Last Wednesday, December 22, we began the day by celebrating the Divine Liturgy for St. Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions here at our parish in Panorama.
In the afternoon, our friend Michael Tishel came up with three visitors from the U.S. and we went, with the babies, to visit two monasteries. We first stopped at the Monastery of St. John the Evangelist to venerate the grave of Elder Paisios. In the photo above, you can see Michael's friend Alexis at the grave, with Paul and Phoebe.
Since it was her feast day, we then drove over to the monastery dedicated to St. Anastasia, which lies about 40 minutes outside Thessaloniki to the east. The monastery is impressive on several counts. First, it was founded in 888 by the Byzantine empress and saint Theophano. Second, it bears the weighty title, in true Byzantine style, of "The Royal, Patriarchal, and Stavropegic Monastery..." (and there might be another one, but I can't remember at the moment. Third, it's quite large. It used to serve, until perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, as a major ecclesiastical high school. (In Greece and at least some other Orthodox countries such as Russia and Serbia, it is common for those training to serve the church in some way to attend a high school especially geared toward ecclesiastical studies, which are quite rigorous by U.S. standards. It is therefore not uncommon for these high school graduates to be more conversant in theology than seminary graduates with Master's degrees in the U.S.)
Despite the monastery's grandeur, though, sadly, it now has only two or three monks responsible for keeping it up. Nevertheless, since it was the monastery's feast day, there was quite a crowd of pilgrims for the Vespers service, the end of which we managed to catch. (In Greece, it is a tradition for a parish or monastery celebrating its feast day to celebrate a Festal Vespers not only the evening before, but also on the day of, possibly as a sort of apodosis.) We even ran into our friend Nektarios Antoniou, the chanter.
As the people filed out after the conclusion of Vespers, the babies got a chance to explore the church a bit. Above, they're climbing through a little table in the middle of the nave. We also had a chance to venerate the skull of St. Anastasia, as well as other relics the monastery preserves.
Here are Michael and Benjamin walking down the stairs, leaving the church.
Here are Alexis and Paul as we walked out the entrance to the monastery and headed back to the car.
For more photos, click here.