Fragrance of the Desert, Pt. 3 – St Paisius Monastery, in the High Desert of Arizona

This was a providential visit, and is hopefully a prelude to a longer stay on my return journey.

In my emails with Abbess Michaila, I learned the nuns were deep into their new building project, a new dining hall which would accommodate the sisterhood and their growing numbers of guests. Having a larger kitchen will greatly aid their ability to provide meals and hospitality for pilgrims.

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Proceed to the new gallery here…

Unfortunately, this meant I was passing through at an inconvenient time for the sisterhood, and would not be able to stay. I decided to time my travels to be at the monastery for the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, July 1. A good plan, but I didn’t count on road fatigue, so after an extended rest, I arrived shortly after Liturgy had ended, and made my way to the beautiful Gift Shop, where I was warmly greeted by two of the sisters.

I also came bearing gifts – from the brotherhood at Archangel Michael Monastery in Cañones, New Mexico, where I had been a week prior. They sent me on my way with some delightful teas for the sisters at St Paisius, and a few items for Fr Dorotheus, the Chaplain, so I was determined to faithfully make my delivery!

As it turned out, Abbess Michaila had one of the nuns give me a tour of the grounds and chapels, and gave her blessing for me to make some photos. You can see the ‘initial visit’ gallery here, as well as learn more about St Paisius and explore their website through the links provided.

Watch for more galleries coming soon! And if you haven’t yet pre-ordered the North American Thebaid book, please consider doing so! Pre-sales of the book is our primary fundraiser to keep the car (and me) fueled up, and bring this pilgrimage to a successful conclusion.

As always, thank you for your prayers and support!

Thebaid Update: July is Scheduled!

And more galleries coming soon…

The last few days have been a whirlwind of emails and phone calls as I’ve reached out to numerous Orthodox monasteries in California and beyond, and I am very happy to report that I’ve got a full schedule for the remainder of July, covering eight monasteries.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
St Anthony’s Monastery, Florence AZ

Due to travel considerations, and the facilities of some of the monasteries, a few of these will be “day trips,” but that is the nature of a true pilgrimage, which this has become since I set out in early June. At that time, I only had one monastery scheduled, but worked on contacting other monasteries from the road, which worked very well.

There have been some blessed surprises along the way. I had been unable to get an answer on the phone at St Anthony’s in Florence AZ, and had not seen a reply to my email s either, but as I left New Mexico I decided I could at least make a day trip to St Anthony’s, the crown of the Greek Orthodox monasteries planted by Elder Ephraim, the Athonite disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast and former Abbot of Philotheou Monastery on the Holy Mountain.

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Veneration of the Icons, St Anthony’s Monastery, Florence AZ

Imagine my surprise when, on my arrival shortly before Vespers, I was warmly welcomed by the monks. So much so that I asked if I could stay for a few days. Happily, they had plenty of room, and an important door opened up. The next day, I was able to meet with Abbot Paisios and receive his blessing to make some photographs during the divine services.

Watch for a new gallery of images from St Anthony’s coming soon, and further updates as the pilgrimage continues…

 

Fragrance of the Desert, Pt. 2 – Archangel Michael Monastery, in the Canyons of New Mexico

New Photo Gallery now posted from Archangel Michael Monastery in Cañones NM. I almost titled this blog post ‘Streams in the Desert’, as the abundance of water flowing through the canyon is used most creatively by the monks to water their crops, vegetables, and fruit trees. You’ll see many photographs of water.

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Chapel in late afternoon.

Once again, as in Colorado, the instant I got out of my car upon arriving, I noticed a gentle fragrance on the breeze, which beckons and whispers to “slow down, breath, be at peace.”

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
Life-giving water…

In the gallery you’ll not see any photos of the monks, per the direction of the Superior, Father Silouan. I deeply respect the decisions of the monastics, whether to preserve their anonymity, or to allow me to share glimpses of their life. This is their life, and I am but a pilgrim. The camera can be an invasive eye, and the internet can strip away one’s privacy and hiddenness.

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Streams in the desert…

So enjoy the photographic exploration of the monastery grounds, chapel, gardens, and guest house, and imagine yourself walking there and breathing the ‘fragrance of the desert’.

You would be most welcomed to contact the monks to schedule a pilgrimage.

Proceed to the gallery…

New Galleries coming soon… Here’s an advance peek!

The North American Thebaid Pilgrimage is in full swing! I’m about halfway through photo editing from my recent stay at Archangel Michael Monastery in Cañones, New Mexico, and am also preparing photos from a brief visit at St Paisius in Safford AZ.

Today I head on to St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence AZ, one of the most significant Orthodox monasteries in North America. From there it’s on to California and several monasteries in succession…

If you haven’t yet pre-ordered the North American Thebaid book, please keep in mind that this is our main fundraising method. Your support keeps the car (and me!) fueled  up and pressing on towards the goal! Follow this link to learn about the different levels of rewards we offer our supporters, and to contribute. Thank you for your consideration!

Here are a few images from Archangel Michael Monastery in the meantime (captions will follow in the full gallery!):

 

The Fragrance of the Desert, Pt. 1 – Protection of the Virgin, in the Colorado Rockies

New Photo Gallery now posted from Protection of the Virgin Mary Monastery, Lake George CO. Dozens of images plus info on the monastery, and my reflections on this haven of stillness in the Rockies.

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Approaching the entrance…

There is a certain ‘Fragrance of the Desert’ in the more remote monasteries, which goes beyond the heady blend of flora one catches whiffs of on the breeze, and exerts a calming and centering effect on one’s soul. Participating in the cycle of services and the rhythm of life at the monasteries leads to the dual effect of feeling both grounded and prayerful, centered on Christ.

With no internet or cell phone service, one soon begins to feel… healthy! Yes, and sane! These are the fruits and virtues one hopes to bring back after making a monastery pilgrimage.

During my visit, I had some insightful conversations about the monastic life with the Superior, Mother Cassiana, whose counsel for novices might be summed up as, “Persevere, and vow never to leave the monastery, no matter what!”

I hope you get a sense of the ‘fragrance of the desert’ from this new photo gallery. More galleries are coming soon as I continue my great western pilgrimage…

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
The little chapel feels ‘prayed in’.

NEW GALLERY: Monasteries of Our Lady and St Laurence, in the Colorado Rockies

I just posted an extensive gallery of images from my week at The Monasteries of Our Lady and St Laurence in the mountains above Cañon City, Colorado, and invite you to view them!

The stunning vistas and beautiful church, monastic dwellings, and rustic retreat lodge make for an inviting experience, and hospitality is certainly one of the monastics’ primary aims…

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage

This has been my first direct experience with the Orthodox Western Rite, so I have written a little also about this somewhat lesser known (and often misunderstood) Orthodox tradition, and have included several links for further reading.

Stay tuned for more blog posts and photos, God willing on a weekly basis, as I have two more monasteries scheduled for the next couple of weeks (see the schedule on the right hand panel), and more to add very soon!

Here are a few more images before you proceed to the Gallery…

 

The Western Pilgrimage Begins…

Parish visits and a special encounter with a monastic writer and abbot, plus great travel weather, have ‘put the wind in my sails’ for this major leg of my American Thebaid Pilgrimage.

Sorry for the spotty posting lately, but my limited multitasking capabilities have been limited to a variety of deadline-driven tasks. Now that I’m actually on the road towards my next monastery destination, I wanted to take a moment and share with you some recent experiences.

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Fr Damascene of Platina and Fr Gregory Schultz of St Michael the Archangel (Serbian Archdiocese), celebrate Vespers during the annual Parish Retreat in Huntsville AL, June 1.

After leaving Birmingham AL on Thursday last (May 31), I headed ‘just up the road’ to Huntsville, where Fr Damascene, abbot of St Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina CA, was giving a series of talks for the annual parish retreat of St Michael the Archangel (Serbian Archdiocese – English language).

St Herman’s was, as most of you know, co-founded in the late 1960s by Fr Seraphim Rose of Blessed Memory (†1982) and Abbot Herman (Podmoshensky), who reposed just a couple of years ago. Fr Damascene was one of the last spiritual sons of Fr Seraphim Rose, and is the author or editor of three remarkable and essential books: Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, Christ the Eternal Tao, and Genesis, Creation and Early Man – The Orthodox Christian Vision (by Fr Seraphim Rose, edited by Fr Damascene).

This retreat was a wonderful experience, both for Fr Damascene’s talks on Creation, Salvation, and Deification (deeply immersed in the words of the Holy Fathers of the Church), and for the experience of camping out at Monte Sano State Park with the St Michael’s parish community.

Continue reading “The Western Pilgrimage Begins…”

First Photographs from Dormition Monastery

I’ve been at Dormition Monastery in Rives Jct, Michigan, for a little less than a week now, and am very pleased with several images I’ve made so far. Of course, I’ll post a full gallery after I finish my visit, but I didn’t want to wait that long to share these with you.

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The main church at Dormition Monastery transports you to the heavenlies the moment you enter…

So, I hope you enjoy this small selection of my first photographs in 2018 for the Thebaid book! Scroll down for the slide show…

This visit to Dormition Monastery marks a great start to 2018 for the Thebaid Project. With 15-20 monasteries still to be visited on my pilgrimage, we’re on track with our original plan to finish the photography by early Summer, and have the book printed and in distribution by early Autumn 2018. By pre-ordering the book, you are helping to support a unique photographic pilgrimage to dozens of Orthodox Christian monasteries across the USA and Canada, providing a compelling glimpse into the beautiful, prayerful realm of these monks and nuns, who support the world through their ceaseless prayers.

You can view hundreds of photographs from over a dozen monasteries (so far!) on the Thebaid Project Galleries page. Learn more about the Thebaid Project here.

Asking your prayers and support

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The Thebaid Pilgrimage Resumes – Dormition Monastery, Rives Jct MI

After several weeks working behind the scenes on photo editing, writing and such, I am more than eager to get back on the road and resume my pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian monasteries  across the USA and Canada.

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Aerial view of the new monastery church and main courtyard, from the Dormition Monastery website.

This week I will be at Dormition Monastery in Rives Jct , Michigan, a growing women’s monastery in the Romanian tradition, which has established a strong spiritual presence since its founding three decades ago in 1987.

Watch for more posts and photographs coming soon!

 

Thebaid Presentation at St. Mary of Egypt (OCA), Norcross GA

My heartfelt thanks to Hieromonk Cyprian (DuRant, rector)  and the parish of St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (OCA), in Norcross GA, for hosting me this past Sunday.

The Divine Liturgy was beautiful in this handsome wood-timbered church, itself reminiscent of churches in the Russian north. In spite of the epic snowfall two days before, the church was nearly full, a testimony to this vibrant parish. I gave my presentation during the fellowship meal in the church hall, where I quickly discovered many of the parishioners have strong ties and make pilgrimages to several monasteries in the region.

I am truly grateful to Fr Cyprian for his gracious invitation, Reader Thomas for organizing the event, and to all the faithful, who helped refill the Thebaid Project gas tank with a generous collection.

If you’re ever in the Greater Atlanta area, be sure to search out this parish, a strong and inspiring example of Orthodoxy thriving in the midst of (and in spite of!) our post-modern and post-Christian world. I look forward to scheduling a return visit, with the express purpose of making some photographs for the parish in thanks for their support of the Thebaid Project.

Visit the St Mary of Egypt website here…

Learn more about hosting a Thebaid presentation for your parish here.