As the final day crept into view, the pilgrims roused themselves for one final day of prayer and camaraderie on the Holy Mountain. Father Nazari left early, about 2:30 am, to attend Matins in the main Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel at Dokhiari. While he began his preparations to serve the Divine Liturgy, Reader Serge, Jonathan, and Kevin began practicing in order to sing the Liturgy. With the service of Hours about to come to a close the everyone congregated in a small chapel across from the miraculous icon of the Theotokos 'Quick to Hear' and began the service. The Liturgy was served in English, Slavonic, and Greek, Father Nazari was assisted by Protodeacon Alexander from St. Jonah of Kyiv Monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine and the choir was aided by Father Parthenius and other monks.

Father Parthenius was delighted by the English portions of the service and was very grateful for the beauty that was conveyed through a melodic singing of Znamennyj chant in language that isn’t often used in the monastery’s services. Before the conclusion of the Liturgy the monks gathered in the hallway between the chapel and the miraculous icon in order to sing their daily Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos “Quick to Hear”, which proved an immensely beautiful and humbling experience. After breakfast the pilgrims served yet another Akathist, this time before wonderworking icon of the Theotokos "Quick to Hear", copy of which is so loved and venerated by parishioners of our Cathedral in LA. After, our group returned to their cell and packed their belongings. They were blessed by the Theotokos, however, to have one final experience in the form of a visit to the resident iconographer of the monastery’s studio. They were treated to tea, cookies, and loukoumi (a delightful spread that, along with a small glass of liquor, always greets new pilgrims to a monastery on the Holy Mountain). They spoke with the iconographer, Protodeacon Alexander, and a few monks in the studio about their experiences on the Holy Mountain, their lives back in the world, and what they would take with them from this truly blessed experience. A quite fitting end for the six travelers, who found the hospitality of the monks on Mt. Athos to be nearly as inextinguishable as their prayer. On their way back to the mainland they walked between a gate of two pillars, atop which statues of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel stand looking out from the Holy Mountain toward the world. And as the six pilgrims looked back on Mt. Athos from their ferry back into the world, who could say what thoughts and prayers were in their hearts. It is certain, however, that under the light drizzle of rain that fell softly into the Aegean Sea they left touched by the grace of the Theotokos and their experiences among the monks. Each carried with him his own connection to the silent sanctuary of the Holy Mountain. However, as the six had heard many times and from many mouths throughout their journey, "Few people only visit Mt. Athos once. Many do not come. But those who do always return to its shores." Perhaps they will, at one time or another, come back to the rocky peaks, arboured hillsides, and stone houses of worship to bring their prayers and spiritual labors once again to the Lord.

(written by Subdeacon Peter Winsky)

Please see more photos following the link: 56-mount-athos-2017.html