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 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 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.
Those who have come to love the Lord are at first unceasingly and greatly disturbed by the thought of detachment, as if burning with divine fire. I speak of separation from their own, undertaken by the lovers of perfection so that they may live a life of hardship and simplicity. But great and praiseworthy as this is, yet it requires great discretion; for not every kind of exile, carried to extremes, is good. It is not from hatred that we separate ourselves from our own people or places (God forbid!), but to avoid the harm which might come to us from them. In order to see clearly, each one of us must detach from our daily 'reality'. Based on St. John of the Ladder This photo depicts the Monastery of Vatopaidi with the surrounding wilderness of the Holy Mountain.
‘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.
Don't search for perfection within the Law of Freedom, in other words in human virtues. Nobody’s perfect in these. Perfection’s mystically hidden within the Cross of Christ - in absolute self-sacrifice for Christ's sake and for our fellow human beings. Based on Abba Mark
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.
Gate to Eternity One of the most impressive services is the burial service. Everyone is gathered around the dead body and prays for his soul. The fact that the soul of the departed one is an eternal existence that needs help through prayers is more evident in this service than everywhere else. Everyone has a candle in his hands as a symbol of resurrection, proof of the eternal nature of the soul.
If from the beginning you instill in your children the good Christian teaching then they will gain the greatest of riches and paramount of glory even until the end of their lives. In this photo, Elder Ermolaos from Vatopaidi during an enlightening moment with his sons and relatives.
It is impossible, someone says, impossible to spend the present day devoutly unless we regard it as the last of our whole life; and it is truly astonishing how even the pagans have said something of the like, since they define philosophy as the meditation on death. Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.
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.
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.
If one prays with great desire, love and tears of a pure heart, then he sees God Himself in his heart just as in a mirror. In this photo a monk while praying during one of the services.
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.
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.
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.
Christ is Risen! We celebrate the most important fact of the vast history of the entire universe: that God, as man defeated death for us. As Adam practically fell into death from life so Christ practically rises from His death into Life, for all the sons of Adam. In as much as we commune with and become one with God, so much so are we granted life in His Ressurection. Victory in His victory; Life in His Life; ressurection in His ressurection. Elder Ephraim tossing Bay Leaves into the congregation accodring to the Orthodox tradition during the Bright Week services.
All warfare is based on deception and has as an ultimate purpose; the hate and death of the human soul. That's why in spiritual warfare never ever believe in your thoughts. Did you see a man who erred? He believed his thoughts. After that, if there is lack of repentance and spiritual guidance, internal hopelessness comes which cuts the human being to his core. It is his spiritual death. In this photo one of the brothers having a pensive moment before the common meal.
Contrast In order to abide in the love of God it is essential for anger and hate to attain their maximum intensity and directed against the sin that lives in me, against the evil active in me in me, not in my brother. In this photo a priest from Congo during the annual procession of St. Elias which journeys around the whole monastery.
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
Perhaps is somewhat daring what I'm saying but the spiritual experience is to be preferred at least at the beginning more than God's grace because the ones who had grace and didn't have experience lost the grace while the others which didn't have grace but have spiritual experience succeeded to gain grace. In this photo one of the monasterys brothers during one of the two annual processions around the monastery.
The mystery of great, holy, and angelic schema contains the greatest degree of Grace which one can undertake. It is a second baptism in which all the sins of the new candidate are forgiven; an experience which the tonsured one feels in the depth of his being. Many holy men have seen the grace of baptism present during the great schema service. It is a marvelous mystery of life within God and with God within you; impossible to describe in words.
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.
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.
The spiritual experience always takes precedence. Saint Nektarios states, I esteem the monk more superior than archbishop, and or course he isnt trying to belittle the archbishop. Rather, he wanted to stress that the ascetic life of the monks allows for the best conditions to reach sanctification and acquire that spiritual experience. That's why the vast majority of saints are monks. Let us not forget that our purpose in life is to become holy as I am holy. This photo depicts the Archbishop of Ierissos Theokletos venerating the Holy Relics at the vigil held in the honor of the saints of 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.
A smile from eternity One of the most beloved contemporary Elders of the Holy Mountain, Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi reposed in the Lord on his birthday, July 1st 2009. At his death, a miracle occurred shortly after his departure which left a sign of hope for all of us who "await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come". He smiled more than 45 minutes after his death. Elder Joseph's mouth had remained open for a long time immediately after his passing and despite all their efforts, the present monks were unable to close his mouth. According to the Athonite custom, the Elder's Body was wrapped in his monastic mantle which was then sewn up. After a while, according to Abbot Ephraim's instructions, the body was placed on a bier, and a hole was cut in the mantle to expose his face and another to expose his right hand for veneration. To the astonishment of all, Elder Joseph's mouth had not only closed but face was now beaming miraculously with a smile! Not only his lips, but his eyes and cheeks, and even the color had returned to his lips and face!
The power of Virtue Even if he was destroyed by the metastasis of his cancer and by the chemotherapies which he underwent, his dignity and bravery in preaching God's justice will be never forgotten, neither on Earth neither in Heaven. The only thing which remains after our death is our virtue. A tribute to the Metropolitan of Austria Michael, photographed here at the Feast of the Holy Belt at Vatopaidi in 2011. It was his last feast.
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.
Eclipse Keep your mind in hell and do not despair. One of the Vatopaidi fathers during the services.
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.
The Joy of the Resurrection The monks experience spiritual states of joy impossible to describe. One needs to experience this in order to understand it. In the photo above is Elder Ioakeim, with tears in his eyes, celebrating Easter.
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.
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.