Journal entry

Jarron McAllister


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.

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Mt. Menoikeion Journal Entry

Liz Lian

June 30, 2013

This experience is special because it’s showing me how small the world is–how much we all have in common despite where we come from. Since I only know “thank you,” “hello,” “excuse me,” “do you speak English?” and now, “good night,” “nice to meet you,” and “my name is…” in Greek, I’ve had to become much more aware of my body language as a way of communicating. Not to mention I’m in a monastery, where one isn’t supposed to cross one’s legs. So I’ve actually made a conscious effort to stand up straighter. My jaw hurts from smiling so much since I can’t express my happiness to be here in Greek, and because a big, toothy smile seems to be a universal “Hello!” It’s actually pretty easy to tell when someone is making a joke, even if you can’t understand what they’re saying, and when to laugh, just by following their cadence, body language, and expression. It sort of reminds me of the season finale of the show “Louie” if you’ve seen it. I don’t want to spoil anything because it really is such a special episode, but Louie finds himself in the company of a group of people with whom he has no common language, yet he still manages to make them all crack up. I haven’t gotten comfortable enough with the nuns yet to crack jokes, but they all seem to have great senses of humor and love to laugh. I mean, who doesn’t?

Tonight as Dmitri and I brushed our teeth side by side, he asked me, just as I was spitting, how I liked the monastery so far. “Good?” he asked. “Better than good,” I told him, trying not to froth too much toothpaste. I admitted that at first I was a little unsure, a little anxious, because I didn’t know what was appropriate and what wasn’t. He nodded his understanding, saying how, like any other community, this ascetic community has its own codes and structure. Then I said how after a day or two, though, I felt more comfortable because beneath all that, we’re all pretty much the same. “Yes,” he said, “we are all human beings, and this is a community that values acceptance of all different kinds of people of all origins above all.”

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Mount Menoikeion Journal Entry

Brittany Hardy

June 29, 2013

The monastery is so beautiful and peaceful. It’s nice hearing the natural things of the world like running water and birds chirping. The nuns are very friendly and speak very good English. Although meat is not cooked here, the meals have been amazing.

It is really cool to experience the nuns’ daily life. The nuns are such kind-hearted and patient people. They inspire me to be more positive and helpful as well. It is nice to watch how caring and genuine they are. Human compassion like this is rare nowadays, so I’m blessed and very thankful for this experience.

Today’s liturgy service was new for me. It was very calming to hear the singing even though I could not understand what was being said. The church has an element of mystery to it with some of the guests being in a room outside the priest. I took a short nap today and now waiting for lunch to be served. I’m excited to see what it will be! Yesterday’s dinner was great. The vegetables come straight from the garden here. The eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers are my favorite.

Now I am at a baptism. Baptisms are often held at this monastery. The baby’s entire family is here. It’s odd because I feel like I am a part of the family too. The baptism was a very different experience from what I am used to in my church. Children here are immersed into the baptismal pool and not sprinkled lightly with water. It was a very beautiful ceremony and really showed me the importance of family in the Orthodox community.

June 30, 2013

I am outside the church listening to the nuns sing for liturgy service. The sun is bright, and the sky is clear and blue. I hear water running from the bath on the church. I’ve finally understood why I love this place; it reminds of the towns I’ve seen in Biblical movies. Despite the modernization that has taken place, the monastery still has historical value. It’s just simply amazing.

The monastery collects the skulls and bones of deceased members after they have been buried for 7 years as it is an Orthodox tradition. This was very interesting to see on the tour of the monastery because there are hundreds of skulls of children and adults that date back to several centuries. I can only imagine the range of emotions the nuns feel when they dig up the bones of a loved one.

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By Eleanor Wright

This morning John gave a presentation about pilgrimage–its history, its significance, and its connections with tourism–which got me thinking (as he probably hoped) about our journey to Prodromos Monastery.  Pilgrimages promise to unite imagination with experience: you visit a holy site to have a real personal encounter with a place you met in a story.  People seem to agree that coming into physical contact with something sacred is meaningful in a different–and perhaps deeper–way than contemplating it from afar; that conviction is what’s made pilgrimage so widespread.

And that conviction is certainly what brought me here.  Having studied ancient Greece and early Christianity in an academic context, I was curious to find out how closely what I’d been picturing resembled reality (at least, the reality of Greek Orthodox monasticism).  In most ways, it turns out, Prodromos is nothing like what I expected: when you’re sitting in Firestone researching icons and martyrs, you don’t think much about what language the nuns speak, what kind of food they eat (I tried the multivitamin-flavored juice today!), or the cows that wander around their parking lot.  At the same time, there’s plenty I do recognize: liturgical practices I’ve read about, evidence of historical trends I’ve studied, images of familiar saints.  I’ve encountered these things before, just in a different setting.  Seeing them here, in their natural habitat, is sort of like running into your dentist at the grocery store.

I’m becoming increasingly aware, too, that being an outsider–a pilgrim–shapes my perception of the monastery.  John talked about how manufactured many pilgrimage (and tourist) experiences are, and it makes sense that it would be difficult–maybe impossible–for a pilgrim to escape the role of spectator.  We at Prodromos aren’t even trying to adopt the nuns’ perspective: we’re here for academic reasons, which is why we talk so much about things like Byzantine politics and rudimentary musical notation.  At the same time, we really have entered the sisters’ world–a world delineated unambiguously by the monastery walls and reinforced by the clothes we wear, the rituals we witness, and the routines we follow.  This afternoon, several of us walked to a nearby chapel where Dawn showed us a holy spring, and we each took a sip.  Drinking from a holy spring isn’t something you do in religion class; nor can I say I believed in the water’s power the way a devoutly Orthodox visitor might.  But I did want to drink it, and I did feel that it had some kind of significance.  That complicated attitude made me realize the strangeness of being immersed in a world I don’t totally belong to.

And it’s strange that some of us belong to this world more than others.  We all came to Mount Menoikeion from different academic and religious backgrounds; some are experiencing the monastery from a pretty secular perspective, while others are connecting in more spiritual ways.  Before dinner, Anna, Natalie, Jamie, and I got a chance to talk with the Abbess, and I was struck by how diverse our questions were and how nimbly she hopped between religious and secular topics.  One minute she was advocating unwavering trust in God; the next, she was listing the vegetables in the monastery garden.  But I guess the point of monasticism is to integrate the exalted and the mundane: nuns repeat their prayers over and over as they do daily tasks, until gardening and God don’t feel separate at all.

This has turned into a rather meandering post, but the point is that I’ve been noticing some of the strange subtleties of the relationship between a pilgrim and a pilgrimage site–especially when the pilgrimage site is its own fully-functional ecosystem already inhabited by non-pilgrims.  The complexities of pilgrimage felt especially salient during tonight’s “synaxis,” a celebration and performance and gift-exchange ritual we shared with the nuns.  As we showed a PowerPoint of photos from the past four days, and as Jamie and Emily explained their Prodromos-related research, I saw the sisters nodding and smiling to signal their appreciation for the way we experienced the monastery.  Several of us sang “Dona Nobis Pacem” in a round, and Nikos, a seminar veteran, performed virtuosically on his lyra.  Even the non-monastic entertainment affected different audience members differently: most listeners knew Greek and recognized some of Nikos’s songs, while I just felt impressed by his artistry and intrigued by the exotic tradition it represented.

In sum, it’s fascinating to be in an environment where people are having so many obviously different levels and types of experiences.  I guess this is a situation the nuns have to navigate regularly, interacting as they do with each other, with the laypeople from Serres, and even with tourists and visitors like us.  But I’m less used to it, and I’ve come, over the past four days, to admire how easily it happens here.

I’ll end these pilgrim-themed musings by saying how much I’ve enjoyed the seminar and everything it entailed: learning about Byzantine history in a really dynamic, memorable way; observing and talking with the nuns, whose lives are so different from mine; and witnessing practices like the all-night liturgy, which was entirely new to me and extraordinarily beautiful.  John’s pilgrimage talk included a discussion of the souvenirs pilgrims take from their destinations and the marks they leave behind; and, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ll say that I definitely feel I’ve established a bond with this place–a bond that might, if I’m lucky, bring me back again next summer.

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Into the World and Out Again

By Anna Nilles

On Friday we left the oasis of the monastery.  After another delicious monastic breakfast, we piled into the van for our quick expedition to Serres.  Along the winding road into town we stopped at the city’s highest point (or acropolis) and soaked in the scenic view.  From that point overlooking the city we could hear the festivities below.  It was a holiday in Serres, honoring the city’s independence.  We stopped at a beautiful Byzantine church, which may once have been part of a monastery complex affiliated with Prodromos.  I love the combination of bricks and stones that characterizes Byzantine architecture.  Although the brickwork, both practical and decorative, creates a beautiful façade of its own, the building may once have been covered in white plaster and painted. Professor Gondicas explained that the radiating brick patterns above the windows and doors signified sacred light emanating from within the church.  I had never thought of this: not only does God’s light enter the building through the windows, but also that a different, changed light comes out into the world from within. It is a beautiful idea.

From there we went to the archaeological museum of Serres, which is housed in an old caravansary, once an Ottoman textile market.  The architecture captured my attention more than the objects on display. The rows of high brick domes, connected with arches and pendentives decorated with muqarnas, make the building feel so spacious and dynamic.  We left the museum and headed for a nearby café to recommence eating.  We sipped Greek coffee and frappe, and snacked on delicious Serrean pastries called bougatsa, while Henry taught us about the place of non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire.  It is a region and time period I knew very little about before coming here, but I’m beginning to piece it together.  All of the talks have been very informative.  I am constantly impressed by the depth and breadth of knowledge of everyone around me.  From the snack café we went directly to lunch.  Unable to decide between two neighboring restaurants we split up into two groups and chose both!  The Greek food was wonderful, as always, and we had my two favorite things: tzatziki and fried zucchini.  As fun (and delicious) as the outing to Serres was, it made me realize how difficult it must be for the sisters to leave Prodromos to visit the city.  The pace of life is entirely different and it feels worlds away, even though it’s an easy 20-minute drive.

Back at the monastery we had time to rest before heading out the gates again, this time for a walk to the abandoned village.  The area surrounding the monastery is indescribably beautiful.  With the cows, and the ponies, and the sunset over the wildflowers, the striking cypress trees and the stone ruins, it really is a place that belongs in paintings and songs. I have been taking lots of photos, but I know that once I see them on a computer screen I will be disappointed; there is no way that a camera can capture this.

That evening, Jamie gave her presentation about Byzantine chant, specifically music from the manuscripts of Prodromos.  There is so much history here at this monastery! The music manuscripts are beautiful to look at, and were nearly impossible for me to read.  Jamie helped us decipher the symbols, and explained the importance of these manuscripts in the world of Byzantine music.

Later that night was my first chance to have a conversation with some of the sisters.  I was amazed by the warmth and openness with which they encouraged our questions, about any aspect of their lifestyle.  We talked about the Jesus prayer, and psychology, and the role of the monastery in the community, and even the personal journeys that led some of the sisters to this mountain in Greece.  I found myself unable to stop asking questions, and they kindly put up with my inquisitiveness.  Of all the things I have seen and experienced this week, I will especially remember the conversations we’ve had.

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Space for Thought

By Natalie Scholl

When trying to determine what to write about I wondered how on earth was I to narrow down our first 24 hours to just a few paragraphs? That is of course an absurd task to set oneself, so I must be content with sharing just a snippet. In reflection of my own response to the monastery, this snippet will revolve around senses and the soul.

We arrived at the monastery in the early evening, right at the time when the sun has started to sink beneath the hills and the first tinges of red appear against the landscape. Walking cautiously down the stone steps, we were immediately greeted with wonderful warmth by a couple of the nuns as we passed through the gates into the courtyard. For most of us it was our first experience, and Dawn and Jamie expressed a little envy at our virgin eyes devouring our first sight of the monastery.

The first moments through those gates were lovely. The scent of numerous flowers- roses, gardenias, geraniums, honeysuckle and many more- softly filled the air and mouth, and the sound of Vespers over the speakers combined with the rushing water from the stone fountains and an orchestra of summer insects. My first impression of the interior of the monastery was a compilation of smiling nuns, blossoming plants, frescoes, stone, and over all these the beautiful green slopes in the sunset.

During the first few hours in the monastery Psalm 23 kept coming to my mind:

The Lord is my Shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me.
You prepare a table before me,
In the presence of mine enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The bit of this that really was vivid to me was the line, “He restores my soul.” I realized that while entering the monastery is an incredible sensory experience, it is more than that. It is, for me at least, the rejuvenation of the soul. Passing through the gates is a passing into a peaceful oasis, and any worries or troubles cannot fit into these walls. At least, that is how I felt, and feel even now as I write this. The sense of stability contributes to such an atmosphere of tranquility. The jagged hole left by the fire, instead of drawing my attention towards fragility and the possibility of destruction, has done the exact opposite. It reminds me of tenacity, and strengthens the permanence of this place. To me, a visitor, there is a continuous calm. Even the structure of the compound, built on a rocky incline, necessitates a certain deliberation. The rest of the world feels as if it is rushing about in a mad frenzy in comparison. And of course the old question emerges of where exactly is it rushing?

Similar questions arose in my mind throughout the next day, and I contemplated these as I walked into the celebration of the Saints Peter and Paul that evening. While the service was very structured, I did not feel at all constrained, as people slowly filtered in throughout the night and everyone was free to move around- though of course the non-Orthodox among us could not enter the naos or receive communion. The singing, prayers, rotations of the chandelier with its candlelight glinting off the gold of the implements and icons, fragrance of the incense, and unhurried movements of the nuns and the priest all combined to create a rhythm. As the service progressed I could feel my entire body slow to match the gentle beat. There was no need to hasten.

Taking a rest, slowing the heartbeat of the Princeton lifestyle can be quite difficult, I’ve found. While so often I find myself and others at Princeton focusing on the challenges of multi-tasking and ultimate efficiency, it is in many ways more challenging to decrease our speed and do a task thoroughly and continuously but unhurriedly. It reminds me of Pascal and his perspective on how humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to be alone with his thoughts, and so he seeks to be constantly occupied. The monastery setting is ideal for meditation and reflection, and it is very curious to see what exactly my mind produces when all the dust settles.

I am very grateful for the opportunity this seminar presents, not only on an academic or interpersonal level, but also internally; the opportunity to close the windows to the outside world and simply settle our minds and spirits and examine what we find there.

And now for a Greek coffee and one of the nun’s homemade loukoumaki!

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A Side trip to the Monastery at Ormylia

by Dawn LaValle

Thursday morning saw our van pulling out of the beauty of Serres and heading down the highway toward the Chalcidiki, which is both the summer playground of thousands of Thessalonikians, as well as the location of Mt. Athos, that most holy place in Orthodox Christendom.  We had decided on our way back to Thessaloniki to take a side-trip to the Monastery of the Annunciation at Ormylia, the largest women’s monastery in Greece, with about 115 sisters in residence.  Why go from one monastery to another?  Hadn’t we had our fill yet?  We thought it might be interesting to see another flourishing women’s monastery in the area with a different tradition and different story.  Ormylia was founded in the 1970’s under the guidance of a charismatic priest named Fr. Aimilianos.  The men under his direction re-founded the Monastery of Simonos Petras on Mt. Athos, and the women came to Ormylia–as close as they could get to the Holy Mountain.  

We were greeted in English at the gate–Ormylia’s nuns come from all over the world–and were led to a shady seating area, given the traditional Turkish Delight, or loukoumia


as the Greeks prefer, and Greek coffee, and were soon joined by a nun by the name of Sr. Augustina.  We explained who we were and gained some knowledge of the monastery.  As she asked us more questions about ourselves, she hit upon a fact that changed everything–some of us are students of Peter Brown!  Her face lit up, and doors were opened, literally.  Peter Brown had once come through Ormylia and given her a copy of his biography of Augustine, her patron.  Any friend of Prof. Brown was a friend of the monastery of Ormylia!  She rose, disappeared, and returned with the key to the inner area of the monastery where visitors are usually not allowed to go.  She lavished her time on us as she gave us a tour of their overwhelmingly beautiful new church.
How different was this church to the katholikon at Prodromos!  Separated by about 800 years, in fact.  Everything new, everything fresh.  Yet at the same time, there were all of the traditional elements that linked the two monastic churches together–the same saints adorned the walls, the same iconostasis, the same ancient type of chandelier which we had seen swing so bewitchingly a few days earlier at the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at our monastery of Prodromos.  It was a wonderful opportunity to see the creation of a Byzantine-style building piece by piece–the outlines of future mosaics still awaiting an artist sister’s hand to complete them.  As Prodromos struggles with the difficulties and delights of adapting their life-style to an ancient and uncompromising setting, the sisters at Ormylia have a chance to start afresh, to create a new monument for future generations to call ancient.  More than anything, I think our group felt a sense of unity and continuity between the two monasteries–one building complex in the middle of its life, and one at the beginning.  Both full of young energy and hope.  May they both be granted many years!
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Impressions from a Rushed Visit

by Nicholas Marinides

I arrived at Prodromos quite late, due to the need to attend
a wedding back in the States. I found myself in a somewhat strange position: as
a latecomer (and having only visited the monastery once before, four years ago,
and then only for a short time as well) I was not able to experience the
monastery life as intimately as my colleagues; but as a seasoned monastic
pilgrim and as a Greek-speaker, I was able to adjust to the monastery’s rhythms
more easily than them. But then again, as a man and as being much more familiar
with men’s monasteries, the visit to a women’s monastery was something
relatively unfamiliar.

The differences are of course apparent in the chanting:
instead of the deep full sound of an Athonite choir, “like the voice of many
waters,” there was the more ethereal and refined sound of women’s voices. I
also noticed it in the nuns’ account of their reaction to last winter’s fire
(which I heard second-hand from some of the students, not from the nuns
themselves). The event was deeply traumatic for them, and at the end of a
frightening and exhausting day of fire-fighting, they gathered together to weep
over the loss they had suffered. Such a catastrophe in a men’s monastery would
be as traumatic in its own way, but I suppose it would evoke a different kind
of emotional response. Lastly, if I had been at the monastery longer I would
have been able to converse more with the nuns and learn more about their
monastic experience; but as a man I would have felt obliged to maintain a
certain respectful distance and formality that would not be as necessary for
the women in our group.

As it happened, I was able to learn something from our group
conversation with Gerondissa Fevronia, where I served as translator, and by
speaking with her personally about my research for a bit afterward as the group
started moving back toward the library for our final talk. Here I met the
refreshing simplicity of monastic wisdom, which can overcome the limits of
gender. In speaking to Gerondissa, I heard the same kind of tranquil conviction
and insight that I have heard in the speech of Athonite elders. And I can
understand how that calm ascetical figure is a pillar of strength for the
community in the difficulties of the fire and its aftermath.

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Newbian Ponderings

by Jaqueline Sturm and Alex Petkas

This year’s Prodromos Monastery newcomers made their first acquaintance with a community which seemed rather well functioning.  Even though we were quite well apprised of the catastrophe and its extent, and were aware of the implications of it for the way the community functions, to us, it seemed like a reasonably well functioning machine.  There were visitors speaking with the nuns, we were welcomed with delicious coffee and treats, worship operated normally, and there was generally no obvious sense of loss in the air.  The obvious exception was the clear evidence of destruction to our right after entering: charred bricks, melted, twisted metal, scarred trees.

The nuns here are eager to put the loss behind them and continue with normalcy, as we were told before and then learned through our conversations with them.  What felt to veterans like a gaping hole in the periphery of the complex, we experienced as an open space, a lovely view in fact, but no less striking as a feature in the panorama than the beautiful chapel at the heart of the complex.

Today was our first real personal encounter with the loss, and the tragedy.  After a session of our presentations, as we sat chatting in the library, Sister Maria shared with us her experience of the night of the fire.  She brought vividly to our minds the speed with which the catastrophe unfolded once the first signs of the fire had been detected.  We got a sense of the helplessness which the nuns must have felt that night, not only faced with an inferno which they could do nothing to extinguish but also with the fact that there were simply too few hands to do all that needed to be done in the short time which was given them: there were older and more frail nuns who had to be transported to safer ground, icons to be removed from the central church in case the fire should (heaven forbid) spread there, in addition to all of the icons in the refectory which was already ablaze at the time.  When the firefighters finally arrived forty five to sixty minutes after the fire kindled, they realized that the fire was dangerously close to jumping past the fire-wall, by way of the wooden balconies which project along the perimeter of the monastery.  Nuns had gone into the building ahead of the fire in order to hew down a section of the balcony in order to break the path which the fire was following.  This they did in the face of strong resistance on the part of the firefighters, who thought the endeavor too dangerous.  It is difficult to imagine that they would have succeeded; fortunately – they would say miraculously – the balcony section at the fire’s blazing vanguard collapsed before it could spread to the next building.  If this had not happened, the complete south and east sections of the monastery might well have been lost – approaching half of the entire periphery of the complex. The account was so vivid that Jaqueline was beset by dreams that night of flaming buildings and collapsing balconies!

Earlier in the day, we had been to the bishop of Serres’ icon museum, where many icons which once resided in the Prodromou Katholikon are now housed for display. Emily’s presentation that morning gave us an excellent overview of the museum’s collection (with emphasis on the Prodromou pieces), as well as an account of the way in which they were first removed from the monastery by the former metropolitan, shortly before its re-inhabitation by the nuns, then later placed in the museum by the current metropolitan, and now find it difficult to return to their original home.  After hearing of our visit, Sister Theologia asked, “Did you see our icons?”

The day for us closed with the festal vigil of Saints Peter and Paul.  This was a particularly touching event for those among the group who are not Orthodox Christians, many of whom were experiencing the Byzantine festal liturgy for the first time.  The liturgy, chiefly with its combination of chanting, incense, and light – the nuns lit and swung the majestic polyeleos, a sort of Byzantine chandelier – assaults all of the senses.  A fitting end to a varied and fulfilling day.

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