Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My first Greek Monastery

(Yes! It's more catching up, for your condimentary delight! ... Get it? Ketchup? Condiments? Har. Okay, enough corny parenthesis.)

Until July 29 of this year, I had only been to Romanian monasteries, including the beautiful women's monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan, and the ones we visited in Romania, of course.

So after quite a few attempts at putting it on the calendar and then having to postpone, we called ahead and were encouraged to drive up to the Annunciation of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery near Ocala, Florida.

The grounds were quite spacious, resting comfortably in the middle of horse country. (Seriously, there are nothing but horse ranches and farms as you get closer to the monastery.) Since there are only three monastics (women) living there, Orthodox parishioners who live nearby come to help out with the grounds. When we were there, a lady and her two sons and a little girl were also there. The boys were out attacking the tall grass on riding lawn mowers, and the lady and her friend's little girl helped prepare some of the iconographic materials (by doing things like shellacking).

We didn't see anyone besides the two boys who were mowing when we first arrived, so we made our way to the bookstore on our search to find people. Since we had been spotted walking (or waddling) across the courtyard, we were greeted by the abbess (as I later found out) in the bookstore. She seemed to glow and was full of life, helping us look at things in the bookstore, and pulling out icons of St. Anna from the back when I indicated I was interested, even talking avidly about the state of the Church today.

We had lunch with the lady and little girl (one of the boys coming in later) in the guests' dining room. The nuns ate separately, but one kept coming in to make sure we had all we wanted. Boy, did we! There was fish, the most bestest pasta I've ever had, salad, bread, and feta ... and then brownies. Poor Fr. Peter suffered through his favorite summer treat: watermelon. We helped clear and clean, then went back to the bookstore to purchase things before vespers. We bought an icon of St. Anna, some charcoal, a box of wicks with wickholders (the lamp on the altar at Holy Trinity wasn't staying lit), and the book From I-ville to You-ville. We also bought a little pin of the Panagia, like the little pins which Orthodox parents affix to the clothing of their little babies so that they can have something like a cross, but without the danger of having something around the neck. I pinned it over my belly and the abbess laughed. Evidently this was new to her, but I couldn't wait to have something from the Church just for Bunny.

We had a nice little vespers, all in Greek, with quite a bit of consternation: Fr. Peter hadn't done weekday vespers with certain rubrics since seminary (where they evidently did things differently), and the sisters were used to doing readers' services (omitting the petitions and other parts which a priest does), but it all was smoothed out. After that, we left a donation in the box outside and drove home (about a two-hour drive) while I read the book. I am looking forward to taking Bunny when he can see and be seen, but I wanted to have a connection with monastic life sooner rather than later.

Maybe Bunny likes me writing about this, as I'm getting pushed around in various different ways as I write this. Sheesh! What's he up to, anyhow?

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Blogger ::Sylvia:: said...

I wish I would've known you were in my "neck of the woods", we could've had tea at my house! Please drop me a note next time you'll be coming our way!

Fri Sep 19, 07:40:00 PM CDT  

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