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.
A sad man is a man with the lights turned off. So, let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Based on father Arsenie Boca, Colossians 4:6 In this photo a friendly and spiritual chat between a monk from Vatopaidi and an engineer.
Washing dishes is a lowly task, both in the world and in the monastery. It may be seen either as a chore to be done (or even avoided, if possible) or as one more opportunity for spiritual progress. In order for such tasks to be of spiritual benefit they must be approached with humility and diligence. These virtues, however, require a fair amount of effort and struggle to acquire. As you labor to honestly know yourself, you acquire humility, which eventually becomes a permanent part of your character. The struggle must be to understand who you really are rather than who you imagine yourself to be. Based on the teachings of Saint Paisios the Athonite and Elder Joseph the Hesychast In this photo monks of Vatopaidi are seen washing the dishes
The higher level man reaches in spiritual life, the lesser are his rights; Spiritually mature man doesn't have any rights. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite
The self-controlled refrain from gluttony; those who have renounced possessions, from greed; the tranquil, from loquacity; the pure, from self-indulgence; the modest, from unchastity; the self-dependent, from avarice; the gentle, from agitation; the humble, from self-esteem; the obedient, from quarrelling; the self-critical, from hypocrisy. Similarly, those who pray are protected from despair; the poor, from having many possessions; confessors of the faith, from its denial; martyrs, from idolatry. Do you see how every virtue that is performed even to the point of death is nothing other than refraining from sin? Now to refrain from sin is a work within our own natural powers, but not something that buys us the kingdom. Based on Abba Mark The fathers in Vatopaidi's refectory are preparing the grapes
A disciple asked an elder, “Elder, why are you happy all day long?” The elder replied, “Because all night long I weep for my sins before God.” In the photo, Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi
World War III: why and when? A pilgrim asked a monk, “When will the Third World War happen, and why?” The monk replied, “What is most important is the ‘why’. The greatest problem in the world today is not sin – even though indeed the sins are greater and more numerous that in the past. The greatest problem is that what is sinful is regarded as virtuous, and what is virtuous as sinful. This prevents us from repenting of what is truly sinful and consequently we can no longer improve our character. “God, therefore, as a loving Father, seeks to stop this movement in the wrong direction. He first tries to do this with wise words of instruction and admonishment, but since today no one (or perhaps very few) listen to His words or follow them, He must enter very dynamically into history. This doesn't mean that God makes the war happen but rather than war is the inevitable outcome of man’s rejection of His grace, which is the only thing that is able to keep hatred and evil in check, including the disastrous wars. And the great suffering that we already see is only the beginning. “This is why you should not be too concerned with “when” and other such details; rather repent and pray for peace because, nevertheless, the time indeed is drawing near.” Today’s photo is from the Vespers of Forgiveness, the last service before Great Lent and the prime service of joyful repentance in the Church year.
The Creator and Ruler of the world called Himself meek and humble of heart. Therefore, to be a true Ruler of this world we must also be humble and meek in our hearts, with a deep respect for our neighbor and for all of creation. This photo shows the small port (arsanas) of Zographou Monastery.
Humility will end any war. This is because humility is a necessary precondition to love. And if highest achievement of mankind is love then humanity cannot progress without humility. Based on Elder Ilarion of Kalamitsi In this photo, His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch (center) has a loving chat with Elder Ephraim, Abbot of Vatopaidi (left) about Father Parthenios (right) who was tonsured a monk and received his name from the Patriarch’s Spiritual Father, Elder Parthenios of St. Paul’s Monastery on Mount Athos.
Whoever thinks that he can come to know the mysteries of God through external scientific theory, resembles the fool who wants to see Paradise with a telescope. Those who struggle patristically become empirical theologians through the visitation of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. All those who have an external education, in addition to the internal enlightenment of the soul, may describe the divine mysteries and interpret them correctly, as did many Holy Fathers. If, however, one does not become spiritually related to the Holy Fathers and wants to take up translating or writing, he will wrong both the Holy Fathers and himself, as well as the people, with his spiritual cloudiness. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite In the photo a ray of light shines upon a small piece of holy bread.
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
He who has become aware of his sins has controlled his tongue, but a talkative person has not yet got to know himself as he should. The friend of silence draws near to God, and by secretly conversing with Him, is enlightened by God. The silence of Jesus put Pilate to shame, and by a man’s stillness vainglory is vanquished. Based on St. John of the Ladder
Pride is the mother of all the passions and sins. If humility is characterised as the queen of the virtues, pride is the queen of passions. Pride is the greatest illness of the soul; the worst part being that one who suffers from this passion finds great difficulty in discerning it within. The principal therapy of pride is our own condecension, in other words constantly lowering ourselves, placing ourselves under our brother in every situation. In this photo, a pilgrim wanted to see what's happening at the procession of Blessing the Waters at Theophany, Vatopaidi 2015. He was (almost) the only one which succeeded to see from that area.
The purpose of our life on earth is not to attain worldly achievements, but rather to attain the eternal crowns of virtue which will magnify us eternally. Death is not something to be feared, rather a simple separation of the temporary body with the undying soul. In the afterlife, our soul will remember all of its existence on earth and will rejoice with the good acts and will suffer for the evil committed. For this reason, we must never ignore our consciences and carry out a transgression, no matter how small it may seem, so we can avoid an eternity of regret later on. Remember, our just Lord immediately forgives all sins and transgressions through an honest and clean confession to our spiritual father. Those who bravely confess their sins, take courage for you will become masters of eternity! All ye who fain from the burden of a clean confession, take heed for you will become a slave of an eternal failure. We must be victors over the civil war of our self-pleasures in this emptied world … and what is civil in a war anyway? In this photo a hermit monk bears a handle of the funeral bier of the recently deceased elder Ioakeim.
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.
People who work for Christ, but with pride, stink out their virtues with their pride. It’s like if you’re frying eggs and you get bird droppings in them. You have to throw the whole lot out, including the frying pan. That's why the monks seek always the humbleness. Based on St Paisios the Athonite In this photo is depicted the chef monk from the St George's Cell at Kolitsou, near Vatopaidi, preparing the grilled fish for the feast of St. George in an empty barrel which was used as stove.
The competent programmer is fully aware of the strictly limited size of his own skull; therefore he approaches the programming task in full humility, and among other things he avoids clever tricks like the plague. Humbleness is the basic law which God left us on Earth. Based on Edsger W. Dijkstra, The humble programmer, 1972 The photo depicts a psalt praying before he will start to sing to one of the miracle-working icons of Mother of God at Vatopaidi.
The young are in need of experience and the old need someone to assist their ageing body. This is one of the reasons why children should always have great respect for their parents. Based on St Paisios the Athonite, Elder Arsenie Papacioc In the photo is depicted the pilgrim who won the Cross at Vatopaidi at the feast of Theopany in 2015. He is swiming together with a child with whom fought together for the Cross.
A person who strives for a long time but doesn’t see spiritual progress has pride and egotism. Spiritual progress is found where there is much humility. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite In this photo an old hermit from a cell near Vatopaidi venerates the Holy Relics of the Vatopaidi's Holy Founders: St Nikolaos, St. Athanasios and St. Antonios.
With all your power, ask the Lord for humility and brotherly love, because God freely gives His grace for love towards one's brother. Anyone who wants to be first must desire to be the very last, and the servant of all. Based on St. Silouan the Athonite; Mark 9:35 In this photo, one of Vatopaidi’s cooks is making pancakes while his disciples look on and learn from him.
The Archangel The purity of angels comes from their obedience to God. Like any other rational being, they had the opportunity to disobey Him. Some of them did, but some of them kept themselves under the light of obedience to God. Obedience requires power, wisdom and liberty. It is not slavery. It is exactly the opposite. In this photo a monk from Vatopaidi while patiently standing at attention with his katsion at the end of a long festal service.
My child, people separate because of their sensuality and their selfishness. Nothing else. All other reasons are fabricated afterwards in order to justify themselves. Based on Elder Paisios the Athonite
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.
This Nativity night bestowed peace on the whole world; So let no one threaten; This is the night of the Most Gentle One – Let no one be cruel; This is the night of the Humble One – Let no one be proud. Now is the day of joy – Let us not revenge; Now is the day of Good Will – Let us not be mean. In this Day of Peace – Let us not be conquered by anger. Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake; So, rich one, invite the poor to your table. Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask; So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us. This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers; Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness. Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity, In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of divinity. - St. Isaac Syrian, Nativity Sermon
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.
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'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.
Obedience is necessary not only for monks, but for all people. Even the Lord was obedient, unto death on the cross. The proud and self-regarding do not allow grace to live within them, and therefore they lack spiritual peace, while in the obedient soul the grace of the Holy Spirit enters easily and brings great joy and peace. Whoever bears even a little grace in himself joyfully submits himself to all direction. He knows that God directs everything from the heavens to the netherworld, himself and his business, and everything other thing in the world, and therefore he is always at peace. Monks in the old Vatopaidi kitchen while preparing fish to serve at the common meal.
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.
In the measure to which a man cuts off and humbles his own will, he proceeds toward eternal success. But insofar as he stubbornly guards his own will, so much more does he bring harm to himself. Christ shows us this path of obedience to the Father. He is the light of the world.
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.
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.
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.
Humility consists in considering oneself to be nothing in all circumstances, cutting off one's will in all things, accusing oneself of everything, and bearing without confusion that which befalls him from the exterior. Such is true humility, in which vainglory finds no place. A monk censing his brothers with a katzion while exiting the refractory after the common meal. Vatopaidi monastery.
Seek the simplest in all things, in food, clothing, without being ashamed of poverty. For a great part of the world lives in poverty. Do not say, "I am the son of a rich man. It is shameful for me to be in poverty." Christ, your Heavenly Father, Who gave birth to you in the baptistery, is not in worldly riches. Rather he walked in poverty and had nowhere to lay His head. The rich exist for the sake of the poor. The poor exist for the salvation of the rich. This photo captures a Vatopaidi monk in a clearing from Athos' forests while harvesting dill amongst the wild flowers.
Regardless of the place or time, humble people will always express the truth. They know that everyone who fights against the truth is like that worthless slave who slapped our Lord in the face. Based on Abba Mark In this photograph, Bishop Chrysostomos of Rodostolos among the much younger Vatopaidi monks.
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.
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.
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.
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
Adam and Eve, before their fall, were in full accord and of common spirit with one another at all times. Having sinned, alienation was immediately sensed. Justifying himself before God, Adam blamed Eve. Their sin divided them and continues to divide all of mankind. Emancipated from sin, we approach God, and, filled with His grace, we sense our unity with the rest of mankind. Such unity is very imperfect and lacking, since in each person some portion of sin remains. Only in the coming Kingdom of God there will be perfect unity, mutual love and concord. The photo depicts a moment from the Vespers entrance at the feast of St. Gregory Palamas - Vatopaidi.
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 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.
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.
Man, being God's image, is corrected and guided much better through love, patience and understanding rather through anger, wrangle and hate. The first victory against anger is to keep the mouth shout when you're mad. After the wave of anger will pass and the eye of the mind will clean up and will you will see again without error, only then give explanations. And you'll see that in vast majority of cases there is no need of explanations anymore because the things will fix up by themselves. In this photo two brothers sharing a spiritual moment together during a short rest.
Acquire sweet lips and everyone will be your friend. The humble ones reckon that they themselves aren't sinless and hence don't expect their friends to be without sin either. In this photo the Elder Silouanos, during a short pause from making prayer ropes, is captured in a friendly chat with the father Silouanos the newer of Vatopaidi.
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.
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.