Friday, January 25, 2013

Mt. Athos

I've spent some time today learning about a place new to me, Mt. Athos. New to me, but very, very old.
Mt. Athos is a Greek Orthodox holy mountain, an entire peninsula in fact, in northern Greece.
Its many monasteries are ancient and beautiful, hauntingly so.
Some are like fortresses.
See the three fingers/peninsulas, sticking out into the Aegean Sea, in northern Greece? The one on the far right is Mt. Athos.
 It is dotted with monasteries. No one but Greek Orthodox monks lives on this entire peninsula.
The monks have vineyards.
 They harvest grapes and olives, among other crops. The monks live virtually self-sufficient.
However, the emphasis always, all day, every day, is prayer, meditation, and being close to Christ.
Life in these monasteries has changed very little in 1000 years.
They eat fish but no meat.
They sleep only about 3 hours each night.
They worship about 8 hours each day.
They have no days off, nor vacations.
They almost never leave the peninsula. They do not want to.
They eat two meals each day, quickly.
They are generally very healthy and long-lived.
They follow the Julian calendar, and keep their clocks according to Byzantine time, meaning one day goes from sunset to sunset.
It is extremely difficult to be admitted as a monk here. Many apply and few are chosen.
Unfortunately, no women are ever allowed on the peninsula. Even female livestock are excluded, although they have cats, and they keep hens for their eggs.
I would love to see such a place. I know their goal must be (among others) to live a life as close as possible to the one we will enjoy on the New Earth -- what a noble objective! But their disallowing of women shows that they live each day with the knowledge that they are fallen -- easily tempted and distracted from their holy tasks. I understand the rule; it's a good one. Still, it's sad. I should go hunting for a women's monastery instead. That would be fun to visit!
Here's a 60 Minutes episode about Mt. Athos that is fascinating to watch:


  1. Lessons from a Monastery is a new book about an Orthodox women's monastery. I haven't read it, but I just today discovered that there is a blog about some of the material, or the lessons...?

    I read a book about a woman and her son and their visits to monasteries. The son eventually became a monk and now he is an archbishop in the Russian church. I seem to have given it away or I'd mail it to you - The title is
    --Pilgrimage to Dzhvari by Valeria Alfeyeva, if you ever run across it....

  2. Thank you for both the link and the book name. I tried hunting online for Orthodox women's monasteries, but kept finding Catholic ones. I'll enjoy looking at this one.

  3. I'm fascinated by monasteries. One of my favorite books is A Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. She became an oblate in a Benedictine monastery, and this book tells of her time there. It's fascinating reading.

  4. Oh, Debbie, ME TOO! I wonder if there's anything near the two of us, that we could visit someday? Wouldn't that be fascinating? I'll go make a note of that book. I NEED to have a more orderly way of noting books that people recommend.

  5. Here's a women's monastery in SC:

  6. and in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese:

    Holy Convent of Paracletos
    790 Gin House Road
    Abbeville, SC 29620
    Abbess: Gerontissa Pavlina
    Tel.: (864) 348-7545

    Holy Convent of Panagia Prousiotissa
    404 Warner Road
    Troy, NC 27371
    Abbess: Gerontissa Agne
    Tel.: (910) 572-3331
    Fax: (910) 572-4176

    Oh, and here is a Wikipedia link to all of them, maybe:


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