Unfortunately I do not have my laptop with me, neither do I have wifi at the moment so I am unable to post any pictures yet. That will likely have to wait until I return to Nepal. Fortunately my dear friend, George Karampatakis allows me to use his computer while I stay in his family’s home, which after so many years of visits here has become “my home” in Greece.
I’ve just returned to Thessaloniki after 2 weeks at Vatopaidi monastery. What a blessing, not only to be back at that wonderful monastery, but simply to be in an Orthodox temple, worshiping with my fellow Orthodox believers. It has been far too long. I was blessed to concelebrate the liturgy with Abbot Ephraim and the hieromonks of the monastery one Sunday. During the small entrance, each of the priests carries one of the reliquaries of the monastery. With wonder I stared down at the relic in my hands, the skull of St. John Chrysostomos. Amazingly the ear into which his disciple beheld St. Paul whispering to St. John as he wrote his commentaries remains incorrupt over 1600 years later.
Let me share what the Vatopaidi Fathers refer to as “a small miracle.” Every year on the eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, which we just celebrated on Mt. Athos, a small bowl of water mixed with flour is placed under the large cross in the entry of the main monastery church. It remains there overnight and at the conclusion of the Festal liturgy a monk retrieves the bowl. Several of us gathered to see what always happens by the conclusion of the liturgy. One clearly sees the yeast which has formed on top of the thick mixture of just flour and water. The appearance of yeast can only be explained by the grace of God. This then becomes the starter for all bread that is baked in the monastery kitchen for the following year until the miracle is repeated during the next Feast of the Cross. So in a way, every time we eat a piece of the monastery bread, we are participating in a small miracle. Thanks be to God!
Several people with strong interest in mission work in Nepal learned that I was coming to the monastery and so made a point of remaining longer than intended so that we could meet together. It was a great encouragement to me to meet people, previously unknown to me, who pray for me and for Nepal every day. One of the monastery fathers whom I know well, Fr. Charalambos, has prayed every day for me since my first visit to Nepal in 2006. He was a treasure trove of contacts, iconographic information, and much else. May God bless him for all he has done and is doing to help me in my work.
Now I await Fr. Matthew Harrington’s arrival on Thursday. I will show him around Thessaloniki and then take him out to Mt. Athos to some of the monasteries. It has been years since his last (and first) visit here when he was a layman and newly converted to Orthodoxy. After many years in the Church and now a priest, he will see things with new eyes.
I look forward to posting pictures of my stay here once I return to Nepal. Please pray for me as I travel. May God bless all of you who are contributing your prayers and finances to this ministry. – Fr. S.