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.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
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.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
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.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
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.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
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.

North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage
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…”

Recent Elders on Monasticism

First in a new series of blog posts featuring reflections on monasticism by 20th century Orthodox monks and nuns.

In working on the design for the North American Thebaid coffee table book — the publishing goal of my two-year photographic pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian monasteries of the USA & Canada — I am going back through favorite books for pithy sayings on monasticism and the spiritual life. Some of these may make it into the finished Thebaid book, providing prose glimpses into the monastic way to complement the photographs.

Some are lofty, some are challenging (a ‘hard word’), but in every case, it is a joy to rediscover these pearls, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

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“The spiritual life has great joys. You fly away and leave this world and don’t take anything else into consideration. You become a child and God lives in your heart.”

“Love Christ, have humility, prayer, and patience. These are the four points of your spiritual compass. May the magnetic needle be your youthful Christian heart.”

“My children, I don’t want paradise without you.”

~ Elder Amphilochios of Patmos (†1970)

From  Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit

 

Special Thebaid Presentation at St Symeon Food & Culture Fair, Sat. April 28!

StSymeon-FoodCultureFairBanner-2018

I hope you can join me for the St Symeon Food & Culture Fair for a special day of events, presentations, beautiful chorale music, food, exhibits, church tours, and much more. 

I will be giving an introductory presentation on Orthodox Christian Monasticism throughout the day, featuring photographs from over a dozen monasteries in North America from my book project, The North American Thebaid.

When & Where:

  • Saturday, April 28, 10am – 4pm • Event Page
  • at St Symeon Orthodox Church • Website
  • 3101 Clairmont Ave, Birmingham AL 35205 • Map

Continue reading “Special Thebaid Presentation at St Symeon Food & Culture Fair, Sat. April 28!”

New Gallery & Thebaid Project Update

Major news on key aspects of the North American Thebaid project, plus a new gallery of monastery images, makes this a very special update…

Cemetery Chapel in winter, Dormition Monastery, Rives Jct, Michigan

Well, it wasn’t exactly intentional, but following my pilgrimage to the Dormition of the Mother of God Monastery in Rives Jct, Michigan in early February, my photo editing workload resulted in me taking a break from posting online. So I’m especially eager to share with you some new images and the latest developments.

Continue reading “New Gallery & Thebaid Project Update”

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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