On Tuesday of this week, I went with Bishop Maxim of Western America (Serbian Patriarchate) to the women's monastery in Ormylia, where we got to have some nice discussions with Gerontissa Nikodimi and the sisters, as well as Fr. Serapion, the hieromonk from Simonopetra who serves the monastery. On Wednesday morning, we celebrated Liturgy and then headed quickly to Ouranopoulis to catch the boat to Mt. Athos. We were joined there by Prof. Bosko Bojovic, a Serb teaching in Paris.
When we arrived at Hilandar, the abbot, Fr. Methodije, was waiting to welcome the bishop. He then gave us a tour of the ongoing reconstruction project at Hilandar, following in the wake of the devastating 2004 fire that destroyed half the monastery. In the photo above, Abbot Methodije and Bishop Maxim are talking in front of the monastery's refectory.
The abbot and bishop looking at some feature of the south side of the katholikon. The famous vine of St. Simeon can be seen off to the right, miraculously growing out of the church. See the photo below for another shot of it.
Here, you can see Prof. Boskovic also listening to the abbot. In the background, you can see the newly constructed part of the monastery, just finished in the last year. According to the abbot, a very elderly monk recently visited the monastery and, upon seeing this part, exclaimed, "How was this part not burned during the fire?" When the abbot explained that it had been, he said, "But it looks exactly the same as it was!" As you can see from the scaffolding, they are now moving the reconstruction down the south of this western wall of the monastery.
Walking out of church after Small Vespers at 5:00 PM.
The view from my room in the newly reconstructed part you saw above. You can see a father with his 7-year old son down in the courtyard. There were quite a few young kids there for the feast of Vidovdan, which celebrates the martyric death of St. Prince Lazar at the Battle of Kosovo.
Around 7, Elder Vasilios (Gontikakis), the great theologian and former abbot of Stavronikita and Iviron, came to see Bishop Maxim and to join us for the Vigil, which went from 9:00 PM until 3:00 AM. It then finished with Liturgy the next morning from 7:00-9:30 AM. There was then a big feast of fish in the refectory, with a short talk at the end by Elder Vasilios, who spoke, among other things, about the idea that "No one is my enemy."
For those not aware, Elder Vasilios is one of the three or four primary renovators of Mt. Athos. Before 1950, Mt. Athos was in such decline (parallel with the decline of Orthodox theology) that most thought it would soon be a museum. It was only with the work of Elder Joseph the Heyschast and his disciples, and then slightly later through the work of Elder Vasilios and Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, that Mt. Athos was revived and indeed has flourished. You can read about Elder Paisios' great respect for Elder Vasilios in the new English translation of his definitive biography.
For more photos from the trip, click here.