Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Orthodox Monastery of the Ascension

The chapel

It took a while getting there -- it's about 40 miles away, but the terrain is hilly. The road we took was blocked because of a wreck, and we had to turn around make a 40 mile long detour, via Calhoun! The monastery is at the southern end of Gordon County, south of Dalton, located on woody, gently hilly acres. It consists of a simple, single story family home, that presumably, at some point was donated or acquired by the Church, and converted into a residence for the monks. A small chapel is attached. Currently there are 3 monks in residence (there were a few more, but left to staff a monastery up north). They support themselves by candle making, the bookstore and donations. The monastery is affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. There is no Orthodox community nearby, but there are Orthodox parishes in the Atlanta area, and people do visit.

A bilingual Divine Liturgy, in English and Arabic

We talked with two of the monks. One was cleaning a thurible for a memorial service of a lady who was recently killed in a car accident. I asked if there were any connections with the local Catholic community. Apparently a previous pastor in Dalton had invited them to speak to the parish a couple of times, but nothing since. And occasionally, some Protestant summer camps send teens to the monastery to visit with the monks and learn about Orthodox Christianity.

Banner with the logo taken from Mt. Athos: "Orthodoxy or death!

The other opened up the small bookstore for us. The bookstore staffing monk is an alumnus of the University of South Carolina. Go figure! Small world! We had a great conversation about Byzantium (and how the 1000 year history of the Empire is more or less neglected in the West, thanks largely to Gibbon), India, various Orthodox Churches, the liturgy and what not.

As we were leaving, Father J said, "Hang on here a second" and disappeared into the basement, and re-emerged with two little books. "These are for you!" One is a Latin Breviary, published in 1931, with the Office for Holy Week and the Octave of Easter (bearing a stamp of the Spring Hill College Library, in Alabama). The other an English "Pocket Ritual for Priests" published in 1964. COOL! Many many thanks Father!

The monks were very friendly and gregarious, and I hope in the short time I have left in the area I can make it to a weekday Vespers service. Fr. J very helpfully gave me a calendar which lists all the upcoming feast days in the Julian calendar superimposed on the Gregorian calendar, so I could plan to come back for a solemnity.


No comments: