I'd like to say that my trip to the monastery was something in the category of the spiritually sublime, amazing or wonderful. But it wasn't. It was actually just rather ordinary with moments of frustration and moments of joy sprinkled thoughout.
It was good to go, and very good to be there. Don't get me wrong. The grounds were just so beautiful, and I always love being in the mountains. The monks were holding a prayer service in the outdoor chapel with a tent set up to expand it, covering the icons we could venerate, and the cross, and the pilgrims gathered outside the tent.
There was also a large tent set up with tables and chairs where we sat to eat the simple supper that was provided. It was all very lovely.
A gentle atmosphere prevaded amongst the people. Everyone was kind and wonderful to one another. I could tell that many holy prayers filled that place.
My first thought, since it was a monastery and all the women were wearing headcoverings was "Hey, it's a head covering convention!" That's what we used to say back in our Mennonite days when we attended the Annual Conference of the Conservative Mennonites. It's just striking when a large group of people gather and are doing something as unconventional as that.
The best part of the trip, I must say, was having the opportunity to kiss a piece of the ACTUAL CROSS of Christ. Or rather, I should say, the reliquary which contained it. Close enough. Wow. The thought gave me chills for days.
It's really hard to pray sometimes, and being at a monastery did not change that fact.
But here are some pictures from the journey. I took more, but in keeping with my policy of not posting face shots of my kids (and anyone else's) some pictures are staying in my computer.
The choir of monks singing during the vigil service. I wish a picture could convey their beautiful voices!
Here is B, who traveled with me, sort of from behind.
Headcoverings done Orthodox style.
My first thought when I saw this shed with hand chopped wood was: Wow! That's a lot of "Jesus Prayer"!
The monks keep goats. I know they sell goat milk soap, and I wonder if they make cheese, too.
This little pond, set back in the woods near one of the Monks' cells, has a free floating island of earth, with a tree growing on it. I watched while one of our friends shoved the island with a stick and it floated across the pond. Like the islands on Perelandra.
Father Justin with a bag of cookies, and Noel, at the rest area on our way up to West Virginia.