Day 48, Xeropotamou
[Saturday, 2 July 2011] Set my alarm for 3:10 am, but I didn’t need to. At 3:15 a god-awful clanging rang out of the stairwell; there would be no sleeping through that. Washed my face, brushed my teeth, threw on my cassock and went to church. Midnight Office, Matins, 1st Hour, and Liturgy followed one another. The lingering question over whether or not I would be allowed to commune was answered positively when I was invited into the tiny side altar to commune with the other two priests.
I thought it would be possible to pray on my own during the morning service, since it was all chanted or sung quietly and quickly. Alas, I spent most of my time fighting sleep and just attempting to focus. I’m sure I’ll get better at it as I adjust to the schedule. With regard to the quiet, quick chanting, there is a reason for it: many of the monks came to the church already deep in prayer. The services are conducted in such a way as to minimize distraction for those who are already praying. I noticed, too, that all the monks move very quietly around the church when they need to, again in order not to disturb their brethren.
After a modest breakfast alone with Niko, I wandered outside to look at the world before it got too hot. I wandered down into the groves of olives, apricots, and peaches, then up the road behind the monastery, where I found a little waterfall and a good, high view of the back of the monastery.
Alas, a better grasp of Greek would have been helpful, because all of the monks are busy with something this morning and the place is shut down. The young man who works for the guest-master said something to me about locked doors and lunch, but I didn’t catch his meaning until two hours later, when I tried to get back into the monastery. It couldn’t be done; every door was locked and I was on the wrong side of them. Oh, well. I sat down in a shaded pavilion overlooking the sea and Daphne, took off my sweaty cassock, and worked my prayer rope until (thankfully) a couple of new pilgrims came panting up the path. I followed them into the entrance of the monastery and pointed out the buzzer for the guest-master. A few minutes after they rang, the young man came out of the guest-house to talk to them and he kindly let me back inside.
Niko went off to Vatopedi at noon. Five new pilgrims have arrived. Lunch consisted of a whole fried fish (which watched me as I ate it), a beet salad, bread, pomegranate juice, and fresh apricots, which are in season. I took a nap, figured out a make-shift way to bathe in the sink, called Annette, and transcribed a bit of my conversation with Fr Zacharias, all before Vespers. Dinner was a fine bowl of beans, some white paste with garlic that I sopped up with bread, stewed mushrooms, dry white wine to drink, and an apple for dessert. After Compline, I found out the youngish priest who is serving this week is, indeed, American, which I suspected from his accent, and is called Fr Ephrem. The guest-master, likewise, has a name, Fr Petros; he seemed surprised that I should have asked.
Also, the fact that I went into the altar this morning for Communion seems to have made me kosher in the eyes of the monks. At Vespers this evening, an elderly monk patted me on the arm when we were colliding while venerating an Icon, and another monk, out of the blue, handed me as a blessing a fresh sprig of mint. It’s nice to be able to interact with the rest of the community, even if it’s only by small gestures.
That’s enough. Despite the nap, I’m still beat and want to go to bed. I hope the fact that it’s still light outside and the five Greek pilgrims are chatting away under my window won’t keep me up too late…