Simple & Fine – Interview With Mihai Morar – Part 221 May 2022
Temptations, Trials and Help in the Construction of the Cell – Father Pimen Vlad26 May 2022
There is a lot of confusion regarding what the Holy Mountain is, how one can come to Athos, and how we should behave in the Garden of the Mother of God.
We handled the subject spiritually, also taking into account the fact that ladies follow us too.
Thank you for the footage and specific explanations related to the steps one must take to come to the Holy Mountain (footage from inside and outside of the Holy Mountain) Mr. Mihail Urdea, a very experienced guide who lives in Ouranoupoli, the main port of the Holy Mountain, and who very often organizes such pilgrimages.
You can contact him for pilgrimages in Athos or in Greece at 0040 743 503 814 or 0030 694 560 8981 or at the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is at https://manastiri.info/
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us! Amen.
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Today’s clip is going to be a little more special, a little different. Why? Because I’m going to talk about the Pilgrim’s Guide to Mount Athos. And I’m going to talk about it because so many of you want to come to the Holy Mountain and so many of you don’t know how to come to the Holy Mountain and what should be done in the Holy Mountain.
Of course, there are many women, many ladies who are watching us and because of that, I will try to speak as spiritually as possible, as broadly as possible, so that this clip will be engaging for the ladies as well. And I think that because as you will see, we’re going to put images from the Holy Mountain and other locations in the video, I think it will be useful for the ladies as well.
Let’s get started!
First of all, what I want to say about the Holy Mountain is that the first thing a pilgrim should know is that the Holy Mountain is not a tourist place, but a spiritual place. And this spirituality comes from the fact that we are far from the world, distanced from the world. We love people, but we need to be away from them. Why? So that we can maintain this spirituality.
If you remember, we talked at lenght in one of our previous podcasts about leaving the world. This was actually the title.
As I said, we love people very much and you must love them too, but physically speaking, we must be far away. And that goes for you too. We need to set a boundary; we need to have time for prayer. Because if we are with people, we can no longer be with God, as St. Arsenios the Great says.
That’s why we all have to have a program, a spiritual program. I say these things which are essential, it goes without saying that each one of you does not stay all day with people. But when someone comes to the Holy Mountain, people, poor them, consider that we have to be available to them 24 hours a day at their disposal, at the disposal of the pilgrims.
Brethren, it’s quite difficult, you should know! It’s quite difficult. Of course, everyone wants our attention, but as I said, we can’t, we really can’t, because we don’t have time. And beyond that, as I was saying, it’s not good to be in constant contact with people. And I don’t say that out of hate, but it’s true for all of us, as I was saying. If one, whether a monk or a layman, continually wants to be with people and to know all the things of the world and so on, you will see that he ends up hating people or at least their presence.
That’s why we understand that we should have a distance from you. Not out of hate – again! To limit the number of pilgrims, and that’s not only because it’s not useful to be with you, but we don’t have the space.
So if you look in the back, it’s our guesthouse. It’s just a house. Upstairs there are three rooms, and downstairs are the kitchen and the store. So brethren, don’t imagine that we have unlimited rooms.
And the same, of course, in other places in the Holy Mountain… Of course, monasteries can have more spots than we do, but… And likewise, I think of monasteries in Romania or elsewhere, there are not unlimited places, and the monks and the nuns of course can’t be all day long with you, with lay people.
Once again, we love you, but our work is different. We must pray, we must have our study period, our period of time in which we earn our living, right? So think what would happen if all day long we were… or you, think of yourselves, if you were all day long with your visitors, with your loved ones who come to visit you. Well, what would you be working on? What would you do? The same is true for us. And considering that we have many more pilgrims than you. Do you understand?
So think what it would be like to have dozens of pilgrims like we have here. So that’s why it’s very good for us and for you to be discerning and to set a boundary to this. Once again, we understand your desire very well, but we do what we can!
Now, as I was saying, due to the fact that this is a spiritual place and not a tourist place, because of that, your behavior must be appropriate. Everyone’s behavior. And here it’s not just referring to the Holy Mountain, but of course, I think very humbly, in any place, any spiritual settlement in the world.
So people, please, no worldly talk, no laughter, let’s not raise our voices! Things like this happen. Why? I am not saying that it is because of malice, it’s not that, it’s just that it’s a very beautiful environment. I don’t know if you can hear the birds singing and I’ve filmed this on purpose now to show this state of peace, of tranquility, of actual heaven on earth. Well, and in this state, at some point, some people come and start to feel good, and start to laugh, start to have fun… Brethren, it’s not good! Let’s watch ourselves a little bit.
That’s one part of it. On the other hand, brethren, also in order to maintain the spiritual environment, try not to see everything at once! “I want to see that, and that and that and that, and the other side and all that!”
Brethren, you will not be able to and it will not be of use! This must be handled in a different way, I’ll tell you when I get to it, as I want to say things very systematically.
First of all, I want to tell you what you should and should not want. First of all, you should want – it is much better to want – to stay in one place. Not to go around and around continually. Stay in one place and, of course, talk to spiritual people in that place, ask if they have someone to give you a word, to give you a useful word, because that’s what the Holy Mountain is for.
Of course you’re all thinking about pilgrimage, yes… But, as I said, things are not as simple as you think. This is a mountain. It is the Holy Mountain. So Athon, is up there at 2033 meters brethren, and we are on the mountain and there are forest roads. There are no paved roads and there are no cars, only at Kareya there are some minibuses that you can ride but only with reservations and so on.
The best thing to do is to talk to the guides and they will help you to get into the Holy Mountain and to make a pilgrimage. The guides who know the ropes here. I’ll talk a little more about the guides. I will say some things.
At (almost) any place you want to stay, a reservation is required. Why? Because there are so many of you and we have 3 rooms here, as I said. We have to somehow manage these things and, because of that, you have to send in your wish in advance, very early on, and within the limit of available places we can make a reservation for you. And of course, the moment you really want to come, you have to confirm it. I mean, a day before you leave Romania, send a message, an email so that we know, “Father, we are coming!”
Why? Because the kitchen is downstairs and the kitchen is one room here. Well, and for us, if a group comes and occupies two rooms, or doesn’t come, of course for the cook it’s very important. God forbid, we don’t want to throw the food away! Do you understand?
So brethren, make your reservation early. Have a small group. I forgot to say that. You need to make a small group. Why? Because if you come as a group of 10 people in 3 rooms then brethren, where will the others go? So let’s somehow try to balance things out.
Small group, very early send your request by mail. Write in the title of the email or, on the website: “reservation” or something… so that I know, because I’m in charge of this, that it’s about a reservation because we have a lot of emails and please forgive me, sometimes I do not manage to read them all.
As for the commemoration lists, you should know that we read absolutely all of them! So the commemoration lists are being read, they are the top priority, both your commemoration lists and the donations that come in through the website, through the Stripe account that we have, everything is top priority and nothing gets left behind. And even the fathers, indeed the whole congregation, you should know, we commemorate you (in prayer). So don’t worry in regards to the commemoration lists.
As far as emails are concerned, and especially if you write a lot of emails, it’s very difficult to reply. So when it comes to commemoration lists and reservations, we prioritize those.
Now, brethren, since we are talking about the fact that we are so very, very crowded please, we will receive you only for two days, maximum two days. It’s true that most of you stay only one day, it’s true, God bless you, but there are some who want to stay a very long time. We simply can’t because, as I said, we have a lot of requests and this is true throughout the Holy Mountain and it’s very difficult – if we receive someone for a long time, then the others don’t have any room.
The only ones who will stay longer are those who actually work or so on. But clearly, only two days, brethren. It is very difficult to host you for more because, as I said, it is not fair to the others.
Again, what I want to tell you about accommodations, about reservations at other monastic establishments. So folks, the Holy Mountain is a 52 km peninsula and monastic settlements are scattered, they are spread across the Holy Mountain. In the forest. Ok… If the monastic settlements are like that, it means that we cannot book elsewhere, meaning that we have no right to. Every monastery, every place, every cell has its guests, its own pilgrims. We’re independent and you can imagine – to ask so-and-so or to go to some monastery: “You know, please accommodate…” It doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t work because they have their own. Do you understand? Each of us is self-governed and that’s why we can’t do this.
If you want to come to us, just say so, and, of course, we can’t facilitate transport either. Reservations at other monastic establishments and transport, these you can arrange with a guide, brethren, or of course directly with the monastic establishment in question.
With us, we can’t provide transport, why? Because we have one car and a bit… two cars – one is older in its own way – and the roads are very bad. We are also vitally dependent on the car because we are in the mountains and we can’t go anywhere without a car. So because of that brethren, don’t think that you will come to us and have something to go with. That’s for you to sort out.
Of course there are some solutions, but as I said, the best is with a guide or if you have the phone number from the Kareya office – the minibus office in Kareya.
Here, our cars are… you’ll see…
It’s a safari….
But you can do it!
Is it scratching the car? Is it scratching the car, father?
He is talking to you…
Tell him we fought Father Elefterie and Father Elefterie won.
Give it gas, Viorel, give it gas, these are small bushes, nothing will break!
And Father Silouan, when he was on Antiathon, he went through some much bigger bushes…by the way…
Father… Father, if Father Gamaliil finds out, I am wreck…
A ranger took wood from here… Many trailers here…
It’s not a bad road. I thought it was going to be a serious safari, but it’s good, it’s ok….
Yes, very good… It’s also full of mushrooms…
The car in the Holy Mountain is, as you can see, indispensable. It looks like this. The grey color you see is the dust on the roads. So it’s not to be trifled with. You should know that our cars are in high demand.
Yes… As you can see, the car is like in a safari… So what I want to point out to you, brethren, is that it’s not a joke in the Holy Mountain – one. And two – it’s very difficult for us if you ask for our cars because without cars, we’re dead.
Now we’re going to go to the forest and of course, we can’t go there on foot, with the chainsaw and all the equipment because it’s a mountain, brethren. So look how beautiful the mountain is! Sensational, but it’s very difficult to climb up on something like this, you should know.
Now, as you can see, that’s pretty much how it is. Of course guides can also make pilgrimages. So they can take you to monasteries to worship and so on.
If you want to worship, brothers, I urge you to keep quiet and if the fathers are not available, do not start shouting: “We really want Father Pimen!” or my humble self or so on. If we’re not there, that’s it… Please forgive us! We have a schedule too. Maybe we are resting, yes… among other things.
So please respect this! Of course there will be a father or the guide to look after you.
Well, when you worship at ours and other cells, you should know that there is carpet on the floor, in the church, it’s very beautiful, it’s a very intimate setting, a very spiritual setting, but of course, you have to take your shoes off in those places. Now, it’s not a big deal, but I’m telling you because some people don’t know and are surprised by it.
This is a custom, rather, at the cells. In monasteries, things are more formal, the church is bigger and there is no carpet and you can go inside.
Now that we’re here, regarding worship, I’d better tell you about the kerasma. The famous kerasma or treat. The treat is a very old custom of the Holy Mountain, which consists of something sweet, a glass of water and a small glass of ouzo, rakia, whatever. Now, so that you don’t get outraged, let me tell you why these things are given.
Because in the old days, people used to come on foot, there were no cars like there are today, and because of that people lost a lot of energy on the road. They were weary from the road and because of that they were given something sweet so that they could get some of that energy back. Then they were given the glass of water to recover the water they had lost, and lastly, they were given the small glass of liquor, ouzo or rakia. Why? Not to get people drunk, but to raise their body temperature so they don’t get a cold. Because in the old days, people coming from the road were sweaty. And when stopping, they could get a cold and because of that, through this drink of liquor the body temperature was raised and they were all good. To this day the tradition is preserved.
Now, you should know that to come here, the moment you enter the Holy Mountain, you have to get an entry permit. The famous diamonitirion or entry permit. Why? Because the Holy Mountain is another state. We are talking about a different country, it’s not an independent country, it’s a state annexed to the Greek state, to Greece, and because of that: one – you need entry permits, you need visas brethren, diamonitirions they are called; and two – in the Holy Mountain there is the Greek police, Greek customs and so on – so the state authorities of Greece – because we are not interested in politics. So you need visas – permits to enter the Holy Mountain.
Now, you need to know that these are going to be best solved by… – that’s why I say it, because there are quite a lot of steps – …for the first time it would be good to come with a guide. But if you can do it yourself, no problem.
These permits to enter the Holy Mountain, these diamonitirions are taken from Ouranoupoli or in some cases from Ierissos, so on the other side of the Holy Mountain, if you want to go to Vatopedi, Iviron and so on. But mainly at Ouranoupoli, brothers. So if you don’t know and are not told where to get your diamonitirions, come to Ouranoupoli and get them from there.
From there, take a boat – there are several routes. You’ll find these at Ouranoupoli when you get the diamonitirions. You have the schedule of the ships on our website as well, there is a page with it. Go to Menu and click on Access to Athos and there you will see the schedule of boats.
Now, I think you may find these things a bit much, but in order for you to see them visually and understand them much better, we will give the word to a very good friend of ours, a very old acquaintance of mine and ours, in fact, the whole cell knows him: Mihai Urdea. He is a guide who knows those of the Holy Mountain very well. Why? Because he lives in Ouranoupoli and I asked him to film all these things and now I’m going to edit Mihai’s clips in this video that I’m doing now, at the end.
I’ll maybe put some explanations so you know what to do. But as I said, it’s best to use a guide at first. You can use Mihai himself. Mihai has a website – it’s called Panagia Orthodox Pilgrimages Association. Maybe I’ll put the link somewhere down in the description of the article, in the description of the post and there you’ll find Mihai’s contact info, if you want. He also handles freight and people transport from the Holy Mountain and Greece.
You should know that, since I keep talking about Mihai and because I asked him to make these videos, I must mention that Mihai doesn’t pay us. Such thoughts may arise because now you will say that I promote Mihai. I’m not promoting Mihai. We just asked him to make some videos for you and so he doesn’t pay us, we don’t pay him, it’s just a love relationship between us. Since such thoughts may arise…that we are promoting him. We are not promoting Mihai. You should know that the relationship between us and him is purely friendly. I’m saying this so we don’t have trouble.
And I asked him. Why? Because he lives in Ouranoupoli and is in the Holy Mountain all day he knows the places very well, he is helpful, he has a cell phone and I told him: “Mihai, please film!” Well, and now Mihai will explain in a series of videos all the steps to follow when arriving in Ouranoupoli.
God help us! May the good God help us! Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us!
Mihai, take it from here!
We are in front of the pilgrims’ office at Ouranoupoli where every pilgrim must obtain the necessary permits to enter the Holy Mountain. Without these diamonitirions, as we call them or permits to enter the Holy Mountain, no one can reach the Garden of the Mother of God.
The hours of operation of the office are from 6am to 1pm. For now, until this restriction is lifted, any pilgrim must test against the Covid-19 virus in this office. The moment he receives a negative test result, he can go and pick up his permit to enter the Holy Mountain.
This is the office where the Aghioritiches Grames ferry tickets are purchased. The Athonite routes, the Holy Mountain routes. It’s 150 meters away from diamonitirions office.
After picking up your tickets, you’ll walk for a few minutes along the pathway of terraces to the tower in the distance. There the ship or the motorboat is waiting for you, depending on your choice and, of course, on your reservation.
There is also the option of taking a fast taxi boat departing from this location for up to 8 passengers, so 1 to 8 passengers. It is only booked by phone.
– Entering the Holy Mountain by fast boat (taxi) –
This is the main port of the Holy Mount Athos: Daphne. This is where most pilgrims arrive who don’t get off earlier on the route at the ports of the other monasteries. From here, minibuses are taken to Kareya. Now it’s afternoon and there are only these speedboats for taxi hire. The other ships serve this port, departing from Ouranoupoli in the early part of the day until 12pm. And the last one to leave is the Agia Ana ferry, during the week sometime at quarter to 4 on regular days. On weekends, it leaves a little earlier, around 3 o’clock.
This is also where the customs services check to make sure that no heritage items are taken out of the Holy Mountain.
Daphne main port.
This is the central square of the capital of the Holy Mountain: Karyes. This is where the minibuses come to pick up the pilgrims to drop them off at the monasteries where they are staying. Also from here, you can rent cars to go to several monasteries in one day. Like booking for 8 hours and going to a few monasteries.
– On the minibus on the forest roads –
It is wonderful to travel on the path that connects the capital Karyes to Iviron Monastery where we find the miraculous icon of the Mother of God Panagia Portaitissa. It is a very quiet path, the old link between the capital and Iviron Monastery. According to tradition, the Mother of God would have walked along this path in ancient times, going from Clement’s harbor to Karyes.
It’s lovely when you get to the monastery, you can see the top of Athon in the distance and the sea.
It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I would like to introduce you to the means of departing from the Holy Mountain in the afternoon as ferry and boat routes serve the Holy Mountain from Ouranoupoli to the monastery ports and the port of Daphne in the early part of the day. They leave successively from morning to afternoon.
The last means of transport by sea, the last ferry is the Agia Ana, which departs at quarter to 4 during the week from the port of Daphne. Sundays, at quarter to 3. During the weekdays it reaches Ouranoupoli at 5:30pm. On public holidays, Saturdays and Sundays, they go an hour earlier.
As filming on the Holy Mountain is forbidden without the approval of the monasteries or the superiors of the place where you want to record, permission exists for those who film from the boat. We left this afternoon asking the captain of the boat to pick us up from Xenophontos Monastery and in about an hour and a half, we will arrive at the port of Ouranoupoli where our pilgrimage ends. There are two ways of access by sea – the main one from Ouranoupoli and the secondary one, let’s say, or the second route for those who want to reach the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi or Iviron, when the sea is calm, with small boats you can go from the port of Ierissos.
Also, in exceptional cases, when the sea is rough and the access is impossible by sea… the coastguard usually decides this, because there are cases when it seems to us that the sea is calm and it could be sailed, that there is not a big storm, but the authority that decides this is the coastguard. …
Then the land border opens where there is no car access, just a simple gate through which a man can pass and if someone comes from inside the Mountain to receive you, then you are allowed to enter the Holy Mountain by land.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
You’ve seen Mihai. We thank him very much.
So very briefly, brethren, you need to get your diamonitirions, that is, your entry visa to the Holy Mountain. Before that you need to make a reservation at one of the monastic settlements on the Holy Mountain.
Having a reservation does not mean you have a diamonitirion unless the monastic settlement in question issues one.
And if you have a diamonitirion, it does not mean that you have a reservation at that monastic settlement.
Diamonitirions can’t be transferred so to speak… You can’t go with the diamonitirion from one monastic settlement to another monastery or somewhere else where you have a reservation because it is difficult. I mean, it is a surprise for them, and we hope it is not an unpleasant surprise.
That said, and above all, as I was saying, let’s all be aware – especially us monks who are here – aware that we are in the Garden of the Mother of God.
We look forward to seeing you! Of course, within the limits of our possibilites, and we want all of us to pray together, to be united and together to go, through our spiritually on this earth, to our heavenly realm. May the good God help us!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us!
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