About a month ago, I went to Thessaloniki for two days for a conference. There, at the theological school, I met an interesting Columbian woman who had just been baptized Orthodox as Maria 7 months ago. Her spiritual father, a Columbian who has been an Athonite monk for about 20 years, was also there. In fact, it was he who baptized here at a monastery in central Greece. It turned out she was a friend of another (the only other?) Columbian convert friend of ours who also lives in Thessaloniki. Anyway, Maria was a free spirit, in Greece to learn the language and soak up Orthodoxy, so I invited her to come back with me to Portaria to see some of the things in this part of the country. She agreed and came back and spent 6 days with us, exploring the churches and local monasteries. She was with us when we took our last parish pilgrimage to the Monastery of the Holy Archangels, and there the abbess gave her a blessing to spend another week with them at the monastery. Finally, she came back to Panorama and spent a day or two with us, then a weekend at the Monastery of Panagia Odigitria here in Portaria, before heading back to Thessaloniki, full of ecclesiastical experiences from Mt. Pelion.
One of the places we took her was to the Monastery of St. Gerasimos the New, next door in Makrinitsa (3 km away). The sisters don't have a permanent priest, so I was happy to serve Vespers with them. Here is a photo of the beautiful sanctuary.
I recently re-started my sporadic lessons in Byzantine chant. Our parish's new chanter and many others recommended Kostas, who holds a PhD in Byzantine chant theory and history from the most renowned Byzantine chant scholar, Prof. Grigoris Stathis in Athens. In the few lessons we had so far, we've had fascinating conversations about the history and development of the church's music. One Sunday, it happened that he was able to unexpectedly join us for Liturgy. Here is a photo of him at the chanter's stand with his students.
This photo is a nod to my friend Stephen Sugarman, who makes church candles, among other things. Here in Volos, our Metropolis has its own candle factory. We can take our used candles back to the factory where we get an exchange for new candles. Recently, I found a helpful parishioner to help me take all our candles, from our main church and all our chapels, over to the factory in his truck. We had 160 kg (350 pounds).