One of the highlights of the trip, I think, has been our visit to Meteora, a site in which there are six monasteries/convents – all of which are still inhabited by a handful of people – in the Pindus Mountains. Beginning somewhere around the 11th century, the ascetics lived in caves and fissures surrounding the areas where the monasteries and convents were built in the 15th and 16th centuries – truly an architectural feat. For quite some time, the only way to transport supplies (and people!) to/from the 400-meter (.25 mile) heights was through a pulley system and rope net.
What was striking about both the monastery and convent that we visited was the peacefulness, solitude, and simplicity. Our guide mentioned that the days of the monks and nuns begin at 4:30 a.m. and are broken down into the following: eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, and eight hours of prayer. Their days are regulated by a simple wooden simatron, which while we were visiting, indicated the beginning of vespers.
Truly the sites were places of retreat, meditation, and prayer, and the visit there reminded me so much of our group’s trip to Turkey and Greece – each of us breaking away from the hectic nature of our busy lives to temporarily immerse ourselves in a new schedule, spiritual and experiential understandings, theological discussions, the breaking of bread together over meals, and friendships. As we slowly immerse ourselves back into our normal routines in the coming weeks, may we take the time to reflect on the gifts that God has given us during this trip, and enrich our communities’ understanding of Paul’s journey, as well as our own.
Overlooking one of the monasteries of Meteora
(note the caves in the background)
One of the surviving monasteries in Meteora
Michael J. examines the rope nets once used
to transport people and supplies
Pulley system used to transport supplies
Nearing sunset at Meteora
Our guide explains the simatron at the convent in Meteora