Day 51, miracles and mills
Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 4, 2011Vodpod videos no longer available.
[Tuesday, 5 July 2011] With morning service starting at 4 instead of at 3:30 am, I got to sleep in this morning. Had I known how cushy it was at St Panteleimon’s, I might have come here sooner…
The choirs are stupendous. I’ve always loved male choruses, but these men are outstanding, and it’s clear that the singers take pride in their work and satisfaction in praising God well.
At Xeropotamou it was possible to fall asleep during Matins because they chanted solo and so quietly in the dark that it could put you to sleep. At St P’s, I have been put in a stall in the left choir, near the left reader’s stand, and with the reader reading loudly (the church is very big), and two 8-voice male choruses singing hymns, sleep is simply impossible. I’m pleased to note that they sing many of the same settings that we sing at St Innocent’s and that I’ve heard in other churches in America. They didn’t seem to mind that I sang along quietly.
Fr Zadok, the right choir master, was American before coming to St Panteleimon’s to become a monk, so he speaks English. He’s been a great help.
After breakfast/lunch, I discovered that the electricity had been turned back on. I need to recharge my cell phone and my netbook. Also, I plan to walk over to Xenophontos Monastery, which is a 30-minute walk along the coast from St Panteleimon’s, just to say “hey” and look around. I’m also hoping to find that they have a store and that some things are cheaper than at St P’s…
The walk to Xenophontos was a bust. The “30-minute walk” turned into the better part of an hour, and the day is very hot; I wouldn’t be surprised if it topped 100. It was well that I brought water with me. There was a store, but it wouldn’t be open again until the evening, and Fr Ieremias, to whom I had brought greetings from Fr Andrew in Essex, was nowhere to be found. I took a few picture of the place—it’s a lovely enclosure, more compact that Xeropotamou—and headed back.
Along the way, near a part of the road where there were many curves, I received a blessing (miracle?). I suddenly caught the fragrance of incense in the air, like frankincense only sweeter, three or four full breaths of it, and then a very cool breeze blew down on me for a few seconds, and I was completely refreshed and bore the heat of the trip back to St Panteleimon’s without any discomfort at all. I asked the Archondaris, Fr Vitaly, if there were any sketes (small brotherhoods) or hermitages near there, and he said there were none between the two monasteries, so I can’t account for the incense except by God’s grace. I should thank someone, but I’m not sure whom to thank. Panagia? St Panteleimon? St Silouan? I’ll just thank everybody the next time I’m in church.
Since my clothes were drenched with sweat when I got back, I peeled out of them and took a shower. The ferry boat had just deposited several pilgrims, so the Archondaris had opened the tea room and Fr Filadelf, who tends it, made tea. I sat with the group of Russians (none spoke of lick of English, and me without a Berlitz phrase book), ate rose-flavored loukoumi (Turkish Delight), and drank my tea.
I also asked Fr Vitaly about St Silouan. His English didn’t extend to a good enough description, so he handed me off to Fr Filadelf, whose English is better. After dinner tonight he said he would find me and will take me to the mill, where St Silouan worked and where he had his revelation/vision of the risen Christ that transformed his life. I also learned that the monastery has his skull as a great relic, but that I must ask Fr Asterik in the church about venerating it, because it and the other relics are not always made available for veneration.
If it all comes to pass, I will have received three extraordinary blessings in one day. I don’t think I could stand many more…
After Vespers, a young seminarian from St Petersburg and I went with Fr Filadelf up to a few old buildings to the west of the monastery, where in years gone by, the monastery ground its wheat with a water-powered mill. St Silouan worked in the mill as his obedience, and there is a small chapel dedicated to Prophet Elijah there. It was in this chapel that the living Christ appeared out of the Icon in the Iconostasis and changed St Silouan’s life. The chapel was opened for us and we were allowed to venerate the very Icon and to pray. A storage room opposite this chapel has since been turned into a new chapel dedicated to St Silouan, so we also went in there, the two Russians sang his Troparion in Slavonic, and we talked a bit about his life before heading back.