الثلاثاء، 31 مايو، 2011
A Trip to Mount Athos of Angels & Hermits
A Trip to Mount Athos of Angels & Hermits
By Mazen H.ABBOUD
Published by Monday Morning, Issue 2005. 30th of May,2011
A friend used to say: “One has to visit Mount Athos once in a lifetime; it is the garden of virgin Marry where people get in touch with the angels & Saints”.
So, I decided to go there to discover this garden of Virgin Mary & to decode some of the secrets of this holy finger of the Aegean Sea. I went there with Father Costa KAYAL, Father Dmitri KHURI, Rayan FAWAZ, & Christian KHRISTOFORIDIS so that I could get in touch with saints & angels for some time in my life time.
We got to Athos on the 4th day of the resurrection feast to live the charms of resurrection there.
Athos is a located on a peninsula jutting out from the main land of Greece into the Aegean Sea. It is an autonomous Republic of 400km2, which is governed by the representatives of the monastic communities of of the Holy Mountain’s 20 monastic houses.
It is known that Monastic life began to appear in the peninsula in the post Islamic conquest of the Levant period; so it is believed that monks who escaped the Levant found Athos, a safer haven to practice their rituals. However, the first monastery of Athos, the Great Lavra, was built some times between 925 & 926, as mentioned by the first typicon (the set of rules of the Monasteries).
Athos is considered as the heart of the orthodox world; it is a unique place of special rules; a garden dedicated to Virgin Marry whereby monks worship God & glorify him, day & night.
The Journey to Athos was indeed a journey to the past, where I discovered the beauties of the Byzantine Empire. It was Constantinople in its full spiritual glory. I enjoyed the bells ringing amid hymns & candles. Furthermore, I was impressed by the beauty,warmth & greatness of churches. I admired the decorated murals whose saints descend to pray with monks to the lord for the salvation of their souls & the World.
It was only a sixth day stay in the land of the Virgin Marry; a lovely stay during which, I discovered a new dimension to life as well as a different world; a world whose people are God like & are of a different nature, concerns, goals & motivations. A sixth day stay, which made me feel the presence of God & the interference of angels & saints in the lives of monks.
I discovered that Athos, as I had been told: “was different & special”. I noticed that what makes it so special are its people who are made of Love & Light. The man in me was really impressed by the power & richness of powerless & poor hermits who knew how to free themselves from the attractions of the world; those apparently weak people thought me how freedom is: love, absolute poverty, patience, dedication, hope, & prayers; I saw the world kneeling at their feet; & I felt that they got the keys to the truth & to knowledge. Rarely have I met people of such generosity; they were ready to give you all their belongings; they were poor with little means of living but were rich in God Grace. I had chats with some of them who told me about my life, the elders’ prophecies, the World, & the end.
Virgin Marry is at the center of monastic life there; the mother of God is a colorful & a miraculous icon greeted in every monastery at Mount Athos. They say that she is the owner of the peninsula & her real ruler. However, her icon in Iviron Monastery, so called Lady of the gate, is of special importance & symbolism to the people of the Mountain; it is related to the past as well as to the fate of the mountain & the world; thusas a matter of fact, Athonites believe that the Lady of the Gate that came to Athos by sea will leave it sometimes in the future, to mark the beginning of the end. I visited the miraculous Icon of Iviron & talked to her; then met father Isaiah.
But, the most important spiritual meeting I had was with father Irene’s of Vatopedi Monastery; I will never forget his face that shined at the fading light of the candles, which illuminated the murals of the main gallery of the Catholicon; furthermore, I will never forget the power of words of this French father who got to Athos to discover the truth & stayed there; his words will echo always in my soul:” take care my child not to fall in the darkness; you should always try to convey the light of the truth to the people of your country through the power of words… come back here, I am waiting for you; we got a lot to talk about”.