During the week between Christmas and New Year, the priests of our parish took a break to go with our families on a small pilgrimage to the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Kleisoura, an old monastery in north-central Greece originally founded in 1314. It's nearly 3 hours from Thessaloniki, so the drive was a bit rough for the kids, but it was worth it, because we were able to venerate the holy skull of the newly proclaimed Saint Sophia (+1974). Fr. Alexios had the blessing to attend the Liturgy in November celebrating the proclamation. We would all like to go to her official glorification, which is scheduled for May 6. John Sanidopoulos has done us a great service by translating this text about her life, which I urge you to take the time to read. There is also a whole 200+ page book of her life and teachings. I asked and the monastery's abbess gave me a tentative blessing to translate it into English, pending the new version that is forthcoming, reflecting her new status as (official) saint. Now the question is: Who is going to put up the money to publish it? :)
Above, the gate of the monastery.
Here we are walking around to the entrance of the monastery.
Next to where we parked our car, there was a small niche carved into the rock, in which sat an icon and a burning oil lamp.
Above, Fr. Panayiotis and his family go in the entrance to the monastery. Notice the hanging icicles on the far side of the entrance.
A photo of the katholikon from near the entrance to the monastery. Inside, we saw the old church with its well-preserved iconography and venerated the saint's relics. We also saw the fireplace where she slept and prayed. Afterwards, we talked for awhile with Abbess Anisia, who warmly welcomed us all. She told us some things about the life of the saint, whom they affectionately referred to as "Yiayia," which means something like "Granny."
Here we are leaving the monastery. Benjamin liked climbing through the snow.
We then headed about 40 minutes away to Agios Panteleimon for lunch at an outstanding restaurant right on the shore of a beautiful lake.
You get an idea of the view from the tables.
During the summer, people eat out here. They dry their own red Florina peppers and grind them up for a spice.
After we ate, the kids ran around outside on the restaurant's outdoor patio. You can see the great view.
Click here for a few more photos.