of the 20 ruling monasteries to return to coenobitic life in 1992. At that time, the Patriarch asked Abbot Alexios from Xenophontos to send some of his brotherhood to take over Pantocrator, which he did. Thus the brotherhood here now consists of about 15 monks, spiritually related to Xenophontos (and thus to Simonopetra). As I mentioned in a previous post, the monastery is one of the smallest of the 20 ruling monasteries.
Here's a photo of the central church, taken from the balcony near my room.
At 6:00, we went to Vespers, followed immediately by the meal, followed again by Small Compline and the veneration of the relics, which included a piece of the True Cross and relics from the Apostle Andrew, St. John Chrysostom, Great Martyr Haralampos, St. Athanasios the Great, St. John the Almsgiver, and others I can't remember at the moment.
A photo of courtyard, showing the orange trees they have growing there.
After Compline, we walked just outside the entrance to the monastery, which has a little gazebo and a great view over to neighboring Stavronikita Monastery. It had also cooled down to a tolerable level, and there was a nice breeze.
The entrance to the monastery, taken from the gazebo that overlooks the water.
Inside the courtyard. The main church is straight ahead, and guest rooms are along the left-hand side. If you look closely, you can see Dimitri sitting in front of the church.
A look down from the monastery on to some of its fields and work buildings.
Here's a photo of me outside the monastery.
On Tuesday morning, Orthros for the feast of St. Panteleimon started at 4:30 and Liturgy concluded around 8:30, followed immediately by a meal, and then back into the church to conclude the service by repeating the apolytikia. The meal thus becomes explicitly part of the service.
Right after breakfast, we caught a minivan with a few other guys into Karyes. We had about 45 minutes there to explore Karyes before catching the bus down to the port in Dafni. Dimitri had some myrrh given to him by the iconophoros of the Panagia of Iviron icon in Hawaii, which he was supposed to deliver to Iviron. We went into the post office in Karyes and while we were waiting to talk to the employee, a very loud cell phone rang out, blaring some kind of obnoxious hip-hop music or something. Dimitri and I shared a laugh later because it was the phone of an elderly Athonite monk who was in the post office to mail some letters. He answered the phone and spoke on it, but it was clear that someone had given him the phone and he probably couldn't figure out how to change the ring tone.
Summer time means tourist time, even on Mt. Athos, so we had to fight (almost literally) to get on to the bus to head down to Dafni. As is the Greek (and Balkan) time-honored tradition, you do not simply wait your turn to do something, or--can you imagine?--let your fellow man go in front of you, but rather you push, shove, and elbow your way to the front of the line, regardless of what the line is for. Given all the above-mentioned summer tourists, there was even less respect for the holiness of the place than usual, and even monks and priests were getting elbowed out of the way to get on the bus. (Incidentally, when I told a Greek friend about this, he said: "Well, it is for the bus...", i.e. not something specifically Church-related.) Anyway, there weren't any serious injuries and finally the bus got underway, with 100% of the people having a ride, as always (thus making the whole exercise quite pointless).
We were very fortunate to catch a speedboat leaving just as we arrived in Dafni at 11:00, and we walked on to grab the last two seats as it pulled out. We were in Ouranoupoli in less than an hour. As we walked off the boat and headed toward our car, I noticed our friend and parishioner in Panorama, Professor George Gounaris, a wonderful man and professor (now emeritus) of theoretical physics at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
I had heard that Prof. Gounaris had been invited to give talks in the Theological School on the relationship between theoretical physics (the Big Bang theory, etc.) and the creation accounts in Genesis, and I was very interested to learn more about this. So I invited him to ride back with us to Panorama (his house is 1 minute from ours) and I asked him to please explain this to us. He's such a humble man, that it's difficult to get him to speak. But at my insistence, and the fact that we had a long two-hour car ride ahead of us, he agreed. So for the next hour or more, we were treated to a clear, concise, and interesting talk on this subject. It's too much to cover here. He pointed me to a published talk he had given in this subject here. Unfortunately for English readers, it's in Greek. I would absolutely love to translate it, but I would need someone to offer to fund the translation. If anyone's interested, the cost--off the top of my head--would be about 300 euro ($380).
Thus ends my ninth trip to the Holy Mountain. For all the photos, click here.