The Pleasure of Monasticism

Saw a documentary this evening about one of my favorite monasteries in the world: Valaam, the Athos of the north. A great quote from the movie: “If only the world knew the pleasures of being a monk, everyone would flock to the monasteries.” Enjoy!

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Christian Camps & Monasteries

teen-spiritual-program-15-4I remember so well the first time I stayed overnight in an Orthodox Christian monastery. I dreamed of every Christian camp and conference I had attended up to that point in my life, for they represented the highest and deepest of my spiritual experience. After just one day in the concentrated prayers of the monastic daily cycle, those previous experiences of prayer became as mere foretastes of reality. Continue reading

Nostalgia for Paradise

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Main Gate of Danilov Monastery, Moscow

I will never forget the first time I visited an Orthodox monastery to stay for a month-long missionary school hosted there. I was newly converted to the church and I was still getting used to regular church life. Life in a monastery was like learning to walk on the moon by comparison. I felt the awkwardness of a bum yanked from the street and set before a seven course French Meal. I did not know how to use the knife and fork let alone how to behave in this highly cultured environment. But the hunger and thirst after righteousness kept me from fleeing what was unfamiliar. Continue reading

O God of Too Much Giving

April 12, 2015
Bright and Saving PASCHA
of our Lord Jesus Christ

Come, let us drink,
Not miraculous water
Drawn from a barren stone,
But a new vintage
From the fount of incorruption
Springing from the tomb of Christ:
In him we are established!
(Ode 3, Paschal Canon)

The strongest and most delicious liquor I have ever tasted was made by the hands of monks in a remote monastery in Greece. It brought refreshment at the end of a long and arduous journey and was accompanied by an equally strong piece of candy. Both were inebriating, but not excessive; intoxicating, while at the same time mysteriously bringing the calm of sobriety. Continue reading

Oases of Calm in a Desert of Noise

For a large family like ours to come from a small city like Boston and choose a much larger city like Moscow for a summer vacation seems strange. Most folks that live in cities during the year seek to escape them in the summer. But Moscow is no ordinary booming metropolis.

Begun over eight centuries ago as the central meeting point of several other cities that form a golden ring around her, the city of St. George bustles with the busyness of a thousand villages rolled into one. One of only 24 megacities, it is the largest inland and coldest megacity in the world. Nestled in this beehive of commerce and activity are the jewels established many centuries past, the spiritual heart of Russia’s modern and ancient capital, the oases of calm in this grand desert of noise: the Moscow Monasteries. Continue reading

A Family Friendly Monastery

IMG_2587Just returned from one of our favorite Greek Orthodox monasteries in Quebec, Canada, Panagia Parigoritissa. My wife and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary this coming winter and it has been almost ten years since we self-published our first little travel guide entitled Friar’s Guide to Family Friendly Monasteries in North America. While much of the information in the original booklet is dated, the introduction is timeless, and I offer it here as an especial tribute to one of our most favorite of family vacation spots. Continue reading

Monks as First Responders

Several years ago after the Virginia Tech Massacre, I wrote an article for our parish newsletter entitled Peace-keepers of Another Kind: Monks of 4th Century Antioch. Given the recent heroic efforts of the first responders at Monday’s Boston Marathon Bombing, I was reminded of this article, and thought it might be time to resurrect its contents for publication in this blog. I hope you agree that it is as timely today as when I first ran it six years ago.

GOODSAM1What does it take to restore peace to a city or country once overrun with violence and civil strife? This question is central in considering recent events both at home with shootings at Virginia Tech and abroad with the attempts of our military to quell sectarian violence in Iraq. A show of force by the ruling authority can help, but it is only part of the solution to what is a much greater spiritual problem, and often an excessive show of force may even make matters worse.

In fourth century Antioch, a crisis broke in the city when a group of citizens who disapproved of the Roman Emperor’s new taxes rebelled by desecrating his statue placed in the center of the city as a sign of his authority. They toppled the statue, tied it to the back of a horse, and dragged it through the city streets. In this ancient empire, any action taken against the Emperor’s image was considered a direct assault on the Emperor himself. These rebels started a riot and placed the whole city under the suspicion of the crown. Magistrates and troops were dispensed at once from Constantinople and rumors ran wild about who was to blame to the extent that all kinds of important public officials and common citizens fled for their lives to “undisclosed locations” around Antioch. Continue reading