Thursday, May 13, 2010

0002 - The pilgrimage to Mount Athos from Professor James S Cutsinger Part 1

I am commencing a series of posts from the pilgrimage journal of Professor James S. Cutsinger to Mount Athos. I found it fascinating when I first read this back in 2008. Enjoy....

For several years my son, Trevor, and I had discussed the possibility of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain of Athos, the world’s only monastic republic, located on the easternmost peninsula of Halkidiki in northern Greece. Renowned for its natural beauty and the numberless treasures of its ancient Byzantine monasteries, this “Garden of the Theotokos” has been the spiritual center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity for over a thousand years, and for Orthodox men—women are not permitted—it is in many ways the equivalent of what Lhasa is (or rather was) for the Tibetan Buddhist and of what Mecca is for the Muslim.

In early June of 2007, the moment seemed right for this long-anticipated journey, and we set out for Greece, flying first to Thessaloniki, where we visited the Church of Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359),
venerating the relics of this great defender of the Athonite monks and their practice of hesychasm, before taking a taxi to the small seaside village of Ouranoupolis,
whence one departs for the Mountain on the daily ferryboat, traveling along the Singitic Gulf side of the peninsula. Disembarking at the port of Zographou and hiking the first day to the opposite side of the peninsula,

we made our way in a clockwise direction, traveling to the communities of Vatopedi, Stravronikita, Iveron, the Great Lavra, Prodromos, Agia Anna, and Simonopetra.

A number of students, friends, and family members have asked about our pilgrimage, and it seemed the best response I could offer was to type up a few of the entries from my journal while the experience was still relatively fresh in my mind. The results—largely travelogue, but in part meditation—are here made available to the wider audience afforded by Anamnēsis. I am the first to recognize how inadequate these words are to the realities concerned. It is my hope nonetheless that this brief and necessarily idiosyncratic account might be a source, if not of inspiration or instruction, then at least of enjoyment for a few of my readers.

Included in this presentation are links to a number of the pictures Trevor took during our journey. One is not permitted to photograph the inside of churches or to make portraits of individual monks without the blessing of an abbot, so the images are almost entirely confined to courtyards, the exteriors of monastic buildings, and the natural environment. In order to provide at least some hint of the incredible beauty of the interiors, however, I have inserted scans of three photographs from out-of-copyright sources: the central church and a chapel at Vatopedi and the church of the Great Lavra.

As published in ANAMNESIS the weblog of Professor James S. Cutsinger.

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