Feast of the Honourable Girdle at the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi

13 November 2012

On the occasion of the great feast of the Honourable Girdle of the Mother of God, my father and I decided to go from Athens to the Holy Mountain and visit the Monastery of Vatopaidi, so as to be present at the feast and sample the evident grace of the Mother of God. We reached the monastery in the evening of Tuesday 11 September, 2012. It should be noted that there are seven wonder-working icons of Our Lady in the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, as well, of course, as the girdle or sash which was made by the Virgin herself. This is why the monastery has special grace from the Mother of God.

The feast of the Holy Girdle was held on Wednesday, the principal guests being Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia and the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Filotheou, Archimandrite Nikodimos. At 12:00 midday, we went out to meet the Metropolitan of Mesogaia at the entrance to the monastery, where Elder Efraim and the brotherhood welcomed him, and we all proceeded to the katholikon (central church). Once there, the abbot thanked the Metropolitan for his presence at the feast, as well as the support he had shown to the elder and the monastery during Elder Efraim’s imprisonment. In  turn, the Metropolitan thanked the Abbot for his invitation and stressed that he had come with particular love and devotion in order to venerate the Honourable Girdle of the Mother of God.

Later, at 15:00, we had Small Vespers and went thereafter to the refectory. Abbot Efraim announced that the all-night vigil would commence at 19:30. At that point, one of the chanters jokingly remarked that there had better be a break, otherwise they would not get through the service. The service did, indeed, begin at 19:30, with the bells pealing festively.

The vigil started with the beguiling melodies of the guest chanters: Elder Daniil and Elder Stefanos of the Daniilei; Elder Thomas and Hieromonk Pavlos of the Thomades; Elder Spyridon from the Ymnografos Brotherhood, Edler Damaskinos and Hierodeacon Theodosios and Fr. Athanasios the Simonopetrite. The canonarch, who conducted the chanting with great skill and dexterity, was Fr. Palladios, of the Skete of Koutloumousiou.

At the Lity, the Fathers of the Monastery of Vatopaidi gave a spirited choral rendition of a “lesson” to  the Mother of God. After this the large number of monks and pilgrims went up to the synodiko (reception room for light refreshments) and we were given the opportunity to hear the views of the Metropolitan of Mesogaia regarding events in society, the Church and politics. He was asked a great many questions about ecclesiastical and economic issues and his answers were characterised  by his particular approach and his charismatic tone. His Eminence also referred to the resolutions of the Committee of the Church of Greece concerning the “Vow of the Nation”[1]. We hope to see that church erected finally in our own days. We then returned to the church where the vigil continued.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that there were more than 500 pilgrims at the feast, which demands hard, co-ordinated work on the part of the monks, if the needs of so many guests are to be met. But I realized that their love for the Mother of God is very great, and this gives them the strength not to tire.

May the Mother of God not abandon us because of our sinfulness, but may she continue to shelter Greece under her protection.

[1] A church to be erected to Christ as the Saviour, the liberator of the Greek nation in the 1821 revolution.