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.
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
For the whole array of passions, wrath and fear, cowardice and impudence, depression as well as pleasure, hatred, strife and merciless cruelty, envy as well as flattery, brutality together with brooding over injuries, they are all so many despotic masters... You really, really, really need to clean them up. Don't be afraid and do it! Okay, if you're afraid, be afraid and do it anyway! Based on St Gregory of Nyssa
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Flying to Heaven Almost everything on Mount Athos seeks to raise the spirit from this world towards the divine. The delicate combination of architecture, lighting and shadows is no exception from this purpose. The photograph depicts the cupola and ceiling of the katholikon of the Vatopaidi monastery together with the lit big chandelier from bellow.
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.
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.
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.
Heaven’s Joy During the festal services, there are specific moments when the chandeliers are set into motion by the monks. The effect is quite stunning since the church is illumiated only by the "flying" candles. Simultaneoysly, the jouyful Athonite chanting proceeding from both the left and rifht choirs accompanied by the subtle ringing of the deacons bells as they are censing the church, culmiante all of the senses into one great, majestic spiritual moment, a moment which foreshadows the eternal kingdom. In this photograph, the aforementioned moment is captured during which the chandeliers are being set into motion and the monk who will announce the verses of the canon awaits the blessing from the Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros the 2nd who sits on throne. The photo is taken at Feast of the St Gerasimos at Vatopaidi.
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.
Jesus said: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life". So, who is the one which will receive the uncovered and heavenly fire in his heart and won't ignite and won't shine? Pictured above, Elder Ephraim praying during the Divine Liturgy - Chappel of St. Demetrios at Vatopaidi.
Prior to man' spiritual baptism, he is enslaved by the evil one as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve and subject to demonic influences. After his baptism and re-birth, the evil one is driven away, and man is filled by the grace of Christ. This is why in the Orthodox Church eveyone is baptized from infancy and subsequently their face shines and a great sense of joy overcome the baptized person.
Man's true birth is not when he is brought to the world from his mother's womb, but occurs when he is re-born for the eternal life through holy baptism. So our pragmatic mother is baptism and resurrection through Christ.
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.
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.
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. The photo shows a moment from a vigil in the main church (catholikon) at Vatopaidi monastery.
While praying in one's heart, one is united with God and transcends the barriers of time. He experiences the reality [mystery] of eternity, free of time and all constructs of this world. He draws himself away from the distractions of this world and collecting himself refinds his original ontological state of unity between mind and heart. This is the solution for everyone living in our contemporary society, [difficult, but not impossible].
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.
True knowledge is to experience eternal life. Eternal life is to know by experience the only true God which is the light of the world. Hence, the one who doesnt know God doesnt know anything at all and this spiritual darkness can be eternal too. In the photo is a hieromonk at the end of the Divine Liturgy in the chapel of St. Nicholas, Vatopaidi.
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.
In the same manner in which Christ sacrificed himself for our sins once for all mankind when he offered himself up on the Cross, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God this is your true and proper worship. In this photo, a priest-monk is serving the Divine Liturgy in the chapel of St. John the Theologian at St. Prokopios' cell on the territory of Vatopaidi monastery.
According to the degree of which a man suffers undeserved shame from another in the name of Christ's truth, he will be rewarded thousands of times over and will be mysteriously glorified by countless crowds of men. True love is tried and tested through man's controversies. This photo depicts the end of a "photo session" at the Skete of St Andrew (Karyes) requested by the father Job (on the left, in wheelchair) from the Abbot Ephraim (right) who was present at the skete's main feast of St. Andrew.
"He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all." In the photo, the archbishop, which is the highest degree of ecclesiastical power on earth, humbles himself under the aer which symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Divine Liturgy. This peacefully touching moment occurs in the Holy Altar while the faithful in the congregation recite the Creed of Faith. In addition, the waving of the aer during the Creed symbolizes the earthquake which occurred during Jesus resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1-2). The priests stop the waving of the aer at the exact point in the Creed which reads, and on the third day He rose according to the scriptures. This photo depicts the aforementioned moment with Archibishop Joseph of Prikonisou (center), Abbot Ephraim of Vatopaidi (right) and one of Vatopaidi's hieromonks (left) during the recitation of the Creed of Faith.
Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed his disciples. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. This was the last gesture which our Lord made for us on earth. In the same way the bishops, which are the class with the highest rank of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, bless and bestow upon us God's grace. The officiator announces "Peace be unto you" and the Holy Spirit truly makes this a reality, however, it depends upon us if we are ready to receive and exploit this peace or not. In this photo the metropolitan Josef of Prikonisou is blessing at the feast of the Myrrh Bearing Women at Vatopaidi.
Pride and envy are the greatest of evils which threw even angles from the Heavens to Hell. Hence, humility and love are the means which bring us from our inner hell to the Heavens. In order for man to experience his personal resurrection, God had to become man and die through the cross; otherwise no one would believe that paradise came only through the pain of the cross. This is the light which we all seek, but no one can find alone.
A true shepherd is proven by his love. In the name of love, the Great Shepherd was crucified for mankind. The Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros the 2nd, while leaving from Vatopaidi Monastery.
Show God the faith in your heart that you have in your spiritual father and the honest love you have for him. God in ways unknown will urge him to be well-disposed to you and fond of you, just as you have shown your good disposition towards him. In this photo a monk sharing a heartfelt moment with his elder.
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.
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.
Let us lift up our hearts to the Lord. This can be achieved if our mind is oblivious to outside distractions, internally focused, and united with our heart; from there it naturally turns to God. This photo depicts Metropolitan Pavlos of Glyfada, in the Divine Liturgy at the feast of the New-martyrs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is nothing more powerful than the Church, man; give up fighting her, lest she overpower your strength. Wage war not against heaven. If you fight a man, you conquer or are conquered. But if you fight the Church, you cannot conquer. For God is stronger than all. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? How many tyrants have wished to get the better of the Church! Yet they have not succeeded. Where are the oppressors? Silence and oblivion have passed over them. But where is the Church? It is more dazzling than the sun. Their deeds are no more, hers are immortal. This photo depicts a candid shot during a doxology chanted at a vigil in Vatopaidi's main church (katholicon).
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.
Perhaps it is a little bold what I'm saying but it is better to quarrel with God rather than with your spiritual father. If you are at odds with God, your spiritual father will reconcile you with Him. But if you are separated from your elder, who will reconcile with your spiritual guide?
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.
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.
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.
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 .