Wednesday, March 18, 2009

3/18/2009 Tagalong to a Monastery

Today, fifteen of us from the park visited St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ. I don't really know why I wanted to go here. I'm not Greek, I'm not into monks although I have watched the TV show Monk a time or two. We couldn't make the trip last year and when I scheduled it this year I was determined to go. Again, I don't know why because I've never even heard anything about this place. Something draws me to it and I can't explain it. Bob didn't make it because we sold the truck, YES, WE SOLD THE TRUCK (!) and there was a possibility it could be picked up this morning. We wouldn't know until morning when the call came if the pick up would take place or not so he had to hang around. He missed a good trip!

Let me tell you a little about this place.

Six monks arrived in the summer of 1995 to establish this monastery in the Sonoran desert. Elder Ephraim, a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, having restored and repopulated four Mt. Athos monasteries and having established several men's and women's monastic communities in Greece and North America, transferred six Athonite monks to Arizona to start a new monastery.

Upon their arrival to this barren section of desert the fathers set to task to build, first, the main church, living quarters, the dining hall and guest facilities. A vegetable garden, a small vineyard, citrus orchards and an olive grove round out the landscape.

Our first look at the monastery as we entered the parking lot.


As we walk through the gate.....


To the immediate left is a covered area where women are to get the clothes needed if they are not properly attired. It is a requirement that all guests be modestly dressed. Men are to wear long pants, long sleeve shirts and to be sure to have socks on, even if wearing sandals. Women are to wear long skirts, well below the knee, long sleeve blouses and scarves, not hats, scarves.


I took with me a plaid long sleeved blouse in shades of pinks and golds to wear over my tangerine colored top. The ladies who helped you with selecting the clothes tried their best to make you "match" but as with my blouse, well there was no matching going on with my wardrobe. I did get a pretty bright pink scarf though. I'll show you a picture later. Stay tuned, you don't want to miss this!

An elaborate system of gardens, pathways and gazebos with fountains truly render the monastery and its extensive grounds an oasis in the desert.


What I just couldn't get enough of was the fragrance in the air. It was sweet and light and tantalizing all rolled into one. I stopped every few steps and just breathed deeply, I couldn't get enough of this scent. If I could bottle it I'd be an instant millionaire I'm sure.


Just a small sampling of the beautiful flowers here.


This is the main church on the complex.


I was surprised at how ornate the interior of the church was. I always think of monks as a simplistic group where elaborate adornment would not come into play.


This silver chandelier is hand tooled, if that is the correct term, and just breathtaking!


We stood before this painting and couldn't help but notice the jewelry hanging from a wire fashioned on it. It seems that when the Virgin Mary is asked for an answer to a prayer that the one asking leaves a "gift", a gold chain, an engagement ring, a wedding ring, we were surprised at the jewelry left.


The Bishop comes twice a year from San Francisco, it is in this chair he sits during services.


We all said that no should ever complain about our metal folding chairs in the Carnaval Room after seeing these.


The paintings were just beautiful with their inlaid jewels and silver.


The monastery follows the rule of monastic life, a brotherhood of monks and novices holding all things in common follow a daily schedule of prayer and work under obedience to the abbot, their spiritual father. The monk's daily program begins at midnight with personal prayer time and spiritual reading, followed by the cycle of morning prayers and the Divine Liturgy.

After a light breakfast and a rest period, the monks begin their work day, attending to prayer and their tasks till evening. Tasks may include construction, grounds keeping, gardening, woodworking, publishing, food preparation, and offering hospitality.

This is The Central Fountain.


Views from the grounds....


Isn't this one healthy looking palm?


This is where the monks live.




The citrus groves.




St. George Chapel Belfry.


It was getting warm in our long sleeves and long pants/dresses so everyone was dipping their hands in the cool water of the fountains.


There were fountains at every turn......


.....and another fountain. It was very nice that these were around because being able to put your hands into them did help cool you down with the overabundance of clothing we were wearing.


We went into one of the chapels and I was just so taken with the woodwork in the ceiling.



The carving of wood is truly something to behold.




One of the walkways.


Every once in awhile we could come to a cool green oasis like this. It took everything I had not to take my shoes off and walk through this grass!


Being in the desert for the past six months you can imagine how wonderful this green grass looked to us!


Now I don't mean to be disrespectful here, but we girls were trying to figure out what the females in this religion are called. Nuns? Sisters? Monk-ettes?


Now is the time I know you've all been waiting for, the latest in monastery fashions!





Friends, Kathy and Lyle taking a break in a shaded area.


Before we left I found these snap dragons blooming.


So this was my day with friends at St. Anthony's Monastery. I still don't know what the draw was for me because I didn't feel any spiritual draw and or any other kind for that matter. Maybe I just knew it was going to be an oasis and after six months of the desert brown.....I needed that.

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