2 On The Road Blog

After 12 years of full-time rving, we've sold our truck and trailer but we're still traveling. Email us at wowpegasus@hotmail.com if you would like to contact us.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery

A group of Sunscape RV Resort residents went to St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery. As you can see by the clothing, the dress code is a little strict. Hopefully my skirt wasn't too flashy. Now for the story of the monastery straight from their brochure. "In the summer of 1995, six monks arrived in the southern Arizona desert to establish St. Anthony's Monastery, carrying with them the sacred thousand-year heritage of the Holy Mountain, Athos. Since early Chrisian history, this steep and rocky peninsula in northern Greec maintained a direct link with the greatest monastic establishments of ancient Christianity in Egypt, Cappadocia, and Constantinople, thus preserving intact the wisdom of the Holy Fathers and the sacred tradition of the ancient Church. Today, the Holy Mountain consists of 20 independent monasteries and numerous sketes and hermitages, housing a few thousand Orthodox Christian monks from all over the world.
Elder Ephraim, a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, having restored and repopulated four Mt. Athos monasteries and having established several monastic communities in Greece and North America, transferred six Athonite monks to the Sonoran Desert in American to start a new monastery. Upon their arrival, the fathers began the necessary construction: building first the main church, living quarters for monks, a dining hall, and guest facilities. As the monastery expanded, more chapels were built; a vegetable garden, a small vineyard, citrus orchards, and an olive grove were soon to follow. An elaborate system of gardens, pathways, gazebo and Spanish fountains truly render the monastery and its extensive grounds an oasis in the desert."
This is the main entrance gate. Now to continue with the brochure. "The monastery is named after St. Anthony the Great, the renowned third-century ascetic of Egypt, "the father of monasticism". The main church, the catholicon, is dedicated to Saints Anthony and Nectarios the Wonder-worker, who is especially popular amoungst the Greeks. The monastery follows the coenobitic rule of monastic life. The brotherhood of over 40 monks and novices holds all things in common and follows a daily schedule of prayer and work under obedience to the abbot, their spiritual father. The monks daily program begins an hour or two before midnight with personal prayer time and spiriual reading, followed by the cycle of morning prayers and the Divine Liturgy. After a light breakfast and rest period, the monks begin their work day, attending to prayer and their tasks until evening. Tasks include, amoung others, grounds keeping, tending the various gardens, orchards, and the vineyard, construction, woodworking, publishing, food preparation and offering hospiality. The day ends with Vespers flowed by dinner and Compline."
Our first stop was outside the bookstore where one woman in our group was offered a skirt and scarf because she wasn't "properly" dressed. They have a supply of skirts and scarves for that reason. We were given some candy and water. This is the traditional kerasma (water and something sweet). A very young father lead us to St. Anthony's Church and told us about the monastery.
Although the largest of all the churches in the complex, it has the plainest exterior. You'll see what I mean as you scroll down through all the photos. During his talk, the father told us there are presently 100 Orthodox visitors staying there. Some of the visitors are families with children.

This is the top of St. Anthony's church. From the brochure: "Our daily services are conducted in this traditional Byzantine style, domed basilica church. "

An elaborate chandelier with a circular surround hangs from the church tower. Now back to the brochure, "Almost everything that you can see in here was brought in from Greece. No electric lights are used in the church except for the two fixtures over the round chanters' stands. The candles on the big brass chandelier, which represents the Heavenly Church, are lit on major feast days. The alter is located behind the curtain. "

"The hand-carved throne on the right is the Bishop's Throne." Just look at that beautiful piece of work! Notice the lion base.
Closeup of some of the wood workings.
This is the chandelier.

There are no pews in the church as the monks stand during services in these tall seats called stasidia. These can actually be used to stand or sit in two different positions. The seat, as shown, is in the high seating position. It folds forward for a lower seating position. The high arms help support the monks during the three to five hour services.
We continued our tour by walking through the main courtyard. From the brochure, 'The main monastery courtyard is formed by the monks' cells on the right, the women's guesthouse on the left and the adjoining housing complexes for visiting bishops, priests and men."

Across the courtyard is St. Nicholas' Chapel. We're just starting to see it here.
The back side of St. Nicholas' Chapel. "St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the patron saint of the sailors, is one of the most beloved saints of orthodoxy. The Divine Liturgy is sometimes held at St. Nicholas'."

The front entry. Notice the tiling on the floor and the beautiful brickwork of the arch.
The front of St. Nicholas' Chapel.
This building is a monk's house.
The orange grove was covered with netting.

Walking toward The Chapel of St. George. "The architecture of this chapel is typical of Romannia but again all the furnishings inside and all the icons were brought from Greece. Please take the time to appreciate the hand-carved iconostasis with its intricate, detailed story-telling figures."
The brick border and tiled pathways were very pretty.

Outside the Chapel of St. George.

Inside the ceilings were a work of art.
Another elaborate chandelier above a beautiful brick arch though which you can see the main section of the chapel. The first section is for non-orthodox visitors. The next room is for orthodox visitors and the front is for the monks and visiting clergy.
The chandelier in the main section of the chapel.
Some of the wood ceiling with stained-glass windows.
More of the beautiful wood ceiling.
Standing in the middle section looking toward the alter. You can see how intricate the carving is on the iconotasis.
Some of the detailed tile flooring.

The Bishops' Chair is just beautiful.
Closeup of the details.
Details of the seat.

The arm rests.
More of the multi-use chairs. There were many different carvings on the backs.
Here's what the seat looks like in the lower position.
We walked around the chapel and found this tower. We don't know if it is a bell tower or not.
More brickwork and gardens as we continued our walk.
St. Demetrios' Chapel is really small. Maybe 10 people can fit inside.
But the inside was pretty. Not as intricately carved as the other iconostatis but still pretty.
The woodwork on the outside was spectacular.
From the brochure; "Now let us answer the most frequently asked question: the significance of the three-bar cross. This is a traditional Orthodox cross, also called the Russian cross; the top small bar is the sign that was placed on the cross with the inscription "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews"; the second bar is for the hands. The bottom bar is the footrest; the reason it is slanted is this: the thief crucified on the right of Christ was saved, he went up to Heaven; the other thief went down to hell. Therefore, the right end of the bar points up to heaven and the left end down to Hell. "
More of the walk through the gardens.
Spanish fountain by St. Seraphim's Chapel.

There were even some rose bushes.
Occassionally we would see fake deer around as you can see by those at the foot of this cross. We thought they were tacky.
Bougainvillea is the most prominent flower in this area and it is beautiful. You can see me strolling along here.

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