Ok, Here I am. Wow. My flight and travels to Greece were EXTREMELY uneventful and passed by so quickly I practically don’t even feel like I traveled. Things are feeling a little “twilight zone”-like but hey, its fun.
Nektarios, my good friend, was kind enough to pick my up from the airport and showed me my apartment that he was also (very) kind enough to prepare for human habitation.
It’s a very nice 1 person apartment which has a good sized bedroom, usable bathroom (sometimes unusual for these small apartments in the city), nice kitchen, and a hallway sitting area/living room. I also have a small balcony which overlooks a yard and other apartment buildings :). One of the big pluses is the fact that I have A LOT of sunlight. This can often be hard to find in these apartment buildings, and can even turn into a health risk when mold begins to grow.
One of the really nice perks about my living situation is that it is directly adjacent to the church of St. George, which is a dependancy of Grigoriou Monastery on Mt. Athos. They actually have an all-night vigil every Friday night. I went this past Friday and it was beautiful!
So I began this entry before I left for Mt. Athos but wasn’t able to finish it. Since then I’ve been to the Holy Mountain for about a week, where I visited a monk-friend at Zographou monastery (the Bulgarian monastery on the Mountain) and celebrated the Exultation of the Cross (old calendar) with the monks there by doing an all-night vigil. It was wonderful, but I got a bit sick from the change in temperature, combined with a somewhat strenuous hike, and staying up later than I should. By the time I reached my second destination, Grigoriou Monastery, I was definitely feeling under the weather. I was blessed, however, to received EXCELLENT medical treatment from the monks there, who gave me everything from Airborne-like pills, to delicious honey/lemon/mountain tea, to salt water (to snort, which by the way works EXTREMELY well to relieve congestion and sinus pressure) and some strong alcoholic beverages to boot. Needless to say by going to the Church and sleeping most of the rest of the day, I was feeling much better by the end of the trip.
Besides sleeping however, I was able to have some wonderful conversations and meet some pilgrims who were staying there, one of whom was just baptized yesterday after having discovered Orthodoxy through research in his native land of Sweden. He encountered a priest who told him that he should visit the Holy Mountain to learn more. He spent some time in Sweden at some of the few Orthodox Churches there, and then headed to Mt. Athos where he stayed at a monastery for at least 1 month in order to learn about the faith and be baptized into the Orthodox Church. He was a wonderful young man, and you all can pray for him...his name is Seraphim (and we discovered that on the day of his baptism, the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov were due to visit Greece for veneration).
There are some other Americans studying here, and on the day of my return from Mt. Athos, we gathered at one of their apartments for a little “getting to know you” time. Needless to say, I am praying that I don’t “get to know them” too well, at least for the first 6months-1year as I know that it is not advisable while trying to learn the Greek language.
Well there is so much more to say, but I will leave that for another entry. I am off to Vespers tonight at St. Charalambos church where I am told that there are a number of young folks who attend, and the priest is very pastoral and welcoming. God-willing this will all work out :).
Ahhh...brief note on struggles and realizations: it has not been easy living alone in these first days in Greece. It has been filled, however, with rich lessons and realizations about my own shortcomings and God’s Grace! Glory to God for all things! What a comfortable life I lead in America.
with MUCH love in Christ,
p.s. Feel free to email me if you want to chat further: firstname.lastname@example.org