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.
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.”
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.
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’.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Continued growth and progress as we pass the midpoint of the Thebaid Project, but we need contributions to keep gas in the tank!
This was originally posted to our GoFundMe and Indiegogo crowdfunding sites last week.
Thebaid Project Update, January 2018
Dear Friends, Supporters, and Fellow Thebaid Pilgrims,
I hope you all had a blessed Christmas, New Year and Theophany season!
No, you didn’t miss an update in December, I did! But this one is well worth the wait, covering recent travel, upcoming schedule, and two special announcements.
Announcement #1 — We are officially at the midpoint of the photography, with fifteen monasteries photographed to date, and dozens of images already selected for the book. WE’re on track to finish the photography by June (or July), and for the book to be sent to the printer soon after that, to be in distribution by Autumn 2018.
Announcement #2 — I have been in communication with a leading Orthodox publisher since just before the new year. No agreement in writing yet so we cannot share any details, but their interest in publishing the Thebaid book is yet a further affirmation of the Thebaid Project.
MONASTERY PHOTOGRAPHY —
NOVEMBER 14-19, 2017 — Monks and Nuns of New Skete (OCA), Cambridge NY. Having just celebrated their 50th Anniversary, New Skete is perhaps best known outside the Orthodox Church for their breeding and training of German Shepherd dogs. You can view my extensive gallery of images at thebaid.org. My heartfelt thanks to Br. Christopher, Sr. Cecilia, and the communities of New Skete for their invitation and hospitality.
NOVEMBER 20, 2017 — Skete of St. John the Theologian (ROCOR), Hiram OH. This was a brief, “get acquainted” visit, to a small but historic monastic community in northern Ohio. I hope to return soon to do some serious photography, but on my blog you can get a good sense of the beauty of the chapel and grounds from the few photos made with my iPhone.
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.
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.
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.
Due to travel, I was unable to post an update in early October, so there is a great deal to report in this Thebaid Update. As always, please forgive me if this post duplicates an update you received through our GoFundMe or Indiegogo platforms.
Let’s dive right in:
As I reported back in August, thanks to a generous sponsor, I have been able to eliminate housing costs. My sincere thanks also to supporters in Atlanta, Akron and Cincinnati, who have hosted me in their homes at various points, which have saved literally hundreds of dollars in hotel and meal costs.
MONASTERY TRAVELS —
SEPTEMBER 26-29 — I made my first pilgrimage to Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete in Weatherby MO. The St Xenia Sisterhood is adjacent to the men’s skete. Many unique images from this warm and welcoming community…
OCTOBER 3-5 — While traveling in September, I was emailing with Mother Nektaria at St Paul Skete in Grand Jct TN, east of Memphis, and we blocked out a few days for me to stay and photograph, resulting in a blessed visit and several exceptional images.
OCTOBER 18-20 — Hermitage of the Holy Cross, Wayne WV — This is a return visit to the Hermitage, as my first trip there last year had to be cut short due to a scheduling conflict on my end. I’ve been very eager to make this return trip, and the timing for Fall colors couldn’t be much better.
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.
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.
—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.
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.