Pre-Press Updates, and Thoughts on Printing

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All!

Before starting my update, as we enter into Great Lent, as is our Orthodox praxis and holy tradition, I ask your forgiveness… God forgives!

Monastery of the Transfiguration, the Sisterhood exchanges forgiveness.
Photo © Ralph H. Sidway

The main thing to ask your forgiveness for is the lack of recent updates. It’s not for lack of news, which is significantly more than the recent steady progress (which we are happy for!) we have been making through Autumn and into the Nativity and holiday season. (But I’ll get to that in a moment.) Rather, it’s been a tumultuous couple of months, from coming down with Covid at the end of the year (only mild-to-moderate symptoms, thankfully), to having to pack and move (a process which is nearing its conclusion).

During this same period, St Tikhon’s Press has been seeding their communications with the publishing world equivalent of “teaser trailers” for The North American Thebaid book. Their brief mentions of the Thebaid book in blog posts and emails underscore their commitment and dedication to making it a significant contribution to the life of Orthodoxy in America.

Much of our recent progress has involved setting the introductory texts for each monastery. It has been a joy to revisit my notes and blog posts from my travels as I prepare these brief descriptions, and I hope and trust my reflections on my pilgrimage will resonate with you and others.

I have also been contacting the monasteries to confirm image usage, an especially important process as a couple of the communities were initially somewhat reserved about their inclusion in the Thebaid book. Though I was given their blessing to photograph, the final decision to publish was withheld, so I am most grateful for the positive reception the images and page mockups we sent these monasteries have been embraced, and permission warmly granted for inclusion in the finished book.

One of the biggest “signs” that we are tracking towards publication is the process of securing revised quotes for the printing. This makes it real, and adds a sense of urgency to all our labors in finalizing the texts and formatting, and working through the remaining pre-press photo edits, not to mention the detailed editing, proofreading, spell-checking, etc., which involves bringing in “fresh eyes” to notice what our core team, in our daily familiarity, may have missed.

Lastly (for today), I want to share with you a brief but marvelous post by Fr Mikel Hill, manager of St Tikhon’s Press, in which he raises and answers the question, “Why Print?” His approach is clearly concentrating on the value of printed books of text, but the principles he puts forth can just as powerfully be applied to photographic books. Consider this passage:

The very inconvenience itself of books leads to the formation of a different relationship than one has with digital forms media, which are “conjured forth, then disappear. We consume them.” Books, by contrast, “are embodied. They live in history. They have their own biographies.” They demand commitment, space, and respect. We approach a book with a certain sense of awe and humility, mindful of the many lives this particular volume, this specific paper and ink, this impression by real type upon this page, has shaped and will continue to shape, long after our death.

This reaffirms what I wrote five and six years ago when first launching this project, that “by committing up-front to the finest book printing, image reproduction, archival materials, and state-of-the-art publishing, pre-press and proofing technologies, we have attained a clear vision of our goal and methods, and have great confidence in our ability to create a worthy volume which we hope will be a lasting gift to Orthodox Christians and the Church for many years to come.”

Fr Mikel goes on to describe the virtues of a printed book, which seem to be uncannily appropriate when applied to a photographic book about Orthodox monasticism in North America:

A permanence transcending generations, a rootedness and immobility, and a refusal to reconfigure are each elements that not only shape the experience of reading a book but shape the reader himself. The medium by which we interact with ideas will influence the formation of the ideas themselves. (Emphasis added.)

Elsewhere I have posted about the devaluation of images in a culture where 1.8 billion images are shared each day via social media. Yet in spite of all these images we remain malnourished for the most part. We are left longing for the Image that might Fill us, Move us, Call to us, Change us, Direct us to the Way. In spite of having posted hundreds of my images here in my galleries, I was and am still convinced of the necessity of presenting fine images — photographs — in print form, and particularly, in a large book format. This appreciation for and dedication to The Photographic Book as providing a “permanence transcending generations,” that “not only shapes the experience” of viewing the images, “but shapes the [viewer] himself” is the underlying philosophy of publishing which imbues and propels our work on The North American Thebaid Book as we prepare it for print.

Fr Mikel Hill closes out his article, “Why Print?” with the following:

It is for these reasons that STM Press is committed to promulgating the value of carefully printed and quality bound texts. We are convinced that our efforts to promote the worth of physical books contains a potential to re-shape and transform the way we think and act, that books are in themselves a spiritual tool for the renewing of our minds in an age that has forgotten how to read...

…and forgotten how to see. Do click over and read the full article.

With my recent move (and covid) behind me, watch for not only more frequent progress updates, but a series of posts looking back at the course of this photographic pilgrimage, which has proven also to be an inner pilgrimage. Unsurprisingly.

Thank you for following along on this journey. A good lent to you all.

New Photo Gallery: New Skete, Cambridge NY

I am very pleased to announce an extensive gallery of images (over three dozen!) from my recent pilgrimage to New Skete (OCA), in Upstate New York, near the Vermont border.

This new collection provides glimpses of the divine services, the grounds, and the daily life and work of the monks and nuns of New Skete, who just recently celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the community’s founding in 1966.

Also, this collection takes advantage of a new gallery feature, presenting the images in a tiled mosaic. Click on any image to enlarge and enter an attractive lightbox-style slideshow, with arrows to navigate. I am applying this new layout to all existing galleries, and to all future ones.

Proceed to the New Skete Gallery… 

Please consider contributing to the North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage. We are not funded by the Church, but rely on your support to put gas in the tank! Thank you!

 

When do Tourists become Pilgrims?

Here is a very insightful article/interview on monastery tourists versus true pilgrims. Though coming from a European perspective, the principles for welcoming the curious and showing them the warmth and welcome of Christ’s love are especially applicable to American monasteries.

 

When do Tourists become Pilgrims?

Pravoslavie, October 31, 2017:

There is nothing bad about cameras, provided somebody wants to take pictures of holy sites so that he and his descendants could hold on to memories of that visit. That is very good, but one should remember one important thing.

A pilgrimage is not a mere visit to a geographic location; it is a spiritual exercise which involves physical strain, prayer, meditation, repentance for sins, taking Holy Communion and being with the Lord alone.

Igumen Daniel (Irbits), Abbot of the Monastery of St. George in Götschendorf (Germany), analyzes the characteristics of Christian pilgrimage, and when it has a good effect and when a harmful effect on the human soul.

Abbot Daniel, Burgomaster of Milmersdorf, and Prince Eduard von Anhalt.

—Fr. Daniel, is there such a problem as “spiritual tourism”? If it does exist, then how, in your opinion, does it manifest itself? What are its negative effects on both “spiritual tourists” and monasteries?

—I will speak on the basis of our local experience in Germany, still a modest experience of our small monastery in Götschendorf.

At our St. George’s Monastery we are faced with the phenomenon of “spiritual tourism”, as you call it.

Our monastery is often visited by groups of Germans. These are local Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, representatives of federal and regional authorities of Germany, and public figures. Among our visitors was Eduard, Prince von Anhalt, head of the Ducal House of Saxony. I cannot call all these visits “pilgrimages”. But thanks to encounters like these Germans can know the Russian Orthodox Church and our Russian culture better. And that is of great importance for us, for through such meetings we can bring the light of our faith to the German society and elsewhere.

Let me be quite frank: in many cases people after their acquaintance with Orthodox Christianity in the German lands, German have with time embraced the Orthodox faith. For example, last year the first baptism was performed at our monastery—a young German woman was received into the Orthodox Church.

We live in a non-Orthodox country; to be more precise, we live in the state of Brandenburg—in its predominantly Protestant area—and for native residents (Protestants and atheists alike) the very presence of a Russian Orthodox monastery in the region is something extraordinary; and believe me, it evokes great interest. In my opinion, it is very important that we answer to their interest not with pharisaical arrogance but with our benevolence and willingness to help them get to know Christ.

Continue reading “When do Tourists become Pilgrims?”

New Gallery posted! St Paul Skete, Grand Jct TN

After a couple of months of nearly continuous travel, I am getting caught up on photo editing, and just posted a new gallery of images, these from St Paul Skete (Antiochian, women’s) in Grand Junction, Tennessee, about an hour outside of Memphis.

Please proceed over to the St Paul Gallery to see a selection of images, both of the skete chapels and grounds, and glimpses of the services…

 

Another New Gallery! Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Wayne WV

When I visited the Hermitage of the Holy Cross last October, I was only able to stay for a couple of days due to a last minute schedule change. For this return visit, I was able to stay for several days, which led to several unique images, as I settled more into the rhythm of life.

Well used prayer and service books in theHermitage Guest House icon corner.

It was good to renew my acquaintances with some of the monks I first met last year, and the obvious signs of continued growth, including the completion of St Herman’s House and the new candle workshop, made this an eventful and fruitful visit.

Proceed to the Gallery page for Hermitage of the Holy Cross…

New Gallery Posted! Holy Archangel Michael & All Angels Skete

I’ve just uploaded the new gallery of almost two-dozen photographs from my recent stay at Holy Archangel Michael & All Angels Skete in northwest Missouri. Included are some excerpts from the skete’s website, and additional links and information.

Proceed to the new Gallery…

I’m finally getting caught up on photo editing after three weeks of continuous travel, and plan to post more galleries in the days ahead, so stay tuned!

As always, thank you for your support and prayers!

 

Thebaid Project at the OCA Midwest Diocesan Assembly

Yesterday, October 12, I was at the OCA Diocese of the Midwest Assembly at St Michael’s Orthodox Church in Broadview Heights, south of Cleveland, where I set up my full Thebaid display, and was able to meet and discuss the project with numerous clergy and lay representatives from several states.

Thebaid Project display at the OCA Midwest Diocese Assembly.

I have found that when I meet people and describe the Thebaid Project in person, there is a much more vivid grasp of the inspiration and purpose of the project, and a corresponding affirmation of it. I arrived during the morning registration check-in and breakfast, and had great conversations through the entire day.

Fr John Memorich, the host priest of St Michael’s, asked me if I was going to photograph any dendrites, and I had to admit I was not familiar with the term, so he explained that referred to monastics who lived either in the hollows of trees or in their branches, like St David of Thessalonica, or St Tikhon of Kaluga (see icon at right). So, all you dendrite, tree-dwelling hermits of North America, be on the alert, as I hope to find you and make some photographs of your ascetical, transfigured life (preserving your cherished anonymity and privacy of course!). (Of course, I doubt there are any hermits, living in trees or elsewhere, who are on the internet to read this, so there is a real sense of irony in this musing!)

Continue reading “Thebaid Project at the OCA Midwest Diocesan Assembly”

St Mary of Egypt Parish Presentation on the Thebaid Project – with photos

The weekend of September 16-17 found me at St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (ROCOR) in Roswell GA, where I had been invited by Fr John Townsend to give my presentation on the History of Orthodox Monasticism, and the North American Thebaid Project.

The warm hospitality of the entire parish, the beauty of the church and iconography, and the vivid sense of the nearness of the heavenly kingdom and the saints (especially accentuated by the two reliquaries flanking the nave) embraces one upon entering, and made my experience of Saturday’s Vigil and Sunday’s Divine Liturgy quite lofty and edifying.

As I typically do when visiting parishes, I made some photographs during the Liturgy to gift St Mary’s as a “Thank You”, and wanted to share a few highlights with you.

My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Fr John and the parish, and I look forward to return visits in God’s timing.

If you are interested in scheduling me for a parish presentation, I’d love to make that happen! Please contact me at [zosimas at thebaid dot org], and also check out this page which may answer many of your questions.

Continue reading “St Mary of Egypt Parish Presentation on the Thebaid Project – with photos”

New Photo Gallery: Monastery of the Glorious Ascension

I am very excited to share with you some images from my recent visit to the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension in Resaca GA.

The rugged beauty of the forested grounds, nestled in the mountains of northwest Georgia, and the luminous chapel and monastery building, stir the heart and evoke a deep yearning for God, for the Living God.

I invite you to explore the many new images from Glorious Ascension in the Gallery, and stay tuned, as I am heading to Panagia Vlahernon in Central Florida tomorrow, and hope to have even more photographs posted here early next week.

Proceed to the Photo Gallery…