Posts Tagged ‘virgin mary’

Travelling on Diesel Electric train through ex – USSR (Soviet Union Belarus) from Jirovichi to Ros via Slonim

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

After spending 6 blessed  days in Jirovichi Sveto Uspenski Manastir (Zhirovichky Monastery) and having the possibility to pray and venerate the multitde of holy relics kept in Jirovichki (holy cloister), eat with the seminary students in Jirovichi spiritual seminary and receive a blessing of Archibishop Gurij and many of the Jirovichi serving father, hieromonks and talk to seminary students, visit the monastery library, viist students classrooms, computer lab  and get impression an impressions on general serminary monastir life, next on today I had the chance to travel for a one more time on an eletric multiple unit (famous in Russia / Belarus / Ukraine) as "elektrichka".

Sviato-Uspenskij-Jirovichki-manastir-bus-station

My  travel started in Jirovichi bus station which is situated nearby the Jirovichi Monastery walls.

Jirovichi is really unique monastery for a pilgrimage as it is the largest Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery and seminary (orthodox spiritual academy school) in Belarus. In Jirovichi is also the most holy considered icon in Belarus which happens to be also the smallest icon of the Non-hand made image of Virgin Mary (Theotokos).

Jirovichi-Dormition-of-Mother-Mary-Eastern_Orthodox-monastery

The miracle making icon of Holy Theotokos is self ingraved on a stone and was given as a sign from heaven to the inhabitants of Belarusia lands at that time because, perhaps many of the Belarusian "savage" like living people (dveriani) were falsely honouring cult hand made stones and trees and by the glorious miracle of God, the pagan inhabitants turned to faith in the True Lord and Savior Jesus Christ being astoned to see such an unique image of the mother of the Lord The Stone icon of the Virgin Mary appeared for a first time in Jirovichi in about year 1460.

The stone Virgin Mary icon was found by shepherds on top of a burning pear tree while wandering in the wood searching for their last sheeps.
Jirovichij (Bojii Mater)
as popular among Belarusians is said to have conducted a multitude of miracles through the years even to this very day.

Jirovichi-holy-icon-of-Mother-Mary-Jirovichka-bojia-mater

The found Stone self-ingraved icon of Jirovichi monastery, the smallest (miracle making) icon of Virgin Mary on earth

Today in Jirovichi monastery the place where the burning pear was is on the entrance of the monastery main Church which is in honour of the Dormition of Virgin Mary.

Jirovichi-bojij-mater-Mother-of-God-Jirovichi-holiest-place-of-Belarus

Jirovichi Bojii Mater

The monastery has 2 corpuses one for seminary students and one for monks. Inside the monastery there are about 20 monks and 10 priests regularly serving various services and holy liturgy daily. The seminary has a beautiful garden and a holy spring (well) right infront of the main Church entrance.

Jirovichka-Bojij-Mater-Virgin-Mary-miracle-making-icon-Jirovichi-monastery-Belarus

Jirovichi Mother of the Son of God Holy Icon

I've catched a bus from the holiest place of Belarus situated in village of Jirovichi (hosts about 1000+- citizens) to Slonim (Vokzal) = Train Station in Russian language. The bus from Jirovichi to Slonim is about 20-30 km and ticket was 8000 BYR (which is very cheap to about 0.40 USD).

Then from Slonim's Train station I've bought a Train ticket to Ros as I needed to go to Krasnoselsk and there was no direct transportation to it. Ros is a nearby poselok to Krasnoselsk (another poselok) nearby the town of Valkowysk , (Volkovoisk), Волковыск is inhabited by about 44000 people as of time of writting. In Russian (poselok is a little bigger than village but not really to be called town usually consists to up to few thousands of people up to 10 000 ppl.

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Slonim City Center Tank

Travelling through ex empire of Soviet Union ( USSR ) which was an union in many things to reside the today's European Union is an unique experience as one sees the endeavor of soviet people to build different things that kept running the so called communist regime. 

The train ticket is really cost low (costed me 14.900 BYR Belarussian Rubles = about 0.80 dollar cents!). The train ticket looked just like an ordinary cash reeipt printed on a cheap paper, however uniquely on the train ticket is written besides the departure and arrival towns also, number of kilometers from town A to town B that you pay for, in my case from Slonim to Rosy this was 088 km. The train itself is a real excitement for anyone who is in love with history and old trains.

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Slonim Belarus, Bus Station with a Kiosk

While waiting the train I dropped by the Caffeteria nearby the Train Station (Vokzal) and get a coffee for 6000 BYR (about 0.25 USD) and 2  kinda of local Belarusian snacks (bulochka) which costed about 3000 BYR each (0.12 USD)! Amazingly I had my coffee and a quick meal for less than a dollar, amazingly cheap isn't it? 🙂

Diesel-Elektrichka-inter-town-village-train-Belarus-DR1A-135
 

The Russian type trains are different from European as the rails distance is higher than in rest of Europe. Actually there was practical reason behind the rails standard differene as the Russian rails standard was invented to be different from European in order to stop Hitler's Nazi Germany to easily transport goods / tanks etc. from and to the Stalin's U.S.S.R.

Because of the different rail distance the inside of the train coupe is also wider separated in two column seats on each of it could sit up to 3 people:

Elektrichka-common-train-between-villages-and-cities-in-Belarus-Russia-and-ex-USSR

The train toilet is also unique to see as it belonged to the perhaps 30-40 years old train:

Even though the toilet doesn't look shiny still it was clean and there was a toilet paper, what intrigued me most was the hole on the ground in front of the toilet seat, the meaning of it was to be a kinda of a natural air-condition 🙂
The toilet flush is really amazing to see too, usually in europe and everywhere I've been including in Arab Emirates (Dubai), the water flush is being triggered on top of toilet paper with hand, well in ex-USSR this is different to to flush the water you have to press a button with your leg. The sink water is also interesting to see usually in Europe sink water is being triggered by pushing on top or by turning a stopcock, here in Russia you have to press down to make water flow. Talking about oddities another oddity for non-Belarusians in Belarus is the home bath locks, usually in europe we're used to have some kind of lock mechanism, locking with a key is most common, here in Belarus in home the lock doors mechanism is simply a button to be pressed up or down. 

In the train there was policeman, the policeman here in Belarus are firm man walking threating all around the train, so no place for bad or misbehaving citizens here in Belarus 🙂

I've safely reached village of Ros in 16:35 (with a delay of about 5 minutes) which is pretty normal for a non-western train, so overall train timing was cool. The train had some signatures with some instructions what is allowed and disallowed in the train, smoking was strictly prohibited and there was huge sum fine / "shtraf". Even though that I've seen a young person to smoke a cigarette (while closing the doors) in between coupes compartment obviously not much caring about the cops standing just a few wagons next 🙂

Before reaching Rosy we've passed on few villages, the villages here in Belarus are very beatiful there is difference in how Belarusians built a lot of their old wooden houses if compared to lets say Bulgaria or Balkans where we build brick solid houses a lot of village houses in Belarus are wooden, here is few pictures to give you an idea on how a typical Belarusian village looks like:

Belarus-ex-USSR-village

Belarus-derevnija-picture-ex-USSR-village

Even though the harsh Soviet atheistic communism regime which tried to force unbelieve in God and kill all kind of religiousness in people after the fall of the (USSR) United Soviet Socialistic Republic Belarusians who used to be historically a very religious people are gradually returning to faith.
An interesting fact worthy to mention is Belarus used to be proclaimed the first officially Atheistic country in the world which "freed itself" from the slavery of faith as the anti-christ communists used to be loving saing. 

Well obviously they were wrong nowadays, in many of villages which doesn't have their own Church in Belarus it is typical practice to bringup the Holy Cross of Christ as in below picture, each year the nearby city / town / Poselok Eastern Orthodox priest comes to pray to God for the blessing of the village and abundance of fruits this typically happens on Eastern or Nativity. In Belarus the Eastern Orthodox population is about 78% with some 15% person of Catholics, so often villages with mixed (Orthodox and Catholic) citizens has both separate crosses like in the picture where Orthodox and Catholics christians go to pray seperately.

Belarus-ex-USSR-village-Cross

Pilgrimage to Holy Mount Athos, second most holy place on Earth – The Garden of Holy Virgin Mary – Agios Oros Authonomous Orthodox Christian Monk Republic and how to go there

Monday, September 1st, 2014

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By the mercy of the most holy Virgin Mary, I had the opportunity to be for 2 days and a half to the second most holy place on earth after Jerusalem's (Holy Sepulchre Church of Christ Resurrection) and biggest monk governed republic on planet earth ( Άγιον Όρος ) Agios Oros Athon (Holy Mount Athos)Светая Гора Афон – Света Гора Атон. Holy Mount Athos exists as a large monks community since 96.

To visit Mount Athos, the general requirement is to be orthodox christian only 10 visas per day are issued for non-orthodox pilgrims.

This immersely blessed place on earth can be entered only with a special monastery issued Visa (Diamontirion)

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There is a special procedure which usually takes up from 1 month max to 2 weeks min to receive such a Athos visa. The procedure to receive Visa for Holy Mount Athos includes sending of a fax to the Bureau of Pilgrimage in Thesaloniki (Solun) with a copy of the ID Card (Passport) the tel. number to send the fax to plus.
In fax message should be included the desired monastery to visit and the stay period. Visa which is usually issued for 2 / 3 days period costs 25 euro. There is a daily quota of visits to be issued which is about 100 visas per day.
People who want to stay for more than 3 days in monastery has to follow special obediences (work given to pilgrimage inside the monastery).
Extensive information
on how to visit Holy Mount Athos monks republic is on holy mount athos website.

Diamontirion is given only to man (only man can visit holy island), because the Mother of God The Holy Virgin Mary said she will be the only woman on this island unto the end of the world. There were a couple of times through out history from the IX-th century from which Holy Mount Athos exists as a monk republic in which woman try to enter the island, but such attempts failed and usually woman who tried to break out the island female enter prohibition (known as ABATON) get severely sick after that and couldn't get well for a long time some died some female after serious redemption confession and taking the holy sacraments recovered by the mercy of the Virgin Mary. There are already several stories of woman who tried to enter the island dressed as men and which have suffered from the quick heavenly judgement and later told the world their stories to warn other woman from trying to enter Athos which is the most eastern part of Chalkidiki peninsulaIt is curious fact Holy Mount Athos is the one and only place on earth existing prohibited for woman.
While talking about woman it is a curious fact that the only woman that are allowed being iconographed in Holy Mount athos due to rule are the Most Holy Virgin Mary, The Anna and the Hermit Saint Mariya of Egypt. First monk is said in Monastic Chronicles is Protos in y. 908.

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The region is governed by the "Holy community" – every monastery from the 20 orthodox monasteries (actually the monasteries are 21 but one is schismatic with so called Zealots, therefore not counted).

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There are (Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian) monasteries as well as Sketes, Cells, small chapels of other Orthodox nations – e.g. Romanians, Georgians, Macedonians, Monte-Negro etc. Holy Mount Athos monasteries are under the ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – currently patriarch Bartholomew, however the patriarch is not having power to decide anything the monasteries or the monk republic and he is more than a public person with no authority over internal island monks life.

Entrance Holy Mount Athos is possible only through a small  ship due to monks republic governing law. Boats transport people with issued visa only from Ouranoupolis  port everyday from Monday to Saturday, there are at least 2 boats going to Agion Oros – one in 06:15 and one in 09:45 which costs 6.30 euro per person.

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For people who want visit Holy Athos by airplace, Ouranoupolis is located 120 km by car or bus from Thesaloniki Airport so you should fly to there. We have travellet to Uranoupolis by car from Sofia – it is about 6 / 7 hours driving – only 631 km.  Crossing the border from Bulgaria to Greece is very quick a passport check is made only one time on the border. Once arriving to Ouranopolis – one have to park somewhere, there is cheap paid parking only 5 euro a day, where one can park (nearby the port from where ship departs). To get the Athos visa there is a special Bureau where you go with you present your password and receive the visa. Visa is received in a very speedy manner it takes up to 30 seconds after showing the pass, you're name is checked and if visa is already present and printed for you you're handled the diamontirion.

There are also privately owned boats (scooters) which can transport up to 4 people – in case there are is not enough space in standar boats, but this are really expensive something like 120 EUR.
The Boat-Ship travelling from Ouranoupolis to Agios Oros is named after saint Anna (The Mother of Most Holy Virgin Mary – In Greek Panagia).

Agios_Oros_peak_Holy_Mount_Athos-with-seacoast-monasteries-picture

The ship is travelling only on days where the weather is suitable for travelling so some certain days there are no cruises to the garden of Holy Theotokos. The ships cruising back from Holy Mount Athos to Urunopoli schedule is also twice daily – and are the same ships travelling in the morning. One is saling back in 12:00 (stopping on each of the near coast monasteries ports) by reverse order and one in 16:00. Sometimes the ships doesn't stop one some of the ports and you can't go back to Urunipoli, when the ship has to many people or for some other God known reason.

On the ship of one moun Athos one can see a truly international monks community – there were literally Orthodox Christians monks from all around the world and people from all around the globe that has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, there was even an African priest and a batushka (priest) from Cyberia. Most of the people on the boat were pilgrims from many nationalities but for major Church feast like The Dormition of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) which is each year celebrated on 28 August a lot of monks from many country come to Athos to venerate the Mother of God and receive heavenly blessing.

We have stopped to leave some laggage on the Port of Bulgarian Monastery (located 7 km from Zographou Monastery – saint great martyr George (Свети Георги Зограф) and then continued to port of Dafni. Going back from the ship one can feel the abundant heavenly grace and the heavenly protection of the Theotokos. There were a small caffeteria where we drink Greek Coffee (a coffee prepared on a hot sand – very much like the Turkish coffee) and eat fasting food something like Bulgarian Banica but instead of cheese it is filled with baked pumpkin.
There are small bus-es moving in Mount Athos which brings to some of the more famous monasteries on Athos – bus ticket is 3 euro. However as we wanted to visit more monasteries and because every step made on Agios Oros is a blessing and as the elders say Agios Oros is to be walked, we choose to walk. We took a steepy pathway leading to Xiropotamos. Xiropotamous is famous from the XII century Crusaders times, Roman Catholic Crusaders has invaded the holy mount and tried to turn monks to Roman Catholicism by force, those who rejected to receive Catholic faith were killed by Catholics – became martyrs. Some of the Monks of Xiropotamou, decided to save their lives and accepted to recognize the authority of the Roman Pope, Roman Catholics entered the monastic Church and served a Roman Holy Liturgy in the moment where the Pope was mentioned in prayers as a head of the Church, the Church walls fall and killed most of the people in the Church, those who survived, escaped and converted back to Orthodoxy – by this God clearly showed which is the real Christian faith. As all monasteries on Athos Xiropotamou's brotherhood has holy relics – the biggest holy relic of Xiropotamos is about 20×5 cm sized part of the True Holy Cross on which the Lord Jeus Christ was crucified.

Xiropotamou_monastery_Holy_mount_Athos_Agios_Oros_The_Monastery_holding_big-piece-of-True-Crufixion-cross-of-the_Lord_Jesus_Christ

Xiropotamou was founder in 10th century, and is dedicated to the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.
The monastic walls were closed when we reached there around 10:00 in the monastery receives visitors only 2 times a day one in 11:30 and one in 16:00. Waiting for to become 11:30, we walked around the monastery and saw the small chapel the grapes, the monks fruit gardens all is exceptionally beautiful – the monastery is quite big. In 11:30, when inner monastic walls opened we were invited into Arhondarik (The Monastic Guest-house), where the monk bring us immediately a cup of fresh water, Turkish delight and 50 grams of Greek national drink – Uzo 🙂
We met two other Romanians who wanted to also venerate the Holy Cross and we had a small nice chat with them in 11:30 the Church was opened and a priest bring us to a small square near Holy Altar opened a golden case with emeralds keeping the big piece of the True Holy Cross it is an amazing miracle that for this 1980 years from the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ the wooden didn't rot but preserved – any normal wood decays for such a long time! God's grace (The Spiritual Power) that one feels nearby the Holy Relic is amazing. The monastery is also famous with an orange tree giving a miracle making (healing) fruits, the three failed to give its fruit when Catholics came to Holy Mount Athos and started giving its fruits again after Catholics leaved Agion Oros. We saw a couple of trees with Orange fruits on it but was unsure which of the trees is the actual tree about which monastic tradition tells.
After the monastery we catch the way to Karyes (Καρυές) which is like Capital town, seat of the administration and has the name "Megali Mesi Lavra" (Big Central Assembly). – they have Agios Oros Police, Hospital, Bakery, a Caffeteria, Public Toilet, 2 small shops in Karyes is also located the major church at Karyes, the Protaton, which is the church of the Protos, or president of the monastic community. It is Curios fact that initial "rules of the republic" were written in XII century by saint Archibiship Sava creator of Serbian Orthodox Church who lived in a small cell in Karyes (Карея).

Holy_Mount_Athos_1979_Athos_Karyes_Mainstreet_Athon_administration
In the Church on the picture is keeping the famous miracle making holy icon "Dostoyno Esty" / Достойно есть in Greek Panagia known as "Axion Estin" meaning It is Truly Meet . This icon is so important and connected to Orthodox Christiainity, that it has a Troparion included to be sung on each Holy Liturgy in praise of the (Theotokos) Mother of God  and sung on almost all kind of morning and evening services or private prayers, it is curious fact that the icon before its glorification was situated in a small monk cell near monastery Pantekrator (All Keeper). There is a notable miracle how the second part of Axion Estin Church troparion was given by an Angel supposedly given by Archangel Gabriel. At the Axion Estin cell in year 982 was living an old virtuos monk Gavrail with his desciple, that night Gavrail was outside of the cell to nearby monastery for all night vigil leaving the young monk (also Gavrail / Gabriel)  at midnight a stranger come knocked on the door and in Agios Oros tradition was received as a stranger, the stranger also went for the night vigil in the morning the stranger and the old monk sung together troparion in glorification of the Holy Mother of but the stranger sung it differently adding few words to the already well known and established church song lyrics, the monk liked the song so much that he asked the monk to write down the lyrics, they didn't have a pen and paper and the stranger took a piece of stone and write down the lyric using his finger! The monk stunned realized the stranger is actually an angel and a short after the angel disappeared.

Mother_of_God_Panagia_Axion-Estin_Dostoino_esty_holy_icon_Holy_mount_Athos

Here is the Dostoino Esty Troparion lyrics text as given by the Angel in Church Slavonic, Greek and English:

Достойно есть Church Slavonic:

Достойно есть яко воистину блажити Тя, Богородицу,

присноблаженную и пренепорочную и Матерь Бога нашего.

Честнейшую Херувим

и славнейшую без сравнения Серафим,

без истления Бога Слова рождшую,

сущую Богородицу Тя величаем.

 

Axion Estin In Greek:

Ἐπὶ σοὶ χαίρει, Κεχαριτωμένη, πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις.
Ἀγγέλων τὸ σύστημα καὶ ἀνθρώπων τὸ γένος,
ἡγιασμένε ναὲ καὶ παράδεισε λογικέ,
παρθενικὸν καύχημα, ἐξ ἧς Θεός ἐσαρκώθη
καὶ παιδίον γέγονεν, ὁ πρὸ αἰώνων ὑπάρχων Θεὸς ἡμῶν·
τὴν γὰρ σὴν μήτραν θρόνον ἐποίησε,
καὶ τὴν σὴν γαστέρα πλατυτέραν οὐρανῶν ἀπειργάσατο.
Ἐπὶ σοὶ χαίρει, Κεχαριτωμένη, πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις
δόξα σοι.

It is truly meat English Translation:

All of Creation rejoices in thee, O full of grace:
the angels in heaven and the race of men,
O sanctified temple and spiritual paradise,
the glory of virgins, of whom God was incarnate
and became a child, our God before the ages.
He made thy body into a throne,
and thy womb more spacious than the heavens.
All of creation rejoices in thee, O full of grace:
Glory be to thee.


In shops it is forbidden to sell meat, because monks doesn't eat meat and meat consumption on holy mount Athos is generally forbidden. The only think closer to meat sold in shop is fish, octopus and other sea food. There is also a small shop selling Church / monk accessoaries, icons, prosphoras etc.

On the city center there is free drinkable water, each Monastery has a building like Embassy – which is both a monastery representative and a strangers guest-house (Konak). People who want can sleep a night in the Konak with a blessing, each Konak has a small chapel inside dedicated to Mother Mary or a certain saint.

On many places on holy mount athos there are springs with drinkable water so almost always there is a spring on every few hours walk in the mountain woods. About 10 or 20 minutes walk from Karyes, there is a Greek Monastery Koutloumousiou, the monastery has many miracle making icons and to me personally is very favourite place – Koutloumoush is famous with being the monastery where the Elder Paisios served as a monk for many years.

Koutlomous_Orthodox_Monastery_Holy_mount-Athos-near-Karya-the-monastery-where-the_Elder_Paisios-was-monk

After praying there, on the road we saw a sign for the cell of Elder Gavrijl and after some time we reached a little house with a bench in front and around 10 people from all age waiting for the Elder to go out for a while of his cell and tell some spiritual advises.

For non-Orthodox Christians, we have Elders who have a very close connection to God and due to their holy living God has blessed them with the gify of claiorvoyance, Starets Gavrijl is said by many on holy mount Athos that he has the gift of clairvoyance.


Elder Gavrijl speaks only Greek, so I couldn't undestand his preach, nomatter that even his presence made my spirit joy. After the preach we all took a blessing from those saintly living man.
I asked one of the Greeks to translate to me the Starets was talking about the Christian family and importance for husband and wife to be patient with each other, respect each other and truely love each other and most importantly forgive each other. He said that in this time it is of the main thing the devil wants is to destroy family and we have to not let family broke, he also said we should never quarrel infront of children, because when children grown they will do the same with their children.
I've asked the Starets about personal matters and he gave me the same answer as the Elder fr. Georgi of Jeglarci which is a proof fr. Georgi also have the gift of prophecy.

After leaving elder Gavrijl we headed to the monastery of Iveron to be on the all night vigil and the feast of Dormition of the Holy Theotokos. On the same way nearby 15 minutes away from the pathway we saw a sign leading to the cell of the Elder Paisios and we went for a pilgrimage there. After 15 minutes on a steep ways we reached in front of Elder Paisios small house. The house is now inhabitated by a monk who is still growing the same vegetable garden grown by Elder Paisios. The house is really small and the Starets lived in a small room 4×4 meters, the room has two big icons on the east just like a Church and light up night-light infront of the icons of Pantokrator (All-Keeper) Lord Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos, each wall in the small room has few icons hanging I remember clearly the icon of saint Arsenios the Great.  On entrance, we were threated by the monk with Turkish Delight and a cup of water, just like the Elder Paisios used to while still alive. Turkish Delight (Lokum) was the most delicious one I ever eat and on my way out I asked the monk for another two pieces 🙂

Going out of Elder Paisios cell we walkted through the Athos mountain woods passing by parakleses (small chapels) and on many places there were wooden crosses and icons with lightning candles in front right in the woods. We met some Romanian group of pilgrims and had a little chat on the road, Romanians are very good people, all the day we had the blessing to meet mainly Romanians.

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We reached in Iveron monastery (located nearby the sea coast) about 17:30 by God's mercy, the feast of Dormition had already begun there, it is an Orthodox Tradition to do a Lithia with the Miraculous Iveron icon of Most Holy Virgin also famous as Vratarnica.

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The monastery was full of people, there were probably about 800 people, probaly about 200 monks and priests were also there for the feast. It is a tradition that at that night the monastery gives a sleeping packs for all the pilgrims, so if someone feels to sleepy he can use the blanket and have a sleep on open air. There was an evening service just like it is done before Liturgy is served on next morning and right after the service, everybody present in the monastery was fed (all people ordered and had to enter 3 the monastic dining room divided by 3 waves). The food was some macaroni with some pieces of sea food (probably octopus), one tomato and 2 little pieces of watermelon. Even though the food was little it was enough to completely feed me plus it was so delicious you can't imagine, blessed  (manastic food) is always more delicious 🙂

Right after the dinner, the Night Vigil started, night vigils are common in the night before a feast of the Saint in whose honor is local Orthodox Church named in this case the Church of Iveron is in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God and this was the reason for the Night Vigil. I and Pavel (the brother in Christ) which whome we travelled last night to Holy Mount Athos were quite tired and thus we didn't kept awake for the night vigil but immediately went to sleep and woke up on next morning about 5:10 and saw just a litte part of the night vigil and stay for the Morning service and the Holy Liturgy served. The Atmosphere in the Church was hard to explain in words it was powerful monks spirit. The service was in Greek as it is Greece Monastery and the service is serviced in Ancient Greek and as all ancient languages Ancient Greek is much more spirited than modern languages which are much more profane. Also it is distinctable that everything in the service was sung in Byzantine (Eastern) Orthodox singing style. For the service was also present 3 or 4 bishops, the atmosphere was mostly solemn and the fact that so many Orthodox Christians were gathered and praying together is an outstanding experience which I wish you feel someday.
All the Church service is done on candles, there is no electricity in Churches in Holy Mount Athos and I believe this is a right thing. In short the Church services in Athos is an the perfect example which the rest of us Orthodox Christians should try following.
After end of Church service, we left the monastery before the feastly lunch given to everybody who came to monastery to venerate the Dormition of the Mother of God, because we wanted to quickly move to pilgrimage the Miracle Spring, where the Mother of God has steped for a first time on Athos, we drink water prayed a bit and moved on and catched one of the minibuses stopping near the monastery to Karyes. In Karyes we drink some water have a small rest, drink coffe had some chat with Pavel and ate few peaches and apples, actually it is quite a miracle that we ate so little these 2 days on Athos, but in there you don't feel hunger and you don't feel sleepy and you need less sleep than usually because of the abundant God grace.
In Karyes, we had a small discussion where to head up from now and after calling monk Kliment from Zographou monastery for advise where to go he advised we go to the Russian Monastery Saint healer great-martyr Panteleimon (who is one of the main doctor Church saints). I was quite happy for our decision to go to the Russian Monastery, because actually I wanted to go there. Then, we had a safe 4 hours walk through the mountain pathways surrounded by a wild nature, we passed by a Sketes where saint Siluan of Athos  lived (1866 – 1938, Russian new-times saint).

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Athos is a very interesting place, because even your stay there for a little time teaches you a lot about the spiritual reality and just being there improves seriously ones spiritual life. Reaching the Russian monastery, I was stunned by the Beauty and size of the monastery, monastic yard is all green and beautiful there is a spring with water in the form of flower in front of monastic doors, the sideview of sea coast and the stones also left a bright mark in my mind.

saint_Great_Marty_Pantheleimon_Holy_mount_Athos_Russian_monastery
st. Panteleimonos monastery is known in whole Athos with its strong rules and ascethism, we asked if it is possible to sleep a night in the monastery but was told we need to do a one day in advance reservation to stay there (which by the way is a good thing because that way the brotherhood is not interferred by monastic guests but prepared to receives them). In the small Church nearby the bell-tower there are holy saint relics of about at least 200 saints!!! We had the Chance to see the Holy relics just to mention few of the Holy Relics of the monastery (the right hand of great martyr Panteleimon, the head of Saint Cosmas and Damian, relics of saint Seraphim of Sarov, head of saint Siluan of Athos, relics of many hermit saints, relics of Saint Basilius the Great, Saint Grigorius and saint John of Crysostom).

As we couldn't sleep in Russian monastery, we were instructed by monk Climent if they don't accept is to go to Xenophontos. So we took the way to Xenophontos which is 3km away about 1 hour near shore walk.

Xenophontos_monastery_holy_mount_Athos
It was on the way to Monastery that I learned Xenophontos's heavenly protector is my saint George ( Georgi / Georgius), I was very happy to learn that because I already felt a bit of regret I still haven't venerated my saint protector on Holy Mount Athos.
Reaching the monastery we saw on the monastic door a monk going out of the monastery and asked him if we can stay for the night, the monk which we later learned is called Prodromos was very hospitable and accepted and accomodated us. I went to the monastic Church where still there was an Acathist ongoing in glorification of The Holy Mother of God. The saint who founded Xenophontos Μονή Ξενοφώντος is saint Xenophont. The monastery is very beatiful just like all the rest of Holy Athos monasteries. Monk Prodromos, who was mostly kindly to us give us food even though the monks had already had their dinner earlier as we were in the monastery around 21:00 at noon. Talking about time it is notable to say in Athos, they use Byzantine time which is +3 hours to Greek time, meaning we were in monastery around midnight Byzantine time (as this is early the sun was going to its sunset). Xenophontos is famous with its two miracle making icons of Saint George and The Holy Mother of God, I greatest holy relic kept in monastery is the right hand of saint George. On next day the morning service started in 4 o'clock early in morning before sunrise, we went for service around 5:00 because we couldn't get up at time, the Church bell rings around 03:50 in morning! and then on a couple of times bells at the end of morning service right before holy liturgy and whenever they serve an Acathist. In Summer morning services in holy mount athos start everyday in 04:00 (7 byzantine time) and in 03:00 (08:00) in Winter time. Everyday Holy Liturgy is served in Holy Mount Athos in every monastery and monks have an evening service starting exactly in 17:00. I would skip here to explain the Church atmosphere and the spirituality because this cannot be retold but has to be experienced. The Holy Liturgy ended around 08:00 and the monks rests for about an hour until 09:00 when the monks had an Acathist until 09:30 in the second old Church whose wall paintings dates backs probably as early as 13 or 14 century. After the Acathist, we were invited for a breakfast which was scarce but delicious. During we ete a text was red from the Ancient Paterik (The Living instructions of the Ancient time Abbas hermit saints).
After the breakfast, I had a coffee (in the guest-room) there is a free-coffee machine 🙂

We had chat with few other Greek pilgrims, and one of the Greeks was especially hospitable with us, he brought us and show us the small monastic fabric where all kind of wooden things are produced by few monks and layman (in that number icons are built there monastic chairs – tables, Church wooden ornaments etc.). We were shown by this kind greek the monastic ossuary, the monastic greenhouses, the monastic graveyard. I later learned this Greek has so special attitude to us Bulgarians, because he is architect and he was working in Rila Monastery as architect for a while while still atheist and after that when he came to Greece he believed in God thanks to the prayers of the greatest Bulgarian saint John of Rila.
After Xenophontos last monastery we visited Dochiariou monastery which is honor of Archangel Michael.
Dochiariou_monastery_in_honor_of_Archangel_Michael_Holy_Mount_Athos_Agios_Oros
This monastery most holy relic is the infamous holy icon of The Theotokos SkoroPoslushnica (Quickly Hearing), the icon is called like this because it hears and answers the prayers of whoever prays in a very quickly manner.
Dohiar-monastery-Sveta_Bogorodica_SkoroPoslushnica_Holy_Mount_Athos

The monks in this monastery was very active, we saw some preparing wine from grapes, others doing some construction work, the monastic icon was locked in a special room in a small chapel in front of the monastic Church which was also locked, so by God's grace we asked a monk to open for us. The monk who keeps the key of the icon gave the key to a small 10 years old kid which unlocked for us and we prayed in front of the Most Holy Virgin. The grace this holy icon emits is just amazing the love and piece you feel is unsaid, I think one can feel that even by seeing the icon here in that post. A small note to make here is the pictures I've put in this post are not mine but are from the Internet and I do not hold copyright for them, thanks to whoever made the pictuers and I hope they were made with a blessing.
If I'm not mistaken Dochiariou is famous with that due to the prayers to the Archangel Michael (a warrior Angel), the Archangel drive back the invasion of the Arabs to Athos, there is also an icon in front of monastery showing this scene. It was impressive that in this monastery, there were a lot of kids helping the monks I saw at least 5 kids. I got the impression it is like a monastic tradition that kids are welcomed and help there since a long time.
Finally after spending some 2 graceful hours in Dochiariou and walking through and seeing the interesting and beatiful monastic walls and buildings architecture, flowers etc. we left off and waited for the ship Ourenopolis to come to monastic port. The ship came take us and after two more stops on Zographou port and Hilandar Serbian Monastery it is a curious fact that Hilandar used to inhabited with Bulgarian abbot and Bulgarian monks for about 80 years.
Hilandar_Serbian_Monastery_port_Serbian_port

In the ship we had a small chat with monk Makarious which is a monk in the Zographou St. Martyr George Bulgarian Monastery. We were sent by  the Holy Mother of God bt few dolphins sailing after the boat and doing water  jumps in grace and joy.
Love for Holy Mount Athos is strongly into my heart into even this moment when I write this article. Actually to be honest I was unwilling to leave this piece of earthly paradise. I yearn to be there again soon when the Mother of God Holy Virgin Mary lets me to.

Double Feast in our Bulgarian Orthodox Church – feast of Annunciation and comemmoration of St. John Lesstvichnik

Monday, March 26th, 2012

One more year, we are into the great Lent and we're given the Grace to hear the Good tidings (Good News) handed down by Archangel Gabriel to our Virgin Lady (The Mother of God). We hear the GOOD NEWS that our Lord Jesus Christ is conceived immaculately and is to be born from the Holy Theotokos most pure body:

Here is a little part of the Gospel New Testamention reading from Luke for the day:

28 The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.
34 How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin?
35 The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
37 For no word from God will ever fail.
38 I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered. May your word to me be fulfilled. Then the angel left her.

You can also read the feast troparion and some more information on this great Christian feast here

This year, today's feast also coincides with the comemmoration of one great Church Father – Saint John (monk) Lestvichnik .

st. john Lestvichnik Orthodox Christian icon

St. John Lestvichnik is honoured as one of our great ascetic saints across all Orthodox Christian dome.
Actually Lestvichnik word (comes from ancient Bulgarian / ancient Slavonic) and is a title. st. John received the Lestvichnik title as his spiritual life was so high and up to God, like climbing from earth to Gods heavens.

The meaning of Lestvichnik is "of the Ladder". After his title name Lestvichnik was named also his greatest life work Lestvica, which translated to english means Ladder

To read more about st. John Lestvichnik living a good Egnlish translation is here

Just in case to preserve, this great saints short living (english translation), I've made a mirror of st. John Lestvichnik (short) living here

St.John Lestvichnik (of the Ladder) 12th, 13 century icon

Lestvica is a very popular ancient monks living rule (guidance text);
"a true instruction for those following after invariably, and as such would be a ladder of affirmation, which would lead those wishing it to the Heavenly gates…"

Lestvica was written by st. John Lestvichnik, after a 40 years ascetic seclusion in (speachless solitude
The monks spiritual instructions rules and advices work "The Ladder" bears the title Ladder described by st. John like so:

"I have constructed a ladder of ascent...
from the earthly to the holy...
in the form of the thirty years of age for the Lord's maturity, symbolically I have constructed a ladder of 30 steps, by which, having attained the Lord's age, we find ourselves with the righteous and secure from falling down".
The purpose of this work, is to teach – that the reaching of salvation requires difficult self-denial and demanding ascetic deeds. "The Ladder" presupposes, first;
1. a cleansing from the impurity of sin – the eradication of vices and passions in the old man;
second;

2. the restoration in man of the image of God. – Although the book was written for monks, any christian living in the world can receive from it the hope of guidance for ascent to God as well as get a support for better spiritual life.
The Monks Theodore the Studite(Comm. 11 November and 26 January), Sergei of Radonezh (Comm. 25 September and 5 July), Joseph of Volokolamsk (Comm. 9 September and 18 October), and others – in their instructions relied on "The Ladder" as an important book for salvific guidance.

40 Days since our beloved brother in Christ (ipodeacon Georgi Nedev) has presented himself in God

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Holy Mount Athos st. Georgi the Glory Bringer - Zographus Monastic main Church
Holy Mount Athos st. Georgi the Glory Bringer – Zographus Monastic main Church

I start this post with the St. George Zographus Monastery’s main Church as the Zographus Monastery on Holy Mount Athos was our brother Georgi last eartly place he wanted to spend the remaining of his eartly life.

Today it’s the 40th day since our brother in Christ (ipodeacon) Georgi Nedev has presented his humble soul to our Saviour Jesus.

ipodeacon Georgi Nedev on a Bishop Church service holding the metropolitan sceptre

This is the only picture I have of our brother Georgi

His living was as humble as his departure from this life and his passing I believe in the eternal life with God.
Georgi had the severe desire to become a monk in Holy Mount Athos and has multiple friends in there which loved him and often prayed for him.
Now on this 40 day in our Bulgarian monastery in Holy Mount Athos, Saint George – The GloryBringer (Zographus) monks will be serving a requiem service (Panihida – as we say in Slavonic)

His departure was striking and sudden for of us in the Church community here in Dobrich’s Holy Trinity Church, as well as not less shocking for the Holy Mount Athos Zographus monks Christian community who loved our brother sincerely.

Some short biographic facts about our brother ipodeacon Georgi Nedev are here
Unfortunately the bio-facts I know about Georgi are very little, as I only knew him for a couple of years. Even though the short time I used to know him, I can say I was blessed through him and I’m exteremely grateful to him, it was through him I’ve learned a bit more about Holy Mount Athos and our Bulgarian monk community that is in Zographus, as well as some very minor details concerning the spiritual Church life that I’ve never thought about.
It was thanks to him I was being encouraged on numerous times in terrible times of desparation and loss of faith and track in life.

Thanks to him I was being explained for a first time, how one can go for a pilgrimage journey to Holy Mount Athos and how one can get the pilgrim’s permit documentation related to going there called in greek diamontirium
He also told me about numerous miracles about Holy Mount Athos, and explained me one needs to pray to the Holy Theotokos Virgin Mary and ask her that is being allowed to enter this holy place.

This last lent, even though his sickness Georgi was regularly visiting the evening services in the Church and was dilegent in his spiritual life.

I remember him expressing his enormous joy the last time I saw him on a Holy Liturgy for he took the Holy Communion.
After the Church service, I asked him how is he, his answer was; I’m not feeling well, but praise be to God! for I was able to take the Holy Communion

Many times when I asked him what are his future plans, he used to answer I don’t know anything, it’s all in the God’s will (hands) for me.

You can see yourself how great his dedicated for God was by his own words.

As our priest, who used to be his confessor said, “Georgi was a righteous man and God took him early on”.

Let eternal be your Memory beloved brother Georgi now and Forver and Ever! Amen!