The Exterior of the Church (the Katholikon)
Why go on pilgrimage? For me, I think I need this time to quiet my mind. Monasteries are places where great battles are fought- the battle for peace, for prayer, to destroy the passions. Most lay people visit monasteries so they can enter into that battle for a short time. Pilgrims participate in the longer services, observe the same fasting rules as the monastics and generally spend the time in silence and prayer. Monasticism is very attractive to me, mostly because I long for a life of constant prayer... the prayer of the heart.
I am not a person who enjoys silence. At. All. I can't clean do the simplest chore without the sound of something in my ear. Its almost paralyzing... silence.
I'll be using my ipod for the journey up and back, but while I'm there... there will be no headphones and no music... maybe no Kindle. I do want to finish The Way of the Pilgrim on this trip, but in order to avoid temptation, I hope to keep the ipod tucked safely away.
We will be attending Vespers in the evening, followed by dinner with the nuns. The Midnight office begins at 6am the next morning, which means a wake time of maybe 5:30 or so. Divine Liturgy is at 8:30. The good news is that the fasting before communion will be easy because 1) There's no access to food beforehand and 2) Liturgy is so early.
The interior of the katholikon
As a woman, I will never ascend the Holy Mountain, Mt. Athos. But I hope to take advantage of these times away. We are so fortunate, on the west coast, to have access to a number of monasteries. I can think of at least six or seven in our state alone! And I hope to visit all of them.
I am a little intimidated, I confess. This will be an entirely new experience for me as an Orthodox Christian. I'll report back soon...