Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Planting of a Monastery (chapter 7)
The entrance to the Great Lavra
Inside the Great Lavra

One’s first sighting of the Great Lavra is overwhelming. Constructed over a thousand years ago to withstand attacks by pirates, Latins, and Muslim invaders, it looks like the ancient medieval fortress town that it is. When entering the main gate you immediately notice a trap door midway between the two massive, reinforced doors. Should an invader manage to break down the first gate, hot oil would be poured down through the trap door above. The thick outer walls of the fortress offered further protection for the monks, whose monastery was in a remote part of the Byzantine Empire.

Inside the monastery's walls we found a city of monks, with spacious grounds, large buildings that housed the monastic brotherhood, guesthouse, kitchen, trapeza, and many small chapels. The magnificent katholikon (the main church), built by Saint Athanasius himself, was filled with frescos, relics of the saints, and a small side chapel which held his holy remains. Within the walls of the monastery was the Treasure House, where  many historic artifacts were kept, including the vestments of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos. 

Along with ourselves, we were in the company of many Germans who had come to the Holy Mountain, not as Orthodox pilgrims, but as tourists seeking the world class hiking trails, free lodging and the hospitality offered by the monks. Some of these men crowded around the relics of saints, not to venerate, but to gaze as though looking at museum displays. I was angered, and commented to Father Basil my wish that these non-believers would just stay off the Holy Mountain. This "was a place of holy pilgrimage, not a tourist destination".

After attending Liturgy the following morning, I left the monastery to explore the outside walls, and happened upon the charnel house, where the bones of thousands of monks are piled upon one another, awaiting the Day of the General Resurrection. Returning to the entrance of the monastery I found Father Basil looking for me. It seemed the monks were just about to begin a service of supplication to the Panagia (the All Holy) Koukouzelissa, in the beautiful chapel dedicated to her. This small Byzantine church was just inside the entrance to the monastery. Upon entering the church we all approached the miraculous icon, prostrated, and venerated her with a kiss. Father Basil lead the way, prostrating twice, kissing the icon, stepping back, and once more offering a prostration in humble veneration.

As I approached the miraculous icon I heard the voice of the Mother of God, clearly familiar and recognizable to me, speaking in the loving tone of a caring mother who was correcting her child. "You were once a tourist." Stunned, I felt shame permeate my whole body and soul. Although I had never heard of an icon speaking to anyone, I knew the voice. This voice was as familiar to me as my own mother's voice, and I knew the Panagia was speaking directly to me, reminding me that I had judged those German men, and that I had once entered an Orthodox church as a tourist. I felt as though I was a little boy being told by my grandmother that she was disappointed in me, and I stepped back, unable to look upon the icon. Unworthy to even venerate her, I kissed the bottom of the frame, turned, ignored the monk who was directing me to a monastic stall, and walked to the very back of the church. There, prostrated behind a large pillar, I remained for the entire service, muffling the sound of my tears. I will never forget her voice, and never forget the shame I felt, having judge these Germans.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

The Great Lavra
The Katholikon build by Saint Athanasius
The Panagia (the All Holy) Koukouzelissa
The Panagia Chapel

Thursday October 18, 2012 / October 5, 2012
20th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.

Martyr Charitina of Amisus (304).
Sts. Peter (1326), Alexis (1378), Jonah (1461), Macarius (1563), Philip (1569), Hermogenes (Germogen) (1612), Philaret (1867), Innocent (Veniaminov) (1879), and Tikhon (1925), metropolitans of Moscow.
Venarable Gabriel confessor (1959).
Venerable Damian the Healer (1071), and Venerables Jeremiah (1070) and Matthew (1085), clairvoyants of the Kiev Caves.
Venerable Charitina, princess of Lithuania (1281).
Hieromartyr Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria (265).
Martyr Mamelta (Mamelchtha) of Persia (344).
Venerable Gregory (Grigol) the Archimandrite of Chandzoe in Klarjeti, Georgia (861) (Georgia).
Venerable Fathers and Mothers of the Klarjeti Wilderness (9th c.).
Venerable Cosmas, abbot in Bithynia (10th c.).
Uncovering of the relics (1841) of Venerable Eudocimus the Unknown, monk of Vatopedi, Mt. Athos (Greek).
Venerable Methodia of Cimola (1908) (Greek).
St. John (Mavropos), metropolitan of Euchaita (1100).
St. Sabbas of Vatopedi, Mt. Athos (1350).
St. Varlaam, desert-dweller of Chikoysk (1846).
Uncovering of the relics of New Hieromartyr Bishop Basil of Kineshma (1945).

You can read the life of the saint in green, by click on the name.

THANK YOU, to all of you who have been able to contribute towards the support of the monastery. These difficult times of economic hardship have impacted the monastery, and those of you who have been able to donate, have been our lifeline. May God bless you for your generosity, and kindness.
With love in Christ,  
Abbot Tryphon

Donations can be made directly to the monastery through PayPal, or you may send donations to:

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA

Philippians 3:1-8

All for Christ

3 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Luke 7:17-30

17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus

18 Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. 19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.
22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
24 When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written:
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
28 For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist;[c] but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

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