More fragments from a diary

When the delivery truck arrived

On a drizzling Essex afternoon a delivery truck arrived with the Elder’s celebrated masterpiece, Saint Silouan the Athonite,[1] his book on the life and teachings of his spiritual father, Saint Silouan of Athos. The books were arranged in a number of large cardboard boxes, Father Sophrony asked me to open one of these boxes and to present him with a copy. I can still see him bent over his walking stick in his overlong cassock and though quite frail an undeniable strength emanating from him. His face was radiant as ever and he was especially happy. He then asked me to take out a second copy which he straightaway placed back into my gloved hands. This volume was to be mine. To this day it remains one of my most treasured possessions and there have been mornings when I have woken up from sleep with this book resting on my chest. Prayer and forgiveness two vital forces which are exemplified in this modern-day spiritual classic are not idle forces however we might define or understand them. It would be a great mistake to underestimate their inherent power, like solar super storms which take out power grids they can be responsible for seismic shifts in our life. Prayer and forgiveness were two of the many lasting lessons from the blessed lives of Saint Silouan (1866-1938) and his disciple in Christ, the Elder Sophony (1896-1993). And that they would pray without cease, like the great John Coltrane from another world, of whom it was said, would never take the horn out of his mouth.

 

The letter from the Patriarchate

Two weeks after my arrival here at the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights,[2] the old monk Procopius whose visible saintliness was an example in itself of the transfigured life, informed me in his understated way, there was a “big envelope” waiting for me at the Old Rectory. Hearing the news I instinctively knew. I doubled over as my body collapsed from under me and started to sob like a small child. Father Procopius lifted me without saying much, but his encouraging embrace and quiet invocation of “Gospodi Pomilui” was enough to keep me steady on my feet. The mail was indeed from Australia, posted by the Orthodox Archdiocese, but the letter inside was from the Patriarchate in Constantinople. It was as I had straightaway thought, a copy of my “formal dismissal” from the office of the diaconate and confirmation of my “re-entry into the ranks of the lay persons.”[3] The reason for the defrocking was correctly stated as being of my own request but also to do with issues of “mental health”. This additional explanation surprised me greatly. I had never mentioned mental health as a ‘reason’ and if I had spoken of my battle with depression which I had, it was during confession to my spiritual father, who at the time was His Eminence back home. Already I had clearly understood that anybody who had a confrontation with the Archdiocese whether be it clergy or lay person was said to have had issues of “mental health”. We were all insane or ‘mad’ except for the ‘kings’ who were governed by ‘sanity’ and ‘reason’. This is a silencing technique practised by most powerful institutions to protect themselves and if need be, to be able to promptly discredit any potential adversary. Especially sad to say this is an art brought close to perfection by some church communities who have ‘God’ and ‘authority’ on their side.

Even to that moment in the Old Rectory, I was still not sure whether I had rushed into this irreversible decision of asking for my own ‘excommunication’. Not yet thirty and everything that I had worked towards, all the dreams which I had aspired to, and the sacrifices (perhaps not for others but for me that is what they were) appeared at that very instant to have come to a fast and dishonourable conclusion. It was all deemed “over” with the signatures of a group of distant bishops presiding in Constantinople with no idea of who I was. And then the sinking, awful realization, that not long from now I would have to return to Australia and would have to explain to friends and acquaintances, why I had committed the unpardonable sin of walking away from the priesthood. After all, was it not I, who was known for the ‘all or nothing’ altar cry: “…everything, all for Jesus.” Why did I do this when I had a good understanding of what I had given up and where this would probably lead? My mind kept going back to Christ’s hard words, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62).

It is tempting to make all this sound too deeply meaningful and byzantine, yet it was relatively simple. Things did not work out. I did not like what I found. And I was not in any way saintly enough to remain and to endure. I had made a serious vocational mistake, but one I had to make and to live through. And therein would be found the truth of my redemption. Later on I would begin to complicate things and make life more difficult for myself by going in search for some sort of justification which I felt compelled to share with the ‘outside world’. Guilt or misplaced guilt can be a fast path to self-destruction. Henri Nouwen was right, and he rightly knew, this approach can only ever lead to more suffering and to ridicule. I was at the same time convinced by now that I could not live as a celibate without becoming bitter and resentful. Additionally, my ego was way too strong for me to be humble (in the way which I had understood ‘humility’ from my reading of spiritual texts), to be ‘worthy’ or capable of bearing any high clerical office that might have come my way. I realized early enough that if I was not cut out to make the grade as one of the Church’s holy pastors I was certainly not going to take the risk of becoming one of its closet devils. And the truth was I had it in my flesh to be more devil than holy. But in one thing I would take pride, I cannot survive and I cannot breathe in an “unhealthy” system. I cannot bear to see people and spirits broken and then discarded as empty vessels devoid of their rightful dignity and place in society.

My priesthood, however weak or strong it might have been, was the keystone of my life. Everything I did, or thought, or believed in, revolved around it. Importantly, it was the outward symbol of my faith. It identified me. A keystone is the wedge-shaped embellished voussoir at the crown of an arch, serving to lock the other voussoirs in place. Remove it and everything falls to pieces. It all becomes a pile of stone. Often too, I would think on the well-known potter and clay imagery in the Old Testament and what it might now mean when I turned to God in prayer (Isa 29:16). Would He turn His face away from me? One of the challenges for the potter in using pattern on three-dimensional form we are told, by those who have mastered the craft, are that of marrying the relationship of interior to exterior and the association that exists between them. What would now be my connection, not only between my interior and exterior life-worlds, but also with my Maker? And playing on the inside of my head without cease as if on continual loop, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater which I had fallen in love with a few months earlier during my long late evening drives to the Cronulla sand dunes.

 

Taking my cassock off for the last time

Now there was the hard practical matter that would soon also face me, taking my cassock off for the last time. Afterwards in a little poem I would speak of it as the painful process of “scraping” it off my back.[4] This I would put off until a few weeks later, when I found myself in Madrid. Here too in ‘the city that never sleeps’, as was happening throughout the world, the question on everyone’s lips was whether Israel had “responded” to the missile attacks from Iraq and what it would mean if they were drawn into the developing military crisis in the Gulf. I was in Europe during the early stages of Operation Desert Shield (August 1990-January 1991). It was an apropos ‘soundtrack’ to my own private war which I was waging secretly within.

 

I wonder if I am forever lost

This was never going to happen to me. Nothing was going to come between me and my love for the Nazarene. Now everything is different. I wonder if I am forever lost. I had been a conscientious student of the church fathers and especially of some of the harder hitters like Chrysostom and Augustine. Their collective voices which would later again soothe and lift me up would now seem to be relentlessly condemning me. Kafka’s travelling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes to find himself a bug and I too suddenly find myself in the middle of something that I was not prepared for. And I feel ugly. I wanted to hide, to examine my hideousness in the privacy of my own world. In the end, a lot of what was happening to me after my departure from Tolleshunt Knights and then upon my arrival in Madrid, had to do with a word in spiritual literature which has been much misunderstood, surrender. It means to “give up, deliver over”. At a certain point we need to let go of the driftwood and give ourselves over to the tide. Years afterwards the wisdom of a leathery trucker, someone I would befriend at the markets down in Flemington where I used to work, would have been good advice: downshift when going down the ice.

 

The act of surrendering according to Nouwen

“The act of surrendering is powerful because it calls our bluff. In order to truly surrender, we need to acknowledge our actual power in the world. And often this requires us to recognize our concept of our self. This is why surrender is such a complicated word, filled with paradoxical connotations. It is about giving up power, but it is also about safety and relief. To those who have experienced interpersonal trauma in the past it’s likely to evoke enslavement. For those who have experienced sustained, deep love, it can evoke profound acceptance.”[5]  

 

[1]

[2]

[3]

[4]

[5] The Next Ten Minutes, p. 212.

Charmian Clift a distinguished Kiama offspring

Kiama, NSW

Later on I would also discover my distinguished ‘neighbour’ with whom I shared not only the nearness of our south coast harbour communities but also our love of Greece. She was from Kiama the pristine seaside township distinguished by its great Norfolk Pines, the Lighthouse, and the famous Blowhole. I was ten minutes down the Princes Highway, turning left onto Fern Street, in the quieter but equally beautiful Gerringong. The strikingly looking Charmian Clift, born in 1923, with that equally distinct first name from Greek provenance, belonged to that strain of author who lived and breathed to write. Henry Miller could well have had Charmian in mind when he opined, “[w]riting is its own reward.” The only fact which would make her- who did things which ‘nice’ Kiama girls didn’t do “or at least didn’t do it openly”- reveal her true age to me was that she was born one year before my own father. Charmian also loved Greece and together with her well-known husband George Johnston (the iconoclastic journalist and author of My Brother Jack) she would spend around nine creative years on the island of Hydra moving there in 1955. “One of the recurring reference points” in Clift’s writings Nadia Wheatley tells us in her giant seven-hundred page biography of the writer and newspaper columnist “is the song of the sea.” Clift’s collaboration with Johnston on Mermaid Singing, a memoir of the one year they spent on Kalymnos in the south-eastern Aegean Sea, speaks clearly to these reference points. Her suicide on the 8th of July in 1969 at the age of 45, despite her melancholic episodes did surprise her friends and the broader journalistic community and is still a topic of intrigue for those who continue to explore her multifarious life. Might well Wheatley title her book The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift (2001).[1] Twelve days later on the 20th of July man first walked on the Moon. Charmian would probably have considered that awesome event quite ironic being the intrepid traveller and chronicler herself.

George Johnston and Charmian Clift in an eastern orthodox church on Hydra (1956).

George Johnston and Charmian Clift in an eastern orthodox church on Hydra (1956).

Many Greek-Australians of the latter generations would not know of her commitment to the Greek community here in Australia when she returned home, and of her passionate efforts to inform the Australian public of the horrors of the 1967 ‘Colonels coup’ in Greece. To paraphrase an old friend of mine the playwright Sophia Catharios, when Greeks in Australia remember the dead in their churches they would do good to add the name of Charmian Clift to the list. Incredibly, there is also the connection to her indefatigable biographer as well. For some years Nadia Wheatley, whose own life is not without its own absorbing history, lived in Newtown, the place where I grew up and skinned my knees. She also lived in Greece, on the isle of Crete, with the eldest of Clift’s and Johnston’s three children, the poet and journalist also gone too soon, Martin Johnston.

As one well-informed online writer has put it Charmian Clift was “[b]eautiful, smart, and talented.” But now also too long neglected and waiting to be rediscovered.[2] Like that lyrical memoir, to cite just one notable example, of her little tribe’s encounter with the sponge-diving community of Kalymnos, Mermaid Singing (1956):

“We came to the island of Kalymnos in a small grey caique Angellico, belting in around Point Cali with a sirocco screaming in from the south-west, a black patched triangle of sail thrumming over our heads, and a cargo of turkeys, tangerines, earthenware water jars, market baskets, and the inevitable old black-shawled women who form part of the furnishings of all Aegean caiques.”

And incidentally, what is not so well know is the close friendship established on Hydra by Clift and Johnston with Leonard Cohen.[3]

 

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Life-Myth-Charmian-Clift-ebook/dp/B00K4LUI4S

[2] http://neglectedbooks.com/?p=4122

[3] https://www.leonardcohenonhydra.com.au/the-story-of-george-johnston-and-charmian-clift/

After a few hours in Wollongong

Wollongong, NSW

Where have I seen these faces before; in a dream after I had prayed the Akathyst to the Holy Mother; in an aeroplane on my way to Estonia; double espresso; vegetable fritters with corn salsa; a small glass of cold water; Katina and the little ones in Tathra; I miss them after an hour; but now I can write one-hundred and forty-four words; a dark haired woman with a column of silver rings rubs her left eye; Geraldine is that you; a little child is crying; a young Mother bends down to whisper into her big ear; it doesn’t help; keep focused Michael, confess to the black wall; “[w]e need to search for our soul” (Carl Jung); the people’s heads are bent like a crooked elbow; mesmerized by their gleaming mobiles; wasting hours which turn into lost years; “I won’t have coffee with you,” Sophia once said to me; “you can’t kill time”; she was usually right; I will need to start for home soon; it is still raining; “Here Comes the Rain Again (Eurythmics); thirst will never lie; “I thirst” the GodMan cries out (Jn. 19:28); dig for water and not for oil; I should translate Stephen’s poem; all in good time; we must keep our promises; a girl in white jeans runs across to the escalator; a good metaphor to note down; she has forgotten her name somewhere on the floor below; where have I seen these faces before; candles and waxes; boiled cinnamon; paraffin; let him who is without song cast the first stone; Josephine Baker, the Black Pearl; “Art Deco”; playing truant in the spaces between the parables; you needn’t have taken from me; freely I’d given to you; your response in expanses of pain; a long walk into the nearest city; press your bleeding nose on the window pane; “But the beauty is in the walking, we are betrayed by destinations” (Gwyn Thomas); Wollongong Central; His Boy Elroy; Jamaica Blue; Max Brenner; a handsome old man with an aluminium walking cane; he is taking his first steps; not long from now he will be born again; I still miss you Father; I wish we had kissed one last time; I was in the clouds when you were treading earth; “It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason” (Pascal, Pensees); Kant from the purely rational structure to actual moral content; has it anything to do with thinking about one’s own thinking; surveillance cameras everywhere; who doesn’t understand; Big Brother inside your head coming soon; DARPA brain implant program; Eric Arthur Blair; Philip Kindred Dick; Margaret Eleanor Atwood; you are one of the latter day prophets Roger Clarke; the young man with the spiky hair behind the counter calls for Tony; we all know what he likes to drink; anonymity lost for the pleasure of a coffee; Argus Panoptes; a heavy-duty headache like a tight tourniquet; Panadeine Forte versus Panamax; too much noise everywhere; but sometimes it can be soothing; like the white noise in the Kiama Leisure Centre; during the Paleozoic era dragonflies grew to ‘monster size’; if a dragonfly cannot fly it will starve; dragonflies mate in mid-air like the clouds; they will divide us into groups; the poets will have to be silenced; only they know the real names behind things; “It’s the words that sing, they soar and descend” (Pablo Neruda); another drink please; a long black; and a banana & coconut crepe; I am still here; where have I seen these faces before; they ricochet like a Jack Storm reflective mirror; hackers breach US nuclear plants; Battle for Mosul; G20 Hamburg; “Round/ Like a circle in a spiral/ Like a wheel within a wheel”  (Bergman & Bergman); The Persuaders; Hawaii Five-0; Mission Impossible; in Greece when I was a little boy they were repeats; like the regime of the Colonels; dictatorships same old, same old; truth and political realism not compatible; Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527);  there was nothing new to ‘shock and awe’; except for the finger on the button; make sure there is petrol in the car; petroleum from the Greek “rock” and “oil”; separation technology; philosophers must keep their feet warm; Schopenhauer wearing a wool beanie with earflaps; my Mother-in-Law knits fabulous woollen jumpers; a family of four sit at the next table; the Father staring into space; the Mother trying to get his attention; I smile; life continues; joyful sorrow; a group of grandmothers; a wisdom; once they too, played with baby dolls; King Arthur; the wizard Merlin; Geoffrey of Monmouth; my little Jeremy is so brave; our Eleni sings like a nightingale; George is capable of so much he needs to find his way; “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or to usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky” (Rabindranath Tagore); where have I seen these faces before; 3.49 PM; in an hour or so they will close; I love you Katina; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnpRZHqqPq8; you are my enduring truth; I have lost so many friends; where have they gone; we must allow each other to grow; I am a stranger here; I have always been a stranger; what does ‘perfect stranger’ mean; sometimes our cherished Dylan T., repetition is fine; you were too harsh on Tennyson; stress, accentuation, force; we are all Pentecostal to one degree or another; we speak in tongues; “mia pista apo fwsforo me dwdeka diadromous” (Lina Nikolakopoulou); you make me smile when I could almost split my sides; don’t confuse the Jesus Prayer with OCD; Saint Sophrony thank you for caring after me; Tolleshunt Knights; Tiptree the scent of jams trapped in rimed snowflakes; the tongue is a mighty organ; “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts” (James 3:5); it begins as a bud; Powell & Pressburger; The Tales of Hoffmann (1951); Offenbach would have been pleased, methinks; the family next to me still here; the Father like those above, bent over the mobile; the Mother comforting the infant; life goes on; I smile, once again; my long black done; fractal patterns; the Mandelbrot set; Zeno of Elea; Lake Baikal; southern Siberia; largest freshwater lake in the world; Blade Runner (1982); Ridley Scott; genetically engineered humanoid replicants; Archytas of Tarentum; architect of robotics; the bird and the rattle; 64 squares in an 8x8 grid; opening, middlegame, endgame; Benjamin Franklin “The Morals of Chess” (1786); will the bookstores be open; how beautiful a real book between the hands; at home beneath my lamp Dumas’ The Three Musketeers; I catch another name Bethany; it is a wonderful name; she has ordered a mocaccino; they have a picture of my pelican at the fish shop down by the Kiama wharf; such a proud and beautiful animal it was; the last picture I took before the camera dropped into the water; Henri Cartier-Bresson; Steve McCurry; Diane Arbus; two young friends walk past hand-in-hand; they are laughing and licking on ice creams; one is a girl with a short haircut and a large green bag; idealism for a season is good; [Donald] Bruce Dawe; “I would never want to come back, knowing I could never be this lucky twice”; Australian poets have always been so hugely underrated; 25 minutes have passed; it is all relative like an itch behind the ear; the days go quicker now; the nights can take a little longer; “Only because you loved me I was born, so my life was given” (Maria Polydouri); triptychs; Francis Bacon (1909-1992); images reveal themselves “in series” he said;  titles from Ballarat International Foto Biennale (2017); Bones: A Body Of Work; Peaches And Scream; Hidden In Plain Sight;  Edmund de Waal; my third reading of The White Road a pilgrimage of sorts; “[t]o make something so white and true and perfect, that the world around it is thrown into shadows”; 200 Crown Street; Princes Hwy; Smith Street; writing is difficult; poetry is even more difficult; committing oneself to reality and not to the absurd, even harder; identity and language are never too far one from the other; like Duchamp and modern art; greatly misunderstood [he was] and for this reason, the cult of vulgarity; shadows are difficult to escape; like fingers dipped deep in honey; all surfaces are covered; I must not drink alcohol today; “[w]hat begins with pain, ends with pain”; a great truth dear Gabor M.; we all lead double lives; that’s not the real problem; the only thing which really matters is the outcome of this titanic tension; look for saints in their eyes; ignore the devils for now; Hannibal ante portas; okay, that’s it; pay the bill; and make sure to wipe your mouth; goodnight, Little Briar Rose.

Life changing talks with a song and a poem to boot

Used discerningly YouTube, the video-sharing website founded in 2005, is a truly incredible reservoir of stockpiled knowledge no more than a click away. The vital thing is discerningly for like many things in the online world this too can become quickly addictive. It is not difficult to stray in this electronically fuelled atmosphere, particularly with such a visual and captivating medium as film. It can become overwhelmingly seductive. Otherwise it is indeed a marvellous place to visit. And so what we hear about “the good and bad sides of YouTube” is without doubt true.

Elsewhere I have shared some favourite pieces of music. Here I would like to share a sample of life changing talks I will turn to. I will visit these downloads when I need an additional reminder that tomorrow is another day where new and exceptional things can happen. That even the next hour is full of great possibilities and salvation from despair. I am sure you will find some of these very special YouTube talks helpful if not for yourselves, then at least for someone near and dear to you. These profound presentations touch on various dimensions of life and the shared wisdom of the presenters can benefit us even if this might only mean becoming a little more compassionate and understanding ourselves. The presentations below have at least some very significant things in common: (i) The speakers have themselves experienced the deepest aspects of the journey which they describe and [like all “wounded healers”] have experienced the ‘wound’ themselves, (ii) they are not asking for your money or selling you a ‘secret’, (iii) self-realization and affirmative behaviour begin with a brutal self-assessment of why we find ourselves engaging in destructive behaviour; (iv) once the problem which is hurting us is realized there is set into action a hard-nosed plan and a fierce determination to see the resolution for change through.

These points are summarised best perhaps by the physician and addiction expert, the Hungarian-born Canadian Gabor Maté: “Something else is possible and you are worth that possibility.” Muniba Mazari, the inspirational Pakistani artist and motivational speaker, tells us how that possibility might be entered into: “Behind every inspirational picture there is an untold story of constant pain, persistent effort, and determination.” We do not have to agree with everything we hear in these talks, and in some places we might noticeably diverge, but there is too much truth and loads of sweet honey here to at least not stop for a while and to consider both the implications and the possibilities.[1]

 

[1] In all these testimonies we will find in the words of Jerry Long, a logotherapist in the tradition of Frankl and someone who had his own great challenges to overcome, “the defiant power of the human spirit” (Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl, Simon & Schuster: New York, 1984, p. 171).

And a song and a poem, Leonard Cohen, Constantine P. Cavafy

A small note on Mount Athos

Mount Athos or the Holy Mountain as it is often referred to, is the centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism.[1] Occupying the greater part of the Athos Peninsula in Halkidiki it is an autonomous polity in the north of Greece comprising of twenty imposing monasteries and a number of other smaller monastic settlements. There is evidence of Christian monastic life on the mount since at least the fourth century, and if not earlier.[2] Mount Athos [Athos the name of one of the Gigantes from Greek mythology] is dedicated to the All Holy Theotokos, the Mother of God, though paradoxically no woman is permitted to set foot on its grounds. This rule is strictly followed and is referred to as the ‘avaton’.[3] Young men come here to grow old mastering the art of unseen warfare to then die in anonymity and solitude. In so doing they dedicate their lives to God and pray for the salvation of the world.

“The Lord loves all people, but he loves those that seek Him even more. To His chosen ones the Lord gives such great grace that for love they forsake the whole earth, the whole world, and their souls burn with desire that all people might be saved and see the glory of the Lord.” (Saint Silouan the Athonite)

A large number of these religious are of high intellect and not few have left behind successful professional careers. They are doctors, engineers, musicians, teachers, philosophers, theologians, lawyers, scientists, artists, former police and army officers, and whatever else we might imagine. Some, it is true, are daydreamers and romantics. Others were criminals who have served their time or men who have lost everything to addiction except for hope. The monks here spend most of their day and night attending to the divine services or fulfilling their diaconate or alone in their cells with long prayer ropes made of knotted beads of wool practising the Jesus Prayer otherwise known as the prayer of the heart.[4] The day for the Athonite monk begins at sunset. To attempt to evaluate their vocation through the eyes of logic alone is to miss almost everything and to understand little. One of Aristotle’s truest revelations is that happiness is not just a feeling or sensation, but is the quality of the whole life.[5] The dumbfounding thing is the great majority of these men, for admittedly there are some sad and tragic exceptions, are profoundly joyful and possess an inner peace, a tranquillity of spirit which does radiate visibly from their presence. They are like ghosts from another world with obscure clues and tip-offs for those who journey to visit them in their spiritual ‘hide-out’. But be prepared for these angelomorphic presences are well versed in the game of ‘hide n’ seek’ and it is they who will find you. They are black clad rebels against the established order of decay and corruption who embrace the reality of death together with its promise of transfiguration…of whom the world was not worthy –wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb. 11:38)

I would visit Athos twice and both times with the dreadful feeling that I was one of those ill-fated seeds from the parable of the sower. Sown on rocky ground and scorched. (Mat. 3:8) On the first of these occasions I was still a layperson and student at the Aristotelian, and then a few years later I would return as an ordained clergyman. We go on pilgrimages and visit monasteries for different reasons. Some of us go looking for spiritual counsel; for redemption and for a fresh start; to confess our sins; to escape from our past; to re-new old promises or to make new ones; to learn the fundamentals of prayer. In the end it is simple enough, the ongoing quest for “meaningfulness”.

But do not go anywhere looking specifically for God, or for that once in a life-time ‘religious experience’. It is one of the great mistakes and most of us will make it, just like when we routinely connect beauty to goodness. The psalmist’s counsel is not without its good reason, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) However, it is the doctrine of Creation that we cannot escape from. Depending on how we understand this teaching and respond to its far-reaching implications, it will largely determine what we learn of the Creator and ourselves when we set out on the journey which might very well lead to Athos or to other places where prayer fills the night skies as if pieces of flickering diamond.

…as I go walkabout the invigorating salt air mixed with the aroma of wild unpicked flowers refreshes my body and spirit. To my right a mythical landscape of undulating peaks and steep ravines which threaten at any moment to spill into the brooding Aegean Sea below. An hour earlier in a distant skete… “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (Ps.51:1)… I was awash in the scents of exotic Arabian incense and burning beeswax…

Good Lord, how desperately I have missed these wonderful worlds.

 

[1] Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, The Orthodox Church, (Penguin Books: England), 1993, pp. 129-132.

[2] Graham Speake, Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise, (Yale University Press: New Haven), 2002.

[3] https://orthodoxwiki.org/Mount_Athos

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Prayer-Bishop-Kallistos-Ware/dp/1860828930/and+jesus+prayer

[5] http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/