After visiting Panagia Olympiotissa, we headed down the hill into Elassona, where we had arranged lunch for all 50 of us at a restaurant owned by a relative of a nun at the next monastery we were to visit.
The restaurant was great. While they were preparing the food, some of my parishioners handed out homemade snacks they had brought -- namely, tyropitas (cheesepies) and tsipouro, which I can attest was very, very strong! They claim it has medicinal properties.
The restaurant was located directly across the street from the Metropolis of Elassona's headquarters. Here we are getting back on the bus after lunch.
Our next stop was about 25 minutes away in Sykia, and Benny took the opportunity to have a little power nap on the way.
Here we are at the entrance to the Monastery of the Ascension of Christ. This monastery was founded in 1650 as a men's monastery and remained active until 1932. It was re-founded as a women's monastery in 1988.
Above and below are views from the entrance into the inner courtyard. The monastery is squared with the central church in the middle.
The sisters' elder was away for medical treatment in Thessaloniki, so we were honored to do Vespers with them. The frescoes inside the church are wonderful and date to the monastery's founding in 1650, although some elements (such as the icons on the iconostasis) are from recent renovation.
After Vespers, the nuns invited us into their arhontariki for coffee. The kids had fun playing under the tables and entertaining everyone else.
Here's a great photo of Phoebe giving a hug to our friend Ezzat, my faithful helper in the altar. He is Egyptian but has been in Greece, married to a local Greek woman in Portaria, for the last 40 years.
On the side of the church, there is an ancient spring of holy water, from which many of us took bottles home. In the photo above, you can make out, underneath the talanton, the legs of a nun and visitor at the spring. I found the nuns here, and especially the abbess, very simple, unpretentious, warm, and open. Apparently, their elder is well-known and well-regarded. We'll have to visit again in order to meet him.
On the way home, we passed through Tirnavos, so we stopped to venerate the relics of St. Gedeon, the patron saint of Tirnavos. St. Gedeon was born in the village Glafyres, a little outside Volos and lived for many years in Velestino. He suffered martyrdom in Tirnavos in 1818, where his memory is honored οn December 30th. A large piece of his relics adorns our sister parish of St. Nicholas here in Portaria.
We arrived back in Portaria shortly before 9:00, tired but full of blessings.
For more photos from the trip, click here.