Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Surprise Trip

Last week Thursday we were in Fr Andrei’s Russian Church History class, when Fr Cyprian stuck his head inside the doorway and said: “Who wants to go to St Nektarios today?”

St Nektarios Monastery is a Greek monastery founded by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, located near Roscoe, NY. It’s a little over two hours away from Jordanville. In lieu of Greek class, we second-years were going to get a first-hand taste of Greek monastic life.

By a little pond near the trapeza.

Soon after ten o’clock, four of us second-years (plus Nicky Kotar) got into the black monastic van, and gunned it for Roscoe. After all, we wanted to make it in time for lunch. I brought a book along for the ride, but the undulating landscape was not very conducive to reading, and I had to set it aside.

We got there around noon, only to find out that lunch was actually going to be at half-past. We spent some time in the bookstore before heading to the trapeza. Lunch was simple: some potatoes, pickled green tomatoes, soup, some rusk. Yet it was very delicious. We quietly ate while a monk read from a high pulpit towering over the refectory. When the meal finished the monks sang the kontakion for Christmas, and we all processed out of the trapeza, while the abbot, Elder Joseph, stood to the side and blessed us.

We seminarians then went back inside and helped out with the cleaning up and preparation for the next meal, which took about an hour and a half. We spent some more time in the bookstore, taking pictures, etc. and then went to the monastery church, where a priest was blessing people with a relic of the True Cross. We received the blessing, and soon afterwards Vespers began. We stood in our monastic choir stalls (stasidia) while listening to the beautiful antiphonal chanting of Byzantine hymns.

By the end it was dark, and the grounds were all lit up with Christmas lights.

There was also a rather unique nativity scene, executed in a Byzantine iconic style:

Right after dinner we had to take leave of our hosts. We drove back at a leisurely pace. It’s nice to have a little vacation now and then.

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