Christians, always rejoice, for evil, death, sin, the devil and hell have been conquered by Christ. But when all of this is conquered, is there anyone in the world who can bring our joy to naught? You are the lord of this eternal rejoicing as long as you do not give in to sin. Joy burns in our hearts from His truth, love, resurrection, and from the Church and His saints. Joy burns in our hearts all because of sufferings for Him, mockings for Him, and death for Him, insofar as these sufferings write our names in heaven. There is no true joy on earth without the victory over death, but the victory over death does not exist without the Resurrection, and the Resurrection does not exist without Christ. The risen God-Man Christ, the founder of the Church, constantly pours out this joy into the hearts of His followers through the Holy Mysteries and good deeds. Our faith is fulfilled in this eternal joy, insofar as the joy of faith in Christ is the only true joy for human nature. Based on St. Justin Popovich In this photo, the Elder Ephraim is incensing in the middle of the crowd at Easter. Vatopaidi, 2015.
The 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.
If the man doesn't cope with his own sins, devil will make him cope with other's. Based on St. Paisios the Athonite
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
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.
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.
A disciple once asked an elder, “From the time of Adam until Christ have there been exactly 5508 years?” In reply the elder said, “Son, if this is the thing important to your salvation, then I will personally find out the answer”. There are plenty of difficult questions and mysteries in the Holy Bible (and in other spiritual works) that would be interesting to research. While this kind of study is not forbidden, the highest monasticism has always focused on what is most important: our deification through God’s grace. This requires great labor in order to cleanse our sin-laden souls, thus purifying our spiritual intellect and vision. Only after this are we able to tackle such mysteries. Moreover, if a humble person reaches, by God’s grace, a state of illumination, then Grace itself reveals the key to such mysteries to him, though he is unable to express in in words what he is experiencing. In this photo, two school boys from Athonian Academy are asking something one of the Elders from Vatopaidi.
Many times I regretted that I spoke; I have never regretted keeping silent. Stop and hear what the Lord God is saying within you. Based on St. Isaac the Syrian
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.
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
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.
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 sickness of human nature is the failure to reach personal perfection. The diagnosis concerns every person, independent whether he is Christian or not. Orthodoxy is not bounded within the narrow boundaries of religion that is only interested in her followers, but like God, is universal. Because of its human-divine nature, Christianity must remain eternally unchanging – but not frozen in letters – in no way being dependent on or guided by the spirit of each age. Instead, Christianity is meant to govern and direct the spirit of the age for anyone who follows its teachings, but not in a tyrannical manner. Based on St Theophan the Recluse, Protopresbyter George Metallinos (University of Athens) In this photo the Abbot Ephraim is pouring wine in the Holy Chalice at the beginning of Divine Leiturgy of St. Ap. James, the "brother" of Christ. Being the oldest complete Leiturgy still in use, it is held in the middle of the church, outside of the Holy Altar.
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.
For those who give everything to God, God will give everything to them. For those who try to cheat God, God will “cheat” them. This is why those who labor for God are joyful, while those “cheat” Him are unhappy. In this photo two members of the Friends of Mount Athos are shown clearing the footpaths of the Holy Mountain.
“The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one”. Material things with their worldly light distract from the ultra-brightness of the dark abyss of the Deity. Consequently, the holy fathers struggled to escape from the allure of material things in order to be free to partake in the joy of God’s grace. For this reason the Church is reserved and treads carefully in the face of today’s rapid technological developments. Indeed, our genuine material needs are few; the Church, however, does not indiscriminately press its members with rigid limitations but takes into account the weakness of the soul, while at the same time encouraging it to embrace the struggle according to its spiritual strength. Based on 1 John 5:19, St. Dyonisius the Aeropagite.
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.
Understand the words of Holy Scripture by putting them into practice, and don’t puff yourself up with conceit by elaborating on theoretical ideas. Only in this way will you experience the Truth which will set you free. Based on Abba Mark
Don’t neglect your prayers. Just as the body becomes weak when it’s deprived of food, so the soul, when it’s deprived of prayer, weakens and draws near to the death of the intellect. If the mind is free of the things of this world, it turns in on itself and from itself soars to God. Based on St. Gennadius of Constantinople, St. Basile the Great
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
One of the first things which God gives to those who call is a sense of the vanity of this world. Those who’ve received the light of this knowledge must make haste, because you never know if this candle will be snuffed out. Postponement of such a decision has often resulted in failure. And the future is eternal. Based on St. John the Klimax
Love is the greatest virtue. Love is greather than a saints' martyrdom. And see why: without a martyrdom, love saves us. Without love, the martyrdom is useless. A brothers shares his joy with a new great schema monk at the entrance in Vatopaidi's main church.
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.
God made all his creation from pure love. God doesn't depend on anything or anyone in order to be perfectly happy. He simply wanted to make a creation to also enjoy this omniscient bliss. The crown of His creation is the human being which is a 'created god'. However, humanity threw away this perfection, taking along the entire created world into distortion. Consequently, God became man in order to save His creation, even unto death for Himself, as much as it is possible for an immortal God. This was (and is) the biggest anomaly ever: the immortal and perfect God, the Creator, to be murdered by His creation which is destined to be like Him.
The world is like a circle with God as eternal creator in the middle. All beings are like radii which travel towards God, the giver of existence, and in the center they are perfectly united, but just a short distance away from it they are separated, and the greater their distance from the center, the greater their separation, and the closer they are to the center, the more they are united to it and to one another. True unity, true contact between two existences is realized only through God. There is no direct path which ties two beings. Unification comes only through God.
Nobody has ever gained more in this world than a plate of food, a garment to wrap himself in and a roof over his head. This is all the material wealth that one truly needs. All other things are not directy tied to our biological existence. The contemporary man runs, runs, runs... and if you ask him why? he doesn't know why. In this photo, a heremit is praying in a tree cavity near to Vatopaidi. It is a rather common habit for monks to retreat into the woods for more quietness, stillness and better conditions for spiritual life.
Poverty is the resignation of cares, life without anxiety, an unencumbered traveller, alienation from sorrow, fidelity to the commandments. A poor monk is a lord of the world. He has entrusted his cares to God and by faith has obtained all men as his slaves. He will not tell his needs to man, and he receives what comes to him, as from the hand of the Lord.
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.
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.
For the Holy Spirit, sweet and gracious, draws the soul to love the Lord, and in the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the soul loses her fear of suffering.
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.
Blessed is he who mortifies his will to the very end and who leaves the care of himself to his elder in the name of the Lord. He will be placed at the right hand of he who was Crucified. He who refuses to accept criticism, just or not, renounces his own salvation, while he who accepts it, as hard as it it may be, will soon have his sins forgiven. A monk prepares himself for a life of struggle, pain and toil in the name of Love in Jesus Christ. He walks forward to his own tonsure knowing full well that he is embracing the life of the cross and discovers the endless joy of Life in He that was Crufied.
"The second baptism" "The wedding with God" The mystery of the great schema tonsure cannot be explained in words. The one who dedicates himself to be a great schema monk has a very concrete experience of these two things but he cannot express it to others. Like any other experience of God's grace one must live it in order to understand it. It is one thing to talk about honey, to describe its sweetness; and another to actually taste it. In this photo a brother becomes a great schema monk after some years of being a plain monk.
Find your internal peace and silence and an entire crowd will find their salvation while near you. In this image a monk moments before his great schema tonsures
The mystery of great, holy, and angelic schema contains the greatest degree of Grace which one can undertake. It is a second baptism in which all the sins of the new candidate are forgiven; an experience which the tonsured one feels in the depth of his being. Many holy men have seen the grace of baptism present during the great schema service. It is a marvelous mystery of life within God and with God within you; impossible to describe in words.
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.
One of the first buildings which a newcomer encounters when entering the monastery is the guesthouse. His spiritual metamorphosis begins once he realizes that the world which he exited is radically different from the world which he is stepping into, regardless of seemingly exterior similarities of the two worlds. This photo depicts the Vatopaidi courtyard with the Tower of Metamorphosis on the left and the monastery guesthouse on right.
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.
Eclipse Keep your mind in hell and do not despair. One of the Vatopaidi fathers during the services.
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.
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.