We need a "+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¥+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦-ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¤+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦-ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¼+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦++-ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© Sighting Report" ; been six days since last sighting.
Hey, I only just got back myself
Well Elder Ephreim may have arranged everything for Nektarios' stay at Philotheou monastery until Pascha, but someone forgot to tell the pilgrim office at Ouranoupoli as there was no "Diamonitirio" waiting for him on Sunday morning (diamonitirio is the permit required to enter Mount Athos, kind of like a visa). So we just sat patiently while they harrumphed and growled and made other threatening noises until eventually they called Nektarios over and told him they would allow him to enter after all. Not that we had any doubts, there were hardly any other people going to Mount Athos that day.
The ferry ride to Dafni was interesting as there was a bit of wind causing some waves which made life interesting for the captain at each of the stops along the way. The boat approached each dock at a bit of an angle and after dropping the ramp on the dock there was about a ten to fifteen second interval for people to jump on or off the boat while the back end of the ferry continued to swing around and eventually pull away from the dock. The driver of the single vehicle which disembarked at Zographou must have been praying frantically
From Dafni we caught the bus to Karyes, and from there we took a minibus to the monastery of Philotheou. On arrival at the guesthouse we were treated to some powerful raki (tsipouro) and loukoumia before being shown to our rooms. Not long after it was time for the Esperino (Vespers) at around 2:30pm which was followed immediatedly after by Trapeza, the single meal for the day. After the meal it was time for bed as the sun had already gone down. I discovered later that the monasteries on the Eastern side of Athos are on a different clock to those on the Western side as the sun disappears a couple of hours earlier on the East side of the penninsular. So while we were woken at around 2.00am for Orthros at Philotheou, at Simonopetra Orthros did not begin until 4.00am. After the morning service, we were given the opportunity to venerate the relics held at the monastery, among which is the incorrupt right hand of St John Chrysostom. At 8.00am it was time for the Hours, after which we were free to wander around for a bit. All in all, at least seven to eight hours are spent in church each day in the monastery.
Nektarios settled in pretty quickly after a bit of adjustment as he had assumed that Philotheou would be pretty much identical to how things were run at St Anthony's. For example, he had set his alarm to wake him up in time for the midnight "Jesus Prayer" service only to find that there wasn't one.
Tuesday morning, just before the Hours, I set off to walk to Simonopetra on the other side of the penninsular. The monks I had mentioned my plans to all suggested I take the minibus to Karyes and then the bus to Dafni and walk from there, and I later regretted not taking their advice. About fifteen to twenyt minutes from Philotheou is the cave of St Dionysios, one time abbot of Philotheou and later founder of monastery on Mount Olympus. He lived in the cave, not much more than a rock overhang, while he was abbot of Philotheou, in order to be able to pray undisturbed. Half an hour further on, I discovered why the monks had suggested I not walk to Simonopetra, the roads were covered in snow which made walking that much more of an effort. I'm not in what you would call peak physical condition, and it goot to the point where I would have to stop and wait for my pulse rate to settle down a little after every fifteen steps or so. After making my way to the other side, I missed the turnoff for the pathway to Simonopetra and walked for about fifteen minutes before figuring I must have taken a wrong turn and made my way back. I finally reached Simonopetra after about four and a half hours of walking. While there I was able to venerate the incorrupt right hand of Saint Mary Magdalan, which not only is still soft and supple, but continues to maintain body temperature.
I learned that many of the monks at Simonopetra are formerly of the monastery of Mega Meteora, coming to Mount Athos as refugees of the tourist invasion at Meteora. I've often marvelled at the cross borne by Father Iasaf, the sole monk living at Mega Meteora, having to put up with the almost constant stream of tourists.
The following morning I made the twenty minute walk to the port directly below the monastery and caught the ferryboat to Dafni and from there back to Ouranoupoli, during which I managed to get my face thoroughly sunburnt
. Yesterday was spent at home relaxing with my family
Depending on my workload, I may be back on Mount Athos before Pascha, but I'll be spending Pascha itself with my family. I don't expect to hear from Nektarios in the meantime, once the monks learned that Father Paisios is his spiritual father, he was welcomed like a brother who had been abroad for many years (and it was bear hugs if they learned that he had actually met Elder Ephreim