Upcoming Monastery Visits

The North American Thebaid Pilgrimage continues, with visits confirmed at Hermitage of the Holy Cross (ROCOR) in Wayne WV, Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery (OCA) in Otego NY, and Holy Trinity Monastery (ROCOR) in Jordanville NY. A brief return visit to the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City PA is also planned.

I’m busy with continued scheduling for monasteries, and for parish presentations, so watch for more news soon.

You can see the upcoming dates in the right hand panel here at Thebaid.org. I would appreciate your prayers both for safe travel and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

As a special treat, here is the outstanding film on Orthodox Monasticism produced by the Hermitage of the Holy Cross several years ago, From the Little Mountain:


To view more videos on Orthodox Monasticism in North America and around the globe, visit the Thebaid Video page…


The End of What It Looks Like

Photography, Vision and the Heart

Here is a challenging reflection on photography, by David DuChemin, whose work I have been following for a while now and whom I greatly admire for his emphasis on “vision”, not mere “pictorialism” (if I can coin a word).

“The calling of the photographer is to see the invisible and to show it to the world, and those are the things we see not with our eyes so much as with our heart.”

— David duChemin

His words hit me hard, as I have myself written about striving to “reveal glimpses of the hidden, unseen Monastic Way, through visual means.” It is both paradox (so beloved by Orthodox Christianity) and challenge, one which I do not claim to have risen to, but to which I press onwards, striving to fulfill.

Perhaps someone might ask, “Why?”

Because, as an Orthodox Christian, I believe in “Vision.” We even have a theological word for it: “Theoria.” Even if I do not attain it in either my life or my photography, yet will I press forward, hoping that my efforts may help inspire others to do so.

So, I hope you enjoy this article and David’s challenge to go deeper. He writes of the heart, from the heart, and I have appended a few closing thoughts at bottom on this heart of the matter…

See also my posts:

The End of What It Looks Like

by David duChemin, August 30, 2016:

Cloud Front, © David duChemin

A couple years ago the number being floated around about photographs on the internet was this: 1.8 billion images a day were being shared on social media channels. All of them showing us what every minute corner of the world looks like. It is safe to say that there is little – if anything at all – that remains to be shown. Do a Google search for any conceivable thing, place, or person and there’s a good chance you’ll get more images than you can use. This used to be the job of photographers, particularly the so-called professionals: to illustrate. To show the world what it looked like.

In order to show the world what it looked like the photographer had to use a rather technical means, had to understand the physics, the chemistry, the optics. Owning and using the gear required was not easy. This was the means by which the photographer accomplished his craft and remained relevant. And that, for generations was the task of most photographers – to use complicated gear to show the world what it looked like.

Can you see where this is heading? Something only has value when it’s needed. When it’s scarce. And you can say neither about the use of the camera nor the need for more illustrative images of a world in which 2 billion photographs are shared, not to mention the ones not shared, every day. Before you despair or rush to the ramparts to defend this craft, let me say that I believe more than ever in the value and need for photographs. It just isn’t where it once was, in illustration.

Continue reading “The End of What It Looks Like”

Update on St Peter’s Monastery in Montana

Outstanding article on this compelling new monastic initiative, being founded by dedicated lay benefactors, and shepherded by monastics from Monastery of St John in Manton, California.

See also my special page on the founding of St Peter’s Monastery.

Photos provided by Pravoslavie.


Pravoslavie, September 12, 2016

missoulian-1Eastern Orthodox believers are patiently moving forward with plans to build a monastery in Montana.

Though the timetable will depend on issues such as funding, members of St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church in Bozeman already have donated land near the base of Montana’s Tobacco Root Mountains especially for the monastery. The property is near Harrison on Harrison Lake, also known as Willow Creek Reservoir.

“It’s already in a conservation easement which stipulates that nothing can be built on the land other than an Eastern Orthodox monastery,” said David Hicks, a member of St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church in Bozeman. “The property is a 1,000-acre tract on the north shore of the lake.”

West of the Moon

David Hicks and his wife, Betsy, gave the parcel from what they called their West of the Moon ranch for the purpose of building St. Peter’s Monastery, as it is called. The “West of the Moon” name of the ranch comes from an old jazz standard “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon),” written by Princeton undergraduate Brooks Bowman and published in 1934, Hicks explained.

The monastery was formally established in 2014 and the St. Peter’s Monastery Foundation, which is guiding the effort to build it, is recognized by the state of Montana as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 foundation.

“We have been so blessed to live at West of the Moon and in our beautiful state,” Hicks told the Missoulian in an email. “No one ‘owns’ anything anyway. That’s just a fiction to appease the ego. It’s all on temporary loan. We are just the stewards in the parables told by Jesus, someday to give an account to the owner.”

Hicks, who is secretary of the foundation, noted that in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the new monastery may start out as a “skete” – essentially a little monastery associated with a larger one.

A website at stpetersmonastery.com discusses details.

Alone with God in the wilderness

Father Hieromonk Innocent, the superior of St. John Monastery in Manton, California, has led three delegations of monks to Harrison in recent years to get work started on the actual building of the monastery. Innocent said Montana is in line with what monasteries have traditionally been in Orthodox tradition.

“In the history of monasteries, the monks were actually trying to flee from the cities in order to be alone with God in the wilderness,” he said.

Continue reading “Update on St Peter’s Monastery in Montana”

Advice to Monastic Seekers

Insightful and practical guidance from Archbishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin, Germany (ROCOR).

Advice to Potential Monastics, an interview with Archbishop Mark of Berlin;  Pravoslavie, August 5, 2013:

markofberlinWhy do people now go to monasteries not from an impoverished life but from a life of comfort, how can one find the right monastery, which of the holy fathers should be read, what is the proper relationship of a monastic to parents, should the internet be used, and why should young hieromonks should not be assigned to parishes? Archbishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain, the head of the Monastery of St. Job of Pochaev, answers these questions.

—Are more or fewer people seeking the monastic life than before?

—It is difficult to say. I think that the contingent of our faithful is different than it was twenty or thirty years ago. We now have as a whole a greater number of believers, and corresponding to this growth is an increase in the number of monastics. I suppose that when people come from a live of poverty, they are not so inclined to monastic life than if they lived well. A person can more easily deny himself of what he has than of what he does not have.

—What do people expect from monasticism when they come to it today? What disappoints them?

—The most difficult thing—and not only in our time but always—is obedience and the denial of one’s own will. It is met with more resistance, more sharply today when a person lives in complete satisfaction, when the material world gives him all he wants. When there is no poverty, then one must reject all the external glitter, and as I said, this is not so hard. But what is hard is denying your own will. That is the problem.

—Can you learn monasticism from books?

—Books can help, they can give direction, but there is nothing like experience in order to really learn about it, just as any facet of life.

—What would you recommend new monastics to read today?

—First of all the Ancient Fathers: St Macarius of Egypt, St Anthony the Great. There are, of course, more contemporary guides, for example St Ignatius (Brianchaninov), who can help one find the right path. But this cannot replace personal guidance.

—How does one choose a monastery to go to?

—That depends on the country—in some there are many monasteries, in others not even one. In Germany we did not have a convent for many years. We would send our candidates to neighboring France, or to the Holy Land.

Then we were able to open our own convent, because a few women came together who could not leave Germany. These were the external conditions which led to the establishment of a convent.

The choice here is not as easy as, for example, in Russia, Serbia, or Greece.

That is why there is no set rule. Much depends on the spiritual father of the monastery. Let us say a person comes as a pilgrim to some monastery, and he likes it there. He has the opportunity to adjust to this monastery, but he can also visit other monasteries, examine their daily rule, their life, and select the one that suits him best.

I always advise people to visit several monasteries. One monastery may have a set of rules which isn’t for everyone, and thank God, there are many different ustavy [monastic charters. —trans.]. A person should choose the one that suits him best.

Continue reading “Advice to Monastic Seekers”

New Photo Gallery: Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration

The second gallery is now posted and available for viewing, featuring a selection of images from the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration (OCA), a womens’ monastery in Ellwood City PA, about an hour north of Pittsburgh. This beautiful haven, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding in 2017, is known for its hospitality. Select images below. Full gallery here…




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