Day One

On the morning of October 30th, our retinue, Father Nazari, subdeacons Andrey and Peter, Sean, and Zoe woke in the town of Ouranopoli, boarder town to Mt. Athos, and began our morning prayers under the rosy light of the sun rising above the Holy Mountain. This humble prayer strengthened us as we began their pilgrimage. Following a light repast, we said farewell to Zoe and set out to the Holy Mountain after meeting our guide Sergei and obtaining our entrance visas. As we boarded the ship and pulled from the shores of the world we prepared ourselves to enter into the garden of the Theotokos for 6 days of prayer, fasting, and the beauty of the monastic life that has continued uninterrupted for centuries. 

We arrived at the Dokhiari monastery, which would be our home for the next 5 evenings, and set out to explore other monasteries during the day. On the long and winding dirt road to the first stop, the Serbian monastery Hilandar, we prayed an akathis to the Theotokos, beseeching her for her intercession as we traveled. At Hilandar we venerated the miraculous icon the the Theotokos “Of Three Hands” and the tomb of St. Simeon the Elder, and were then greeted in the trapeza in the traditional Athonite fashion, with coffee, loukoumi, and rakija. Our next stop was a brief excursion to Esfigmen, a smaller Greek monastery on the eastern shore of the peninsula. Following this visit we returned to the road and prayed a molebin for the living and the dead for the all those who requested prayers. After a short while we then arrived at the Bulgarian monastery of Zograf where we prayed before the icon of the Great Martyr and Victory-Bearer George and venerated many relics of the saints and the True Cross. As we were preparing to depart back to our home away from home, Father Nazari and subdeacon Peter were overjoyed to be reunited with the guide Dimitri from the previous pilgrimage to Mt. Athos. Returning to Dokhiari, we then prepared for the evening services. Before Vespers, through the intercession of the Theotokos, we were reunited with another familiar face, Father Parthenius, who was so kind, instructive, and helpful during our last stay at this monastery. After this brief reunion we attended Vespers in the main church of the monastery. Following the service and a delicious meal, we joined the monks and other pilgrims in front of the miraculous icon of the Theotokos “Who is Quick to Hear” and sang an akathis. We intrepid travelers, hearts illumined by the deeply beautiful and moving prayers, then finally set forth to our rooms for the evening, to rest and prepare for the early services of the next day.