God blessed us with yet another day! To Meteora we went, translated as "the barrier between heaven and earth", visiting monasteries built on immense cliffs.
Yana Skrypai shared with us some of her own reflections on the journey so far:
"Slava Isusu Christu!
I really like the size of the small group of the trip. It is easier to get to know everyone during the journey and our shared meals. With new friends coming from as far as California, Texas, and Boston, people from diverse places, we found one united force: our Faith. The culture is extremely different from my experience from home, especially with the triple parking, but this only continues to reflect the ease as found in time with coffee being considered sacred. The people are very nice. Like our trip to the Meteora, we continue our ascent, both in culture and in faith."
After speaking with Eleni Farrell from Philadelphia, USA she shared the following on our way to Meteora,
“I think the religion is intertwined with the culture here in Thessaloniki. At home there is a separation of Church and State that feels unnatural. The full submersion in the faith is astounding here. Even at home attending a Catholic University per-se is not enough and leaves you yearning for something more. In Orthodoxy there is such a push for Agape (unconditional love) that here we find in everyone, they are so kind and welcoming. Their mannerisms make us feel like family and not strangers in a strange land. It is inspiring to see what Church and State can become when they are united. God’s presence here is deliberately acknowledged and embraced. Thanksgiving for His unconditional love is shown with gratitude, the eye is turned away from the ego and back to Him. The culture has experienced many hardships as our hosting priest Fr. Spyridon shared, from WWI, WWII to Civil and recent persecutions, still God is at the forefront of the helm of this great ship, this living ark called Thessaloniki we’ve enjoyed. Despite the antiquity of our faith it is no museum piece. It is live action history you become a part of, with the saints being canonized in our time…. its amazing."
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Last night, we were blessed to attend a catechism for the deaf community in Thessaloniki, led completely in Greek Sign Language by Fr. Spyridon, our host Priest
After a 3-hour journey, we arrived together at the legendary monasteries of Meteora. Famous around the world for their remarkable locations among ancient cliffs, they bear especially precious value in the Orthodox world.
There are multiple monasteries at Meteora, the first of which we visited was St. Stephen's, a women's monastery.
Fr. Jonathon Bannon shares with the students some information on the Monastery and the relics within.
We ascended into the heart of the Monastery with open minds
Sister Haralampia shares with us some of the history of the Monastery, and remains with us throughout our time and provides theological insights well into our visit.
St. Haralambos, 2nd Century Saint, has special devotion at this Monastery, where we venerated his precious relics.
Fathers & students behold the images above in the Monastery Church, as Fr. Vasilios Flagas teaches.
The Church at the Monastery of St. Stephen, Meteora
Our second Monastery was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and by far the most difficult to reach!
We traveled together to reach the Monastery of the Holy Trinity
Steep and sharp cliffs beckoned as we began our climb
Winding paths and steep steps exhausted the travelers, but entirely worth the efforts
We learned how materials were brought up, piece by piece, stone by stone, in order to build the monastery.
Not only were stones like this hoisted up the mountain, but individuals had to be lifted one-by-one with rope.
Students lit candles as we entered the Church
A view of the other remarkable Monasteries
A view of the town at the base of the cliffs
Students breach the border between heaven and earth way above.
Joined together for a small group photograph
The last of the travelers