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.
If the man doesn't cope with his own sins, devil will make him cope with other's. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite
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.
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
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.
Rule #1 of programming: If a program works perfectly, the pleasure goes to users. If something is wrong, the programmer is to blame. This leads us to think about God who gives in the end justice for all. So, do not despair. In this photo, one of the chefs preparing the food for the Vatopaidi's refectory.
He who gives life to a son is called father. Since the soul is far more important than body, a true father is one who gives real life to the soul of his child, dragging him out from the darkness of his sin. Fathers, do not neglect to lovingly raise the souls of your children!
...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
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.
Analyses of the person are essential, because within this framework we can solve the social problems as well. A society cannot exist without man. Man is making our society and all the social institutions ill. A person who is ill creates various disturbances and is a divisive factor. The mask is what destroys the unity of society. If a man is not a real person, he cannot live in love and freedom. Societies automatically become dominated by tyranny and hatred. Based on Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos In this photo is shown a spiritual discussion between some pilgrims and a monk at Vatopaidi, near to the thomb of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi
If you want to go to sweet Paradise, you have to eat a lot of bitter things here, so that you’ve got your passport of trials to hand. Trust in God’s a continuous, mystical prayer that softly brings God’s powers to where they’re needed and when they’re needed. Based on St Paisios the Athonite In this photo are depicted two Monks from Vatopaidi outside in cold and among dense vegetation trying to collect olives from trees for the Monastery.
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.
To judge sins is the business of one who is sinless; who is sinless except God? It is not right to judge others even if one sees evil with their own eyes. One may only judge the sin and not the sinner. There exists an entire world within the every person that cannot be judged, except by God. The quality of each person is given by the quality of their thoughts. Have good thoughts for a good life; bad thoughts for a bad one. Based on St. Gennadius of Constantinople The photo depicts a small resting place near to Chapel of Prof. Elijah which belongs to Dochiariou Monastery.
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.
Why are children so happy? It is because children forget evil very easily. When someone sees things having good thoughts, he purifies himself and receives the Grace of God. When someone has bad thoughts, judges or deals injustly with others, he blocks the Grace of God from coming and is clobbered by the devil. Based on Saint Paisios the Athonite In this photo, two children from Romania in national costumes playing at Easter with semantrons.
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.
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
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).
God said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. We also know that God is love. Hence love is the way, the truth and life. Based on John 14:6, 1 John 4:16 This photo shows a candid moment in Vatopaidi's courtyard.
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.
The sakkos is a vestment worn by bishops, originally worn by the Emperor as an imperial vestment, symbolizing the tunic of disgrace worn by Christ during his trial and mockery. In the official dressing ceremony, the bishop continuously blesses with his both hands uplifted in the form of a Cross, symbolizing the crucifixion of Christ. He is helped by the deacons who symbolize the dedication and the love of the saints, particularly Mother of God and St. John Theologian which are depicted also in the Icon of Crucifixion. In this photo is the Archibishop Theokletos of Ierissou is wearing his sakkos at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy at the feast of the Saints of Vatopaidi.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you cover a transgression, you seek love; but if you spread it about, you separate yourself from your friends. It’s a great advantage to understand that true spiritual friends in Christ differ from those who praise us, even if they mean well. For those who want to know more: we’re all brethren - our friends are the saints and angels in Heaven. Based on Proverbs 17:9, St. Photios the Great
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.