The greatest pain for any man is to lose his spiritual father. When the loss occurs unwillingly, then we trust that the Lord will protect both the disciple and the spiritual father from all harm. Here we see Elder Ephraim, the abbot of Vatopaidi, allowing himself to be arrested as he peacefully approached the awaiting policemen at the main entrance of the monastery, just before Christmas in 2011. He was sent to the infamous Korydallos Prison, but was freed three months later as a result of the public outcry over the grave injustice.
The skete of Saint Demetrios belongs to the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi. It is located in the mountains in a quiet and beautiful location and is at a half hour’s walking distance from the monastery.
If the man doesn't cope with his own sins, devil will make him cope with other's. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite
I have watched farmers sowing the same type of seed, and yet each one had different ideas of what he was doing. One was planning to pay off his debts. Another was hoping to get rich. Another wanted to be able to bring gifts to honor the Lord. Another was hoping to earn praise for his work from the passers-by in life. Someone else wanted to irritate a jealous neighbor, while there was yet another who did not want to be reproached by men for laziness. And as for the seeds thrown into the earth, their names are fasting, keeping vigil, almsgiving, service, and suchlike. So let our brethren in the Lord keep a careful eye on their motives. Based on St. John of the Ladder In the photo fathers are harvesting medicinal herbs (marigolds - calendula). In background, two chapels near of Vatopaidi.
The sickness of human nature is the failure to reach personal perfection. The diagnosis concerns every person, independent whether he is Christian or not. Orthodoxy is not bounded within the narrow boundaries of religion that is only interested in her followers, but like God, is universal. Because of its human-divine nature, Christianity must remain eternally unchanging – but not frozen in letters – in no way being dependent on or guided by the spirit of each age. Instead, Christianity is meant to govern and direct the spirit of the age for anyone who follows its teachings, but not in a tyrannical manner. Based on St Theophan the Recluse, Protopresbyter George Metallinos (University of Athens) In this photo the Abbot Ephraim is pouring wine in the Holy Chalice at the beginning of Divine Leiturgy of St. Ap. James, the "brother" of Christ. Being the oldest complete Leiturgy still in use, it is held in the middle of the church, outside of the Holy Altar.
Don’t wind the clock too tightly or the spring may break. This is the way it is with children, as well; when they are starting to feel forced, let off on the pressure. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite In this photo a Vatopaidi monk adjusting the Church's main clock.The clock was received in the Monastery in 1805 from Vienna, althogh the clock is believed to date much earlier from around 1700-1750.
Those who have come to love the Lord are at first unceasingly and greatly disturbed by the thought of detachment, as if burning with divine fire. I speak of separation from their own, undertaken by the lovers of perfection so that they may live a life of hardship and simplicity. But great and praiseworthy as this is, yet it requires great discretion; for not every kind of exile, carried to extremes, is good. It is not from hatred that we separate ourselves from our own people or places (God forbid!), but to avoid the harm which might come to us from them. In order to see clearly, each one of us must detach from our daily 'reality'. Based on St. John of the Ladder This photo depicts the Monastery of Vatopaidi with the surrounding wilderness of the Holy Mountain.
How do we choose a spiritual father? A good spiritual father is not one who simply forgives sins in confession. All spiritual fathers absolve sins by virtue of their ordination. A good spiritual father is one who first of all by his personal example and then by his instruction helps us to not fall again, or at least to progress spiritually. In this photo, Elder Ephraim of Vatopaidi giving advices with love to one of his monks. A candid shot in the Chapel of St. Demetrius. Another disciple is listening on the left.
“The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one”. Material things with their worldly light distract from the ultra-brightness of the dark abyss of the Deity. Consequently, the holy fathers struggled to escape from the allure of material things in order to be free to partake in the joy of God’s grace. For this reason the Church is reserved and treads carefully in the face of today’s rapid technological developments. Indeed, our genuine material needs are few; the Church, however, does not indiscriminately press its members with rigid limitations but takes into account the weakness of the soul, while at the same time encouraging it to embrace the struggle according to its spiritual strength. Based on 1 John 5:19, St. Dyonisius the Aeropagite.
If you begin to guard wealth it will not be yours. Rather, if you begin to distribute it, you will not lose it. It is much better to give than take. Based on St Basil; Facts 20:35 In this photo one of the Vatopaidi bakers while taking out the bread from the oven for the needs of the brotherhood, pilgrims and surrounding ascetics.
How to overcome the war against yourself When someone wages war against you, take example of Crist's crucifixion. Don't fight fire with fire. It makes you look ridiculous. Instead make a little path in order to let the light of Christ's example and His teaching enter and then the darkness will go away by itself. One needs faith, courage and patience in order to accomplish this. But without a cross to bare, there is no resurrection. Based on St Porfyrios of Kavsokalivia In this photo is depicted the Metropolitan Amphilohios of Adrianoupoleos raising the Cross with his hands at the Divine Liturgy. Vatopaidi, the feast of the Holy Founders.
How do we prepare for a big feast? Everyone thinks that a big feast as an occasion of joy and to catch up with loved ones. However, in order to really feel the real happiness one must prepare himself/herself, beyond of preparing food, gifts, decorating house etc. First of all, we must remember that joy is a virtue from God. It isn't a psychological state. That's why in order to prepare ourselves before the feast to receive the God's grace, we must keep fasting (according with the respective ascetic guidelines), confess, go to church and read spiritual texts in accordance with that feast. We must take into consideration that before and after a major event such as Christmas, New Year, one's Birthday, Easter and so on… the devil tries to ruin the joy that is spread from the festive season so one can feel upset, saddened, hate. Take care and let God do His works. Through pray all can be managed. Before the beginning of the day, events, gatherings etc, say a little prayer so God can be present to protect from any evil harm. In this photo, monks from Vatopaidi are at the kitchen preparing fish, the main meal for the feast.
If God is slow in answering your request, or if you ask but do not promptly receive anything, do not be upset, for you are not wiser than God. And, in fact, the act of praying is already a small victory against your passions. Based upon St Isaac the Syrian A moment from the small entrance of Divine Liturgy at the Cell of the Mother of God's Nativity. The cell's occupant is hermit Elder Nektarios (on the left with candle).
How to fit the pieces Today many of us wonder, "How do we fit so many people in an organization?". Orthodoxy solved this problem more than 2000 years ago. The problem isn't so much the organization but the people themselves. The leader must be capable to raise the spiritual level of his flock through his prayer and his personal example: talk and act in such a way in which he can correct, guide and inspire his followers without damaging the employer-employee relationship. The leader (employer) must recognize and respect one's virtues and abilities as well as his weak points. Do not allow your passions to fit the pieces but always ask what God will do in your place. In this photo a Vatopaidi monk is at garage trying to fit a new clutch on to a car.
How to win the war of the stomach We must eat to live and not live to eat. We must control the stomach and not the stomach control us. The secret is to leave every meal still feeling a slight hunger; to avoid food which provokes pleasure and choose food that frees you from this trap. Monks do not choose the food they will eat. Only the monk who serves as chef knows. The photo depicts a monk in the Refectory at Vatopaidi Monastery arranging the daily meal
If a person wants to understand a certain place in nature, he must either trust those who have been in immediate proximity to that place, or he must go there himself. There is not a third option. In the same way a person gets an impression of God: He must either trust those who have stood and stand in immediate proximity to God, or he must take pains to come into such proximity himself. In this picture is a monk from Vatopaidi walking next to some of the numerous waterfalls which are found in the monastery's vicinity.
Gate to Eternity One of the most impressive services is the burial service. Everyone is gathered around the dead body and prays for his soul. The fact that the soul of the departed one is an eternal existence that needs help through prayers is more evident in this service than everywhere else. Everyone has a candle in his hands as a symbol of resurrection, proof of the eternal nature of the soul.
If from the beginning you instill in your children the good Christian teaching then they will gain the greatest of riches and paramount of glory even until the end of their lives. In this photo, Elder Ermolaos from Vatopaidi during an enlightening moment with his sons and relatives.
It is impossible, someone says, impossible to spend the present day devoutly unless we regard it as the last of our whole life; and it is truly astonishing how even the pagans have said something of the like, since they define philosophy as the meditation on death. Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.
He who exposes every snake to his spiritual father shows that he has real faith; but he who hides them will wander in trackless wastes.
The main duty of the spiritual man is to keep his mind clean from intrusive thoughts. This is necessary because devil ceaselessly seeks the mental accord with his prey. Consent of just one thought is enough pretext for him to obtain the necessary power to mentally battle someone. And any mistake which we make in actually has before it a mistake in the world of our thoughts.
The first stage of tranquility consists of silencing the lips when the heart is in turbulence. The second consists of silencing the mind when the soul is still troubled. The goal is a perfect peacefulness even in the middle of the raging storm.
To the degree of your love for your Elder, God will grant you His grace. Our spiritual fathers doesn't need our love, neither does he demand it with selfishness. However we need to love them in order to save our souls. In this photo a young monk lamenting at the side of the recently deceased elder Joseph of Vatopaidi.
Flying to Heaven Almost everything on Mount Athos seeks to raise the spirit from this world towards the divine. The delicate combination of architecture, lighting and shadows is no exception from this purpose. The photograph depicts the cupola and ceiling of the katholikon of the Vatopaidi monastery together with the lit big chandelier from bellow.
The scope of the humanity is to become like God, to become holy, to acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit. When a man comes close to God and becomes a saint, his grace is so great that it remains in his relics even after his soul departs after his death. This is why the church is nothing more than a “factory” which produces holy relics. This photo depicts a few of the holy relics of the saints of Vatopaidi placed on the Holy Altar.
The critical significance of death isn't the end of ones life. Mans immortal soul continues existing after death. The implication of death lies in the fact that afterwards the soul cannot help itself anymore to improve its existential state in front of God. Consequently, one's soul relies on the prayers and good acts of faith done towards the benefit of their name from the others which are still behind in man's earthly existence which is called "life". The Church has special prayers and services for the departed ones which portray church's global love for everyone as well as the acknowledgement that we all are alive. In this photo, a priest reads a prayer for the departed in front of the icon of Christ while blessing the koliva.
Mans' inner hell isn't a consequence of sin but a result of the lack of repentance. To sin is human. To not sin is divine. To persist in your mistakes is diabolical.
God made all his creation from pure love. God doesn't depend on anything or anyone in order to be perfectly happy. He simply wanted to make a creation to also enjoy this omniscient bliss. The crown of His creation is the human being which is a 'created god'. However, humanity threw away this perfection, taking along the entire created world into distortion. Consequently, God became man in order to save His creation, even unto death for Himself, as much as it is possible for an immortal God. This was (and is) the biggest anomaly ever: the immortal and perfect God, the Creator, to be murdered by His creation which is destined to be like Him.
The world is like a circle with God as eternal creator in the middle. All beings are like radii which travel towards God, the giver of existence, and in the center they are perfectly united, but just a short distance away from it they are separated, and the greater their distance from the center, the greater their separation, and the closer they are to the center, the more they are united to it and to one another. True unity, true contact between two existences is realized only through God. There is no direct path which ties two beings. Unification comes only through God.
To really help someone you must not think about their problem rather but pray for them. instead of talking with them about their problem is much better to talk with God about them. In the Divine Liturgy through God's Grace and through our prayer we are as one: alive and departed souls. This unity is real 'oneness' even if it isn't immediately observable with the eyes of our body. This photo depicts a priestmonk at Vatopaidi commemorating names and taking out crumbs for the living and the dead in Liturgy of Preparation (Proskomedi). The Liturgy of Preparation is done quietly before the public part of the Divine Liturgy begins and symbolises the "hidden years" of Christ's earthly life.
Heaven’s Joy During the festal services, there are specific moments when the chandeliers are set into motion by the monks. The effect is quite stunning since the church is illumiated only by the "flying" candles. Simultaneoysly, the jouyful Athonite chanting proceeding from both the left and rifht choirs accompanied by the subtle ringing of the deacons bells as they are censing the church, culmiante all of the senses into one great, majestic spiritual moment, a moment which foreshadows the eternal kingdom. In this photograph, the aforementioned moment is captured during which the chandeliers are being set into motion and the monk who will announce the verses of the canon awaits the blessing from the Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros the 2nd who sits on throne. The photo is taken at Feast of the St Gerasimos at Vatopaidi.
Whoever disregards education comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. That's why the education of the young in law of the Lord is the art of the arts and science of all sciences. This photo depicts a candid shot at the school of Vatopaidi where the young monks learn Ancient Greek.
What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade. However the coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.
Jesus said: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life". So, who is the one which will receive the uncovered and heavenly fire in his heart and won't ignite and won't shine? Pictured above, Elder Ephraim praying during the Divine Liturgy - Chappel of St. Demetrios at Vatopaidi.
A firm beginning will certainly be useful for us when we later grow slack. A soul that is strong at first but then relaxes is spurred on by the memory of its former zeal. And in this way new wings are often obtained. When the soul betrays itself and loses the blessed and longed for fervor, let it carefully investigate the reason for losing this and let it arm itself with all its longing and zeal against whatever has caused this. For the former fervor can return only through the same door through which it was lost. In this photo deacons are shown while censing at Easter. Vatopaidi monastery.
The perfect communion Holiness is pure interpersonal communion. The passions and egoism are shed through this process of deification. This is the only real way to achieve communion beyond the borders of nationalities and languages. The photo was taken at Vatopaidi – Easter 2014. In front are seen (left to right): Maurice from Nigeria, Michel from France, Dionys from Russia, Pavel and Nicolae from Romania in their national costumes. Around are other pilgrims from the United States of America, Australia, Brazil, England, Moldova, Cyprus, Greece, Russia, Germany, Lebanon, Finland and other nations.
While praying in one's heart, one is united with God and transcends the barriers of time. He experiences the reality [mystery] of eternity, free of time and all constructs of this world. He draws himself away from the distractions of this world and collecting himself refinds his original ontological state of unity between mind and heart. This is the solution for everyone living in our contemporary society, [difficult, but not impossible].
True knowledge is to experience eternal life. Eternal life is to know by experience the only true God which is the light of the world. Hence, the one who doesnt know God doesnt know anything at all and this spiritual darkness can be eternal too. In the photo is a hieromonk at the end of the Divine Liturgy in the chapel of St. Nicholas, Vatopaidi.
Our problems arent solved by contemplating them. The solution to all our problems is found through praying about them. In order to be powerful and effective, prayer must arise from within a pure heart. Oil and salt are seasonings for food; and tears and chastity give wings to prayer. In this photo Abbot Ephraim of Vatopaidi Monastery is depicted reading the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos in front of Her Miracle-working icon in the Holy Altar of the Katholikon of Vatopaidi.
The humble one sees all others as better than himself and rejoices at the virtues that he sees in others, which in reality they might not even have. The proud one sees others as worse than himself and is constantly irritated about others' mistakes which often don't even exist. A humble hermit while looking inside of Vatopaidi's main church during an all-night vigil.
The honor shown to the image passes over to the archetype: If I point to a statue of Caesar and ask you 'Who is that?', your answer would properly be, 'It is Caesar.' With your words you do not mean that the stone itself is Caesar, but rather, the name and honor you ascribe to the statue passes over to the original, the archetype, Caesar himself. So it is with an Icon. An iconographer from Vatopaidi while painting the finishing touches of an icon of St. George.
Do not rebuke one who stopped sinning and has started repenting. If you say that you are doing this for God's sake, first unearth your past sins, and then proceed to correct your brother. To kill a man is easy. To make enliven is much harder.
An iconographer should ideally have a powerful ascetic life since their internal state will be reflected in manifestation of their icons. More generally speaking, any artist will express his internal world through his external art. That's why any man, but especially an artist, must see with his internal eye the beauty of Paradise and not so much the pain of Hell. This photo depicts an iconographer from Vatopaidi's workshop painting a copy of the miracle-working icon of Paramythia.
By nature we are mostly visual beings. The vast majority of information which we process daily materializes through our sense of sight. In the Churchs history, there were seven ecumenical councils. Six of them were directly related to various dogmas and teachings related to the Holy Trinity. The seventh was summoned for works of art, and more specifically for the role of the visual art in human salvation, the orthodox icons of worship. We must be very careful with what we feed our eyes. In this photo, Elder Modestos (right), a hermit near Vatopaidi, shows photos of his Elder (father Andreas) to the young fathers of Vatopaidi which are a witness to his obedience and patience with Elder Andreas.
According to the degree of which a man suffers undeserved shame from another in the name of Christ's truth, he will be rewarded thousands of times over and will be mysteriously glorified by countless crowds of men. True love is tried and tested through man's controversies. This photo depicts the end of a "photo session" at the Skete of St Andrew (Karyes) requested by the father Job (on the left, in wheelchair) from the Abbot Ephraim (right) who was present at the skete's main feast of St. Andrew.
For the Holy Spirit, sweet and gracious, draws the soul to love the Lord, and in the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the soul loses her fear of suffering.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. One of the Vatopaidi fathers during the worship service.
It is one thing to speak about work and another to work practically. It is one thing to speak about pain and another to feel the pain. It is one thing to speak about honey and another to have the experience of its sweetness. The same stands for the spiritual matters: One thing is to speak about heavenly events and another to feel the Holy Spirit's energy in one's soul. God's grace comes when one implements acts of virtue. With words alone, his faith is dead. In this photo a member of the Governing Council of Vatopaidi Monastery is hard at work cleaning up one of the monastery's springs.
God can be truly known only through the Grace of the Holy Spirit. This is because real knowledge of God is not intellectual but experiential; becoming like Him and uniting with Him as much as we can. That's why the degree of true knowledge stems from the degree of love: the more perfect the love, the more perfect your knowledge will be. Elder Efraim of Vatopaidi while serving the Divine Liturgy in the main church (catholicon) with the cross of St. Constantine the Great in front of him.
Pride and envy are the greatest of evils which threw even angles from the Heavens to Hell. Hence, humility and love are the means which bring us from our inner hell to the Heavens. In order for man to experience his personal resurrection, God had to become man and die through the cross; otherwise no one would believe that paradise came only through the pain of the cross. This is the light which we all seek, but no one can find alone.
We must imitate the work of the wise bee which with much skill harversts from each blossom everything which is usefull. The fathers from Vatopaidi speaking with Mr. Georgios Mantzaridis, one of the most renowed theology and ethics professors from Grece and abroad.
I will sing unto the Lord throughout my life, I will chant to my God for as long as I exist. May my words be sweet unto Him, and I will rejoice in the Lord. Truly remarkable is this mystery of earthly worhsip when contemplated with the eternal nature of mankind.
Prayer is the core of spiritual life; it is communication with God or, better yet, life with God. Hence prayer is man's way to directly communicate with God, stemming from the human need for completeness. There was a time when man sought God in external things; but through grace the divine encounter with God occurs within the human being. Finding God in himself, man finds himself and succeeds to be God-like, acquiring the mindfulness of the emperor of creation. A candid shot from Divine Liturgy in the Vatopaidi's main church. A deacon from a central part of Africa while saying the prayers.
A true shepherd is proven by his love. In the name of love, the Great Shepherd was crucified for mankind. The Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros the 2nd, while leaving from Vatopaidi Monastery.
Show God the faith in your heart that you have in your spiritual father and the honest love you have for him. God in ways unknown will urge him to be well-disposed to you and fond of you, just as you have shown your good disposition towards him. In this photo a monk sharing a heartfelt moment with his elder.
All warfare is based on deception and has as an ultimate purpose; the hate and death of the human soul. That's why in spiritual warfare never ever believe in your thoughts. Did you see a man who erred? He believed his thoughts. After that, if there is lack of repentance and spiritual guidance, internal hopelessness comes which cuts the human being to his core. It is his spiritual death. In this photo one of the brothers having a pensive moment before the common meal.
Contrast In order to abide in the love of God it is essential for anger and hate to attain their maximum intensity and directed against the sin that lives in me, against the evil active in me in me, not in my brother. In this photo a priest from Congo during the annual procession of St. Elias which journeys around the whole monastery.
It is impossible to know truth without God allowing us to experience trials. Those who don’t wish to endure these trials for the sake of truth will endure greater hardships from the sickness of their soul. Based on St. Isaac the Syrian, Abba Mark This photo shows Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Rodostolos (centre) together with a young student from the Athonite Academy (left) surrounded by fathers from Vatopaidi.
The proof that someone has a charisma and uses it according to God's will is that he doesn't want to keep it for himself only, neither does he want to impose something on others, but when he is asked he gladly responds, helps and shares his knowledge. In this photo a well-known chanter from Mount Athos, Elder Daniil of Katounakia (right) came to Vatopaidi with his disciple (left), to teach byzantine music at brotherhood's request.
"The second baptism" "The wedding with God" The mystery of the great schema tonsure cannot be explained in words. The one who dedicates himself to be a great schema monk has a very concrete experience of these two things but he cannot express it to others. Like any other experience of God's grace one must live it in order to understand it. It is one thing to talk about honey, to describe its sweetness; and another to actually taste it. In this photo a brother becomes a great schema monk after some years of being a plain monk.
Perhaps is somewhat daring what I'm saying but the spiritual experience is to be preferred at least at the beginning more than God's grace because the ones who had grace and didn't have experience lost the grace while the others which didn't have grace but have spiritual experience succeeded to gain grace. In this photo one of the monasterys brothers during one of the two annual processions around the monastery.
The mystery of great, holy, and angelic schema contains the greatest degree of Grace which one can undertake. It is a second baptism in which all the sins of the new candidate are forgiven; an experience which the tonsured one feels in the depth of his being. Many holy men have seen the grace of baptism present during the great schema service. It is a marvelous mystery of life within God and with God within you; impossible to describe in words.
The Lord loves all people, but He loves those who seek Him even more. To his chosen ones the Lord gives such great grace that for His love they forsake the whole earth, the whole world, and their souls burn with the desire that all people might be saved and see the glory of the Lord. He gave us everything He had: his soul, his flesh, his blood. Everything for us. The photo depicts a moment from Divine Liturgy in the Holy Altar of Vatopaidi. On the left is Metropolitan Paul of Glyfada. On the right, a hermit-monk from a cell of Vatopaidi. In the middle the holy chalice with the holy gifts: the precious body and blood of the Lord.
Let us lift up our hearts to the Lord. This can be achieved if our mind is oblivious to outside distractions, internally focused, and united with our heart; from there it naturally turns to God. This photo depicts Metropolitan Pavlos of Glyfada, in the Divine Liturgy at the feast of the New-martyrs.
When, in the absence of our superior, we imagine his face and think that he is always standing by us, and avoid every meeting, or word, or food, or sleep, or anything else that we think he would not like, then we have truly learned authentic obedience. Illegitimately born children regard the absence of their teacher as a joy, but the legitimate ones think it a loss. Monks pictured while preparing the meal in Vatopaidi's refectory.
The true status of our inner state is demonstrated during the time of prayer. The one who feels in his heart that while he is praying he is standing ontologically in front of God is an unshaking rock who cant be ridiculed by the demons.
Prayer by reason of its nature is the converse and union of man with God, and by reason of its action upholds the world and brings about reconciliation with God; it is the mother and also the daughter of tears, the propitiation for sins, a bridge over temptations, a wall against afflictions, a crushing of conflicts, work of angels, food of all the spiritual beings.
One evil receives strength from another. In the same way, good deeds also sprout from one another and the one in whom they are found grows greater. It is preferable to practice an easier but consistent virtue rather than attempt an superior one which will stop immediately. The photo depicts the tomato gathering in Vatopaidi's greenhouse.
If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, the giver he has light continuously. In the same way, through the tradition of Apostolic succession the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their shepherds and teachers. To be able to give, you must have first received enlightenment from above through the guidance of an experienced elder.
One of the first buildings which a newcomer encounters when entering the monastery is the guesthouse. His spiritual metamorphosis begins once he realizes that the world which he exited is radically different from the world which he is stepping into, regardless of seemingly exterior similarities of the two worlds. This photo depicts the Vatopaidi courtyard with the Tower of Metamorphosis on the left and the monastery guesthouse on right.
An Old Wing of the Monastery at Night The East Wing of Vatopaidi Monastery consisting of monks’ cells - 3:30am. The first sections of the wing were built before 1450. Monks pray and study late into the night and early morning, often struggling against the need for sleep in an effort to compensate for the lack of prayer in the world.
Sing with wisdom, rhythm and good zeal and you'll be like a baby eagle which flies to the heights. Elder Ephraim is depicted chanting together with his spiritual children in front of the miracle-working icon of Panagia Pantanassa.
Paradise Lost God is good by nature and hence He didn't prepare hell for mankind. However, since God respects our free will, mankind still has the capacity to fall into hell through the fulfilling of his own distorted will and by not carrying outs good works according to each one's God given abilities. The only passion which hinders man from fulfilling God’s commandments, from performing acts of virtue, is our negligence. This negligence is cured by almsgiving and prayer. The distortion of our human nature is shocking. Man loses eternal paradise senselessly.
A Christian receives divine wisdom in three ways: by the commandments, by teachings, and by faith. The commandments free the mind from passions. Teachings lead it to true knowledge of nature. Faith leads to the contemplation of the Holy Trinity. In this photo, the archibishop of Ierissou Theokletos is blessing with his dikeri symbolizing the light brought to us by the Christ's incarnation at the feast of All Saints of Vatopaidi.
When the athletes of spirituality rise to heaven all the heavenly powers gather from everywhere to carefully witness their past sufferings and just like with the heroes returning from war with many trophies and victories, in the same way they salute them with great pleasure and prepare them a grand reception. This photo shows a moment from the great entrance of a festal Divine Liturgy in which priests at Vatopaidi hold holy relics in their hands.
Farewell before the journey A priestmonk reads the prayers of the unction service several days before the departure of Elder Ermolaos. He is preparing along with all the brotherhood for the closing of this life and the journey into the next. On the Holy Mountain death is the celebration of the separation of soul and body. Whilst the body decays into its physical organic corruption, the soul continues its existence, aware of itself and remembering the life it lived: its joys, sorrows and all the other events of its life. For this reason we strive not to act in a way that will leave us in humiliation and shame for all eternity.
A smile from eternity One of the most beloved contemporary Elders of the Holy Mountain, Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi reposed in the Lord on his birthday, July 1st 2009. At his death, a miracle occurred shortly after his departure which left a sign of hope for all of us who "await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come". He smiled more than 45 minutes after his death. Elder Joseph's mouth had remained open for a long time immediately after his passing and despite all their efforts, the present monks were unable to close his mouth. According to the Athonite custom, the Elder's Body was wrapped in his monastic mantle which was then sewn up. After a while, according to Abbot Ephraim's instructions, the body was placed on a bier, and a hole was cut in the mantle to expose his face and another to expose his right hand for veneration. To the astonishment of all, Elder Joseph's mouth had not only closed but face was now beaming miraculously with a smile! Not only his lips, but his eyes and cheeks, and even the color had returned to his lips and face!
The power of Virtue Even if he was destroyed by the metastasis of his cancer and by the chemotherapies which he underwent, his dignity and bravery in preaching God's justice will be never forgotten, neither on Earth neither in Heaven. The only thing which remains after our death is our virtue. A tribute to the Metropolitan of Austria Michael, photographed here at the Feast of the Holy Belt at Vatopaidi in 2011. It was his last feast.
Reading enlightens the mind considerably, and helps it to concentrate. For the words are those of the Holy Spirit and they attune those who attend to them. Let what you read lead you to action, for you are a doer. Putting these words into practice makes further reading superfluous. Seek to be enlightened by the words of salvation through your labors, and not merely from books. This photo depicts a monk while reading in Vatopaidi's library.
The most important thing in our life is to receive light from God. For this we must first humble ourselves and follow a virtuous way of life in order to enlighten our souls and our hearts and not to become necessarily more intellectually knowledgeable. This is especially true for bishops, because as Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos said, the spiritual life of the entire flock is a parallel to the spiritual life of its bishop. Below is a candid shot taken in the Holy Altar of Bishop Cyrillos of Avvidon during the Feast of the Holy Belt of the Virgin Mary.
At times Im speechless; other times Im happy, and Im happy when Im speechless in front of the delicate beauty of nature and not in front of blind human brutality. He was very beautiful, gentle and delicate. We talked in silence for about half an hour. He was very kind and allowed me to take many photos of him. We shook hands and he left to his paradise. In awe, I wondered how much this fragile creature resembled the soul of a saint departing in peace.
The Next One to Pass Away Elder Ermolaos of Vatopaidi looks at the koliva (the traditional food made in remembrance of the departed ones or saints). The photo was taken at the Feast of All the Saints of Vatopaidi. Shortly after, he reposed and went to those who had gone before him. The next koliva made would be for his own repose.
The Need for a Cross Many times we need to pass through sorrows. Many times we’re left alone in front of a trial. We must undertake a certain task by ourselves– not because the others necessarily dislike us, but because this is the way it is. Taken at the end of a harvest of potatoes, at which one monk stayed behind the others in order to gather the remaining potatoes.
Perhaps it is a little bold what I'm saying but it is better to quarrel with God rather than with your spiritual father. If you are at odds with God, your spiritual father will reconcile you with Him. But if you are separated from your elder, who will reconcile with your spiritual guide?
The Purity Within A Ukrainian monk of Vatopaidi Monastery at prayer during the services. The inner life of each monk can be intense with deep experiences, only a small part of which may observed by others.