Athos – not for show: it’s good that we don’t get called

This story began four years ago when a group of pilgrims of the Moscow temple of all-merciful Saviour, led by FR Thomas Dizem arrived on Athos. And the first on our way was the Greek monastery Dochiar where we came to worship the miraculous face of the Mother of God “quick to hearken”.

Photo: Vassilis L. / Flickr

  • On Mount Athos
  • Athos, called the Holy mountain
  • Athos: the hidden life
  • Each time Athos opens a new way
  • Believers and priests can visit mount Athos without worship attendance – Metropolitan Hilarion

“I am the mother of God the Word, and with It this the abode of the Archangels and St. Nicholas Cover and Intercession. And now let them come to Me with any need. I’ll hear all reverently appealing to me, Orthodox Christians, because a Quick referred to as the”

(from the book. “Dochiar monastery on mount Athos”, ed. Dochiar monastery, mount Athos, 2012).

Worn around the Peninsula like mad

And we entered the monastery, literally face to face was with the elder, supported by the arms the young monks. It was geronda Gregory, the Abbot of the monastery. He asked us if we wanted to stay in the monastery for the collection of olives. But somewhere out there, our goal is to get to the top, to mount Athos, and then some olives. No, of course not. Geronda, blessing us, in turn, slapped his hand each on the head, as if to say: “Oh you…” And the sun shone kindly and radiant sky promised a pleasant climb.

But the meeting has not been forgotten. By the way, on the mountain due to a strong storm with heavy rain, which struck Athos in just a day, we never climbed. The mountain paths carrying flows of water. On the top of the path was closed. And so for the last week of our journey through the Holy land. Roads washed away, the vans did not go. We left the last ferry has already been desperate to get to the opposite plane to Moscow. Not about whether we warned then, geronda?

And now four years later we’re flying again to Athos to take advantage of the blessing of gerondi Gregory to pick olives in the monastery Dohar. Frankly, all because of the confusion that formed in my head after repeated tourist visits to the Holy mountain.

Worn around the Peninsula like mad, trying to grasp the immensity: to visit all the monasteries scattered across the mountain. But we had no answer to the main question: “Why?”

Why do people come here from all over the Orthodox world? That take their in addition to photos and mount Athos icons? It is not for show, what I say, not worse than others. Hmmm…


Monastery Dohar. Photo: Serge Kozlov / Flickr

Rumors that the “our” now may not always be accepted

I must say, the trip was not easy. We have not been able to contact the monastery Dochiar neither by phone nor by mail, nor by Fax. And then, like a bolt from the sky – the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch concerning the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, just before our departure. Rumors that the “our” now accept not everywhere, not all the monasteries of mount Athos. So we began to read the akathist to the Quick to hear and relied on God’s will, but my mind is not changed.

In General, 21 October 2018 two “AVANZA” group of father Thomas anxiously watched from the window of the airliner as fast approaching the Greek land, decorated with greenery, cypress trees and flowering oleanders. Here is the plane jolted under his belly started to happen fast wheels. Clap: “Bravo, captain!” Then as usual: passport control, customs – and we’re outside of Thessaloniki.

Where next? Before we took “the hand” father Thomas, and now it turned out that we did not really remember. We were approached by another Russian guy from Moscow. Roman name, coming to Athos for the first time. The three of us are standing at the bus stop. Ask the first Greek how to reach us to the hotel. By the grace of God, Greek is Russian who moved to permanent residence in Greece.

After 5 minutes, came a bus we needed. Together with a Russian Greek drive from Aristotelous square and from there to our hotel near the Basilica of St. Demetrius. From the last trip we remember that at this time in Thessaloniki is the feast of St. Demetrius. You see, on the way back we will have time to venerate the reliquary of St. Demetrius, the patron Saint of the city. In 2014, when we applied, power mirotochit.

The novel did not go with us, as before the hotel had booked. He’s done the impossible: March to the bus station of Halkidiki, which sent a bus to Ouranoupoli. It is approximately twenty kilometers through the city, in which he was the first time. In the morning Roman was waiting for us at the bus station. Iron man. And we spent the night at the hotel in the morning, got in a taxi and 20 minutes later was at the station of Halkidiki. Departs at 5: 30 first bus to Ouranoupoli, which brings pilgrims just in time for the departure of the ferry. Still have time to redeem the pre-ordered diamonitirion (permission to visit mount Athos) and take the ferry.

The only inconvenience that the Greeks talking to the pilgrims in the Greek language. By the way, on the pier of the Village there are two shops where you can buy not only the cards of mount Athos, but also, for example, an umbrella or a raincoat, which, fortunately, this year have never needed.

However, we digress, and because they’re boarding the ferry. Exciting event, especially for the first time. Stuffed people are different and many, mostly Greeks, but in General, the whole Orthodox world. We, as before, is located on the upper deck: it’s crisp and you can see everything. And so the ferryman shouted something in the loudspeaker, then – go. With God!

And ahead forty minutes of swimming and a few stops. Our — third. Gradually you begin to understand the names of the monasteries, tossing out the ferryman.

Left to right: Roman, Taras, Paul

Long or short we sailed, finally, came our turn to leave the moving deck of the ferry. We went down to flip the “language” of the ship and stood in line on the exit, and towards us, swaying on the waves, approaching the Cote d’azur Marina monastery Dohar. Probably rocked it pairsonm, but our excitement rocked us, no less.

Whether we will be laborers in a Greek monastery, not responding to any calls or e-mails or the faxes?

Yes, even after complications of relations of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch, which, they say, is praying almost the whole of the Athos, including Russian St. Panteleimon monastery. And behind us only the akathist to the Quick, the blessing of our clergy and the blessing of a four-year gerondi Gregory, Abbot of the monastery Dohar. And yet, it is our fervent desire to work for the glory of God in the monastery of the quick to hearken. By the way, as we learned later, those who got through, the answer was: no seats. So, maybe it’s good that we did not get through.

How to register in the monastery

Hello, Athos the Holy land. Receive us, to the abode of the virgin.

From the height of the columns on the pilgrims strictly watching the archangels Gabriel and Michael. We with sincere trembling foot on the blessed land, climb the rocky road to the gate of the monastery. Top artfully hanging stone arch of the pergola, covered with grapes, wine which is served to the monastic table.

In archontariki waiting for “registration” in the monastery. Brandy still remained, but the Turkish delight already ate. Tables from solid stone. In the centre is quick to hear.

Usually arhontariki settles only for a day. And we came with the intention to stay for eight… And how to explain it without knowing any language other than native? Only with prayer.

After drinking the traditional glass of raki, raki Zaev delicious Turkish delight and Turkish delight washed down with clean water, we began the “exploration area”. In the end it turned out that among the arrivals, there are two Russian-speaking pilgrim. The Germans, originally from Ukraine singers with whom we defended his first akathist quick to hearken. Then they brought us in to help with “registration”. Arhontariki, the father Christopoulos, asked us several questions: what is the name for that profession? The name of the mom? Heard that Taras cook, and I’m the gardener, he smiled, but nevertheless we settled for one day only. Arrived! We to his feet, so they say, and so, Yes, there it was. View, said that tomorrow will tell the Abbot.

– How to go to the Abbot for a blessing? He invited us.

And no – he is sick.

We upset a lot. And then, the gray-bearded man, a pilgrim from Kyiv, and said, we came to father Alexander, who is standing right over there by the wall. It was our last chance. We approached a tall, handsome monk with a military bearing and sharp, clear eyes. Well, looks like a Cossack. Alexander’s father, he is also from Kiev, deacon of the monastery, was friendly and helpful. He reassured us, but a request on how to obtain the blessing of gerondi Gregory replied in the negative. “Why?” – we asked. “He is dying,’ said father Alexander. – Now go and get settled. And in six – on service. Then the meal. And tomorrow will be tomorrow”.

The following day showed how right he was.

If not for the chairs, we would not have survived

The first obedience we spent in the kitchen, where the father Ephraim, “head cuisine”, gave us a Greek novice Seraphim, who lived in the monastery for 3 months. It’s amazing how it is similar to the famous Argentinean football player Lionel Messi! And here the Seraphim put us to peel garlic. Turns out it is a science. Large and medium fill with water, then dry the peel swells and flakes easily. And small – rolled with a rolling pin, and then cleaned much easier. So before the service we stayed behind this fascinating occupation.

And finally, call for service. We exit the kitchen and followed the monks up the stairs to the main entrance to the temple. It is quiet and festive light. After the monks applied to the icons and fall into the vending space. On the walls are stasidia (stasidia – high chair with folding seat). Very comfortable to Nestle in a chair, put your elbows on the handrails and even sit down on the seat as monks.

We were lucky, we grew up in the temple during the feast day. In Dohare, and only in him, honoring quick to hearken postponed from November 22 on the feast of the Intercession of the Mother of God. So in the temple were hung with vintage silver lampstands, with a length of about meters, very fine and delicate work, and to the left of the altar shone in the rays candles silver tree, which endure only for the holidays.

Next, the second icon quick to hearken, on canvas, in a silver frame donated by the Russian philanthropist Sokolov. This miraculous image once a year is exported to Greece for worship. Father Alexander told me that there were more than thousands of cases of miraculous healings through prayers to the “silver” Quick to hearken.

The first service is remembered poorly, too many emotions for one day. One will notice, if not for chairs with folding seats, we probably would not have survived. Tired, but still the service is in Greek. Only known “Kiri alasan, alasan Kiri, Kiri alasan” (Lord, have mercy). So we just tried to emulate the monks. But the bells are ringing the end of the service and all the pilgrims is the name for a meal. Why are monks so worried? Any extra minute you have miracle-working icons: “Prohodit-prohodit!” It is for us, Russian. We are accelerating the move.

Never get between a priest and his meal

The first meal also exciting time. God forbid to be scolded severely, so no one is late. In addition to pilgrims stranded in the temple the wonderworking icons. I will say the little thing could wait.

But we must remember that in the monastery Trapeza – 2 times a day, and between food – 12 hours. But the monks are still working to build a new pier with a chapel, repairing old and many things around the house!

So, monastic discipline and patience are tempted to every meal. I remembered the playful saying: “Never get between a priest and his meal!”

What we were fed? This time: a casserole of vegetables, wheat bread, cheese, olives, yogurt, apples. The olives are fragrant and spicy, its a real page – Turner! Eat to satiety, portion of allows.

After dinner, the monks go to the akathist to the chapel, where the ancient fresco with the image of the quick to hearken. And after a prayer in Greek — an unexpected joy. Father Alexander for a group of pilgrims from Kiev opened a door to the Quick to hear and we are all together, kneeling, read the akathist to the Mother of the Theotokos. Another miracle: in the room opposite of the image of the quick to hearken, is a life-size icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov. The Greeks honor our father Seraphim, thank You, Lord!

Photo: Horia Varlan / Flickr

With an extraordinary lightness of the soul we are back “home”. In our cell – 5 double-Decker beds. One high-rise building, we have taken Taras, and archontariki, the father Christopoulos, gave to us three Greeks. As it turned out, judo know and respect Putin, especially pressed on the fact that he also studied judo. We were treated to Greek chocolate (and we its clamped, I confess).

To be continued

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