Visit of an Oriental Orthodox Metropolitan to the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos
REPUBLIC OF MOUNT ATHOS, Greece: Metropolitan Abraham Mar Seraphim of Bengaluru of the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church was a guest at the Simonopetra Monastery (Monastery of Simonos Petra).
The Monastery at Mount Athos, ‘the Holy Mountain’ in northeastern Greece and a significant center of Eastern Orthodox monasticism, warmly welcomed the Metropolitan who perhaps is the only Indian Orthodox (Malankara) Bishop to have visited in recent times.
His Grace stayed in the monastic state of Mount Athos, Greece, for five days in February 2019.
Abbot Archimandrite Eliseus warmly received Met Seraphim at the monastery, a World Heritage site since 1988, and held talks.
Simonopetra ranks thirteenth in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries.
The Metropolitan was made comfortable at the beautiful guest house overlooking the Aegean Sea with its steep, densely forested slopes, which made for panoramic views.
The visiting bishop attended the lengthy prayers and holy liturgical services but was barred from receiving the Holy Communion as the Indian Orthodox Church (Oriental Orthodox) is not in communion with Eastern Orthodox or the Byzantine churches. The bishop was also excluded from the veneration of relics of the saints that takes place during the weekends.
Metropolitan Seraphim was amazed at the eerie silence that prevailed at the monastery, the ascetic life of the elderly monks, who are full of grace.’ Their prayers, reflection, service, and total isolation from the rest of the world were exemplary’, he revealed in a telephonic interview.
“The monks devote their time in continuous Greek chants and prayers and even during mealtime (only twice a day) never speak among themselves,” Met Seraphim mentions.
A Greek monk Seraphim of his namesake was with the Metropolitan as the caretaker.
The Bishop began his rigorous day along with the monks early at 3 am with long continuous prayers ending with sacred liturgy at 8 am.
At 10 am they enter the chapel again for prayers in groups and an hour later disperse for breakfast which comprises a combination of barley, cheese, bread, fruits, and egg.
After this, they indulge in the farming of medicinal plants, maintain gardening at the monastery and carpentry works. By 4 pm they begin the next prayers for an hour and have their last meal of the day. Later they disperse to the chapel and retire for the day by 6.30 pm.
His Grace recalls the cool and serene atmosphere at the monastery located on the southern coast of the Athos peninsula, between the Athonite port of Dafni and Osiou Grigoriou monastery.
Built on top of a single enormous rock, practically hanging from a cliff 330 meters over the sea, the monastery currently houses 54 monks, with Archimandrite Eliseus as the Abbot.
Mount Athos is practically accessible by ferry from Thessaloniki, a Greek port city of the Aegean Sea.
Fr Dr Vinu and Fr Vivek Varghese also accompanied the Metropolitan to the monastery.
Having visited the Armenian Monastery earlier, Mar Seraphim has set his sights on visiting the Ethiopian and Coptic Orthodox monasteries later this year.