After Iviron, we headed to Vatopaidi, where we were scheduled to spend the night. Above is the entrance to the monastery.
Before retiring for the evening, we got to spend some time speaking with Abbot Ephraimon the balcony just outside the abbot's office. See the view above, which is out onto the Aegean from the northeast side of the peninsula.
Above, Bishop Maxim with Abbot Ephraim. The abbot is a disciple of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, who was one of the disciples of Elder Joseph the Heyschast, along with his spiritual brother Elder Ephraim of Philotheou (now in the US).
The next morning was Wednesday, and starting just this year, the fathers at Vatopaidi had decided to revert to the monastery's old typikon with regard to Wednesdays and Fridays during fasts (such as the one that was then happening for the Apostles). Normally, Vatopaidi, like most Athonite monasteries, has Divine Liturgy daily. But under this old typikon, they instead do the mid-Hours in place of Liturgy. After the services, we ran into Prof. George Mantzaridis, professor emeritus of theology at the University of Thessaloniki and a former parishioner at our church in Panorama. He is credited with rediscovering St. Gregory Palamas, which led to an explosion of interest in hesychasm.
Bishop Maxim read a trisagion for Elder Joseph, whose grave lies behind the main church.
After breakfast, we then got the royal tour into the famous secret room that was featured on the 60 Minutes piece at Easter. If you didn't see it, take the 25 minutes or so to watch the two parts now (part 2 here). Above, you can see Fr. Matthew, an American (convert) monk at Vatopaidi for the last 25 years or so, using the five old keys to let us into the first part of the secret room. This door leads into what looks like a simple library/study, with bookcases lining the walls. Apparently, the fathers of Vatopaidi had at one point in history lost one of the five keys needed to enter this room.
Eventually, it was found and when they entered they were surprised that all this security was only for a nearly empty study. But they knew there was a piece of the building they couldn't account for. When they came back again the next day and began investigating more thoroughly, the discovered that one of the bookcases was actually a secret passageway into another area, which was originally used to house the monastery's most precious liturgical items. Of course, now it was recently renovated and, although, small, it is a first-class museum housing, still, some of the monastery's most valuable liturgical items.
It was quite dramatic when Fr. Matthew opened the door inside the bookcase (see below). In the new renovation, they've set it up so that low museum lighting and a CD of Vatopaidi's chant automatically turn on when the door opens. Above is an icon of St. John Chrysostom housed in the museum.
Another shot of the initial door that takes five old iron keys to open.
For more photos of the trip as a whole, click here.