Christians, always rejoice, for evil, death, sin, the devil and hell have been conquered by Christ. But when all of this is conquered, is there anyone in the world who can bring our joy to naught? You are the lord of this eternal rejoicing as long as you do not give in to sin. Joy burns in our hearts from His truth, love, resurrection, and from the Church and His saints. Joy burns in our hearts all because of sufferings for Him, mockings for Him, and death for Him, insofar as these sufferings write our names in heaven. There is no true joy on earth without the victory over death, but the victory over death does not exist without the Resurrection, and the Resurrection does not exist without Christ. The risen God-Man Christ, the founder of the Church, constantly pours out this joy into the hearts of His followers through the Holy Mysteries and good deeds. Our faith is fulfilled in this eternal joy, insofar as the joy of faith in Christ is the only true joy for human nature. Based on St. Justin Popovich In this photo, the Elder Ephraim is incensing in the middle of the crowd at Easter. Vatopaidi, 2015.
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.
Help in finding a good spouse. Note: This text was written for women, but can equally be applied by men. First of all, pray about it. Our Lord and His holy Mother are the primary source of aid for such matters. Then ask yourself, can I see him as the father of my children? You should find that this narrows it down to perhaps one or two. Now, imagine him as an old man with a wrinkled face and stooped over. Would you want to be at this man’s side? If so, then indeed there something of God’s hand in this relationship. Next, observe him around girls or women with whom he is not interested in having a relationship, like a sister or feeble or old women. How does he behave around them? Here you will see his true character. Finally, make sure he is someone who is fighting to overcome his passions and to correct his defects, no matter how large or small they may be. Make sure he is someone who is a true Christian. Based on St. John Chrysostom, St. Paisios the Athonite, Father Dumitru Staniloae
The Sunday of Orthodoxy We hate heresy because heresies misguide souls away from God and towards hell; this is the chief reason behind the anathema on a heresy and its creators and promoters. Despite this, we love the heretics themselves and do not say that they will necessarily end up in hell, since there is a power that is able to save them from their delusions; this power is their conscience. Plus it is not always possible to know the secret workings of Grace that may be going on within a particular soul. Within the Church today, believers who fail to make this distinction between the heresy and the heretic tend to fall into one of two errors. The one group, in order to accept the heretic in the name of “unity” and “love”, glosses over and fails to condemn and reject the heresy. This is the error of ecumenism. The other side, in their effort to rightfully condemn the heresy, also rejects and condemns the soul under the spell of the heresy, the heretic. This is the error of hardhearted legalism. Just as the true Christian must hate the sin and love the sinner, he must also condemn the heresy and love the heretic. This true path may be seen in the tradition of the Holy Fathers, as it is typified so beautifully here in the service of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on the first Sunday of Great Lent.
For the whole array of passions, wrath and fear, cowardice and impudence, depression as well as pleasure, hatred, strife and merciless cruelty, envy as well as flattery, brutality together with brooding over injuries, they are all so many despotic masters... You really, really, really need to clean them up. Don't be afraid and do it! Okay, if you're afraid, be afraid and do it anyway! Based on St Gregory of Nyssa
The Mother of God can “save” us through her intercession. At Vatopaidi Monastery there is a miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary called Paramythia, the “Comforter”. This icon saved the monks of the monastery from pirates, even though the Lord placed His hand over her mouth in order to prevent her from warning the monks, because of their sinfulness and neglect of their monastic promises. The Mother of God drew Christ’s hand down from her mouth and repeated her warning to the monastery’s abbot, Saint Gennadius, as he was about to hand over the keys for the main gate to the gatekeeper, that there were pirates in hiding outside the walls waiting to invade the monastery. According to her instructions, the monks mounted the walls and drove the pirates away. Since that time, the icon has retained this unusual pose of the Virgin Mary drawing Christ’s hand down from her mouth. Of course, this was a spiritual “setup” on Christ’s part in order to move the monks to repent and change their lives, while at the same time showing the power and efficacy of the prayers and interventions of His Holy Mother. In the photo, the icon in its small chapel.
...But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Based on Luke 15:20-24
The Seraphim The first group of angels consists of those who are in God's presence and are said to be directly and immediately one with Him: the Seraphim with their six wings, the many-eyed Cherubim and the holiest Thrones. An angel, then, is an intelligent essence, in perpetual motion, with free-will, ministering to God, having obtained by grace an immortal nature. It is not susceptible of repentance because it is incorporeal. For it is owing to the weakness of his body that man comes to have repentance. They are secondary intelligent lights derived from that first light which is without beginning, for they have the power of illumination; they have no need of tongue or hearing, but without uttering words they communicate to each other their own thoughts and counsels. Based on St. John of Damascus In the photo, a candid moment from Divine Leiturgy near to the Holy Altar at Vatopaidi.
Each one of us has a saint who protects him with great care, even if we don't feel this in every moment. Based on St. George Karslidis In this photo two monks praying in the Chapel of St Gregory Palamas (Vatopaidi) having in their background the icons of St Gregory Palamas (right) and his elder - St. Nikodemus the Hesycast
You will not labour many years, son, in search of blessed inner peace, if in the beginning you surrender yourself with all your soul to indignities. After that, perhaps God will give you glory, but this will not harm you. Based on St. John of the Ladder In this photo, the Mitropolitan Panteleimon of Veria incensing the pilgrims at the feast of Theophany in the Katholikon (main church) of Vatopaidi.
For those who give everything to God, God will give everything to them. For those who try to cheat God, God will “cheat” them. This is why those who labor for God are joyful, while those “cheat” Him are unhappy. In this photo two members of the Friends of Mount Athos are shown clearing the footpaths 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.
Why do we believe in Christ? The easy answer would be to say that He was revealed as Christ and Savior in the words of the Bible; but words are not enough. We believe in Christ because of the effect His deeds and words have had upon us and our world. The history of the past two thousand years bears witness to this profound effect on humanity, but more importantly we see this effect within us on a personal level as we seek to follow His commandments and live according to His words. As we put His words into practice and embrace, paradoxically, the way of His cross, His eternal joy and peace takes root in us until it finds its completion in the everlasting happiness of His Heavenly Kingdom. In the photo a heremit hieromonk during the Divine Leiturgy at Vatopaidi.
It is a definite truth that Divine Providence arranges all of creation. God considers all things beforehand and takes care for all things. This is the Divine fatherly care of which the blessed apostle Peter speaks: "Cast all of your cares upon Him, because He is concerned for you." Based on St. Elias Minjatios A monk from Vatopaidi while checking the waterfalls near the monastery. Water is a very important factor for the monks of Mount Athos since rainfalls (especially in summer) are quite rare.
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.
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.
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.
One of the first things which God gives to those who call is a sense of the vanity of this world. Those who’ve received the light of this knowledge must make haste, because you never know if this candle will be snuffed out. Postponement of such a decision has often resulted in failure. And the future is eternal. Based on St. John the Klimax
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.
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.
God's creation has a natural tendancy to turn away from sinful distortion in an effort to eradicate the evil. This is why many times animals instinctivly attack when they sense impurity within man. Contrary, when in the presence of a pure soul, nature is often calm, helpful and tame towards its symbiotic counterpart. In this photo, the beekeeper monk is depicted harversting the fruits of the monastery's beehives without a second thought for bodily protection.
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.
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.
Nobody has ever gained more in this world than a plate of food, a garment to wrap himself in and a roof over his head. This is all the material wealth that one truly needs. All other things are not directy tied to our biological existence. The contemporary man runs, runs, runs... and if you ask him why? he doesn't know why. In this photo, a heremit is praying in a tree cavity near to Vatopaidi. It is a rather common habit for monks to retreat into the woods for more quietness, stillness and better conditions for spiritual life.
The Way of Virtue is always in the centre; at equlibrium. One cannot sway to the right or the left. The extremes are always from the evil one however tempting they may seem.
He who is proud of his natural gifts, I mean cleverness, ability to learn, skill in reading, a clear pronunciation, quick understanding and all such gifts received by us without labour, will never obtain the supernatural blessings, because he who is unfaithful in a little is also unfaithful and vainglorious in much. We must first seek humility in our desires to succeed in life.
The tonsure, which is reminiscent of the Vow of the Nazirite, is a symbolic act of the consecration of one's life to God by cutting off and forsaking ones self-will. There are three types of these dedications: baptismal, monastic, and clerical. In all cases, the hair is allowed to grow back; the tonsure as such is not imposed as a required hairstyle on the candidate. The newly tonsured aspirant will put in practice and exploit the gift of grace which he received from God according to his conscience and zeal.
If we can endure the lack of the material objects and our hearts aren't enslaved to these entities, then God will grant them to us a hundred times over. Even if in His divine wisdom He does not fulfill our mundane desires, it is for the benefit of our souls. Often God doesn't grant material requests from the beginning because within the pretext of our supplications exists the danger of forgetting the spiritual things for the material concerns. In any case, we must be thankful always for that which God grants us!
Prior to man' spiritual baptism, he is enslaved by the evil one as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve and subject to demonic influences. After his baptism and re-birth, the evil one is driven away, and man is filled by the grace of Christ. This is why in the Orthodox Church eveyone is baptized from infancy and subsequently their face shines and a great sense of joy overcome the baptized person.
Man's true birth is not when he is brought to the world from his mother's womb, but occurs when he is re-born for the eternal life through holy baptism. So our pragmatic mother is baptism and resurrection through Christ.
The lives and praises of the saints are like the stars in brilliance. Because of their number, we do not know the names of all the saints; still, they amaze us by their radiant majesty, as do the stars, which while fixed in their position in the heavens, illumine all that is below. Based on St. Dimitry of Rostov In this shot is Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros the 2nd praying in front of the miracle-working icon of Vimatarissa at Vatopaidi.
Offering Incense Incense was used from the most ancient times during the services and symbolizes the prayers of the Saints rising to heaven as well as the Grace of God that embraces all. Incensing is seen as an act of love and respect towards God and His saints. The photo above depicts a respected hermit offering incense to Vimatarissa, a miracle working icon of Mother of God at Vatopaidi.
Happy is the man in whom there is love for God, for he bears God within himself. The one in whom there is love is with God, above all things. Whoever has love in himself does not fear. He never gets angry with anyone, nor does he exalt himself above anyone else. Whoever has love fulfills the will of God. In this photo a monk from Vatopaidi voices the ancient Easter greeting with 'Christ is risen!' to a child from Romania dressed in a traditional ethnic costume.
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].
Poverty is the resignation of cares, life without anxiety, an unencumbered traveller, alienation from sorrow, fidelity to the commandments. A poor monk is a lord of the world. He has entrusted his cares to God and by faith has obtained all men as his slaves. He will not tell his needs to man, and he receives what comes to him, as from the hand of the Lord.
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.
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.
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.
Countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions. Pilgrims during a pensive moment in the worship service.
There are things which one cannot explain but can only live. Every spiritual experience is an ultimate mistery. Failure is not to fall; Failure is to stay down and not get up again.
"He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all." In the photo, the archbishop, which is the highest degree of ecclesiastical power on earth, humbles himself under the aer which symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Divine Liturgy. This peacefully touching moment occurs in the Holy Altar while the faithful in the congregation recite the Creed of Faith. In addition, the waving of the aer during the Creed symbolizes the earthquake which occurred during Jesus resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1-2). The priests stop the waving of the aer at the exact point in the Creed which reads, and on the third day He rose according to the scriptures. This photo depicts the aforementioned moment with Archibishop Joseph of Prikonisou (center), Abbot Ephraim of Vatopaidi (right) and one of Vatopaidi's hieromonks (left) during the recitation of the Creed of Faith.
Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed his disciples. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. This was the last gesture which our Lord made for us on earth. In the same way the bishops, which are the class with the highest rank of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, bless and bestow upon us God's grace. The officiator announces "Peace be unto you" and the Holy Spirit truly makes this a reality, however, it depends upon us if we are ready to receive and exploit this peace or not. In this photo the metropolitan Josef of Prikonisou is blessing at the feast of the Myrrh Bearing Women at Vatopaidi.
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.
Many rich and powerful men would pay dearly to see the Lord or His Most Pure Mother; but God does not appear in riches, rather to the humble of heart. Transversely, the poorest of men can be humble and come to know God. It needs neither money nor reputation to come to know God, only humility. In this photo a candid moment from the reading of the Holy Gospel at service of the Holy Unction at Vatopaidi.
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.
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.
In the same way in which Son of God took up the human body as his vestment, we must also wear the grace of the Holy Spirit which is the illumination of the hypostatic light of Divinity in the human soul. In this photo, the Metropolitan Nicholas of Mediterranean Sea offers the Holy Gifts to a deacon before the great entrance of the Divine Liturgy. Chapel of Paramythia, Vatopaidi.
God abides in each commandment by His gracious power. "God is hidden in His commandments", says St. Mark the Ascetic. God helps everyone who strives to keep His commandments. That God abides in us we know by the Spirit which He has given us. This means that a Christian is never alone, but that he lives and works together with the Thrice-Holy God. In this photo are depicted fathers from Vatopaidi's refectory while preparing grapes for the pilgrims of the feast of the Holy Belt of the Virgin Mary.
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.
Blessed is he who mortifies his will to the very end and who leaves the care of himself to his elder in the name of the Lord. He will be placed at the right hand of he who was Crucified. He who refuses to accept criticism, just or not, renounces his own salvation, while he who accepts it, as hard as it it may be, will soon have his sins forgiven. A monk prepares himself for a life of struggle, pain and toil in the name of Love in Jesus Christ. He walks forward to his own tonsure knowing full well that he is embracing the life of the cross and discovers the endless joy of Life in He that was Crufied.
"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.
Find your internal peace and silence and an entire crowd will find their salvation while near you. In this image a monk moments before his great schema tonsures
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 festal outdoor processions are well known for their joyful and social nature while embracing all the members of a local church community. Moreover, the importance of a procession consists in the prayers of the participants as well as the sacred, miracle-working objects - usually icons and holy relics - which are exhibited during the procession to sanctify the environment. This is a candid shot from the procession of the feast of Prophet Elias in the surroundings of Vatopaidi where the miracle working icon of Vimatarissa passed by on Her way around the monastery.
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 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.
There is nothing more powerful than the Church, man; give up fighting her, lest she overpower your strength. Wage war not against heaven. If you fight a man, you conquer or are conquered. But if you fight the Church, you cannot conquer. For God is stronger than all. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? How many tyrants have wished to get the better of the Church! Yet they have not succeeded. Where are the oppressors? Silence and oblivion have passed over them. But where is the Church? It is more dazzling than the sun. Their deeds are no more, hers are immortal. This photo depicts a candid shot during a doxology chanted at a vigil in Vatopaidi's main church (katholicon).
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.
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.
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.
Holy Communion is the central mystery in the life of the Church. Oftentimes, unfortunately, we disregard this ultimate mystery of unity with God, and infrequently choose to receive this great gift making use of various excuses and justifications. This discrepancy is a confirmation of our distance from the center of the church which is Christ. Oddly, we dont seek to meet Christ who is constantly waiting to grant us life but rather we continue to crucify him daily through our sins. Here we realize the impact of our human distortion.
Eclipse Keep your mind in hell and do not despair. One of the Vatopaidi fathers during the services.
Vatopaidi's main church (katholikon) dates to10th century. Additionally, excavations unearthed an older basilica from the time of the byzantine emperor Theodosius the Great (4th century). The church contains many early Christian architectural and iconographical symbols which transport the onlooker and, moreover, the one who enters into a world of the past. Its architectural figure originates mainly from the vision of the three modern founders: St. Nicholas, Athanasius and Anthony, three noblemen from Adrianople.
Preceding every great undertaking is a wonderful cross. Do not distress however, because the joy of your resurrection will cover all that you will suffer. If your undertaking is completed without trials, sorrows or without having born a cross, you must know that the endeavor wasn't completed properly. In this photo the Cross where St. Euthymius of Vatopaidi was martyred is captured with the monastery of Vatopaidi in the background.
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?
After the Fire One of the greatest physical dangers for the monks and monasteries throughout the years has been conflagrations. The age of the buildings, the immense wooded areas which surround the monastic settlements and the numerous wood stoves provide a continuous threat. Similarly, the spiritual life of the monk is no exception. He is under continuous threat from the internal spiritual fires which are a part of his everyday life. The art of monasticism is to fight and ultimately overcome these fires within, constantly progressing towards the true light from above. This is why monks seek to maintain their serenity and peace, even during the most critical moments of their life.
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.
God is pleased more in ones humility having been provoked by an unjust bout which he suffered rather than in ones pride which stems from a good thing which he accomplished. Moreover, He fills us with great joy if we keep our faith in Him and reject the sinister thoughts against the ones who unjustly wronged us. This photo is an emergency "identity card" shot for the Elder Silouan, a very poor hermit from Mount Athos, after he was looted by thieves which took all of his belongings (including his identity papers) leaving him only with his old work garment as pictured.
We must overcome the trials and sorrows in our lives through patience and prayer. The ones who tries another way is not only unsuccessful but gets caught deeper and deeper in the abyss of worldly difficulties.
The most powerful weapon of the devil is desperation. He doesn't rejoice so much when we sin compared to when we despair. This is because the last and definitive victory of the devil is when he succeeds to put the soul into despair. That's why we must remember that God always has an open door, an open window for us. Always. All we have to do is keep on walking towards his countenance .
Divine Liturgy Experiencing the grace of God is the beginning of an internal apocalypse. The very first revelation which one encounters is inexpressible joy, peace, love, serenity and a sure feeling of fulfillment. Sometimes, as His grace grows, this internal spiritual light encourages the one who bears it to express his newfound joy and gratitude not only internally but also externally. This is a truly impressive spectacle for those who have yet to experience this sweet mystery.