[Thursday, 23 June 2011]. Well, last evening at prayers, I recited my 100 Jesus Prayers in the community and, apparently, the Spirit was not quenched, nor was anyone slain (in the Spirit or otherwise).
At dinner, the Finnish Priest, Fr Melchizedek, was sitting next to me, and we chatted a bit. He confirmed his suspicion that I was Texan and told me that when he was studying in Thessalonica in 1991, he spent 2 weeks on the Holy Mountain. While he was there, there was a feast at which many of the local hermits were gathering to celebrate. He saw there one old monk, with a long white beard, very radiant and joyful in his appearance, and Fr Melchizedek thought he would go and meet him after the service. “Apo pou eiste?” (Where are you from?), he asked. “Eimai Amerikanos!” (I’m an American!), the hermit replied loudly with a broad Texas drawl.
I like this story, because it gives me hope. Not of being a monk on Mount Athos, but of arriving some day at radiance and joy, even if I am American and loud.
Because Friday is the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, the usual Thursday morning Liturgy has been put off until tomorrow, to celebrate the Feast.
This morning I got to recite the Prayer in church again. After Fr Zacharias, who recited in Greek first, I recited in English, followed by the Prayer in Arabic and Romanian. The fifth hundred seems always to be a compilation of prayers to the Saints: John the Baptist, the patron of the monastery; St Silouan of Athos, the spiritual grandfather of everyone here; the Saints of the day (“Holy Father Mark of Ephesus, pray to God for us… Holy Virgin Aethelreda of Ely, pray to God for us,” Orthodoxy is very broad here), and then prayers for the Abbot, the community, those travelling and sick, etc. After this set of prayers, there was another hundred Jesus Prayers, then a set to the Mother of God, and we ended with singing the Great Doxology and the Troparia of the day.
I found out at breakfast this morning that this Fr Melchizedek is Fr Melchizedek Tollefsen, who wrote a very fine dissertation on St Maximus the Confessor, which I have read. We will have to get together later and talk shop.
Since I am posting to my blog, you know that I have walked the 2 miles through Tolleshunt Knights (which you’ll miss if you blink) to Tiptree. I didn’t come in cassock, to maintain some anonymity. I suppose I’ll sit here for a while and read blogs, check my e-mail, ‘n’ such; then wander into the local parish church to see if it’s as old on the inside as it appears to be on the outside; possibly have lunch at the local fish ‘n’ chips establishment; and definitely have tea and scones at the Watkin & Sons jam factory before I head back to the monastery.