Saturday, March 14, 2015

St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery

On Monday Pat, Janet and I drove down to Sonja's (a childhood friend of ours) to join her and her two friends Lynette and Linda, on a little trip to St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery near Florence, Arizona. I had seen photos of this oasis in the desert, but was blown away seeing it for myself. Before we left, we knew the dress code, and did our best to comply. Here is a picture of us prior to leaving Sonja's:

L to R: Linda, Lynette, Pat, Janet, yours truly, Sonja
The drive to the monastery took us through an Indian reservation and very close to the Casa Grande Ruins. And then suddenly, the bland, sandy, scrubby landscape turned into lush green trees. Excitedly we got out of the van and began covering our heads with our scarves to enter this sacred spot. We saw a group of tourists gathered at the gatehouse around a monk and joined them to learn a few facts before taking our self-guided tour.

There are five or six chapels on the grounds, interspersed with beautiful landscaping and fountains. The insides of the chapels strongly reminded me of the churches we visited in Ukraine on our choir mission trip in 2008. There is lots of gold/brass, beeswax candles, and icons. We had permission to go into any of the churches and even take photos. However, we were instructed to never go behind any of the curtained off areas where the altars are located. At one point we saw a visiting nun kneeling in prayer, bowing three times, and then rising to her feet to kiss the icon in front of her. We all commented on how difficult this would be for each of us!

At one part of the grounds, I noticed a man clearing away brush from an orchard. I asked him if the trees were lemon trees. "Yes," he replied. Then I asked if there were olive trees on the grounds. "Yes," he said, but went on to say "I don't have the blessing to speak to you." I apologized and went on my way, not realizing he was one of the monks. Wasn't that a kind way for him to respond? I thought so.

Here are some of the many photos that made this day so special. Double click on them to enlarge.

I loved this journey and hope to remember it for a long while. Such a treat for the eyes in the dry, sandy land.

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