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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
One who does not fight and defeat the passions and ignorance knows no peace. In order to see and to fight this war one must return to himself. Based on Valeriu Gafencu A pilgrim during a candid moment in the services.
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
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.
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 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.
The tonsure, which is reminiscent of the Vow of the Nazirite, is a symbolic act of the consecration of one's life to God by cutting off and forsaking ones self-will. There are three types of these dedications: baptismal, monastic, and clerical. In all cases, the hair is allowed to grow back; the tonsure as such is not imposed as a required hairstyle on the candidate. The newly tonsured aspirant will put in practice and exploit the gift of grace which he received from God according to his conscience and zeal.
Christians, rejoice always, for evil, death, sin, the devil and hell have been conquered by Christ. 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. A deacon pouring perfumed water symbolizing the myrrh of the Myrrh Bearing Women at the Lord's tomb. Easter at Vatopaidi.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are things which one cannot explain but can only live. Every spiritual experience is an ultimate mistery. Failure is not to fall; Failure is to stay down and not get up again.
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.
We must imitate the work of the wise bee which with much skill harversts from each blossom everything which is usefull. The fathers from Vatopaidi speaking with Mr. Georgios Mantzaridis, one of the most renowed theology and ethics professors from Grece and abroad.
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.
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.
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
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.
The festal outdoor processions are well known for their joyful and social nature while embracing all the members of a local church community. Moreover, the importance of a procession consists in the prayers of the participants as well as the sacred, miracle-working objects - usually icons and holy relics - which are exhibited during the procession to sanctify the environment. This is a candid shot from the procession of the feast of Prophet Elias in the surroundings of Vatopaidi where the miracle working icon of Vimatarissa passed by on Her way around the monastery.
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.
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.
The true status of our inner state is demonstrated during the time of prayer. The one who feels in his heart that while he is praying he is standing ontologically in front of God is an unshaking rock who cant be ridiculed by the demons.
Prayer by reason of its nature is the converse and union of man with God, and by reason of its action upholds the world and brings about reconciliation with God; it is the mother and also the daughter of tears, the propitiation for sins, a bridge over temptations, a wall against afflictions, a crushing of conflicts, work of angels, food of all the spiritual beings.
Do not fight to win the war but fight to win the peace. Then you'll have the necessary light in order to give to others. Theofilos, the Mitropolitan of Lefkadas, is pictured giving his liturgical candles to the deacons during the Divine Liturgy at the feast of Saint Ioakeim of Vatopaidi and Saint Gregory Palamas.
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.
An Old Wing of the Monastery at Night The East Wing of Vatopaidi Monastery consisting of monks’ cells - 3:30am. The first sections of the wing were built before 1450. Monks pray and study late into the night and early morning, often struggling against the need for sleep in an effort to compensate for the lack of prayer in the world.
Sing with wisdom, rhythm and good zeal and you'll be like a baby eagle which flies to the heights. Elder Ephraim is depicted chanting together with his spiritual children in front of the miracle-working icon of Panagia Pantanassa.
A Christian receives divine wisdom in three ways: by the commandments, by teachings, and by faith. The commandments free the mind from passions. Teachings lead it to true knowledge of nature. Faith leads to the contemplation of the Holy Trinity. In this photo, the archibishop of Ierissou Theokletos is blessing with his dikeri symbolizing the light brought to us by the Christ's incarnation at the feast of All Saints of Vatopaidi.
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 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.
The more clearly the heart sees God, the more love it tastes from Him and the more love one gives to his neighbor. This photo depicts Archbishop Gerasimos of Zugdidi (Georgia) immediately after he ordinated a deacon at Vatopaidi.
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.
Eclipse Keep your mind in hell and do not despair. One of the Vatopaidi fathers during the services.
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.
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.
We must overcome the trials and sorrows in our lives through patience and prayer. The ones who tries another way is not only unsuccessful but gets caught deeper and deeper in the abyss of worldly difficulties.
The most powerful weapon of the devil is desperation. He doesn't rejoice so much when we sin compared to when we despair. This is because the last and definitive victory of the devil is when he succeeds to put the soul into despair. That's why we must remember that God always has an open door, an open window for us. Always. All we have to do is keep on walking towards his countenance .