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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
God's action in creation and creation's role in our journey towards God culminate in the gifts of bread and wine which are brought forth to be consecrated to become the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. In the Eucharist, man, as the priest of creation, offers creation back to the Creator and then receives it back sanctified and transformed into the very God to Whom it was offered. In this photo, a moment from the Divine Liturgy of St. James, the 'Brother' of Lord which is held in the middle of the Vatopaidi's Katholikon by the Abbot Ephraim.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We are taught to bear the spiritual infirmities of our brothers gladly, without annoyance; and everyone is our brother. When someone is physically ill, we not only show patience, but do our very best to make them comfortable; the same should also apply in cases of spiritual illnesses. Monks in the laundry room separating and ironing sheets for the pilgrims' rooms in the Guesthouse of Vatopaidi monastery.
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
Some people understand the word freedom as the ability to do whatever one wants. People who have allowed themselves to come into slavery of sins, passions, and defilements more often appear as zealots of external freedom, wanting to broaden and relax the law as much as possible. Such a man, however, uses external freedom only to more severely burden himself with inner slavery. A monk while resting and recovering in his cell.
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.
As we read Patristic books, we learn the Law of Freedom. However, we can only understand and live the depth of this law by fulfilling the commandments given. The perfection of freedom can be reached only through Christ’s grace. Based on abba Markos
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’. ‘So it is with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body’ This symbolism finds its highest expression in the Saints, whose blessed state in heaven has been manifested to the world. For this reason, kolyva is blessed not only at memorials for the departed, but also in commemoration of saints. The photo shows a two monks from Vatopaidi making and decorating the koliva (boiled wheat which is used liturgically) for the feast of the St. Evdokimos. The colors are from natural ingredients such as cinnamon or flour and are edible.
The eternal end The monk praying in the sunset is a silent lucidity in a busy world, a light of hope in the labyrinth of logic, a gate to heaven in a material world.
Picking prickly pears Monks live in the middle of nature, sometimes quite literally. Besides their cultivated gardens, monks go into the wilderness to gather the natural fruits which God gives them. They respect nature, seeing it as God’s creation, and nature rewards them in return. In the above photograph we see one of the monks from Vatopaidi inside of a huge stand of prickly pear cacti, equipped with a simple home-made gathering device and gloves to protect himself at least a little from the prickles. Ouch!
We must do our tasks quickly and with discernment. Idleness is the mother of all evil. Although God has no need man's toil, it is of great importance in His eyes as it is a practical application of one's love for his neighbour. The brothers come together as one work force at the vineyard of Vatopaidi monastery to collect the grapes at the time of harvest.
If from the beginning you instill in your children the good Christian teaching then they will gain the greatest of riches and paramount of glory even until the end of their lives. In this photo, Elder Ermolaos from Vatopaidi during an enlightening moment with his sons and relatives.
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.
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.
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.
Creation is God's natural revelation to mankind. The value of the natural creation is revealed in that it served as the setting for God's incarnation and humankind's deification. In this photo one of the brothers while tending to the monasterys flora.
Whoever disregards education comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. That's why the education of the young in law of the Lord is the art of the arts and science of all sciences. This photo depicts a candid shot at the school of Vatopaidi where the young monks learn Ancient Greek.
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!
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.
Be filled with the Spirit; Speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; This photo depicts a rehearsal session of Vatopaidi's byzantine choir.
Joyful obedience! The monk finds gladness in his willing sacrifice of his entire self for the Love of Christ. This is not a phychological trick or some facade of a blinded existence but a powerful experience of the gift given by the Almighty and Righteous God. For this reason, he who lives a spiritual life gives himself wholeheartedly and with great effort first and foremost for the Love of Christ and on that path finds that great joy, which is His abundant Grace.
The man who has come to hate the world has escaped sorrow. But he who has an attachment to anything visible is not yet delivered from grief. For how is it possible not to be sad at the loss of something we love? We need to have great vigilance in all things. In this photo, a monk is collecting some loquats which are later offered at the common meal.
The honor shown to the image passes over to the archetype: If I point to a statue of Caesar and ask you 'Who is that?', your answer would properly be, 'It is Caesar.' With your words you do not mean that the stone itself is Caesar, but rather, the name and honor you ascribe to the statue passes over to the original, the archetype, Caesar himself. So it is with an Icon. An iconographer from Vatopaidi while painting the finishing touches of an icon of St. George.
An iconographer should ideally have a powerful ascetic life since their internal state will be reflected in manifestation of their icons. More generally speaking, any artist will express his internal world through his external art. That's why any man, but especially an artist, must see with his internal eye the beauty of Paradise and not so much the pain of Hell. This photo depicts an iconographer from Vatopaidi's workshop painting a copy of the miracle-working icon of Paramythia.
The light of the monks are the angels. The light of the laymen are the monks. In the same manner in which the sunlight attracts the sane eye, the knowledge of God attracts the clean mind through love. In this photo, a monk guides a group of laymen which help to clean up the footpaths of the Holy Mountain.
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.
The key to richness is to be frugal and content with what you have. If you're content with what you have then you won't be a waster of useful things. Hence you will always be at peace, while doing your work and having God's blessing. This photo depicts the one of the electrician monks of Vatopaidi at his workshop.
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.
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.
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.
The Joy of Sacrifice For more than 30 years now, Elder Germanos has been a “mularas” – the one who takes care and leads the mules through the mountains. With much labor, he brings wood from the mountain to the monastery, fulfilling an essential need for the daily life of the brotherhood. Till recent years, there was no electricity, and other kinds of fuel were not widespread, hence the woods were the basis for almost everything: cooking, heating, construction, furniture, etc. Now Elder Germanos is a member of the Governing Council of Vatopaidi Monastery and is occupied with other duties, but he still finds time to take a picture with the mules.
Just as your stomach repulsed when you saw the revulsion of the rotted fruit, in the same way God hates the procurers of hypocrisy. On the outside, a fruit may seem just fine, but as soon as you scratch the surface the decay of the core becomes fully evident! Christ, which is the Living True Love, said: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." In this photo the juices of a rotten watermelon burst out while being squeezed by one of the gardeners.
Cooking on Mount Athos Cooking on Mount Athos is done in the traditional way almost all of the time. Monks are quite reserved and careful when faced with innovations, especially those that may impact the critical areas of their life. In this photograph Father Joseph from Vatopaidi is seen cooking on a wood fire oven for the mass of pilgrims expected at the Great Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection.
Praying for others Prayer is understood as the ontological and spiritual bridge between ourselves and others; between us and God. In this photograph monks from Vatopaidi are silently reading names which pious pilgrims send from all over the world. This tradition of responding to prayer requests takes place daily throughout the year.
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.
One evil receives strength from another. In the same way, good deeds also sprout from one another and the one in whom they are found grows greater. It is preferable to practice an easier but consistent virtue rather than attempt an superior one which will stop immediately. The photo depicts the tomato gathering in Vatopaidi's greenhouse.
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.
If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, the giver he has light continuously. In the same way, through the tradition of Apostolic succession the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their shepherds and teachers. To be able to give, you must have first received enlightenment from above through the guidance of an experienced elder.
Reading enlightens the mind considerably, and helps it to concentrate. For the words are those of the Holy Spirit and they attune those who attend to them. Let what you read lead you to action, for you are a doer. Putting these words into practice makes further reading superfluous. Seek to be enlightened by the words of salvation through your labors, and not merely from books. This photo depicts a monk while reading in Vatopaidi's library.
The 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.
Act in such a way in which your deeds will keep the place of your words. Speak in such a way in which your words will keep the place of your deeds. The photo depicts a monk at Vatopaidi while silently taking care of the main church's woodstove in order to provide a bearable interior temperature during winter.
Tradition is the guiding light on the way to becoming saint. Live near a man who already became a saint and do as you see. Observe and mimic his behavior and with the light of his personal example you will became a saint also. In this photo one of the Vatopaidi monks is maintaining the forever burning candle of the miracle-working icon of Mother of God Vimatarissa.
The soul is sanctified and purified through the study of the Holy Fathers, through the memorization of the psalms and of portions of the Holy Scriptures, through the signing of hymns and through the repetition of the Jesus Prayer. Devote your efforts, therefore, to these spiritual matters and ignore all the other things. The photo depicts a daily moment from office of the monks responsible for the publishing of the books and literature of Vatopaidi.
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.
Two are better than one, as they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. This photo depicts a heremit monk with his disciple. They have been together a long time and came to celebrate Easter at Vatopaidi.
Gone Fishing Monks try to provide for their daily necessities by the work of their hands. Hence occupations such as farming, gardening, fishing, and the gathering of fruits and herbs from the wild constitute an important part of their lives. In the photograph we have the Vatopaidi fishermen going in their boat for the day’s catch for the brotherhood.