We headed out early Tuesday morning for Volos -- or Mt. Pelion which overlooks Volos, to be exact. Our destination was the women's monastery dedicated to the icon Panagia Odigitria, which is a metochi (dependency) of Philotheou. It is one of the three monasteries in Greece (outside Mt. Athos) for which Elder Ephraim of Arizona serves as spiritual father (the other two are located in Serres and Thasos). These three monasteries, all women's, provided the first nuns to populate the women's monasteries in the US. The monastery closest to the Yakima parish, that of St. John the Forerunner in Goldendale, WA, began with three nuns from this monastery, and thus Fr. Joseph referred to it as the source of the monastic influence in their lives. Thus, although Greece has over 1000 monasteries, and we have three just in our little village of Panorama, this monastery is especially significant for the Yakima parish.
We made good time on the 2.5 hour trip down to Volos, so we had time to stop in the traditional mountain village of Makrinitsa, which is just 2 km past the monastery on the scenic Mt. Pelion. The photo above is part of the village's central square. On the tree is a map of the town, along with some pertinent information. The town lies 17 km from Volos, is 850 meters above sea level (the city is on the sea), and has a humidity of 0. This makes it particular attractive to Greeks in the hot summer months.
We visited the town church dedicated to St. John the Forerunner, which you can see in the photo above.
Above and below, Fr. Joseph is walking along the cobblestone walkways around the church.
Here, Fr. Dn. Nathaniel, Sava, and John take a break, with a breathtaking view of Volos behind them.
After spending about an hour in Makrinitsa, we headed back toward Portaria and the monastery, where we arrived shortly before noon. We were warmly received by the sisters and had a nice talk with several of them, including the young abbess Theophano. The story is that she was chosen by Elder Ephraim as the new abbess when she was still a novice. Above and below are photos of the monastery, taken near the guest quarters where we spent the night. Above is the small house next to the monastery's graveyard which contains the sisters' bones. Below is a view up toward the sisters' cells. The door to the guest quarters is on the right. The katholikon is located above the guest quarters.
We rested a bit in the afternoon, and then were asked again to speak with the abbess and some of the sisters around 5:00, before Vespers.
In the morning, there was no Liturgy, as the hieromonk from Philotheou who serves the monastery was absent those days, but we did get a chance to attend part of Orthros before we had to make our early departure for Meteora and home.