On Thursday, we all piled in the car and headed north about an hour and a half to Serres, specifically to the Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner (Timiou Prodromou). It is one of the three women's monasteries in Greece directly connected to Elder Ephraim Philotheitis, who is now known for his work founding monasteries in America. (The other two monasteries in Greece are the Holy Archangel Michael on the island of Thasos, and Panagia Odigitria near Volos).
The monastery in Serres, besides being the closest of the three, is also the most beautiful, in my opinion. It was originally founded as a men's monastery in the 13th century and much of the original monastery survives, although it's being renovated by the industrious nuns. The monastery reached a low point in the middle of the 20th century and was then revitalized by Elder Ephraim, who turned it into a women's monastery. The monastery is now flourishing, with 29 nuns and counting.
In the photo above, Pelagia, Coreen, Anastasia, and the babies are standing at the entrance to the monastery.
Here Anastasia and her goddaughter Phoebe walk down the worn cobblestone pathway into the courtyard.
The courtyard is basically all on a hill which concludes, at the bottom, in the central church. In the photo above, the babies are playing near the well which adorns the center of the courtyard.
We especially enjoy seeing our fellow American, Sister Katherine, who has now been at the monastery about seven years. An American convert from Texas, we were first introduced to her by a mutual friend here in Thessaloniki, Moses Hawk. This was the babies' first trip to Serres, so Sister Katherine and all the nuns enjoyed seeing them for the first time. Before Vespers and Paraklesis started, Sister Katherine gave us a short tour, including a stop in the newly completed small museum. Here everyone is standing next to one of the enormous wine barrels that the monastery used to store its wine. The museum also has many of the instruments the monks used to produce olive oil.
The abbess of the monastery, Gerontissa Fevronia, kindly asked me to serve at the Vespers and Paraklesis, which was a great pleasure and blessing. Afterwards, Gerontissa and some of the other sisters made some trachana for the babies and helped feed them. I wish I had a photo of it! Phoebe was getting fussy after awhile, so I took her, Anastasia, and Coreen for a walk around the outside of the monastery. As you can see from the photo above, the enormous walls can be quite impressive.
The three girls standing on a bridge over the waterfall and stream that run alongside the monastery.
Another photo of the girls, with the characteristic precariously perched rooms at the top of the stone walls.
The babies got home to bed a little late, but I think everyone enjoyed the trip. Anastasia was invited to come spend a night with them next week; if we figure out the logistics, I think she'd like to go.
For a few more photos, click here.