Staring at the high mountains, twisting and scurrying up the narrow path, we traveled to the monastery within the excess of green. To feel small on arrival is not something foreign. First day of high school, first day of college, first day in a new country, first time in a Greek Orthodox monastery – in habited by nuns. But then, the view of even higher mountains, upon arrival, created a different feel. Finally, the monastery. After reading about the ascetic life of Anthony in class and his great health at such an old age, mixed with the description of Pachomius’ Cenobitic style of monastic life, all of this is so surreal. Of course, this monastery is full of nuns that do not practice the same style of monasticism that was practiced in the third century. This style is even more inviting. So when a person’s feet hit the stones that make up much of the grounds at the monastery, there is no foreign feeling. There exists a wave of welcoming and recognition that one expects of people who are so selfless and generous to others from all over the world. Even though it’s expected, it’s still jarring – this feeling of inclusion. The mountains, that are even higher than the monastery, cradling it and everyone else here. The sounds of water permeating almost every area outside. This place of spiritual awakening and magnificent will power will be, and already is, a place where the unknown space is not foreign and size is not diminished. Everything has been included even before entry.
“Agios, agios, agios” Reading the lives of saints in a class setting and looking at the accompanying icons in a monastery leaves a person speechless, or at least me. Full of social commentary, models for living a good and honorable life. Stories of caves, demons, and visions. The spirit of an agios, or saint, lives on in these forms but also in other ways. During the liturgy today I recognized one word and it has carried so much meaning since I’ve been at the monastery – agios.
Watching the baptism of the baby earlier today was such an enlightening experience. I have never seen a Greek Orthodox Christian baptism so the ritual was new for me. The time before the actual procession into the katholikon was full of life from the family and this filled the air. Having gone into the area adjacent to the katholikon I was unable see all of the ceremony but I was able to hear everything. When the family brought the child into the katholikon, it was all ceremony and all history. Infant baptisms are different than what I’m used to seeing. Normally, I either see someone slowly get dunked into a pool of water or they’re just thrust into the waters of the Lord and they’re flopping around like a dying fish. Yet, this more tradition filled ceremony was a sight to see and another wonder of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Rest is an important part of life. Normally, I don’t get a ton of sleep during the academic year because I’m studying until late hours of the night or I’m having issues falling asleep. But either way, my conception of rest has changed since being here.
Today, I have probably taken two naps. Things kind of blend together these days. I didn’t even realize it was the weekend until yesterday. Nonetheless, this day was full of relaxation, partially due to the amount of dairy I’ve eaten.
But I feel terrible resting as much as I do here. I feel as though I’m just here and not really immersing myself in the community. The nuns are so nice and they are really into helping us with whatever we want to know about the monastery, monastic life, or anything else that we can think of. On top of this, they’ve done their daily work and performed three baptisms since we’ve arrived. Yet, they sleep for as little as three to six hours – not continuously.
Of course, they are used to this by now, but it’s still remarkable that they have such charisma and energy which fills every inch of their beings despite the small of sleep they get during the day.
Granted, I know that a large amount of sleep is less important than what people claim, it makes me want to give them all my sleep and allow them more rest time. Alas, this does not fit their living style in the slightest. They do not live to serve their needs (sleep or bathing, etc.) but for the people of the Earth, our God, and the monastery. This dedication to the greater good is certainly something that I admire am still in awe of.
All of this makes me desire to spend the rest of my days here helping out and being more active. Talking to the nuns a bit more. Going into the gift shop to see ΠΑΡΘΕΝΙΑ. I can rest when I’m dead – or at home.