Men's Monastery Pilgrimage ~ January 13-15, 2012
February 9, 2012
Men's Monastery Pilgrimage
January 13-15, 2012
Impressions of the Men's Winter Pilgrimage to St Gregory Palamas Monastery in Northern Ohio
On Friday, January 13, a group of seven men gathered at Christ the Savior Church for a pilgrimage to St. Gregory Palamas Monastery near Hayesville, Ohio. Father Steven blessed us with prayer and holy water, and we set off.
The trip went very smoothly till we were 20-30 miles above Columbus, where we encountered bad, drifting snow and slippery roads. We passed 3 cars that had slid off the expressway. And once we got on state and county roads, it got even worse. But, praise God, all of us, and a group of pilgrims from Pittsburg arrived safely.
The monks were wonderfully welcoming, and seemed to anticipate every need. The guest house is only a year old, and it is beautiful. The upper floor is a kitchen and dining room with marvelous wood floors, made from trees that grew on the monastery property. On the lower level there are guest rooms for as many as 13 people and a “parlor.”
One of our first lessons was how tough the monks really are. We assembled in the church at 4:00 am and chanted a series of services ending with Divine Liturgy. We left for the house at about 8:30 for an informal breakfast. At noon we had an akathist in the house dining room, followed by lunch. At 5:00 we were back in the church for vespers, then to the house for a fasting supper and compline. Truly, the monastic life is not for sissies.
Sunday we got to sleep in, as services did not start till 6:00. The schedule was similar to Saturday, just later. At about 9:00, a few families from the area came for Liturgy, and stayed for coffee hour, then the mid-day meal. Once the meal was finished, we began packing to return home, as did our Pittsburg brothers. Fr. Joseph asked if they had worn us out, and I answered for the group, “Yes, but it feels great!”
Some things happened on this pilgrimage that are awesome, but hard to put into words. As we drove off from the church, I thought of “Lord of the Rings” where Frodo and company start out, and I thought, “We, too, are now a fellowship.” Throughout the weekend, that feeling grew stronger, and we got to know ourselves and each other in greater depth. I don’t doubt that the feeling of fellowship will fade somewhat now that we are back home, but I don’t believe it will disappear. We have come to know one another too well to stop praying for each other, or to drop back to the level we used to function on. And please don’t misunderstand, we haven’t become some kind of “super Christians.” But perhaps we’ve grown a little.
A second thing that happened was experiencing the sense of God’s presence in a powerful way. It struck us as we pulled into the drive that we were no longer in the ordinary world. And throughout the weekend several of us commented on the peace and joy we all felt. There was a feeling of security, almost as if we were in a fortress protected from all the evil out in the world. One comment that captured it perfectly came on the way home when we were talking about how incredibly good the food tasted, even though it was very plain. One man said, “Maybe it’s the sense of peace that makes everything taste better.”
Finally, it seems we have all become seriously infected with a desire to visit monasteries again. On the drive home, every one of us spoke about plans to do another pilgrimage.
Orthodox churches have always appreciated the value of monasteries for the spiritual health of the people. In today’s culture the need is greater than ever. We are constantly bombarded in the media and in advertisements with role model images that are the antithesis of godliness, and we desperately need the example of monastics to show us how to live authentic Christian lives. We all need the examples, but it is especially crucial for our men to spend some time in a monastery with “real men – the godly kind.”
For more information on the Monastery, visit the St Gregory Palamas website.
Here is a wonderful article titled 'What Is A Holy Pilgrimage?'
Snow and Silence at St Gregory Palamas - 01/15/12Photos and impressions of our Men's 2012 Pilgrimage...