A special journey this season of lent.

 

This past Friday, my dear friend and I decided to take a little pilgrimage to St. Paul’s Monastery in Plaka near Lavrion. Our desire was to leave the realm of city life for a moment to attend the 4th Salutations to Virgin Mary in peace and stillness. Happily, peace and stillness is what we found. We discovered one of the most magical places in our midst. Just when we thought we could drive no longer (or any further), having been in the car for 60 minutes, we finally saw a small sign pointing to the monastery. We drove up the hill and found its lush gardens that surround and protect the monastery from the outside world, The gardens literally make it invisible from the outside. We entered through the black gate and ascended the stairs to find the main church. Aalthough relatively newly-built, the church was constructed in a classical style similar to older churches.  A basic cruciform plan, with chant stands on either side.  The barrel vault and apse above the altar embrace lovely paintings, newly executed. A few people attended the mass in a pious atmosphere. Psalms were chanted by the nuns and filled the pilgrims’ hearts and souls with feelings of relief and refuge – a kind of esoteric meeting between souls.

 

The monastery, primarily a nunnery, hosts nuns from 13 countries making it a multinational religious point. Besides their religious activities, the dedicated nuns are diligently occupied with farm work and other handicrafts. The fruit of their labour has greatly benefited the monastery and their livelihood – All products produced at the monastery are for sale, visitors can uy products such as cheese, herbs, homemade marmalades & sweets as well as an array of handicrafts.

After we treated ourselves to one of these delicacies, we casted one last look at the breathtaking view the monastic enclosure offers of the Lavrion coast and the city of Athens. Driving away, we were accompanied with the echo of the nuns soft voices singing praise to the Virgin.