As always, we were welcomed with pleasant greetings and smiles as we made our way to the trapeznaya for lunch. Here I met Anna, the lady who tends the guest house, since the women are seated together and the male guests eat at the monk’s table. We enjoyed a meal of tuna salad, garden salad, monastery bread, a unique beans & corn mixture as well as cookies for dessert. The cool water was especially refreshing after our walk in the heat on the monastery grounds. We all ate in silence while one of the monks read excerpts from the lives of the saints.
Bishop George was present this time and welcomed us openly after our lunch. Within a few minutes, Brother Anthony, a novice recently come to the monastery, led us on a tour beginning with the outdoor chapel. We also visited the library and workshops to learn a little about how their soaps, lotions, and athonite style incense are made. It smells so good in the incense making room!
Outdoor Chapel at Holy Cross Monastery
We also visited Mother Theodora, the resident nun who makes the beeswax candles. Br. Anthony told us that these candles are sold all over the nation and Mother got to a point where she couldn’t keep up with orders. At that point, the monastery purchased an automatic dipping machine to help make the candles in larger quantities. Beeswax candles have been used in Orthodox worship services since ancient times. They produce a bright, long-lasting flame and burn very cleanly, making them preferred over paraffin candles that produce more soot.
The highlight of this visit came after our trek to the goat barn. Father Sergius is now tending the goat herd plus one cow. All the animals looked healthy and lively; we were glad to see the arrival of several baby goats! Their relationship with people is tightly woven, as evidenced by their contentment in the arms of my daughter and husband.
We had been informed of a new little guest in the goat barn by Fr. Seraphim upon our arrival, although we didn’t see her anywhere. A fawn, abandoned by its mother was being cared for by the monks, who quickly named her Viva. As we asked her whereabouts, Fr. Sergius made his way to the end of the barn and laid down on his stomach in the straw in order to collect her. She was hiding in the shadows beneath a hay bin, nearly out of his reach. I had a giggle or two watching this scenario since one of the baby goats took advantage of Fr. Sergius’ awkward position and climbed impishly upon his back. Over and over she would clamber up and then leap off joyfully into the straw, seeking attention and play.
Ever patient, Fr. Sergius was finally able to collect the tiny fawn into his arms and bring her into the light for all to see. She was beautiful! ..soft, gentle, endearing in every way. After he performed a few veterinary duties, he asked if we would like to hold her. My husband took the opportunity and I captured the moment with my camera --a photo I’ll cherish all my days.
It was time well spent. I think what I like most, aside from their wonderful gift shop, is the opportunity to talk with the monks, to ask questions and learn a little of their story. Praise God for their example and answer to His calling in their lives. †